Shocked into silence, that’s not usually me. I’m not usually star struck either.
I had arrived at Old Trafford the other Monday morning and announced myself in reception, there was some initial confusion while they tried to find the person who was dealing with me, but I sat patiently waiting to then be informed that there was no United Legend at the club today so I would not be having my photo taken with one. Slightly disappointed I joined a tour of the stadium which had been kindly laid on for me by the chaps in the media dept and which started at 10am.
The guide took us into the stadium after his initial introduction but his radio crackled with a message, “If Scott Mclahlan could run round to the East Stand reception then Sir Bobby will be there to greet him.” It didn’t really register until the guide said to me “Your luck is in Son, you’re meeting Sir Robert.” So, breathless with excitement I jogged round to the East Stand reception where the receptionist who had earlier told me I was out of luck was now offering me a Coffee and a seat to wait for the great man.
After a few minutes he emerged from the side door and he warmly greeted me after the Media chaps had introduced me and explained what i was doing. I was struggling to do anything apart from grin like a lunatic at this point but I did splutter out some words of thanks for him meeting me. At Sir Bobbys request we all headed up to one of the boxes which lead out to the Stadium in order to pose for some photos and immediately you could tell how warmly Sir Bobby felt about Old Trafford, he lit up when talking about the place. It was a pleasure to be in his company if only briefly, a real highlight of my walk and a moment I will never forget. He shok me warmly by the hand and wished me good luck bemoaning the fact he couldnt do much walking himself now, especially in places like Inverness where he had spent some time recently.
One of footballs true greats and a real gentleman.
After an interview for the United magazine I went back on the tour to see Old Trafford up close myself, its an impressive place and a recent addition of the Munich memorial in one part of the ground that is accessible by the public is a really nice touch, telling the story and also providing a fitting memorial. It really serves to remind people what early commercial airflight was like and sometimes just how dangerous it was, we take flying for granted now but post war it was a risky business.
That evening I stayed with a lady called Clare who lived in a nice place just outside of Stockport and worked at the BBC in the Mediacity, its an impressive place in the rebuilt quays and the whole regeneration of Manchester in that area looks modern and dynamic. Sadly Clare had a missing cat called Archie and we spent some time that evening looking for him and putting up posters, I hope he has now returned safe and sound.
The next day I headed to the Emirates to visit Manchester City, a place I had been before but the last time I had not very happy memories as Portsmouth were roundly beaten 6-0. The improvement is massive after a few years of investment and the place really looks like home, alongside a centre of sporting achievement where Sport England send some athletes, its an impressive complex now. The one thing that I thought was a very nice touch was a memorial garden where fans could scatter ashes of lost loved ones and also have a small service.
The club had laid on a couple of ex-players, Alex Williams and Paul Lake to have some pictures taken with me, but to my surprise they had also set up the actual Premier League trophy and Charity Shield to have some pictures taken pitchside with! This completed a personal hat-trick as I had also laid hands on the real FA Cup in 2008 when Pompey had it so this week was turning out to be very special. Sarah in the Commercial dept was also going to arrange a signed certificate to commemorate my visit, which was a very nice and unique gesture.
The Manchester City Supporters Club had also set me up with a night in the Brittania Hotel in the city centre so I was well catered for before I started doing some serious walking to the North Manchester clubs, what a few days it had been and I was sure the welcome at clubs like Rochdale would be just as warm.
From the Emirates it was out of Manchester central to Oldham, a shortish walk. When I got there I had the fortune to meet the Manager Paul Dickov and what a pleasant experience that was. Dickov had a reputation on the pitch for being an unpleasant type and he always used to score at Fratton Park so he was particularly hated for that in PO4 but to my delight he couldnt have been nicer. Genuinely interested in my challenge he asked all sorts of quesions and signed my flag, me and my big mouth though almost spoilt it because I told him the last Manager to sign it was McInnes from Bristol City and they had endured a terrible run since!
“Dont say that!’ said Dickov but luckily we both laughed it off.
Another short afternoon walk took me to Rochdale and a chap called Ian was putting me up for a couple of nights at his home in Bury. Rochdale, Bury and Bolton are relatively close so I wasnt going to be clocking up too many miles again this week. When we visitied Rochdale the following morning Ian had secured a donation of £50 from the Rochdale Trust which was a nice surprise, we were shown round Spotlands by one of the only 3 staff that seemed to be working there, a lovely young lady called Leighanne. I felt sorry for her because the only way out to the stadium from her office went through some Gents loos!
Next stop a leisurely stroll to Bury which is a much larger town than Rochdale and I spent a nice afternoon chilling out in a pub before completing the walk to Gigg lane. Ian and I went to his local Duck Club, complete with Bowling Green, to watch the England friendly against Sweden with THAT Ibrahimovic goal and enjoyed a beer or two.
Forever Bury looked after me at Gigg Lane the next morning and gave me a good tour around the place, I also met an amazing ex-serviceman who had been severely wounded in Afghanistan in a mortar attack, it certainly put my efforts into perspective when you meet true heroes and the story of his bravery was astounding.
If you’d like to help visit www.soldierscharity.org which is a wonderful charity helping wounded servicemen, not as well known as Help for Heroes but just as vital.
Next Blog will be up soon, hope you enjoyed this one and if so please donate at www.justgiving.com/walkthe92