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A great Dane and really nice guy

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Dan Walker | 08:05 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

I was in a shop last week with one babe in arms and the other in a pushchair. Pushchair child unfortunately took out a selection of breakfast cereals with a flailing arm and an elderly gentleman spotted me struggling to tidy up. He strode over, picked up the cereals, tickled pushchair child's chin and placed the boxes back on the shelves. "What a nice bloke," I thought as he stumbled off towards the tinned-meat aisle.

We all like a good moan, don't we? Well, this week I am not going to have one. Instead, I am going to talk about someone that strikes me as a genuinely nice bloke. Not the old fella in the shop but Martin Laursen.

The former Aston Villa and Danish international defender was a guest on the Focus sofa a few weeks ago and was a real gentleman when I met him the day before at Villa Park as he gave us a tour of the stadium.

The Friday started in perfect style... sausage and runny-egg sandwich followed by a quick trip to the newsagent to get the obligatory car-trip food of fig rolls, fruit and milk. I don't know where you stand on the perfect car fruit. Obviously melon, peaches, satsumas and pineapple are a big no-no, but grapes, apples and raspberries are right up there.

Our producer for the day - magical Matt Roberts - was picking up Mr Laursen and we were due to meet at the ground at midday. I got there at 11.30 and loosened up in main reception. Matt and Martin arrived bang on time and it wasn't long before we could all see how much they like the big Dane at Villa. The press officer came over for a cuddle (with Laursen, I should point out) and mentioned how many letters they still get for him even though he played his last game for the club back in January.

As usual, when you have a player of Martin's stature with you, doors tend to open that would normally be firmly shut. We were free to stroll around everywhere, even the sacred playing surface, where Laursen gave us a bit of a defensive master class. If you want to learn from the Obi-Wan Kenobi of centre-back play then watch this...

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The Villa dressing rooms are pretty nifty. Every player has their own personal safe in the wall behind their seats - Martin never used his because he couldn't remember the combination! He took us into the ice baths (fully clothed) and the dreaded treatment room where he spent quite a lot of time during his final season at the club. His dodgy knees eventually led to a premature retirement at the age of just 32. Now working for Danish television, covering the Premier League and Champions League, Martin also revealed that when Villa boss Martin O'Neill gets miffed he's not really an in-your-face shouter like Sir Alex, it's more of a general arm-waving rant at a safe distance. Still, pretty scary but without the 'personal space' issues.

Once the tour of the ground had been completed, Martin asked if he could be dropped off in the town centre. He wanted to drop in on his top Italian restaurant, visit his favourite clothes shop (not sure which it was, but I bet they don't do three pairs of socks for a fiver) and then get a train to London. During the course of our conversation, it became clear that Martin needed something to do in the capital that night before going on Focus the following day.

I thought about offering him the opportunity of changing some nappies at 'Chez Walker' followed by crispy chilli pork and a viewing of "Crocodile" Dundee. He fancied watching a show and asked for a recommendation. He said he liked a solid story and some good songs. It was at this point that I felt a degree of pressure. The quality of his night depended on my musical tastes. I suggested Blood Brothers and thankfully my suggestion went down a treat with Martin, who strolled into the Focus office the following morning humming "Tell me it's not true".

Martin Laursen was a commanding presence in both Villa's and the opposition's penalty areasMartin Laursen was a commanding presence in both Villa's and the opposition's penalty areas

The last thing we spoke about before he had left Villa Park was one of my favourite subjects... fig rolls. I offered him one from my bumper pack and was staggered that he had never tasted the magic of processed fig wrapped in a strange pastry crust that somehow doesn't crumble - even under extreme pressure! He tasted one and took one for the road... another convert.

He was equally charming on Focus the next day and I found it fascinating that, despite the fact he'd played against the likes of Torres, Rooney, Drogba, Anelka, Ronaldo etc etc, the hardest forward to face, in his eyes, was Craig Bellamy! Hopefully, Martin will be back on the programme again this season. I am pushing for it because he has promised to bring over some Danish biscuits which, he claims, are far superior to the fig roll.

I don't know if any of you have met Martin, but he has gone straight in at number four on my "nice blokes in sport" list behind Chris Waddle, F1 driver Mark Webber and Scotland rugby union international Euan Murray. Incidentally, Euan is also quite high on the "terrifying blokes in sport" list because his neck is thicker than his head and I once saw him eat four steak baguettes for lunch.

I would be interested to hear from you if you have any suggestions for the "nice blokes in sport" list and hopefully we can come up with a definitive top 10 by the end of the week.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Morning Dan, another good'ún.
    Glad to see the biscuits are back in full effect, always reminds me of home.
    I'm not sure of the quality of Danish bikkys but they do make pretty nifty pastries.

    I believe there can be only one winner in the car fruit contest. It has to be the grape, although the seedless variety is a must, otherwise you end up spitting the darn seeds all over yourself or in the car, plus it makes you look ridiculous if passers by catch a glimpse of you supposedly gobbing everywhere.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog Dan, definitely my favourite on the BBC.

    Nicest guy in sport: Linvoy Primus, no contest.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Dan, your best yet this one.

    Nice guys in sport, an obscure one but Steve Cotterill comes accross as a really decent fella, I wonder if you have had any dealing with him to confirm this.

    Tiger Tim, for all his wimbledon short comings seems quite a humble guy and a family man. Michael Owen, also seems a decent guy, perhaps trickling over the border into dull as dishwater with it.

    I'd lament people who quote ricky hatton as I think he tries too hard to come accross as everybody's friend and mr nice guy.

    From a different stratosphere I have been really impressed with Jenson Button during his past interviews, in particular on Top Gear when he said he would swap the entire riches and lifestyle for one Podium finish...it seemed completely genuine. No rags to riches story with him, but I see no arrogance there with him whatsoever.

  • Comment number 4.

    Has to be Peter Beardsley. I once bumped into him in a Newcastle department store - we were both browsing at the Apple laptops, a swift hello and an autograph followed and then amazingly some chat about electronic goods?! Quite knowledgable so he was.

    p.s in realtion to biscuits you simply have to bring out the Ginger Parkins Dan!

  • Comment number 5.

    Nicest guy in sport - Gareth Southgate (proof if ever it was needed that nice guys always come last)

    Great blog again Dan.

  • Comment number 6.

    I met Kevin Keegan in Ikea once, I stood there starring wide eyed at the bloke mouth open and frozen in shock...
    Rather than call the police to have me taken away he said "y'alright" which i reckon makes hima pretty nice bloke...

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Dan,

    a great blog, made me chuckle.. I always get Jammy dodgers myself....

    Nicest people in sport.

    I have to say Niall Quinn, an absolute gent, always has time to say hello. Should be knighted for his work for charity and Sunderland. Shame he is so popular at SAFC events as whenever he goes off to get you a beer he gets distracted by well wishers and comes back empty handed!

    The other one I met and was extremely surprised by was big Dave Beasant, I could not beleive how open and chatty he was, what a funny and friendly guy. Put even more into persepctive given I met Sky's Andy Gray on the same night and he was horrid (I have stronger words but may not get onto the site).

  • Comment number 9.

    Good news... you have kicked off the list in style. Linvoy Primus, Peter Beardsley, Tim Henman and Gareth Southgate have all beed added. I interviewed Steve Cotterill a few times at Burnley and he always seemed like a nice enough bloke Tomefccam (2) so let's chuck him in there as well. I met Mr Button a few years ago and, I agree, he has come across very well this season.

    Holloway2Holland (1) - Morning. I am with you brother. It's all about the grape... the prince of car fruit although I think it would be wonderful, if a little worrying, to pull up to a set of traffic lights to see someone tucking into a pineapple!

    Elvin (4) - I think we need further clarification on 2 points you raise. 1. Did you and Beardsley end up purchasing the same computer? 2. What on earth is a ginger parkin? Please explain - including notes on texture and size.

    Thanks for all the comments so far. I am just in the process of writing some scripts for the programme. We have Matt Holland on the sofa this week. All the ladies in the office are big fans so maybe he needs to go on the list as well. Might have to make it a top 20 at this rate!

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry comrades, while I was writing a few more came flying in.

    PepeXabiBarnes (6) - I am not sure about Keegan. I went to see him most weeks when he was at Manchester City and I always found him really hard to work out. Ludicrously enthusiastic so maybe we'll put him just outside the top 20.

    Harrmn (8) - ahhh, the sacred 'dodger'. I am definitely with you on Mr Quinn. I can't believe I missed him off the initial list. He was meant to be live on Focus a few weeks ago but didn't make it because he hadn't finished a charity walk. Top bloke.

    Keep them coming.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Dan, nice blog again...

    Nicest footballer i met was Jussi Jaaskelienen, really nice guy and willing to just stand there and chat for a minute, even lent me his pen for an autograph!...i also met (even though hes not a player any more) Phil Brown, and he was a really nice guy, and very fan friendly...

  • Comment number 12.

    From the world of rugby, you would struggle to meet a nicer bloke than 97 Lions hero and now Ulster frwards coach Jeremy Davidson. Ex all Black captain Tana Umaga, while incredibly scary in appearance, also turned out to be a top bloke when I met him a few years ago. Agree on Mark Webber, a true gent

  • Comment number 13.

    As someone who meets a lot of footballers and ex-footballers, I can honestly say the nicest person I've met is Graham Taylor.

    For someone with that level of profile, and what a top manager's job can do to people (!) , he gives everyone he meets the time of day. A lovely man, and a definite on your top 10.

  • Comment number 14.

    This one may shock...perhaps Dan could shed a little more light. They say never meet your heroes, I met Duncan 'Big Dunc' Ferguson at a charity function in 2005. What a genial guy he really was, a complete contrast to his public image. Has he been a victim of the fact he refused to give any interviews or exposure to the media? Did you ever have any dealings dan?

    I am in no way saying he should make your list...a few on the pitch assaults will have put paid to that but would he go into the 'misunderstood' pile?

  • Comment number 15.

    My dad decorated the great Danes house he signed a photo for evey worker that asked him and he even sent me one in the post.He is also a great dad, amazing to see how many un touched man of the match bottles he has in his house. A great man was sad to see him retire wish him all the best in the future.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm sure loads are nice but I've never had the fortune to meet them.

    However I can say this, and I'll probably get lynched for it...

    Jack Charlton was the worst. I was so pleased get the opportunity to meet him after my old man would always talk about how good he was. But he was such a...

    ...if I write the words I'll get moderated.

    It was about 15 years ago at a schools sports tournament and he was a total...

    ...the scars of disappointment run deep.

    I wouldn't buy him a pint and doubt if the other blokes who met him at the time would either.

  • Comment number 17.

    In a footballing world of prima donnas and teenage millionaire brats, it’s refreshing to see there are still a few decent blokes out there! Great blog again Dan.

    My nomination for football’s nicest guy goes to Tranmere’s legendary Goalkeeper John Achterberg, now a coach at Liverpool’s Academy and reserves.

    He always had time for the fans and after seemingly years of campaigning he was finally granted a testimonial earlier this calendar year. Rather than make it all about him, he gave 4 lucky fans (including myself) the chance to play in the game (1 on each side for a half each). A tremendous gesture from a tremendous chap.

    Two blokes I played alongside that night would also make my top 5, Alan Morgan (now manager of Aberystwyth Town) and, perhaps surprisingly, Georges Santos. I say that because as a player he was known for his tough tackilng and fiery temper, but off the pitch he’s a really nice bloke!

  • Comment number 18.

    How about Lineker and Roger Black for the list?

  • Comment number 19.

    I always think Steve Bruce comes across as a very genuine and friendly guy.

  • Comment number 20.

    Have you ever met Ian Wright?

    He always comes across well on tv.

  • Comment number 21.

    Have to agree with tomefccam. My brother and I met Big Dunc and what a real surprise. Genuinly pleasent, real good chat. Nothing like what we imagined from him seeing him play.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ Dan Walker. Regarding the laptop I'm afraid to say I only saw him browsing, wonder what he eventually went for? Secondly a Ginger Parkin is kind of like a nice softish ginger biscuit but better - I've been reliably informed its a northern thing!

    heres a recipe if you fancy making them for the FF crew!

    http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Parkin

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with No. 18, Gary Lineker! He signed autograph's when others couldn't be bothered.

    I also think Kerry Dixon. He talked to a lot of us in the early hours of the morning after we lost to Utd on pens at the airport in Moscow. He signed autographs and wished us all a safe journey home. Zola is a legend too.

    I think Bobby Robson would definitely make the list!

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm more of a jaffa cake man myself

  • Comment number 25.

    Jason Gardener is a really top guy.
    always got time to say hello and have a chat.
    Likewise Mark Cueto. Genuinely friendly and amaible

  • Comment number 26.

    #23 here here, sir bobby would be in a list of his own

  • Comment number 27.

    By the way Dan, has anyone ever told you that you look a tiny bit like Xabi Alonso?

  • Comment number 28.

    Anybody ever met Tim Flowers????

    Tim Flowers is an absolute legend, known as the Cat, great keeper and has banter to rival the soccer am team!!!

    Top top bloke!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Dan good blog, I would add henry paul to list, me and team mates met him when we were 12 and he took us onto the team bus showed us around, introduced us to all the other players, real genuine guy!!! I would have to agree with the jammy dodger, even though im a big fan of the hob nob chocolate digestive biscuit!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Dan - another great blog - totally agree about Martin Laursen. I met him once while he was loading his shopping into the boot of his car (Aston Martin - of course). He took time to speak to my sons and I about life at Villa and some of the recent games. 100% commitment in every game 100% Gent off the pitch.

  • Comment number 31.

    Martin Gritton.
    Anyone who has followed lower league football and come across the big man will second this.

  • Comment number 32.

    Bob Wilson

  • Comment number 33.

    For me I have to say Scott Crabbe is up there.
    When he was playing for Livingston, he was on his way to the stadium before a match, saw me and a mate standing at a bus stop clearly on our way to the game so he pulled over and gave us a lift. Legend.
    Also Dider Agathe was a cracking tipper whenever he stayed at the hotel I worked for. Always easy to like someone who tips well.
    Lastly Nacho Novo, the Celtic fans hate him to a man, but off the park he is the most polite friendly lad you're likely to meet.

  • Comment number 34.

    To the78sum #20 - I met Ian Wright at an Arsenal v Spurs charity golf day, wrighty and john jensen against ian walker and darren caskey. I was a bit dissappointed with wright, he wasn't as nice as I thought he'd be. Ian Walker on the other hand had time for everyone there. Seemed a genuinely decent fella.

  • Comment number 35.

    Dan, I'm surprised that you've never had the chance to meet Gareth Southgate - given that both of you are Crawley boys, I would have thought he would have been something of a hero of yours? Perhaps you shunned him on account of him being able to eat an apple through a letterbox...

    Any list of the nicest guys in sport must contain Trevor Brooking, who is so darned charming and obliging that I find it easy to forgive how asinine his punditry is; and Steve Backley, who seemed to take much more pleasure in teaching schoolkids to throw a javelin than he would wearing an Olympic gold medal. David Pleat is also a lovely man, but he gets disqualified for his attempts to pronounce the name 'Lizarazu'.

    Also, I'm sure I just saw Martin Laursen in Cromwell's Madhouse - picking out three pairs of 'Subterfuge' jeans for £20...

  • Comment number 36.

    Parkin is a cake, not a biscuit.

  • Comment number 37.

    Good God I hate Fig Rolls... I like this blog but it makes me feel a bit ill everytime I read because there is a mention of the dead fruit wrapped in weird pastry... For car journeys Im less a fruit and more a selection of nuts man... You need to pair this with some suitable liquid though coz they leave you a bit dry..

    Nice guy in football.. John Hartson.. used to meet him at Parkhead quite often and he used to come and collect jerseys and things and take them into the dressing room and get them signed for any kids.. then bring them back out.. Big gentleman.. and like a pint

  • Comment number 38.

    cant say if he should go on the list or not, but worth sharing..

    I met one of the best strikers of recent years when in a lift. There was the nervous silence as the legendary Andy Cole stepped into the lift after a Friendly between Falkirk and Sunderland. He looked at me looking at him then his eyes averted my staring.... as it was just the two of us, I bit the bullet and I went to say something about him having a good game (despite being a late sub and not touching the ball). But at that time he put his phone to his ear which stopped me in my tracks and I looked to the floor in embarrassment.

    Funny thing was, after a few seconds of him mumbling into it, the phone then bleeped and I bust out laughing as he was obvioulsy only pretending to avoid the conversation... it was the fastest he had moved all night as he escaped me chortling away to myself.

  • Comment number 39.

    #20 - Yes Graham Taylor - a real gent. Met him last year at Birmingham Airport as he flew out to cover the Villa Hamburg game. While trying to read up on his match notes he chatted with all the Villa Fans - dodgy trainers though :)

    ...on the subject of biscuits - Fig Rolls and milk - my Dad's hangover cure!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Nice positive blog. I'm a bit biased but Jan Molby was number one until I met Sami Hypia. I met Torres in Thailand, the Thais loved him but he's a bit shy. Big people are nicer, like big dogs.

  • Comment number 41.

    Bananarama! I go away to heat up some of Mrs Walker's meatballs and it all kicks off with suggestions from everywhere.

    The following are either in, or under consideration...

    Jussi Jaaskelinen (Alan McColl #11)
    Jeremy Davidson - never met the Lion but Peteram 79 (#12) thinks he's a winner and that's good enough for me.
    Graham Taylor is definitely in but only because U14212463 (#13) sounds like a pretty dangerous German submarine.
    John Achterberg (dannytrfc #17). I interviewed him a few times in the John Aldridge era and he always very nice.
    Gary Lineker (Willchimp #23). I will let Mr Lineker know that he has got a few supporters out there.
    Tim Flowers (James #28). Very nice man as is Ian Walker (shaggy haired Spurs and Leicester keeper) recommeded by Jarvisimo (34).

    It's good to see that people are taking us outside of football... Henry Paul (scouse-mara # 29), Jason Gardiner and Mark Cueto (saras99) and I like some of the more obscure ones as well like Martin Gritton (Guy Wakefield #31). I think I saw him score for Grimsby once! Didi Agathe is also an interesting one. I have a journalist pal in Scotland who always tells me what a good bloke he is so thanks for the reminder (Livjay #33).

    I think someone needs to come to the defence of Jack Charlton otherwise he's definitely not making the final cut after the 78 sun's expose (#16) and it's also good to see some support for Laursen from Zinedine Salifou (#15). Brian #30 I can't believe I didn't think of asking Martin about the obvious Aston Martin car gag.

    Elvin (#22) thanks for the Parkin Gingers information. I have had Parkin at a bonfire in Sheffield before and I thought it might be related. I agree with Mjclaret #36 that Parkin is clearly a cake.

    3 more things before I finish the world's longest response.

    Tomefccam (14) and Bubba-Fretts (21) have brought up the Duncan Ferguson issue... and it's a good one. Totally agree with the assessment. Deep, moody but fascinating to listen to on the rare occasions that he spoke and certainly one for the misunderstood pile along with Gazza, Roy Keane, Mike Tyson and Jason Cundy!

    Sausagearms (#35) - I remember laughing out loud at Pleat's attempts at 'Lizarazu' but Chris Waddle is in there despite the fact he thinks England always exit major tournaments on 'pelanties'!

    and... Whittingham_42 (#27) - no-one has ever mentioned the Xabi Alonso thing, but i'll take it. I did get called Luigi at school for a while because someone thought I looked like Super Mario's slightly taller brother or cousin or whatever he is.

    Right that's enough. I need to do some work.





  • Comment number 42.

    Chris Kamara. Legend and a true gent. Has to be in the top three!

    Also, fig rolls?- an undisputed champion of the biscuit world!

  • Comment number 43.

    I'll prob get crucified for this but I had the fortune of meeting both Alex Ferguson and Bobby Charlton before a Man u friendly a few years back. Despite being young, wearing the opposition shirt and making smart-alec joke about his horse Ferguson was more than happy to stop and chat for a few minutes and signed a few programs for me to show my friends. Charlton, on the other hand, appeared to get out of the bed on the wrong side that day and was far from polite or kind, as he seems to be portrayed in the media. Just thought it worth saying as id have thought those two would be the other way round but shows you cant judge someone without meeting them

  • Comment number 44.

    I met Nick Faldo a few years ago at the airport leaving Madeira, was a very nice guy. My dad and I stood chatting with him in the queue to check in talking about a golf course we had all played on there (he was surprisingly tall I seem to recall).

    With regards to snacking whilst driving, be careful, a few years back a lady was stopped by the police and given a fixed penalty for eating an apple while driving and I seem to recall a similar story about someone drinking from a plastic water bottle whilst stopped at a red light (both stories were reported on the bbc website I believe)

  • Comment number 45.

    "I got there at 11.30 and loosened up in main reception."

    I bet you did loosen up with a journey involving fig rolls!!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Great Blog, Laursen is truly immense. And it has to be Party Rings, not fig rolls.

    I met Clint Dempsey at Picadilly Train Station in Manchester after the Wigan game last week. He was genuinely nice and friendly even though he looked absolutely knackered. He gets my vote.

  • Comment number 47.

    I have to agree with big Johnnie Hartson. Was lucky enough to go to Arsenal vs. Blackburn several years back. Came down out to the rear reception (which backed into the secure carpark where the players park) and big John walked out and the reception lady beamed at him and said something like 'How are you doing John?' to which he replied, 'For God's sake *name* you know you're only supposed to call me Johnnie - you make me feel uncomfortable!' and smiled at her. Then immediately went into a conversation with her about how her kids were doing and stuff - I was stood there for about 3 mins waiting for someone and was just struck by how thoroughly nice, genuine and cheeky he was. I was really devastated when I found out about him battling cancer - Good luck to you big man!

    A very similar above story about Dennis Bergkamp. Also had a brief chat with Dave Seaman and Freddie Ljungberg (separate occasions) when up in the boxes at the Emirates and they were good spirited and liked a bit of a laugh - Freddie wearing, as always, one of his special beanie hats!

    Another shout to Gianfranco Zola. A woman my dad worked with, her son played footie for the school on a Sunday in the same team as Zola's little boy. He would, as often as possible being a Chelsea player at the time, go down and watch the full games, on the touchlines with the other parents. He's chat and have a laugh with them, shout encouragement - another story that struck me and earned my respect. By accounts he never talked anything other than about how X or Y kid was playing and how things had been getting on - really top guy.

    A quick note on Jimmy Bullard. When he was a Fulham player he used to go out a fair bit in Kingston (upon Thames!) and I think I bumped into him 5-6 times (once 3x times in one night in different places!). Always up for a good laugh, posed for a few photos with a bunch of my mates as we all pulled daft faces, he decided to do the same! Really nice guy - daft as two short planks when out with his mates - but then those types of guys tend to be the best. Bit sad when he went to Hull as it's be a heck of a trek for a Saturday night out - but I hope things keep on the up for the guy.

    Also (rather classically) served Neil Sullivan (Spurs at the time) and Luis Boa Morte (West Ham) in my local Homebase when I worked there as a kid in secondary school (separate occasions). Both nice guys - Luis was particularly smiley - although he'd just bought garden furniture and I thought he could probably afford somewhere more pricey of course. Several years later I saw an episode of MTV Cribs that he was on and he lived in a standard 3 bed semi and I realised he obviously wasn't into the flashy things in life - lot of respect!!! Lived just like the rest of us - nice guy.

  • Comment number 48.

    People in the BBC corridors keep throwing in suggestions for the top 20. Henry Olonga and Paul Sculthorpe have been put forward.

    Mr Sculthrope once failed to turn up to a Sportsday programme on News 24 a few years back where the subject was the Challenge Cup. I called him to find out where he was and his excuse was brilliant... "Ooooh Dan, I'm sorry mate. I'm at barbecue!" Lovely bloke though.

    Enormous Darren Moore is apparently a good lad as well and yes, you're right oozatden (#45)... that is the one down side of the fig roll.

    Robidibobidy (#44) makes a serious point about the consumation of fruit within the confines of the car and has also started a new list: Surprisingly Tall Sportspeople. Nick Faldo is on his own at the moment so I will toss Richard Dunwoody in there as well.

    And I feel your suggestion that Sir Alex makes our 'nice guy' list (oufckid123 #43) will not get resounding support. I have seen him be very nice to people but my two 6-month bans are still a painful memory.

  • Comment number 49.

    You didn't comment on Steve Bruce, Dan! Ever met him?

    IS HE NICE? I WANT HIM TO BE NICE!

  • Comment number 50.

    Another good article Dan. Gary Speed leads my "nice blokes in sport" list, an absolute gent!

  • Comment number 51.

    Fair point,and I'm not a huge fan of SAF myself, but I was more suprised by the Bobby Charltons attitude. I figured I'd got him at a bad time but apparently some others have had problems with the Charlton family.....
    On a similar note, have you ever met someone who you were expecting to be really nice but turned out to be a bit not so?

  • Comment number 52.

    It slipped through the net EricDantona (#49)! Steve Bruce is a really nice bloke. If you ask him a stupid question he will have a nibble but he is definitely up there and I don't think he would disappoint you if you met him. Good laugh as well despite having one of sports most broken noses. In fact... there's another list right there! David O'Leary, Mick McCarthy and Alex McCleish would all be on that one.

    FN (# 50) Gary Speed is indeed a true gent and oufckid123 (# 51) I think the stand out man there would be Carlton Palmer. I think I have mentioned before that I waited the best part of half a day for him once and he told me that he would be England manager within 5 years! He had been at Stockport County for about a fortnight at the time. Can we not knock it?

    I also found Geoff Hurst to be slightly disappointing. He was a nice guy but just kept getting references to McDonalds into every answer. They must have been paying him loads. "Yes it was great to score a hat-trick in the world cup final but if I've have had a Big Mac beforehand it could have been 4!" Stop it Geoffrey.

  • Comment number 53.

    Nice blog as ever, always enjoy 10-15 minute break to read a good topic! Nicest Sportsman has to be Shaun Goater, the Manchester City legend. Always smiling on the pitch and (in the times I have met him) always was off the pitch also.
    Brilliant man, Brilliant ambassador for the game. A must for the list!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    OK, then, Tana Umaga shouldn't be on the nice guy list due to his SPEAR tackle on Brian O'Driscoll which was in no way an attempt to break his neck....at all

  • Comment number 56.

    Jack Charlton I always found was great company, especially on a Sunday lunchtime 8 years ago when he was with his wife and Lawrie McMenemy and his wife. Excellent insight. Met him again this summer out here and he's getting a little doddery now.

    Chris Kamara - Agree. Top Bloke

    Lucas Radebe - Without doubt one of the warmest happiest and caring people in any sport.

    Final vote for Big 'Eck. Don't ask but him and his wife ended up at my place this summer and we had a brilliant evening discussing Birmingham's chances for this season over a ridiculous number of bottles of wine.

  • Comment number 57.

    #53
    A mate of mine now works with the Goat (for an asphalt company in Bermuda), and says he's a top bloke.

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm sure Eyal Berkovic would disagree, but I had a very nice and lenghty chat with John Hartson at a certain golf club in Hertfordshire when I was working there and found him to be a very agreeable and down-to-earth chap. Sir Trevor Brooking, Kevin Keegan and David Ginola (a member) were also present at the charity event - Sir Trev was polite but not particularly sociable, and Monsieur Ginola was a bit off with me that day because he wasn't allowed a locker key - a case of blame the messenger.
    I think Kevin Keegan got lost down the hole on the 9th green.

  • Comment number 59.

    Met quite a few famous people, but my first "big star" meeting memory is probably my fondest, it was when I was a kid, I was probably around 7-8 years old, wide eyed and bushy tailed, I believe they used to call it.
    I grew up a stones throw away from the previous Arsenal Stadium, (Highbury) my parents were not exactly footy fans, so I´m eternaly grateful to an older couple that lived on our estate (council, not country) who agreed to take my brother and I to the home matches.
    This couple had been going to home games for decades, so they were pretty well known around the ground by all the stewards and various staff. They had a kind of pre-match ritual so we always arrived at the ground at least three hours before kick off and we would always pop into the club shop, which back then was not much bigger than an average sitting room, and have a chat with what seemed at the time to me to be a giant of a man, who I was introduced to as "Uncle Jack".
    After a few visits, and a few history lessons, I learned that "Uncle Jack" was actually a former Arsenal keeper, the great Mr Jack Kelsey. Over the next few years he entertained and amazed us with stories from his playing days sharing anecdotes about the league, the Fairs cup and even the World Cup were he had played against a young man of who he at the time said “I think this kid has got a good future.” That young player was Pele. He also introduced my brother and I to all the players, got us signed shirts and programmes and even gave us a tour of the Marble Halls, changing rooms and behind the scenes of our beloved Highbury.
    Unfortunatly "Uncle Jack" passed away in the early nineties. Although his legacy at Arsenal will never die, I´m sure that if you ask anyone who had been connected to the club at that time would testify to what a legend and true gentleman this great man was.
    I´m not sure if he would be in many peoples lists nowadays, but for me he´ll always be number one.




  • Comment number 60.

    Backinwhite (56 & 57) you seem to have the best contacts book in the business. Dinner with Charlton and McMenemy... drinks with the McCleishs! Are you royalty?

    NEARPOSTHEADER (58) I find the concept of KK disappearing down the hole strangely comical and as for you Holloway2Holland (59)... I never met Mr Jack Kelsey but he sounds like top 3 material. Either that or he needs an entirely new list... 'Unsung heroes' or 'Fantastic old blokes"? Too many lists!

  • Comment number 61.

    Another great blog Dan! I haven't met anyone famous, so I don't have anything to add to the list of nice people, but I have been known to travel and so feel I can partake in the travel snack debate. I share your opinion when it comes to grapes on the road, but would just like to throw dried mango into the mix - practical, yet sort of exotic. GIve it a whirl! Looking forward to next weeks blog already!

  • Comment number 62.

    I met and had a chat with Martin in the morning of the West Ham game last season - he was visiting the place I was working at and he couldn't have been nicer.

    I hope he stays involved in football over in the UK - and preferable at Villa where he is a wonderful ambassador for a well run club

  • Comment number 63.

    The nicest guy in sport for me has to be Harry Redknapp. I was lucky enough to bump into him at Southampton Airport where he started talking to me in the queue for security. Seemed genuinely interested in where i was going/what i was doing and was such a gent. And to top it all off, it was my parents 25th wedding anniversary, so I asked the great man to call my dad (a big spurs fan) to wish him anniversary and he did it! Not only did he wish him happy anniversary, but he had a good chin-wag for 3 or 4 minutes. Made my day and was the best moment for my dad in all of the 25 years (just kidding mum). I can't imagine a certain J. Mourinho doing the same thing....

  • Comment number 64.

    What about Andrey Arshavin, when he disagreed with a penalty given in favour of arsenal because he merely wanted the football to continue, thats sportsmanship

  • Comment number 65.

    Good discussion.

    I've never had the chance to meet a famous guy, but at least Federer and Nadal come as great guys.

    Sorry but I gotta mention my least fav...Michael Schumacher and Barry Bonds are quite cold if you ask me.

  • Comment number 66.

    @65: Surely the ONLY time in history that Michael Schumacher and Barry Bonds have been mentioned in the same sentence?

  • Comment number 67.

    Yes sausagearms! I made history!!!

  • Comment number 68.

    Dried mango eh? (fabnorthernlass # 61). I think you might be right there. Full mango (1 out of 10)... dried mango (7).

    Mark E (#62) has produced yet more love for the Laursen and a late suggestion for Harry Rednapp (Alex #63). The anniversary phonecall makes him a strong contender.

    Andrei Arshavin (Daviid Villa For United # 64)is an interesting one but until we settle on a pronunciation of his surname I feel he can't make the top 20. Is it ARshavin, ArSHARvin or ArSHAVin?

    lagellerotumblero: The Ultimate attack: The Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki! (#65). Firstly, I think that name needs explaining and secondly Federer is certainly in there and Nadal is only just behind. Rog is hardly ever in a bad mood and I also saw him pick up an old ladies glasses at Wimbledon in 2008 and hand them back... nice man.

    Sausagearms (#66) great spot on the interesting juxtaposition of Bonds and Schumacher.

    I will try and pull together the top 20 from suggestions in time for next weeks blog. We should all be ready for a new list by then.

  • Comment number 69.

    Nice guy? I would have to say Gary Pallister. Lets my girlfriend walk her dogs on his grounds, bring loads of beer and meat to her street BBQs and brought the whole Boro first team round to see her when she was in hospital a few years back.

    Actually, on the last two points: she's a vegetarian Geordie. Maybe not such a nice guy!

    Biscuit? Fig roll is king. Fruit? No.

  • Comment number 70.

    Morning Dan, another great Blog, yours & Michael Gray's are both excellent. Dion Dublin should be a serious contender for the list. My friend and I met him in Devon of all places, and like over excited children (being the Villa fans that we are) we waited for a moment when he wasn't busy and approached him to ask for a picture... instead of the previously arrogant reception we have received before when we have met footballers (notably Steven Davis once of Villa, now of Rangers - although Liam Ridgewell ((when he was at Villa)) was with him and was also sound) he was extremely friendly & chatty, he asked us where we had our season tickets, what we thought of the last couple of seasons and referred to Villa as 'us and we'... top bloke!

  • Comment number 71.

    I am a celtic fan but Big Eck is one of the nicest blokes you could meet. Kenny Dalglish stood beside me watching a game in a pub once. very nice bloke too. Alan Hansen (not so friendly) but i did mix him up with David Narey!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    Fig rolls are indeed a great driving snack, however do not be giving Martin too many as they are 70 calories per roll, a typical pack contains 10-12, so thats a massive 700 plus calories per pack. I think too many for a sportsman like Martin!

  • Comment number 73.

    #57
    Please tell your friend to make sure he is well fed, as we all know...
    Feed the Goat and he will score
    Feed the Goat and he will score
    Feed the Goat
    Feed the Goat
    Feed the Goat and he will score

    legend. Would still have you in the city team! Emmanuel Adebayor, the richman's Shaun Goater!!

  • Comment number 74.

    Bob Taylor would be my vote. I had the pleasure of meeting the bloke about 7/8 years ago (bearing in mind I'm only 22 now). Not only was he a wonderful man, great player and happy to talk about football I imagine he is also the shortest target man in football. I'm 5ft 10 at the most now and I was as tall as him at about 15/16 years old.

  • Comment number 75.

    Carlton Palmer has GOT to be on the list! He was the first footballer that I ever met, it was when I was a kid and I met him at Gulliver's Kingdom theme park and I was completely starstruck and could hardly speak. He was really friendly and spoke to me and gave me an autogtraph and I told him that one of my best friends was a massive Leeds fan and that he was his favourite player and he signed a personalised autograph for him too. I've met numerous players since then and the only one that has come close to him is the legend that is Gerry Taggart. Beast on the pitch but a true gent off it.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hiya Dan!1st time poster on this blog,great site,pity you werent a sportsman yourself you'd be a shoe in for top 20!!
    Anyway has Ricky Hatton been mentioned yet?For a guy to be in a profession as brutal as boxing,and yet to be be such a grounded and genuinely nice fella as he is (that documentary featuring his mum,dad and two grandmothers was pure gold!) is such a refreshing thing to behold,as is his love of the guinness and all things carbohydrate in between fights!!
    In short,a normal fella with an abnormal talent.Get him in there dan!!

  • Comment number 77.

    I have to ask, what is your take on Garibaldi biscuits?

    Can you even get them anymore?

    Would be good while driving as there's minimal crumage.

  • Comment number 78.

    Gary Pallister! A true gentlemen and a certain contender (LiddlesBest #69). I love the idea of him carrying raw meat around the locality.

    Minivillaman (#70) thanks for the nice words big man. Dion Dublin is a good shout. If you ever have a spare moment then get up a picture of Jonas Gutierrez of Newcastle. It's 100% Dublin with long hair!

    FlamboroughBoy (#72) staggering news about the nutritional value of Fig Rolls... I better limit my intake.

    Another vote for Shaun Goater is noted, and what about Bob Taylor? (Richard Grosvenor #74) Solid pro and incredibly hairy legs so he should be in there.

    Carlton Palmer at Gulliver's Kingdom... what an image. Maybe I've got him all wrong (FrodeKippe #75). johnbefc (#76) - I've always liked Ricky Hatton based entirely on the selfish reason that I went to interview him at home once and he made us all a cup of tea and brought out a tray of ginger crunch creams. Winner.

    And on the subject of biscuits I can confirm (the78sum #77) that the humble Garibaldi is still avaialable. I have some in the cupboard at home. You are right on the low levels of crumage but there is a fragmentation issue that could make them almost impossible to eat in transit without getting a soiled groinal area.




  • Comment number 79.

    Dan,
    First time reading your blog, but a long time since chatted in person. Great to read your musings from here in Connecticut, USA. Your take on travel food is brilliant, but you need to add one American treat: jelly beans. They are the great travel food. They are also a great help when listening to BBC football commentary on Satellite radio. Unfortunately Garibaldi biscuits are difficult to come by over here. Have to have some shipped in.
    Please devote more cyber-ink to CCFC and AFC- you know you have loved them all your life.

  • Comment number 80.

    Dan,

    Sorry not Royalty. Knew Charlton as I used to convince my Employers to do Sporting Dinners for Clients so met Hunter, Stiles, Best, Tommy Smith plus loads of Rugby folk (who I have to say are without exception good blokes to share a drink or two with)McMenemy was a neighbour when I lived down in Hampshire. I live in the Cayman Islands now and McLeish came over to help with our local School of Excellence that Sepp Blatter opened this summer, and Me and Big Eck hung out together a few times. Big Sam and Chris Hughton were also over here.
    BTW after years of travelling thousands of miles supporting Leeds, I can confroim that the ideal food is a jumbo bag of peanut M&Ms plus a screw top bottle of coke. Protein and Caffeine and chocolate for the long drives home!

  • Comment number 81.

    You've got me there blaenorynyclwyd (#79). Please reveal your identity or i'll be forced to release the hounds. I take it from your name that CCFC is reference to Cardiff rather than Coventry.

    Backinwhite (#80) you might not be royalty but you are clearly the most well-connected man to ever comment on a BBC blog. I love the casual reference to the Cayman Islands and the fact Big Sam and Hughton 'were also there'. You should come and work on Focus where we can use your little black book.

  • Comment number 82.

    Dan, Just come over here during the close season and you can do the whole of the next season's interviews for FF whilst sat on Seven Mile Beach! Quite a lot of footy people have property or business interests out here, Chairmen, Owners and players. Romario even made a guest appearance for our National Team.
    BTW You can buy Fig Rolls here!

  • Comment number 83.

    I sent a get well soon card to Ian Knight (1980's Sheff Wed player who suffered badly broken leg) & he sent me a team photo signed by the whole squad!

    ps. ginger creams all the way

  • Comment number 84.

    Dan, (#81)I will gladly reveal my identity, but it will cost you dearly. You will, on this blog have to commit to mailing me two packets of Garibaldi biscuits (address in CT, USA to follow) and they will have to be the genuine article not some cheap store brand imitation.
    If you want to say some good words about the Gooners (particularly after the Oct 31st 3 - 0 game against SPURS) then that would help too. Memories...
    I guess you, the mighty blog master, do not have access to the associated email addresses.
    If you do not want to (or Beeb regs. prevent you from)committing to meeting my Garibaldi needs then you do have people close to home who can help you with my username.

  • Comment number 85.

    I am now utterly baffled.

  • Comment number 86.

    Dan, if your remark in #85 applies to my remark in 84 then I am going to have some fun.

    It might even distract me from my day job. Have to be self disciplined.

    Shame you did not commit to mailing the Garibaldis. The more baffled you get the more Garibaldis will be required.
    Having said that enjoy your weekend. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the international matches coming up.
    And I am now going to be regularly logging on to read your fine missives.

 

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