South Africa’s a beautiful place and the weather here in Cape Town is wonderful, but the players know they’re here to work hard and they’ll be taking this trip very seriously.
Pre-season is extremely important – in fact, it’s a bit like lining your stomach with a big meal before you go out on the town. The work you do at this stage will help you get through the rest of the season. It sets a benchmark and after that it’s only a matter of topping up your levels as you go.
When I played at United, our pre-season trips would tend to keep us in Europe – we’d usually end up in places like Germany or Italy. Of course, air travel was different in those days and it took much longer to cover vast distances.
I remember in 1967 we went to Australia and it took us 36 hours. And we didn’t have the luxury of first-class travel or in-flight entertainment! I have to say, though, it never stopped raining the whole time we were in Australia! Can you believe that? No matter where we went – Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane – it never stopped.
Something else that sticks out from that trip was having a gun pointed at me in our hotel at Coogee Beach. People think I couldn’t run very fast on the pitch… if only they could have seen me then!
I like trips now, even at my age. After all, you have to go and see what else this planet has to offer, don’t you?
The last time we were in South Africa we were very fortunate to meet Nelson Mandela – he had a private audience with the team. I’m into politics in a big way so to meet one of the great men in life was absolutely fantastic. I would have loved to have had a picture taken with him.