Call girls, mad cows & book signing embarrassment

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I’m normally on a pre-season tour this time of year, but I’ve got a book to finish and have spent enough time on the road so far this year. 

Instead of watching Manchester United’s pre-season tour of Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and China, I’ve been writing - as well as watching the outstanding Bradley Wiggins leave Lance Armstrong on the mountain to Verbier and the indefatigable Andrew Flintoff leave Lords to unanimous applause.

Seeing United in different places is a buzz and Indonesia would have been interesting, except the bombs in Jakarta saw the game cancelled.

I was in Jakarta, the world’s sixth biggest metropolis, a decade ago with a mate en route to United’s pre-season in Australia.

It was a rum place and it seemed that everyone was trying to rip us off. We succumbed to what we thought would be the tourist safety of Hard Rock café and walked in to see it full of stunning girls. Prostitutes.

We felt like American GI’s on an R&R in Bangkok as we tensely ate chicken wings while explaining that we had girlfriends. 

The next day, we decided to get an overnight train to Bali and bought tickets at Jakarta’s main train station.

As we waited in the cloying heat for the train, a man approached us and started having a go in perfect English because England had brought ‘mad cows’ to the world. 

The train was like that scene from Borat where he lets his chicken out on the New York subway. Everyone stared at us, wondering what two westerners were doing on a trans Javan rattler.

It was unnerving and the thought of sleeping around the curious eyes of locals and locusts did us. Already jet lagged, we got off the train, took a taxi to the airport and a night flight to Bali.

Our luggage failed to join us so we went into the Sari Club, which was bombed in 2002 with the loss of more than 202 lives.

My mate drank rice wine and spent the rest of the night having an imaginary fight with Ronan Keating. Don’t drink rice wine. 

We took a bus to Lombok, saw a local in a rice field wearing a Manchester United shirt with ‘Poborsky’ on it, passed through areas of high sectarian tension in Lombok and got a little boat to the Gilli islands.

The other passengers on the boat were three girls… from Salford. 

We met an Australian lad who was carrying a didgeridoo and a surfboard. He was on the first stage of a five year world tour and turned up in Manchester months later, so we took him to watch my brother play against Burton Albion in the FA Trophy.

The Australian had never seen a football game before, but he was caught up in the moment of Trafford’s surprise equaliser and stood on a crush barrier, taunting the Burton fans and singing ‘We’ll Support You Ever More.’

I don’t think he’s been to a football game since.

Ten of the 11 chapters of the book – around 90,000 words - are written and I’ve just got Lee Martin to finish.

The man who scored the winner in the 1990 FA Cup final is taking a day off work on Friday to go through everything.

I’ve done in-depth interviews with Jesper Blomqvist, Paul Parker, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe, Eric Cantona, Gary Pallister, David May, Andrew Cole, Jordi Cruyff and former chairman Martin Edwards, who doesn’t make a habit of doing interviews.

I’ll spend this week writing the introduction and then the publishers will employ a reader, let their legal people spit their coffee out when they read some of the content and start designing the book.

The publishers have been hard at work promoting within the trade and are delighted that Waterstone’s are including it on their list for Christmas promotions.

That means it will be in every Waterstone’s in the country on a table at the front. I’ve never had that with any of my previous books, so let’s see.

Then there will be some book signings. You never forget your first.

I did one to promote the Rough Guide to Man United in the Trafford Centre in 2001. We sold 40 in two hours and I reckon 30 of them were mates of my mum.

People were walking past thinking ‘who the  **** is that?’ David and Victoria Beckham were floating about, so they were soon sated in their desire for celebrity.

To make things worse, the shop manager had reassured me that everything would be alright beforehand by saying, ‘you’ll be fine, we had Daniel O’Donnell here last week and they were queuing around the block.’

They weren’t even queuing around my table.

The book signing for We’re the Famous Man United’ went better. They was actually a queue of people… but then I had Frank Stapleton alongside me for an hour and we never stopped signing.

I was going to spend this blog writing about the Benicassim music festival, but we’re at 750 words now so that can wait until next time and stories of Liam Gallagher and Villarreal…

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