By some strange twist of fate this weekend Leeds United play Belgian side FCV Dender in a pre-season friendly. Leeds were due to play Lokeren but they pulled out and Dender stepped in. Why should this interest me? FCV Dender are managed by former Stoke City manager Johan Boskamp. Andy meets Johan BoskampIn April a collection of mad Stokies went to Brussels for a weekend of drink, culture and football. The football element was listening via webcast to Stoke City’s big game which might have led to promotion, and a trip to FCV Dender to see them play in an equally big match. Their win that evening secured another season in the Belgian top flight against all the odds and to defy all the “experts”. After that game we met Johan and were treated to hospitality in the players’ lounge. Unfortunately it was brief meeting and one arranged for the next day never materialised.

Today on a whim I thought I might try to met up with “Bossie” again, cursing myself for not sorting something sooner. An email to FCV Dender brought nowt. A call to Leeds Utd was equally useless. So I thought I’d be cheeky and text Johan a “welcome to Leeds message”, never expecting a reply. Much to my amazement Johan rang me back very shortly to say they had just arrived at the hotel and I was welcome to meet up before or after the game. By chance the hotel is outside the city centre and only five minutes walk from my work place. It was lunchtime, and working on the premise that “shy bairns get nowt” I set off with my camera to see if I could speak to the Boss Man. I found him eating lunch. Rather than being annoyed by the interruption he invited me to sit down and join him and the team. I spent a very amusing fifty minutes with him before I had to return to work. I’ve been invited to bring some other Leeds Stokies over to see him later today or tomorrow. For all other Stokies Johan has a message for you (below). Top guy, the Boss. Approachable, friendly, funny and by his own admission, totally crazy! A very memorable afternoon. Thanks Johan.

Johan Boskamp message to Stoke Fans

This has been a relaxed yet productive weekend. Much of it has been spent catching up on the chores neglected during the previous whirlwind weeks of gallivanting around the world. My house is now tidy again, my hedge is trim, the car is clean and the large mountain of clothes are put away. While I sat in the sun today with Orlando the cat uncharacteristically curled up nearby, I finally produced an updated CV on the laptop. I’ve been meaning to do this for weeks as it’s all part of a cunning plan, but I’ve lacked the time and inclination to do it thanks to more entertaining diversions. This was the first weekend at home for ages and I think justifies my staying in and doing nothing special. After all recent past weekends have seen me:

* walking in Scotland and discovering my football club was now Premier League!
* drinking, watching football, and meeting a former Dutch Stoke City manager in Brussels
* having a stay in Coniston in the Lake District
* in Florida for 17 days with the beloved
* having my parents to visit and making trips to York and Richmond

This weekend is a calm before the storm. I’m away again in Coniston next weekend, spending the Bank Holiday weekend staying in Exeter with my friend Jen walking somewhere in Devon, then after that I’m away across the Pond enjoying the company of “mar lady” as they say in Stoke. Hopefully this blog will help chronicle the adventures and save me the trouble of writing it up in the old fashioned way, something I attempted in Florida previously but ground to a sorry halt after starting gamely.

Thankfully I also got my hair chopped off this weekend, the mini-heatwave we’ve been enjoying recently has had me sweating bricks and the removal of the thick mop has helped considerably. I look respectable again and hopefully will not incur suspicious glances from the US Immigration Control when I return in June. I’ve spend a fair amount of the weekend faffing around with this website and blog settings, struggling to install the Gallery2 program which has seen me up into the early hours cursing and scratching my head. Simple installation my arse. It’s riddled with errors and meaningless messages. It better be worth it when I finally get the swine working. I found a nice simple gallery program that works beautifully but will not allow the functionality I need if I’m to advertise my wares as is the plan. Well one of the plans, but not the cunning plan. More of that another time.

Finally this weekend saw the arrival in the post of “It cracks like breaking skin”, a collection of short stories set in Stoke-on-Trent written and sent to me by fellow Stoke City fan and member of the Brussels Nine, Stephen Foster. Another book to add to the growing backlog of reading but a welcome addition, I’d been after it for some time. Nice then to get a signed copy. Worthy of online thanks and a link to Stephen’s blog