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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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