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g o a l k e e p i n g Jaw p l u m b e r a n d a c o n t r o v e r s i a l m a t c h a g a i n s t T h e I c i c l e W o r k s

They were bottom o fthe Fourth but they suddenly started w inning every gameand in three seasonsthey were up nearthe top ofthe Second.

Who was thefirst player you met? Funnilyenough, I metCeorge Bestafew t im e s - f irs t was in some drinking club in ■ London in the early 1980s. He heard Iwas V from Manchester and went into this big rant about how he’d used to get all this stick from the crowd at United when they thought he wasn'tdoingenough. Itw astruehedid used to stand around doing nothingfor8o minutes but I thought that was all right, given that he’d still win them the game. But he’d still get stick when he was going o ff from Bobby Charlton and the other players. He was the type who'd just walk into his local boozer and there will always be people wanting to have a go, ifyou’re likethat.

The Fall did a song about football, Kicker Conspiracy, back in theearly 1980s. What sort of reaction did it get at the time? You couldn’t mention football in the rock world then. We were on Rough Trade and I told them “This is aboutfootball violence" and itwas all “You don’t go to football, do you?” I remember Melody Maker saying, “Mark Smith’s obviously got writer’s block having to write about football." About five years later, the same guy reviewed something else saying itw as a load o f rubbish and “ nowhere nearthe heights o f Kicker Conspiracy". And now, o f course, all the old music hacks are sat in the directors’ box with Oasis.

Have you ever watched a game from the directors' box? My worst experience at City, actually, was when the agent we were with at thetim egotus into the directors’ boxfora David Bowie showat Maine Road. And itw asa disgrace. They had pennants on the wall, like the European Cup-Winners Cup, all creased up in plastic. They hadn’t changed the photos since 1968, they still had black and white blow-ups from the Manchester Evening News and the trophy cabinet hadn’t been cleaned. The bar itselfwas like a kiosk - it was worse than anythingonthe Kippax. Alex Higgins was there tooand he sort o f collapsed into it. I’ve been to United’s, and ofcourse that was like something on Concorde.

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What is yourfavouritefootball book?

The best one I’ve read is Colours of

My Life by Malcolm Allison, which covers how he turned City around. When he came back in the late 1970s he was totally broke. He’d go into all the best clubs in Manchester like itwas still 1968 and take a load o f mates, like an Oliver Reed scene. He’d be asked to pay at the end and he’d just say, "Pay? Whatdoyou mean, I’m Malcolm A llison.” But sometimes it d idn’t work and they’d have to have a whip round, he'd go around collecting fivers and loose change in his hat.

As far as football w riting now,

the newspaper coverage here isterrible. Iwas lookingat one paperduring Man

Utd's games in Brazil and I

thought, “Am I reading the financial pages?” It was all about Man Utd haven’t got a press guy and what a disaster it was they were the only club who didn’thaveone. And I’m reading it, th inking “Yeah, but what was the score?”

Have you kept in touch with football when you've been abroad? Going to Germany in the early 1980s got me back into football when Iwas goingoffita bit. In places like Hamburgthere was an avant garde rock scene among fansatsomeclubs, somethingthat wasn’tthere in Britain. And you get big pints o f beer at German matches for, like, 25p, and a nice clean sausage. sawGermany v Bulgaria a tth e ig 94 World Cup. What a day out that was.

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