So there I was. Standing, chest pushed out, wearing my Jolfather t-shirt with pride. I’m not going to lie. I was nervous as hell. The big man was three aisles across in the frozen food section and by my calculations he would be heading back in this direction for the Monster Munch. He’s so far picked up some general groceries, pasta and some Brylcreem. Earlier I missed an opportunity, next to the organic vegetables. Sort of bottled it. Held a cucumber in my hand and attempted small talk by saying, ‘Nice size don’t you think?’ as I sniffed it. Thankfully he didn’t call security. He just smiled. That’s the Dutch for you.
Before you think I am stalking him, I’m not. Sure, I’ve kept tabs on him for a week or so noting down his daily habits and routines outside of training and match-days. And with his recent departure from Spurs it’s not been too troublesome to follow him around building a profile of all Monday to Friday activities and therefore potential places where I could approach him without raising suspension. You know what its like. Every red top journalist is probably after an exclusive. Can’t afford to make him nervous.
Obviously, when I finally do approach him and initiate actual dialogue, I need to make it appear as a chance meeting between a Spurs fan and a former Spurs manager. It’s been 5 minutes since my first attempt failed miserably. The cucumber incident wasn’t exactly how it played out in my mind. I chose Tesco’s for this very reason. You always bump into the same shoppers when you walk around a supermarket.
Further reconnaissance required. He’s no longer in the frozen food section. He usually spends exactly three minutes there. Maybe I miscalculated the average handling time with the microwavable goods. Not in the crisps section either. Damn it. Moves fast. Deceptive for a big man.
Hold up, there he is.
Time for an approach.
He’s looking at the aromatics.
He’s reaching out for the Twinings Lapsang Souchong. This is it, don’t bottle your one-on-one now…..
SPOOKY: “Nah mate, wouldn’t bother with that one”
Oh crap, he’s looking straight at me. With that scary slanted-eye look. I’m dead.
MARTIN: “It’s not good?”
SPOOKY: “Erm, yes. But you look like a someone who would much prefer an English cup of tea. Try this one. Earl Grey”
MARTIN: “Thank you. I will. Nice t-shirt”
SPOOKY: “Oh this? Yeah its…OMG….its you, Martin Jol! What a coincidence! I’m wearing a t-shirt with your face on it! What are the odds? I’m a Spurs fan! Wow, you don’t mind if I spend five minutes or so asking you a set of non-rehearsed questions that won’t place you in a position of uneasiness resulting with having to state ‘no-comment’ as a standard response. For the record I don’t work for the national press and wouldn’t dream of mis-quoting you and currently have no electronic devices on me such as a recording device or hidden camera”
MARTIN: “Walk with me”
SPOOKY: “Cool. So firstly, let me just say you were a breath of fresh air. Don’t think Spurs fans have sang the name of a manager as much as they sang yours. Ramos not being bald is going to mean overtime for the Lennon’s and McCartney’s of the South Park Lower. You were truly one of us. We will dearly miss you Martin”
MARTIN: “What do you think? Jaffa Cakes, Chocolate Digestives, Custard Dreams or shortcakes?”
SPOOKY: “I suppose Jaffa cakes”
MARTIN: “Hmmm. I like custard creams and shortcakes, usually together. Now and again I don’t mind a Jaffa cake but don’t care much about digestives. I usually get all four so that I always have the option. You know, with the English cup of tea”
SPOOKY: “Of course. Variety is the spice of life. So, any regrets?”
MARTIN: “I once bought some Polish biscuits. Let me tell you, they were fucking shit”
SPOOKY: “I’ll remember that. I think the way Levy treated you was disgraceful. Do you really hold no resentment?”
MARTIN: “Which way to the cereals?”
SPOOKY: “That way”
MARTIN: “Levy? No, Daniel is like Coco-Pops. He turns the milk chocolatey”
SPOOKY: “Is that a good thing?”
MARTIN: “If all you want is milk, then no”
SPOOKY: “Ok. So could you have turned things round Martin?”
MARTIN: “No, the wheels on this shopping trolley are rubbish. I didn’t even ask for this one. The attendant gave it to me”
SPOOKY: “And what about Kemsley?”
MARTIN: “I’m surprised he didn’t eat Ramos. He eats anything he can get his hands on. Me? I wouldn’t eat Ramos. Miss World, maybe. But my wife would kill me”
SPOOKY: “No regrets then with selection or tactics? Never wanted to change anything?”
MARTIN: “No. Even a broken clock is right twice a day”
SPOOKY: “Many people, directors and fans felt you struggled with team selection”
MARTIN: “A wrong decision is better than indecision”
SPOOKY: “And what about Paul Robinson? Surely he should have been dropped an age ago?”
MARTIN: “All due respect, you got no fuckin' idea what it's like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fuckin' thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it all”
SPOOKY: “Sorry, I…I….”
MARTIN: “Pick that up for me”
MARTIN: “No, Daz”
SPOOKY: “Thanks for the chat Martin. Can you sign my t-shirt? I’ve got a silver permanent marker”
MARTIN: “My pleasure”
SPOOKY: “Martin, there’s one more thing. I don’t want you to freak out it’s a bit out of the ordinary, a bit leftfield…..”
MARTIN: “Left-field? Fuck! Look, I admit, it was a mistake to sell Andy Reid. Oh God, don’t tell me you have Andy Reid here. Motherfucker! Is that Andy Reid over there? Oh Christ, that’s him, isn’t it? It’s him. He always said he would take revenge. I’m gonna get fucking whacked, no? It's all gonna suddenly turn to black!”
SPOOKY: “No Martin, that’s not Andy Reid…that’s an obese middle-aged woman.”
MARTIN: “I knew that. What was it then? This leftfield thing?”
SPOOKY: “What I had in mind involved a box of matches and this effigy”
MARTIN: “What is that in its mouth?”
SPOOKY: “It belonged to Chirpy, pre-castration”
MARTIN: “Interesting. Meet me in the carpark in 10 minutes. Make sure the bonfire is lit”
SPOOKY: “Nice one. You planning to stay in football right?”
MARTIN: “There’s no retiring from this”
He didn't let me down. 10 minutes later he was there. We toasted some marshmallows and watched the effigy burn then said our goodbyes before the police arrived. He clinched his fist and gave me a reassuring nod as I stood proud on top of a parked Clio Renault chanting, 'Martin Jol, Martin Jol, Martin Martin Jol, he's got no hair......'
Goodbye Martin. All the best.