Last weekend I attended a charity function in Newcastle for the NSPCC.

One of their patrons up there is Alan Shearer.

I had watched him play in the afternoon against Birmingham, despite the fact that he was going to Germany on the Monday to have a hernia operation.

He expects to be ready for next Saturday. I suppose that's progress for you.

I just hope that when I meet him again in a few years' time he isn't limping along like Mick Channon, Peter Osgood and other legends who are now suffering the after-effects of the cortisone injections which seemed to be the cure for everything in their playing days.

One of the other players at the function was Lee Clark, who reminded me that I first picked him 15 years ago - along with Alan - for their first England Under-21 caps.

After a long career, he was freed last season by Fulham. He was not able to get a new club straight away but wished to move back to the north-east with his family, so he asked Graeme Souness if he could keep fit by training with the club until he was fixed up.

Knowing his interest in staying in the game, Newcastle allowed him to join in the coaching of the reserve team. Because of the club's injury list, however, Lee has found himself on the first-team bench and actually came on last Saturday in the win against Birmingham!

In the same game was another example of how fairytales sometimes come true. The Birmingham goalkeeper was Maik Taylor, who of course had a spell with Saints.

When I became manager of Northern Ireland, I tried everywhere to get new players.

I confided my problems to Kevin Keegan, who was managing Fulham where Maik was his goalkeeper. Kevin reminded me of Maik's situation regarding international football, so I decided to use the Jackie Charlton rule book!

Maik was actually born in Germany (his father was in the Forces) but had a British passport. This qualified him to play for Germany - or any of the home nations.

Kevin allowed me to speak to him and when I suggested to Maik that he should come and have a game as an over-age player in an under-21 friendly he looked at me as if I was mad!

But he became a Northern Ireland player and not only is he now one of the top keepers in the Premiership, he would probably get into Sven's squad on current form.

Maik was one of a number of players inducted into the new Northern Ireland hall of fame, which has just been created as part of the celebrations for their 125th anniversary.

The rule of thumb is a player had to have at least 50 caps and I was as delighted as Maik when he was awarded his 50th recently.

Incidentally, among the modern group of hall-of-famers were three other former Saints: Iain Dowie, Jim Magilton and Chris Nicholl.

I was invited to the anniversary dinner, where the speakers included Sepp Blatter and Lennart Johansson, the presidents of FIFA and UEFA.

I was interested to hear that England are the oldest federation, which is why we are called The FA and not the English FA.

Second to be formed, ten years later, was the Scotland FA, then Wales, and then Ireland, making Great Britain's the four oldest football bodies of them all.

They are unlikely to enter a combined team in the 2012 Olympics, which is understandable, but Mr Blatter assures everyone that the four countries will never lose their football independence - the Scots in particular.

With due respect to Mr Blatter, he will probably not be in power in six years' time and there are many nations around the world jealous of our four separate identities - and of course our four separate votes at the top table.

When you sit at a function like that, it makes you realise the great traditions and examples the home nations have set for the world of football.

It was wonderful to see the reception that people like Billy Bingham, Harry Gregg, Derek Dougan and Peter McParland received.

The message from both functions was that fairytales do come true.

Maik Taylor came up to me and the first thing he said was 'I didn't believe it was possible.' Let's hope Theo Walcott and the other youngsters who have not yet hit the headlines enter their own Hall of Fame in years to come.