During the 2010/11 season, I had an interesting experience sharing a Nando’s lunch with three internationals manager in Borehamwood.
Here is the story of that meeting.
Spring 2011. Arsenal Ladies were in the Champions League semi-finals against Olympique Lyonnais, who at the time had not won the competition but would do so a month a half later at Craven Cottage against Potsdam (2-0).
It was the year the FA WSL was launched and the FA, with their usual jackass planning, decided to put the season and FA WSL’s first ever game, Chelsea v Arsenal, sandwiched between the two semi-final legs.
At the time, Arsenal Ladies were still semi-pro while Olympique Lyonnais were full time professionals. To have to play two exceptionally tough games in a week is hard enough, but to have a third game added with all the commercial hype and pressure was just a stupid idea from the FA. When you consider the state of that pitch as well, it definitely cost Arsenal as Kim Little ended up injured and was unavailable for the Champions League second-leg.
So on that Saturday, the 16th of April 2011, I went to Saint Pancras international to welcome the France women’s national team manager to London. He was coming to London to observe his national team players as OL had as many as 10 players in the France squad.
We made our way to Borehamwood in an unusual way as the trains to Elstree and Borehamwood station were not in service and had to go on the Northern Line to High Barnet and then take the bus to Borehamwood. Bruno Bini was quite amused by the detour we had to take to get to the ground and was pleased I was there to guide him.
The game took place later in the afternoon, so we decided to have lunch in Borehamwood and I selected Nando’s as it is one of my favourite places to eat and good value as well. We were sat in the middle of the restaurant overlooking the nearby Starbucks Cafe, when we saw two familiar looking faces having their drinks.
Bruno fetched me to invite them to join us for the lunch and over they came and joined our table. I was therefore having lunch with Bruno Bini of France, Anna Signeul the Swedish manager of Scotland and Thomas Dennerby of Sweden.
Among the subjects we discussed were two phenomenal forwards in Julie Fleeting, the Arsenal Ladies and Scotland legend with more than a goal per game at international level, who was struggling with injuries at the time. Funnily enough, Arsenal never mentioned all the injury trouble and operations that happened to the striker and she left the club a year later with no real explanation to the fans.
We also discussed Lotta Schelin the Lyon and Sweden forward, who had scored a brace in the semi-final first leg and was having another phenomenal season. Bruno was saying the only fault with Schelin was that she was not French and had she been, France could have won an international tournament.
We also discussed the upcoming game and I mentioned Kim Little, the Scottish playmaker I was saying would be key to the game for Arsenal. Unbeknownst to me, she had been injured on that sandy pitch against Chelsea and did not feature in the game that Arsenal subsequently lost 3-2.
So I ended up having a Nando’s at Borehamwood with three international managers and that was a kind of priceless encounter, because I learnt so much about international football management in that half hour lunch.