Facing fears, tying knots and Big Sam's big seats

So glamorous is my job that I had to work 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, a situation which improved markedly on Monday as Paul Parker (ex-Manchester United and England full-back) came to Barcelona and I met him for something to eat.

He ended up going to the Camp Nou with his youngest son Jake, but he wasn’t impressed at the world’s biggest all-seater stadium. Yes, I know there are stadiums in Iran and North Korea which claim to hold 5 million, but the Camp Nou is bigger. 

I told Parker that perhaps he felt that way because it brought back bad memories. He nodded, claimed that he was injured before that game and said: 

“I saw that Stoichkov years later and he pointed at me and said: 'Parker. Manchester. 4-0.' Cheeky get. Romario was just arrogant. Great player though. I couldn’t deal with his acceleration.”

Parker: Exorcised Camp Nou demons of '94 

“Like my mate?” asked Parker’s son.

“No Jake, you can’t compare your 11-year-old mate with one of the greatest ever goalscorers.”

Afterwards, I received the following message from the publicist at Harper Collins, who published Mad For It. It was from Talksport, whom I did an interview with last week.

“I just wanted to say a big thank you for setting up the interview with Andy. Ian Wright was so impressed whilst listening in his car on the way to our studio that he promptly nicked the book from me when he arrived!”

I had mixed feelings. Wright ruined the 1990 FA Cup final for me after coming on as sub and scoring twice for Palace. The game finished 3-3 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to the replay because I had a history exam on the afternoon of the match. The emotional scar still hasn’t healed.

Barca start their European campaign on Wednesday against the Polish champions so I’ll go to the Camp Nou to see Guardiola’s new team while preparing for an interview with some lad on Thursday. He’s from Madeira and wears number 7 for a team who play in M16. He’s got a low profile so I’ll need to do a bit of research on him.

Wright hammers home to send 1990 FA Cup final to replay

I fly to Manchester on Friday for the start of the season proper – and two weddings in one day.

The first is a City fan – one of the few Blues from our part of Manchester who went home and away when most of my mates were watching United.

He saw his team at over 80 grounds from Gillingham to Gigg Lane and was always first in the line for away match tickets as he supported City through thin and thinner. Yet something happened on the plane home from defeat to Groclin in Poland a few years ago.

“I just thought, the players are clearly not arsed, why should I be?” he explained. He’s barely been since.

The second wedding is the former Manchester United reserve player Kirk Hilton. When Sir Alex Ferguson sold Danny Higginbotham to Southampton for £2million, he was quoted as saying that he did so because he had a better left-back at Old Trafford – Kirk.

Unfortunately, Kirk’s career has been leathered by injury. He’s had more hernia operations than United have won trophies, but still managed to play for Livingston, Blackpool and Royal Antwerp until last season.

Hilton in FA Youth Cup action for United

I’m most looking forward to seeing our kid play on Saturday for Trafford as they kick off their Unibond League campaign away to Chorley. The last time I was there I was in Sam Allardyce’s car as Bolton train close by the town satirised in Phoenix Nights.

“That pink palace is the biggest Mormon church in Europe,” said Sam, pointing to an indeed sizeable church from the comfort of his extra wide driving seat as we headed down the M61 back to the Reebok.

I won’t mention Allardyce to the Newcastle lads from the True Faith fanzine who helped me out with the Tyne-Wear chapter for Mad For It. They are in Manchester Saturday night so I’ll keep an eye on them before our two sides meet at Old Trafford the following day.

I just hope it’s a better game than the 0-0 opener against Reading last season, but given United’s lack of fire power pre-season, I’m not so sure.

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