It’s Derby day in Rome on Friday as Lazio lock horns with AS Roma in what is always one of the most eagerly awaited clashes in the Serie A calendar. There is English interest once again this season with former Manchester United defender Chris Smalling now a vital part of the Giallorossi’s plans as they push for a title challenge.
Paddy Power has been given exclusive access to a diary that the 31-year-old has been keeping in the lead up to the big game and which will be aired on Italian TV tomorrow before kick-off.
MONDAY JANUARY 11
A tough game yesterday as we managed to score a late equaliser and grab a share of the points against Inter. The gaffer (Paulo Fonseca) let us have a little sleep-in this morning and told us not to report to the training complex at Trigoria until 11am.
I still went in early however, as I’ve got a little understanding going with head chef Luigi who always lets me have jam on toast despite the boss telling me I have to stay off it if I want to prolong my career. Luigi is a good guy who used to work for Lazio in their canteen.
He tells me some great stories about the time Ravel Morrison was a player there and some of his funny eating habits, especially the one where it all kicked off because he wasn’t allowed any tomato ketchup on his pasta! Speaking of pasta, I always like Monday’s lunch after we’ve played on a Sunday because we have the bow-tie shaped ones and they are my favourite.
TUESDAY JANUARY 12:
We got a surprise visit from Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi at training this morning who came to wish the lads all the best for Friday. Francesco is a keen Padel player and he asked me if I wanted to make up a socially-distanced foursome later in the afternoon along with Edin (Dzeko) and Pedro.
I thought it would be a good idea so Franny told me to be at the Foro Italico, which is right next door to the Stadio Olimpico, by 4pm. It’s not until I got home that I realised I hadn’t got any decent equipment to play, but the missus said not to worry as she knew the perfect place to buy some kit and that she’d take me to pick it up before dropping me off to meet the lads.
She also offered to pick me up later that night as Francesco had also asked if I wanted to join the rest of them at his favourite pizzeria afterwards although we’d have to eat them outside and told me not to worry as they had a great vegan selection.
I’m writing the final bit of today’s diary in bed as a feel like a right idiot – Having gone to pick up some equipment to play, imagine what a t**t I looked when I turned up at the venue carrying a couple of canoe paddles. Luckily, Totti had brought a spare racket but it was uncomfortable running around for two hours in a wet-suit.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 13
Last night’s events provided great banter in the changing room this morning and the lads had put a rubber duck in my locker. I do enjoy the atmosphere here – it’s so much more good natured than at Manchester United where it was common to find a dirty boy in your trainers after a workout at Carrington.
After training today I got a surprise call from Paul Gascoigne to wish me good luck on Friday. I’ve no idea how he got my number but it was nice to have a chat.
Paul told me about the time he scored for Lazio in the derby and what a hero it makes you for the next few months. Paul also explained to me how he never had to buy a drink ever again in Rome after that before I explained to him that it would be easy for me to refuse as I’m teetotal then having to explain to him what teetotal meant.
I’m too young to remember Gazza at his very best, but I’ve spoken to some of the senior members of staff here who reckon he’s more famous in the capital for burping into a cameraman’s face than for anything he did on the pitch. I have to say that it sounded disgusting and he certainly wouldn’t be able to get away with it in the current climate.
This afternoon I took the trouble and strife and the kids to the zoo. We love visiting here and since I’ve lived in Rome I’ve adopted at least half the animals.
One of the zookeepers, Giancarlo, is such a nice guy and he usually lets us feed the animals if he’s on duty and today we were allowed to go and help feed the camels. Giancarlo is a real character and he told me today that he’s actually named one of them Chris, as he reckons its face reminds him of me. Most people would take that as an insult and although I’m a sensitive kind of guy I realise for Giancarlo it’s just another example of good bants.
THURSDAY JANUARY 14
The big game is nearly here so the gaffer had us concentrating on some defensive plays this morning. I’m writing this before the team is finalised, but I reckon there’s a good chance that I’ll be in the starting XI.
Fonseca reckons I could still push my way into the England team for the Euro’s in the summer, but I had to tell him that Gareth (Southgate) never picks players who don’t play in England. Funny enough, I named one of my adopted chimpanzee’s Gareth recently, and when I explained this to the boss he nearly pissed himself laughing.
Later today I’m off for a walk around the city as it’s like a ghost town at the moment and it’s great to be able to see the sights without getting trampled on by nuns on their way to Vatican City. I was actually told by the lads only last week that the Vatican has its own football team and when I asked how good a coach they thought the Pope was, once they had dried their eyes, they said that he often came to games at the Olimpico to do some scouting. Wow!
- Next Sheffield Wednesday Manager Odds: Cook still favourite after Pulis sacking
- Next Celtic Manager Odds: Former boss O’Neill favourite to replace Lennon
- Premier League Sack Race Odds: Bruce tumbles, Lampard still short but Wilder new fav