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

Crying Wolves Slayed By The Red Devils, Manchester, 10th of December, 2011

This is just the oposition United needed after recent setbacks. Wolves are a typical Mick McCarthy team, plenty of bottle, fight, heart but also like every Mick McCarthy team I can remember, both as a player and as a manager, shit. That United only scored four is down to some sloppy finishing from the reds and some great saves from Wolves keeper, Wayne Hennessy. This was as comfortable a performance as was possible for United under the circumstances. On 17 minutes, Nani scored a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the goal he scored against Liverpool in front of the Stretford End in March 2008. Ten minutes later, Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in open play since his goal in first half injury time, against Chelsea in September. With three senior United strikers out injured at the moment, this was a great time to pick up his scoring form.

With United cruising nicely against the toothless Wolves up to half time, it was a little surprise in the 47th minute when Steven Fletcher headed high into the United net in the old Scoreboard End. With this being Wolves though, there was no onslaught or pressure forthcoming in search of an equaliser, I believe both the players and the fans of Wolves were equally as gobsmacked as the United fans that they’d scored. Just in case there was any worry of a Wolves comeback, Nani made the game safe nine minutes later and Wayne Rooney got another five minutes later. United were comfortable enough to bring on Ezekiel Fryers on 67 minutes for Patrice Evra and Federico Macheda on 75 minutes for Danny Welbeck.

The other thing I noticed in this game was Nani making a “reverse pass” to Danny Welbeck on 65 minutes. I saw Ryan Giggs do the same pass on Wednesday, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks. This is a pass which is David Silva’s speciality, I first saw him do it in the Old Trafford derby last February and it created chaos amongst United’s defence, he did the same thing to more devastating effect in October. The look on defenders’ faces, who are running out trying to play opposing forwards offside, only to be confronted with this pass is a picture.

The atmosphere today was a massive improvement on recent games. United fans rallied well to encourage the team from the off. The Stretford End and the K Stand really found their voices to provide a warm, sometimes hot atmosphere on a freezing day. The Wolves fans, were noisy for their big day out to Old Trafford. They sang the hurtful and cutting *Fuuurzdi noyts, shannul foiv (English translation below) and **du blik kun-troy buoyzz, (translated below), listening to this lot sing, it’s hard to comprehend or believe that this part of the world gifted us the singer that is Robert Plant. I will give the Wolves fans one thing, they had a refreshing attitude to supporting their team, instead of singing the tedious self celebrating we support our local team that I normally hear from opposing fans at Old Trafford, they actually adopted the novel idea of actually supporting their team. Points docked though for doing the piss poor look at us, aren’t we wacky Poznan dance.

There are certain clubs who have such history and substance that the footballing romantic/sentimentalist in me believes belong in the top division, Blackpool are one, Notts County another, Wolverhampton Wanderers also belong in that company. Despite not having won a trophy since winning the League cup in 1980, when Andy Gray capitalised on a rare and comical howler from Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score into an empty net against the reigning European champions. Alongside Matt Busby, Stan Cullis, Wolves manager from 1948 to 1964, was a pioneer in European football. After Wolves won the title in 1954, Cullis arranged friendlies against teams like Real Madrid, Borrusia Dortmund and the “magical Magyars” of Honved from Hungary. These games gave president Ebbe Schwartz, from the newly formed UEFA, the idea of European Cup. Wolves have made a contribution to the football we watch today that no amount of money can buy. They were the “glamour” club of the 50s, a club which a young George Best in Cregagh, Belfast was a fan of.

* Thursday nights, Channel Five

** The black country boys