I have a pal who's a cameraman. He's spent years travelling round the North, filming stuff at football grounds. No matter where you're heading, he'll be able to recommend a good chippy in the vicinity. Off to do something at Grimbsy Town? "Don't go to the one near the ground, it's gone off. Head further into Cleethorpes.", he'll suggest, "Go to Steel's. Tell you what, I'll give them a ring and book you a table...".
My radar's different. I do clothes. For me, every trip to a training ground or stadium's a shopping opportunity. So for me, being sent to Scunthorpe means an early arrival and a quick scoot around the TK Maxx on the retail park opposite Glanford Park. If I'm talking to Brian Laws at Burnley, I'll eschew the motorway and drive over the top, via Colne, which is, as any self-respecting baragin hunter will know, home to the Boundary Mills store. Recent visits have turned up Aquascutum shirts for a tenner and Timberland macs for £20.
It's always the labels for less I'm after. My formative football watching years coincided with the emergence of the casually-clad young chap, 25 years on, I'm still sporting the 'look'. The only difference now is that two kids and a mortgage mean I've got less disposable income than I had when I was saving up my dinner money to be able to go and buy the next Pringle crew neck.
My lunchtimes still suffer. After a run back to Wrexham, on my way to the office in Wilmslow, I'll call in at Cheshire Oaks-bagful of Clerk&Teller gear there for a song last visit. The long trek back from the KC Stadium can be broken up by taking the A19 and dropping in at the York Designer Outlet.
And so to my greatest triumph.. a 9am interview with Roy Keane at Sunderland's training ground meant I was outside the Barbour factory shop in Jarrow before they'd even opened the doors. It was my first ever visit. As I flicked through the racks of reduced quilted coats in the famous back room, a new rail was wheeled in, black 'International' jackets swinging as the assistant manouvred it into position, "Eee, they're all £29.95 pet..", she told another customer. I was in like a flash. Bit of white dust on the shoulder, otherwise perfect. I could have cried with joy.
And the one that got away, a black Belstaff jacket for £60 in a short-lived designer outlet near to Oldham's Boundary Park. I bottled it. That one still hurts...