…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

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

Bright Lights, Late Nights and Hard knocks at the Hardrock

Alan Miller remembers the growing anger in the crowd at The Hardrock in Stretford as they were awaiting Chuck Berry to take to the stage on the evening of Thursday 18th January 1973. Alan says that “we were oblivious to the chaos that was unfolding behind the scenes. Chuck Berry was due on stage at 9.30 and he ended up coming on at 11. He was going to have to come up with something special after that and he didn’t”. Former Red Issue columnist Mister Spleen remembers that “Chuck Berry got bottled offstage after turning up late and only doing half an hour”. What caused the delay was Berry’s now notorious practice of demanding payment in cash, prior to the show. The main problem was that the management of the Hardrock had no idea of this until the night of the show. Chuck Berry was going nowhere near the stage until the money turned up and they didn’t have the required cash to hand. Old Trafford swag stall holder Malcolm Hancock says that “they had to plead with the manager of the local Midland Bank to open up and give them the cash. It’s just as well they did, there would’ve been a full scale riot otherwise”. Charlie Darlington, an Urmston red who grew up idolising Johnny Berry and a lighting engineer at the Hardrock said that “Chuck Berry is one of the most arrogant and ignorant people I’ve ever heard of”.

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The Hardrock opened its doors as a venue in the summer of 1972 and November the 8th saw the 40th anniversary of its closure, before the building was converted into a DIY shop (which itself is due to close imminently). Over its three years, giants of the rock music world, such as Led Zepellin, Paul McCartney, David Bowie and many others played the venue.

Prior to being a music venue, it was the Top Rank, a bowling alley which was a mere hundred yards from where Tommy Taylor lived. Red News writer Roy Cavanagh also remembers it being a favourite place of George Best’s when he first came to Manchester in the summer of 1963. Roy explains that “I used to go there with George on Tuesday and Thursday nights”. Jamie Rennie, a Manchester City season ticket holder from Old Trafford has similar memories. Jamie told Red News that “When it was the bowling alley, we used to play football on the car park and some of United’s younger players used to turn up and join in. John Fitzpatrick and Francis Burns were regulars. Sometimes even George Best played with us” Continue reading Bright Lights, Late Nights and Hard knocks at the Hardrock

Where’s Your Famous Atmosphere – Newcastle 5th Of April 2014

I was surprised in the week approaching this match at the trepidation Newcastle fans were approaching this fixture with. With hindsight, they were right to be worried. After a level opening to the match, Newcastle folded like a cheap pair of trousers once Juan Mata put United into the lead in the 39th minute with a fantastic free kick. Anders Lindegaard stopped picking his nose for the day and he made a couple of excellent saves early in the match, particularly from Papiss Cisse in the 24th minute.

David Moyes took a gamble with this side today, obviously with Wednesday night in mind. That it resulted in United’s best league result of the season thus far is a happy coincidence for Moyes and a bit of long overdue good luck for him too. I’m not sure if he knew just how well Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata would play together but he will know after todays performance, just in case he had any doubt. Kagawa along with Javier Hernadez were instrumental in United’s 2nd goal, scored with casual ease by Mata. Hernandez and Kagawa linked up again in the 65th minute to make the score 3-0 and finish off any lingering hope of Newcastle getting back into the game. This gave prompt to possibly the earliest exodus I’ve ever seen a football ground from a pathetic and risibly overrated home support. People leave early for all kinds of reasons but never to this volume.

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Milburn Stand rapidly emptying immediately after United’s 3rd goal

We are the Geordies, the Geordie boot boys,
For we are mental, we are mad,
We’re the loudest football supporters,
the world has ever had…

United fans got bored with the nearby mute Toon platoon in the Leazes and the Milburn Stand. We couldn’t hear a peep from the rest of the ground either although to be fair, we were so high up in the Leazes Stand that we could hear passing aircraft before anybody else in the ground. The atmosphere in the ground from reds was quite subdued for the first 15 minutes. I put this down to the fact that everybody in there was so knackered after climbing the seven levels to get there, the last thing on anybodies mind was singing songs of any kind. Reds tried engaging the locals with songs like “where’s your famous atmosphere”. With a wit that the New’astle fans are not famous for, they stated very hurtfully and less than half heartedly that we were “just a shit Man City”. United fans opened the songbook with tunes in homage to Roy Keane, George Best, Jaap Stam, Andy Cole. The confused look on the faces of the knowledgeable locals (© every clichéd commentator) was a picture of vacant confusion. As the Geordies gradually left the ground to virtual desolation, Adnan Januzaj made the score 4-0 in injury time. This was much to the chagrin of the equine division of Northumbia Police.

Bud the horse gets belted by Newcastle united fan Barry Rogerson in April 2013

Ant & Dec, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Nail, Sting, Tory Blair, those Geordies that were always crying on the telly in the 1990’s and Alan Sheeera, your boys took one hell of a beating

In Serene Indifference – Manchester, 7th of December 2013

Sky and Grass – Wigan 1st of January 2013

I hope Wigan go down, I really do. I’ve no particular dislike of the club but it’s not even a football town. Wigan’s most boisterous support comes from the Billy Boston stand, named very appropriately, after a legendary Welsh winger who played for Wigan rugby league club between 1953 to 1968. That boisterous support basically used a bass drum to attempt to create an atmosphere, God forbid they actually did it by singing, shouting or what have you. Can anybody think of a legendary Wigan Athletic player they could name a stand after? Wigan Athletic couldn’t so they named the stand I was placed in today after their old stadium, Springfield Park and the entire stadium is named after the shy, retiring and too modest Dave Whelan, a man who played for Blackburn Rovers. Wigan can’t even fill out their stadium for the visit of United, Arsenal or Liverpool and worst of all, they hold back 1,000 tickets of the usual away fans allocation for United’s visit, to sell as corporate packages at £125.00 a pop. The face value of the ticket is £28.00, this means that Wigan are basically charging United fans £97.00 for chicken-in-the-basket or some other shite just so we can watch the match. It’s extortion basically. There are ticket touts operating, strictly speaking, illegally on Warwick Road yet they don’t take the piss like this. Wigan are somehow, perfectly within their rights to do this. The attendance today was 20,342 which means that officially, there was 4,791 empty seats in the ground. If they say so, but it looked like far more. United fans were screaming for tickets for this match, but Wigan, being the kind of small minded club it is would rather have advertisements for a betting company covering seats in a prominent position for TV cameras than having arses on them seats. Clubs with a mentality like that have no place in the top league. Their ground is in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere, all the backdrop is of sky and grass and whenever they score a goal, they need the stadium MC to induce them to celebrate by playing  Tom Hark by The Pirhanas. My ticket today came from a very decent Wigan fan who procured me two seats for the Springfield stand, sat supposedly amongst Wigan fans but there were a lot of reds in there today. United fans, as per usual on the road, were in fantastic voice with plenty of songs celebrating players from days of yore like George Best, Andy Cole, Nicky Butt, Jaap Stam, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Eric Cantona. Once United got a grip on the game, with goals from Javier Hernandez (35 mins) and Robin Van Persie (43) in the latter part the first half, everybody with a red allegiance relaxed and enjoyed the game. Wigan were spirited but completely outclassed and barring a balls up of proportions last witnesses when Everton last played at Old Trafford, this game was won by half time.

Continue reading Sky and Grass – Wigan 1st of January 2013