Three weeks ago, United played City and for the first time ever, I didn’t see a single ticket tout working a United game. The same thing happened yesterday at Arsenal’s stadium at Ashburton Grove. The circumstances though between the two games and lack of ticket grafters were radically different. For the derby, the local plod had decided on a zero tolerance policy for the enterprising free marketeers who work on Warwick Road, doing as the government tell them to do by going out and earning a living. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yesterday at Arsenal, I did not come across a single person selling a ticket until the game had kicked off. The concourse was flooded with reds desperately trying to get tickets and there was absolutely nothing about. Through desperation, I tried jibbing my way into the ground. Twice I got in and twice some over-enthusiastic and underpaid jobsworth woke up at the very second I didn’t want them too. On the third attempt, I was clocked by a Policeman who’d saw me getting kicked out five minutes earlier. After he compared me to a feature of female genitalia, he advised me in Anglo Saxon language with all the humour you’d expect from a copper that I’d be spending some time courtesy of his friends and her majesty at Blackstock Road Police station if he saw me again. I didn’t want that to happen as they have a habit of releasing people minutes after the last train has left so you don’t even get a nights stay out of them. With resignation, I was walking towards Holloway Road to find a pub showing the match when I bumped into an Arsenal fan who offered me a spare for £200.00. Seconds after I told him this amateur once a season tout which orifice he could place his ticket, I heard a faint cheer go up and I was convinced United had scored. Due to the local mobile phone masts going berserk, it was a good five minutes before I could phone somebody to be greeted with the news that it was actually Arsenal who had scored with a goal by Theo Walcott. Continue reading An Old Fashioned Charabanc…Islington 29th of April 2013
City’s not entirely unexpected defeat at White Hart Lane yesterday meant that t-shirt printers were frenzedly printing up champions t-shirts from this morning, ready for the baying masses at Old Trafford tonight. After the final whistle, listening to the United fans trying to reach the high bits of We Are the Champions by Queen still brings a wry smile to my face. The post match celebration on the forecourt near the statue of the Holy Trinity was one that I will remember for a long time. Flags were flying high, there was a football being kicked high and wild into the celebrating crowd and a joie de vivre amongst reds that was infectious. Even the coppers, not usually people to encourage a good time, were laughing. The swagmen were walking round doing steady business and the fanzine sellers were trying to sell me a fanzine I’d already bought when United played City a couple of weeks ago. Over the years United fans have at certain times been a bit blasé about winning the title but tonight was not one of them occasions. It obviously takes a despised rival winning the league to remind us just how special it is. We can only be grateful that Liverpool haven’t won the title since 1990, that would be unbearable. It is even sweeter that the scousers blew a good chance of winning the league in 2009. City won the title deservedly last season even if the circumstances were a little bit painful, there’s no doubt in my mind that the right team won it. It meant that I’ve not wanted a league title as badly as this since 1993. This season, the right team again have won the title, it nearly always is. (Blackburn in 1995 being the obvious exception).
Scoreboard tells everybody in the ground who wasn’t aware that United are now champions (Photo courtesy of Gareth Jones)
On Monday just gone through sheer curiosity and the enticement of free entry, I went to United reserves/under 21s match against Tottenham Hotspur at Salford rugby league clubs new stadium on the other side of the Barton Bridge. Sir Alex Ferguson was in a crowd of 2,183 for a match United won 1-0 with a second half goal from Ryan Tunnicliffe. Before the winning goal, there was a floodlight failure on 38 minutes and the referee stopped play. I was thinking surely the far Eastern betting syndicates haven’t nobbled this match? Three minutes later, the match resumed with the lights still out. Seconds before half time, we had a tannoy announcement which said there had been a power cut locally. It had me thinking of what it must have been like in the early 1970s and just as another train of thought came to me, I saw a pitchside advert promoting BRUT aftershave. I began to think I was in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’, maybe there was more to David Bowie’s recent comeback than first met the eye and since then I’ve been waiting for the announcement of another three day week in this era of austerity. At the weekend we also had the revelation from the excellent reds away website (please see bottom of the page), who had procured the GMP attendance figure from a freedom of information request which ‘revealed’, amongst many other things, that there was 5,000 empty seats for the Liverpool fixture at Old Trafford in January just passed. With this information, blues and scousers gleefully gloated on the radio and internet about the exaggeration of United’s attendances at Old Trafford. Blues, bless ’em, I’d forgive. In recent times they have been as excitable as a fourteen year old lad who’s just been smiled at by the pretty girl in the year above but scousers really should know better than to take these figures as gospel. For twenty four years, they have been correctly fighting and contesting the deceitful police account over what happened at Owlerton in April 1989, but when the police say something they want to be true then lo and behold it suddenly is incontestably so.
United players applauding the traveling reds in the Trevor Brooking stand (photograph courtesy of Lee Thomas)
Last season after the bizzare 6-1 loss to City at Old Trafford, United had a match at Aldershot two nights later where they could get the derby match out of their systems. Partial catharsis if you like before normal service resumed the following weekend with a hard earned 1-0 win at Goodison Park. This season following another home derby defeat, there’s been six days of reflection following what was to my eyes a substandard home performance. Stoke City, like Everton, is not the most forgiving of places to go to when you need three points to re-assert confidence. The statisticians have been out this week, working out all the permutations of how United could make a town halls of the run in, just like they did last season. Stoke’s an horrible place to go to and a horrible team to play when confidence has been rattled and there’s no doubt that behind all the bravado, last Monday and the way United lost had left United fans with all kinds of mad things running through their heads (something that’ll be conveniently denied now). Continue reading Message To You Rooney – Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United
There was a strange build up to this game. Superficially, United fans (myself included) were exuding confidence about having a party on derby day. Privately, myself and virtually every red I know would have been delighted with a draw tonight. United hadn’t lost a league game in nearly five months since the terrible performance at a staggeringly poor Norwich City in November. The truth is that United haven’t played well since the first half of the Chelsea FA Cup game immediately after being knocked out of the European cup just under a month ago. The two league matches since then (prior to tonight’s match) had seen United beat Reading and Sunderland by a goal to nil without really looking impressive. Everybody knew that United would have to improve dramatically on last Mondays dreadful performance at Stamford Bridge because one thing that was obvious was that City were going to be up for this game tonight.