DIARY: Arsenal visit reminds Hytner of blunders by Man U goalie Barthez

In the days when footballers were mere mortals rather than

glove-wearing good-time boys with salaries to match the Colombian

national debt, autograph-hunting kids used to wait outside stadium gates

for hours.



Times change, even if hero-worship doesn't. No waiting outside for

Blake's Seven, the club for well-heeled media industry types established

by David Kershaw, the M&C Saatchi founding partner, and Martin Bowley,

the chief executive of Granada TV Sales.



Instead, the Blake boys and girls were whisked up to Arsenal's training

ground at Shenley, Hertfordshire, to watch the Premiership title

hopefuls work up a sweat before enjoying a relaxed lunch with the

manager, Arsene Wenger, and the club chairman, David Dein.



Alas, it all turned into a crushing disappointment for Marc Sands, The

Guardian's marketing director. Having painstakingly lined up two of

Highbury's finest - Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires - for a picture with

himself, his Polaroid camera stubbornly refused to work.



"He was a bit miffed," a bystander remarked. Jason Nisse, The

Independent on Sunday's City editor, couldn't contain his schadenfreude

though. "Another Guardian scoop missed," he gloated.



At lunch, Jim Hytner, ITV's marketing director and an avid Manchester

United fan, declared his true colours by confessing to be on a spying

mission on Sir Alex's behalf.



It was clearly a painful experience for Hytner. His memory is still

fresh with the goalkeeping howlers of United's Fabien Barthez who gifted

Arsenal a 3-1 win in November.



As a result, the French international was exiled to the stiffs for an

indefinite period and offered a contract to advertise Tesco's butter,

his performance having marked him out as "the ultimate

butterfingers".



So what was Hytner able to report back to Fergie? Many things, he

confessed - including goalkeepers actually being taught to make saves!



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