PIERS MOR­GAN

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - RADIO WEEK -

My re­la­tion­ship with One Di­rec­tion can best be de­scribed as ‘frac­tious’ ever since they urged mil­lions of their fans on Twit­ter to get the hash­tag # piersmor­gan­iss­melly t rend­ing world­wide for a whole day.

Things are sim­i­larly tense be­tween me and Ar­se­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger – though that has noth­ing to do with him ques­tion­ing my body hy­giene, and ev­ery­thing to do with what I per­ceive to be a large dip in his abil­i­ties through the past decade.

So the chance to man­age a foot­ball team against One Di­rec­tion seemed a per­fect chance to kill two birds with one mas­sive boul­der: shut those cheeky scamps up for good AND prove I ac­tu­ally do know some­thing about run­ning a foot­ball team.

Niall Ho­ran was be­hind the idea. He wanted to raise money for a char­ity called Ir­ish Autism by host­ing a match at Le­ices­ter City’s sta­dium.

But he turned out to be just as com­pet­i­tive as me.

‘Piers,’ he emailed dur­ing the player re­cruit­ment process, ‘if Paul Mer­son plays, he’s with me. You can f*** off, it’s my game!’

I ar­rived in the dress­ing room to find a man­ager’s track­suit with ‘PM’ on the la­bel. Within min­utes my team be­gan to as­sem­ble, led by my cap­tain Rob­bie Sav­age. ‘All right, Gaffer!’ he bel­lowed.

We had for­mer in­ter­na­tion­als Dean Holdsworth, Ja­son McA­teer and John Aldridge – and celebrity play­ers Shayne Ward, Keith Duffy and Michael Vaughan. The op­po­si­tion boasted foot­ball leg­ends Rob­bie Fowler, David James, Mark Wright, Matt Le Tissier and Phil Neville, and stars Ro­nan Keat­ing, Jack White­hall, James Cor­den and John Bishop.

But my trump card came when the door opened and a tall, ridicu­lously hand­some French­man am­bled in. The room fell silent, bar the com­bined mut­ter of one word: ‘Pirès.’

Yes, I’d per­suaded one of Ar­se­nal’s, and the world’s, great­est mod­ern play­ers, Robert Pirès, to turn out.

I gath­ered the team to­gether. ‘Right lads. One: un­like Arsene Wenger, I do not con­sider com­ing sec­ond, never

‘Ter­ror gripped me. I’d been de­bagged by Harry Styles in front of 18,000 people

with cam­era phones’

mind fourth, to be the same as win­ning a tro­phy. Win­ning is all that mat­ters. Two: the op­po­si­tion will try to kill me. Mr Sav­age, your job is to stop them. Three: when in doubt, give it to Pirès.’

As we lined up in the tun­nel, I found my­self next to Neville. ‘ You’re mine…’ I warned.

David James, 6ft 4in and Tysonesque in physique, grabbed me in a vi­o­lent head­lock. ‘And you’re MINE.’

‘Sav­age!’ I cried. Rob­bie sped over and pushed James away.

The game was equally fe­ro­cious. Pro­fes­sional sports­men, re­tired or not, don’t re­ally do ‘friendlies’. Twenty min­utes in, one of our team did in­deed ‘give it to Pirès’ – who sub­limely chipped the ball over James to score.

I charged on to the pitch, sank to my knees, then grabbed the mi­cro­phone and belted out a tune­less ren­di­tion of his old Ar­se­nal chant, ‘Su­per Robert Pirès’. The crowd booed and hissed.

And the abuse in­ten­si­fied when I brought my­self on as striker.

Liam Payne, man-mark­ing me like a hy­per­ac­tive chi­huahua, pulled my shirt, pinched and el­bowed me, and trash-talked in a way that would em­bar­rass even Floyd May­weather. I re­sponded by squar­ing up to him, thus highl ight ing the mas­sive size dif­fer­en­tial. ‘Go on Titch, make my day,’ I growled.

‘ Oi, leave him alone, Mor­gan,’ snarled Bishop.

‘Stop me,’ I re­sponded. So he did, crunch­ing me with a tackle so out­ra­geously bru­tal I rolled six times on the floor be­fore com­ing to a painful halt.

‘Sav­age!’ I yelped. ‘I’ve got this Gaffer,’ replied Rob­bie. A minute later, Payne re­ceived the ball near the touch­line and Sav­age charged in and flat­tened him. I

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