Lost Pilgrims, City oil slickers & Carra gold
Two men stood in the street by my house looking confused last Friday afternoon.
Wearing Lacoste t-shirts and small enamel badges, I figured that they were English football fans in Barcelona to watch the Andorra game. I offered to help as they struggled over a map by the metro theyÃ¢ÂÂd just exited.
Through a mixup of names, they were miles from where they wanted to be. It wasnÃ¢ÂÂt like getting a train to Liverpool Street and thinking it was Liverpool, but Gracia station to Passeig de Gracia is longer than the trek to the away end at Aldershot.
"It's that way, lads"
We got talking as I showed them the way. Jason and Chris were Plymouth Argyle fans who also watch England home and away. ItÃ¢ÂÂs not often you get members of the famous Green Army marching through the streets of Gracia. IÃ¢ÂÂd last seen Plymouth when they beat Sunderland two years ago and then manager Ian Holloway offered to buy every one of the travelling fans a pint. Loads took him up on his offer.
The fans offered to buy me a beer for pointing them on their way, but we arranged to meet later, away from the dire, overpriced Irish bars of Calle Ferran by La Rambla where most visiting British football fans gather. Whisper it quietly, but I'd rather a night with proper fans than the En-ger-land tabloid pack.
The Plymouth fans told stories of 10 hour bus trips to Ipswich, two-day away games in the north east, banning orders, Argyle goalscoring legend Tommy Tynan being a taxi driver in Plymouth, the Pilgrim fathers and their rivalries with Bristol City and Exeter.
"It's that Mitten bloke again"
The following day, they joined the other 10,000 England fans (and 14,000 Coldplay devotees who performed next door to the Olimpic Stadium while England laboured) while I managed 60 minutes for Manchester La Fianna in a 6-1 victory at Sitges, our first pre-season friendly.
Our goalkeeper is a Manchester City fan who hails from Wythenshawe and flies back for plenty of matches so he was feeling happy at this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs City takeover, which naturally had United fans talking.
United We StandÃ¢ÂÂs website registered its busiest ever time last week and I had a lot of work writing pieces about the likely effects on the Manchester rivalry and calls from Spanish radio stations to explain just who Manchester City were. Cheers, City.
UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs biggest game remains Liverpool, not City, and the 18 times champions (them) meet the 17 times champions (us) at Anfield on Saturday. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs been a lot of interest in Mad For It, partly as the first chapter is about Liverpool vs United. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs meant interviews from Sweden in the north to Tenerife in the south.
Scousers will no doubt delight in the news that Jamie CarragherÃ¢ÂÂs new autobiography has knocked Mad For It off the top of the football charts. IÃ¢ÂÂm not surprised though given the success of his mate GerrardÃ¢ÂÂs book. Autobiographies of Liverpool players are far more frank and easily outsell those of United players.
I wonÃ¢ÂÂt be at Anfield as IÃ¢ÂÂll be watching BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs first home game against Racing, followed by the visit of Sporting Lisbon and work travels in a few weeks to Swansea vs Cardiff, Grays vs Stevenage (IÃ¢ÂÂll explain that one nearer the time), a big game in Stockholm followed by an interview with Jesper Blomqvist, then Aalborg vs United in Denmark.
But first, I need to pin down VillarrealÃ¢ÂÂs press officer for that interview with Giuseppe Rossi she has been promising for six daysÃ¢ÂÂ¦