Uefa Euro 2004, the wife & I hadn't travelled to Portugal to spectate.
Instead, we were sunning it up in the Maldives on an all inclusive island called Kuredu. We met another couple in the bar one night, not in that swinger way, but we did end up watching the Euro's together and consumed vast amounts of alcohol in the process.
On the way back, we stopped off in Dubai for 3 nights, we stayed in the swanky Jumeirah Beach Hotel. 16 years on, it’s still classed as a top hotel.
So there I was, in the pool, arms on the side, thinking how amazing all this was.
My daydream was interrupted when a fella swam up to the side of me and said “hello mate”.
Without my glasses on, I squinted and couldn't believe my eyes, it was Steven Gerrard!
“I’m alright mate”, I replied in my coolest of dulcet northern tone.
Cast your mind back and you may remember that Euro 2004, England bombed out at the Quarter Final stage on Penalties.
“Where have you been?”, I calmly asked, with the obvious reply being “Portugal”.
At this point I don’t think he knew that I knew who he was.
“Where have you been" he added
“Maldives” I said
“I've always wanted to go there” he replied back.
I was stunned once again.
“Who are you here with” I asked.
“My wife, JT & his wife”
So I laid my cards on the table “There's a few footballers here then?”
“Yes, us Michael (Owen), & Sol (Campbell) are about somewhere”
Jesus Christ, I was slap bang in the middle of footballer territory.
Fuck it, here goes. “Any chance of a photo Stevie?”
“Of course. Give it half an hour as JT & his wife will be down shortly, you can have a photo with us both”
We did a little more chit chat and I coolly left to swim back to the wife.
“Who have you been talking to,” Mel asked.
“Stevie Gerrard” I nonchalantly replied, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“GIVE OVER” gasped Mel
“Seriously, he’s over there. We can have a photo with him and John Terry later”
Half an hour later, to the second, I am whipping round to the other side of the pool with Mel in tow for my photo with England Footballers. Yes, I am starstruck, I admit it.
I got my trophy photo, and the wife also snuck one too. (She was shaking).
We had some Football chat, shuck hands and off we went, all very polite, with me feeling on top of the world.
After lunch, I am sat on my sunbed and see JT waving in my direction. I look round, but it seems he is waving at me. It can’t be.
I ask the wife if she wants a beer, so off I go to the Pool Bar, and JT comes jogging up to me.
“Do you fancy a kickabout?”
It’s 40 plus degrees, I’m not fit and JT asked me for a kickabout. “Yes mate,” I said eagerly.
“Cool. Just getting the pitch sorted and we hope to get five or six a side” he says.
I headed back to Mel with a Beer and I tell her I am just going for a kickabout.
“Get the video camera” I told her.
We walked to a grass area where two goals were set up with the Burj al Arab as the backdrop. This is heaven.
I’m on Steve’s side, he started in net (His choice)
He threw the ball to me, a long throw. It bounces once as I watch it over my shoulder and god knows how, but I volleyed it, clean as a whistle into the net.
For the briefest of moments, I felt like an England player scoring a winning goal. Seriously.
I’m sweating profusely in this damn heat, can hardly catch my breath, and acting like a drugged up Jack Russell running everywhere.
JT has the ball and as I went in for a sliding tackle, life turned slow motion as he steps over me as if I do not exist. The grass stain and graze right up my leg was my just reward.
We won. I won! I had just played football with two England players. Bloody good ones.
We shake hands and JT invites us all to the bar for a post match beer. Just like Sunday league. JT pays. We chat, we laugh, we joke like Sunday league mates.
After my beer with the boys, I headed back to the wife and back to the room to die. I was fucked, proper fucked.
I woke up around 7pm, I looked out of the window, Stevie & JT are still out there, playing headers with a bunch of kids in the pool.
I got my act together, made my way downstairs and we decided to have drinks at the Burj Al Arab.
A golf cart takes you there, we waited for the golf cart, Michael Owen was standing in line behind us.
The cart arrived and Michael joined us on the cart to the Burj Al Arab.
I was shattered so he only gets a polite “Hello” etc.
The next morning I laid on the sunbed nursing achey legs, JT strolls by.
“Morning mate” he says, while tapping me on the head with a Newspaper.
“All good with you?”
“Yes thanks” I replied.
Of all the press I have read about JT and footballers, at no point during these few days did I see them giving it the big I am, swanning about.
Quite surreal really.