Giggsy, Freddie, Medalwinners & me

WARNING: The following article contains numerous and shameful examples of name-dropping...

Just when you thought it was safe, in the words of Freddy Krueger, “Guess Who’s Back?!”

Hasten to add this hasn’t been an enforced absence, due to that mysterious late night incident when Mrs O, hit me with a golf club as I wrapped the family Volvo around the nearby fire hydrant.

Nor was it due to a steady stream of cocktail waitresses appearing like the shopkeeper from Mr Benn, out of nowhere claiming to have enjoyed a night of passion during my extensive nationwide book signing tour, in advance of this column. (I must have dreamt all that, some of it somehow sounds familiar!).

No, the truth is I’ve been busy dipping a big toe back in the world of academia, trying frantically to catch up as a late starter on a law degree.

In fact this column is, I kid you not, being written from the university library at the ungodly hour of 1am, as I take a rare break from the books.

In fact it was altogether more glamorous surroundings, amongst the great and the good of The Sports Personality Of The Year Awards show in Sheffield, where I really ended my self-imposed social exile.

I'd like to report that the tickets arrived due to my close friendship with the powers-that-be, but instead have to bow to the fact that my 100metre silver-medalling sister Anyika and her Olympic gold-medalling best friend Christine Oghorugu for some bizarre reason carry more clout than your still-unemployed correspondent and Christine’s unemployed brother Obi.

Christine and Anyika on parade

Like two men bound together by fate and the playthings of cruel gods, we had the good grace to fall silent and look at the floor, as our triumphant younger siblings made both of us late, as they took first option from the hotel to the taxi.

Incidentally I’d arranged to meet them at the hotel earlier in the day and was a little puzzled when Anyika told me to meet there and that I’d find it right next to one of my old stomping grounds, Bramall Lane.

Now, allowing for the fact that largely due to injury it was a less-than-vintage part of my career, and factoring in the fact that possession of 20:20 vision was never part of the Onuora armoury, I still feel on balance that even I wouldn’t have failed to notice a 200-room hotel proudly stood in one corner of the car park!

I was suitably reassured to find out that that building was completed only earlier this year.

So it was some time after the live show had started that me and Obi cast in the roles of Richard to the girls’s Karen Carpenter, attempted to take our seats in the arena.

However when we arrived Ryan Giggs was being interviewed by Gary Lineker. We patiently waited in the wings until he’d finished.

"Please take a seat..."

As Giggsy finished to warm applause and descended with that easy grace of his from the stage, at roughly the same time I by way of contrast moved in the manner of a pinball hitting chair after chair whilst navigating the dim lights all the while with my eyes fixed firmly on the prize of my seat.

Suddenly the lights came up and in a flash it was all change, and sweet baby Jesus, Giggsy is now moving with the stealth of a panther and from a different angle, towards the same seating place as me.

A regal presence was at work now, almost balletic, as time seemed to freeze.

I slowed, he slowed, I quickened, he quickened until finally like the irresistible force and the immoveable object meeting, something had to give.

It was like the legend of Big John and Little John as we stood on our imagined bridge, neither daring to blink.

Finally size won out as he gestured with an open-palm concession of chivalry for me to go first, and that dear readers was my small, and frankly pathetic triumph over the deity that is Ryan Giggs!

The rest of the evening seemed set to follow without further off-stage drama, until things were rounded off just nicely by Iffy and Giggsy part deux.

Sat as I was between various members of the England women’s football team for the rest of the ceremony, its now time for Freddie Flintoff to announce the main award.

Jessica Ennis was awarded third place before to everyone’s evident surprise, ante-post favourite Jensen Button was announced as runner up.

Cue excited murmur in audience, before I turned to no-one in particular next to me, and unable to contain myself shouted: “I bet it's Giggsy, I bet it's Giggsy.”

Just as Flintoff announces the name, a shriek goes up right behind me almost in my ear, as Mrs Giggs, I presume, jumps out of her seat whilst the Great Man himself calmly eases out of his chair to collect the award, pausing only to glance at me with the air of a man who has had winning hotwired into his very DNA.

Yes, with the cunning that has caused sleepless nights for defenders for the best part of 19 years, he’d been behind me all along.

If you watched the show (and I know some of you were watching The X-Factor!), you’ll see the camera pan in on Giggsy and you’ll see me in the seat in front in a dark suit standing up to applaud.

But that’s not applause for the Award, oh no, that’s the applause from someone who’s been out-GIGGSED!

From a true legend, I would expect nothing less.

And the winners are...

The rest of the evening was tame by comparison, as we all retired to the after show party.

I bumped into my old manager and Sheffield native Neil Warnock and we had a great chat for 20 minutes or so, putting the football world to right.

Ditto Geoff Thomas, who’s been an inspirational charity fundraiser since his own illness.

I was introduced to Jessica Ennis by Anyika, who's mentioned me to her with her being a born and bred Sheffield girl and my Blades connection.

She was delightful and very patient with me as I tried to remember without any success where I used to live in the city.

I also had a conversation with Chris Eubank, which I thought was going quite well until it was cut short when he appeared to find someone more interesting to talk to.

The fact that it was his one-time foe Joe Calzaghe made it more galling.

“I remember cheering you against him you ungrateful bar steward,” I remember thinking.

Perhaps it was the wine - I don’t get out that much these days - perhaps it’s the unhealthy obsession with libraries and academic books, or perhaps it was because Mrs O was awaiting my imminent arrival, not a second after midnight upon pain of death.

But I retired to bed relatively early with the party barely started, but with several partygoers of whom Flintoff, to name but one, may or may not have been in 'refuelling' mode (allegedly!).

Roll on next year, where I dare say if I’m there I’ll probably try to beat the newly-knighted Sir Fabio Capello to the one free toilet cubicle in the Gents toilets.

Bring it on Sir Fab, I’ll not go quietly!

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