The “best job I ever had” was when I was head of staff publications and site-based public relations for a German industrial giant, which is still at the top of its tree. The job lasted for exactly twenty years, and I will be forever grateful for it and the pension thereafter (he he).
I was blessed with the best Director and Senior Manager you could ever wish for (cheers Gordon and Henry). As long as I delivered on the job, I could do whatever I chose.
I was allowed to live in Blofield, possibly the furthest location from any of their sites if we ignore Stornoway and St Austell. Mobile phones, fax machines and email were in their infancy, but even in the early 1990s functioned well enough for me to do the job. Printed matter was sorted in Aylsham. Convenient, I guess.
The downside of course was that I found myself driving 50,000 miles a year. Manchester, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Wembley were my regular runs. I well remember leaving at four in the morning in order to be in Manchester by nine.
Company cars were like four-wheeled luxury prison cells. The more the job progressed, the more well-appointed they became. Cold Ginsters pasties, luke-warm coffee and my favourite hard rock CDs shared my journeys in a clapped-out Sierra, Orion Ghia, Primera GT, Rover 827, Grandad Scorpio and a SAAB 923 convertible.
There was carte blanche to stay overnight where I wanted, whenever I wanted. Four star hotel, eat myself stupid, and as much wine and/or beer as I could consume. Keep the receipt; claim it back, no worries.
And that facilitated a lot of opportunities. Under these generous terms, I managed to check off Bolton, Bradford City, both Sheffield Clubs, Man U, Man C, Birmingham, Villa, West Brom and just about every club in London.
The Green Man in Wembley wasn’t four-star, but a decent base to get to any midweek London match I could get a ticket for. Henry knew what I was up to, but he didn’t care as long as the job was done. I found it interesting that his personal taste was for opera and ballet (his wife owned what was then Julienne and Porselli in St Giles) and thought football was for peasants, but he thoroughly understood my love and passion for the game.
He went to Westminster School and Keble College Oxford, where one of his lecturers was JRR Tolkien. Yes, that one. Now on to some memories he would not be able to share with me!
Wolves: We had the temerity to beat them 2-0 and it was the night their wonderful fans decided to put half a breezeblock through one of the Club Canary coaches. Tucking my scarf under my Liam Gallagher parka, I walked back through the subway towards the Novotel. I was confronted by half a dozen angry Wolvers, one of whom said: “Ere mate, you sin any o them Norwich b*stards?”
Channeling my mate Stevo, I replied: “No mate I aven’t. I’m off for a coo-ray.” I didn’t look back – you don’t. Scary, but I got my curry.
Middlesbrough. Ayresome Park: The Bob End (look it up). The first thing I noticed was a large banner reading “Bruce says no spitting”. Yes, Bruce Rioch. Classy! I went with Brian, the site driver, and Ray and Davy from the site fire brigade. They told me to shut up if we scored. We didn’t. I woke up the next morning in The Billingham Arms with an unopened bottle of Amber Ale in my pocket. I’m hard with hangovers so made it into work the next day. To a load of abuse from the depot as we were sh*te, as they reminded me.
Rangers: Pure luck this one .I had to go to Cumbernauld near Glasgow to photograph the factory manager’s daughters who were on the British Olympic swimming squad. A good story for a corporate journalist. One of the lads had a spare for Rangers against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup. The original lost weekend.
Liverpool: More luck. I was there on the weekend when the Kop was decomissioned. Who got a free ticket? Me. I was on the Kop when Gossy scored. Not with our fans, but with theirs. But I was there!
Bayern: Our corporate HQ was in Ludwigshafen near Mannheim. Henry suggested I might like to “bung off” – he spoke like that – over there to see what was going on and also take in the game. Flights and hotels sorted; I think I paid for my own internal railway travel.
Strangely in the return leg our lot met up with a few Munich fans who were accompanied by a cable TV crew. In the Garnet, of all places. The director insisted I swapped scarves with a man who was built like a bear and sported a “Fan Club 73” silk scarf and did not want to swap. My mate Slim is built like an even bigger bear and the exchange took place. Despite the proffering of business cards, we never got to see the footage.
I will be back after the Southmapton match. In the meantime, a most sincere Happy New Year wish to our writers, readers and all supporters of NCFC everywhere.