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

Legends In Their Own Closing Time

In 1988, the Licensing Act which amongst other things, allowed pubs to stay open from 11am while 11pm, was introduced by Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. The legislation was widely derided by the tabloid media, who screamed all kinds of Armageddon-esque rhetoric about the streets being full of drunkards seven days a week. As Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday said in response to the legislation, “where men will not place chains upon their own behaviour, others have to do it for them”. Like the vast majority of other tabloid created hysteria, this didn’t materialise. If anything, the opposite was true. In the year of the legislation, Manchester United had an average attendance of 39,152 and in the 2014-15 season, a mean average of 75,334. Despite the fact that United’s average attendance has nearly doubled in the twenty seven years since the act was introduced, paradoxically the amount of pubs around the vicinity of Old Trafford has plummeted. In 1988 the A56/Chester Road, which is the busiest arterial road serving Old Trafford, had nineteen pubs/social clubs. Now it has four. In 1988 Hulme, a neighbouring district to Old Trafford, had twenty eight pubs within its boundary. Now with The Junction on Rolls Crescent and The Three Legs of Man on Stretford Road, it only has two.

The Pomona Palace, the last pub standing on Chester Road in Hulme. Demolished in January 2014

When Peel Holdings successfully applied for the demolition of the Pomona Palace in December 2013, the final pub on what was loosely known as Chester Road in Hulme vanished. To this writer, who grew up in the area, the thought of there not being a single pub on Chester Road was inconceivable as a child in the 1980s. In 1988, there were eight pubs in the half mile between the end of the Deansgate flyover and the border of Manchester and Trafford; now there are none. This isn’t necessarily down to the changing of people’s drinking habits, Continue reading Legends In Their Own Closing Time

Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Manchester 19th of October 2013

The weather forecast had been universally grim. It was supposed to piss down constantly throughout the weekend but that wasn’t how it ended up being. A stuttering United performance was nicely concluding into a hard fought victory when Southampton got a corner on 88 minutes. After a game of cat and mouse between referee Michael Jones and Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse, over the pinching of inches and placing the ball out of the D of the corner flag, Ward-Prowse floated a corner in to cause a chaotic scramble in the United six yard box. This resulted in a farcical equaliser for Southampton, which was eventually accredited to Adam Lallana. Moments later, what had been an elementally very agreeable day turned very dark very quickly. It was if the goal itself had given the Lord the royal hump and he thus, Continue reading Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Manchester 19th of October 2013

The scum that Ajax can’t clean. Manchester, 23rd of February 2012

At the final whistle tonight there was no happiness, no relief or any feeling of job done. The feeling around me in the south stand/B stand of Old Trafford was that Sir Alex Ferguson got away with this by the skin of his teeth. In regards to his team selection, It’s one thing taking Crystal Palace in the League Cup lightly, taking a struggling Blackburn Rovers side for mugs on New Years Eve just gone but it’s another thing altogether taking a team who are their national champions and a club who’ve been European champions four times. The recent form of Ajax, since the resumption of the Eredivisie from it’s mid winter break has been lamentable. They did though give United a moment or two last week in the Amsterdam Arena to show that they were not going to despatched easily, even if United won 2-0 on the night, with a now priceless goal from Javier Hernandez, five minutes from time.

Five minutes into tonight’s game, Hernandez scored again to put United in an apparently unassailable 3-0 aggregate lead. Ajax, urged on by a noisy travelling support deservedly equalised with a low shot from Aras Ozbiliz on 37 minutes. On 86 minutes of a predominantly quiet and anxious second half, Toby Alderweireld put Ajax in front on the night and ensured a twitchy last few minutes at Old Trafford. The strange thing after Ajax scored was there was no urgency to their play. I got the feeling from the Ajax team that they thought there was 20 minutes left.

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted in his post match interview that he got his team selection wrong. He stated that the defence wasn’t strong enough. I respect that opinion but I can only recall one occasion where United’s defence were caught out badly and that was on Ajax’s second goal. The much criticised David De Gea pulled off at least two world class and with hindsight, tie winning saves.

Sir Alex Ferguson post match press conference

Before the match, there were rumours flying around with the same vigour that the Police helicopter was hovering, about shenanigans involving Ajax fans. There were all kinds of brave random attacks on office workers and shoppers and the coup-de-grace was them smashing up the Binary Bar on Arundel street in Hulme. This is the kind of place used by residents of the adjoining flats and not the place where they’d find any of United’s more lively fans. Ajax fans in the ground tonight impressed with their noise and fervour, their shithouse behaviour around the town and it’s immediate suburbs reminded me of the time Leeds United fans terrorised a load of pensioners on Bournemouth beach in May 1990. Ajax are a club who’ve provided some of the most enjoyable teams the world’s ever seen play football. From what I’ve seen and heard in the last week, their fans are the very antithesis of the team they watch. I think the next time they get drawn against United in a European game, like Roma in 2007, they’ll get a very warm reception in Manchester.

Ajax leave a bad stain on the Binary bar in Hulme