Man Utd Fans Blog: Welcome

Man Utd Fans Blog: Welcome to the sometimes sugar coated, sometimes vinegar soaked opinions of a home and away red. Updated weekly between August 2011 and July 2015, now only written occasionally. Any blues, scousers or sheepshaggers reading this, this is written for the amusement of United fans so if you don’t like it, seek solace elsewhere.

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Manchester United 4-1 Portsmouth – 7th May 1988

Brian McClair scores a penalty on a dusty, dry pitch in front of the Stretford End (photo and caption courtesy of Kay Dickinson)

Return Of The Pink Paper

The front cover of the United Review for the Tottenham match set the memory bank running for this piece. A homage to the Pink Final which used to be sold outside Old Trafford and Maine Road, it was in reality a promotional tool for United’s ghastly new change strip, which made its debut at Turf Moor the following Sunday. As awful as the new away strip is, the piece itself was written with the good taste that the United Review editor has, a fine man who knows the score and is a time and travel served red.

As people made their way out of Old Trafford and Maine Road in the dark Saturday nights of peak winter, they would be greeted with a cry of PINK FINAL, EVENING NEWS… on a loop, being bellowed out mostly by children but also the odd old timer too who would have been there earning a few pints of Mild for a his Saturday night at the local legion. What mostly happened would be young blues working Old Trafford and young reds working Maine Road, earning the money to pay on the turnstiles for their side’s next home game.

The boss had fag ash grey curly hair, a grey moustache with nicotine stains around the philtrum and he clearly fancied himself as a modern day Bill Sikes. Fair play to him, there was no false niceties. Having been introduced to him, he said “put that coat on, there’s a bag, pick up the papers and fuck off out of here. You’re on 10p per paper sold”.

As a 12 year old red, I worked Maine Road on a regular basis and my lord, 33 years later, I can tell you that bitter is the perfect word to encapsulate the clientele that populated that stadium in those days. There’s a real pathetic fallacy to reminiscing about cold and wet winter nights outside Maine Road during the mid to late 1980s.

For the in, we’d be selling the Saturday edition of the Manchester Evening News, which would’ve been printed at nine o’clock that morning. It always amazed me how many people would buy the Evening News before the game as Saturday’s edition was notorious for not having anything of interest in it. I can only assume the City programme was really shit. This was the era prior to fanzine explosion of the late eighties. All said however, if you ever had the misfortune to attempt to read King of the Kippax or Electric Blue fanzine, well…I take back everything I previously said about Saturday’s MEN.

We were given these huge MEN emblazoned yellow coats, which bearing in mind the ages of the kids selling these papers, was like walking around with a duvet wrapped around us. Worse still, they absorbed the rain, so by the time we finished our shift, we’d be fucking drenched.

My first day was Man City/Birmingham City on 28th December 1985. Our base was a yellow and black striped truck which looked like an enormous wasp, parked outside the City Social club near Claremont Road. This truck housed the papers, the small printing press and bench where the sellers sat and smoked throughout the game. The boss had fag ash grey curly hair, a grey moustache with nicotine stains around the philtrum and he clearly fancied himself as a modern day Bill Sikes. Fair play to him, there was no false niceties. Having been introduced to him, he said “put that coat on, there’s a bag, pick up the papers and fuck off out of here. You’re on 10p per paper sold”.

A couple of minutes after I walked out, I had another seller come up to me. He must’ve been 14/15 and he demanded that I buy a paper off him. I told him to fuck off, so he came up to me, put his forehead to mine to try and intimidate me. I didn’t back off. I’d dealt with far worse than this chancer in my school playground and the street I lived on. Once this prick realised I wasn’t scared of him, he tried becoming my friend, but I was having none of it.

I was roaming around, oblivious to pitches that certain sellers had, however my blissful ignorance was about to be corrected as I walked towards the players entrance at the Platt Lane end of the Main Stand of Maine Road. A man with a woodbine in his mouth and an MEN coat on greeted me by saying, “move away from here you little cunt. I’ve been working this pitch since 1959, I’m not having a little twat like you taking my punters”. By this point, I’d not been in the job any more than an hour and I can safely say three decades on, that I have never had an introduction to a job quite like it.

People used to wonder how the results would be on the paper before the referee blew the final whistle in the match they were at. What happened was that there was a tiny section of the paper which was left blank and the latest scores (conveyed courtesy of the much missed Peter Jones at Radio 2) would be printed onto them with 10 minutes of the match to go. If a late goal went in somewhere, then that would obviously affect the accuracy. Truth is, nobody seemed to mind. They would walk out of the ground with something to read on the way home or to the pub and sixty minute match reports phoned in by David Meek, Peter Gardner, Paul Hince et al as well as a roundup of semi pro and amateur/pub football around Manchester. Us kids working the paper at Maine Road, we’d generally earn between £4.50/£6.00 a day during the winter and as the weather perked up in the spring, nearer £7.00. This might not sound a lot, but in those days a weekly paper round paid £6.00 (inclusive of a £1.50 premium for Sundays), so you could effectively earn enough money in a day at Maine Road than you could in a week getting up at 6am every morning to walk two miles delivering papers.

I eventually settled into a pitch at Maine Road. The Paddock between the Platt Lane and Kippax stands became where I usually worked. I even struck up a friendly rapport with some regular punters who by blue standards, actually had something approaching a pleasant disposition (don’t faint, they do exist) and I generally enjoyed the three years I spent working at Maine Road, before I graduated into becoming an away as well as home red. Modern technology has made things like the Pink obsolete, even if there are rather quaint if financially insane ideas to bring it back. One thing working the Pink did provide was a grounding which can’t be bought and I wouldn’t change a thing about it (apart from the weather, that really could fuck off)

Originally published in the September 2016 edition of Red News fanzine. Written by the fans, for the fans, subscribe to Red News here 

Is That The Programme?

There was an air of uncertainty and discontent in 1987 as Red News first graced Warwick Road with its presence. The magnitude of the job Alex Ferguson had in front of him was becoming increasingly apparent and whilst it was early in his incumbency, such was the turbulence of Manchester United’s season, there wasn’t 100% confidence on the disgruntled terraces of Old Trafford that he was the man to repair the debris left to him by Ron Atkinson.

30th anniversary edition of Red News, where this piece was originally published

In the wider world, Margaret Thatcher’s government were continuing their vendetta against football fans. One of these ideas was to make every football supporter carry membership cards for the club they were affiliated too when attending matches. It was around this time that United introduced their own shitty membership scheme, the benefits which included 10p off a pencil rubber in the newly fangled superstore for the commencement of the 87/88 campaign. One of the most controversial measures of this scheme was making the Stretford End terrace members only, where the Stretford Paddock was fine for anybody who wanted to attend. This resulted in a lot of refuseniks (this writer included) moving over to the Paddock and it’s also this writer’s opinion that the Stretford End was never quite the same after this. Continue reading Is That The Programme?

Gorse Hill Sunset’s Fine – Manchester, 16th December 2016

“Busted flush”, “Jose hates Manchester and is miserable”, “City are going to romp the league”, “it’s our year”, which came ad-nauseum from the scousers and this, was all before bells of October tolled for Manchester United. We were finished, an empire crumbling with all the drama of Rome in 476AD and writing this just before Christmas, it has to be admitted that United have had some disappointing results since August. Drawing at home to Stoke City, Burnley and conceding stupid late equalisers against Arsenal and Everton Continue reading Gorse Hill Sunset’s Fine – Manchester, 16th December 2016

…And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016

Summertime…and the living is easy…fish are jumping and the cotton is high… (George Gershwin 1934)

United in blue and Wigan in white at the DW stadium on 16th July. The DW stadium by the way is named after Dave Whelan; a little known fact is that Whelan broke his leg in the 1960 FA Cup Final

After a Summer of easy living and virtually non-stop football, the new season is nearly upon us once again. So a big fat hurrah for that.

It seems like only yesterday since Manchester United’s glorious victory over Crystal Palace and the whole two minutes it was celebrated for before word leaked out over Louis van Gaal’s forthcoming dismissal. I’d love to know just what kind of knobheads we have in our support who thought it was a good idea to boo van Gaal every time his kite came up on the big screen at Wembley. Those wankers got their wishes almost seconds after the final whistle when the wholly accurate rumour that van Gaal was to be sacked Continue reading …And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016

I Swear I Was There – Memories of the Free Trade Hall

“I don’t believe you, you’re a liar – play fuckin’ loud”, drawled Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall on May 17th 1966. What followed was an exhilarating and venomously delivered version of “Like A Rolling Stone”.

Dylan was angry and like his rival and contemporary, John Lennon, when wound up, he was brilliant. What rattled Dylan was a catcall of “Judas” from 16 year old Keith Butler in the audience because he was playing with an electrified band (The Hawks, who themselves would go onto have a distinguished career) and not acoustically.

Fans of folk music, who Dylan was strongly aligned to in his early career, were, and are, notoriously puritanical about their beloved genre. What Dylan did, in Butler’s eyes, was tantamount to a betrayal akin Continue reading I Swear I Was There – Memories of the Free Trade Hall