I should preface this story by telling you I know nothing about football. Literally. Nothing.
I was 14 years old, a magician and actively didn’t like football. I feel like I could have just started this entire series with that fact alone, and you could have filled in the blanks about my childhood without me. Nevertheless, I’m not sure you looking at a white page and just imagining me wearing a cape and rebuffing the idea of ‘going in goal’ is quite the same as reading about it - so I’m happy to do the legwork for you.
I received an email from a man called John. He’d read about me winning the ‘World Junior General Magic Champion’ title and was getting in touch to see if I’d like to be a part of an awards ceremony for ‘The Talented Youngster of The Year.’ It was an annual, swanky black-tie dinner, held at The Place Hotel in Manchester.
It sounded like it would be a fun event, so I agreed to do it and we arranged the details.
When I arrived on the day they told me that several celebrities would be in attendance - but to be honest, I didn’t really think anything of it. Unless it was a real A-lister, like Tom Hanks or Mary Berry, I wasn’t that interested. Instead, I made my way to the stage to set everything up and crack on with the day.
The event, it turned out, was much bigger than I'd anticipated! After the rehearsal, my dad and I made our way to the front of the hotel to have a wander around Manchester. The moment we stepped outside, we were met with people setting up the red carpet, news trucks and photographers galore, all waiting for the guests to arrive a few hours later.
I suddenly got the feeling I might have misjudged the night somewhat.
Nevertheless, we walked straight past them and headed into the city. Part of me was hoping a photographer might see me and snap a shot, but alas, I assumed he was just saving his film for when Mary arrived, choosing to completely ignore the fact it was a digital camera.
Meandering complete, we headed back into the hotel and I got ready for the performance. I applied copious amounts of stage makeup and slid into my comically baggy, although freshly-creased, trousers and tailcoat.
I made my way to the theatre wings; anxious about my performance. I’d almost entirely blocked the celebrity audience out of my mind, but I did often find pre-show nerves to be common in me as I was growing up.
Suddenly, I heard the compère start my introduction. I walked onto the stage, with the bright stage lighting restricting my eyes from seeing anything ahead of me, other than total darkness. Nevertheless, I waved smiled into the black pit where I hoped an audience was now sat and began my act.
As it happened, they were a really nice, lively audience - applauding in just the right places and offering slight intakes of breath where appropriate. Every few seconds I could feel camera flashes coming in my direction. I hadn’t realised the photographers would be coming inside too, so I suddenly became ultra-aware of every movement, every facial expression.
I reached the point in my act where I bring a member of the audience onto the stage. I walked down the stairs and into the crowd. The house-lights raised, allowing me to actually see the 600-strong audience for the first time. Directly ahead of me, almost immediately as I reached the floor, I saw a table of footballers. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I know nothing about football - but these players were so big that even I recognised them! Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney were sat yards away from me, along with their partners. I thought it would be a missed opportunity to not involve them in some way, so I made my way towards Coleen, Wayne’s wife, and asked her to join me on stage.
I’m not going to say she looked particularly pleased but… *flash*. One of the photographers appeared behind me and took a photo. Her face changed immediately! She was beaming! Her eyes twinkled and it now appeared that she couldn’t have been any happier to join me! Ah, showbiz!
Delighted that she was now by my side, we continued our way towards the stage, where I performed my Floating Table illusion for her. She actually seemed to enjoy her time up there, and I was able to send her back with a rose to continue my act. The photographer, it transpired, was working for OK! Magazine, and published the photo along with a glowing write up about my act in the following issue.
It was complete chance that I happened to walk down those stairs; that I happened to recognise her and that the photographer happened to be there; but I couldn’t have been more thrilled how it worked out. That said, even having gone back out to meet all the footballers afterwards and say thanks to Coleen, I still couldn’t bring myself to watch 'the match' that weekend. I’ll stick to watching movies, ta.