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Armani's Visit to Manchester, November 2010

Week 3

Wednesday 17th November

With Tony back at work, Armani was taken to the Trafford Centre by Tony’s daughter Kelly for a bit of bargain hunting. In the evening he watched an instantly forgettable England performance in a 2-1 defeat to France.

Thursday 18th November

A quiet day but what an evening. Armani, Tony and Howard were invited as V.I.P. guests at the opening of the new City store on Market Street. After mingling with everybody who is anybody at Man City past and present, and after free drinks and nibbles, we were treated to the DJ skills of Micha Richards and Shaun Wright-Philips.

It was amazing to watch so many people asking to have their photograph taken with Armani. I never saw him without a giant smile on his face. After the official opening of what is a very impressive store, we were invited to The Living Room on Deansgate and because it was raining we were all given Blue Moon umbrella’s for the short walk.

Once inside we were treated to another free bar and, of course, we were drinking the Blue Moon Beer in Blue Moon glasses. So that's bottles, umbrellas and glasses for souvenirs. How is Armani going to get all this stuff back? Anyway a fantastic time was had by all, but the next morning Armani experienced his first proper hangover, as did Tony and Howard, but it was far from their first, or last.

Friday 19th November

During the day Armani took himself round Stockport, and through choice actually walked from Tony’s house in North Reddish to the Town centre and back again. He was pleased to say that people recognised him in the street and stopped to talk to him. In the evening he went with Tony and Liz to the Showcase Cinema in Belle View and enjoyed a film called Africa United about a group of kids from Rwanda who decided to walk to the World Cup in South Africa. It was the first time Armani saw the big screen, a bit different to the cinema seen on the film of our visit to Freetown.

Saturday 20th November

Armani went to visit Tony's parents in North Wales for the day. A walk on the beech reminded Armani of home, except it was about 30 degrees colder, literally.

Sunday 21st November

With the Reddish Branch for a trip to London to see the Fulham game. What a performance and what a result. Armani described the first half as the best he has seen a City team play and who could argue with him, boring, boring City. Slept most of the way back and when we got off the bus it was about – 3 degrees and it hit Armani like a sledge hammer, little did he know that it would be getting even colder in the days to come.

Monday 22nd November

The evening saw a visit to the Cheadle Branch who were very welcoming and were kind enough to give Armani some cash to spend on himself. Paul Lake came as well and we showed to film of our visit to Freetown. A really nice bunch of people who were genuinely interested in what is going on out there. Not sure if we have mentioned this before but by this time we were selling raffle tickets for a City Shirt signed by all the players and a Sierra Leone International shirt and the Cheadle Branch bought lots of tickets for the cause. What was nice was that as with visits to other branches people were saying that because the project was started when Reddish was a CSA Branch then they only got to know about it at the latter stages and all were saying that it was a shame that we were split as a supporters group at that stage, because had we not been they would have been more aware about what was going in the earlier stages and would have like to help more.

Tuesday 23rd November

Today saw a trip to Winsford, for a day with Liz’s sister and her family. The day out included a trip to Cheshire Oaks and when Armani went into a bargain store he took the title literally and tried to bargain with the shop assistants on the price of everything, much to the amusement of those with Armani and much to the confusion of the young shop assistants.

Week 2

Thursday 11th November

During the day Armani and Tony went to the school where Tony’s wife Liz works. The school was receiving a presentation form Miriam Mason-Sesay, who runs a charity for schools in Sierra Leone called Educaid. Miriam lives most of the time in Freetown and was able to involve Armani in her presentation about her work out there.

In the evening Armani was warmly welcomed by the Poynton Branch meeting, who were shown the film of the trip followed by a Q&A session. It was nice to see that many of the members knew of the project, but for some it was their first opportunity to see the footage and it went down well with so many people showing a genuine interest in helping. Kebab on the way home for Armani and straight to bed.

Friday 12th November

During the day Armani visited Hero’s and Legends sports memorabilia shop in Stockport. The guy who runs the shop is called John Marshall and he has been very generous to Armani in the past, and has followed his story closely. We will forgive John for supporting the reds. Armani came away with three football shirts signed by Bell, Lee and Summerbee. John, what a guy.

In the evening came a visit to the now legendary Reddish Blues Race Night. Yet again Armani received a true blue welcome and the night was a huge success all round, raising money for the children’s Christmas Panto. Once again, Armani got a kebab on the way home.

Saturday 13th November

Birmingham City at home. The less said about the game the better but there was an opportunity for Neil Cole from Endemol to do some filming before the game, after which Armani, Howard and Tony were interviewed in City Square with the interviews beamed to the big screens there.

It was then off to the Townley to meet up with a few of the lads for a beer. After the match Armani and Tony met up with Alex Channon and went for a meal in the Trafford Centre. The meal was arranged to meet a City fan, Tia, who originates from Sierra Leone and lives in North Wales with her husband and daughter. Armani enjoyed the spicy food and he enjoyed talking in his native tongue for the first time since coming over. The meal was enough to avoid the need of a kebab on the way home.

Sunday 14th November

Remembrance Sunday and Armani went to a church service with Tony’s mother in law, before attending another service with Tony’s family in remembrance of the Normandy veterans.

The evening was good for Armani, as he went to the home of Alex Channon whose African friend cooked him some traditional food. I think it involved a cow’s foot and Armani loved it.

Monday 15th November

With Tony back at work Liz took Armani to Primark where he found bargains galore, he was also surprised by just how busy the city centre was.

There was another warm welcome in the evening at the Hazel Grove meeting at the Bird in Hand and more than one supporter was moved to remove their items of city clothing to give to Armani. Yes there was a kebab on the way home. I think Armani is addicted.

Tuesday 16th November

Armani spent the day with Tommy Sheehan form the Reddish Branch as he went about his business in the form of Tin Bashers, who specialise in new and used machinery. Armani even got the opportunity to bid at an auction on behalf of Tommy. Tommy also told Armani that he had got him a welder for him to hire out in Freetown.

The evening saw Armani visit the Supporters Club EC Meeting at Eastlands, he has had to send apologies to every other meeting since the two clubs merged so it was a nice change for him to be there in person. It also gave him an opportunity to give his thanks to many of those who have helped the Sierra Leone Project.

Week 1

Wednesday 3rd November

Armani arrives at Heathrow Airport at 5.30am after his six and a half hour flight from Freetown, and is met by a blurry eyed Tony Griffiths and his wife. The weather is a little chilly to us but pretty cold for Armani. He sleeps most of the way back North, stopping only for a snack at a motorway service station (rip off!). Arriving at Tony’s he quickly settles and his thoughts soon turn to the matches ahead.

Thursday 4th November

Armani decides that he would like to explore Stockport town centre alone to get his bearings so Tony drops him off and collects him 2 hours later in the same spot. He is impressed with Sports Direct, many bargains to be found. Armani being Armani finds lots of people to talk to even if he didn’t know them. I think the fact that he was wearing his Sierra Leone international shirt was the icebreaker.

In the evening he had had his first Chinese meal with Tony and Liz who were joined by Howard and his wife. He was a bit weary at first, as Chinese food does not have a very good reputation in his country. First he tried Hot and Sour Soup, but was not too keen. He liked his main course much better in the form of Pork Sazwan which we asked them to make extra hot... that went down well.

Friday 5th November

In the morning he visits Dave Barclay at Barclay Signs, the company that did the vehicle graphics on Armani’s bus and presented Dave with one his world famous hand carved plaques.

He then does a bit of shopping Tony and Liz and called home to let everyone know that he was okay. In the evening he goes with Tony’s daughter and his grandchildren to a firework display which impressed him greatly.

After that he experienced an important feature of British culture in the form a of a lad’s night out at the Reddish Working Men’s Club. He met lots of people, made even more friends and he had a good drink, but not too much as he does not drink at all at home. The welcome he received by everyone out there was heart warming to say the least.

On the way to the club, Armani whispered to Tony that Howard had said that it was lads only and Armani was assured that Tony's wife Liz was only dropping us off. In fact she also picked us up at about 12.30am, God bless her.

Saturday 6th November

A bit of a chill out day with Howard who drove Armani around delivering derby day "Boot Licker" t-shirts ordered by Reddish Branch members.

This was followed by a visit to the Harley Davidson dealership in Stockport where Armani sat on his favourite bike, a Harley Electra Glide.

Sunday 7th November

West Brom away on the Reddish coach and a win at last. Armani never stopped singing throughout the game and it was amazing how many people came up to us having seen the videos on the website. All were very complimentary about the bus project.

The Sierra Leone flag flew proudly throughout. After the game he was amazed by the police motorcycle escort for the coaches. When we got off the bus back at Reddish the temperature had dropped by about 5 degrees and that hit him straight away, good job he had an extra coat and he slept well that night with a fine victory under our belt.

Monday 8th November

This was a big day, in the morning Armani and Tony recorded an interview at the Imagine FM studio in Stockport for transmission on the Blue Moon show at 9pm on Sunday.

At 3.30pm Armani was given a guided stadium tour by Damaris Treasure and Chris Neild which was recorded by Neil Cole from Endemol, who did the magnificent filming with us in Freetown. I would guess that the visit to the very impressive changing room was the highlight.

This was followed by a meeting with none other that Garry Cook which lasted over an hour. Garry was genuinely interested in hearing about the footballing situation in Sierra Leone and Armani was more that happy to explain every with the aid of photos and newspapers he had brought over.

Towards the end of the meeting Garry gave some good news in that City are going to look into the possibility of helping to provide a decent pitch out in Freetown, along with a club house for the players and the supporters. You can imagine just how excited Armani was with that news. To cap it all Garry Cook said that we should all go out for a meal before Armani leaves.

Tuesday 9th November

If we thought Monday was good, then Tuesday was unbelievable. We were invited to Carrington to watch the player’s train. Armani met 22 of the first team squad along with Roberto Mancini, Brian Kidd and Mike Summerbee.

Each and everyone found time to chat with him, and to accept a carved plaque he brought for Sierra Leone with each player's name individually carved onto it. Kolo Toure gave him his boots and David Silva his shirt.

Then to cap it all Wayne Bridge offered to put Tony and Armani in his private box for the derby the following day. What a gent. In fact all the players and all the staff there were magnificent and made me very proud to be blue. Having watched the training and having been shown round the remarkable complex we left the place buzzing, and it was all filmed by Neil Cole.

Wednesday 10th November

The big day arrived. In the afternoon Tony took Armani to Matalan and got him a suit, shirt, shoes and a tie (sky blue of course) Tony was jealous because Armani looked a million dollars and Tony would struggle to look $10 even if he went to Saville Row.

Armani got to the game early and went to the Townley for 15 minutes to meet many people who were looking forward to seeing him. Again he was made most welcome and was recognised by many people from the videos.

Tony and Armani then met up with Neil Cole and went into Wayne Bridge's very plush box. After a glass of red (sorry they did not do blue) and a bite to eat they went outside where Armani was excited to see that Howard Burr had hung the Sierra Leone Supporter’s Club flag from East Stand Level One.

The game was a bit of a let down but did not spoil a truly remarkable day which was the fulfilment of a dream for Armani. To cap it all Shaun Wright-Phillips was in Wayne's box and Lakey brought Ian Brightwell in to meet him. Oh and he met Francis Lee in the lift, and once again it was all filmed by Neil.

Not a bad first week, watch this space.

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