THE DAY I MET PELE

 

Banks 001 - resizedIn the 1970 World Cup in Mexico Alf Ramsey’s England team faced the mighty Brazil team that included the player whom many regarded as the best ever, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. The England team had great players but the goalkeeper Gordon Banks was seen by many as the best in the world in his position. During that game Pele rose above the England defenders to make the perfect header. The whole world was about to cheer another great goal by the master when Banks pulled off what was regarded as his finest save. In 2008, as a commemorative statue to that save was unveiled, I had the great pleasure to meet them both and to chat with Pele in his native Portuguese.

I was playing for The All Stars charity soccer team when we were asked to play in a match at Stoke City’s ground. The match was part of a series of events, one of which would be the unveiling of a statue in Gordon Banks’ honour. On the way to the ground we were told that our team manager for the match would be none other than the great man himself. We knew that Pele and Archbishop Desmond Tutu would be attending but some of us thought that it was probably a wind-up that Pele would be our manager. I would have been happy enough just to have met our 1966 World Cup hero Gordon Banks but Pele as well!

As we made our way to the changing rooms we were met by Archbishop Tutu. We were told that he would be our trainer, our “sponge man” for the match. We ece-12-pele-footballhadn’t expected that either. Now we realised that it was not a wind-up: Pele was going to be our manager for this match. We dropped off our stuff and went onto the pitch to watch the unveiling of the statue. Archbishop Tutu, Pele and Gordon Banks said a few words. We got to meet Gordon Banks. When you think about it as a football fan we’ve only ever won the World Cup once. This man was one of the world’s greatest in his chosen sport and today would have been a multi-millionaire superstar. Like a lot of his contemporaries he was a quiet and humble man. He was probably a bit overwhelmed by the fact that he was being honoured with a statue.

With soccer superstars flying in from all over the world to play in the main match, our match was lower down the bill. Back in the changing room our Brasil kits were all hung out on the pegs and each player had a commemorative Brazil training top with the name Pele and the number 10 on them. In any football changing room there is always lively banter and mischief. On this occasion one member of our team, a former professional footballer who shall remain nameless, noticed that his Pele 10 top was missing from his peg. He turned around and shouted “which one of you thieving ‘so and soes’ has nicked my top? There was an awkward silence from the rest of us because he hadn’t seen the Archbishop come into the changing room and didn’t know that he was bent over behind him putting on his socks. The archbishop pretended not to have heard. I hope our team-mate said three Hail Marys that night!

ece-30-pele-footballWe got changed and Archbishop Tutu came round giving each of us the “high-fives.” He was such an energetic and enthusiastic character that he was great fun to be with. In his trainer’s outfit and with his sense of humour it was easy to forget that he was an archbishop. Not merely a priest but an archbishop!

Our gaffer Steeno came into the changing room and asked us all to sit down. I was sitting next to a young actor from Hollyoaks. Steeno said “He’s here so let’s give him a big round of applause when he comes in.” I’m sorry Archbishop but this is Pele we’re talking about now. You’ve done great things for your fellow man and we all are full of admiration for your part in struggle against Apartheid but this is a footballing god we’re talking about.”

The applause began as we saw Pele approach the changing room. I was surprised at how small he was because I could remember how high he could jump to head the ball when he was in his prime. He also seemed to be a gentle kind of soul which again surprised me because as a player he was as hard as nails. The applause died down and we waited for him to speak. I was expecting him to say “thank you” but instead he said ”obrigado” and then asked in Portuguese if anyone spoke Portuguese. I stood up and began to speak Portuguese to him. As our chat came to an end I thanked Pele for coming and told him what an honour it was for all of us who loved football.

I sat back down next to the young actor who was staring at me                             ece-22-pele-football

“Wow,” he said “ What did Pele say to you?”

I told him that he’d said “I loved Phoenix Nights but who are all these others”

He said “He didn’t did he?” before he realised that I was joking.

What a day! Not only did I get to meet Archbishop Tutu but as a football fan I got to meet one of our heroes from the 1966 World Cup winning team. To top it all I got to meet Pele and chat to him in his native language! Don’t anyone tell me it’s a waste of time learning a foreign language because you never know when you might bump into the greatest player of all time!

The Cast of Phoenix Nights

                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Phoenix Nights was one of the best comedy series I have seen, even if I say so myself! It was well written featuring northern humour and a cast that knew how to deliver comedy lines. That was part of Peter Kay's genius. He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it. The cast of Phoenix Nights was not a cast full of seasoned actors but mainly stand-up comedians. Peter gave me a fantastic character to play, the liar, Kenny Senior. You may remember his fibs about Jackie Chan buying paint off him or that he had had a sexual jamboree with Bonnie Langford. Such incongruous imagery, you could not fail to see the humour. However, there is more to the Cast of Phoenix nights and the bonds that were forged through that series.

This was a laugh-a-minute experience for us all. Not only was Peter the worst offender for "corpsing" and making the rest of us laugh but we all got on well and made each other laugh with banter so typical of the comedy scene. Paddy McGuinness, Steve Edge, Janice Connolly and I, Archie Kelly,  went on to do the Jumping on the Bandwagon Tour. Talk about sex, drugs and Rock and Roll- No, this was tea and biscuits , the Manchester Evening News crossword and quite a lot of practical jokes.  I still have an image burned into my retina of Paddy walking bravely up the canal bank just in his underpants, because, I , Archie, had knicked his clothes. However, only Paddy could have carried this off for so many reasons.

 

However, it is not all work. The Cast of Phoenix Nights keep in touch at each of our own special occasions or ad hoc get togethers or even just supporting each other in some new venture. Paddy's wedding was a combination of Cheshire chic and Boltonian earthiness with glamour to die for in Paddy and his beautiful wife, Christine. Steve's wedding to Tamara was boho chic, in the middle of a field, (on Lord McCalpine's estate in Henley-On-Thames) a teepee surrounded by caravans plying their wares. Guests were offered the opportunity to ride a merry-go-round, sample Thai food or fish and chips and even a chance to be filmed wearing a range of hats and masks as they wished the newly weds well. A memorable event, not least because the Cast of Phoenix Nights seemed to spend most of their time around the drinks caravan! I am always glad to see any one of the cast try a new venture. So I was at Justin's debut in Hobson's choice and watched Janice Connolly in her own production at the Lowry.

And now to the big issue. The cast of Phoenix Nights will be reuniting for a very special treat next year. as Peter Kay has already revealed.  Can't say more than this but keep your eyes open for me,  Archie Kelly, and the rest of the cast of Phoenix Nights in the national press.


 

STORY OF MEAT PIE SAUSAGE ROLL

                                                                                         

Not many people know this…..

In 1997 I recorded a song with Andy Wilkinson (aka Smug Roberts) which entered the race to become the official world cup anthem 1998. It entered the charts and made it into The Guinness Book of Hit Singles. You might remember it: “Meat Pie Sausage Roll”. It was very quickly followed by “Vindaloo” but both were pipped to the post by a re-release of “Three Lions” which became England’s anthem for a second time. The interesting thing is not that we were in this race but how this song and its accompanying video came about.

 

Strange but true!

That year whilst working as a Spanish and French teacher, I appeared in the annual school play. I had the part of the Pharaoh King who would cast off his pharaoh’s clothes to reveal an Elvis cat suit beneath. Once his alter ego was revealed he would then launch into a song, Elvis style. The costume came with the naffest wig ever. That costume and wig spawned a character which would become one half of the duo, Granddad Roberts and his Son Elvis.

A song is born

Andy was performing as Granddad Roberts and had taken an old football chant to which he added a baseline. The chant was “Meat pie sausage roll come on th meat-pieOldham give us a goal”. Andy wanted to develop the chant and make a song for his comedy act and asked me to write some lyrics. Having developed some verses and a middle 8, I was doing a dress rehearsal in my Elvis costume when I was struck by the idea that Granddad Roberts could have a son whom he had called Elvis in the hope that he would sing like Elvis. However his son would sound more like Ashley Peacock from Coronation St. So when Granddad’s son tried to sing like ‘The King’, he was more Communards than Elvis! So we had a song with Granddad Roberts singing the chorus and his son, Elvis, singing the lyrics complete with falsetto voice. We decided to try it out at The Frog and Bucket in Manchester and I secretly borrowed the school costume to perform at the Frog that night. It went down a storm!

Making a few bob for Christmas

Well, we had a song for Oldham Athletic but the World Cup was approaching and we needed a few bob for Christmas. Obviously, change Oldham to England and we had a potential World Cup anthem, which people might just want to buy. Tongue-in-cheek we recorded it in Martin Coogan’s front room. He agreed to do it providing we didn’t tell anyone. After all he had his street cred to think about, having been a real success with the Mock Turtles and “Can you Dig it?” Key 103 played the song and listeners were ringing in to ask where they could buy it. We eventually sold 4000 copies within a week. We were chuffed that we’d made some money for Christmas and never in our wildest dreams expected to be sitting in Warner’s office discussing a record deal, but a record deal we had.

From Song to Video

Armed with money from Warner and a favour from Bernard Manning Jnr, who owned Radcliffe Borough Football Club, we made the video for “Meat Pie Sausage Roll” at Radcliffe Borough’s ground. Many of the kids in the video were kids I taught. A favour for a favour-After all I had used the Elvis costume from the school play!

You can catch the video on U Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=30_50J94m84

Or listen to The Handbaggers Version www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBtBkyvgF1g

AND just in case you want to sing the song in Karaoke here’s the lyrics on karaoke: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBtBkyvgF1gmusicplayon.com/play?v=490638

Welcome to my blog

I'll be writing a blog each week. Here I'll be letting you know what projects I'm working on and what's planned for the future. I'll also be writing about funny moments I've had working in TV or live onstage. I was a guest recently on Ted Robbins' show on GMR. Have a listen on the link below.

 

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