Being the windswept and interesting guys that we are. You know the sorts, in with the movers and shakers at a shite talking competition. We thought we’d use our wide and varied list of contacts (one and counting) and see if we could persuade Mr Revista De La Liga himself to Glasgow to talk about the forthcoming Celtic v Barca match. Unfortunately Guillem Balague wasn’t available due to prior commitments at a goatee beard fancy dress competition. Instead we managed to entice Aberdeen’s finest Graham Hunter to town to preview the match and conduct a Q&A on his quite brilliant book – Barca, The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.
All kidding aside, with great support from Martin and Charlie those loveable Backpage Press guys it was tremendous playing a part in arranging a session with such an esteemed and knowledgeable journalist as Graham Hunter.
Me and the moll had eyed the joint from a distance – sorry went into Diner Tec mode there for a minute – a salubrious hostelry was booked in Glasgow’s Exchange Square as 100 or so punters ordered their beers before settling into the evenings event.
Martin set the scene for the night by pitching the schedule, which included footage displaying his and Charlie’s own top class book, The Road to Lisbon. It was over to Charlie who recited a passage from their book as he transferred us in our Hillman Imp over to Lisbon in 1967 before taking our place in the Estadio Nacional. For a split second I imagined myself there with the other 12,000 supporters, woolly tammy on and pished as a fart ready to cheer on the Bhoys against Herrera’s fearsome Inter team. Using your imagination is one of life’s great joys and none more so than mine as no sooner had Big Billy lifted the cup and I was immediately transferred to a four poster bed with Beyonce and Kelly Brook.
It was then over to Graham who talked the audience through footage of two games.
Celtic beating Barca 1-0 (Thommo goal) and then Barca’s 1-0 victory at the Camp Nou when Messi pulls his hamstring and is distraught as he is helped from the field by equally concerned superstar team-mates.
The key element in this part of discussion was Messi’s injury, which quite possibly changed football history. The Barca board decided something radical had to be done as Messi would now be absent through injury for 8 months within a 2 year period. They believed he was too close to Ronaldinho and Deco – good guys by all account – but both also enjoyed partying. Their diet, lack of sleep and other elements they believed were having an impact on Messi’s physical well-being and decided both top class players had to go. The club with the help of sports science and dieticians also changed Messi’s diet to primarily fish and vegetables. Pep took over that summer – he was positioned well in advance and supported the removal of Deco and Ronaldinho. The rest as they say is history…
The knowledgeable audience played a key part in the evenings proceedings with some first class questions thrown Graham’s way – a point Graham touched upon and went into a split second rant about the Scottish media before quickly changing the subject. Graham’s view is large sections of the Scottish media deliberately downplay supporters input or to coin it in his own words, generate “an artificial lid” on discussion and ideas. He left it at that but we all clearly caught the gist of his words.
The questions and discussion ranged from Barca’s weaknesses, Guardiola’s relationship with Mourinho, Cruffy’s incredible influence over the La Masia youth academy, Barca and the national teams style of play, new coach Vilanova and his relationship with the team (the players have the highest regard for him) and a multitude of being totally honest, superb questions, something Graham mentioned at the end of proceedings.
The evening was superb and didn’t finish till after 10pm – 2.5 hours of wonderful football chat about two special clubs. Part of the reason for the length of discussion is Graham Hunter, boy can that man talk! I would add though it’s in a detailed, analytical sense as he covers the key characters as you are built a picture of who they are and what they do before taking you to a clear conclusion. Graham genuinely has a tremendous oratory style – Billy Connolly-esque in a football sense as he jumps around key individuals before finalising his narrative. Spellbinding at times.
Like his other hosts Martin and Charlie, Graham provided ample time to sign books but also have one to one discussions with the audience throughout the course of the evening.
Couple of other points from the evening. Graham mentioned Barca representatives rating Wanyama very highly. They don’t intend making a move in January but have made a formal note of interest. Hunter’s view is a lot of the major clubs in Europe are desperately keen on Wanyama as he is regarded as a special talent. Barca have also put down a €10m deposit on Naymar – this does not guarantee his signature but puts them at front of the queue to sign him!
In ending this night was a bit special as it was a Celtic and Barca evening. Tales and chat about two of this planets most special football clubs. Barca – who are more than a club and Celtic – who are part of your soul from the minute you are born a Celt. Putting the Celtic element to one side, I could not recommend highly enough an evening in the company of Graham Hunter discussing football and Barca in particular.