“While holidaying in Greece, I shared a hotel with Doug Alder, a Millwall and Brentford ‘left half’ from the ‘60s. He was playing a poolside game with his pals one night, of ‘trying to guess the pop celebrity’. Early in the game he said, ‘It’s on the tip of me tongue,’ and, ‘I’ll know it if I see the name.’ Several clues later: a dual nationality, a liking for tartan, an indirect link with the Small Faces, a hit with Sailing, a penchant for tight trousers and spiky hair, and still Doug couldn’t guess Rod Stewart. ‘Oooh, I know it. I can see his face.’
Apparently Doug now works in customs at Heathrow Airport.”
“I had a gobsmackingly weird close encounter by telephone about five years ago. I was in a staff meeting at the marketing company I was with at the time, when we were interrupted with the message that Denis Law was on the phone asking for me. Intrigued to know whether it was another Denis Law I didn’t know, or a piss-take from somebody I did know, I took the call. The voice at the other end was indeed that unique and Alastair McGowan-defeating hybrid of Aberdeen and South Manchester, and its owner was calling to apologize profusely for the fact that he would have to cancel our lunch.
Too stunned to point out that not only did we not have a lunch date, but also that we had never hitherto spoken or met, I simply pointed out that it wasn’t a problem – a falsehood in itself as I can think of few people of the same gender I would rather have a blind lunch with.
I can only presume that David Davies of the FA and formerly the BBC was stood up by the great man that day, and if either of them ever read this, I apologize. How he got my number I’m not sure, although I had been dealing with Bobby Charlton’s company shortly before that, and Denis might have phoned him to get David Davies’ number in a hurry, having scribbled it on the back of a 15-year-old business card from Rod Stewart’s hairdresser and then lost it. I still shiver at the thought that Bobby Charlton might have had my number within arm’s reach.”
“A fine spring morning in the early Eighties. I lived on a farm. There was a knock at the door. As a Sunderland supporter I was somewhat startled to discover none other than ex-Roker (and Boro) hardman Joe Bolton. He told me he had his whippets with him and could he speak to my Dad because he wanted to help him rid his land of rabbits. My Dad consented and I was allowed to go too. So we wandered the dew covered meadows slaughtering the cowardly small mammals. My abiding memory is of a myxomatosis-ridden beast half-heartedly attempting to escape the jaws of a slavering dog. As it hurtled past, Joe instinctively stuck out his right peg and gave the wee bunny an almighty kick. Its head virtually exploded. The only other thing I remember is Joe giving me £1.20 in 10p pieces before he left.”
“One winter evening during the mid to late ’70s a mate and I were running along a dark alleyway in Colchester when my mate ran into someone, knocking him arse over tit into a small but insignificant puddle. ‘Watch where you’re going you little bugger,’ were his exact words that evening as he straightened his large hat and brushed down his coat. Undeterred and unshaken by this act of verbal violence my mate could not stop laughing about his collision with TV pundit and soccer expert ‘Big’ Malcolm Allison until I had to explain that he just happened also to be manager of Plymouth Argyle and we were behind the Main Stand at Layer Road, Colchester the night of a match won by the Us’ four goals to Plymouth’s one.”
“I must have been twelve, we were out for a family Sunday afternoon swim at Ufford River, about nine miles away from Ipswich. My Dad used to tell me how the big, modern house up the road was owned by Colin Viljoen. It looked like it might. It was very modern, a bit like the one George Best had, except this was in Suffolk and Colin Viljoen was obviously not as glamorous. Anyway, I was playing football on my own, you know, kick the ball against a tree, miss, run after it etc. I kicked the ball, a kind of Clive Woods cross, and I looked up to see Colin Viljoen and David Johnson walking with their wives. Colin kicked the ball back to me. It was the best pass I ever had. I think I missed it and they went on their way, probably to talk about how their Ipswich team would just miss out on greatness.”
From WSC 129 November 1997. What was happening this month