This morning was my first visit to the Marbella Football Centre and, thanks to one member of Sheffield United's coaching staff, it was very nearly my last.
After a short journey through the neighbouring urbanización, across the motorway which snakes its way up Spain's east coast and then down what appeared an unkempt farm track, my taxi bounced into the complex's car park under the watchful gaze of three security guards.
One sized me up from behind his sunglasses while another manned the barrier which prevents the general public from being able to wander inside. His pal, in case you were wondering about my grasp of basic mathematics, sized up my physique, miraculously sensed I wasn't a footballer, and began barking something into the walkie-talkie which moments earlier had been clipped to his belt. Gaining admission was clearly going to be tougher than I thought.
After exchanging a few pleasantries with the guy on the gate and attracting more suspicious looks, I went straight for the jugular: "Can I come in?"
"Err, no," was the reply, followed by a dismissive shrug of the shoulders. "People are here to work."
My pleas that, despite what some of you back in Blighty might think, I was too fell on deaf ears until salvation appeared in the shape of two well-known members of Chris Wilder's backroom team.
"They'll be able to vouch for me," I said. "They'll tell you I'm with them."
"Never seen him before in my life," came the response. "There's no way he should be let through."
Cue a cheery wave and, as they made their down the drive, a turn of the head and cheeky wink.
Fortunately, my NUJ press card smoothed things over and, after a nervous five minutes, I was in. No thanks to said individual who I won't embarrass by naming. But don't be surprised if United's goalkeeping coach gets some pretty poor write-ups in The Star next term.
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