The real-life tales of a football writer
Inter Milan were not the only visitors in Barcelona last week. FourFourTwo chief Hugh Sleight came along with Terry Venables, Marcel Desailly and Georgie Thompson from Sky Sports. (Yeah, you would).
They were speaking at some posh do in the Arts hotel, where Manchester United held their post match party in 1999, and where Roy Keane takes his family and lets his 64 kids run wild and enjoy the sea view.
I’ve heard good things about Desailly for a while. A journalist mate who went to Ghana to cover the African Nations met him and was invited to his family home for dinner.
Hugh introduced me to Georgie and Terry, who started telling me about my uncle Charlie. After he finished playing, he became an agent and took Chelsea on a pre-season tour to Sweden when Venables was a player.
Charlie was known as the penalty king when he played for Manchester United and held the club record until Eric Cantona took the crown.
"Charlie was in his 50s, but he was still showing us how to take penalties," recalled Venables. Then the former Barca and England manager paused, looked behind me and said, "Now there’s a pair of strikers." Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito were not walking past, but a buxom blonde.
I spoke to Gerrard Pique after the Inter game. He was pragmatic, professional and congratulated Inter.
Coach Pep Guardiola and outgoing club president Joan Laporta continued on that theme – which partially made up for Sergio Busquets’ cheating and the small mindedness of Barca officials who switched on the pitch sprinklers to stop the Inter players celebrating.
Most of them were right to ignore this (or dance in the water) as they celebrated in front of the 5,400 travelling fans.
Jose Mourinho was pure theatre after the game. The man has charisma, presence and a self assured arrogance to match Eric Cantona. He’s a genuine genius – though I doubt history will remember Inter’s defensive football as well as his contribution.
The Inter fans were still singing his name on the streets around Camp Nou three hours after the match. He’s their new hero over any player.
Diego Forlan texted after his first goal against Liverpool. He was assured that his name was still sung loud and proud by United fans.
A match going Liverpool fan I like and trust also emailed. ìDon’t believe the hype about Liverpool fans yesterday wanting us to get beaten (against Chelsea). Most I know wanted us to beat the tw*ts.î
Had you watched the Liverpool fans – none of them with Scouse accents - interviewed on Sky Sports, you would have thought that the opposite was true. But then if you judged Manchester United fans on the type of jester-hatted clowns they speak to outside Old Trafford, you’d be under the impression that no United fans come from Manchester...
How the media works, part 2983
You get an idea for an article about different club ownership models. You are particularly interested in the German model and travel to Germany.
Through a series of phone calls and a process of elimination, you develop the right contacts and speak to the best people. It takes nine days in total.
You write the piece. Another journalist reads it and gets in touch for some of the German contacts. You want to help him out. He repeats the gist of your article and speaks to the same people. Hey presto, he’s writes virtually the same article without ever leaving the office...
Glazer and the golden goose
Interesting times at Manchester United. The renewal rate for season tickets so far has been very low and there are plenty of concerned people at the club.
Many United fans have simply had enough of the Glazers and the fact that 70 pence in the pound goes to pay off the club’s debts.
The January bond prospectus made hideous reading for fans, with statements like: "We have been able to consistently increase matchday ticket prices for both general admission and seasonal hospitality seats at levels above the rate of inflation.
"Between the 2006/07 season and the 2008/09 season, weighted average general admission ticket prices for Premier League games increased 8.5 per cent on a compound annual growth rate basis. Furthermore, while other Premier League clubs have experienced a flattening or reduction in ticket prices in response to the economic downturn, we were able to increase aggregate ticket prices for the 2009/10 season by 2.5 per cent."
Ticket prices have risen by an average of 48% since they took over five years ago this month and United have been the only Premiership club to increase ticket prices in each of the last five years – though they have been held for next season.
Such has been the drop in demand the club would have been committing commercial suicide if they had tried to increase prices again. With demand lower and empty seats inside Old Trafford for league games for the first time since 1992 this season, fans no longer need a season ticket to see matches and tickets are regularly sold for less than face value at Old Trafford. The greed of the Glazers is killing the golden goose.
Confessions of a Correspondent
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