Last night as the sponsor of goalkeeping coach Antii Niemi I was invited to the sponsor’s dinner. The idea is you sit at the table with your charge and are photoed with him. The only problem – but it’s quite a significant one – is that he was not there. The reason for this is that we were in international week and Antii is the Finnish goalkeeping coach. On the morning I received an a general email saying that players on international duty would not be present. There are two explanations. The first is that the organisers in the commercial department were unaware of this when they identified a date for the event. The second is that they were aware and hoped an explanatory email on the day would suffice. Both are credible options but neither are creditable.
Meeting Antii was the USP. I bore questions from Alan Tanner including the head injury he sustained in a crazy 3-3 Fulham draw at Watford. The big Finn came in a line of Fulham keepers -Van der Sar, Niemi, Schwarzer – who gave the Cottagers impressive service. I learned from the quiz that Mark Schwarzer is the only premier league player born outside the British Isles who has clocked up more than 500 Premier games. I thought it was Brad Friedel.
Otherwise it was not a bad evening. I sat next to club coach Nathan Jones who steered us to a win at Fulham before Chris Hughton was appointed. Since then we have moved away from danger, we are particularly mean defensively on our travels, but speaking to Chris at the event he confirmed goal scoring is the problem. British football can be parochial and few play abroad these days. Nathan Jones played in Spain and speaks Spanish fluently.
Given the absence of Niemi and the way this was handled, I doubt if I will continue my sponsorship. There was a time when footballers did not live in a bubble so you did not have to sponsor to meet. Now you can sponsor and still not meet them. Equally if this happened in a marketing department of a company with similar turnover I am sure there would be an enquiry. Welcome to modern day football.