Published: 24 Feb 2001
WHO DO YOU HATE
As is becoming a habit these days, I've been doing some thinking following a question someone put to me the other night. I was asked who I "hated" most - City, Liverpool or Leeds.
At the time, I answered the question readily enough - City, no problem. But equally despised, and always will be, is Bolton and their chairman, Nat "cheating bastard" Lofthouse. And as to Liverpool and Leeds, well neither of them even come close! My friend may have been surprised (although we have discussed this before, so he probably wasn't) and as I explained some of my reasoning, I began to think about my background and why I have ended up "hating" those I do.
When I was growing up in Salford in the 50's, Manchester City had very little impact on my life. I actually knew very little of the town of Manchester itself - I knew the City centre, Cheetham Hill and Old Trafford, and we often used to go shopping in King Street in Stretford, before it was buried under the Arndale centre. Sale and Altrincham I also knew well and we used to sometimes take ourselves as far abroad as Warrington or Wigan. But the other side of Manchester - Fallowfield, Moss Side, Hulme - they were places I'd never been and I doubt if I'd even heard of them before I was almost into my teens. As to City fans in Salford - well there must have been a few I suppose, but I never met one! Salford wasn't a divided city like Manchester in those days, Salford was pure Red.
Liverpool, on the other hand, was somewhere I did know. We regularly went to New Brighton for days out and often sailed down the Mersey on one of the pleasure boats, and then would get the ferry across the Mersey into Liverpool itself. We had friends in Liverpool and I remember feeling at home there, it felt very much like Salford, with it's docks and the river - and it's people seemed to have the same concerns as Salford people. Back in those days, Salford and Liverpool were both Lancashire towns who had much in common. And of course, the music of my early teens - Billy Fury, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies - it was as much a Liverpool scene for us, as it was a Manchester one. Leeds, on the other hand, seemed a strange place to me as a little girl. Far away in a dark place called Yorkshire, where people were mean and in-bred (so my Grandad told me, an avid Lancashire cricket fan by the way - nothing much changes!).
The team that we Salford kids hated was Bolton Wanderers. Despite being further away in actual distance than City, on our side of town they were the local rivals - just up the road and in their prime. When the council began the slum clearance programmes in Salford, pulling down the terrace streets around Ellor St., they moved the people out to Little Hulton (then a village in the countryside, only a couple of miles from Burnden Park). This, of course, increased the rivalry as thousands of Salfordians were moved into the vast estates that were beginning to cover the fields, coming into close contact for the first time, with the locals in Farnworth and surrounding areas - massive (ie City-esque) Bolton fans. I didn't know anyone who didn't have a relative (or two) who had been forcibly moved up to Little Hulton, so with the natural hatred of a team that is as good as, or better than yours, was mixed a new ingredient - local rivalry.
So, at the turn of the year in 1958, the only team I could honestly say I "hated" was Bolton Wanderers. Then came Munich, when I was 10 years old. The whole of Manchester and Salford mourned and yes, even the scousers. My Dad had some friends in Liverpool and I can remember going to their house not long after Duncan Edwards died and seeing Dad's friend (a regular at Anfield) with tears running down his cheeks as he talked of the loss of Big Dunc - it's one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. And as I've said before, there was no Red or Blue in Manchester in those sad days. Of course, going to school in Salford I didn't come across many young City fans, but I did come across a few Bolton fans, and to my amazement and shock they actually made jokes about Munich. The only time I met anything but sadness and sympathy in the days immediately following Munich was from a couple of young Bolton fans in my own school playground. A feeling I had never felt before began to foster and to simmer. Then, on a wave of emotion we made it to the Cup Final - to win what should have been "our" Cup, dedicated to the lads who died. But we didn't win it, not because we weren't good enough, but because Nat Lofthouse, of Bolton Wanderers, cheated. From that day to this, I have hated Bolton (and Nat Lofthouse in particular) with a passion unreserved for any other team, to the point where, when Lofthouse walked out on the pitch on Feb 6th a couple of seasons ago, I was almost physically sick. Needless to say, I have enjoyed their demise immensely and have always believed that their fall from the big time was pay-back time for cheating us out of the trophy that was rightfully ours.
As to City, well it took rather longer to begin to feel anything very much for the club across town. I remember disliking them in the 60's, simply because they were better than us (as you do!) but it was the development of the Munich chants and jokes and particularly their increasing use of the term "Munichs" to describe us that flipped that dislike over into hatred. To watch Liverpool or Leeds or Bolton fans doing aeroplane impressions is one thing, to see Manchester people doing it is another thing entirely. It twists a knife in my guts every time I hear Munich chants in a Manchester accent - even sometimes, in a Salford accent these days - although they tend to make sure there are no Salford lads about before being brave enough to do it! For me, it's much much worse to have these sick chants coming from those who shared in the tragedy, from those who should know better. And over the last few years it has just got worse and worse. Whereas I was prepared to accept that it was a minority (if a large one) a few years ago - this is no longer true. This sickness infects the whole of Manchester City FC, from top to bottom. The recent use of the word "Munichs" in their programme illustrated that - I don't believe for a second that it was an oversight, what I do believe is that the term is now so much part of the Bitter psyche that it was seen but not "noticed". As I have said many times before, until Manchester City stop mocking a Manchester tragedy I will continue to hope fervently for their demise, along with Bolton Wanderers.
I suppose I should now don my fire-proof suit! After all, my credentials as a "real" United fan have probably been dealt a severe blow now I've admitted to not putting the scousers at the top of hate list! I'll join in with the abuse of course, and thoroughly enjoy it, but I don't really feel it down in my guts the way I do for Bolton or City. Since I was (am) both a woman and a coward, I never became involved in the fighting that was going on off the pitch in the 70's and 80's, so that intense, and very personal rivalry, was never part of my life. What I do remember about that time is hating them all - not just the "lads" of Liverpool, but the "lads" of Manchester too. They were all much the same to me - violent and nasty and responsible for spoiling football for me - they'd taken somewhere I felt safe and accepted (I don't remember ever feeling unsafe in the packed crowds of the 60's) into somewhere I could no longer go, without risking being hurt. And I still feel that same distaste today, for those who are trying to drag football back into the dark ages. I've little time for those who take their footballing rivalries into their real lives, and drag the rest of us into the shit with them.
So come on - let's hear about your rivalries and hatreds, particularly if they're not what we might expect! Irrational or not, share with us who you really hate the most and why. We won't tell - honest!
© 2001 by Salford Lass & Red Eleven. All rights reserved. Not to be
reproduced without permission of the author
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