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Guardiola, Corrie and Kelly Brook

IâÂÂve watched Barca twice this week at the Camp Nou, first in the 1-1 draw against Racing Santander (who, trivia buffs, count singer Paul Heaton as a fan) when Thierry Henry didnâÂÂt even make the bench and also in TuesdayâÂÂs 3-1 win against Sporting Lisbon when he started.

These are interesting and uncertain times at Barcelona, the mood reflected by sub 60,000 crowds for the first time in president Joan LaportaâÂÂs five-year reign. New manager Pep Guardiola is being given a chance, his bank of goodwill credit still very full with Catalans who have fond memories of him as a player and all round Catalanista.


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Guardiola was a great midfielder, criminally underrated outside Catalonia and heâÂÂs a fascinating character, with clear ideas of how football should be played the Barca way. The Cruyff influence is clear and understandable given he joined Barca at the age of 12.

In a weird column this week, Cruyff described the Santander game as one of the best he had seen in years. IâÂÂll bow to his far greater knowledge, but it wasnâÂÂt.

Guardiola likes to be his own man though. Outside of football, one of his hobbies is writing poetry and he taught himself English, though heâÂÂll never tell anyone.

The only reason I know is that the actor Lee Boardman (one time pseudo gangster Jez Quigley on Coronation Street and now voiceover man for the guilty pleasure that is Road Wars) once came to Barcelona to interview him.


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Guardiola isnâÂÂt always happy with his lot, which includes females from Girona to Tarragona fancying the ArmaniâÂÂs off him, and was being, well, a bit arsey with Lee, who he considered a mere journalist. That all changed when Lee told him he was an actor. Pep was then much keener to impress and Lee spoke very highly of the latest king of Catalonia.

But Laporta is a different character. IâÂÂve never had any problems in dealings with him, but I knew him when he was a âÂÂmereâ fan who ran a protest group called the Blue Elephant which was trying unseat BarçaâÂÂs then ruling Nunez regime.

Laporta suckered up to Manchester United fans - fans he now ignores. When he was running for president in 2003 he couldnâÂÂt speak to enough journalists â he told one English hack that he couldnâÂÂt talk at that moment but suggested they went for lunch.

I suspect the English hack regrets saying that wouldnâÂÂt be possible as he had a Spanish class. ThatâÂÂs like telling Kelly Brook that you wonâÂÂt accept her invitation to join her in bed as youâÂÂve just blown up an inflatable which youâÂÂll use instead.


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Within minutes of Racing equalising and the six-strong Santander press posse going mental - causing their Catalan colleagues to stand up and tell them to shut up as it wasnâÂÂt appropriate to celebrate in a press box - the Barca Ultras behind the goal were singing âÂÂBarca Yes, Laporta No.âÂÂ

Following waves of resignations and sackings, Laporta has become a more isolated figure. Plotters are many, but the strength of anti-Laporta sentiment will depend on results.

Because, sadly, thatâÂÂs all what most fans are bothered about.