Brief encounters – September 1997

More tales of footballers privileged to meet WSC readers

“On a train from Birmingham to Manchester about seven years ago I saw legendary imbiber Paul McGrath. As we were both travelling ‘oop north’, I assumed he was on his way to see his Mum. Anyway, it was about 9am and he looked as if he had had a few gallons the night before, lounging in his seat looking surly and very hung over. I took the opportunity not to speak to him.”
Ian Peddie

“I was in Boots in Cardiff the day before Wales played Bulgaria and I saw the entire Bulgarian team buying aftershave. Instead of doing what any loyal Welshman would do and taking out their best players, I instead went over and shook Stoichkov’s hand and wished him good luck. As it turned out he didn’t need any luck and I was left knowing what Terry Fenwick felt like in ’86 when he should have fouled Maradona and didn’t.”
Philip Seignot

“Dillon’s bookshop, Birmingham. Late May Bank Holiday 1997. Mark McGhee – very natty in a canary yellow silk number – is browsing the travel section, while his wife absent-mindedly trawls local history. Eventually, they choose a 1: 50,000 map of the Wenlock Edge. A career move, perhaps? If so, the new man at Shrewsbury won’t last very long. And if I were perky Ian Britton at Midlands Alliance high fliers Bridgnorth Town, I’d be seriously worried…”
Russ Dacre

“Whilst walking through Knightsbridge about five years ago, the squeal of brakes alerted me to the fact that someone had almost been run over. Dodging out the way of a car and arriving on the pavement in front of me was an apologetic Gazza, who then proceeded to enter the Armani shop with a mate. He was on Wogan that night. I think I know what type of suit he was wearing.”
Paul Hughes

“About five years ago I was at the leisure pool in Spennymoor when David Mills swam past me. At the time he was working for Tyne Tees television. They hadn’t bought the rights to show highlights from Middlesbrough matches (Sky had the contract) so every Saturday, match reports involved David standing on the touchline at Ayresome Park describing what he’d seen. I wondered about swimming over to him to ask whether he agreed with me that if Newcastle were in the inaugural Premiership, TTTV would have purchased the rights to show highlights tout de suite. Before I could decide, he told his son it was time to go home for their Sunday dinner. The following season we got relegated and Newcastle got promoted to the Premiership. Tyne Tees bought rights to show highlights. See what I mean, David?”
Paul Grainger

“Late for an interview, I was hurrying along the platform after getting off the Macclesfield to London train. This biggish bald bloke in a breathtakingly expensive looking overcoat was dawdling along in front of me so I couldn’t get past. His missus grabbed him by the arm and said, ‘Bobby, where’s your manners, let the man through.’ And Bobby Charlton turned around and let me past. He even apologized. I mean, I’m a Scotsman and even I was impressed.”
Dennis O’Neill

“At the bookies where I was working I caught a glimpse of a man going to one of the other tills and thought, ‘God, that’s an ugly bloke… almost as bad as Iain Dowie.’ And it did, in fact, turn out to be Iain Dowie. I think his bet lost because I never saw him again after that.”
Ralf Dekker

“Alec Ashworth played for Preston in the 1960s and appeared in a Cup Final. More recently he laid out our lawn. A bloody good job too. He had two sugars in his tea but the tight fisted sod didn’t have the decency to have his butties in a tupperware box – they were in an old Stork margarine container…”
Paul Kellett

“My history lecturer has snogged former Hartlepool manager Keith Houchen. According to her he used to fancy her rotten and bought her drinks until she was drunk enough to kiss him. I bet that’s what Jamie Redknapp does with Louise.”
Paul Mackenzie

From WSC 127 September 1997. What was happening this month