Joe wants to be a manager again. So he must be potty

That's it then. No more football books. Done, got the signed jockstrap. My portfolio is now complete. I created this ambition for myself many years ago, back in 1972, when I did a book about a year in the life of a team. One day, I said, I'll do a book about a player. After that, I'll do a manager. Then I'll hang up my Sporting Amstrad.

But for 27 years, other things happened, such as life. Until last year, when I did the biog of a player, Dwight Yorke - remember him? Great story, very interesting life, but hell to do because I got messed around. I was kept waiting for hours, he hardly concentrated when I was with him, and Man Utd gave no help, even though it was officially a Man Utd book. The buggers. But I did achieve my second ambition. Having got inside a top team, I had been with a top player, watching his life while he won the treble.

So how to line up a manager? It is hard to engineer such things if you are outside the football-reporting fraternity. Not easy to make new contacts, living half the year in Lakeland, finger on the remote control. My opening came on 3 March1999, at an evening match between Sheffield Wednesday and Wimbledon. Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, went out on to the pitch with his team for the warm-up. He felt his throat go funny, sweat was pouring from him, he couldn't breathe, his left arm went numb - the classic signs of a heart attack. If it had happened on the motorway, he would probably have been a goner. But Wednesday's club doctor was on hand, and a specialist heart unit only minutes away. It was life or death for 24 hours, intensive care for two weeks, followed by months sitting at home, bored out of his mind. Which was where I came in.

When I wrote The Glory Game in 1972, Joe was my best friend in the Spurs team. He was a bachelor, with afternoon time on his hands, although he did have a girlfriend, Bonnie (now his wife), who, by chance, I already knew. She had a men's fashion shop in Hampstead Village, where I bought the odd bit of men's fashion. Bought nothing since. Waiting for it to make a comeback.

One of the things I asked the first team pool of 18 was if they wanted to stay in football. Almost all said: "Not bloody likely, I'd end up in the loony bin, I've seen what it does to Bill Nick." (Bill Nicholson, their manager - do concentrate.) Yet eight of the Spurs players became managers, with varying degrees of success - Martin Peters, Alan Mullery, Graeme Souness, Cyril Knowles, Steve Perryman, Mike England, Phil Holder and Joe Kinnear.

Back then, Joe was one of the few who said he couldn't imagine a life outside football. He hoped he might be a coach one day. It took some time before he arrived at Wimbledon as reserve team coach in 1989. I kept in contact with him over the years. I would often ring him just to hear his latest answerphone message: "If you want tickets for the match, then piss off, but if you're ringing from Barcelona or Milan, I'll ring you right back . . . " When he became Wimbledon manager, I was occasionally invited into the directors' box, usually when they were playing Spurs.

So, naturally, I rang him when he was ill, sent one of my lovely books - a biography of RLS - which, naturally, he still hasn't read. And, as therapy for him, and to pass the time, I began taking down his life story. It was a perfect project for me, because he lives just 15 minutes from our London home - that's the sort of travelling I like - and, because he had time on his hands, I got his full attention, unlike what's-his-face, Dwighty Baby.

As Joe recuperated, he often did nothing for days, except take his grandson round the garden. But one day, when I said that it must be so boring, Joe, poor old you, he said, not really, Vinnie Jones picked me up yesterday, went to see him on the film set with Brad Pitt, then it was a party in the evening with Madonna. These modern footballers, eh. As he got stronger, the phone started ringing, with Deep Throats from Celtic and Blackburn saying that there could be a vacancy soon, possibly might be. Was he available? But keep shtum.

While I was writing the book, Joe did get several offers - but from clubs with money problems, wanting him to work the miracle he had managed at Wimbledon. For eight years, he kept that team high in the Premiership, despite lousy crowds, buying cheap in the lower divisions, polishing them up, selling them on. The whole Wimbledon story, their rise from non-league, is indeed miraculous. I can't see it ever being repeated.

Trailing to all those lower-league games meant 18-hour days, thousands of motorway miles, mountains of chips and burgers, plus gallons of Guinness. All fans saw how Joe had ballooned - especially the opposing fans. But now he is slimmer, as fit as anyone his age, and he wants to get back into football management, if the offer is right. I think he's potty. It was football that contributed to his heart attack - the stress plus the lifestyle. Why go back? It's a drug, innit? It's all he knows. He's only 53, much younger than Uncle Fergie and Grandad Bobby Robson. Still time, so he says, for another decade in the dugout.

If he does pack it in, and takes one of the many media jobs on offer, it will be football's loss. He has been one of the most successful, best-loved managers of the past decade. There aren't many such large, very English characters like him in top management today. OK, he is Irish-born, but he has spoken Watford Cockney since he was seven. Very soon, the Premiership will be filled by emotionless suits from France and Italy who never swear, and who look and speak like accountants.

Still Crazy: the authorised biography of Joe Kinnear by Hunter Davies is published by Andre Deutsch (£17.99)