instruction but Gary Neville, the opposing team’s skipper, seemed determined to win. When our Finnish midfielder, seemingly a novice, took what was quite clearly a foul throw, Nev was in the referee’s ear appealing. When he was told it was just a bit of fun, he shot back: "It’s not worth playing if we’re not gonna do it properly". It was the authentic Neville experience.
As the game progressed, I moved further up the pitch in a bid to go one better and actually score a goal. On the hour mark I managed a neat one-two and I was one-on-one with the keeper (who happened to be former Premier League striker Dion Dublin). Someone shouted: "Lob him" but that didn’t seem the greatest ploy. Instead, I panicked and blasted it straight at him.
“Richman misses a golden opportunity at Old Trafford.” I've waited 28 years to see words like that in print.
The game ended in an 11-7 defeat for our boys but nobody seemed to care (apart from Gary Neville, obviously). After an exquisite buffet lunch and a Q&A session with the four former professionals, the day concluded with a stadium tour and steak dinner.
The life of a freelance writer can be incredibly demoralising and I’ve thought of packing it in more than once. A series of near misses and close calls can wreck your confidence. But then, on occasion, there’s a job so rewarding and fulfilling that you can’t imagine why you ever lost faith.
The next morning, I travelled directly from Manchester to a school in West Ham. It was ‘Futures Day’, where children are told about various jobs by adults who work in those professions. For months I had wondered what I would say to these kids and whether I even deserved to address them.
Moments after setting up my stall, a small boy wandered over and asked me what I do. My eyes lit up and I told him.