Monday, 10 May 2010

What's in a name?

In what is a week of continuous dinners, I spent a fascinating and extremely enjoyable evening tonight at the League Managers' Association's annual shin-dig at the Marriott Hotel on Grosvenor Square.

More detail on various parts tomorrow, perhaps; but for now, I shall tell one passing story.

The night's entertainment started quite oddly. It is, in a way I had never considered, really weird to walk into a room of people who are instantly recognisable, when in reality you don't actually know anyone.

It's made even worse when you've actually been introduced to a bundle of them: every fifth person, it seemed, I had met in my youth, courtesy of trailing round - happy as a sandboy - after dad, as he went from weekly match to weekly match.

But I could hardly expect any of them to remember: Garth Crooks, Ron Atkinson, Steve Coppell, Martin O'Neill, Mick McCarthy, David Pleat, Jim Rosenthal, Brian Barwick, Trevor Brooking (although in his case, he was remarkably, and impressively, on the ball, and greeted me with great warmth).... So many had been contacts, colleagues (or bosses!) of my father's, whose acquaintance I have made on numerous occasions; but bumping into them tonight, way out of context of any past meeting, didn't really seem a good reason to accost them while they were deep in conversation.

Neither did my recent association with the first person I saw as I walked in: I thought that, to be fair, Sir Alex Ferguson probably wouldn't have taken our brief lunch on Wednesday as good enough reason for me interrupting his tete-a-tete with Fabio Capello.

I found refuge in David Sheepshanks, the former Chairman of Ipswich, who I sat next to last time I attended an LMA function. He was utterly charming, and with great skill almost successfully covered the fact that he didn't remember that we had met before (why should he, frankly?). But having heard the latest good news about the National Football Centre, I felt it would have been rude to keep his company for too long; and I moved from him to one of football's managerial names whom I regaled with a story from my youth...

I first met him at the Dell, I think in 1977, when I went down with the Match of the Day cameras; and the Monday after the Saturday before, I had to write, as kids do, about what I had done over the weekend.

Aged six, I had a spelling book which had to be filled in by the form teacher with the spelling of any word which you couldn't write yourself. I wandered up and asked about the first name of the Southampton manager.

It was only when I got back to my desk that I discovered that my form teacher was under the impression that I was too stupid to know how to spell the name of a long vehicular conveyance. Even as a six-year-old, I wasn't over-amused.

Hearing the story thirty years on, Lawrie McMenemy was polite enough, despite being surrounded by many greater calls on his time, not just to laugh at some length; but also then to ask, in great detail, after both of my parents.

What a gent.

1 comment:

  1. Defiantly missed a trick there. Next year make sure you get them to all sign a football for you, stick it on eBay, link to it from here & the Betfair announcements forum & donate the proceeds to your favourite charity.