I was a guest at Wimbledon last week, for their match against Man Utd, going there with my dear friend Joe Kinnear. It was almost a year to the day since Joe, while manager of Wimbledon, had a heart attack before their match with Sheffield Wednesday. It happened to him in the tunnel, and the medical people were able to get to him in seconds. He's now fit and well, fully recovered, raring to return to football management.
He must be potty. Imagine wanting to go back to that mad way of life. But, at 53, he feels he's got ten good years still in him and is dead keen to manage another club. That day, before he left his house, there were 30 calls on his answerphone, offering him assorted jobs, opportunities, engagements. About half were from Deep Throats, saying they were intermediaries for X, Y and Z clubs. Football these days is full of money and chancers.
The day was also a big day for Wimbledon. Not just the visit of Man Utd - which is always a sell-out - but also the end of Wimbledon life as we have known it for the past 23 years. Sam Hammam, who dragged the club up from the Fourth Division to the Premier League - something it's impossible to imagine ever happening again - had decided to sell his remaining shares. We got there at one o'clock, just in time for lunch in the boardroom. What a tuck-in we had: best wines, best food - well, I tucked in. I am certainly not on a diet or watching my weight, which Joe now is.
While there, I was ticked off by a Wimbledon director for not wearing a tie. I don't wear a tie, or a suit, the sorts of places I go, but I thought I had made an effort, wearing my smart new black cardigan. When I got home and looked at my Directors' Box ticket, before putting it in my memorabilia folder, I noticed that it said "No jeans or trainers". They have standards, these football folks.
But they were awfully hospitable and friendly, which is often the way at the smaller clubs. I talked to Sir Roland Smith, chairman of Man Utd plc, and he said that, yes, Wimbledon was one of the friendliest. "I don't know about the food, though. Bobby Charlton keeps a list of the Premier League's best food and wines."
I think I'll be a football director when I grow up. I could have been a director of Carlisle United - well anybody could really: all it takes is a few washers, but I think I'll stick to Premier League. It gives such social status, being a Premier director, such popularity among all classes, all ages. Sam is going to miss it, if this is his last season.
Fergie came up into the boardroom, just before kick-off, and sat deep in whispered conversation with another guest - Alastair Campbell, spokesman for the political classes.
I thought you were a Burnley fan, I said to him, after Fergie had gone. He is, and showed me his Burnley scarf, but one of his sons is a mad-keen Man Utd fan. I asked what he was talking so intimately about with his old friend Fergie. He wouldn't tell me, the rotter.
I sat with Joe during the game, which was most illuminating, although it was a bit annoying having Alastair Campbell in front of me, constantly on his mobile or his pager. Hmm, must be ringing Tony, I thought, or making anonymous, menacing calls to Ken Livingstone. It turned out that he was ringing someone in the crowd at Burnley's game who was supposed to be ringing him with the latest score but hadn't got through.
Wimbledon's team is basically still Joe's team, the team he created. He pointed out that Carl Cort was playing out of position, not as a central striker, more of a wing back. Joe also pointed out when free kicks and set pieces went wrong and what should have happened. I think I'd always like to watch games with an expert such as Joe, so I hope he doesn't get a job too quickly and I can go with him again.
Egil Olsen, the new manager, has introduced zonal marking at the back. Joe always preferred man-to-man marking. "OK, if you have world-class players, clever and skilful, then zonal marking is fine. Otherwise, it's better to stick man to man. You give each one their instructions, so they know exactly what they are supposed to do." And if they don't do it, you stand on the touchline and give them a bollocking. As Joe did, sometimes for 90 minutes. I don't think I've ever seen such an involved manager. After every game, it took him two days to get his voice back.
After the game, I got a lift home with Alastair, because he lives near me. I asked him again what plots he and Fergie were hatching. Fergie is a known socialist and Blair supporter, which may not always endear him to the more right-wing Man Utd directors. But he still wouldn't reveal anything.
But he did tell me about the time he went to Carlisle as a teenager, on a supporters' coach from Burnley. In the excitement of Burnley scoring a goal, he lost a shoe. It just came off, fell under the crowd, probably rolled down the terraces. At the end, he waited till the crowds had cleared, but couldn't find it. By which time the supporters' coaches had left for Burnley.
Alastair was forced to hitch-hike all the way home, wearing only one shoe. Bless!
I promised that the next time I'm at Brunton Park I'll have a look for it. Michael Knighton, the Carlisle manager, must have found it by now. He did have an idea for a football museum in the stadium, so it could be an interesting exhibit. Early Example of Spin-Doctor's Shoe, as used for Kicking People. Unless he's sold it. CUFC does need all the pennies it can raise . . .