THEY were the ultimate childhood crush for my generation.

And when I was asked to fly to Manchester for the day on Sunday to meet Take That, it was a bit of a no brainer.

They say you should never meet your heroes, but I just couldn't resist when given the chance to get up close and personal with Gary, Mark and Howard.

I've loved Barlow for as long as I can remember and my childhood pals and I are as much fans of their new material as we were back in the day.

We may not be screaming schoolgirls any more, but decades later, our adoration for the band is still embarrassingly fervent.

I've even had some close encounters. One particular stay at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire ahead of Take That's Milton Keynes Bowl date is memorable for the hordes of towelling-robe clad ladies I joined stampeding down the corridor of the spa as news of the band's arrival spread like wild fire.

Out of the current trio, my first crush Gary is the only one I haven't seen out and about recently with the other two both Hampshire residents these days.

I spotted Howard in Waitrose in Ringwood once and Mark, a Liverpool fan, was in the box next to me when Saints beat The Reds in the EFL Cup semi final at St Mary's back in January. I just about resisted gloating about the result, although probably wouldn't have done had it been after the second leg.

But I've never properly encountered the lovely Gary before.

I can confirm that all three, and Gary in particular, were just as charming, handsome and fragrant as I had hoped and I'm still ever so slightly star struck several days later.

Even though he was feeling a bit iffy, Gary, who might as well take over the entire showbiz world the way all his projects are going, didn't make any of us attending the launch of the new musical The Band feel like we were just another tedious stop on a press tour he’s contractually obliged to attend.

And a sneak preview of a spectacular snippet of the show, which arrives at Mayflower Theatre for a two week stint at the end of October, means I won't be falling out of love with Take That any time soon.

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