John Gidman called last week. Now 54, the former Manchester United full-back lives on the Costa Del Sol with his air stewardess girlfriend. When I interviewed him two years ago, I met him at 8am in Torremolinos. The first thing he said was Ã¢ÂÂAre we going to have a bevvy or what?Ã¢ÂÂ I left him 12 hours later after hearing his crazy life story of Shankly, girls, guns and one England cap.
JohnÃ¢ÂÂs a character and we speak most weeks. Ã¢ÂÂJust been playing golf in Mallorca,Ã¢ÂÂ he enthused, Ã¢ÂÂwith Jamie Redknapp and AndyÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ his best mate, Andy Gray. Ã¢ÂÂFucking brilliant.Ã¢ÂÂ
I told him that his fellow ex-United defender Paul Parker had complimented him on his fitness after playing with him in a veteransÃ¢ÂÂ tournament in the Isle of Man two years ago.
Ã¢ÂÂThere must be another John Gidman because I havenÃ¢ÂÂt fucking been to the Isle of fucking Man since I was seven,Ã¢ÂÂ he replied. Ã¢ÂÂI lived near the docks in Liverpool and we got a boat there on holiday. IÃ¢ÂÂve not been since.nÃ¢ÂÂ
Gidman in his pomp at Big Ron's Old Trafford
Gidman lives with a lot of other Brits, but something surprised me at the opposite end of Spain in Catalonia last week Ã¢ÂÂ a Spanish family wearing English football shirts. IÃ¢ÂÂve never seen it before, but two lads played football on the beach, one in a United shirt with Ã¢ÂÂRonaldoÃ¢ÂÂ on the back, the second in a Chelsea one with Ã¢ÂÂShevchenkoÃ¢ÂÂ (oops). IÃ¢ÂÂve not been as surprised since seeing Barcelona shirts outnumber Celtic and Rangers ones on a journey from Glasgow International to Govan in 2006.
Waterstones emailed asking me to sign copies of Mad For It the next time I was in Manchester, so I popped in last Monday and left an hour free. I realised that wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be necessary when the man in the sports department said: Ã¢ÂÂWe have nine copies. Four here and five downstairs.Ã¢ÂÂ I was done within a minute and left, wondering why they had bothered.
I also questioned the motivation of another character I came across on a trip to see my brother play in Chorley, Lancashire, two days before. I was minding my own business in the clubhouse, listening to my dad tear strips out of anyone who has ever played football (sample quote: Ã¢ÂÂAnd that Pele/Maradona/Cruyff was a diving, spineless, foreign cheatÃ¢ÂÂ) when a man in ill-fitting jeans approached.
Ã¢ÂÂThis is Magic Sam, the most famous magician in Chorley,Ã¢ÂÂ he said with the confidence of a man on his fourth pint. I looked around to check that I wasnÃ¢ÂÂt an extra in a new series of Phoenix Nights. The venue fitted the bill, but Sam was genuine and he was soon performing a card trick which involved me missing the first three minutes of the second half. HeÃ¢ÂÂll soon be leaving the armpit of Chorley (it nestles beneath the M61/M6 intersection) for the bright lights of Blackburn or Blackpool.
Chorley: looks quite pleasant, for an armpit
We left Chorley, passing a pub advertising live Polish league football, to meet some visiting Newcastle fans in Manchester. IÃ¢ÂÂd swapped dad for girlfriend as he would have instantly offended them. I once introduced him to a former Manchester City player, to hear him describe them as Ã¢ÂÂclassless blue c*nts.Ã¢ÂÂ The silence was as awkward as youÃ¢ÂÂd expect.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre having a good night because we donÃ¢ÂÂt expect anything from tomorrow,Ã¢ÂÂ offered one of the Geordies. He was wrong, for Newcastle were worth their point at Old Trafford.
We left the Geordies and went to a bar which my cousin helps run. SheÃ¢ÂÂs a girl about town who knows everyone, but the omens didnÃ¢ÂÂt look good when we saw footballer Chris Eagles being refused entry Ã¢ÂÂfor being too casual.Ã¢ÂÂ I went for research purposes, youÃ¢ÂÂll understand. Cousin got us in alright and introduced me to various phonies, before saying, Ã¢ÂÂYou should meet my friend Titus, heÃ¢ÂÂs involved in football like you.Ã¢ÂÂ
I looked up to see Titus Bramble. How I wished IÃ¢ÂÂd still been with the no-nonsense Geordie lads to see how they would have reacted to meeting him....