The day I didn’t meet Roy Keane

A fine haircut, there

I am a creature of habit. Once I find somewhere that satisfies me, I tend not to change, which was why, some dozen years after i had last worked in Altrincham, I was still getting my hair cut at a nice little shop that had originally been very useful in enabling me to get a haircut at lunchtime.
It was a long way to go, but I would always make it into a bit of a trip by browsing around the Altrincham shops once the back of my neck started feeling cooler than before, with particular reference to a very well-stocked Oxfam Bookshop on the main street, and a usually interesting second hand bookshop just round the corner from where I used to work.
This habit continued after I married: my two stepsons would also get their hair cut and the wander round Altrincham and those bookshops would become a bit of a family expedition, every six to eight weeks.
This had been going on for some years when we made the drive over on a sunny Saturday morning in late March. We parked as usual on that side of the Village, where free side-street parking was available, and walked down to the hairdressers.
There were no such things as appointments, you just memorised who was already there when you arrived, and took your turn. Unusually, though both chairs were filled, there was no-one waiting. My family settled down on the benches whilst I hung up my jacket, and when I turned I saw that the further chair had been vacated. I always went first, so I walked over and seated myself.
There was an unusual buzz about the place. People seemed to be looking around, and no-one was in any rush to start on my head, not that I was in any rush to begin with. “Did you see who that was?” the guy said.
I had no idea what he was talking about, and it took my wife coming over to me to get me to understand. The guy whose place I had taken in that chair, who’d now left the shop without me having registered his presence in any way, was Roy Keane.
At first, it seemed unreal. It was the football season, it was Saturday, United were playing (ok, United actually playing on a Saturday in the back half of a season, that was what was unusual), and away from home. But then again Keano was suspended, so it wasn’t so strange that he wasn’t with the United party.
My wife said she had thought of asking for Keane’s autograph (for the boys, principally, not me!), but with her customary tact and sensitivity had decided it would be unfair to do so: this was ‘his’ time, and it felt wrong to her to trespass on it. Besides, he had smiled at them: the boys were sat there in their matching United tops (the reversible one, gold side out).
In fact, Keano was a regular at these hairdressers, since they were no more than a brisk walk from his Hale home (with or without dog), and underneath it all Keano was a straightforward, down-to-earth person, with a down-to-earth haircut that didn’t need fancy styling, so it was easy to imagine him popping into some quiet, unflashy place where he could get a haircut without fuss. Which is what we’d given him, though it was wholly inadvertently on my part!
So that’s my story of not meeting Roy Keane and I have kicked myself endless times over not having looked round with proper attention. I mean, I was the really big United fan out of all of us, and I was the only one who didn’t even get a look at him.
This was one case when I was there – but I might as well not have been!

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