He was giggling. ‘You’re not going to believe this’ he said. ‘Ralf Rangnick is the new Man Utd manager’.
‘I think I know what’s going to happen next’ I said. I was right. The press descended like a swarm of hungry locusts. For Warhol’s celebrated fifteen minutes, Southwick was famous. Our little Sussex port town with its football team in red and white stripes became the epicentre of a rather surreal story.
It wasn’t just that Ralf had spent a season playing for Southwick in 1979-80, or that his ‘gegenpressing’ idea may have originated in the frenziedly physical theatre of English non league football which presented him with four broken ribs, a punctured lung and an extended hospital stay as the result of an away match somewhere the other side of Sussex. It was the fact that 40 years later he had remembered us.
When the players and management of the old Southwick FC rescued the club from oblivion last season, I got involved on the PR and fundraising side.
One day, while watching the lads wallop another hapless opponent on Southwick Rec, I was discussing fundraising ideas with my mate Levvo and the fact that Ralf Rangnick – internationally renowned manager of Schalke 04 and Champions League semi finalists RB Leipzig - had played for Southwick.
‘You speak German’ he said. ‘Why don’t you get in touch with him and ask him to donate to the Wickers’ crowdfunder appeal?’
So I wrote, in German, to the Ralf Rangnick Foundation, and got a reply back from Ralf’s advisor, the wonderfully named Marco Casanova, sending Ralf’s greetings, a £1000 donation, and a lovely message.
It really does seem as though Manchester United have got a good one here – a manager who remembers and celebrates the grass roots of the game. I have never wished a Man U manager good luck before, but am proud to do now.
And AFC Southwick intend to enjoy our 15 minutes of fame. We cordially invite one and all to join us on Saturday (4 Dec) at our home game with Balcombe at Whitehawk FC. Former players especially welcome. Real ale, hot food, raffle, pin badges and replica shirts on sale, commemorative programme, decent music on the PA. Admission free, donations towards expenses welcome, kick off 2pm. Hope to see you there.
* AFC Southwick, of the Mid Sussex premier divison, was formed when the first-team players and management left Southwick 1882 FC last summer in a dispute over payments they had been asked to make to the club. Southwick 1882 FC remain in the Championship division of the Mid Sussex League.