A former Premier League manager approached us here at Tales and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:
Last week ended on a bit of a low note, as Carol’s father was taken to hospital after a suspected heart attack. She was heartbroken, even after I had told her he had tried to shoot me moments before.
Feeling unsupported at one of the lowest moments of one’s life is a horrible feeling. Carol should have known that and offered me more support. Since she was so wrapped up in her own feelings, I decided to get out of the house for a while.
I took this opportunity to chase the man who had become my ‘white whale’: Jose Mourinho. I had received a tip that he had remained in the Lowry hotel over the international break, working on how to improve his team’s season. There would be a pretty strong chance that he would need help with that, so I checked into the hotel for the duration of the break.
While travelling north, I caught word that Argentina were playing Italy at the Etihad stadium. Messi would be in the country! I could see him play! Maybe I could even… meet him?
Pulling into a lay-by, I rang Julie and asked her to make the appropriate arrangements. She promptly bought me tickets to the game, but sadly, she was unable to arrange anything with the Argentinian FA or Messi’s people.
‘I’m sorry, Alan. It seems that they, that they er, have trouble recalling you, yes, that’s definitely what they said. I’m sure they’ll come round.’
I carried on to the game regardless. The chance to witness Messi play would be reward enough. I could then move on to trying to get a meeting with Mourinho later.
I took my seat in the South Stand, back and to the left of the goal, back and to the left, back and to the left… of the goal. I got in with about half an hour before kick-off, so I could watch the players warm up.
Peering over to the Argentina players warming up at the other end of the field, I tried to spy Messi. I couldn’t wait to see him play. He’s as close as you get to a footballing God. The man can do some truly incredible things and I was about to see them! Maybe he’ll pop in a free kick, or beat the entire Italy team or pull off an incredible pass that no one else can see?
After several minutes of monitoring the Argentinians, it started to dawn on me. Messi wasn’t there. Even Rojo was there! Well, I had heard that Messi often gets his own way, but not warming up? That’s taking it a step too far. Someone needed to have a word with the Argentinian manager, that’s simply not on. If only there was a management consultant in the building?
I smiled wryly to myself as I made my way towards the changing rooms. If I could just have a word with Jorge Sampaoli, maybe he would be able to get Messi to warm up and stop acting like he was too big for his boots. Or… maybe I could simply go straight to the source of the problem?
As I was getting towards the changing rooms, the bloke who had been doing pieces to camera with members of the crowd tried to shout me over to give an interview. The stupid berk had been talking in that ‘Laddy Bantz’ tone all evening, so I told him where he could shove it. He tried to swing for me, but I was too quick for him, sidestepping his right hook and wiping his legs out from under him.
‘Go and have a chat with ‘Nige’, pal,’ I quipped, as I continued on my journey to the changing rooms.
Upon my arrival, I noticed that there were two security men stood either side of the door to the changing room. I wondered whether I could use my fame to wrangle a meeting with Messi but then decided to be more discreet.
Travelling deeper into the bowels of the stadium, I managed to weave my way to the opposite end of the same corridor I had spotted the two men in earlier. I grabbed the nearest bin and set fire to its contents (I always carry a lighter for this exact situation). The two men noticed the smoke and sprinted towards the blaze, so I span on my heels and sprinted all the way round to the changing room and let myself in.
There he was.
He was sat only wearing his shorts, on the bench directly opposite the door with his back against the wall. His skin almost gleamed in the light, his hair seemed to quiver in the air and his eyes shone as brightly as the sun.
The only way to describe him was…miraculous. Even though he wasn’t actually doing anything, you could just see and feel his talent. It oozed out of him and across the room. This felt like a precious moment in time like the universe had halted around me, allowing me to be so close to this deity.
I had been staring at him the entire time I had been stood in front of him. He had been staring at me as well, transfixed with fear. Suddenly, he seemed to be rising up. Or rather, I was descending. My knees had been quivering so much that they were starting to give way. The sheer awesomeness of the man sat before me appeared to be having a physical effect on my muscles.
Messi stood up and came over to try and help me up, but as he got closer the gravity in the room seemed to increase. I was bending closer and closer to the ground, I tried to resist it and stand up but the force was too strong. The pain forced me to let out a guttural scream that rose into a full-on shriek.
By this time, the Argentine was stood over me, looking perplexed and terrified. He reached down to try and lift me up, but the pain was too intense. What was this? Was this all in my head? I swung an arm out in self-defence and my forearm made firm contact with his ankle. He went down easily, letting out a scream as he dropped.
When he hit the ground, the intense weight that was holding me down left the room. Taking a moment to breathe, I pushed myself to my feet and looked down at Messi. His ankle was swollen already. He suddenly looked human. It dawned on me that it must have all been in my head. It also dawned on me that I was definitely in trouble now.
Suddenly, the door behind me burst open. The two security men bundled into the room, their clothes mostly burnt off, only a few shreds of their suits remaining. They looked at the ground and saw the now writhing Messi, then looked back up at me. They each had a face like thunder. I was about to raise my arms to defend myself, but I was too slow.
The next thing I saw was the ceiling as I fell to the floor.
It was just like they say, I thought as I slowly fell unconscious, never meet your heroes.