Fun in the sun – but also fierce rivalry

"Are you Andy Cole?” asks the glamorous English girl in her mid-thirties. Cole nods. He’s been here a million times before and knows that he’s being judged from the second the question is being asked. Knows that the girl will tell everyone she knows that the former United striker is either arrogant or a legend off the back of a few replies.

“Can I have a photo with you?”

Cole nods again, though he’s amused that the lady completely ignores the people in his company. Several of them are former international footballers. She passes her camera to one of them, Ronny Johnsen, and asks him to take a picture of her with Cole.

The girl snuggles close to Cole and pouts. Johnsen zooms the camera in, not on the Cole and the girl, but on her teeth. He takes the picture and giggles to those around him, like Jesper Blomqvist and David May. He hands the camera back. She checks the photo and is shocked to see her teeth. Johnsen has already made his escape and is hiding near the bar like a small child who has been caught stealing biscuits in the kitchen.

Cole, Johnsen, David May, Lee Martin, Jesper Blomqvist, Kevin Pilkington and Quinton Fortune were in Barbados for the inaugural British Airways Football Legends Invitational in 2011. Dwight Yorke, often the life and soul, came too, buying everyone drinks and trays of shots for strangers. He met up with his former team-mates on the Caribbean island after travelling over from his native Tobago with his close mate Brian Lara. That’s the Lara who wore a United shirt and came on as a sub. He’s a decent footballer.

United in 2011: spot the interloper

The Manchester United veterans team were invited along with Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Blackburn and a PFA All-Stars team – a plane full of former pros flying out with fans from London for four nights in the June sun.

With a powerful line-up of Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo, Gustavo Poyet, Frank LeBoeuef, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Scott Minto, Chelsea were the favourites for the seven-a-side tournament. All were aged around the 40 mark, all fit and up for the competition.

Chelsea: Not a bad side

Newcastle were the second favourites with Alan Shearer, Gary Speed (who spoke to FourFourTwo while he was there), Robert Lee, Steve Howey, Steve Watson and Shaka Hislop. Teddy Sheringham played for Tottenham, while his old strike partner and nemesis Cole captained the United side.

FEATURE Andy Mitten on meeting Gary Speed

Cole was serious about winning the competition, which was held over two nights at the famous Kensington Oval cricket ground in the island’s capital of Bridgetown. 3,000 fans danced to sound of calypso and a few tracks from local girl Rihanna while drinking rum as the veterans battled for honours. There are far worse ways to spend an evening. Roberto Martinez, on holiday on the island like Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Phil Neville, came to watch.

The players all stay in the same hotel on the beach for five days, mingling with fans or holidaymakers who were pleasantly surprised to find 1990s A-list footballers staying next door. Drinking (though not before matches), golf and letting their hair down on Barbados’ wonderful beaches was how the participants relaxed.

Work and play: Mitten interviews Zola

Those still active in the football caught up with the latest news – headlines they were often part of. Everyone wanted a piece of Di Matteo last May: he flew out a week after winning the European Cup with Chelsea and his future at the club was in doubt. Di Matteo needed to make phone calls to see if he was still Chelsea manager, but he was happiest when re-united with former team-mates. Some hadn’t seen each other since they last played and they obviously had been missing the banter and camaraderie.

There are some interesting friendships. Michael Thomas may have been a hero at Liverpool for scoring the winning goal in an FA Cup final and Arsenal for winning the league at Anfield, but he’s close mates with Cole as the pair were at Arsenal together as kids.

United won the first Barbados Legends in 2011, beating Chelsea in the final in front of 4,000. Chelsea returned stronger last season, with a lean-looking Dennis Wise. None of the United players pretended that this was a charity kick-about, they wanted to win it. And win it they did, again beating Chelsea in the final 4-3.

United win it again in 2012

The third Legends tournament will take place on 7th & 8th June 2013, once again at the Kensington Oval. Wise wants revenge and is looking forward to returning to Barbados for a second attempt: “We had a lot of fun last year,” he says.

“I loved the matches, the beaches and the restaurants on the island. We were of course disappointed to lose in the final to Manchester United, so we’ve really got our eyes on the trophy this year. When you sign up for things like this, obviously you want to enjoy yourself, but when you get on the pitch you want to win, so we’re looking forward to giving visitors to Barbados and locals a great tournament.”

Everton are coming for the first time, with a team comprised of Marcus Bent, Franny Jeffers, John Collins, Alan Stubbs, Kevin Kilbane, Lee Carsley, Steve Watson and Steve Simonsen, while a PFA All Stars team will include Michel Salgado, Pierre van Hoojidonk, Ugo Ehiogu and Kevin Davies.

Kevin Pilkington mantains focus

Liverpool’s side will be much stronger too, with Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore added. Dion Dublin will replace Cole for United, while Tottenham are looking strong with the two Sirs, Sheringham and Les Ferdinand, up front.

But can any of the rivals beat the former Manchester United players who’ve won it twice?

For news and updates, follow @BarbadosLegends. Tickets are available at https://secure.ticketpal.com/BarbadosLegendsFootballTournament

British Airways offers a seven-night package to Barbados from £1,129 pp, with all-inclusive accommodation at the four-star Casuarina Beach Resort plus return flights from London Gatwick. This package is based on two adults sharing a room, with departures on 3 June 2013. For more details see http://www.ba.com/barbados

See the British Airways Football Legends Tournament website for more information

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