A pain from Spain and a ban on book signings
If you donÃ¢ÂÂt ask then you donÃ¢ÂÂt getÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Manchester United officials are not adverse to criticism, so fair play to chief executive David Gill for issuing 14 free tickets to the loyal Reds who carried on from South Africa to support the team at the friendly against Portsmouth in Nigeria a week ago.
I returned from Africa and spent the week writing a piece on the Old Firm, preparing the first United We Stand of the season and dealing with calls from Spanish journalists.
On Friday, I received one from a Marca scribe. He was in Manchester and wondered why United were not being overly helpful with his requests to attend press conferences.
"We'll have none of those sods from Marca attending, ok..."
Ignoring the piece heÃ¢ÂÂd written hammering my city of birth, I told him to expect no favours as Marca is seen as Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs puppet publication, a protagonist in the tiresome Cristiano Ronaldo transfer speculation.
I advised him that it wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be a good idea to go to Sir Alex FergusonÃ¢ÂÂs Friday conference as the Scot would humiliate him. As he should.
A few hours before Ole Gunnar SolskjaerÃ¢ÂÂs testimonial on Saturday, the Marca writer got another journalist to text me to ask me to help translate the anti-Ronaldo songs.
I replied: Ã¢ÂÂTell him to f*ck off back to Madrid and speculate about who their next five managers and presidents will be. There will be no anti-Ronaldo songs. Seriously.Ã¢ÂÂ
I received the following: Ã¢ÂÂUnderstood.Ã¢ÂÂ And there were no anti-Ronaldo songs.
IÃ¢ÂÂve got a new book out today about world football rivalries Ã¢ÂÂ Mad For It - which is advertised on this site and has been number two on AmazonÃ¢ÂÂs football best seller chart for much of the last week. There will be no book launch and no signings are planned, which doesnÃ¢ÂÂt concern me too much after the humiliation of my first book in 2001.
I wrote the Ã¢ÂÂRough Guide to Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂ with Jim White, now of the Daily Telegraph. The largest book shop in ManchesterÃ¢ÂÂs Trafford Centre asked us to do a book signing, saying: Ã¢ÂÂIt will be a huge success, Daniel OÃ¢ÂÂDonnell was here last week and hundreds of people came along.Ã¢ÂÂ
The publishers were delighted but as Jim was on holiday I had to go it alone. Bored at the prospect of spending four hours alone with people staring at me, I asked my mate Grant to come along.
The reasons were several-fold.
One, he was/is hard and would offer protection against any freaks Ã¢ÂÂ like the man who wanted to talk to us about UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs likely formation for the coming season. For an hour.
Two, he was/is good looking and would attract any female buyers. Three, he was/is a close mate. Four, he was skint and made good use of PenguinÃ¢ÂÂs money and five, he was/is one of the biggest United fans about. WeÃ¢ÂÂd travelled around the world watching the team together, but considering that he wasnÃ¢ÂÂt an odd ball, his United obsession often became worrying.
Like the time he bought figurines of all the United players Ã¢ÂÂ and turned them around to face the wall for a week as punishment for United losing their European home record to Fenerbahce in 1996.
We sold about 40 signed books. I reckon I knew 30 of the buyers. And that 20 of them were my mumÃ¢ÂÂs mates. Shoppers would walk past, stare and say: Ã¢ÂÂWho are they?Ã¢ÂÂ Grant would stare back.
With the four hours up, we walked awayÃ¢ÂÂ¦ then I saw David and Victoria Beckham walking through Selfridges nearby. He would have been useful drumming up interest half an hour earlier.
I did another book signing in 2006 at the same shop. With Frank Stapleton alongside me, 95 people bought the book in an hour. Which is 85 more than turned up for a Abi Titmuss book signing in Manchester on Friday.
I ghosted Paddy CrerandÃ¢ÂÂs autobiography last year and a big Manchester store asked him to do a book signing. Paddy wasnÃ¢ÂÂt up for it and asked me to go with him.
Bestseller: Paddy Crerand
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs you they are coming to see Pat,Ã¢ÂÂ I replied. Ã¢ÂÂAnd anyway IÃ¢ÂÂm away.Ã¢ÂÂ
He sounded uneasy but went along. Afterwards, I called him.
Ã¢ÂÂAye it was alright,Ã¢ÂÂ he said, but no more, so I asked to speak to his wife, the former 1958 Gorbals beauty queen Noreen.
Ã¢ÂÂHe sold 342 and was well chuffed that so many people came to see him,Ã¢ÂÂ she said. Ã¢ÂÂThere were queues of people. You should have seen it. I was so proud of him.Ã¢ÂÂ