I arrived at San Francisco Airport with nothing to declare except for an Arab name and a suitcase containing 39 of the 50 best football books ever published.
The name situation was easily overcome. Have you had flying lessons? No, but I have failed my driving test a number of times. Have you ever been involved in terrorist activity? No, but I was once sent off for verbal abuse while playing against Wigan Athletic reserves. Can you quit the sarcasm? Yeah, OK.
It was after receiving a stamp in my passport to confirm my entry into the United States that the real problems began. The US Customs officials could not work out why anybody would want to travel from London to California with a suitcase full of books.
No, I said, I was not bringing the books into the country to sell them. I was bringing them for the purposes of research.
How I wish I had brought with me the letter confirming that I was commissioned to write a book on the best 50 football books of all time.
"You've brought all these books to read?!" one official said. He proceeded to pull every book out of my suitcase and carefully open each one, presumably to see if I was carrying substances of an illegal nature or, worse, a gun.
It was a futile exercise. My copy of Where Do I Go From Here by George Best was too small to conceal anything other than bugs. My copy of Soccer Nemesis by Brian Glanville was too old.
And my copy of The Glory Game by Hunter Davies (a rare first edition) was in such bad condition that it barely fitted the description of a book.
The official soon realised that I was telling the truth. I really did bring these books to continue my research into football's best literature. His attitude changed and we began talking. "I didn't realise there were so many books written about soccer," he said.
I put him straight. Actually, there are too many books written about the subject, most of them average or below average in quality.
But I also had a problem in narrowing down my list to 50. A top 100 would have been easier but my publishers were not interesting in anything of that magnitude. A top 50 it would be, which meant many worthy books were cast aside.
My list includes the usual suspects; Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, All Played Out by Pete Davies, Out Of His Skin by Dave Hill, The Football Manager by Tony Pawson and The Soccer Syndrome by John Moynihan. These are timeless classics that transcend sport and can, to my mind, be regarded as literature in their own right.
There are also what I call the mea culpa books; the autobiographies about fallen heroes and underachievers. Back From The Brink by Paul McGrath, Tackling My Demons by Stan Collymore and Addicted by Tony Adams are three that demand attention.
McGrath's book is particularly enthralling because it marries a brilliant writing style with a brilliant story.
I like McGrath. I spent an hour with him while the former Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland defender while he was promoting his book last year. "What did you learn about yourself while writing it?" I asked him.
"I learnt more when I read it afterwards," he said. "And I have to confess: I could not believe I was reading a story about me. I kept asking myself: did that really happen?"
That is when books are the best.
When the author has a story to tell and when, often with the help of a ghostwriter, he tells it with such style and honesty.
This book is everything that recent books by Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Peter Crouch are not.
In some ways, it is an act of sheer madness to take 39 of the best 50 football books 5,417 miles from home and spend a two-week period in California reading them. I knew that is what the US Customs officials were thinking.
But they had never read Glanville or Hugh McIlvanney or Geoffrey Green or Moynihan, so I would not expect them to understand. But I understand and that is what matters to me.
I realised while constructing the list that most of the worst football books have been written in the past ten years, just as some of the best have been.
As I write, I am on the beach near San Francisco. I am halfway through Glanville's History Of The World Cup and I am listening to Bob Dylan on my iPod.
It is 22 degrees Centigrade and all I can think of is this: when I fly to Los Angeles on Thursday, I will have to take these books through Customs again.
I fear that somebody, perhaps a Customs official looking to ingratiate himself with his boss, might attempt to take them from me. If so, I cannot imagine what they would do with my copy of How Not To Run Football by Derek Dougan.