Despite having always loved and followed football, I have never met a footballer. One summer holiday, many years ago, I did go to the training ground in Greenford to watch the players train and to take a few photos. This was memorable for two reasons. Firstly, after training, I saw Stevie Wicks play three-and-in with his three-year-old son, a child who I later saw play at Barnet for Peterborough in last season’s play-offs. If 18-year-old Matthew Wicks is half as good as his Dad, he’ll have a decent career. Big bastard, too... but I couldn’t quite see the colour of his eyes.
The second reason this day has been imprinted in my mind was the fact that all the players stopped walking off the pitch to let me take a photo; extremely nice of them, I thought, although Terry Fenwick did mention on his way past that he thought I was a bit old for this sort of thing. Cheers, Terry - thanks, mate. So apart from going out of my way to meet them, I have never happened to meet a player in real life, as it were. Until two months ago, that is.
After gratuitously trying to sell some dodgy product to a financial adviser we were visiting, I ended up in a meeting with a guy who was trying to raise money for a sports website. The face was familiar - but he was so unassuming, it didn’t twig until the usual swapping of business cards. The man in question was Steve Foster, ex-Brighton, he of the curly mullet made famous by one of the Fat Slags (I forget which) and, of course, the towelling headband. It was inevitable after the business was concluded that the subject would get on to football, as a number of his business ventures involved ex-players.
One such player, and a backer of his business plan was Michael Robinson, who is/was making serious money in Spain as a commentator. Robinson, for me, was the only bright spot in the 1985/86 season, a season I have blanked from my mind following the stuffing we received at the hands of Oxford. The other bright spot was the 2-0 away win at Chelsea, when Macca headed in at the near post and, on a wet night, Bannister chased down a weak back pass to their ‘keeper, who spooned it to Robinson near the halfway line, who in turn swung a leg and miraculously hit the net.
“Oh he still goes on about that goal,” Foster said, saying that the players really do sit around talking about how good they were whilst getting slowly stewed. Not that dissimilar to us normal people, I guess.
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