"Forty Years On"
Diary of 40 hours in Manchester 1998
A good cause... Dennis Viollet Fund
Diary August 16-19 1998:
Pt 1: Days 1+2 Travel, arrival at OT
Sunday lunch time 16th August in Denmark the pilgrimage started.....
A flight from Copenhagen to Heathrow on Brazilian Airways was a decent start. First class service and a fantastic clear night view of London, Tower Bridge & Battersea Power Station as we circled on in to the airport. The time was around 2130 hrs and 1hr on the Picadilly line up to Mike Dobbin who would then pick me up just after last orders! We were therefore whisked off to his abode where we would spend a couple RED hours drinking the contents of the yellow cans sitting inside Mike's fridge at Palmers Green.
Mike has a remarkable record, he has attended all UNITED games since 1991. We had recently met in Copenhagen a week or two before, now it was time to catch up on a few stories. Mike had booked my ticket from Euston to Manchester Picadilly the morning after so when we finally slept we would be woken early at 6am Monday morning.
Monday morning bright and early and the relaxing sounds of classical music whilst checking out "BESTIE" George's new hardback autobiography by Joe Lovejoy, Mike had picked it up at the Leicester match. Mike went off to work and dropped me off on the tube where I would get the Victoria line to Euston. It was still only 8am, two hours to kill before the 10 o'clock Virgin train to Manchester Picadilly. Left luggage, then a walk around the streets of North London in brilliant sunshine. I found a decent cafe and sampled a feast of an English breakfast. The bar at Euston was open but NO drinks were being served before 11am (drinking laws in Uk) one orange juice on the rocks! Downstairs the off-licence had cold beer so three ice cold cans would be sufficient for the on coming 2 & half hours by train!
The train was fully booked and Mike had reserved me a seat, thanks Mike! Part of the journey was taken up chatting to Marianne a Northern lady who asked me to say hello to her son Douglas?(sorry if I have the name wrong) who is also a RED and would be checking out the Theatre Of Dreams website on my return. Food was served on the train, I recommend the Ploughman's sandwiches but definatly not the plastic Danish pastries!
Arriving in Manchester I noted that it was hot and THE SUN WAS SHINING??? The time was 1230 Monday lunch so now for a taxi to Chester Road and OT.......the taxi "Metro 151" turned the corner outside the station then BROKE down!! The guy called the AA and told me that it was the first time he had broken down in his 17 years of driving? Could I change cabs? Certainly, a very good start I thought :)
The second taxi drove me to my digs on Chester Rd, 100 yds from the ground! Left my bag in my room and grabbed the first of my throw away cameras. Down to OT, fairly quiet but there were a few touts trying to "buy" tickets ready for the big day tomorrow. It was now 2pm and a call to Paul Busby confirmed that we would meet at the Throstles 8pm that evening.
Pt 2: OT the museum + meet with Paul Busby Click on pic to see why Paul is smiling!
Deadline 2pm, I had left Denmark 26 hrs earlier and I was about to enter The Theatre Of Dreams. Still brilliant sunshine I was able to hook up on the 14.15 OT 1hr Tour + Museum trip. Joe was our tour guide and we set off from North Stand past Sir Matt, the booking office and on to the South Stand. Suddenly a famous face outside, Linda was there to greet me. A quick welcome and a lunch engagement for the Throstles Tuesday at 1pm, great! Nice to see "Our Salford Lass" face smiling, already! Linda reminded me that I had to catch up with the group or I would be lost?
On to The South Stand and Joe took us out on the magnificent terracing overlooking the 4 week old new OT pitch. I looked up to the right upper East where I would be sitting tomorrow!
Joe, full of info, told us that the pitch had been used twice and was still perfect, absolutley no divots at all. The pitch had been laid by a Scottish firm, the grass from Yorkshire and the idea from Australia! There is NO SOIL! The grass and root is laid out on top of 12 inches of well compacted sand which lies on a solid gravel base. All the under pitch piping is still there and there are sprinklers which can pop up and water the pitch when required! These are supplied bt re-cycled water from OT's 55.000 gallon tank! Amazing what can be done using technique, who has ever heard of grass with no soil!! Took a few pics and watched the grass grow for a few minutes, my only comment "superb conditions". Joe also explained the plastic sheets on top of South stand are to let the sun rays through to the pitch.
Next was the Press Room and on to the Old Tunnel and Fergie's dugout. The Old Tunnel is the only original part of the ground built in 1910. More pictures, I noted the new Club Logo on the dugout "Manchester United". This had said "Manchester United Football Club" previously. Next was the Players Lounge and Dressing Room followed by the Entrance Tunnel. The Lounge is decorated with fine pics of all previous RED captains and there is a Players Rosta showing all player records for team and country. The dressing room includes a spa-pool and warm up room. A video system is on hand for last minute tactics, a laundry is on site ready for the kit manager to supply the strip which includes Peter Schmeichels THREE strips for every game! He always uses a warm up, 1st & 2nd half strip.
I took plenty of pics on this tour of OT and they will hopefully appear on the website together with this diary, as soon as they are available! Want more OT trivia? An incredible 10.000 Manchester United pies are eaten at an average home match washed down with 2.500 gallons of coke,tea and coffee. Largest crowd was 76,962 at an FA Cup semi in 1939. United did not play - it was Wolves v Grimsby! The new North stand has the largest cantilevered roof in Europe, the stand is made of 4000 tons of steel and 4.500 tons of concrete...enough is enough.
I am now thirsty after my hour long trip which ran over by 15mins due to all the questions! Up to the museum and RED Cafe for a beer! WHAT? no beer is served if you do not dine? I immediatley ordered a Red chicken-burger and chips just to enjoy a pint of draught :) Escorted to my table there were RED videos and plenty of people to chat with. NO-ONE on the tour or in the cafe had tickets for tomorrow. I felt great, THANKS Linda! Spoke to Alan Dobbo and Richard on the mobile, hoped to meet up pre-match at Throstles. A voice 2 tables away sounded South African? Do you know Ethel Sleith "I called", YES was the reply! I eventually wrote a private note on the back of my card to Ethel who will duly receive the message personally in SA, written by me the day before Eric+Munich Testimonial. The message was on the lines of "I know you are here in spirit if not in person" Barry Leeming Red Cafe, 17th Aug 1998. I also met Andy (Fernabache, Turkey) who works as assistant manager in the Red Cafe. You can recognise him by his long flowing hair. Thanks Andy for the beer :)
The museum was waiting and although the time was now 4pm the New Museum opens from 9.30-21.00pm from Apr-Oct. (Nov-March opening is 9.30-1700pm) Admission 4 pounds 50p. Now the NEW museum is about 100 times bigger than before and is on THREE floors. All memorbilia is there as usual plus many extra electronic highlights. There is a tremdous hall called "Manchester NET" where there are 20-30 RED touch on screens which can show you everything from Duncan Edwards and George Best to the latest David Beckham action! I pressed Charlton Best Law and enjoyed goals galore on video. Then slightly disapointed when pressing Edwards found only 2 movie clips of the great man. Players from today had up to 40-50 video clips each!
Whilst in the Munich section one thing stuck in my mind as I read those awfull headlines "again". Survivor lists including big Dunc :( He eventually became the only survivor to die and this was a kidney failure. Today he would of course have been saved using a temp kidney machine. Very sad.
Back to my room change of clothes in a hot sticky Manchester, then on to The Throstles to meet Paul Busby at 8pm. Arriving at the pub I first met Kieron and Hilary who made me feel most welcome. We chatted about the net and the Listpics, Kieron had noticed the influx of REDS from all over the world esp. those arriving with Pete and Hal Hargreaves. He particularly remembered the crowd from South Africa + the Eskimoes! The last named had been running round in only thin t-shirts on a cold Manchester night!!
The Throstles are most appreciative for all our custom and you are ALL most welcome when you are in Manchester. Just contact Kieron behind the bar, he will serve you with an extra smile :)) Kieron is on the www now at this address if you need to recognise him: http://Red11.org/mufc/listpics/throstles.htm
Paul came in and found Barry propping up the bar well away from the big screen showing Arse/Forest "live". After our initial welcome Paul settled down on shandy due to driving responsibilties, Barry drank draught Boddies Gold, taxi or on foot! Paul, Kieron and Barry had a good chat and then subject RED started. Paul is the original WWW RED and folks like me have learned much from his prototype website, probably still the best info available. We exchanged ideas and had a great evening chatting and occasionally glancing at the big screen whenever someone scored. We jumped up and down when Forest equalised only to scream "jammy f.....s" when a minute later Arse scored the winner :(
To cut a long story short Paul had to work so promised to meet up before the game tomorrow. Farewell and see you soon. Barry? he found his way back by taxi and fell into a deep RED sleep ready for the 18th August and "Le Dieu"
PS Need to check Paul's Website? Here it is:
Pt 3 Match Day, lunch with Linda, Simplenet meet with Paul Hinson
Morning arrived August 18th 1998 and a 9 am breakfast. The full works beans fried bread sausage, would Eric be enjoying the same? I doubt it! Taxi to the Cliff, where?? what is this cliff?? inquired Mr Sahid. He did know of Manchester United but wanted to take me round the corner from Chester Rd to OT! After a short discussion I showed him the way and 20 mins later we arrived at The Cliff in brilliant sunshine. Simply amazing weather for Manchester. The time was 10am and a small crowd was gathered to see the arrival of Giggsy in a large dark windowed 4 wheel drive, it dropped him off and then shot off again. Roy Keane in his self driven sports car drove smartly in. David May and Dinnis all arrivedin seperate cars. All of them disappeared into the far building and then re-appeared 10 mins later in training strip. All 4 jumped into the same car and drove off to another closed training session. We had hoped for a cliff or Eric training session but it was not to be. The England boys including Becks & Andy were all down South with Hoddle, they would first be back later for the match. Norweigens and Schmeiks were all away on International duty. So Barry would not be able to speak Danish to Peter!
Click on Asif to see him at the Cliff!
Chatting to a few of the other onlookers I met Asif who was very friendly and told me he was there in the hope of seeing Eric training, just like the old days. No luck I'm afraid so Asif offered to drive me round for a while, we could then pop back later for the players return. We had a fast sightseeing trip round Manchester Centre past Joe Bloggs Clothing and the town centre where it had been bombed. Interestingly Asif told me of his younger brother who had been playing for Manchester United youth team and had broken his leg. He was now recovered and trying to make it back to UNITED but with difficulty. He had been top scorer for the junior league but I do not have his name, sorry. NOTE: Asif if you read this please get in touch by email....
We then drove to OT to grab a few souvenirs for the family and myself? :) I asked for anything with David Beckham for Michelle 12 years old at home, SOLD OUT nothing at all!! I finished up buying a Becks necklace at one of the local stalls instead. I picked up a couple of cheap year books for a fiver, 95/96 96/97, a badge and also a black polo with the new logo 20 quid! :( Ok it's smart, all the staff and players seem to wear it around OT.
We drove on to The Throstles, time 10.40 am and of course it was "closed", the good old licensing laws again! Banging on the door Kieron came out and let Asif and I in for a chat and small light refreshment! Asif was on coke and driving, he then whisked us back to the Cliff where we arrived at 12.15 to a large crowd gathered by this time. There was even an ice cream van parked just outside to make a few extra bob on the popularity of Manchester United!
Great, Asif had judged this to perfection, out came Roy Keane and proceeded to sign for everyone. Ryan was not to be seen, Dinnis jumped in his car and drove off, obviously in a hurry. Took a photo of Roy signing which should appear on the site. Atmosphere was relaxed and Roy signed for half an hour. I had an appointment with Linda so Asif drove me back to the Throstles at 12.45.
Lunch had been arranged for 1pm so Barry rushed in to find Linda relaxed and sitting at a table accompanied by her coke! Sorry only 3/4 mins late? Quick greeting and then settled down with Linda and we started our 2 hour+ get-together.
Lying on the table in front me was my match ticket East Stand Upper, Block E236, Row15 Seat90. Thanks Linda again for being such a wonderful lady! :)))))))))))))
We chatted about the museum, Munich, Eddie Coleman (sorry Linda I had forgotton to press that button on the Manchester-Net). We also spoke of the team, the website match reports and other memories. We had a great couple of hours and several drinks, we even just had time to eat our delicious Throstle plaice and chips! Linda now had an appointment with Paul Windridge, Mick Meade and Helen Viollet. We said our farewells and grabbed a taxi as time was flashing by.
No one had arrived yet so I decided to shoot off to OT for an hour or so. This was a wise move as I discovered Alex and Becks signing autographs for a large crowd in front of South Stand. Alex was protected by two enormous bouncers one on each side. There was also plenty of police presence. Many fans were wearing Eric gear and there should be evidence of that when the photos come back.
Now back to the Nest [I have since discovered that I missed Mike Dobbin (sorry Mike) who had popped in at the nest around 1630!]. By the time I was back it was around quarter to 5'ish and standing around was Niel Sharp soon to be joined by Dobbo, girlfriend by his side. Alan had booked the Princess Hotel that night, I officially declare here and now that Alan must be in LOVE. I can also see why, so good luck to you Sausage Man!!. We all got rounds in and I for one had to take it easy having been around bars most of the day! Alan was on "Muel" is that a new type of Mick Meade drink????? I do not remember Mick ordering this one in Copenhagen!
Soon the arrival of Paul Hinson a big hug and pics were taken to witness the FIRST MEETING of any 2 persons on the Simplenet Web Team: Fact of life: Bill, Barry, Paul, Sam and Diana have never met each other!! The pub was filling up with LIST REDS here are the names and if I forgot anyone I am very sorry: Pete & Hal Hargreaves, Paul Busby, Billy Read, Pat Jennings, Richard Martin, Tony Smith, Paul Scully names all to be added to the previous mentioned. It was like a Whos-Who of the mailing list and we all remained until 6.30 when it was time for the 20 mins brisk walk to The Theatre Of Dreams.
Match time 20.00 would be previewed by other happenings so an early entrance was required .... more to come tomorrow...
Pt 4/5 Day3/pt2 The Testimonial Match
Leaving the Nest around 18.30 I walked to OT with Tony Smith, Pete and Hal Hargreaves. Atmosphere was at a high and the weather was still great, as it had been for the 30 hours that I had been in Manchester! There must have been something in the air those 3 days? Badges, souvenirs, a chat with a RED NEWS salesman and purchase of RED Issue 53. Good value at one pound including Kerry Davies and the REDS story in Wonderful Copenhagen! More fans, programmes and down Sir Matt Busby Way to the ground just one hour to kick off. I gazed up at Sir Matt who seems to smile at the bouquet of flowers set at his feet, the Munich clock, young fans surrounding me in full "Le Dieu" kit and waving Eric flags. Into East stand gate E34 and I was pleased that I had a program as the queue inside the ground was long. Up the stairs, the terraces were already filling up and I sat admiring the view as the players came out in white strip for a warm up, no Eric yet tho'
A table was placed on the pitch and speakers wires and microphone ready for Mick Hucknall. Ryan Giggs was presented with his "Player of the Year Award" which was a model of Sir Matt's Statue, Wes Brown (big cheer) for Young Player of the Year and Michael Twiss the Reserve Player award.
The speakers had started to play "Calypso" and the RED Busby Babe atmosphere was ready ... looking around, I was just to the right of the K stand goal on the first upper, I saw no familiar faces, later I found Paul Windridge was sat several rows behind me. No sign of Linda or the others but there again there many people at OT so meeting in the ground is not easy. Read Linda's report at <http//Red11.org/mufc/matftest.htm> for her feelings of this special day. Mick H? Sorry no comment on the song we could have avoided that, his voice is great just the choice of song was wrong. Mick could have asked a famous Danish dj I know, he may well have recommended "The Flowers Of Manchester" Linda's request!
The teams came out on the dot, 20.00 hrs and although there was a
cheer no Eric? One minute later Guard of honour at the players tunnel "LADIES
& GENTLEMEN WELCOME BACK TO ERIC CANTONA" the
ground exploded literally, everybody screamed, shouted and roared as Le
King strode out wearing Black and White stripes, escorted by son Raphael
COOL!!! as you west coasters say :))
The roof was nearly raised by that ROAR from 55000+.
Btw ... writing this report is so enjoyable that I forgot to mention that by now Robbo & Mark Hughes were already on the pitch! Why were we all here?
Munich. The minutes silence respect
People believe me, respect was there and there was perfect silence.
After silence came
"OOH AAH CANTONA"
"WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS"
"There's Only One Bryan Robson"
"ON THE TWELTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME E.R.I.C C.A.N.T.O.N.A"
The last song being 5 mins long and repeated at least 3 times during the game :)))
During the match we had sang the songs .. again .. and .. again MARVELLOUS!
I must say lookin back, the 2nd half was best, yes it was because
No it was something to do with the tremendous atmosphere.
During the first half Eric had been in awe, 2nd half in RED,
7 Le Dieu was back, collar up and the whole crowd just enjoyed the entertainment.
8-4 yes folks this
was not a football match but entertainment.
The crazy Olmeta in goal for "European Cantona X1" was brilliant and tried (impossibly) to steal the show from Eric! If Peter had been there we would have had a competition on how many minutes each goalkeeper could play in the opposing half! Olmeta even dribbled the whole pitch and about 5 defenders then came up for a fantastic free kick in the 2nd half, only just over the bar. You could write a story about his game, I will just stop and say he even had the Stretford End singing whilst he danced samba most of the 2nd half!
Eric himself was brilliant, all the old touches flicks and presence. It was a pleasure to be there, the 3 day pilgramage from Denmark was worth it 199%.
Note: During half time I met Paul Windridge & daughter + Kerry Davies, still suffering from effects of Danish hospitality? Paul was kind enough to share his beer (long queue) and a good time was had by all. We spoke of his fabulous meeting with Helen Viollet Noel Cantwell and others before the match. Back up the stairs more Munich Memories, more Eric and the best was yet to come....
THE GOAL Shimmy down Stretford End past 1 2 3 players, in front of goal and then little flick into the net, 7th goal for number 7, yes this may well of been play acting but who cares? Before that some daft linesman had disallowed a good goal by Eric, now that could not have been planned!
MERCI ERIC Eric Cantona one of the greatest players ever to wear UNITED colours. Only he could have said goodbye in such an emotional fashion as this. 5 seasons 4 premierships
Final whistle, the speech, the lap of honour BRILLIANT Eric shot down the tunnel all players and crowd aplauding him, THE END OF AN ERA
Eric had said: " I just lost my passion for the game. I'm so sorry. I had five wonderful years here, the best years of my career. I still love you all, thank you. Maybe see you soon"
Sir Bobby Charlton quote "He was a sensational footballer, a true proffesional and there's really been nobody like him. Remember we had waited all those many years to win the championship, then he comes along and we won four in five years. That say's everything about the man and the footballer he was."
Only regret from this day? (applies to all in East stand) Eric attcked
Stretford End for the entire game!
Lucky b .... s! (boys) Please send me all the photos for the website!
Leaving the ground: Farewell to Paul motorway bound. The crowd seemed to be high spirits leaving the game, many milled around Sir Matt just to give a last regard and reminder that we had at long last experienced the awaited Munich Testimonial.
Dr Mark & Pete
It was fairly late around 22.20 and I was to meet up with Pete and Hal who had kindly offered to put me up for the night. The next job for me on the way to The Nest was to grab hot "Meat&PotatoPie & Chips mmmmmmmmm! Just the sight of those pies when you live in Denmark is heaven. I can tell you I enjoyed that "meal on foot" it lasted from Matt Busby Way to half way up Talbot Rd! Arriving at the Nest there was Paul Busby & friends relaxing on the forecourt. They had youngsters with them so were sat outside. We greeted each other and agreed the evening had been a great one. Inside Pete, Hal, Tony Smith, Dr Mark, Pat + others were already drinking. There was little time, thanks Pete for the beer and thanks Dr Mark for the offer, was it 5mins after closing time? We had not realised that time had flown so fast. We will all take you up on that round another fine day, Pete and I would like a double please! :))
The Three Suttons "Naomi Ruth & Trevor"
Suddenly Trevor Sutton and family had appeared from nowhere and they sat down at the table for a chat. I must say after being on the Internet Mailing List for over 2 years its fine to actually meet all the characters involved in the mailings! Trevor can be remembered for a fine article (with pics) that he wrote about the cliff: http://Red11.org/mufc/cliff.htm The three Suttons were all there and we sat after closing time chatting and waiting for Kieron to eventually close the pub.
Hal & Barry
Granada were to show highlights from 23.45-00.45 so Hal was ready to drive and then we would make it back in time for the show.
to be contined....
Barry MAD DANE thought??? Raphael 8 years old + 10?, Could he, would he, can he? No :(
Tony Smith has "new" pics of Eric taken at this match. They are available at: http://freespace.virgin.net/tony.smith/cantona.htm so check them out soon folks!
Last part 5/5: Day 4 Hal &
May + long trek home
Arriving at Hal & May's house at 23.30pm we were greeted with a hot cuppa and friendly smile from May. I was shown to my excellent room and Hal showed me memories of Sir Matt hanging on the staircase walls. Hal and May are personal friends of the Busby family and their kindness to me was very much appreciated I can assure you.
I found a few photos of Pete and family from my last visit, and also a small bottle of "Akavit" from Denmark. Hopefully they can try it out on some friends one day...tastes best ice cold and remains as a liquid in the freezer!
I sat down with my tea in the lounge ready for the Testimonial highlights.
"This chair is of course the one Matt used" said May. Imagine
the nostalgic thoughts one has having just spent the last 34hrs in and
around OT! Hal and May have many wonderful stories of
the Great Man and all of them confirm that he was simply a marvellous person.
Match time on Granada and one hour of close ups of Eric, Fergie and the 12 goals made excellent entertainment even though Hal and I had just come from the match! Fergie's smile in particular was very broad, we rarely see this on a normal Sat afternoon. The antics of Olmeta were confirmed and enjoyed whilst Eric's flicks, shimmy's and finesses were shown to be even better in close up.
We all stayed up chatting about Manchester United, Matt and Munich. I think the time was 2am when we decided that we should retire. After all I had to be woken and up and away in 4 hrs!
6am Hal knocked on the door, hot cup of tea, what service! :) Early start for me as the 7.30 train would whisk me off to Euston. Quick shower, chat and thanks with Hal, off to Picadilly 6.30 am. We were in good time and the roads were clear. I thanked Hal for his and May's hospiality and for the fine late night chat we had.
Half an hour before the train was due. Newsagent time, I purchased all the Manchester morning papers + The MEN from the day before. There was "Bestie" by Joe Lovejoy on the shelf for 9.99, so in my bag it went! (Normal price for this hardback is 16.99)
The train pulled out of Manchester Picadilly at 7.35am Wed thats exactly 42 hours and 35mins after I had arrived! The trek home had started.
I slept some of the way and spoke to a chap on his portable computer running a Fantasy Football Game. He was a Chelsea supporter but I gave him my RED card anyway! The buffet car on the train was well supplied and a chat with the waitress. She was RED and revealed the fact that her favorite George Best often travelled on this line to do his Sky Sports program. She met George quite often so I gave her an extra "Red11.org" card to give to Bestie next time she saw him!
The complete journey from Manchester to Aalborg, Denmark took me 16 hrs and I used the following transport in that period of time: car, train, underground, plane, car, boat, car ... arriving home at 11 pm the same night!
I even phoned Hal & May to let them know that I had arrived safely home. Sorry Hal, if you had already gone to bed and I woke you up?
This ends the entire story of Munich and Eric's farewell. Hope you enjoyed reading this marathon and hope to see you ALL down the Throstes Nest in Manchester one day?
bORN aND bRED in Oldham
living in Denmark
As RED as you get!
Young Eric Supporter outside OT that day!
Eric's note in the program: Quote "And maybe ....see you soon?"
REQUEST TO ALL LIST MEMBERS WHO ATTENDED THE MUNICH
To be used on the website as a multi media story of Munich/Eric's farewell.
Please write 100-200 words about your experiences that day.
Mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any photos even better! (Alan) Thanks in advance Barry
Subject: Past, Present and Future
by Paul Hinson
People join the Red 'family' from all parts of the globe, for all kinds of reasons. For those of us like me under 40 years of age the word 'Munich' and the tragedy surrounding it are discovered soon after falling in love with Old Trafford, its current stars, and the aura of the greatest club in the world. The dream team of the 50's, who may have conquered Europe almost 10 years before Glasgow Celtic, eventually the first British winners, and the best part of 20 years before mighty Liverpool paraded the trophy in Rome.
What mixed emotions for youngsters in the early 1950's, growing up watching the power of Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor, the classy skills of Liam Whelan and Eddie Colman, the presence, poise and leadership of Roger Byrne, the opportunism of Dennis Viollet, the thrilling runs of David Pegg and Johnny Berry. And then to have that team all taken away from them on an icy runway in a foreign country. A team in all senses of the word, skilful, spirited, fearless, admired by the nation.
Yesterday Eric Cantona returned to his spiritual home to honour the victims of the disaster. Rightly worshipped by his legions of fans who may never see his like again, he paraded his glittering bag of tricks, aided and abetted by his friends in the game from France, watched by a fantastic crowd of more than 55,000.
Rather belatedly the club made the right gesture to the victims, of the blackest day of our history, their family and dependants. Maybe the game should have taken place back in 1968, when the European Cup could have been carried aloft, and Sir Matts pioneering dream was realised after years of heartbreak and pain.
We bade farewell on the night to a man who transformed a good side into a great side, influencing those around him to dominance in the domestic game unforseen by even the staunchest Red. Cantona did share with the 1958 side a joy of the game, a love of flair, fair play and justice, a delight in practising skills long after training was over.
The present United side were represented by established stars such as Ryan Giggs, fast becoming a senior player at 24, David Beckham, a superstar fit to grace the next decade, Nicky Butt, a local boy carrying the torch like so many who graced the Red shirt under Sir Matt such as Bryne, Colman, Viollet and Albert Scanlon
Opposing them were icons from earlier days of glory at Old Trafford, Bryan Robson, the warhorse who never knew defeat, Mark Hughes, the striker with a penchant for the spectacular strike, both courageous men who would have fitted in any era. Busby with all the riches in his playing staff would have licked his lips at having either of those to fit into his side during those early days of European combat, stiff though the competition for places was.
And yet the Testimonial ended with the new brigade of youth wearing the Red shirts carrying the fight to the opposition , the embryonic goal-scoring machine Alex Notman, the giant figure of Wes Brown tidying up at the back, these serve as reminders to us that time does not stand still, todays heroes on the pitch are tomorrows spectators. The spirit of those who lost their lives is carried on through those who grace those shirts, and we should never forget them.
The Tricolours having been taken home, the Video bought, attention turned back to the Dwight Yorke saga, or whoever the media decide is the next transfer target. When we don our replica shirt and scarf, and enter the magnificent Theatre of Dreams, or catch the commentary from afar, when Andy Cole shoots wide or Ryan Giggs crosses into the keepers hands, amidst the groans of disappointment let us reflect sometimes on the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice all those years ago.
Paul Hinson P.L.Hinson@ais.salford.ac.uk
Wed, 19 Aug 1998
"Mark Hill" <Mark@Hill.telinco.com>
The Goalie was a fruit loop!
That goalie last night was a character, he was dancing to all songs sang not sure he understood some of them as when he let in his 7th we sang "City sign him on!!" and he bopped away happily!! he obviously never heard of city (we are a big club!!) or I think he may have gone a little more mad!! He dribbled the ball round numerous United players while charging up field, he even nearly scored from a free kick just out side the United box he crouched down cuddling his post ready for a sleep while he was waiting for a corner to be taken!!
It was great to see Robbo Hughesie and Co again and off course Eric, it's a pity the crowd couldn't really get fired up! Me are Kid and a couple of regulars that have voices tried to fire up the north west Quad we just got strange looks of amazement, but as Linda found out last season it's dull at the best of times and impossible to get much more than a clap from 90% of the people!! so we were pissing in the wind really!! even though the sad boring old farts around me sang more last night than they did all last season! I would try and explain what happened in the match but Linda and Co will do it much better
Barry Leeming Theatre Of Dreams http://Red11.org
"RED sky at night UNITED delight"
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