FCUM, Andy Cole, Wigan's kit-man & Blackburn's physio

I’ve just got back from nine days in Manchester, where life tends to get hectic.

This was my diary last week – featuring Andy Cole, Wigan Athletic's kit-man, Blackburn Rovers' physio and Liverpool vs Manchester United (sort of)...

Saturday

Previewed Sunday’s Spanish games for The National in Abu Dhabi, then drove to see Northwich Victoria v FC United in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round.

I’d not watched FC play for over a year, but the tie intrigued me.

FC took 2,000 fans to the Cheshire town and they made a brilliant cup-tie atmosphere on the covered Dane Bank terrace.

Sat in the main stand, I heard one elderly Northwich fan shout: “Typical bloody United, always hoofing it.”

There’s about five things wrong with that simple statement.

The game was poor and Northwich’s higher league experience eventually saw them overcome FC with three second-half goals.

The Vics were rewarded with a plum first round home draw against Charlton Athletic.

Having experienced financial difficulties in recent seasons and started this year on -10 points, they couldn't have asked for a much better game.

The windfall would have been equally beneficial to FC, who are raising funds to build a ground in Manchester.

But they had to be satisfied with a best-ever cup run, including a previous round victory at Stalybridge Celtic who play a league higher.

A couple of FC fans acted the goat and ran on the pitch after taking to offence to the celebrations of a Northwich player, not that Northwich’s crush barriers would stop anyone.

Here’s one I spotted at the other end of the ground.

That night, we held a party at the brilliant Funkademia night in Manchester to celebrate United We Stand’s 20th anniversary.

It was the night before Liverpool away, but that didn’t mean people took it easy.

Two lads fell asleep on buses on their way home, one ending up outside Liverpool airport at 4am, another in Hazel Grove near Stockport.

Both had to get expensive taxis home.

Sunday

Mother, I understand that your 60th birthday is a big event, but so is Liverpool vs United.

And booking a birthday meal to coincide with kick-off is downright cruel.

Despite booking flights around this fixture, mum came first and I didn’t go.

I kept my frustrated opinion to myself, but maybe she was sparing me seeing the disappointment of United’s defeat at Anfield.

Many friends went.

One, who is definitely not a hooligan, was part of a group of four United fans who walked from their coach across Stanley Park when they were jumped by a group of young Liverpool hooligans.

The lad was singled out and received a severe kicking, with heavy bruising to his face.

One of the Liverpool thugs shouted “Slash him” as he lay on the floor.

Another said “No, he’s had enough.”

The police caught several of the perpetrators. I spoke to the lad on Thursday and saw him on Saturday before the Blackburn game, where the facial bruising was still significant.

Back at my mum’s party, at least I got to see my Uncle David, who has just been appointed as Wigan Athletic’s kitman after serving a nine-year apprenticeship at Altrincham.

A key quality of being a kitman is the ability to keep your mouth shut because you see so much.

David is a good choice, takes his responsibility seriously and is really enjoying working with Roberto Martinez.

Watched Barca blitz Zaragoza on television; wrote an opinion piece for the paper.

Monday

Meetings and interviews all day to promote Glory Glory!.

Met lots of interesting people, even the presenter at Radio Manchester who opened up his interview by admitting that he knew very little about football.

The sports editor of the Manchester Evening News has got wind that I do a weekly column with Andrew Cole for The National and wanted to know more.

He actually thought that I wrote it in Arabic...

Tuesday

Paul Kelly is a physio at Blackburn Rovers.

He was on Cityo’s books as a youngster and signed professional, but injury cut his career short so he trained as a physio and has done well.

He also looks after most of the injured non-league players in Manchester.

I was summoned to his practice last week, where he examined the inflamed ligaments in my foot, checked my gait, worked his magic and told me to buy some decent running shoes.

Then I drove across the Pennines to the League Cup match at Barnsley.

I was going to go via Doncaster and interview Quinton Fortune, who's playing for Rovers, but will now hopefully speak to him on the phone.

The traffic was heavy and it took almost as long to get out of Manchester as it did to get to South Yorkshire.

I made use of the time by interviewing Andrew Cole for his weekly column.

He was good value again and we fixed arrangements to do the book signings and an interview for FourFourTwo.

Cole wouldn't have expected the United fans to be singing his name a few hours after we spoke.

Almost 6,000 United fans made the journey and created a brilliant din in the away end.

It was a very laddish turn-out, devoid of the sponsors and tourists who curiously obtain tickets for glamorous United away games, and it felt like a real cup match.

Sadly, the actions of a few attracted negative headlines.

A kiosk was trashed at half time, while behind me in the second half someone kept throwing half filled plastic bottles towards a pitchside Barnsley steward at the front of the stand.

What did he do to warrant bottles thrown at him? Observe the away end, like any other steward.

Bottles just missed other United fans, while a photographer moved for fear of being hit.

What were these idiots getting off on?

I mentioned the incident on TalkSport on Friday and was asked why I didn’t personally do anything about it.

Self-policing among fans can be very effective, but it’s not always appropriate.

One lad witnessed a United fan trying to steal a ticket from a female fan in Rome.

He intervened – and had part of his ear bitten off for his troubles by a lad who is now being sought by Greater Manchester Police.

In part two: Interviewing Darren Fletcher and book signings with Andrew Cole.

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