Some time ago I made a pact with my partner to go to the Gym twice a week, part of the price for having a good eating lifestyle. On Saturday afternoon, before the wiles of Euro 2000 returned to the TV screen, we
fitted in another workout.
A silver-haired man, tall and imposing, was busy on the upper-body equipment. I have never been one for autographs, or idolising players, but a second glimpse told me who he was. Usually I don’t like to bother the gifted and famous, but eventually I decided to approach him. He must have been a dedicated trainer in his playing days, the effort and sweat was impressive for a man of his age, and you could see how he was proud of his physique even now.
I chatted with him for merely a couple of minutes, and then he was gone. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise really, I knew he had lived in my area, Sale, for a long time.
My partner asked me who he was? I told her how he had been a first-teamer for 18 years, how he made his debut long before my time, at Anfield in 1952, how he survived the Munich Crash, and figured in Uniteds golden triumph of 1968. How he gave up a better-paid job down the pit to become a United stalwart, tough, reliable, not flashy but dependable, how he sold his medals, including 4 League Championship medals, and presumably his England cap too, in the early 90s as he needed the money. How he missed out on the big money that todays players rake in, being on the £20 a week maximum for many years.
My chat with him was brief. I asked how his knee was treating him, and he told me, not so good. He mentioned that he still sees most home games, but is coaching still for the Manchester FA, and is asked to show the parties of Japanese visitors around the Stadium, thanks to his links with that country after 4 years coaching spent there.
I told him that I hope I am motivated the same way at his age to go to the gym. He smiled, and proudly said, “I am 68 you know.” I didn’t tell him I had worked that out moments before in my head, from his debut back in 1952, to his last outing against Southampton in 1969…
Oh yes, for those few who didn’t work him out, it was Bill Foulkes.