Published: 16 OCT 2005
TO THE FUTURE
Since May 12th 2005, the world that surrounds Manchester United has been well and truly stuck in my throat. To say that the Glazer takeover changed a considerable part of my life would be a massive understatement of Siddy proportions. Since then I have gone round and round in so many circles trying to make some sense of my feelings and, it has to be said, without much success.
But it's not just Glazer who's caused this to happen. For a long time now I have felt that football has been slipping away from me. I've felt as though I've been hanging on by my fingertips for a few seasons. I know we had to expect development once the Premier League was formed, but I always hoped football would be true to its roots (OK - stop sniggering at the back). But come the dawn of the new century everything started to go rapidly down hill until we landed in a huge pile of shit at the bottom with a job lot of rather unsavoury hangers-on.
So what happened on the way down? I'll try and be as concise as possible!
Let's begin with an all-too prevalent lack of respect for us supporters - even from our own sponsors. For instance, the latest radio advert from our telecommunications shirt sponsor takes the piss out of United in respect of time added on at the end of games if we're a goal behind! That's the way to build good relations chaps. Apart from that - there's far too much hype and razzmatazz, streamers, ridiculous inflatables and fireworks. Too many loud-mouthed PA announcers, with their latest, distorted-beyond-recognition theme tune to whip up the soporific masses into false fervour as their gladiators' walk onto the pitch.
I'm really getting into this now!
Too many seats and nowhere to stand. Too many agents making too much money. Multifarious kick-off times for the convenience of the TV audience with absolutely no consideration for the travelling supporter. And we're expected to pay huge wads of cash to watch it, while players take home more money in a week than many of us have a hope of earning in several years. And on top of all that, the turncoat (Kenyon) had the audacity to take the words football club off our badge. The result - the game I used to love has lost it's soul and depressing disillusionment has replaced what used to be eager anticipation and almost childlike enthusiasm.
When I first went to Old Trafford, 40 years ago, I stood on the Stretford End. It was (and always will be) my spiritual home. I fell in love with the atmosphere and the camaraderie. Where I once stood is now home to the padded seat exec section! The so-called singing section is tucked out of the away on the top tier - almost inaudible to the away support. And the heartbeat of our once-feared ground is fading fast. Meanwhile the game has become a marketer's dreamland and a corporate playground. New wave fans are welcomed, traditional fans are not. Wear the almost mandatory sponsor dominated, liesure-wear designed, latest gawdy excuse for a football shirt and you're OK. Don't, and you'll more than likely be viewed with suspicion.
Bung all that lot together and the result is that I haven't been to a Manchester United game this season. I kept hold of my season ticket because I couldn't bear to part with it, but I haven't used it. I presume I will one day, but I have no idea when. However, on Saturday I did go to a game. It was at Gigg Lane, and 3,807 others went too.
Having signed on as a founder member of FCUM when the club was first formed I thought I'd better make the effort. No point being a member and not know what's going on after all. I had an idea what I was letting myself in for - most of the people I know from United now go regularly to watch FCUM, including my daughter and son-in-law. But even though I'd been given graphic descriptions of what it was like, I was still surprised that it turned out to be a journey that took me all the way back to the future.
On our journey up the M6 I was full of expectancy, coupled with a certain amount of dread. It's not that anyone had to drag me along - far from it - I went quite willingly, but I felt I was about to betray the love of my lifetime and give in to the temptations of a younger model. But when (as the song now goes) 'Fergie said, go and watch Chelsea'' the answer was never going to be, 'Oh OK then, I'd never thought of that - thanks very much for pointing it out to me' a) because it doesn't rhyme and, b) because it's a stupid idea - it was always more likely to be, 'Are you having a larf - we're watching FC.'
Our painful progress was hampered far more than I'd expected by motorway-clogging Manchester bound Hingerland fans. Well, how was I supposed to know how many there'd be?! The result was that Gina and I got to the Stretford Metro a touch later than planned (at 2pm in fact!) Still resolute, and with bottles of fizzy Vimto to hand, we boarded the first available tram to Bury, then a taxi to Gigg Lane and finally into the ground 10 minutes after kick-off for the princely sum of 9 quid! And no sooner were we in there than we were brazenly canoodling with our new love, in front of everyone, and under the bloody boardwalk of all places!
And for our pains we saw 6 FCUM goals - the last of which was an absolute curling-into-the-top-corner-from-the-edge-of-the-box belter from my man-of-the-match Adie (the indestructible) Orr. The atmosphere was as good as any of the best aways' I've ever been to and we were stood with family and friends. The only time my face wasn't displaying an ear-to-ear grin was when I tried (and failed miserably) to sing along with 'The Red Flag' when thoughts of MUFC filled my eyes and streamed down my face. I couldn't help it.
So, what am I left with?
Is it, 'Ferguson's Red and White Army' or 'Margison's fruit and veg army?' Is it, 'Que sera, sera we're going to Wemberley - or are we really going to Timperley?' Is it, 'Ar-gen-tina' or 'Mar-gen-tina?' Is it going to be Mr Mystery or Ruud up front? Do we hate 'Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and Leicester' or 'Blackpool Mechanics, Cheadle Town and Flixton?' Do I want to stand and sing my way through the whole match-day experience with mates, or sit in silence? Do I want to be paying anything between £30 and £50 for a ticket, or £7? Do I want to be able to take my kids? Do I want to watch players who are without doubt playing for the shirt, or players who sometimes seemingly can't be bothered because they're playing Bolton and not Barcelona. Do I want them to be wearing a proper football shirt rather than an over elaborate, sponsor-dominated, logo-festooned, piece of fashion garbage? And, do I want to watch kids being rebuffed by pampered over-paid footballers who haven't a clue what it's like in the real world, or sit in the pub after the game singing songs with them?
And I wonder why am I even bothering to ask myself these questions any more.
Thank you FCUM and everyone connected with the club - you've done a fantastic job. I'll never give up on United (we're married for life) but now I'm no longer quite so confused.
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