After confessing my sins to my parents about my undercover first excursion to the holy ground, they were surprisingly OK about me going again. This could be because Celia’s dad always accompanied us but who knows. I certainly didn’t care as every fortnight I could get my fix of football and my blue clad heroes.
It soon became an obsession for Celia and me. Our fortnightly trips weren’t enough. We used to go to Maine Road when we could and walk down the back entries behind the team as they walked to Platt Fields park to train. Yes back in the day the team used to walk there in their kit and boots and walk back again covered in mud. Can’t imagine Yaya or Sergio doing that today if they had to!
I remember one occasion we were waiting outside the main entrance to the club waiting for the team to come out after getting changed so we could get autographs. I spotted Big Helen, (the famous beehive hairdoo lady who sat in the ground ringing a huge bell at every match) clutching a large cardboard box. There were no signs of players emerging and Helen was looking anxious; making her way over to me she shoved the box in my hands. ‘Here, give these to big Joe (Corrigan) when he comes out, it’s a box of Penguin biscuits.’
I didn’t have time to argue, she was off like a shot leaving me holding the box like it was a bomb. I didn’t want the responsibility, I was only twelve, I certainly didn’t want to speak to big Joe……he was big Joe for god’s sake! I was quaking in my shoes and I didn’t want to hang around for autographs any more. What made it worse was Celia had to go home. I was left alone with a box of 50 penguin biscuits. What if I dropped them? What if they were all broken and Big Joe and Helen came looking for me??!!!
Five minutes passed which seemed like an age, then the big doors opened and a man as big as a house came strolling out. Big Joe was stood in front of me. My knees were shaking, I thrust the box at him, ‘Helen the Bells got these Penguins for you.’ He looked down, smiled at me, patted my shoulder and uttered the words ‘thanks love.’ then he was off. I was rooted to the spot as I watched him go, wishing Celia had been there to watch my proudest moment.