Sharpey, Chiles, Big Ron, fags and horse tranquiliser

Manchester La Fianna got off to an 8-1 winning start in the league last week. Everything went well on the pitch, but not off it.

Players take turns to wash the kit. The player with the kit didn’t arrive on time and sent a message to say hee’d also “forgotten” to wash the kit. The other lads weren't happy as they waited for the stinking shirts, especially as there was still no sign of the player after 40 minutes.

Two groups were thus dispatched into the barrios – one to pick up a different set of shirts, another to buy 15 pairs of black socks. A sports shop close to the stadium called neighbouring stockists and 15 pairs were eventually procured as kick-off approached. Shorts? We’d work that one out.

The player eventually arrived with kit bag and putrid contents. I was fuming. Running a team is requires a lot of effort, efforts which can be undone by such actions. And it’s not the first time he’s let the team down.

The same lad missed a vital game last year after someone spiked his drink the night before a game in a nightclub (his line of work). With horse tranquiliser. We’ve all but weeded out to the difficult characters to create a better team spirit, but I never wanted to lose him because he’s a great lad who's always smiling. That and he’s one of our best players.

"Did you nick my pint?"

He was apologetic; I was apoplectic. I had a word outside the dressing room and explained how I felt. He looked at me with big innocent eyes, so much that I felt out of order. He then apologised to the team – while I dropped him to the substitutes’ bench. He eventually came on, did well and at 3am the next morning got everyone into his club for a brilliant night. What’s there not to like about him?

We play our second league game this Saturday, but I’ll be absent watching Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion. When I was 10, there was a picture of West Brom in our shed.

It wasn’t just that I liked them for selling us Bryan Robson and Remi Moses, plus giving us manager Ron Atkinson, but they were sponsored by the no-smoking logo whose people came to our school. As they told us about the dangers of nicotine, they handed out posters of the Baggies… in a Manchester United stronghold.

Remember when West Brom had a sponsor?

I’ve always liked West Brom. Their fanzine Grorty Dick was a decent read and even their most famous fan, Adrian Chiles, is alright. The day before the ’95 FA Cup final I was a guest on Working Lunch, which he presented.

Along with some mates, I travelled from Manchester to the studio in London. They went in the green room and snaffled beers, while after it had finished Chiles offered us a lift into London. He was sound.

Sadly, he wasn’t with One Show co-presenter Christine Bleakley, as she was 15 in 1995 and would, presumably, have been at school. Like many teen girls then, I bet she fancied Lee Sharpe who I’ll meet in Leeds in Tuesday after spending Monday afternoon with David May. Both interviews will be for the 90s United book.

Then I’ll sell the new edition of United We Stand before the Celtic game at Old Trafford. Selling fanzines when either Glasgow club are the opponents is not for the nervy – visiting fans either abuse you, bump into you or hug you because they’re utterly inebriated… or buy 10 copies for the same reason.

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