Executive Suite

Executive Suite

Having a name that can be confused with something which sounds very similar does have its advantages. Spiffing Images Design was regularly mistaken for Spitting Image, a very popular eighties satirical puppet show. In fact around 1987 the programme was at the peak of its powers, beloved by people from all kinds of backgrounds, hip and razor-sharp in its wit, with a number one hit record to boot. I’m not quite sure how but we ended up on a mailing list and were invited to a Manchester United Executive Suite Open Day. The brains of the Old Trafford marketing department were clearly under the impression that we were the producers of cutting-edge TV comedy. Funny that it never occured to them why we might be based in a two-up-two down next to Moss Side Bus Garage. In those distant pre-David Gill days the club was still fairly low-rent and hadn’t worked out the best way of fleecing its vast army of devotees. The souvenir shop was basically a wooden shack and Louis Edwards’ idea of a marketing opportunity was parcelling up a bit of sirloin and slipping it under the counter, thank you very much, Missus. But times were a-changing and by the later part of the decade the Thatcher effect saw a bit of money starting to trickle up north. Not that Choccy McClair and the current crop of players were exactly setting the world on fire, but suddenly it seemed like those Executive Boxes all along the top tier of the stadium were worth milking. At four grand a pop, not a bad way to impress your clients and drum up a bit of repeat business. These were the fledgling days of corporate hospitality aimed at what Roy Keane later famously derided as the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’. So, on a very warm July afternoon we set out for Old Trafford. ‘Come and have a look, try out the facilities and sign-up for next season!’ We certainly weren’t complaining about the confusion and naturally went along mob-handed. Commie Ken was our Far East Logistics Manager, tasked with ensuring we got the best chinese deals on importing the latex used to make the puppets with. Boris Becker was our European frontman, power-broking with fledgling satellite TV channels across the Rhineland. Mad Dog came up the Chester Road on his bike after putting in a night-shift at Goblin Pies. Coated in sweat and up to his elbows till midday in Louis’ off-cuts, he didn’t smell that good – but if you’re a creative genius in charge of puppet production you can get away with that sort of thing. What a day, fired up by a few lunchtime pints in the Dog and Partridge we were plied with cheap bubbly, supermarket seafood and plates of processed cheese. We kicked back on the red velvet recliners and gazed out at the hallowed turf. It was actually being re-seeded at the time and resembled a paddy-field. A Gill-wannabe eyed Ken enviously, he could clearly see him as the man to sell truckloads of replica shirts in Asia. But for all that, United were still light years away from the slick money-making global beast that they’ve become today and the cheddar cheese and Piat d’Or on offer was never going to get us to part with 4k. Socrates’ Dad had trained him well and he already had a nose for a decent vintage. Even if we had any money in the bank and wanted to show Roadrider a good time we wouldn’t be wasting it on that. Come on, it only cost £2.50 to get on the United Road Paddock in those days. But you couldn’t blame them for trying and they even rustled up a few second-string players to stand around and try and impress us. One was slumped at the bar nursing his lager and looking bored. He nodded at Boris, ‘Any good fanny in tonight, pal?’ Our man on the Rhine counselled him that such a misogynistic attitude would have no place in the game of the future and if he wanted a place on the Sky sofa in years to come he would do well to mend his ways and adopt a more progressive countenance.

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