Never meet your heroes they say…unless it happens to be Brian Kidd who turns out to be reserved, polite, completely self effacing and still every inch the picture of athletic prowess that saw him storming down the wing against Benfica back in 68.
Kiddo, the former United European Cup winner and now Manchester City's assistant manager, proved that other maxim `There is always an exception to every rule'… What a top bloke! What a pleasure to meet Mr Kidd at the Great Salfordians charity night in aid of the Start in Salford project at the Lowry Hotel last month.
The night was well attended despite these economically calamitous times, and money was raised for a charity that helps to treat over a thousand Salfordians suffering from some form of mental health problems.
Those problems might range from depression to alcohol or drug related conditions. Mental health will affect at least one in three people during their lifetime and is often a hidden disease. People suffering from these issues can appear outwardly fine but be in turmoil internally and the problem may only become apparent when the person suffers a complete breakdown or does something that harms themselves or others.
Start in Salford came about mainly due to the efforts of Bernadette Conlon who will tell anybody in earshot that the charity began out of the boot of her car twenty years ago. From those early beginnings Start now occupies an imposing former Sunday School on Broad Street, runs courses in pottery, carpentry, photography, painting and gardening.
The clients are brought back to good health through the therapy of participating in craft and art projects, and much of the end products that come from the classes such as furniture, crockery and textiles are then sold, with the profits re-invested into the running costs of the charity.
Joining Brian Kidd on the sportsmen's table was Salford City player manager Rhodri Giggs. Sadly his also invited brother was otherwise engaged (according to one tabloid battling it out in a street slanging match with someone involved in a recent kiss and tell episode). However, brother Rhodri showed where the real class was to be found in the family, quietly enjoying the evening with friends.
Peter Hook at least sent his apologies for his non attendance, apparently some of his former band mates were audaciously using the name of a band they all used to play in. Artist Harold Riley could not attend due to illness, but that didn't stop Bill Tarmey, former MC of the long lamented Condon Club, who turned up despite experiencing breathing difficulties.
He was joined by Street newcomer Ian Puleston Davies, who plays Owen Armstrong in the show adding to his lengthy list of TV credits including Hollyoaks, Waterloo Road and Blackpool.
Sadly other Salfordian celebs could not be reached due, it seems, to the best efforts of their agents to frustrate pleas from the charity for their attendance at a hometown fundraising night. Well, it was their loss because despite the rarefied ostentation of the Lowry, the evening had the flavour of a right old Salford rave up.
Councillor John Warmisham played his part, skulking in the corner like a grumpy uncle who would prefer to be in the vault playing dominoes - even if sisterly Hazel Blears MP was signalling that it would be alright to enjoy to himself just this once.
The irrepressible Mike Sweeney was on form as the MC, suited and booted, face like a robber's dog. Funny and serious in equal measure Sweeney kept the evening floating along until stringing a guitar around his neck and scaring us all with his rendition of a Johnny Cash number. I think the most fearful amongst us was the lead singer of the band with whom Sweeney was trying to murder some sort of harmony. In the end we forgave him for strangling the number, after all we let him off with the Salford Jets so after that we can forgive anything.
Money raised on the night, a combination of ticket sales, casino monies and auction prizes, amounted to over £7,500 which will go towards the charity's costs of over £650,000 per annum.
Hopefully the night has gone some way to putting a great Salford charity on the map by raising its profile and setting up Great Salfordians for an even bigger turn out next year. There is no doubt in my mind that Bernadette deserves the title for this year, even if she is from the wrong side of the Ship Canal…Are you paying attention Russell Watson?
For further detail on the top work of Start in Salford see www.startinsalford.org.uk
Words and photos by Nigel Pivaro