It's an Honour to Meet You.... And you, Geoff
The odds of it not raining in Manchester are estimated to be something like one million to one so when I opened my eyes this morning to the most brilliant sunshine of the year, I knew something was wrong and then in my half-sleep, I remembered that today was not a normal day. Not a normal day, at all.
You see, myself and a few other local football bloggers had been invited along to an event at the newly opened Kitbag sport shop in Manchester City Centre where I was to get to meet Sir Geoff Hurst and have my photo taken with him and a new England shirt (duly signed by Sir Geoff himself).
The person I was told to ask for when I arrived at the store was a chap called Russ Hirst and so I asked the lady on the door where I might find Russ Hirst… she looked at me with a confused look on her face… “Russ Hurst? We have Geoff Hurst here today but…”
So that left me looking like a bit of a plonker and I began to wonder if it had all been some kind of wind-up – perhaps from a City fan who had happened upon the TRD site?
However, Geoff Hurst was definitely there because I could hear him being interviewed by local radio station Key 103 (quipping that when he arrived in Manchester this morning he thought he was in the wrong place because it wasn’t raining).
Anyway, knowing that much of the story was at least true, I went downstairs to see him and hear what else he had to say (amongst other things, he regards Wayne Rooney as the only current England player who could have played in the World Cup winning side of 1966).
As I was listening to Sir Geoff, I was scanning the crowd looking for someone who might look like someone called Russ Hirst when I saw a young man a few yards away holding a clipboard who had recently been joined by another young chap who had “Blogger” written all over him – I don’t mean literally, I mean, he just looked like a blogger. I was later to learn that he was a pleasant young chap called Pete who was there as a person who blogs about Blackburn Rovers (well, someone has to, I suppose).
So I took a leap of faith, “You wouldn’t happen to know Russ Hirst would you?”
“That’s me! Are you The Red Devil?”, answered Russ.
It’s quite strange to be addressed by your alter ego pseudonym but as strange was today’s byword, I was happy to go along with it, “Yes, that’s me”, I replied. Maybe my horns gave it away… I don’t know.
There was another lad there, big fella… unfortunately I can’t remember his name now but I think he also writes a blog.
Anyway, after a bit of general chit chat we were ushered along with our England shirts in hand to meet Sir Geoff himself.
I must admit that whilst I obviously know about the World Cup winning team of 1966, it was a bit before my time (I’m not that old) and so I couldn’t really say that I was excited to meet Sir Geoff – I don’t know the word to describe how I felt as I was about to meet him but I suppose it was curiosity.
You have to remember that Sir Geoff is a very rare breed – he is an Englishman who has won the World Cup.
I had better just say that again – An ENGLISHMAN who has WON the WORLD CUP.
There aren’t many of those left in the world as, sadly, some of them have already left us.
In fact, Sir Geoff Hurst is a unique rarity amongst the rare breeds as he is the only man to ever score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final.
And so I walked towards Sir Geoff and that was when the surreal-o-meter kicked up a notch.
This was Sir Geoff Hurst, MBE. Knight, World Cup winner, legendary hat-trick scorer and he was sitting in front of me…
And he was shouting at me.
Due to the general buzz in the shop and the fact that he has quite a strong London (?) accent, I couldn’t quite hear or understand what he was saying.
It was something like, “Tighter! Pull it tighter! Hold the shoulders!”
“Pull what tighter?”, I was thinking “And why is he being so scary? Someone could have warned me he was mental.”
Then I realised what he meant, I wasn’t stretching the shirt enough for him to sign it so I pulled it tighter and he explained to me how it makes a “right mess” if you don’t pull the shirt tight enough. This was better, I felt that we were really connecting now.
Then we shook hands and that’s when it hit me that the hand that I am shaking once held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy – a unique moment for me and one that I may never have the opportunity to do again.
At this point, I remembered that we were supposed to have our photo taken with him so I turned around to face the camera and, I can’t be sure, but it is possible that I pulled him halfway across the table he was sitting behind as I did so. I distinctly remember seeing him in the corner of my eye rising to his feet quite quickly beside me as I turned round (I was still holding his hand).
After posing for the camera, I walked away but turned my head back to Sir Geoff at the sound of banging behind me and “ooos” and “aaahs” from the gathered crowd. I think Sir Geoff had missed his chair when he went back to sit down and people were understandably concerned for the 68 year old Legend’s wellbeing.
Fortunately, he was fine and I had not been partly responsible for the hospitalisation of one of our most famous sporting icons.
Anyway, I went back to Russ (rapidly becoming my lifeboat in a sea of insanity) and thanked him for the fantastic opportunity and experience.
Then I made my way home wondering what the hell had just happened.
Thanks again, Russ. Thank you, Sir Geoff. And thank you, Kitbag.