Cruyff, Cliftonville and The Ketchup Song

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Another exciting and hectic week awaits.

It starts with an interview with Jordi Cruyff on Friday, who lives in Barcelona, before a flight to Liverpool. It’s with Ryan Air so they will have worked out three new surcharges to extract coins from customers since my last flight. Maybe there will be a credit crunch tax or a new tax for each wing.

They’ve additional fees for everything else. They’ll charge me for checking in at the airport later as I’ll commit the heinous crime of carrying baggage. Where else am I supposed to check in? The pet shop?

After doing an interview with a Norwegian magazine in a greasy spoon café tomorrow morning, I’ll watch the mighty Tigers play at Old Trafford at 3pm. That’s only Manchester United’s second 3pm game so far this season and clashes with, my brother, Jonathan’s game.

Now 32, he’s been labelled ‘the non-league gypsy’ for his attempts to play for every semi-professional club in the north-west before he retires. He’s only got about four to go.

'Non-league gypsy' Mitten (L) in action for FC United vs Leigh RMI

On Sunday morning, I’ll drive my little brother Sam - another centre forward - to Lilleshall for Stockport County vs Shrewsbury Town at Under-14 level. After, we’ll go and see our grandparents. Granddad’s brother Charlie was the family star, but granddad played professionally for Ballymena in Northern Ireland.

While on a job at Cliftonville four years ago, an elderly Cliftonville director told me that he’d played against my granddad half a century ago. “Hard bastard. Centre forward,” was his description, which threw me as I’d only ever known him as someone who watched horse racing and gave me sweets.

I called granddad and handed my phone over. The elderly pair chatted for 15 minutes about a game 50-years ago when they were on opposing sides. It was lovely to watch and there was a tear in Mr Cliftonville’s eye as he handed the mobile back.

“Lovely fella,” said granddad. “Haven’t got a clue who he is though.”

"Who's that? Is that you young Andrew?" 

Monday morning means the United debate show on Channel M. The Manchester Evening News bigs it up on the front page, listing the show’s participants… everyone except for the small-time no-mark that is me.

We’ll then drive north, to Gary Pallister’s house in Yarm for an interview. I say ‘we’ because the girl’s coming along. That’s partly because Michael Martin, the editor of the Newcastle fanzine True Faith, told her about the virtues of his city and the north-east when they met.

He didn’t tell her it will be freezing and the opposite to the Brazilian summers she is used to this time of year. So it’ll be Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne then… after interviewing Nicky Butt on Tuesday morning.

What I won’t tell Nicky is that I invented the song Manchester United fans sang for him, the one to the tune of KC and the Sunshine Band’s, ‘Baby Give It Up.’ It’s the only chant I’ve ever started and it caught on after Peter Boyle, the lad who starts a lot of the chants at Old Trafford, put it on one of his CDs of United songs.

A lot of the Manchester grafters are going up to Glasgow a day before Celtic play United to work the Oasis concert and one has invited us to go along. He’s known the Gallaghers since they were kids and, despite being United, he likes them.

Falkirk’s mighty Arnau Riera – who lists his favourite song as Las Ketchup – The Ketchup Song , is coming too. He’s back from injury and ready to storm the SPL. After watching Oasis.

Riera celebrates scoring at Ibrox... and getting Oasis tickets 

A day of meetings and greetings in Glasgow will be followed by Celtic playing United on Wednesday. United no longer have Louis Saha to miss a penalty in Glasgow’s East End, so we should do alright. I’m looking forward to the atmosphere as it’s superb for big matches and that new Celtic song sounds brilliant.

A night train from Glasgow will deposit us in that London the following morning. I’ll never tire of arriving in London, but I’m always happy to leave.

The editor rang earlier to sound me out about interviewing a Spanish speaking Arsenal player down there. If I do, I will attempt to sow seeds of self-doubt into his mind ahead of their game at the Emirates against the champions of Europe next Saturday.

And after that, it’s back to Spain for Barca vs Valladolid. Oh, and I’ve got to find time to edit the next edition of United We Stand. I’ve already sent the designer a dozen pages, but there’s still 32 to go.

Good job the internet exists...

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