Gary Nuben: Our little Italian job turned out to be a great seller!

Midlands football was so strong in the mid-seventies that we still had to travel to London, Manchester, the Northeast or Scotland for football Reuters events.

Sitting in my favorite restaurant on Birmingham’s Park Street – now the missing Lorenzo’s restaurant – I picked up the idea of ​​making Midland Soccer Reuters from my great friend Lorenzo Ferrari.

If we bring the big names of the game to the fore, will its restaurant have a regular lunch for these members? And, of course, at a certain price?

Lorenzo, a football fanatic, jumped at the chance. So I contacted Jeff Farmer (then the Daily Mail but in 1981 he became part of my new team at Central TV) and we formed the first committee. I said I would be the secretary because I had a loyal PA in Olivia Fondega who would manage.

Alan Williams of the Daily Express was invited to be chairman, and Hugh Jamieson of The Sun was the fourth member.

The problem was how to get subscriptions from other authors who probably didn’t want to make any money – hard but true.

I suggest that we spread the word but keep it special, gambling – successfully – that other authors will be offended that they were not asked. Membership grew fast!

In the good old days, after a few lunches, when the business didn’t look at the clock, we lacked the money for our ambitions. The farmer came up with a good idea which I initially opposed but others voted for, meaning we would receive five times the journalist’s subsidy from the businessmen who attended the lunch. It worked a cure.

Remember, why would anyone want to attend Lorenzo’s meetings? The cast of speakers included England manager Don Reeve, Barcelona’s Johan Cruyff, Brian Clough, Bill Shankley, the Times’ famous football correspondent Jeffrey Green, Tommy Docherty and Graham Taylor.

Then in November 1976, Villa manager Ron Sanders suggested that we arrange a trip to Rome for the Italy-England World Cup qualifier – a 24-hour break so that the region’s managers could return for training.

I contacted Stuart Webb of Derby, who had Lonsdale Travel, and he gave his number two John Chedel to run it for us … for £ 85 a trip, a match ticket and a night’s bed and Breakfast at Cavalier Hilton to see the magnificent room.

As only one manager came on the trip – Graham Taylor of Lincoln City who insisted on paying himself even though his co-chairman said the club would. Taylor has always been a principled man.

The 94-strong journey from Birmingham Airport included several other chairmen – Sir John Smith from Liverpool and Sir Doug Ellis from Aston Villa. I, along with my father Jack and all these writers, make sure I don’t drink too much and get in trouble. Of course, I knew my dad would like it.

One or two things went wrong. Before leaving the hotel, Alice called us all to give a lecture. “You have to see these Italians. Grab your money and your watches. There will be pickpockets in the stadium.

In fairness, one man fell victim to the ground: Doug Ellis!

When we got to the stadium, all our seats were taken away, so we had to stand until the first half because the people in them refused to move. The caretakers did not want to know. As it turned out our places were taken by vendors – ice cream, drinks, food, etc. – so we took them back in half the time!

Lorenzo and his Italian companion arranged dinner but it was two hours away from Rome. Not Good! In the end, to satisfy everyone, Lorenzo paid for the crates of wine. A great comedian, my great friend Jasper Carrot saved the night with a very funny speech.

There was so much drinking that trip organizer John Chadell fell asleep behind the returning coach and no one noticed. So instead of the luxury of the five-star Hilton, poor John spent the night in the lock-up garage in the coach.

My father and I went straight to bed. What happens next with others, as they say, stays on tour!

Jasper then wrote a book, entitled The Italian Job, with a chapter on A Little Zeit on the Side.

He bought a lot of copies in Birmingham and helped a lot so that wives and girlfriends would never read this special chapter!

There were no fake shirts in those days. So at a luncheon, knowing that Lorenzo was a big fan of the Blues, Birmingham City presented Trevor Frances with his Blues No. 8 shirt.

What happened at this luncheon and how I took the luncheon to ATV at an annual television awards dinner show with managers, players and writers will be at Mercury next Sunday.

For my column in both Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph please try joining me on Tuesday with Utilita Energy.

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