Marca, Messi, Alex, Abu Dhabi & punching Shilts

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The week that was for your roving reporter:

1. Purchased the Spanish football bible, otherwise known as Marca’s guide to the season. Sadly, there is no British equivalent [What, not even FourFourTwo's Season preview? – Ed.]. For just €6, you get 440 A4 colour pages packed with statistics about every player and team [Ah, OK – Ed.].

Want to know where that brilliant young Tenerife left-back started out and how many minutes he played last season? No? Oh well, sometimes journalists do. And that’s when they turn to Marca’s guide.

2. Sought a columnist for a newspaper in Abu Dhabi. Was asked by The National newspaper to find a new columnist; they'd suffered from a few soporific ‘to be fair to lads’-type former pros and wanted a decent read.

If you’re going to speak to someone every week for their column, it’s better to know and trust them. Just as importantly, they have to know and trust you.

"I'll do it, Mr Mitten!!!"

The ideal candidate must also want to do it. Some years ago, I ghosted a column for a former Manchester United hero. After just one chat, he said: “I trust you, write what you want.”

“But I need your insight,” I replied. “You’ve just told me that you followed Michel Platini off the field to swap shirts after chasing his shadow for 90 minutes. That’s brilliant.”

So we carried on speaking, but it was for a website which wasn’t flush and it only lasted months. In fact the player, when he received the first offer, said: “I wouldn’t take a throw in for that!”

This time round, I decided that Andrew Cole would be a good person to approach. Cole gave me a superb four-hour interview for my next book.

We’ve been sending out manuscripts for the purpose of reviews and journalists have been picking out Cole’s chapter, plus those of Martin Edwards and David May.

Cole knows football, has played at several big clubs and is cogent, frank and insightful. I called him, discussed it and he is well up for it.

We’ll start this week – the week his former partner Dwight Yorke announced his retirement. That will give us something to talk about, for a start.

3. Was asked to set up a trophy presentation. For some footballer from Rosario called Lionel.

4. Got asked on to TV by a Scottish company. They wanted me to speak about Sir Alex Ferguson on a programme about great Scots.

I would have liked to have done it – too often, Ferguson only gets to hear about the more negative bits in United We Stand and not the fact that most of our readers think he is the best manager in the world – but I’m away.

I gave them the number of another journalist who is close to Ferguson and should do it.

When I was younger, if a television company called then I’d take a mate along for no other reason that it was a buzz and we could see people off the telly in real life, like the lovely Lucy Meacock off Granada Reports.

Before Soccer AM decided that fans were all replica-shirted gimps who should play the role of performing seals, I appeared on the programme several times and Sky used to put guests up in a hotel near Heathrow.

If it coincided with a United game in London, then it seemed that half of United’s away support would crash down in the room. (Thanks, Rupert.)

That in itself caused issues, because the programme’s other guests would be in the hotel. And some would be famous footballers.

I remember one mate saying how he’d just spotted Peter Shilton in the bar and how it would be a good idea to smack him because he’d had the audacity to make saves against Manchester United.

"Want some, son?"

Another time, Sky said they wanted me in London that night. I told them that I’d only come if I was allowed to bring a mate. They agreed and we treated it like an away game.

Once at their Westminster studios, my mate sat outside waiting while I went to quite rightly hammer the Football Association about their ticket prices.

Just before I went in, Frank Warren and Darren Day arrived in the guest room. I was walking out, but witnessed Warren introduce himself to my mate, who started to get very nervous.

“Frank Warren, nice to meet you,” said the boxing promoter, offering his hand.

“And I’m Darren Day,” added the tabloid ‘love rat’.

“Dave,” replied my mate, remaining seated and leaving the unlikely duo waiting for more.

They're still waiting.

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