TO get to the bank I had to walk past Blaine’s Chemist on Market Street in the centre of town. I looked in one day and saw the most gorgeous girl I’d ever seen.

We were married a few years later and now boast a couple of kids and five grandchildren after we’d bumped into each other in the Beachcomber discotheque one night after I’d had a nightmare playing for the reserves at Oldham. I wanted to go home after the match, but full-back John Ritson kept saying ‘Fletch, just come in for a half, then you can go home and be miserable on your own.’ After saying no 10 times I finally said, “Ritty, okay, just one half, then I’m off home.“

That night I met Sian Roocroft, the girl I’d seen working at Blaines, who soon became the love of my life. We’ve now been married nearly 50 years. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I gone straight home that night. Thank you, John Ritson, that serendipitous half of lager changed my life.

But I was soon to realise that it wasn’t all plain sailing being a first-team footballer. I made my debut for the club when I was 17 and scored three goals in my first three games. At the end of my first full season I was told I was being transferred, the instructions from Manager Nat Lofthouse were, ‘Be at the club at 2.30, the chairman and me will take you to your new club, you can bring your dad if you want.’

As we got to the end of the M62 I realised it was either Liverpool, Everton or Tranmere Rovers. Luckily it was Everton who wanted a replacement in case their star centre-forward Joe Royle was pilfered from them. The Everton manager Harry Catterick gave me a warm welcome, but he soon cooled off about two hours later when I was told I’d ‘failed the medical.’

It was quite a set-back. I was as fit as I’d ever been, relishing first-team football, on the verge of a massive pay rise, and then informed that I had something wrong with my heart. Manager Nat Lofthouse said ‘We need to keep this quiet, don’t tell a soul. We’ll get it sorted.’

But it wasn’t that easy. Many of the first-team players started to poke fun as I was only allowed to walk around the pitch, with my mouth shut, day after day. I didn’t play for the next six months as the specialists started to investigate my ‘heart-murmur’ problem. In the end they said there was nothing wrong with me and I should get on with my career, but it wasn’t that easy. I was back in the A team and playing badly. Then a break – into the first team, scoring goals again, other clubs interested, my life began again.

One morning six months later Nat said ‘Fletch, you are on your way again, we’ve sold you, trust me, it’s a great club you are joining. You can bring your dad along if you want.’ I did trust Nat, and he was right, the club was Burnley, a great club in the First Division (now called the Premiership) and I had 10 years of top-level football there, England U23 call up, five caps, England call-up, FA Cup semi-final, and became the most expensive signing in the club’s history, £66,000!

On the drive over I had planned my approach and I was ready for long and lengthy negotiations – right up to the moment the boardroom door opened and in walked Burnley chairman Bob Lord. Sixty-nine years old and deaf as a doorpost. He was a frightening sight. My dad was petrified.

Without taking off his overcoat the Burnley chairman leaned across the boardroom table, with his nose close to mine, and said, ‘You’re on 80-quid a week, extra forty quid if we win and if you don’t score 20 goals a season, you’ll be on your xxxxing bike back to Bolton. Have you anything to say?”

As he said, ‘Have you anything to say’ he removed his two black ivory hearing aids and placed them on my contract, saying, “If you have anything to say, I can’t hear a bloody word.’

I signed a five-year contract and only met Butcher Bob, the Lord of Burnley and ruler of all he saw, another couple of times during my 10-year stay at the club.

Sorry, I’m rambling. So, to get to the main point of this story I need to skip over a couple of decades to a time when I retired from football aged 31 and had to try to earn an honest living. Initially I worked as photographer then marketing manager for a photographic company in Ribchester and went on to become franchise director; during this time, I enrolled on a Dale Carnegie course which one night changed my life (my mentor in later years Tony Stephens, David Beckham’s agent, once told me ‘You can live a life for 90 years but you’ll only have three life-changing moments).’ This was my number two. I started to speak on the after-dinner speaking circuit; opened a printing business in Maudsley Street; had my own kitchen centre in central Burnley; bought a furniture removal company (plus an old church for storage); finally I worked as commercial manager at a non-league football club for two years before being offered the chance to return into league football as commercial manager at Huddersfield Town FC at their old stadium. I felt that my apprenticeship was over, and it was now time for me to build some stadiums.

The Leeds Road stadium once held over 60,000 spectators but by the time I arrived there in the late 1980’s the safety certificate was reduced to a 10,000 capacity as the place was falling apart. Nevertheless, it became a job I adored. I sold all the perimeter advertising, organised the golf days, compered the sportsman’s dinners, ran the club shop, edited the programme, sold all the sponsorships, helped the players to get sponsored cars and attended all the board meetings.

It was during this time that I realised that these directors, honest as they were, didn’t have a clue about football. They were just rich fans who’d bought a place on the board. But in their defence, they were all very keen fans of their Huddersfield club after their dads and grandads had introduced them to the Terriers when they were kids – like what had happened to me.

One of my first jobs was to sack the manager Eoin Hand, a lovely Irishman and ex-centre-half who I used to play against. I quickly learned that a nice manager losing games, quickly gets the sack; where an obnoxious, arrogant, ignorant, self-centred plonker, would get a pay rise and a new car if he could get the team anywhere near the top of the table.

I think I’ve had to fire off eight managers over my time as CEO.