|Paul T. Windridge
Back in 1957, we hadn't long bought a TV, so viewing was essential whatever
the programme, but this was a very special day for me as it was the first
time I had been able to watch Manchester United play. I was 8 years old
and it was Cup Final Day. The Babes were unquestionably going to win the
double when a certain Irishman in a claret and blue shirt decided to clatter
into Ray Wood and the rest is history - and so is this..........
Growing up in a family of rugby fanatics I should never have become a football
supporter, but I've always been a stubborn and awkward bastard so there
should have been no surprise when I became enthralled with the men in red.
Bearing in mind that this was pre Munich and I lived in the Midlands I should
really have supported Wolves, but I didn't. Manchester United were the ones
who embodied the romantic spirit for me. They were young lads who played
football in the way few of us could ever dream of and I wanted to be like
them. It was a time when the players played the game because they loved
it and we watched because we loved them. Manchester United were the team
for me, and what better club to be part of, and who better to look up to
than Matt Busby. My loyalty grew from an early age and has never wavered.
I have since infected my children with the dreaded Red disease and they
have also become imbued with the spirit of Manchester United.
remember a while ago, I was asked to write an article about why I was
a United fan and it was very hard to get past one simple statement - I
was born in Salford! All those who know anything about the local area
around Old Trafford will know that Salford is a Red town, just about as
Red as you can get. When I was a kid, growing up in Salford in the 50's,
there was only one team in Manchester - the Busby Babes. All us kids adored
the Babes, but we also had our personal favourites - mine was Eddie Colman.
My grandparents lived just down the road from Eddie in Ordsall and we
would go over for tea every Saturday when I was little. The afternoon
was often spent in Ordsall Park, hoping to catch a glimpse of Eddie as
he strolled to Old Trafford for the game. I was 10 years old when Eddie
died with the other lads at Munich, and my heart was broken on that grey
February morning when Eddie's coffin left Old Trafford for the last time
to make the short journey home to Archie St. Everything football (and
United) have meant to me since has been defined to some extent by that
In the intervening 42 years, United have hit the highs and plummeted to
the depths. There have been moments of exquisite skill and moments of
high comedy. There have been many celebrations and the occasional heartbreak.
And I have had other heroes - Bobby Charlton in the 60's, Mark Hughes
until a few years ago, and now the wonderful lads who won us the Treble
last season. Through that time, through all the changes in my life, good
and bad, United has always been there. A place to go to forget my troubles
or celebrate my triumphs. A place where I have made friends who will last
a lifetime. But, probably most important, a place where I can remain a
child forever. At football I can sing and dance and cry and scream and
worship my heroes. I don't have to be grown up and sensible. This is a
very precious thing indeed.