‘You can take that off for a start luv’.

Or how Cupid turned into a baby-faced assassin. Kevin Henning watched ‘that magical night in Barcelona’ (TM Clive Tyldesley) with his City mates, horror-struck at the late, late comeback. Worse was to follow when his girlfriend phoned to gloat. They just don’t get it do they?

My parents were always telling me as a kid that there were more important things in life than football. It took me until my first son was born before I even considered that they may have been telling the truth. From the age of 12 until I was 21, every aspect of my life was geared towards following Manchester City whenever and wherever I could. In between, I made it clear to many of the people in my life that they would always be second in my personal priority league table.
One such person was an ex-girlfriend of mine. We’d met when out in a Mancunian nightclub and started seeing a lot of each other at the back end of 1998. Things were going well despite Vicky’s love for that lot over the road. Yes, she was a red and worse, lived too close to Old Trafford for my liking. Whenever I’d visit her (she lived with her parents) I’d try to avoid passing or catching a glimpse of the Disneyland of English football. She knew I wasn’t too enamoured with Fergie’s mob from one of our first dates. A night babysitting my niece took a turn for the worst when United, live on ITV, leathered Brondby of Denmark 6-2 in an away Champions League tie. I’d turned the channel over early on when it became clear that there was little chance of an upset. Vicky had laughed at me and told me how childish I was. However, this was nothing in comparison to my behaviour the following May when United were closing in on their round up of the major prizes.

It started on the 22nd of May and the aftermath of the F.A. Cup final. We met for a night out near my home in Eccles which is a well known red area. We’d decided to start in the Dutton Arms and stroll onto Liverpool Road after a couple of liveners. Ever the gent, I got the drinks in and we took a seat. Within my first few mouthfuls, the DJ had decided it was time to get the night going and announced to the boozers present that he was having an hour dedicated to football songs. I sat bolt upright, I knew what was coming. He opened with a fairly neutral choice, “Three Lions” the England anthem but he wasn’t kidding me. I knew exactly what was in the post and was beginning to plan evasive action. By the time Baddiel and Skinner were regaling us with how Bobby Charlton had belted the ball (part of the DJ’s subtle plan to get on to his favourite subject), I’d already supped half of my pint of lager. The record finished and I briefly announced to Vicky that should any United songs assault my eardrums, we were going. She thought I was joking and asked what I’d expected on the night United had won the cup. “Vindaloo” was next up, but there was no fooling me at this stage. By the time it was due to end, I had one more swig left in my glass. The next record crackled and came to life. I instantly knew the music and dropped the remainder of my drink. I was on the way through the main door before Francis Rossi had began wailing about Busby’s babes making him cry. The night ended with a bit of a row but nothing too serious.

Then the phone rang. She was cock-a-hoop. “Champions!” she yelled. BANG, phone down.

Vicky started making plans for the Wednesday night when the Champions League final would be played between ‘them’ and Bayern Munich. She’d hilariously invited me to go out to watch it with her near Old Trafford. Upon my spurning of her offer, she laughed and said that she would phone me every time United scored. This would be sure to upset the gathering of bluenoses I was expecting round, all obviously hoping for the Germans to triumph. I retaliated by threatening to phone her house following each Bayern goal. “Not fair!” she claimed. It would disturb her parents and they’d blame her. I told her I was happy not to dial her house if she promised not to harangue me. We all know how that dreadful night turned out but little does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realise that his hopeful out-stretched leg was the beginning of the end of a seven month courtship.

The final whistle came, my pals and I sat in stunned silence, somebody may have turned the TV off and The Smiths on. Then the phone rang. She was cock-a-hoop. “Champions!” she yelled. BANG, phone down. It rang again. Her again. “Champi…” BANG, phone down again. A third time the shrill of the phone, I picked it up. She was beginning to get my goat. “Why are you being such an idiot Kev? Don’t put the phone down on me again.” I told her I wouldn’t as long as she kept the conversation away from a certain match in Barcelona. “What, just because we won the treble? Champions!” She didn’t phone me again that night after the third time I’d cut her off.

The next morning in work, I phoned her to check she was alright. Not impressed was the impression I got. “If you’re going to act like this every time United win something, it’s not going to work between us. If you’re not going to apologise then I’ll come round tonight to pick up the DVD I’ve left at your house.” Over a decade later and I still haven’t watched Gwyneth Paltrow in “Sliding Doors”……