The two are not directly related, but sum up the day ahead. Off shortly to the BBC to film a piece for Comic Relief on mental health. Comic Relief are one of the big backers of the Time to Change campaign aimed at ending mental health discrimination.
Some have suggested that kind of money would be better spent on direct patient care. But many mentally ill people say the discrimination is worse than the illness, so it is worth breaking down, and it is to Comic Relief’s credit that they see this as a worthy cause. And if Jo Brand can dress up like Britney and do ‘hit me baby one more time,’ the least I can do is film an interview about the campaign.
Then later, despite my usual agonising about watching non-Burnley games, I have decided to go to the Carling Cup Final. These last few days have not been easy for Burnley fans. Virtually every media report on Spurs has mentioned how they got there, with an extra time winner after we had hammered them at Turf Moor. Every time I have been near the North Circular, I have looked at that stunning arc across Wembley stadium and thought, it coulda shoulda been us.
Last night, when the Manchester United team coach rolled up at their hotel, and the players walked through to the astonishment of a wedding party getting their pictures done, I thought again, just how close we were to a United-Burnley Cup Final, which will probably never happen now in my lifetime.
Even with the Man U players, so used to these grand arrivals at big hotels before big matches, you could feel the special tension a Cup Final creates. How fantastic would it have been for Burnley?
I was at the hotel to see Alex Ferguson and to do an interview with MUTV (yes, they have their own TV station) about a documentary they’re making on the treble win in 1999 (for the reason for their interest see pages 395/6 of The Blair Years, and if you don’t have one – why not, I say?)
It is impossible to spend much time in Alex’s company without being enthused about football, and he was in a particularly good mood, news of Liverpool’s defeat having reached him as their train pulled into Euston. So by the time I left he was sorting out tickets for myself and my Man U supporting son Rory. For him and Alex, and for the way Spurs broke our hearts on a rainy night in Burnley a few weeks ago, I’ll be hoping for a United win today. And when he said his last remaining selection issue was whether to start with Rooney or Ronaldo, you kind of felt it might happen.