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

Blind Burst The Blowing Bubble – East London, February 8th, 2015

Near me in the Trevor Brooking stand at the Boleyn Ground, some reds were saying this was the worst they had ever seen United. As per usual when United are playing rubbish, people overstate just how bad it is. The performance today was in my opinion, not even the worst United showing in the last three weeks, never mind ever (that award definitely goes to Cambridge away). Allowing for that, this was bad. Yet another diabolical performance which ended up with United getting a scabby, scarcely deserved but much needed draw. For that reason, this could end up being a great result for United.

I’m convinced that United thought they were playing rugby in the first half, such was the reluctance to pass the ball forward. When Marouane Fellaini came on for Adnan Januzaj in the 70th minute, United resorted to another tactic that was more familiar with the oval ball game by punting the ball upfield, aiming for the big Belgian. As limited as we all know Fellaini to be, he at least made a nuisance of himself, which is more than virtually anybody else in a United shirt did today. Fellaini’s push in the back on Kouyate in injury time helped set up Daley Blind for United’s equaliser.

Luke Shaw, in my opinion probably United’s best outfield player today, was sent off in stoppage time for a second booking. Robin van Persie did force a couple of saves from Adrian. Then we have Angel di Maria, oh dear di Maria. Some players can have bad days and bad games, they’re  human and can’t be brilliant every time. However di Maria looks half hearted when he’s playing for United. That is unacceptable and I don’t care whether he cost £60 or £60m. A bad game can be forgiven, playing as half hearted as he did, both today and in recent games is a lot harder to forgive. Virtually everybody knows that barring a change in fortune that would startle Aristotle, Radamel Falcao is leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season. Looking at di Maria recently, I have a feeling that he will also be getting a tram from Trafford Bar to Ringway Airport alongside Falcao, for a move back to a type of football where he can avoid big and ugly full backs not being very nice to him. It could be best for both parties on recent evidence.

After the match and no doubt in the press over the next couple of days, we’ll hear the usual shit about United scoring in Fergie time (sic) and how referees give United enough stoppage time to get the necessary goal. What probably won’t be pointed out is that West Ham goalkeeper, Adrian, was booked for time-wasting by referee Mark Clattenburg in the 78th minute. Clattenburg had warned Adrian about that earlier in the second half. This gamesmanship is viewed as good professionalism when players get away with it. When they don’t, it’s the poor practice which cost a deserving side, in this case West Ham, the full three points. Perhaps these raging conspiracy theorists, who seem to genuinely think that referees give enough injury time for United to score, should bear this in mind (assuming they have one) next time their players are wasting time.

Yet again a full turnout of travelling reds were served up a tepid and worst of all, boring display from United. Can anybody reading this remember a brilliant United performance this season apart from the Boxing Day display against Newcastle? (and even that’s a generous description). The two best wins have been against Liverpool and Arsenal, but beating those teams (particularly Liverpool), is always a great result. United robbed Arsenal in such a way, that reds were still laughing heartily as we came back into town that night. It was not a good performance. Louis van Gaal is having the luck with some results, a luck that was cruelly denied to David Moyes last season. Ernest Hemmingway once famously said that “you make your own luck”, if United get back into the Champions League come the end of May, then it will be likely that van Gaal will be echoing that sentiment. Whatever happens though, United fans won’t tolerate this kind of tedium over a long term basis, especially if it doesn’t achieve the desired or its expected result.

Liverpool drew yesterday and Arsenal very helpfully lost, so it’s pretty much as we are for another weekend. West Ham have had a couple of decent results this season and with the terrible game from United today, this is under the circumstances, definitely a point gained. As an added bonus, I got a few texts as I was walking out of the ground telling me that Martin Tyler’s response to the goal was akin to a man who had just been told that his accumulator had been ruined. Daley Blind burst the blowing bubble for Tyler, this gives me even more reason to be grateful to the Dutchman.

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Friday saw the 57th anniversary of the aircraft crash Munich-Riem airport, which eventually resulted in the deaths of twenty three men who were on that aircraft. As poor as todays game was and the United performance to boot, everybody who went to the game and played in it, got home tonight. The people listed below never did and when you think about it, a poor performance from United is a mere triviality in comparison.

Remember the Flowers of Manchester

Geoff Bent

Roger Byrne

Tom Cable

Alf Clarke

Eddie Colman

Tom Curry

Walter Crickmer

Donnie Davies

Duncan Edwards

George Follows

Tom Jackson

Mark Jones

Archie Ledbrooke

Bela Miklos

David Pegg

Captain Kenneth Rayment

Henry Rose

Willie Satinoff

Frank Swift

Tommy Taylor

Eric Thompson

Bert Whalley

Liam Whelan

As Bad As It Gets – Manchester 10th February 2014

The worst thing about the result yesterday is that nobody was really surprised. The front cover of the latest United We Stand fanzine labeled United as the unpredictables. I’m struggling to think of a more accurate cover which that fanzine has had in its near 25 year existence. United had so many crosses during the game as to be comparable as to the amount at Golgotha Calvary. While the deeply religious David Moyes won’t be crucified on any of those crosses just yet by most match-going reds, it’s only a matter of time before the mood changes dramatically, especially after this result. At full time, Moyes understandably had the exasperated demeanour of a man who couldn’t figure out just what had gone wrong. Moyes said on Match of the day that “today was probably as bad as it gets”. I hope for his sake that he’s right as I’ve seen things a lot worse at Old Trafford, albeit many years ago. My memory tells me however, that things could be a lot worse Continue reading As Bad As It Gets – Manchester 10th February 2014

United Wipe The Floor With Ajax – Manchester 16th of February 2012

Against the bookies’ odds, but of no great surprise to me and needing only a draw to progress, United lost to Basle in early December to leave themselves playing in Europe’s secondary cup competition for the first time since the late summer of 1995. That season Rotor Volgograd knocked United out on away goals. There was a lot of disappointment when United were knocked out of the Champions League. While I wasn’t too happy about it, I was hardly distraught about the Reds being knocked out of a competition which looking at it realistically, United didn’t have a prayer of winning. Couple all that with the fact that United have never won the UEFA Cup/Europa League, my attitude is what the hell, there’s always next year (providing the Cristiano Ronaldo money gets spent this summer…)

There have been many friendly matches between United and Ajax but tonight is the first time the clubs have met competitively since 1976. When the draw was first made in the middle of December, my mobile phone was agog with incoming text messages, all basically saying the same thing,”What a draw, are you having it ?” Having been to Amsterdam several times, a couple of them involving United, I initially was going, come hell or high water. It’s only an hour flight from Ringway Airport to Schipol but, as is the way, flight prices suddenly went through the roof and United were only allocated 2000 (approx) tickets for the match. When I was younger, it wouldn’t have been a problem, I would have gone, ticket or no ticket confident in the knowledge that a jib would have been done easily enough, especially in Holland where, in days of yore, security was famously slack. Nowadays, I want the guarantee of entry to the game before spending at least £250.00 on a flight and going through all the rigmarole and expense of arranging digs. One thing I do know, anybody who didn’t get into the match, should be having a rare old time in Amsterdam tonight, smoking hand rolled cigarettes unique to the Netherlands, possibly enjoying the very gracious hospitalty and welcome that the some ladies in Amsterdam are world famous for providing.

United fans outside The Old Sailor on the Ouderzijds Achterburgwal

Ajax are a true giant of European football. Tonight, United were (correctly as it turned out) hot favourites to beat Ajax. All the British and Dutch media were predicting a comfortable victory for United with recent form in mind. I’ve too much respect for Ajax as a football club to take any victory against them as a given, no matter how poor their recent form is. We’ve all seen poor teams beat United. With Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool, I’ve seen two mediocre sides beat United since Christmas so I wasn’t taking anything for granted tonight. A 2-0 win, on paper looks like a comfortable win but Ajax, in the first half at least, gave United a scare or two, most memorably on 30minutes when David De Gea made another top class save, to prevent Siem De Jong from scoring.

Ryan Giggs, much to the chagrin of the British media, who’d been writing commemorative pieces for his expected 900th appearance for United tonight, the United fans who’d been singing Giggs is going to Amsterdam (to the tune of Love Will Tear Us Apart) since the draw had been made and to the possible relief of his wife, didn’t travel with the United squad for this game. United could have used Giggs well tonight, particularly in the first half when Nani was having one of those nights, Nani’s corner on six minutes, which went straight out for a goal kick, being spectacularly poor even by his standards.

The second half kicked off with Ajax fans singing Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds at impressive volume. The atmosphere provided tonight by the Ajax fans was fantastic (at least it sounded so on the telly). As much for the noise as Ajax fans made, United started to get a grip on the game and after some sustained pressure, Ashley Young turned the Ajax defence inside out and back in again before putting the ball through Ajax goalkeeper, Kenneth Vermeer’s legs to put United 1-0 up on 59 minutes. The United goal flattened Ajax. After that, despite only being a goal behind, United were in complete control of the game. Ajax were mostly trying shots from distance, whenever they managed to get in the United half. On 86 minutes, United counter attacked again when Antonio Valencia pulled his hamstring winning the ball in midfield before feeding Wayne Rooney on the left flank. Rooney placed a perfect low cross for the oncoming Javier Hernandez to slide ball home for United.

“Thursday night, Channel 5” has been the ever-so-cutting chant from oposition fans since United were knocked out of the Champions League in December; most of the people who’ve been doing this chanting only get a taste of European/continental football when they’re watching England getting inevitably knocked out of tournaments every couple of years. I’ll forgive them, they know no better. The “Thursday night…” chants reached a nadir at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago when fans of Stoke City were singing it at United fans. This is the same Stoke City who played tonight, this Thursday night, and lost at home to Valencia.

Some things never change, the standard of inane commentary of football matches in this country, no matter what channel it’s on is always the same. My favourite commentary passage tonight came on 35 minutes when the Channel 5 commentator see’s the camera zoom in on Sir Alex Ferguson and asks’ co-commentator Graham Taylor, if he’s sat in the same spot as he was for the Holland/England match in 1993. Graham Taylor wasn’t sure but did say that he was walking on the spot, just outside the penalty area where Ronald Koeman fouled David Platt in the same match prior to tonights match kicking off. What nobody pointed out was that the infamous Holland/England match in 1993 took place in Rotterdam.

 

Thanks to Rick Kelly of  www.rkellyphoto.com  for the lend of his equipment and his help to me in typing this blog