Retsub, my brush with fame.
Having penned my first blog entry on my abject failure to ever see Arsenal win anything physically, I was bombarded with compliments from well wishers. Although I never received any royalties of film offers, I was offered a number of holiday destinations, should our beloved team qualify for a final again. It’s nice to know that I am so well regarded that people suggested some really interesting places such a Timbuktu and the North Pole. Such was the strength of the support I received that I decided to write another entry.
Initial thoughts were ‘My life as a football Hooligan’, but in truth I was too scared to get involved in any trouble and usually ran away.
“Chelsea always running, Tottenham running to, so’s The North Bank Highbury running after you”; with the exception of me, because I was windy.
Then I thought I would talk about my collection of pristine Arsenal programmes, which I carefully stored under my jumper at each game to keep them flat. However, my daughter recently announced they were the property of my first Grandson (not even on the horizon yet). Probably a good thing, as I would have bored everyone to death.
So, I decided on a subject not Arsenal-specific, but one that may drum up some interesting Arsenal specific responses. I titled it Retsub, my brush with fame.
In my banking career (yah boo hiss) I came into contact with a number of well-known celebrities at corporate events etc, but I wanted to share with you my stories of how I met with footballing greats (OK greats is pushing it a bit) on a personal level.
My elder brothers were schoolboy friends of a Charlton player called Phil Warman; I think I may have spoken with him once or twice. This meant at School I could say I was best buddies with a pro footballer: stardom indeed at an early age.
At secondary School I was coached by Lenny Lawrence (along with 700 other kids) who went on to manage Charlton. We also had Keith Weller for a while. Not that it did me a lot of good. Having left School, some friends and I formed our own team. First season wasn’t a great success and we narrowly avoided relegation. Thinking back, I don’t think it was possible to get relegated anyway. Worst moment was at the awards, when were awarded the ‘fair play trophy’ much to our embarrassment. Still, greatness was to come: and I became a hero the next season, when I was the first player to be booked. Huh no more fair play awards for us. I still proudly display my Eltham and District Division 2 trophy, mainly because it was the only one I ever won.
But greater things were to come. Not necessarily in chronological order.
In the early 1980’s my girlfriend (who became my wife) and I were holidaying in Ibiza. Sitting in the bar one night I got talking football with a guy who announced he was Les Cartwright and played for Coventry City. I think I knew of him, but he certainly wasn’t an A-lister. It was, however, an interesting insight into the life of a professional footballer. Serendipitously, thirty-five year later, Gerry of Bergkampesque fame referred to Les affectionately….
I once took a girlfriend to Highbury for the first time. I was pretty full of myself on the journey to Highbury, explaining about The Marble Halls and the only team with an underground station named after it. And how the star players all had big flash cars, and if we were lucky we might catch a glimpse of one or two at the players’ entrance. In truth, Arsenal were having an awful season and were in danger of being relegated. So, we are on the tube and I look up, and sitting opposite me complete with his kit bag was………an Arsenal megastar: maybe Charlie George or Alan Ball? I have to be careful not to offend a fellow Bergkampesquer, but the megastar was none other than Terry Mancini. Now Terry was playing that day and he was travelling to the match on the tube, classy huh? I was going to be flash and say “alright Tel”, but chickened out. I remember he was a great header of the ball, but not the most gifted player with the ball at his feet. He had been purchased from QPR to try to save Arsenal from relegation. During that period we probably had the worst team I can remember. We didn’t get relegated that or any other season. Mancini was eventually shipped out to Aldershot. Did he really get a hair transplant?
In July 1983 my wife and I married and honeymooned on a far way Island paradise….. OK it was, Majorca. One day I was sitting on the balcony and glanced across at the next hotel. There, lazing on their balconies were the great Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor. I thought about shouting over “alright Brian” but chickened out.
A few days later I was playing head tennis with two young lads in the pool. Like all kids do they were pretending to be their heroes and shouting out the name of Nottingham Forest players. This was great, Forest supporters in the pool and their manager in the hotel next door. I took great pleasure in telling them that Brian Clough was next door, and probably exaggerated a bit and told them that I had exchanged pleasantries. This would no doubt be fantastic news for them that their manager was only a stones throw away.. But no, their response was “ He’s our Dad”… hmmm felt pretty foolish, but I will still claim I taught Nigel Clough a thing or two.
A few years later, my wife’s uncle was part of a team that installed the first giant screen at the back of the South Bank. They obviously didn’t know he was a Spurs fan as they rewarded him with a number of tickets which he duly passed on to me. So my wife, my Mother in law and I find ourselves sitting in or around the Directors’ box at Highbury. Can’t remember who we were playing, but I was sitting just in front of Paul Mariner who was injured. I thought about introducing myself but you know the story by now. Highlight of the day was Charlie Nicholas appearing as a sub. Suddenly Charlie is warming up, clad from head to foot in a bright red tracksuit. My Mother in law exclaims in a really loud voice “ Who is that great fairy?” . We escaped but only just. Another chance of fame had slipped away…
And finally, (to collective sighs of relief) my final story. I was sitting in the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel in Bahrain enjoying a beer on a Thursday evening. For those not familiar with the geography, Bahrain is an Island attached to the Saudi mainland by a causeway. Saudi is a dry country (no alcohol), so every Thursday evening hundreds of Saudi’s drive across the Causeway to enjoy the pleasures denied to them on the mainland. When they drive back it is probably the most dangerous road in the world. It was fairly early and the hordes hadn’t arrived yet. Suddenly two really beautiful blonde girls approach me and we begin chatting. It turns out that they were the cheerleaders for The Arizona Cardinals who were in Bahrain to entertain the American troops based there. Now this was pretty amazing, and ten minutes later about 20 further girls were surrounding me. OK I have exaggerated before, but this really happened. If I had a camera I would have bragging rights for ever. But no such luck, and ten minutes later about 50 randy Saudi’s arrived and ruined any photo opportunity.
So endeth my claims to fame. Hopefully it will stir up some interesting stories from fellow BK’ers! 🙂
Written by: Retsub.