Retro Sport with Roger Mann: An ambition which money just can't buy!

Torbay Weekly

Just like some of my more elderly readers, I look back on a sporting career in Devon and remember some wonderful characters.

Some were eccentrics, and others were extroverts, but whatever their peculiarity, they added so much colour to my memories.

Without doubt, one of the most extravagant characters whose path crossed with mine was Mike Antonucci.

In 1995, Mike won £2.8 million on the National Lottery.

What would you do if you won that huge amount?

I guess that I would make a few gifts to family members, and then take some investment advice.

But Mike was not boring like me!

He didn’t choose the motorway to his old age - he had opted for the scenic route!

He told me that he was nearly 50, and fed up with his antiques business, so: “I sat down one day and thought 'Right Mike! Get out there and enjoy it, son!'"

By the time I met him, he had spent £80,000 on two Mercedes convertibles, £8,000 on a jet ski, and almost £30,000 on a speedboat 'to attract the ladies'.

The speedboat, which he had christened 'Treasures', seemed to have worked because, soon after his win, he courted a young topless model, and bought her some breast implants for £4,500!

A £10,000 wedding, on a beach in the Bahamas, soon followed, and, almost inevitably, I suppose, it all ended in divorce three months later!

As I sat, in my front room, listening to him recount his experiences, I wondered why he was telling his story to a dull old chap like me, until he said: “Admit it, Roger, you would have done just the same, eh?”

“Umm! Not exactly, Mike! But everyone’s a bit different... and, yes, the Mercedes convertible does sound tempting!”

He told me that his ultimate aim was to launch a pop group, and 'make another 2.8 million, before I reach 60'.

Before he arrived at my house, friends had warned me that he was 'a brash, cocky, arrogant bloke'!

Actually, as we sat talking, I liked him, and enjoyed his enthusiasm.

Every now and then, he would laugh loudly, and throw an arm around me, and I felt that he was genuine.

He said: “I’ve made mistakes but at least I could afford them!”

And we laughed together at just how unfair the world can be!

A month before this conversation, I had had a phone call from a producer at Westward Television to explain that Mike Antonucci was now working for them as a roving reporter on a programme called Treasures.

The idea of the show seemed to be that Mike, who could buy whatever material things he fancied, would take a closer look at his ambitions which money could never buy.

“Mike has always dreamed of scoring a century at Lord’s, and we know that you are a coach, and that you might be able to talk to him, on air, about the history of cricket at Lord’s. After that, we want to film him making his century!”

I gulped, and asked if he was an active cricketer.

“No! I don’t think he has played much cricket before but we thought you could teach him, and we have already booked a local ground which will double as Lord’s!”

I asked how long I would be given to teach him, and was told 'about an hour'.

And which ground had they hired? He replied: “A place called Cockington”

Totally bemused by the whole project, I borrowed a few bits and pieces from friends, and Jenny and I decorated a room in our house to look vaguely like the Long Room at Lord’s.

When the filming day arrived, a camera crew turned up at 8am, soon followed by the growl of a Mercedes convertible!

“Hi there! I’m Mike and you must be Roger. So where is the Long Room?”

I took him downstairs, we sat down, and the film crew gathered around us.

“OK mate, Let’s make a start!” he began “ ...and tell me what you know about cricket!”

Oh dear, I thought, this is going to be a long, long day!

Next week: Mike tries to live his dream!