“I saw Gary Lineker at a whisky promo in the British Embassy in Tokyo. He wasn’t very easy to spot as he was surrounded by a load of middle-class wankers pretending to like football. I was nervous like a kid and it took me ages to work up the balls to speak to him. I shook his hand and asked him what he felt like when he equalized against Germany. He said that he felt the same way that I did. So I told him I was German. Well I didn’t, but I thought of the reply 10 minutes later.”
“My mate Tim castrated Robbie Fowler’s dog. Appropriately enough, it’s a boxer. (Tim’s a vet by the way.)”
“In August 1979 I was staying at the Hartree Hotel in the fine Lanarkshire town of Biggar, when who should walk in to reception but Paul Reaney and and a host of other Bradford City stars, there for a pre-season friendly with Albion Rovers.
“‘Who are Bradford City?’ I said to one of the players as they came in. I was 13 and thought this impish humour would ingratiate me with them. But they didn’t seem to find my quip at all funny and one of them grunted back: ‘Who are Glasgow Rangers?’
“Such fragile egos, those Valley Parade lads. My Dad told me I’d ruined my chances of getting a free ticket for the game. Free ticket? Surely they weren’t planning to actually charge people to watch this fixture?
“Anyway my sister, who was 17 at the time, claimed that one of the players kept giving her ‘suggestive looks’, but I can’t remember who it was. Paul Reaney grabbed one of the female staff at one point (ironically, of course) and got a large encouraging ‘Phwoooooargh!’ from his teammates. And some clever bugger got hold of my puzzle book, which I’d accidentally left in the hotel lounge,and wrote, ‘More parlour games for Scottish flag days!’ on the front. (Whatever that meant.)
If I’d been five years older I could have hung around in the bar until midnight and this story would probably be a lot more hell-raising.”
“Malcolm MacDonald used to play bridge with my Dad when he played for Newcastle. (Supermac played for Newcastle – not my Dad.) Supermac always wore beige – beige shoes, beige pants, beige shirts and most appallingly – beige tinted sunglasses. He always drank gin and tonic, smoked small stinky cigars and, according to my Dad, was crap at bridge.”
“In the early seventies my kid sister was convalescing from a ‘lazy eye’ operation. The type where you have to wear a patch over one of the lenses of your NHS glasses.(Whatever happened to them?) Whilst visiting her in hospital my father was falsely accused, by a young Gooner, of being Frank McLintock.
“It has to be said that there was more than a passing resemblance. Not only did my father sport ridiculous sideburns, but he also had the same wiry frame, swarthy looks, and mean lips (a Scottish trait?). Grabbing at his 15 minutes of fame my father launched into his best Stanley Baxter accent and, to my embarrassment, proceeded to shake hands, pose for pictures and autograph plaster casts throughout the children’s ward.
“Many years later I met the ‘real’ Frank at a ‘gentlemen’s’ footie evening in Abu Dhabi. He seemed a nice enough bloke and recounted the usual footballing anecdotes with some aplomb. He was somewhat bemused to hear my story and could safely say he had never been mistaken for a lorry driver from Dover. Not even when accepting bulging brown envelopes at motorway service stations. Strange.”
“I was in the Holgate end at Ayresome Park for a Middlesbrough v Swindon match in the late seventies. Arriving late, after a few pints in The Westminster, I had to do a fair bit of shoving to get a place from which I could see. Spying a spot the other side of a barrier, I bent down and pushed underneath it.
“On straightening up I was face to face with Willie Whigham, the ugliest goalkeeper we ever had. Good job I hadn’t been eating, otherwise I would have fetched up all over the great man’s sheepskin coat.”
“When I was a youngster I went with the family to Spain for holidays. My Dad came back to the hotel one afternoon and informed me that Brian Kidd was staying at the next hotel. (He was a rising star at this time.) So off we trooped to the hotel and found Brian sitting by the swimming pool. When we approached him he was extremely kind, signed autographs and best of all posed for a number of photos with me. The rest of my holiday was a blur, just waiting to get home and show my friends the photos. When they came back from the developers, they were all blank. My mother had loaded the film wrong. 25 years later Brian Kidd looks the same, while I have become a bitter and twisted old man.”
“The first time I ever met John Anderson (ex-Newcastle) he was sitting in my dad’s local in Heddon-on-the-Wall. Needing to clear his throat, he expectorated loudly into the fire – the electric fire with the fake glowing log cover. Sitting there, I watched the sizzling phlegm of the man I’d idolised from the Gallowgate End, and realised that my love affair with the Magpies was over . . .”
“A friend of a friend who works for a vet told me that one day Juan Antonio Pizzi, an Argentinian born centre forward for Barcelona, who also plays in the Spanish national team, came into the office with his pet dog. ‘Name?’ the girl at the desk asked him. ‘Pizzi,’ he answered, and the girl replied: ‘Not the dog’s, your’s.’”
“I have received advice from a legend of the game! My Dad took me to see Cardiff play Leeds in the FA Cup some time in the early seventies. Standing at the railway station after the game, I spotted the entire Leeds squad in the lounge. Being only 12 or so, I was keen to collect an autograph. ‘Hello Mr Bremner,’ I said. ‘F*** off,’ advised the Leeds and Scotland terrier. I can’t remember the score but I don’t think Leeds won.”
From WSC 124 June 1997. What was happening this month