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 How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

This could’ve been tricky. Newcastle have a lousy record at Old Trafford but on their last visit here, just over a year ago, they beat United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1972. The protests that were raging against Alan Pardew’s incumbency a few months ago have gone somewhat muted in recent times as Newcastle had built up a good run of results which included beating this seasons likely champions Chelsea, a few weeks ago at St James Park. Such was the revival in Newcastle’s fortunes that paper handkerchief manufacturers were in serious danger of laying workers off due to the fact that Geordies weren’t crying in the stands, their broon ale or threatening to burst the banks of the Tyne with their relentless squawking after a bad result. A last minute goal from Adam Johnson the other day for Sunderland and United’s eventually easy win today should see normal service resumed for Kleenex pretty soon.

United players celebrate Robin van Persie’s goal in the 53rd minute (photograph courtesy of Neil Meehan)

Without dominating play, Newcastle made a lively start. Continue reading Oh How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014

In the summer of 1982, Ray Wilkins was chosen to be the skipper for both club and country, following the respective stepping down of Martin Buchan and Kevin Keegan. Fate decreed that a broken cheekbone for Wilkins, just weeks after his appointment by Ron Atkinson and Bobby Robson, led to Bryan Robson being appointed the skipper of club and country instead. This was a position he kept long after Wilkins left United and retired from international football. Wilkins was unlucky that he lost his position so quickly due to an injury but, ultimately, it was best (certainly for United) that Robson was skipper. Probably for England too if I’d have cared enough.

Wayne Rooney could find himself in a similar position to Wilkins but in completely different circumstances. Continue reading Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014

Every Cloud Has A Leaden Lining – Manchester 2nd February 2014

The transfer window provided the opportunity for the eternally talentless Jim White, of SKY Sports News, giving us a helium-fueled night of tedium on what is understatedly called, DEADLINE DAY (please shout this out loud as you read it.) Rarely has a man with so little to say, said so much. On Friday night, he had even less to say than usual, but still said too much, too loudly with all the reserve and control of a five year who’s been given carte blanche to drink Red Bull.

Staying cool: Jim White alongside Simon Thomas on DEADLINE DAY™ 2009

David Moyes said last Summer that he’s “more than happy with what we’ve got. I’m very happy with my squad and the options we have”.  Continue reading Every Cloud Has A Leaden Lining – Manchester 2nd February 2014

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