Stunned Liverpool fan bumps into Brendan Rodgers in Belfast
A lifelong Liverpool fan enjoyed a surprise meeting Brendan Rodgers – but didn't have the heart to bring up the Luis Suarez World Cup controversy.
Gareth Managh was celebrating his 12th wedding anniversary in Belfast at the weekend when eagle-eyed wife Gemma pointed out that Rodgers was also doing a little shopping in Victoria Square.
"Gemma said: 'There's your Liverpool man'," Gareth said.
"I said, 'You're winding me up.'
"We walked behind him and I said: 'Brendan?' He turned round, and when I saw it was him it was a bit of a shock.
"My friend Glenn Emerson, a Chelsea fan, was also with us so he had a bit of banter with him. He went to shake his hand and afterwards Brendan said: 'I thought that I could feel my hand burning'."
But when it came to the hot topic of Liverpool star Luis Suarez – facing a four-month match ban after biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup clash on Tuesday – Gareth said he had too much sympathy for his hero to annoy him.
"Everyone has been asking me that today, but I did not have the heart to ask him," he said. "I'm sure it was the last thing he wanted to hear. I didn't want to keep him too long. I think he wanted to get off side."
The 35-year-old metal fabrication company director said he was instead simply happy to have a handshake, a photo and a bit of banter with the Carnlough native.
"He was very pleasant," said Moira man Gareth.
"He was more than happy to pose. He was a very genuine lad. I have been a Liverpool fan since about 1987, but my dad was a Manchester United fan.
"I went to Ballycarrickmaddy Primary School, a wee tiny country school, and it could not afford a football kit. All the boys decided to bring in a Liverpool kit and it developed from there."
As to what was in the Anfield boss's carrier bags, Gareth didn't ask. But as Rodgers (41) is set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster this week, perhaps it was a new suit.
Champion jump jockey AP McCoy, rugby star Tommy Bowe, actress and business tycoon Roma Downey and Countdown presenter Nick Hewer are among the celebrities also to be honoured.