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Legends at the Nou Camp

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Dan Walker | 11:12 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

On a ferry in Belfast

The volcanic ash cloud has delayed my return from Ireland so a boat to Stranraer beckons. Then I am hitching a lift to London with a methodist minister called Mark and a primary school teacher from Cambridge called Heather.

We have enough fig rolls to keep us going until Carlisle and I have already eaten a famous Ulster Fry. Soda bread, potato bread, scotch pancake, egg, sausage, beans, bacon, mushrooms and tomato might represent coronary carnage, but it is definitely the breakfast of champions!

Ulster Fry
The breakfast of champions

Anyway, this blog is all about the second half of our pre-volcano trip to Barcelona. If you remember, last week we had just been to a news conference where the entire Barca squad turned up for Gerard Pique's book launch.

We walked out of the training ground knowing that the rest of the day was going to be pretty tight. We were due to interview Barca president Joan Laporta at 4.00pm local time at the Nou Camp before catching a 7.00pm flight to Milan for AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf's charity ball.

After demolishing a slightly odd Spanish pie thing, we headed to the stadium. Everything seemed to be going well. We were filming in the chapel, the trophy room, dressing room and at the side of the pitch, but then came the phone call we'd been dreading.

Laporta wasn't going to turn up. The best he could do was Friday night. It was Wednesday afternoon! A local journalist was with us at the time and he just rolled eyes and told me this was a regular occurrence. Apparently, Senor Laporta can be a little hard to pin down on occasions.

At that exact moment, the journo spotted Laporta's right-hand man, who looked remarkably like PC Tony Stamp from The Bill, in the car park. What followed was 10 minutes of gesticulating, frantic phone calls and shoulder shrugging. Eventually we reached a compromise - we would interview Laporta on Thursday after yet another news conference.

The flights to Milan were cancelled and we headed out to down more tapas and watch Manchester United lose to Bayern Munich. The next morning, we were back at the Nou Camp, where there was noticeably more security around place.

It wasn't long before it became clear why. Johan Cruyff was strolling through the grounds.

To say they love Cruyff at Barcelona is a huge understatement. The Dutch master helped the club win La Liga for the first time in ages as a player and turned the whole club around as manager, winning 11 trophies in eight years.

Anyway, he was there to be unveiled as the new honorary president. As we entered the room when the unveiling was to take place, the Barca press officer said: "I think you'll enjoy this. You'll be happy you stayed an extra day." He was right.

Inside were about 300 guests and 100 journalists. When Cryuff entered, he was followed in by Eusebio, Sir Bobby Charlton and Ronald Koeman. Cameramen were climbing over each other to get a clean shot. It was impressive to watch because no-one jostles like a Spaniard - I'm sure they practice at school.

At the height of the madness, Carlos Puyol, Victor Valdes, Andrei Iniesta and Xavi came in through another door while Pep Guardiola and Hristo Stoichkov strolled in via a third entrance. I half expected Pele and Diego Maradona to descend on a platform from the ceiling smothered in dry ice. Sadly, that bit didn't happen.

After an hour of speeches, everyone was off in different directions again. We decided to follow the big guns down a thin corridor towards the president's suite. If we wanted any interviews, it was time to show how the Brits jostle. Cameraman Jon Gout and I elbowed our way through the crowds and somehow managed to blag our way into the party.

What followed was a conversation that I never expect to be repeated in my life. One of the press officers approached and said: "Excuse me, Eusebio, Stoichkov and Koeman can speak to you now."

"I'm really sorry," I replied, "but I've got Sir Bobby Charlton and Johan Cruyff waiting just up there."

Here's the best of the interview with them...

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As soon as that was over, we were ushered outside to speak to Laporta. He was as charming as I expected and very proud of what the club had achieved during his seven years in charge.

It looks as though he'll move into politics when he steps down in June and - judging by the silkiness of his answers to us - he won't struggle. We finished with Laporta, thanked the various press officers and headed for the airport and the first flight home.

Our trip had produced a unique insight into one of the biggest clubs in the world. As impressive as they are, I do think people are getting a little carried away with Barcelona at the moment.

Yes, they hammered Arsenal, won the treble last season and embarrassed Manchester United in the Champions League final, but they do play badly on occasions and they won't win everything.

That said, they will continue to be the envy of many fans across the world.

Well, that's it from Barcelona and with only three shows left this season, let's have your suggestions for manager and player of the season. We'll do a few awards each week in the run-in, but that should keep us all going for a while.

See you on Saturday but in the meantime you can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/danwalkerbbc

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog again Dan, that brekkie looks superb!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    "Excuse me, Eusebio, Stoichkov and Koeman can speak to you now."

    "I'm really sorry," I replied, "but I've got Sir Bobby Charlton and Johan Cruyff waiting just up there."

    How surreal that must have been!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Manager of the season is tricky if you look at the top six as they've all had periods of inconsistency. However, I think because of how they've done in Europe whilst maintaining a decent position in the league, you can't look much further than Roy Hodgson. Player of the year is also tough, but one candidate I'd chuck in would be Bobby Zamora for doing so well. Not a Fulham fan I should say, but you can't argue with how they have done this season (and last season!).

    That breakfast looks pretty good...! Definitely an award winner.

    Mark Stein

  • Comment number 4.

    "I do think people are getting a little carried away with Barcelona at the moment. "

    "Yes, they hammered Arsenal, won the treble last season and embarrassed Manchester United in the Champions League final, but they do play badly on occasions and they won't win everything."

    Not sure about that Dan, they did win "EVERYTHING" last year didn't they (everything they could win anyway!!!)

    Roger Milla

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog, that conversation must have been surreal!

    Manager of the season has to be Roy Hodgson simply because it would confirm this country has finally woken up to the fact he is a fantastic manager. Honourable mentions go to Alex Mcleish and Harry Redknapp.

    Player of the season...tough one...i'd probably say Cesc Fabregas, 15 goals and 15 assists...and he plays football the right way. Also honourable mentions to Joe Hart and Carlos Tevez.

  • Comment number 6.

    Brilliant blog Dan.

    Ulster fry is the breakfast of champions!!

    But what other breakfasts would you put in that bracket, i would have to go for wheetabix its blinding

  • Comment number 7.

    Another couple more player nominations would be Darren Bent and Florent Malouda - both of whom have done much better this season than I would have expected.

    Rod Wallace

    Your clothes... give them to me, now.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think there is going to be a lot of support for Hodgson for manager of the year. He's got the best out of his squad and he more than any other manager this year has been a complete gentleman.

    Player of the year... I think a lot of people will be mentioning the usual suspects, Rooney, Drogba etc... I would actually be more inclined for Brad Freidel this year. He's been a rock.

    In other news, what's your thoughts of a ham and picilli roll Dan? I think that or the old left over roast chicken from Sunday's roast with colslaw has got to my favourite sandwich/roll.

    Regards

    Ruel Fox

  • Comment number 9.

    Thank you Dan, your blog came at the right time as i am very bored at work.

    Manager of the season for me would be either, Roy Hodgson or Alex Mcleish(spelling???). They have done very well this season.

    P.S that truly does look like the breakfast of champions!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog Dan..The picture of the 'Ulster Fry' up is really making me hungry though.

    It's good to see that real 'Acts of God' aren't slowing you down at all and with a little help from the clergy you'll make it back okay for Footie Focus.

    Speaking of 'Acts of God' or 'Gods'..what about all those true football legends at that Cruyff press conference?..amazing stuff! Players who have really achieved things and have left lasting legacies. Take it Laporte will only be standing for Catalan politics - can't see him being too popular in the Capital?

    Barca are flavour of the month at the moment but if Jose has his way attention might soon be switching to SerieA and you might get your Milan trip in after all ;)

  • Comment number 11.

    I think Zamora is a great shout for player of the year.....no he is not on the sma level as rooney, drogba or torres.....but he has had an unbelievable year and been at the centre of everything good fulham have done! Either scoring, providing or atleast playing some part in alot of the goals fulham have scored!
    Paul scholes should get a mention too? He has always been one ofthe top midfielders in the prem and has hardly ever got recognition by awards?

    Manager of the year? Roy hodgson for his achievements in europe? Or Harry Redknapp for finishing 4th in the prem(looks like he will anyway) without spending anywhere near as much as man city, or having as much squad depth as liverpool?

  • Comment number 12.

    mmmmm breakfast

    Roy Hodgson and Rooney for me - they have been immense for their teams

  • Comment number 13.

    Great blog again Dan.

    Shame the season's coming to an end; take it the blogs will end with the season? What's planned for the World Cup? I say it every week, but man, what a job you have!

    Manager of the Season - Roy Hodgson/Alex McLeish
    Player of the Season - Wayne Rooney

    It's been quite a poor season in terms of quality I think, but despite good performances from Malouda, Bent, Zamora, Drogba, Fabregas (when fit) and Pienaar I think Rooney's been head and shoulders above everyone else.

    Paul Warhurst

    SurreyBloke - Terminator this week is it?

  • Comment number 14.

    Malouda has played well these past few months, as has Gareth Bale. I've heard Heurelho Gomes has had an impressive season too. I think Rooney has been the stand-out player of the season though. Roy Hodgson for manager of the season.

    Hidetoshi Nakata

  • Comment number 15.

    Ulster Fries are the stuff of legend, you just can't get good soda farls or potato bread on the mainland. I don't imagine Eusebio, Stoichkov and Koeman get turned down for interviews too often!

  • Comment number 16.

    Fair do's on Rooney, he's scored an amazing number of headed goals for someone who rarely did before.

    Its a funny quote from another great eighties film. I think we had all the good ones from Robocop last week.

    Jose Antonio Reyes

    In technical terminology: he's a loon.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think manager of the season seems to be universally accepted as Roy Hodgson. In two and a half seasons he's pulled Fulham out of relegation and got them to the Europa League semi-final (and depending on tonight's result, possibly the final) without spending an absolute fortune. He's got the best out of the likes of Duff and Zamora who were really looking on the downward slopes of their respective careers, but who are now in phenominal form.

    As for player of the season it has to be Wayne Rooney. He just hasn't had a bad game all season and has essentially single-handedly kept United in the title race. I would, however, like to place a notable mention in the direction of Thomas Vermaelen, who seems to be the lynchpin in the Arsenal defence, which looks somewhat lost without him. Also (although for 10 weeks only) Landon Donovan at Everton was fantastic during his short loan period.

    I think Zamora is potentially most improved player of the season, he looked at a dead end when he left West Ham, although Gareth Bale and James Milner have also come along miles since the start of the season.

  • Comment number 18.

    Just on outside shout for player of the season, goalkeepers arent exactly regular winners of these things but Joe Hart has had an outstanding season.

    Roy Hodgson Manager of the season

  • Comment number 19.

    My vote for manager of the year has to go to Moyes. Once again he has achieved wonders on a very tight budget and, if it weren't for bad luck with injuries and the "lescott saga" t, everton's season could have been even better !

  • Comment number 20.

    Great blog Dan, but how can you say that we're getting carried away with Barca at the moment?
    Of course they will play badly at times, their only human!
    But if we can’t get carried away about a team who wins trophies, plays beautiful football and does all this by developing the majority of their best players through their youth system, then when can we get carried away?
    They’ve got to be the best football team of the last 15-20 years?

    www.football-journo.com

  • Comment number 21.

    I really want an Ulster fry! May travel the waters to get one. Great blog as usual dan!

    Hodgson for manager of the season at the moment. But if Everton get into the Europa League places then I think it will go for him.

    Player of the season should be Rooney.

    Where will the last 3 shows be filmed from dan? Any chance of wembley as we near football league play offs and the fa cup final? Or it would also be nice to give portsmouth or burnley/hull/west ham a good send off by going to one of their grounds and speaking with their fans, letting us see them one last time before they are away for at least a season?

    Yours sincerely

    Sven Rydell

  • Comment number 22.

    Dan,
    Great Blog, laughed a lot (as others clearly did). Ina few sentences to move from Ulster Fry ups to Joan Laporta, Eusebio, Stoichkov, Koeman & Sir Bobby Charlton and Johan Cruyff.

    Manager of the Season - Dave Jones. What he has accomplished in the circumstances is impressive; if the club chairman was half as capable as DJ is, then CCFC would be 2nd place now. Roy Hodgson is just half a step behind Jones .

    Player of the Season -Thomas Vermaelen with Wayne Rooney just behind him. All year Vermaelen has been a solid defender, but one capable of attacking. Considering how severely the gunners attack has been blunted, T.V. is the reason why Arsenal were (until last Saturday) competing for 1st or 2nd place; instead of fighting to avoid 5th place.

    WISH OF THE SEASON: SEE CCFC IN FINANCIAL STABILITY AND IN PREMIER LEAGUE; AFTER THAT TO SEE MAN CITY FINISH 6TH OR 7TH AND APOLOGISE TO
    MARK HUGHES
    SCANDAL OF THE SEASON : HUGH'S DISMISSAL followed by the ignominy that is PORTSMOUTH.
    Dan who do you think football entertainer of the season has been?

    One last thing Dan, You would look more the part in a sheep skin coat. You can do a lot worse than follow your mentor.
    JH

  • Comment number 23.

    Am heading to the Nou Camp next week and cannot wait! Unfortunately it's not for a match, will have to wait for next season for that.

    Manager of the year: For the achievements, it must be Roy Hodgson. I know Fulham haven't set fireworks in the premiership, but to get to Europa semi's is amazing for that squad, I just hope they don't have the same ramifications as Pompey.

    Player of the year: It will probably go to Wayne Rooney, I don't think there is anybody in the league at the moment that is close, though Drogba has caught my eye that little bit more.

    Best Buy: Thomas Vermaelen
    Goal of the season: Figueroa v Stoke at DW

  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Dan,

    The closest I have been to an Ulster Fry was in a service station just short of Peterborough - The "big-boy-build-u-up" consisted of a full English breakfast, doubled. It was a heart attack on a plate, but I loved every second of it.

    Manager of the season - Harry Redknapp (England manager after he packs in club football?)

    Player of the season - Wayne Rooney

    We were hoping you'd get the call for the MOTD2 post, and the new Beeb line up for the world cup looks fantastic.

    All the best,

    Regi Blinker

  • Comment number 25.

    Great blog as usual Dan.

    I need to know where you got that breakfast from, that looks immense. An Ulster fry is indeed the breakfast of champions!

    Tommy, Belfast.

  • Comment number 26.

    Manager of the season: Roy Hodgson, Avram Grant.
    Player of the season: Pepe Reina
    Goal of the season: Figueroa vs Stoke

  • Comment number 27.

    Great blog as always, and an impressive breakfast! It looks like the sort of thing I always return from a hotel buffet breakfast with! In my opinion yours is missing one key ingredient in toder to claim the title "breakfast of champions" - black pudding? Truly an underrated breakfast ingredient!

    My manager of the season - alex McLeish

    Cheers

    Jean Jacques Misse Misse

  • Comment number 28.

    Dan - don't see your name in the current Klinsmann and Seedorf join BBC's World Cup team story listing the BBC line-up?

    No Martin O'Neill either :(

  • Comment number 29.

    Afternoon brothers and sisters.

    I am just in the deep throws of a BBC world cup press day. I will get to all your comments as soon as possible.

    Thanks for the nice things you've said so far. Back in a mo.

    John Lacey

  • Comment number 30.

    Great blog as per usuaul,

    crazy though, having to knock back Eusebio, Stoichkov and Koeman for Charlton & Cruyff. what a job

    and got to agree Ulster frys are the proverbial dogs you know.

    For Manager the season has to be Roy Hodgson, what a season, able to sustai n a decent league position, whilst having a great run in the Europa leauge, and the turnaround in the match against Juve should win it for him on it's own. I'm sure most football followers thought that was it for Fulham in the competition.

    Player of the season, hmm a bit tougher. Guess you need to give it to Rooney, for stepping up when ronaldo left. Or possibly Vermaalen, whose had great first season in the priemoership, albeit in a poor Arsenal defence.

    But have to give Nani some credit for turning himself around asweel, he's been pretty good this season, compared to previous form. And no i'm not a man u fan.

    Jose Quitongo

  • Comment number 31.

    Dan Walker wrote: I am just in the deep throws of a BBC world cup press day.

    Does that mean you made the squad after all?..well done that fella!

  • Comment number 32.

    Dan,
    When you do get back to us "in a mo" tell us what is a BBC world Cup press day?

    Also given the diet you enjoy do you think calorie cutbacks will ever be called for? You just a bit over 30 right?

  • Comment number 33.

    Hei Dan.

    Greetings from Suomi.

    Great blog as usual. Love the food references, although that Barry Fry-up should be labelled as a WMD against western arteries.

    Manager of the Year: Total respect to Roy Hodgson, Davie Moyes, Big Eck, Sousa, David Jones, Harry Redknapp, heck even Fergie (losing CR, playing 4-5-1 with the looney), Rochdale Manager (sorry, but I don't know his name) and Chris Houghton.

    Buuuuuuuut, I would give the award to Avram Grant. The boy has worked miracles at Pompei. FA Cup final with 1 sub. Sure, the running of Portsmouth should rightly be lambasted but Grant has proved to be stoical, determined, shrewd and the king of jugglers.

    Player of the Year: Honourable mentions to James Milner, Darren Bent, Bobby Zamora, Richard Dunne, Wayne Rooney, Drogba, Tevez, Dann and Johnson, Reina, Sorensen, Gomes, Hart, Given, Malouda, Scholes and Tim Cahill.

    But, I think the award should go to: (Drum-roll) Frank Lampard. I'm not a Chelski supporter (and I'm Scottish) but out of all the great players lauded this season I would have Lampard's name at the top of my team-sheet every game . I think he is the most under-rated player to have graced the EPL. It's time the haters opened their eyes and realised what a behemoth the guy is. A national asset who is comparable with the Lake District or Stonehenge when it comes to English treasures.

    Hamish McAlpine

  • Comment number 34.

    Quality blog. You have a mint job, Dan! Hard to look past Rooney for player of the year really, though Malouda has done well & Frank Lampard never seems to get the credit he deserves after getting another 20+ goals from the midfield. Has to be Hodgson for manager of the year for me, he won't hit the highs like Fergie, Ancelotti, etc, but considering his budget and what he has to work with he's done more than over-achieve.

    Andy Goram

  • Comment number 35.

    The breakfast of champions looks yummy. Dan where can I get one. Now that I have seen it (the picture), am very hungry.

  • Comment number 36.

    Evening everyone.

    Sorry I've left you to it for most of the day. It's been a bit of a crazy day with world cup press conferences, filming bits for Focus and getting my jabs for South Africa. I can hardly move my right arm but here goes.

    LABSA89 (#2)
    It was utterly bonkers. I walked away from the first table thinking… "did that just happen?"
    (#4) Fair point but I think there are some people out there who right about them as though they can never be beaten by anyone.

    Surreybloke123 (#3)
    Double Fulham for the awards… very strong. Glad you enjoyed a glimpse of the breakfast.

    Scott Jones (#5)
    Fabregas has had a good season - that game against Villa will live long in the memory when he came on and turned it on its head.

    Ricky2099 (#6)
    Are you a weetabix with hot milk or cold milk man?

    Razor_Ray (#8)
    Big fan of ham and piccalilly but why not take it to the next level and substitute the ham with corned beed? Now we're talking.

    HudsonLA (#9)
    Glad to be of service.

    JoC (#10)
    I think Laporta's ideal job would be president of an independent Catalunia. He is a very smooth operator but you are correct to say that I don't think many in Madrid would vote for him in national elections!

    MCCOURT_THE_LEGEND (#11), Lokacious (#12), Willchimp (#14), Nick SD (#17), Andy Connor (#18), cg198086 (#23), JamTay1 (#26) jamdoonsouth (#30) have joined the Hodgson fan club

    Onside_Ian_Rush_Goal (#13)
    I think the blogs will come to an end once the season finishes but I will bring them back on a slightly ad hoc basis for the world cup and maybe even the golf at St Andrews.
    My role at the world cup will be on a double decker bus that tours the country taking in a bit of history and culture as well as the football. More info to follow.

    Mikestar01 (#20)
    I know what you mean boss. They are fantastic and they do play a great brand of football but I was just trying to prevent things from boiling over in the praise stakes. John Sillett once told me that his Coventry side from 1987 would beat any team in the world - but that was 2 minutes after he'd had a winner on the Grand National!

    Imps Promotion 2012 (#21)
    We are in the studio for 2 of the last 3 but May 1st will come live from Bradford to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fires. We thought we would try and do something different and it will hopefully be a great bit of telly.

    Blaenorynyclwyd (#22)
    Entertainer of the season is Martin Keown! Sheep skins are for the past generation… it's all about the sports casual coat.

    KirkstallOwl (#24)
    The big boy build up sounds like a belter. Thanks for the message about MOTD2 but I am sure Colin Murray will do a great job on it.

    Tommy Fleming (#25)
    Can’t remember the name of the place but it was on the side of the main road out of Coleraine. Legendary.

    DDSmart (#27)
    A few people have pointed out the lack of black pudding but surely the scotch pancake makes up for that?

    JoC (#28)
    I'll be there big man don't worry. Looks like we've missed out on O'Neill - I don’t think he's going to be working for anyone this summer except Aston Villa.

    For those of you who want to know, the world cup press day involves everyone covering the event for the BBC being in the same place at the same time. You have your pictures taken, listen to a safety briefing and then speak to the press for about 2 hours.

    Obviously people are more interesting in what the likes of Hansen, Lineker, Shearer, Dixon and Lawro have to say but there are free sandwiches and pastries available so I'd be a fool not to go.

    Right. Keep them coming and I shall see you shortly.

    Inspector Morse

  • Comment number 37.

    Free sandwiches and pastries are definitely worth attending for - particularly late afternoon/early evening, perhaps as an appetiser for something beefier later on!

    If you're going to be at the golf in Scotland later in the summer, it should be a good opportunity to try some of their 'cuisine'... dare you try a battered chocolate bar...?

    Van Der Valk

  • Comment number 38.

    Manager of the year should always go to the champions.

    My player of the year is Mad Patrice Evra. Had a great season only overshadowed by media favourite Rooney. Evra gets my vote though.

    Team of the season -

    1 - Hart

    2 - G. Johnson (playing great before injury)
    3 - Evra
    4 - Vermaelen
    5 - Dunne

    6 - Malouda
    7 - Fabregas
    8 - Lampard

    9 - Bent (scored 23 goals in a poor team)
    10 - Rooney
    11 - Drodba (scored 25 goals and also went to the ACN in Jan)

    Subs,

    12 - Reina
    13 - Tevez
    14 - Milner
    15 - Shawcross
    16 - Defoe
    17 - Cahill (Everton)
    18 - Dawson (whenever he's played)

    Worth a mention - Zamora, A Young, A Cole, Duff, Pienaar, Sorensen and Van Persie was looking as if he was going to have a great season until injury.

    Garrincha

  • Comment number 39.

    "... won the treble last season..."

    Er - they won the sextuple last season, not just a treble. Or were you trying to allow for the Ovrebo/FIFA-doesnt-allow-refs-to-use-video-replays factor? Without that, it would have been a treble. (I think.)

    "As impressive as they are, I do think people are getting a little carried away with Barcelona at the moment."

    Quite so - if they were as good as the press claimed, the gap between them and Real at the top of La Liga would be much wider. They and Messi are just in an ultra-purple patch at the moment. But did you write that line before or after Inter thumped them two days ago?

    "...they won't win everything."

    Quite so. They haven't won the FA Cup, after all :-)

  • Comment number 40.

    Dan wrote: I think Laporta's ideal job would be president of an independent Catalunia

    - Can't see that happening anytime soon though can you - delusions of grandeur ;)? From your many discussions amongst our current crop of footie luminaries/BBC pundits, who do you consider the most politically motivated or suited? Arsene Wenger would make an excellent Chancellor (Mr. Prudent), but Sir Alex would want a Republic of Manchester no doubt.

    Great to hear you made the plane to the WC (travelling the country on a bus it seems..should be fun!) - is Garth going, didn't see his name listed anywhere?

  • Comment number 41.

    The Ulster fry is the daddy of all breakfasts. If there was a 'Home Nations Breakfast Championship' it would clearly win and go on to the European zone - beating the continental breakfast hands down. Next step - USA and a grudge match against the pancakes and bacon (maple syrup on bacon, wtf?)

    In terms of the manager of the season - my own beloved Kenny Jackett is worth a shout... If not, Chris Hughton has done a great job, as has Fergie (if Leeds had not beaten United in the cup, they'd have walked league 1).

    Player of the season - Rooney (watch your metatarsals son!) head, shoulders, nose and ears above the rest.

    Match of the season charlton 4 - Millwall 4.


    Dave Mitchell

  • Comment number 42.

    Best sun-tan of the season - Phil Brown
    Scariest manager - Roy Keane

    Philo Beddoe

  • Comment number 43.

    Nothing beats an Ulster Fry, big man. My Papa used to eat 3 of them a day and he's still going strong at 90.

    Sammy McIlroy

  • Comment number 44.

    Brothers and sisters,

    My wife spotted last night that I wrote 'right' instead of 'write' in one of my responses.

    This is shambolic and worthy of a public rotten-apple-throwing situation. I apologise prefusely and hearby announce my resignation from the general election.

    I would like to thank you for your time and support.

    Jessica Fletcher

  • Comment number 45.

    Zeemo (#38)
    If the champions always won manager of the year that would be a little dull. Resources have to come into it as well and the ability to turn a team around. Hodgson, Moyes and McLeish are all strong contenders for me this season.

    Paul Faithfull (#41)
    The Ulster Fry definitely nails a continental but I feel a full-English with poached eggs would run it close. If it did make the Euro zone then strong competition would come from the chocolate and choros from Spain and the humble croissants from our French friends. That said - if you were asking for my vote - I'll go Ulster!

    If you are wondering why i am up at this time - I have been at it since 4:57 when daughter number 2 decided to rise like a salmon at the back stick. See you soon.

    Oliver Cromwell

  • Comment number 46.

    Great blog.

    Where do Charlton and Cruyff rank on your greatest/highest profile interviewees?

    I think it is a toss up between McLeish and Hodgson for manager of the year, as for the player of the year I can't look past Rooney. Take him out of the equation and the title would already safely heading to West London.

    I hate to be picky, but it is Andres Iniesta, not Andrei.

    I look forward to the next portion (in accordance with your love of food)

    Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Dan.

    A couple of points, i'll try and keep them brief.

    My outlandish nomination for POTY - Thomas Vermaelan, an outstanding debut season, goals, grit and class. I have not seen a defender as good as this in the premiership for a long time, he has all the strengths of your Vidic, Ferdinand, Terry etc without any of their shortcomings.

    MOTY - Interesting you quote Moyes Dan, if I let my heart rule my head...i'd be with you on that one. But just because they have provided something a bit different (mainly in the Europa league) i'll go for Hodgson too.

    Interesting point made about no Martin O'Neill in the summer...he makes fantastic world cup viewing, he'll be missed this year. I'm assuming Desailly will be there? He always offers a forthright opinion, and gives good insight to the players he knows personally. Will there be any suprises? A Mick McCarthy, a Leonardo?

    Also, I am a little shocked that Stoichkov is still involved at Barca, is this a recent thing connected to Guardiola? whom I assume knows him well from their playing days

    John Matrix

  • Comment number 48.

    That Ulster Fry...unbelievable! Need to have a word with mum, see if she can augment her current Sunday breakfast classic.
    I went to the Nou Camp a few years ago and it struck me how 'shabby' it was compared to some of the English grounds I've seen - particularly the dressing rooms. Now, I don't mean that in a derogatory way. My immediate thoughts were 'if the best team in the world can have a poor dressing room, then why all the cash thrown at British grounds?' In addition, much of the rest of the ground left a lot to be desired in terms of 'new and up to date', but so what? The stadium is immense and not some modern monstrosity. It is cheap to visit, there is no fuss, no pomp, no over the top self importance and it’s certainly a more relaxed experience compared to any other ground I’ve been to.
    Someone once asked me what I thought of it and I said ‘amazing’. They replied that they thought it was pretty awful and that they were disappointed.
    Wouldn’t you rather spend money on players and development than a state of the art stadium? (ahem..Wembley…Emirates…)
    Just a thought!
    Great blog as always, maestro!

    Stuart Nethercot

  • Comment number 49.

    That's not an Ulster Fry! Beans? Good God man!

    This is my preferred XI

    1. Egg
    2. Bacon
    3. Sausage
    4. Fried tomato
    5. Soda Farl
    6. Potato Bread
    7. Black Pudding
    8. White Pudding
    9. Fried Potatoes
    10. Fried Bread
    11. Tea

    Subs
    12. Ketchup
    13. Brown Sauce
    14. Toast (Plain Batch)
    15. Mushrooms

    Beans? (Fancy Dan Englishman but might qualify due to having a Northern Irish Grandmother - still not right though!)

    Did someone mention football?

  • Comment number 50.

    #49 An impressive first eleven, although I would give your numbers 8 and 9 a wide berth myself. In their place, I'd bring on 12 and 14 to start instead. After that little lot, I'd want a relaxing morning till lunch! Beans at breakfast wouldn't be an automatic favourite, but its not bad with a fry-up in the morning.

    Inspector Gadget

  • Comment number 51.

    Manager of the season - Iain Dowie

    Player of the season - Ryan Shawcross

  • Comment number 52.

    What about biggest dissappointment of the season/biggest waste of money. Joleon Lescott anyone... run a close second by Alberto Aquilani.

  • Comment number 53.

    Dan,
    So daughter number 2 kept you up! My second child (girl) did the same at 2:20. Not that that has anything to do with food or footie.
    The Ulster fry looks to be the all time winner. Over here breakfast often consists of cake or pancakes with fruit, syrup, cream sometimes even sweet frozen yoghurt, disconcertingly like ice cream.
    I've been on a porridge only breakfast regime for a couple of weeks, shedding the pounds too.
    Southern fairy (51) has a point about Ryan Shawcross.

    CAN YOU NEXT BLOGG CONDUCT A POLE SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF : HOW MANY GUNNERS WILL HAVE LEGS BROKEN NEXT SEASONS?

  • Comment number 54.

    Did you write that comment about Barca pre the Inter game?

    How do you find the way the Spanish media operate different from ours?

    And can anyone tell me what that groovy music was playing in the background to Adam Johnson's interview on FF last week, it's been bugging me, thanks!

  • Comment number 55.

    Apologies for last entry! I have just re-read it and feel a fool.
    My suggested pole was inappropriate and should not have come into my mind, let alone out onto the computer screen.
    I hope there are no broken legs in the EPL or other leagues due to player on player contact.
    Time to stop typing.

  • Comment number 56.

    The potato scone is also a pre requisite for any successful cooked breakfast in my opinion, although I can't understand the reaction to the inclusion of beans another breakfest favourite for me!

    How about the grudging respect award for the player you want to and should hate but have found yourself warming to this season?

    My vote goes to Craig Bellamy.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'd say this years manager of the year is as tough as it's been for a long while - I'd probably plump for McLeish because Birmingham haven't been anywhere close to the relegation zone since early in the season and I think that is an extremely impressive achievement. If you look at how teams that are promoted often start well and fade (Hull last year and Burnley this time round), the fact that the Blues have been on a even keel for the vast majority of the season shows what a good job McLeish has done. Similarly, McCarthy deserves honourable mention for saving Wolves from the drop - who would have thought it a possibility at the start of the year?!

    Player of the year is Rooney hands down. He's carried the biggest club in the world on his shoulders at times this season and to have them in with a great shout of the title is testimony to how far he's come in the last few years.

    Breakfast of the year goes to the heart attack on a plate that Mr Walker indulged in!

    yours sincerely,
    Darryl Powell / Barry van Dyke

  • Comment number 58.

    @Donmac - I admire your commitment, but feel the choice of fried tomato is controversial. A grilled tomato is much better... (I'm talking flavour wise - no health reasons come into consideration here)

    That said the two bacon rolls from this morning are still repeating on me.

    What's that - beer o'clock?

    Paul Gascoigne...

  • Comment number 59.

    Apologies, nearly forgot to sign off properly!

    Roberto Baggio

  • Comment number 60.


    Manager of the season - Roy Hodgson or Avram Grant (both have achieved way more than what would have been deemed acceptable, given their respective roles and responsibilities under very difficult circumstances).

    Player of the season - Darren Bent (if he played for a better equiped side like MU, how many more would he have scored)

  • Comment number 61.

    Good blog Dan. Was great to see you over in "God's country" last weekend!

    Manager - Hodgson, Moyles or McLeish (bit their good form didn't last longer). Chelsea man if they do the double

    Player - Rooney, Bent, Darren Fletcher (consistant and unnoticed)

    Watched that flukey goal of yours again. Do you have any great great grandparents though marriage that may have have visited Belfast at any stage. You night just get the nod to play alongside Healy for the next Euro campaigm!

    Soupy Campbell

  • Comment number 62.

    Paul, they don't call it a 'fry' for nothing. If someone found a way to fry tea it would be in there!

  • Comment number 63.

    Friday Focus is up and running by the way comrades. You can find it here...
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/football_focus/8641157.stm

    3Lions_RJ (#46)
    No idea where Andrei came from. I shall get someone in a headlock over that one. In terms of interviewees - Charlton and Cruyff are right up there.

    Tomefccam (#47)
    O'Neill will be missed but I am sure the BBC have got one or two pundit surprises up the sleeve this summer. If I say anything else I'll be in trouble.
    Most people were surprised to see Stoichkov to be fair.

    TheScarlettWarrior (#48)
    Very interesting brother.

    Donmac (#49)
    That line up would win the title every year!!! I've move sausage into a more attacking role though… behind the front 2… a sort of toad-in-the-hole!

    Ktfoot (#54)
    I'll be totally honest with you… I wrote it on Monday on the ferry from Ireland. The Inter coincidence worked out very nicely.

    DDSmart (#56)
    When he actually concentrates on playing football he's not bad is he?

    Oskerpanic (#57)
    Remarkable job from McLeish. Would be nice to have him on the Focus sofa one day.

    Welfare4wobblers (#61)
    It's all about the overhead. No irish but I am half welsh and a 16th italian! Libero.

    By the way... we've made a 30 minute documentary for the news channel on Barcelona. It goes out tomorrow (24th) at 2:30 and then a couple of times on Sunday. Should be a good watch.

    See you soon

    Gavrillo Princip


  • Comment number 64.

    anything worthwhile in what was said during "about an hour of speeches" or is it my retention failing me?

    matthias sammer

  • Comment number 65.

    Loving the breakfast and Manager/player of year comments.

    I have to be boring and go with the Hodgson/Rooney combo - more for what else could they have done aspect. I'm not sure Rooney's missed a chance all season and Roy has almost got Fulham to a European finals.

    However my flabber is gasted at the mention of 'Arry Redknapp on more than one occasion. Sure they've had a good string of results recently, but the man has spent more money than an MP - the Spurs side that beat Arsenal cost way more than that Arsenal team.

    Christ Bongo ( )

  • Comment number 66.

    Dan, Why isnt Friday Focus available to us in the Republic of Ireland anymore when it was all along, remember your sparring partner on the show played for us.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Dan,

    That breakfast looks immense! Going to have to re-think my bacon & egg with cheese & garlic mayo on a Warbie's brekkie muffin (other brands are available)! Once had a battered haggis and that was top-drawer too.

    Think I made a wrong turn in life, I'm lucky enough to have a job I like but your job is amazing! Makes all the hard work worthwhile I bet.

    I agree with Hodgson for Manager of the Year, although Moyes comes a close 2nd. What they've achieved with relatively little money is amazing.

    Player of the Year, I'd go with Rooney for single-handedly keeping Man Utd in the title race but I agree giving the award to a player from a 'less-fashionable' club. I'm fed up with seeing players overlooked simply because they don't play for a top 4 club.

    Please say you'll still be blogging next season!

    Bjorn Heidenstrom (one for the old school Champ Man enthusiasts)

  • Comment number 68.

    This is my preferred XI

    1. Egg
    2. Bacon
    3. Sausage
    4. Fried tomato
    5. Soda Farl
    6. Potato Bread
    7. Black Pudding
    8. White Pudding
    9. Fried Potatoes
    10. Fried Bread
    11. Tea

    Subs
    12. Ketchup
    13. Brown Sauce
    14. Toast (Plain Batch)
    15. Mushrooms


    What is white pudding, Soda Farl ?. How can you have mushrooms, toast and brown sauce on the subs bench.

  • Comment number 69.

    Can't beat an Ulster Fry never have beans always have extra taty bread. Soda Farl is a flat soda bread and you fry or grill it, tastes great! White pudding is black pudding but white.

    Manager of the year should be Roy Hudgson, player of the year Wayne Rooney and Bale for young player of the year apart from today's match hope he is awful and United win 3-0.

  • Comment number 70.

    It's el Camp Nou, not Nou Camp. And it's Carles Puyol, not Carlos (he's Catalan). Sorry for being so pedantic about a great blog!

  • Comment number 71.

    Stay proud of that Ulster Fry Dan!

  • Comment number 72.

    Don't suppose you got to meet Dani Alves - totally my hero and the very best right-back in the whole world!

 

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