Everybody says you should never meet your heroes. I disagree.
I’ve met three of my musical idols: Ronnie Wood, Jimmy Page and the late, great Lemmy.
Ronnie Wood signed a print of his self-portrait for me when I went to his Decades exhibition at the Katherine Hamnett gallery in the 1980s. I must have looked a bit out of place (suit and tie, I was on my dinner break from work) and he came over for a chat. Maybe he thought I was security! When I said I was a massive Faces and Stones fan we had a good old natter. He seemed as bored with the fashionistas and hype as I was. Some 30 years later that signed print is still on the wall at home and would easily pay for two years’ season tickets were I to sell it. As if. Top bloke.
Jimmy Page lived near a place called Standford in Hampshire in Aleister Crowley’s old house. Headley Grange, I think. The villagers held a barbecue event every year featuring a tug-o-war across the river ford. There was I in the hog roast queue with Jimmy Page discussing The Blues and if he could join me in the rope-tugging. He bottled it in the end, but what a gentleman.
As for Lemmy, well that was Motorhead’s first gig at The Marquee in Wardour Street in 1975. He asked if we were “holding anything”, discovered we weren’t clutching anything other than pints of lager, introduced their guitarist and stayed with us for 20 minutes or so. Teenage hard rock heaven.
Footballers aren’t so bad either. I can honestly say I’ve never met one I didn’t like.
Reeling off the NCFC list is easy: Gunny (It’s hard to think of anybody who hasn’t met him), Darren Eadie, Mike Milligan (they combined to open my mate’s sports shop, called JB at the top of Gentlemans’ Walk – long gone), Flecky, Ian Crook, Adam Drury, Mike Walker, Mendy, Neil Adams, Elliott Bennett, Russell Martin, Spearo. And Tim Sheppard who got my ankle ligaments back for me. My trips to Grove Walk flashed by – as many anecdotes about cricket as football. Thanks Tim, I think I still owe you a fiver
I never got to meet my absolute heroes: Dale Gordon or Darren Huckerby. You can’t have it all, of course.
Sometimes though, you don’t always meet players where you might expect to.
Many moons ago I had my daughter holding my hand and my son in a pushchair outside Debenhams. Who strolled by in a virulent purple and green shellsuit? Ruel Fox. We had a great little chat and he was so nice with the kids it was unbelievable.
Before that bypass was built I had to drive back from anywhere I ever went for work via Carrow Road, and that’s where I ‘met’ Foxy again. This white VW Golf convertible had been tailing me for seemingly ages with rap so loud it was almost drowning out my Iron Maiden. As we pulled up side by side at the lights the occupants looked over. Foxy in the passenger seat and Lee Power driving. I just waved my scarf out of the window of the Mondeo and got two great thumbs-ups.
I’ve seen Wes and Holty on the road too – polite waves in both cases for the NCFC sticker on the back of the MX5, I guess.
Away from the Norwich City lads now, if you please.
John Radford. A big old unit who played for Arsenal and ended up at Bishop’s Stortford. I was invited to his opening night as a publican at The Greyhound in Thaxted, and a wonderful old building it was. The first thing you saw was a bongo drum on a window shelf with a sticker on it saying: “My name is Spurs. Please beat me, the Arsenal always do.” Unfortunately my Gooner mate Dave who I took along for the ride misplaced the location of the Gents and walked upstairs. A throaty Yorkshire accent suggested Dave was “after his missus” and threatened to chuck us out. Considering I was sports editor of the local paper at the time, we left anyway. Cheers, Smiffy.
Ruud Krol. I served him a pint of lager. That Ruud Krol and he had a couple of Dutch international team-mates with him when he came into my mate’s pub, where I worked a very pleasant second job for many years. Turned out he was over for a wedding and had known my publican pal Bob for ages. Did he get a little hero-worship from the very many assembled beer boys? Yes indeed.
Bobby Moore. When I walked home from school in Essex, Bobby could sometimes be spotted with a hosepipe washing down his lipstick red Jaguar XJ6 on his massive driveway. He would always give us a wave and once he came over and spoke to our little lot. Cooler than the coolest of cool. I cannot remember a word he said, but I have spoken with England’s World Cup winning captain.
Graham Taylor. I reported on Harlow Town’s epic FA Cup adventures in the early Eighties – they beat Southend and Leicester after replays on their primitive Sportcentre pitch, eventually going out 3-4 at Vicarage Road, Watford. Graham praised Harlow to the hilt, gave me some great quotes and was a very nice man indeed. Unlike a famous BBC commentator in a thick furry coat, who wanted us to shut up so his TV crew could take over. Deadlines, I suppose.
David James. I met him while taking photographs at a Company Golf Day at The Belfry Golf Course near Warwick. He was there to do an interview for MotD and spent what seemed like ages talking with my colleague Amanda and myself afterwards. I took a couple of pictures of her with him and as a Manchester lass she was “well made up”. The photos made boyfriend Pete a bit jealous, which might have been her objective!
And… Sir Alex Ferguson. A photographer I worked with a lot who sometimes played golf with Sir Alex at Mottram Hall in Cheshire persuaded him to officially hand over the keys to a minibus for The Royal Schools for the Deaf in Cheadle Hulme near Stockport that the Company I worked with had raised the funds for. He was “booked” for 10 minutes but spent nearly two hours with the kids, parents and staff. Every child there had a secondary disability also and it was a great cause. Top, top man and while I will never find any affection for Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson will always have a place in my heart. As will Fletch the cameraman.
I’ll be back after the Brentford match with the sharpest of teeth reset in both upper and lower jawbones. Even if I have to borrow them from the dog.
* Any brushes with the famous – NCFC or otherwise – you’d like to share? There’s a comment box awaiting *