I had already experienced the week from heaven so I was in good spirits for a client meeting in London on Friday. I took the the train from Euston up to Manchester at 4:05pm, where Jan Walker picked me up at 6:30pm and we rushed to Edgley Park to watch an English Premiership rugby match. The game was between the number 4 side Sale Sharks and the League leaders Gloucester. Our tickets had been arranged by Magnus Lund, an England player and old Lancastrian, who plays for the Sale Sharks. All went well and we caught up with Paul Fitton, an old school friend and his mate, John, a local entrepreneur and ex-rugby player with Broughton Park. Sale Sharks, led by All Black Luke McAllister, were unbelievable and trounced Gloucester in what was their best display of the season.
In the players’ lounge after the game, I caught up with Magnus and the Sharks. You won’t be surprised to hear that a pretty good night was had by all. The comparison between homespun English club rugby and Chelsea could not be more stark. Chelsea has the cosmopolitan, international feel of Milan, where Sale is real down to earth homespun Lancashire (even if it is in Cheshire!). We reached Grasmere at 2:00am that morning and I was looking forward to some tranquillity at the Lakes with Ben, Clarissa and Stella, who were coming up for a break.
Saturday saw the final stage of the Six Nations, and Sunday, of course, was an odyssey to Manchester for me and Ben. There we were, sitting with a deposed Prime Minister who had just returned from a triumph in Bangkok. It was surreal. Later we were taken through the dressing rooms and onto the pitch to feel the atmosphere and watch the players warm-up. I was dreading Thai cuisine for lunch, but as it turned out, we were served Lancashire hot pot and a carvery - you can take City away from the Manchester owners but you can’t take Manchester away from City. I have to say the Thais are certainly committed to taking the team forward and we explored a bunch of ideas for doing just that. John Wardle, the previous owner and Chairman, also joined us for the meeting and it was a terrific combination, with the go-forward ex-patriot owner coordinating closely with the local entrepreneur whose heart was deeply in the roots of the club.
A perfect week was then capped off with a 2-1 win to City taking us one step closer to Europe.
If it gets better than that, I’ve yet to discover it.