My Valentine's date with Ronaldinho
Sunday may have been the Manchester derby, but Saturday saw another all-Manchester clash Ã¢ÂÂ between Blue Square Premier strugglers Droylsden and Altrincham. Curiously, the visitors wearing blue also ran out victors.
Many Altrincham residents are proud of their Cheshire postcode, but the prosperous town is part of ManchesterÃ¢ÂÂs urban sprawl, its football team one of the non-leagueÃ¢ÂÂs most famous.
Ã¢ÂÂAltyÃ¢ÂÂ were regular giant killers in the 1970s and Ã¢ÂÂ80s, twice winners of non-leagueÃ¢ÂÂs top division before automatic promotion. Their proud history was recalled in a superb song by the 600 travelling fans in the 1,177 crowd when, to the tune of Lionel RitchieÃ¢ÂÂs Three Times a Lady, they sang: Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂve been once, twiceÃ¢ÂÂ¦ three times to WembleyÃ¢ÂÂ¦ and youÃ¢ÂÂve won the Manchester Cup.Ã¢ÂÂ
The last line was a dig at Droylsden, the East Manchester side who look set for immediate relegation following their first ever season in non-leagueÃ¢ÂÂs top tier. The Bloods, under manager-chairman Dave Pace, have excelled in reaching this level on crowds of 400, but theyÃ¢ÂÂve understandably found life difficult.
Altrincham average more Ã¢ÂÂ around 1,000 Ã¢ÂÂ and their Moss Lane home is fit for league football, but money is perennially tight and theyÃ¢ÂÂve over-achieved by staying in a league where the majority of teams are full-time and far better supported.
The Robins do have one of the best websites in football though Ã¢ÂÂ a real labour of love by webmaster John Laidlar. Lower-level football would struggle without men like him.
Unlike leafy Altrincham, Droylsden is more hard-bitten. A takeaway outside their ButcherÃ¢ÂÂs Arms home sells two pieces of chicken and chips for 99p. Another in the town centre is simply called Ã¢ÂÂSmithÃ¢ÂÂ.
Closer inspection reveals that it sells bedding. Imagine the conversation between the shopÃ¢ÂÂs proprietor and the sign writer: Ã¢ÂÂJust put Ã¢ÂÂSmithÃ¢ÂÂ for the moment mate, that should entice people in.Ã¢ÂÂ
One thing both places have in common is that they are frequently spelt wrongly, Altrincham being Ã¢ÂÂAltringhamÃ¢ÂÂ (that's how locals pronounce it) and Droylsden Ã¢ÂÂDroylesden'. Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs official magazine even made the mistake when the clubÃ¢ÂÂs reserves started playing at Moss Lane.
Droyldsen, close to Manchester CityÃ¢ÂÂs new stadium, seemed more desirable on Saturday under an azure East Manchester sky, but Alty beat the Bloods 2-0 to increase their chances of staying up.
And now for something completely different. IÃ¢ÂÂm off to interview Ronaldinho at the Camp Nou for a magazine who want a more offbeat and irreverent piece.
TheyÃ¢ÂÂve suggested some questions, one being: Ã¢ÂÂDo you recycle your old plastic bottles and cereal packets?Ã¢ÂÂ
If that doesnÃ¢ÂÂt spook him, I might ask him to spell Altrincham. If heÃ¢ÂÂs really up for anything IÃ¢ÂÂll try and get him to play for Manchester La Fianna in our big cup game against league runners-up FCUK on Saturday.
And with it being ValentineÃ¢ÂÂs Day, IÃ¢ÂÂve got an idea. My girlfriend is from Ronaldinho's home city of Porto Alegre. He's single and so are several of her Brazilian mates, who also live in Barcelona and are looking for love. It doesnÃ¢ÂÂt take Einstein to do the math. Or Smith of Droylsden.