Up close & personal at the Etihad

A walk in the park led to within inches of the hallowed Etihad turf as a fluke of good fortune befell two Manchester City fanatics and a beautiful bitch called Mollie Zaba!

The chance encounter between MCFC Business Development Executive, David Smith and the husband and wife City supporters – 100 miles south of Manchester – brought them that little bit closer to the team they love, and the characters within.

Dog-lovers all, David empathised with the City fans after hearing Mollie Zaba, a gorgeous little black Cockapoo and named after you know who, had been attacked by another mutt just a few minutes earlier.

MCFC Cockapoo Mollie Zaba named after a certain legendary City defender.

MCFC Cockapoo Mollie Zaba named after a certain legendary City defender.

The MCFC rucksack containing water, dog treats and the obligatory ‘poo-bags’ identified the couple’s allegiance to the Champions of England, despite being surrounded by a terrain full of fans from Aston Villa, Wolves, WBA, Birmingham…even Walsall for goodness sake!

Having struck up a rapport and been impressed – or was the City executive just being polite – by the dog owner’s MCFC blog, contact details were exchanged as the unexpected hook-up drew to a conclusion.

True to his word, the engaging Mr Smith emailed the couple and invited them to experience what it was like to go ‘pitchside’ at the next home game – the lunchtime kick off with Spurs, with live coverage from BT Sport – and every City fan’s ‘favourite’ co-commentator – Michael Monotone Drone Owen.

Pitch perfect - Myself, Debi and Nick get close to the hallowed Etihad turf. Courtesy@MCFC

Pitch perfect – Myself, Debi and Nick get close to the hallowed Etihad turf. Courtesy@MCFC

Alas, Mollie Zaba couldn’t be catered for, so she had a lovely day at the Doggie Day Club in the Midlands, as her owners headed north up the M5, M6 & M56 on the two hour journey.

Food for thought as City expand the Etihad and acclimatise to the superb Etihad Campus, how about ‘Pet City’ on match days to accommodate supporter’s ‘furry friends’? A few City frisbees, tennis balls, bones, comfortable blankets…what… you mean Sheikh Mansour hasn’t factored in the Canine Kids’ MCFC Supporters Branch in the Grand Plan…scandalous!

A surprisingly smooth run up the motorways – one of the benefits of an early kick-off – had the couple at the Blue Car Park just after 11am – where they met up with their friend, Nick Spalding , a Tottenham fan who had driven up from Hertfordshire.

Two fists of iron - Sergio topped City's Premier League scoring record against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

Two fists of iron – Sergio topped City’s Premier League scoring record against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

Having predicted his team would lose 6-0 at the Etihad last season, the 6ft 5” Mr Spalding – a real gent – had earned the right to be called ‘Mystic Nick’. His prediction had been spot on and, at 125/1 he’d have banked a fortune had he put a bet on the outcome. He didn’t.

Unbelievably, Nick did it again, envisaging a 4-1 defeat for his beloved Lillywhites.

Come high noon, David met up on the Etihad concourse to usher the trio down to the pitch just before the players came out to warm up.

Pre-match chat - City's David Smith and Debi discuss the pitchside experience.

Pre-match chat – City’s David Smith and Debi discuss the pitchside experience.

Rather like a kid in a sweet shop, it was a lovely experience for the City fans to be so close to something so dear.

The iPhones were out in force, the selfies were in full flow and then City’s very own Super Snapper, the highly talented Sharon Latham, did the photographic honours with the official match day pics.

Pinpoint precise, ‘Shazzer’ almost succeeded in making the pig ugly blogger appear ‘reasonable’, unlike his naturally highly photogenic blonde wife, who always looks good.

Despite having had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and chatting to the likes of Joe Hart, Aleksander Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, James Milner and Vincent Kompany on previous occasions, this wasn’t to be the case on the day.

Warming up, but City were too hot for Spurs.

Warming up, but City were too hot for Spurs.

Quite understandably the players were off limits as the clock ticked down to the 12.45pm kick off. But that didn’t stop a close encounter and invitation no man could refuse from a City legend.

In the new world of Manchester City’s on-field success, corporate growth and global commercial reach, Rose Woolrich could probably have a business card, proclaiming her as Director of Beverages.

Two ladies and a dodgy blogger - Debi, Rose Woolrich and myself.

Two ladies and a dodgy blogger – Debi, Rose Woolrich and myself.

The reality is that this wonderful octogenarian – but one never asks a lady her specific age – has been City’s tea lady for nearly 40 years, making handsome brews and tasty sandwich buffets, first at Maine Road and now the Etihad.

She provides the sustenance for the posse of match day photographers who retreat to ‘Rose’s Room’ before kick-off, at half time and when the final whistle goes.

Having asked and been granted a photo opportunity by the pitch with Rose, the City blogging husband had no hesitation in temporarily deserting his beautiful blonde wife, for a quick interlude with ‘Rosie Lee’ in her room, just down the tunnel as the Colin Bell Stand reaches the North Stand.

Bedecked in photos of Rose with City players, managers, coaches and dignitaries, as well as famous opposition players from the past and present, the montage is testimony to her longevity and loyalty.

Ball boy - Sergio made sure he had the match ball after his four goals against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

Ball boy – Sergio made sure he had the match ball after his four goals against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

Just like her ‘cuppas’ Rose is an absolute smasher. She asks her impromptu guest if she could have copies of the photos – ‘proper’ photos – as she doesn’t have a computer or any of that ‘internet stuff’.

Back in the early afternoon sunshine, the BT Sport quartet of Steve McManaman, Tim Sherwood , Owen Hargreaves and the splendid Jake Humphrey (with whom the City blogger had previously worked) were polishing off their pre-match analysis.

Great form - Joe Hart was forced into some tremendous saves as City won 4-1. Courtesy@MCFC

Great form – Joe Hart was forced into some tremendous saves as City won 4-1. Courtesy@MCFC

As City and Spurs completed their warm up and headed back down the tunnel, the wife called out to AK47 Kolarov and was given a wave and a grin – one happy lady!

It was time to go back to being ‘ordinary fans’ and prepare for the kick off. It’d been a most enjoyable pre-amble to the match, facilitated by a fine ambassador for Manchester City.

Stern Serb - Kolarov managed a smile and a wave to Debi in the warm up routine against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

Stern Serb – Kolarov managed a smile and a wave to Debi in the warm up routine against Spurs. Courtesy@MCFC

The opportunity was enormously appreciated by two long-time season ticket holders and a visitor who, in two seasons has seen his team clattered 10-1 – he’ll be invited back next season at this rate!

Record-breaker - Super Sergio hits the dizzy heights. Courtesy@MCFC

Record-breaker – Super Sergio hits the dizzy heights. Courtesy@MCFC

As a hors d’ oeuvres it had been splendid. The main dish – a Sergio Sizzling Four Goal Feast – was tremendously satisfying – so much so, that no desserts were required.

Had that not been the case Rose would doubtless have had some slices of Victoria Sponge going spare. What a Super City Saturday!

By David Walker

On behalf of myself, my wife Debi and friend Nick I would like to emphasise what a delight it was to meet and spend a few minutes with Rose Woolrich, sympathise with Sharon Latham for having to focus on my features once again and finally extend a MASSIVE thank you to David Smith for making it all happen. CTWD

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

 

12 Comments

  1. October 28, 2014  3:03 pm by Doug Sharp Reply

    Sounds as if you had a good day you lucky people!

    • October 28, 2014  3:06 pm by David Walker Reply

      We were very fortunate and very appreciative.

  2. October 28, 2014  3:10 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Wow what a day you all had how lucky were you. Hope Mollie Zaba got some treats for making it possible in the 1st place. P.S. Dave Mrs H says thanks for the new pics of Mollie.

    • October 28, 2014  5:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Rest assured Doug and Mrs H - Mollie Zaba doesn't want for much at any time, she is treated like a little princess. Love her to bits!

  3. October 28, 2014  7:51 pm by Gary Moughton Reply

    Nice blog David. I spotted you all on the day of the spurs game. When you were pitch side, you did indeed look thrilled to be there, much more so than the usual corporate guests on a free day out which I see going back and forth up the steps nearby to where I sit. Good to see genuine fans being treated to this

    • October 28, 2014  8:29 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers Gary - thanks for the observation.

  4. October 28, 2014  7:54 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Well David, envy of every City fan getting up close and personnel at the Etihad. Really pleased for you both and that you got an insight into the match day routine we the average Joe never ever see's.

    • October 28, 2014  8:40 pm by David Walker Reply

      We just got lucky Phil. We'll be there tomorrow night but not in the usual seats just a few rows forward. As you say good buddy 'Keep The Faith'!

  5. October 28, 2014  9:49 pm by Marnie Bamford Reply

    Lovely to see a write up about Rose. So pleased she is still at City. She looks very well. I used to work with one of her sisters and heard a lot about her. She is a legend.

    • October 28, 2014  11:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      She is a lovely and remarkable lady - I nearly said 'old' but you are only as old as you feel and I reckon Rose is about 25! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. October 29, 2014  4:27 pm by David Kelly Reply

    Good lad Dave, very jealous, glad you had a great day

    • October 29, 2014  11:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Guvnor.

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