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?

Oh What A Day…Barcelona 1999

Following United’s unprecedented win in Italy, all the questions and talk in town after Turin was (a) Are you going to Barcelona”? (b) How are we getting there? (c) Where are we staying? (d) Have we got a ticket? (e) How much are the snides coming to? The respective answers were (a) Yes, (b) flying (c) Salou, (d) no and (e) £50.00. Getting to Barcelona by air out of Manchester was nigh on impossible, unless you were prepared to part with a mortgage-sized down payment for a flight. Through a friend whose sister worked in a travel agents (ha, remember using them?), we got a week’s holiday in Salou for a relatively reasonable price with flights…out of Stansted. With United playing in the FA Cup Final two days earlier, this actually worked out quite nicely. With a distance of 47 miles, Stansted is not really anywhere near Wembley, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than Manchester.

Brendan Markey, somebody with MUFC shaved into his chest and Anthony Murphy on Plaça Reia in the afternoon before the match (photo courtesy of Malcolm Hancock)

As we got off the train at Barcelona Sants station, local prints of the British Newspapers were being sold in the kiosks scattered along the central reservation of Las Ramblas. I was passed a copy of The Sun and to my dismay, saw on page five that they had pointed out the spelling mistake that was on the snide tickets. The genuine tickets had Graderia on them (which means tier) and the snides were spelt with Granderia, which was what we had. It was the kind of mistake that would have made a particular Old Trafford t-shirt printer proud.

Having done a load of my swag in London the previous Saturday, I did the rest in Salou in the run up to the game. A new shipment arrived in Barcelona on the morning of the match. One thing I learnt in Salou was that the Germans were paying 2,000 pesetas (about £8.00) for the shirts where United fans were paying 1,500 pesetas (about £6.00, £5.00 in sterling.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVjAP9iq_YU

Commentary by Clive Tyldesley and Ron Atkinson

For obvious reasons, I sought out the Bayern Munich fans in Barcelona (who had mostly been in Lloret de Mar). The majority of them were hanging around the huge roundabout at Plaça de Catalunya, at the other end of Las Ramblas. Soon after, having sold all my swag to the Bayern fans, we stopped for a few drinks with some other grafters on Plaça Reia, a square just off the Las Ramblas. As per usual, we’d underestimated the strength of the local beer and whilst walking to the station, it dawned on me that I was bladdered.

Teams line up before the match

As we got to the nearby Liceu rail station, there was chaos outside, similar to the frightening scenes outside Estádio das Antas in Oporto a couple of years prior. One saving grace was that the Guàrdia Urbana patrolling the station entry didn’t lose their heads, something you can normally guarantee when Latin police come up against pissed up fans of English football clubs. The nine stop journey to Maria Cristina rail station was a wall of Red noise. Soon after leaving the station, we hit the first of what turned out to be seven ticket checkpoints. Every time we passed these checkpoints, we thought we’d cleared the final hurdle of getting into the ground, even though we’d been there before and knew there were also turnstiles. As we approached the turnstiles, my Dad and Sister went before me and they were almost immediately carted out. I approached the turnstile with the same expectation but, to my amazement, I was cleared to carry on. I couldn’t believe it. Now I had a problem. Alone and pissed in the ground with no idea where I should be, I just walked up the nearest stairwell and stood where I could once up there. I looked at the scoreboard and I could see that United were already losing 1-0. Just as I was settling in, I heard my name shouted, I looked left and to my disbelief, I saw my cousin. I could’ve gone anywhere in the ground but it happened to be there.

Paul Farrell and Wayne Holt of Moss Side meet George Best just before kick off in the Camp Nou (photo courtesy of Paul Farrell)

Continue reading Oh What A Day…Barcelona 1999

Oh The Simple Pleasures – Manchester, 17th May 2016

The recent fiasco at Old Trafford summed up United’s season in one very handy microcosm. A farce of comical proportions occurred when a mobile phone with wires hanging off it was found taped to a pipe in one of the executive suites. I can understand the worry when first seeing something like that and I don’t blame whoever it was for alerting the authorities. However, anybody who has ever tried using a mobile phone in Old Trafford will tell you, it would’ve been impossible to detonate due to the abysmal signal in the ground. If it was a real bomb and somebody would’ve tried setting it off, it would’ve gone straight to voicemail.

Every blue household, “LOOK, LOOK, EMPTY SEATS AT OLD TRAFFORD”…*logs onto Facebook*

The evacuation procedure itself was quintessentially British. Not a hint of panic on Warwick Road as people calmly walked away from the ground. The biggest worry from Reds was managing to get to the pub before the bars got rammed.

Bournemouth fans however were a different breed altogether – somehow blaming fanzine and swag sellers for the game being postponed. I suppose it’s the kind of reaction you could expect from a load of Tory-voting Southern mard arses. One great thing to have come out of Sunday’s postponement is that this lot will have had two 500 mile round journeys in the last 72 hours. Fantastic. Continue reading Oh The Simple Pleasures – Manchester, 17th May 2016

We’ll Meet Again – Manchester 16th April 2016

Aston Villa today provided stiff opposition as Manchester United, once again, did their level best to find the cure for insomnia, without the need to use any pharmaceuticals.

In short, this game was so bad that even Alan Shearer’s analysis tonight on Match of the Day will be more interesting. Perhaps.

“From Rotterdam to Rotherham, Lerner Out” – Bostin banner mate

With around ten minutes to go, a United fan was kicked out by the security goons for abusing nearby Villa fans in the B Stand. There was an outraged reaction around me from other Reds. Their protest was not about the draconian security measures, but the fact that they hadn’t been kicked out too… Continue reading We’ll Meet Again – Manchester 16th April 2016

This Is The Season To Be Jolly – Manchester, 20th Dec 2015

The roof first truly fell in on Louis van Gaal’s philosophy at Arsenal in October when, after 20 minutes, the home side were 3-0 in front. For all that, United actually won the game in van Gaal’s eyes due to having 62% possession. Another thing which helped him immeasurably that day was the sacking of Brendan Rodgers – following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.

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Juan Mata lines up a free kick which ends up in the freight Terminal behind the Stretford End (photo courtesy of Neil Meehan) 

A sacking this week, this time at Chelsea, could have the opposite effect on van Gaal’s tenure. Continue reading This Is The Season To Be Jolly – Manchester, 20th Dec 2015