www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Fri 31 Dec 1999 01:11 GMT
1. Millenium - Ferguson - gunning for World Club glory.
2. MEN - Most fans priced out - around 200 will make the journey
3. MEN - 12 players on the subs bench but only three can play
4. Barca 99.. Part 1 of 5 by Paul Scully
5. Happy Birthday Sir Matt Pt1- The Journey by OUR SALFORD LASS
6. A Day in the Life - a life in a day part 1 by RED KELLY
MANCHESTER UNITED DAILY NEWS Friday 31st Dec 1999 * NEW YEARS EVE * A New RED MILLENIUM!
A VERY HAPPY RED year from Newsasters Barry Leeming and Bill McArthur.
New Years Eve special MUFC Daily News broken into 2 parts
today THREE of the best stories from 26th May 1999
tomorrow THREE more stories!
A day NO RED will ever forget! Features: re-run stories from
Today *Paul Scully, *Salford Lass & *Red Kelly
Tomorrow *Pete Hargreaves, *PJ Thum & *Barry Leeming
ALL stories can be read at http://www.red11.org/ec
Barnard Andre Berni Li parade on Deansgate
Chris Conlon Ethel Sleith
Mark Roberts Paul O'Farrell
Richard Sroka Sean Hennessey
Schuyler Meeks Steve Pringle
* If you have an article for this MUFC Daily News bulletin
please mail it to Thanks!
Millenium - Ferguson - gunning for World Club glory.
FERGIE GUNS FOR WORLD GLORY
By David Anderson, PA Sport
Sir Alex Ferguson has pledged to go all out for victory in the World Club
Championship in Brazil despite his concerns over the tournament.
The Manchester United boss has repeatedly voiced his fears over what
effects playing in the heat and humidity of Rio de Janeiro will have on his
stars and their quest for silverware.
United fly to South America on Sunday and Ferguson knows their Premiership
title rivals can steal a march on them while they are away for two weeks.
Ferguson, though, will put these worries to one side when he arrives in
Brazil and he insists they will not hold back.
"We all have fears going into a tournament like this because we don't
really know what it's like to play in the heat like this particularly with
four games in 10 days," he said.
"I don't know exactly if it's going to be something we're going to relish.
"But we're not going to let that be a point which will send us to
distraction. We're going to go and do our best. We're going to give it a
shot and we hope we can win.
"I think we've got enough quality and - as you saw against Sunderland -
we've got the character.
"I'm taking 23 players with me because it's not as if you can get them
hopping on a plane at a minute's notice to come over so we need to protect
ourselves from all eventualities.
"I'll change the team round game by game and I'll make my three
substitutions every game. Hopefully that way they can handle it - I just
hope we can keep away from those dreaded injuries."
Ferguson believes a bit of sun will do his players no harm at his stage of
their gruelling season.
He will not be telling his players to top up their tans on the famous
Copacabana or Ipanema beaches, but he does feel the change of climate will
do them good.
"Some of the players will get a bit of sun, which isn't a bad thing," he said.
"We've been up in Sunderland and it would freeze the toes off you. So
there's some merit in going to Brazil and some of them can have a break
"But we do know that the games are going to be difficult."
Ferguson intends to take his strongest squad and his main injury doubt is
The England midfielder missed the 2-2 draw at Sunderland because he
suffered a recurrence of his long-standing hernia problem against Bradford
on Boxing Day and Ferguson will assess his fitness on Friday.
"I don't know if he will be right," said Ferguson. "The players are off now
until Friday so we'll see him then and see how he is.
"It was such a heavy pitch on Sunday that it was bound to take it out of
them and if you've got a hernia problem then playing these kind of fixtures
makes it difficult."
United are also monitoring Denis Irwin's fitness after he picked up a groin
injury at the Stadium of Light.
United begin their Group B campaign against CONCACAF champions Necaxa of
Mexico on January 6 before tackling 1998 South American champions Vasco da
Gama two days later.
Their third game is on January 11 against Oceania champions South Melbourne
and they will play all their matches in Rio's Maracana stadium.
The two group winners will meet in the final on January 14 at the Maracana
after the third place play-off between the two runners-up.
Manchester United will receive around-the-clock military police protection
when they arrive in Brazil for next month's World Club Championship after
fears for players' safety.
Each team in the tournament will receive the same treatment and a minimum
of 300 officers will be in attendance at every game, according to police
chief Marinho, vice-commander of the Second Choque Battalion.
"We will take care of the security with policing in hotels, at training and
at matches," he said.
United supporters have already been warned to be wary of the dangers of Sao
Paulo, which has a murder rate almost 30 times higher than London's.
|Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT|
MEN - Most fans priced out - around 200 will make the journey
Rio's Red invasion on cup adventure
By Stuart Mathieson
A SMALL intrepid unit of the Red Army will fly to Rio to chart Manchester
United’s Brazilian adventure.
The 15-hour trip to South America, which is coming on top of last season’s
wallet-draining excesses in the Champions League, FA Cup and Premiership
has reduced United’s travellers to a handful of die-hards.
It’s anticipated that only around 200 will make the journey over for the
World Club Championship and already the band have been warned by the
British Consul about the potential dangers in Rio.
Some regular travel companies who have ferried United fans all around
Europe in the past have not organised packages because of security and also
potential lack of interest.
The Travel Planners company will take a band of just 25 Reds over to South
America on their £1,149 16-day package.
‘‘United’s away travel this season has been disappointing,’’ says Travel
Planner’s David Dryer.
‘‘It has all become too high profile. The bread and butter of United travel
in recent years has been the Champions League but with UEFA expanding the
competition this season there are just too many games and people can’t
afford to go.
‘‘On top of United’s FA Cup run last year and trips to Milan, Turin and
obviously Barcelona, fans have found it too much expense to go this year.
We haven’t got a trip off the ground this year. The market isn’t there.
‘‘But the small number of fans who’ll go to Brazil will enjoy it because it
is a fabulous country.’’
United We Stand fanzine editor Andy Mitten is a veteran worldwide traveller
following the Reds.
Having endured various routes across the continent catching up with United
in European competition, Mitten will fly to Rio on a package.
‘‘I think the vast majority of fans are on all-inclusive tours. Fans will
have to have their wits about them in Brazil and be a bit streetwise.’’
|Click On pic - for all latest pics from OT|
MEN - 12 players on the subs bench but only three can play
Fergie to rotate Reds in Rio
By Stuart Mathieson
SIR Alex Ferguson has drawn up his initial plans for Brazil and the
Manchester United boss intends to mix and match in Rio.
With temperatures in United’s centre for FIFA’s World Club Championship set
to be in excess of 100 degrees Fergie’s strategy will be to use his full
23-man squad in the three opening group matches in six days in South America.
All teams can have 12 players stripped for action on the subs’ bench but
only three can play.
‘‘I’ll be changing my team around game by game and will be using the full
quota of three substitutes in every game and hopefully we can handle it,’’
says the United boss.
The Reds fly to Rio De Janeiro on Sunday morning with a doubt still
hovering over Paul Scholes. The Reds’ will make a decision on the
midfielder’s hernia problem tomorrow.
FIFA have said changes can be made to the squad list in exceptional cases
and United will have to sweat on their ruling if Scholes is unfit to travel.
Fergie takes his World Champions to Brazil to confirm their status as the
best club side on the planet with a little trepidation.
‘‘I don’t know exactly if this is something we are going to relish or what
because it is going to be very, very warm,’’ he says.
‘‘But we are going to give it a shot and we hope we can win it. We have
enough quality and the character.
‘‘I am taking the full 23 players with me because it is not as if you can
get someone hopping on the plane at a minutes’ notice to come over in an
emergency. So we need to protect ourselves against any eventualities.
‘‘For some they’ll get a bit of sun which is not a bad thing at this time
of year. So there is some merit in going to Brazil. They’ll get a little
bit of a break in that way but the games are going to be very, very difficult.
‘‘You all have fears about tournaments like this because we don’t know what
it is like to play in heat like it will be in Brazil particularly four
games in 10 days.
‘‘But we are not going to let that be a point which is going to send us to
distraction. We’ll go an do our best.’’
Fergie is taking a full strength senior squad over to South America with
youngsters Danny Higginbotham, Ronny Wallwork, Quinton Fortune and Jonathan
Greening also making the trip. The Reds’ three ’keepers Mark Bosnich,
Massimo Taibi and Raimond Van Der Gouw are all travelling.
United open their World Club Championship campaign against Mexican outfit
Rayos Del Necaxa a week today.
They’ll have a day’s rest before the fiercest test of their group against
Brazilian side Vasco Da Gama in the Maracana Stadium. Three days later
they’ll be in action in the final group game against Australian outsiders
The top two sides from the groups contest the final in Rio on January 14
and the third and fourth place match will be held in the Maracana on the
When United arrive in Brazil late on Sunday they will be under 24-hour
protection from military police. There have been major concerns about the
risk of kidnaps. A police spokesman in Rio said: "There will be security in
hotels, training and at matches."
Three hundred police will be present at every match during the two-week
To Worldwide Manchester REDS Happy RED 2000!
1999 'The Triple'
|Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT|
Barca 99.. Part 1 of 5 by Paul Scully
Part I - Majorca
After the victory against Juventus in the semi-finals, a series of
quick phone calls ensured our party was booked on various flights from
Gatwick and Manchester for a weeks holiday in Majorca. In between this
a ferry would provide our passage to Barcelona on the Tuesday, giving
us two days to enjoy the atmosphere of the red army in one of Europe's
fine cities. Unlike all other Euro Aways I had ever been on, this time
I was ticketless. I was not alone though, as United could undoubtedly
have filled the entire stadium on their own. Still, everyone was as
determined and as confident as I was of getting into the Nou Camp, plus
there was the usual rumours flying around about them having to let us
in because there was so many of us, which kind of defied logic but it
was a hope to cling to.
I was travelling to Majorca with Kerry Davies, leaving Gatwick on the
Sunday evening after the FA Cup Final. I had spoken with him that
morning and he had informed me that he had met someone with 4 spare
tickets at the Cup Final the previous day and would try and get them
off him before we left. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a blind
alley and so my last hope of going to Spain with a ticket vanished as
we entered the International Departure Lounge at Gatwick and headed for
the nearest bar. In between deciding which lucky girls were going to be
the recipients of his hyperactive hormones in Spain, Kerry informed me
that he had been give a ticket for nothing by some guy he met at a
dinner 3 days previous. I knew then that if anyone was going to get the
remainder of the luck on this holiday it surely had to be me.
The flight to Palma was as good as a package tour can be, with plenty
of reds ensuring that the stewardesses were kept more than occupied.
Kerry adopted his usual stance of sleeping with his mouth open for the
entire trip, missing the sizeably challenged Chicken Kiev and various
other Airtours delicacies. These were ultimately shared among a few
fellow reds, though I would have ate more myself if I hadn't stuffed
myself with Omelette and mashed potatoes in the departure lounge.
Arrival at Palma meant sweatshirts off and T-shirts on, as the heat was
evident even at 1am in the morning. We had arranged a get-together at
2am in Banana's nightclub in Magaluf, with Barney, Steve and a few
other London based reds. Before we could make our way there though we
had to go to our hotel in the neighbouring resort of Palma Nova, whilst
we checked into the room and dumped the bags. Despite being the first
out of baggage reclaim, we were told to sit down, where we found
ourselves still sitting until virtually everybody had left for their
hotels. The only other people remaining were 2 girls who were on our
flight and a couple of Airtours reps. After numerous attempts to find
out what was going on, the Airtours reps eventually bunged us and the
girls into a taxi outside and sent us off to our hotel. Like all good
taxi drivers do, our Spanish driver got lost and had to ask some
English lads where he was. By sheer fortune, they were staying at the
same hotel and so volunteered themselves for a lift home too, informing
us in the process that we'd love it here if we liked noise - little did
they know it would soon be taken over by reds.
By this time we had already found out that the Manchester flight which
was due in 3 hours before ours had been delayed in Manchester for 6
hours. Kerry found this hilariously funny as Ed, Rob and Jason were
aboard and would therefore not even arrive at the hotel for another 3
hours. After freshening up, we set off for Magaluf and Banana's, which
we eventually found after a few detours, whilst fending off around 20
young girls trying to drag us into various other bars. We found the
guys with relative ease considering the number of people in Banana's
and spent the next 4-5 hours in here, dancing, watching people fall
down mountains on a giant video screen and drinking copious amounts of
Vodka and Orange, with Vodka measures by the half glass, which probably
accounted for my rather inebriated state. I really couldn't figure out
where the time had gone as we started our walk back to the hotel, but
the sunrise was well under way and the sea was glistening over a
beautifully sandy beach. I think we eventually got to sleep at around
7am, though I had a feeling that it wouldn't be for very long.
The first thing I remember about the next part of Monday morning was a
thundering bang on the door at about 11am, which by virtue of being the
elder, I made Kerry answer. I lay comatose as I listened to Jason
complain about his flight and the fact that he had forgotten to pack
any bells. With little chance of sleeping now that the rest of the gang
had arrived and with some sort of introduction about to take place by
the rep, I wearily gathered myself together and joined the rest
downstairs. As I was out of bed early enough, I was blessed with being
able to order an English breakfast from the bar, though for a while I
wasn't sure as to whether I had ordered it for the following day rather
than the current one - still all good things come to those who wait and
so it transpired did my nosh.
Feeling slightly better from a good old bit of English nourishment, we
gathered together our Factor 16's, slipped into some slinky shorts and
made our way towards the beach, with the compulsory purchase of a
football being made on the way. To say we pissed off everybody in the
immediate vicinity of our beach penalty area, would be slightly unfair,
but I did notice a few uneasy glares as the posts were erected, the
shirts came off and the Cantona style, flying bicycle kicks were
attempted. The only real worrying moment came when Rob palmed a
thunderous shot over the bar and into the lap of a local sun
worshipper. This brought about childish laughter from the rest of us as
he went to retrieve the ball from under the frown of our bronze chested
amigo. It would have been more interesting though, had the ball landed
2 yards to the right, as it would surely have lodged itself between the
finest pair of breasts on the entire beach. The football came to an
abrupt end when Ed's toenail fell off which I'm sure relieved a lot of
punters, not least Jason, who was sweating buckets with all the running
around. After a quick dip we went back to the hotel for an afternoon
siesta to catch up on missed sleep and re-charge the batteries for the
Airtours organised pub crawl that evening.
The pub crawl was around Magaluf that evening and started in a bar
called Poco Loco's where we met up with all the rest of the Airtours
hotels. Our party had grown to about 8 reds sat in the corner by now
and whereas most people in there were there for a holiday, we were
totally thinking about the Nou Camp and the European Cup Final and
getting a few songs going. The reps became exceedingly irritating with
their attempts at getting us to stand up and wave our hands in the air
and I think they soon got the message that we were there for the
football and not to play their silly games. The two girls from the taxi
the previous night joined us for a chat and Kerry felt he was onto a
winner when he found out that one of them was also called Kerry,
especially as he found her more attractive with every drink.
It was after we left Poco's that the first United songs got their
airing. We sang all the way to the next bar, starting off with 'Yip Yap
Stam…' then moving onto the more conventional 'United…, United…' These
continued as we travelled between the bars and clubs getting more and
more pissed, but also aware of the fact that we had to get up at 6am in
the morning to travel to the port in Palma where we were getting the
7.30am ferry to Barcelona. As we moved on towards the last group stop
at Banana's we held a mammoth rendition of 'We shall not be moved'
which also became very popular with other reds who were passing us,
resulting in a whole crowd gathering together and screaming out 'We are
the team that's gonna win the fuckin lot…We shall not be moved'. It was
at this point that I noticed the head rep (a scouser) having a go at Ed
and telling him to keep quiet. Whilst Ed was protesting his innocence,
the rep walked into a bench which I found rather amusing and was
promptly told, 'And you, don't laugh at me'. I thought he was taking
the piss at first but upon realising he was serious, I threw back my
own torrent of words informing him that I would laugh at whatever the
fuck I liked. Kerry then came into the argument along with myself, Ed
and a couple more guys and we were plainly informed that we would not
get into the club. Upon protesting to another rep, we were told to just
go straight in. As we were walking in quietly and peacefully out jumped
the scouse bastard rep again to turn us away. It was at this point that
the argument began to get rather heated and we were ultimately told to
get our stuff and clear the hotel as we started to draw attention from
the street. Had we not been a day away from the European Cup Final and
needed the beds in our hotel for accommodation for the 4 days after we
came back, the guy would have been in serious danger of being lamped,
but as it was, sense prevailed with thoughts of Barcelona and we
retreated with a few choice words. We cooled off slightly in another
bar where we got 2 bottles of Budweiser and a glass of so called
champagne each for a quid.
It was now 2am and Kerry, Rob and Ed were keen to continue whilst
myself, and the others went back to the hotel with Jason in a fret
about his ticket as it was in the hotel safe. I went into the hotel bar
where I chatted to yet more Mancs who had just arrived. A few were
without tickets, but still supremely confident of getting in. At
2.30am, things had quietened down in the bar and so I decided to get my
head down for the next 3-4 hours and pray that my alarm went off. I
think it was about 4am that I was woken up by the sound of the '12 days
of Cantona' echoing around the bar on the floor below. Apparently,
Kerry and the guys had come back, got out the huge flag from Ed's room
and joined in with all the other newly arrived reds who had by now,
downed quite a few beers and were singing on the tables. I thought
about going down, but sat up, decided I was feeling extremely rough and
fell back into my pillow. I was woken again at 5am as Kerry bashed on
the door to be let in. As I opened it, the look or lack of it on his
face told a thousand tales. I thought for one horrible moment that he
was going to chunder as he staggered around the room barely able to
stand up or talk. Fortunately, he dropped onto his bed and was out like
a light. An hour later my alarm went off, which I immediately turned
off. I struggled to get up, but the thought of missing the ferry forced
me to drag myself out of bed at 6.05am. It took me a full 10 minutes to
wake Kerry. After kicking him and bawling down his earhole to no avail,
I lost patience and threatened the user of water. This managed to stir
him, though the state he was in was absolutely appalling. Still he
managed to get a small bag together and we went down to find the others
at around 6.25am. With no sign, it wasn't such a surprise that they
hadn't even woken up yet. Kerry ran up to Ed's room and almost broke
the door down as he attempted to wake them. With eventual success we
went to order taxis where I found Alan and Paula who had arrived in the
middle of the previous nights melee. As everyone was now up but arseing
around getting things together, I jumped into Alan's cab and but for a
brief moment when we thought the driver was taking us to the airport,
everything went smoothly and we reached the ferry check-in office at
Kerry arrived at the check in not long after with Jason, who was in a
fret yet again about missing the ferry, but there was no sign of Ed or
Rob. After checking in we had a brief moment to get some food at which
point Ed and Rob appeared in a taxi informing us that Ed had apparently
chundered on Palma Nova sea front whilst running to catch a cab. Things
seemed to be going smoothly at last, until Kerry came into the canteen
searching for a dustpan and brush to clean up his broken glass. Not
content with enough early morning drama, Ed then boarded the wrong
ferry after becoming separated from the rest of us and it wasn't until
we were all actually seated on the ferry that I was secure in the
knowledge that we were actually going to Barcelona. Kerry though, was
totally unaware that he was on any kind of sea worthy craft going to
anywhere at that particular time, as he began to inform everyone in the
immediate vicinity of his sexual preferences, as well as informing a
few Germans on board of the uselessness of their journey. Alan, who was
sat two rows behind with Paula, grinned and quietly buried his face
beneath his cap. With the ferry not quite up to capacity, it wasn't
long before we spread our wings and found our own small row of seats to
lie across for the remainder of the journey. '
Part II Tuesday in Barcelona
I woke up not far from Barcelona after what was probably an unexciting
journey, apart from the dolphins (so I was told), to watch the monitors
and their poncy graphic display of our port entrance. After what seemed
an eternity, we disembarked and walked the short distance to the statue
at the bottom of the Ramblas where our search for Kerry and Alan's
hostels would begin. Alan found his with relative ease and we continued
up the Ramblas, sweating buckets, before finally giving in and heading
to the nearest eatery for a chilled drink and some food. I came back
from the toilet to find 4 suffering heads lay face down on the table,
though they soon perked up after a sound meal and another round of ice
With unequalled mastery, we managed to bollocks up any attempt at
jibbing into Kerry's hostel after we walked inside looking for a room
for five, only to be told that it was completely full. We only noticed
that it was Kerry's hostel after we walked back outside and decided to
look for it. That quickly put a grin on Kerry's face as he went back in
and left the rest of us to go and look for other accommodation. Whilst
looking for tourist information, we walked to the position where it was
meant to be on our map, only to find a sign directing us all the way
back to Catalunya Square, our original position. It had been a wasted
excursion anyway, as we were immediately informed that there wasn't a
single bed left in Barcelona nor within a 50 mile radius of the city.
After considering every option under the sun, the rest of the guys
decided to hire a car and drive out of the city. I didn't want to miss
the Tuesday night piss up in Barcelona and so decided to take my
chances and look around for accommodation.
I went back to Kerry's hostel in the hope that I would be able to leave
my bag. The owner called his room, but after no answer, let me in to go
up and see if he was there. After making enough noise to wake up the
entire neighbourhood, Kerry finally came to the door and wearily
informed me I could have the other bed if I required as it was going
to be unused. It didn't take long to get my head on that pillow and so
I slept for the next few hours until I was awoken with a phone call
from Mick Meade, which brought us out of our slumber and persuaded us
to get out on the town. As steak had been the preferred choice of most
of the meals that week already, we stuck with well known territory and
lined our stomachs for the evening ahead. A series of phone calls meant
we would be meeting up with people in the Robin Hood pub at around
10pm. With plenty of time to get there we rambled around a few of the
small cobbled streets, supping a beer outside any bar which looked
desirable, whilst watching people playing with fire and juggle balls
around. As we finally made our way back onto The Ramblas again, I
somehow found Alan among the hordes of reds lined all the way down,
singing their hearts out. What a transformation from November I
thought, when a swift baton met with the head of anyone found singing
outside the bars here. Still, we stayed around to soak up a bit of
atmosphere then went to the Robin Hood for another beer.
I bumped into Richard, Gordon and Sean whilst Kerry went to get the
drinks. Someone else, although I can't remember who, informed me that
Barry Leeming might have a spare ticket. That was enough to get me on
the phone to Barry, though from what he told me, he was travelling
around some mountain road at the time and so I made the call short as I
didn't want to be blamed for any unwanted excursions. Besides, he too
was still looking for tickets for friends and so that was another
avenue gone. After a few hours in the Robin Hood, myself, Richard,
Kerry, Sean, Gordon and a few others went over to check out the
clublife in the port area. We visited our old haunt Maremagnums, where
we danced away a few hours to all sorts of stuff from 'James' to some
Spanish ditty called 'Follow the Leader' and brought the house down
with a drunken red version of 'We are the Champions' each time it was
played. We also had some free drink tickets to the bar next door and so
went there where we spent most of the time watching Sean attempting to
dance with a local. We had a good night, a good piss-up and from what I
can remember, Richard didn't fall asleep this time. I have no idea what
time we left or how we got back, I just remember getting in the hostel
and having a bad case of the munchies. As Kerry went straight to bed, I
went back out on a rather unsuccessful search for food. This ended up
with me buying a Mars bar off a bloke selling newspapers and having
some kind of discussion about football, before I sauntered off back to
the hostel, still desperately hungry, but in need of a good sleep.
Part III Wednesday Daytime
Wednesday morning I awoke to more bright sunshine and visitors, as we
were informed that we would have to move to the room next door as
someone else was moving into our room. Still, I didn't complain as the
room next door had 3 beds, allowing us an extra person that evening. I
also had a bit of a hangover and realised that my promise to go to the
stadium early (where the latest rumour was that 10,000 tickets were
being sold on the day), was going to be broken. I wasn't too
disappointed as I've heard enough Euro Away rumours to know that they
are precisely that and nothing else and so I went out for breakfast
around the corner and tried to decide what to do. Kerry was going to
the Sports Bar to meet Barney and the rest of the gang so I nipped into
the Hard Rock Café to say a quick 'Hello' to Barry, Alan, Richard, Bill
and Paul among others. I decided to take Barry's advice and left rather
quickly to go to the stadium in search of a ticket. The cheapest I had
been offered so far was 200 quid but I only had 170 in my pocket and so
was hoping to get lucky with one for about 150. I got to the ground at
around 1pm and was shocked to see the number of people looking for
tickets. Not only that, they were all outside of my price range.
Thinking that a jib might have to be on the cards, I decided to have a
closer look at the stadium, only to be stopped by the police before I
got within 200 yards. Whether I looked incredibly sincere or whether
they were incredibly stupid, I don't know, but they believed my story
that I was there to pick up a ticket off one of the players and let me
past the blockade. With a large fence surrounding the stadium in front
of me and some evil looking security on the main entrance, I decided
that I wasn't going to attempt to get any further just yet and so
picked up a programme and a Manchester Evening News - Barcelona Edition
instead. I left for the Metro in the hope that the ticket prices might
go down nearer kick off time.
I joined everyone else back at the Sports bar and we spent a few
hours milling around, eating, drinking, and for myself, worrying about
not getting in to see the game of my life. I couldn't really wait to
get on the Metro to the ground quick enough. I just wish that I had a
ticket in my pocket so that I could have relaxed and enjoyed the build
up and atmosphere a little more. We somehow managed to lose Kerry, Ed,
Rob and some others on the way to the stadium and such was the enormity
of reds getting off, I somehow lost Barney and everyone else in my dash
to get away. As I was so desperate to get a ticket though, I didn't
really want to wait around and so carried on out of the exit.
As I left the metro, I was approached by a guy selling fakes for 30
quid which I turned down as I wanted the real thing, however as I got
nearer to the stadium, the huge build up of people and the lack of
tickets available made me think that maybe I should buy a fake and take
my chances. I ran back, but the guy had gone and it now began to hit me
how difficult it was going to be to get into the stadium. I reached as
close as I could before I found a barricade of police vans and masses
of reds blocking my route. I decided to climb on top of an adjacent
wall to get a good look at the surroundings and decipher a plan of
action. I noticed that a preliminary check was being made on tickets
at a blockade just behind the vans - it was getting late now so I knew
I had to go and get past this first hurdle. As I got there, I stood
aside for a moment and watched the process of checking each ticket. The
police were not being very thorough and they had one copper on either
side with one slightly behind. I waited for a push and dived in the
middle opening my wallet as I went through the middle of the first two
coppers and headed for the central one stood slightly behind. As I
reached him, I closed my wallet to imply that I had already shown my
ticket, then walked straight through without so much as a word, easy I
thought. It wasn't until I had reached the entry gates in front of the
stadium that I realised the enormity of the task I faced in getting in.
As I stood and watched, I saw reds being dragged away from the
turnstiles and thrown to the floor because they were deemed to have
fakes, even though some insisted they had bought them from the club. I
met some guys who had paid 300 quid each for what turned out to be
fakes and I met Mancs, like myself, many of whom had been going to Old
Trafford regularly since they were kids, but who could simply not get
tickets. Everyone was pleading their case to anyone who would listen
and this was of course generating a lot of tension outside the stadium.
The total disorganisation, as is found at most European Aways, was
becoming increasingly evident. I knew there was absolutely no chance
that I would get through the gates as it was obvious that the police
were extremely alert. I withdrew to a grassy mound behind and
considered my options. I either went back to the Sports bar now and
watched it on TV or made an effort to get in. There was no choice
really, this was the opportunity of a lifetime and so I dragged myself
up and told myself I had to try, even if I had to wait to the very last
minute and scale the fence. I went back and cheered as one red
attempted this only to be captured on the other side - so much for my
plan I thought. As a van came toward the fence, the police opened up a
huge gate to let it through, which gave many people, myself included,
the idea of storming it if they opened it again. I walked up and stood
at the gate as they put a steel chain back around it. There was a lot
of Mancs around and I sensed that something was going to happen sooner
or later as people were looking at one another and waiting for the cops
to go away. It wasn't until about ten minutes later that I heard a
shout of 'Lets go United' go up just in front of me. Before I could
move, I looked up to see the huge fence gate being pulled back and
forth by about 20-30 reds. Within seconds, it flew up open and I took
my chance along with about 100+ other reds who managed to get through
before the police stormed over and secured it once more. A few who
reached the inner turnstiles first, ran straight in and seemed to
disappear into the stadium, however the police reacted quickly,
blocking off the route to the inner turnstiles and taking their baton
to anyone seen running. The fact that I wore shorts and was running
whilst holding my wallet and camera in my pockets never helped my cause
and so I stopped and waited for the furore to die down, after all I
thought I was in now. It wasn't until I walked up to an entrance and
noticed that they had a steward on every door scanning bar codes on
tickets that disappointment hit yet again. Just, how many bloody times
do I have to get into this stadium I thought. Not only this but there
was an extra steward stood behind every three or so turnstiles just in
case anyone did attempt to run it. I looked at my watch, it was 8.15pm,
giving me half an hour to find a way to get in. If I didn't, I knew the
police would want to know how I had got this far. I gathered with
around 10 others and we attempted to rush one of the gates. This was a
complete failure as there just wasn't enough room for more than two
people to get inside the turnstile and so I retreated and considered
some options on my own. The police were walking around the inner ground
area watching peoples movements and so I knew it was important to keep
on the move and not look as though I didn't have a ticket. Several
times I had to pretend to use a mobile phone to look as if I was doing
something, whilst really I was looking for a way in. With ten minutes
to go to Kick Off and desperation kicking in, I was finally given the
lifeline I was looking for. Somebody passed a ticket back through a
hole in the fence in an attempt to get his mate to use the same ticket.
None of us could believe it as it was scanned for a second time and he
was actually let through. The word soon spread and reds were scrambling
outside asking people to pass tickets back through for them, promising
them that they would return them as soon as they got inside. I asked
many people who turned me down, which I can understand to a point as
they probably didn't have the nerve to roll up a ticket and pass it
back through a fence, but at the time all I could think was that this
was the European Cup Final and these bastards wouldn't help a fellow
red in. One of the stewards recognised what was happening and called
the police over. Everyone quickly retreated, though the copper
obviously said he was busy at the outer turnstiles and could do nothing
here. It was just approaching Kick Off time when a guy in front of me
got someone to pass a ticket back through for him. He told me not to go
away and promised me he would sort me out when he got inside. I never
knew this guy or ever saw him again but I will be forever grateful for
what he did. He could have run straight into the stadium where the game
was now kicking off, but instead he chose to wait around until a
suitable time when no-one was looking, at which point he passed a match
ticket into my hand for the first time. I took a deep breath and joined
another queue. I handed the ticket over apprehensively and waited for
what seemed an eternity while it was scanned. The steward looked at me,
then handed the ticket back and let me through. My heart leapt with joy
and relief. I looked around for my saviour, but he had vanished as
quickly as he had appeared leaving me with a 40 pound ticket in my hand
as well. I ran as fast as I could into the first entrance I found, just
in case anybody changed their mind about letting me in. As I reached
the top step, I stood and gasped at the awe inspiring view of a
capacity Nou Camp, my hands still shaking as I came to terms with
actually being inside. The view was nothing more than excellent, half
way up the second tier at ground level. There was a large congregation
around the entrances, mostly people who got in for nothing, so I just
forced myself onto the end of a row and was half stood on top of a
chair, bunched up like the old days of the Stretford End.
Barca 99 Wednesday Night
The game had only just got under way and the atmosphere around me was
electric. I had to keep pinching myself as I joined in with the
singing. As I looked around the stadium, I was dazzled by the intensely
colourful stands and the radiant green playing surface, I felt like
Alice entering Wonderland. Within seconds though, a barrage of noise
went up around me as the Germans were awarded a free kick on the edge
of the area. I was brought back to reality and watched nervously, the
same way I had in the very same stadium against Barcelona the previous
November. The wall, yet again, never really looked secure and to my
utter dismay, the outcome was the same as when Romario had placed the
ball in the opposite corner 7 months earlier. The Germans suddenly came
alive and yet again as had happened so many times before, we had given
away the early goal. The only consolation was that this type of
scenario usually ensures that the team wakes up and begins to play with
the style that befits them for the remainder of the game. The rest of
the first half though was stifled by the Germans. We attacked, without
really getting anywhere or creating any clear cut chances and they were
quite happy to let us have possession and wait for a break. With the
game still in the first half, we weren't really going to take too many
risks, and so a stalemate ensued for the remainder of the 45 minutes.
In the stands, we were having none of that as we sang our hearts out in
the belief that the equaliser would only be a matter of time. As the
half time whistle went, I was still extremely confident that we would
win this game. The break gave me a chance to finally soak up the
atmosphere and I tried to figure out just how I had made it inside. All
the worry and uncertainty of the previous few days had gone, I had
actually made it and it hadn't cost me a penny.
As the players came out for the second half, I was quite dismayed to
see Blomqvist still on the pitch as I thought he had played well below
par in the first half, it could only be a matter of time before he did
come off though. The expectancy was high now, this was what I
personally had waited 21 years for, since I first recalled United
playing in Europe. My heart started to beat a little faster as the game
restarted and I took a deep breath as I hoped and prayed we would come
good. The game seemed to be going that little bit faster now and we
were still doing no better than we had done in the first half. Many
fans around me were starting to get nervous and it was difficult to
keep the songs going. I had a big, bald headed guy in front of me
taking up half my space and so I was virtually stood on a chair and
crushed between various other people near the exit. Blomqvist had us
all with our hands raised momentarily as he latched onto a cross in the
6 yard area only for it to loop agonisingly over the top. The cries of
'Oh Teddy Teddy' were ringing around the stands and Fergie duly obliged
by replacing Blomqvist with around 20 minutes to go. The substitution
opened up the game a little more, as the team reverted to a 4-3-3
formation, though as we attacked, gaps were left at the back for the
Germans to exploit. Twice they hit the woodwork, one a delightful chip
over Schmeichel and the second a thunderous overhead kick against the
crossbar. As the second one hit the crossbar and we managed to clear,
we all just shook our heads and the guy next to me turned and said 'I
wouldn't be surprised it we went onto bloody win this now', though
everyone else was a little less optimistic as another German attack
seemed to part the red sea and it was left to Schmeichel to palm an
explosive shot around the post. We did have our chances though, though
no-one could really seem to get a proper shot on goal. I can't really
remember the order of things, but somewhere in the melee of attacks
from both sides, Solksjaer replaced Cole with 10 minutes to go and
immediately had a header saved at the near post from a Beckham corner.
As we entered the last five minutes of normal time, we stepped up the
pressure and there was a succession of chances with Yorke miscuing, a
wonderful move culminating in a cross from Butt into a 6 yard box with
no-one there, another Solksjaer header and a weak shot from Yorke as
the ball fell slightly behind him. Each chance was greeted with utter
disbelief as we put our hands on our heads and looked at each other in
dismay. As the 90 minute mark came up on the scoreboard, my heart sank.
I really did think that it was not going to be our year and I steeled
myself for the disappointment of the final whistle, telling myself that
we would come back again another day, but realising that maybe this
could have been our greatest achievement ever. I distinctly remember,
as the last few minutes ticked away, standing in unison singing
'Forever and ever' over and over again, with all those around me. It
was our way of letting the players know we appreciated their efforts
and we would follow them forever no matter what.
As I watched, the ball was knocked out of the German area and chased
by Beckham, who had fought for everything. He dummied to go left and
swerved right outfoxing his German marker and playing the ball out to
Irwin(?) on the left. The attempted cross was charged out for a corner
leaving Beckham to run over and take it. One last chance I thought, as
I held my fist to my mouth and said 'Please' over and over again. As
the corner was taken, Schmeichel came running upfield and it looked for
a moment that he was going to run in and meet it full on. A challenge
by a defender saw it just glance the side of his head before running
behind and falling to Yorke. Yorke miscontrolled, letting it fall to
another defender and Schmeichel turned to run back to goal as the ball
was about to be cleared. The clearance though, was sliced across the
edge of the box to Giggs who turned and quickly hit it right footed.
With mouth open, I took a step forward and half raised my hands, as I
watched the ball run through to Sheringham. I felt like I was watching
a pinball machine and Sheringham was just about to trigger the extra
ball as he stuck out his boot. I could scarcely believe it though, when
I saw it hit the back of the net. For a split second, I stopped as I
saw a stream of German hands raised and I looked at the linesman and
referee, just waiting for it to be disallowed. The referee also seemed
to wait as he too looked at his linesman, until he pointed to the
centre circle for a goal and I knew we had done it. I jumped up and
grabbed the guy next to me and we were just screaming and shouting at
each other as about ten others jumped around on top of us. To my right
two large red flares were let off and I was shaking with joy as I took
deep breaths and bent over with my fists clenched shouting 'YES,
YES!!!'. We were finally back in the game and I stood together with the
guys around me as we launched into a chorus of 'We shall not, we shall
not be moved'. The Germans looked distraught as they were restarting
the game, but I followed the ball with trepidation as it was played
into our half, biting my nails just praying for the final whistle to
go. As soon as the ball neared a United player the cries of 'Clear It',
went up all around me. The ball was duly launched upfield and Solksjaer
latched onto it. Hold it, I thought as he attempted to put in a cross,
but thankfully we gained a corner instead. This, I thought would see us
to the end of the game, allowing me to stop shaking from the equalising
goal. As Beckham put his cross in, time seemed to slow down as
Sheringham rose toward it. I didn't have a clue what happened next. I
just saw the German net bulge and the ball drop to the floor inside it.
At this point, all time seemed to stop around me while I tried to take
in the enormity of what I was seeing. I looked at the linesman and the
referee, but everything felt so surreal, how could we have scored
again? It was probably only milliseconds but it just seemed to take an
age for my eyes to make my brain understand what it was seeing. Things
like this don't even happen in the wildest of dreams. Then it hit me
like a tidal wave of pure unbridled emotion. I screamed out
'YESSSSSSS!!!', as I jumped on the guy in front of me and we were
holding each others heads screaming at one another face to face, about
3 inches apart. I turned to the guy to my right as people began to fall
all over the place and he just screamed at me, 'We've only gone and
fucking done it!!!!!'. Even the Spanish steward was going wild and I
lost count of the number of people I hugged. We turned to look at the
pitch just to make sure it was real and I saw a sight I have never ever
seen before on a football pitch. Someone shouted out, 'They won't
re-start the game' and unbelievably it was true. At least eight of the
Bayern players were just sat in the area, some against the post, others
face down - they had given up already, they no longer wanted to play
on. It took the effort of the referee to go around and pull them to
their feet before the game was re-started. Needless to say, it didn't
last long, and the cheers that went up when that whistle went were just
unreal. I could not take in the feelings I had inside of me. My head
was telling me it wasn't real, that I should wake up, but my body was
celebrating wildly. Manchester United were Champions of Europe.
The presentation and the ensuing celebrations was just a wonderful
experience. The players were just as ecstatic as the fans, dancing and
singing their way around the stadium. Everyone was on a natural high,
grinning from ear to ear, singing along with whatever the PA was
belting out. In the excitement, I re-wound my camera by mistake, but I
didn't care, I just wanted to see that trophy lifted. I tried to feel
sorry for Bayern, but I couldn't as we sang the old favourite, 'Always
look on the bright side of life'. The United players were led up to
collect the trophy by Schmeichel, who probably just wanted to make sure
he got his medal after the farcical Cup Winners Cup final presentation
a week earlier. As the trophy was lifted, thousands of flashes lit up
every corner of the stadium and I just stood and cheered with a tear of
complete and utter joy in my eye. It was a moment I would treasure
The celebrations continued around every corner of the stadium and the
players just didn't want to leave the field. The sky was lit up by
dazzling flashes wherever the trophy went and the music just went on
and on, everybody joining in with whatever they could. As the players
settled in front of the main United contingent they all took turns to
go up and lift the trophy in front of the crowd, each in their own
special way. There was only one person missing though and we all knew
who we wanted, as we chanted, 'We want Keane, We want Keane, We want
Keane'. It took a while, but he was finally persuaded to come back out
to the pitch along with Scholes and re-join the celebrations. The whole
team made an archway for them to walk under, after which Keane and then
Scholes raised the trophy above their heads. They may not have played a
part that night but we wanted them to know that they had played their
part as much as anyone else had that season and it was fitting to end
the night with the club captain raising the trophy in front of us. By
this time, the team had been out for the best part of 45 minutes after
the game had finished and as they left the field so did I, hoping to
find the others in the Sports Bar in Catalunya Square.
I walked out of the ground and my head was just buzzing, as I tried to
recall Solkjaers goal again and again. For the life of me, all I could
remember was a foot sticking out and the net bulging. I had pure
adrenaline running through my veins and think I tried to ring various
people though I couldn't get my phone working - well I could barely
press a key in the right order as it happened. I reached the tube to
find a huge queue, though luckily, I already had a tube ticket from the
ten Kerry and I had bought the previous day. The guy at the entrance
eventually gave up as a crush was building and decided to let us all
through. This didn't help much though as the train broke down half way
and so I ended up walking the remainder of the way to The Ramblas.
By the time I reached The Ramblas, hunger had got the better of me and
I made a decision which I was to regret for the rest of the holiday. I
went into one of the baguette shops to get something to line my stomach
for the walk over to the Sports Bar. It was quite packed inside with a
lot of United fans feeling the same way as me. I ordered and paid,
unfortunately putting my wallet back into my shorts pocket whilst
waiting for my change. As I went to grab my wallet to put my change
away I suddenly realised it was no longer there. I looked around the
floor before remembering that some Spanish kid had been stood next to
me a minute previously, which was confirmed by other people around me.
I went outside and was shouted back for my baguette. I went back and
quickly grabbed it asking around if anyone saw what the kid was like,
but no-one could remember - one Spanish kid looks like the next I
thought to myself. I walked outside and there was just masses of people
everywhere, mainly United fans singing their hearts out - that was it,
my wallet had gone. It was only as I walked to the Sports Bar that the
full extent of it finally began to hit me. I had just lost 170 quid in
Peseta's, along with credit cards and a gym card, which I didn't like
that much anyway. I reached that Sports Bar and broke the news to
everyone else that I had just lost my wallet, though I felt as if I was
still trying to get it through to myself at the same time. It also
suddenly dawned on me that I had no money to get drinks or to go
clubbing. I sat outside the Sports Bar with Kerry, Rob and Ed trying to
think up a plan of action before deciding to go back to the hotel to
call my girlfriend in England so that she could cancel my credit card.
I still had a credit card back in Majorca and 20 pounds in English
currency but none of that was any good to me whilst I was stone cold
sober in Barcelona at 1.30am. Kev came back to the hotel shortly
afterwards and as I was emotionally and physically exhausted, I decided
to call it a night and get some sleep, rather than go searching for the
guys. I didn't have much chance of this though, as we got into a rather
long discussion about the match, as well as more philosophical issues,
like whether we would still go on Euro Aways, now that we had achieved
the ultimate in club football and satisfied our personal ambitions.
Thus, the night for which I had planned the biggest celebration of all,
turned into a sober discussion to the background of United songs coming
from The Ramblas. I eventually fell asleep, though I was woken an hour
later by Kerry and the guys who took up various positions around the
floor. Unfortunately Jason had to be smacked several times with
trainers due to the loudness of his snoring which was preventing the
rest of us from sleeping. At about 6am, the door went yet again and a
couple of female voices entered the room. I haven't a clue who they
were as I was too tired to wake up, though I do recall them saying that
the room was the sweatiest, smelliest room they had ever been in. In
our defence though, there was 7 un-showered bodies in a very small
confined space, producing bodily odours all night.
Part V Thursday and Beyond
By the next morning, I was being philosophical about my lost money as I
changed my 20 pounds into pesetas. I knew I would have gladly paid the
170 quid for a ticket with 20 minutes to go to kick off, so there was
no point in thinking about it, though I was still miffed that I let the
little bastard do me like that. The feeling of celebration was still in
the Barcelona air as we walked up and down the Ramblas collecting
souvenirs to take back. We had a good few hours until the ferry and so
we just walked up and down taking in the various sights, like five
American girls singing 'Yip Yap Stam' over and over again, as well as
the compulsory Adult shop. We stopped for a fantastic Pizza, so good
that Ed had to have another , then walked to the ferry port for the
trip back to Majorca clutching various English newspapers for our
travel entertainment. For some reason, I don't know whether it was the
presence of Paul Wheeler or whether they had heard about Kerry's antics
on the way over, there were baton wielding Spanish police walking
menacingly up and down the ferry back, though most people just ignored
them and carried on with their business.
We returned to Majorca for four more nights of fun and celebrations in
the sun accompanied by plenty of alcohol. Each day seemed to follow the
same kind of pattern. This involved a late wake up around 12ish (with
Kerry rising about two hours after everyone else), a typical English
breakfast, then a seat by the pool reading each and every single paper
that said something about the match and the days after. This would be
followed by the ritual games of football, water polo (whilst annoying
everyone on the pool perimeter), pool and cards (not the kind of cards
you'd want to show your mum though). Kerry also pushed me into the pool
on one occasion whilst my back was turned - I haven't forgotten this
and will exact my revenge at a chosen time. As early evening
approached we would make our way over to Magaluf where we would get
totally rat-arsed on various cocktails and fake bottles of champagne as
well as the many freebies that came with each drink. The nights always
ended with everyone staggering home at varying times, although Kerry
always seemed to come home later than me, meaning that I was always
woken at around 6am each morning. Looking at the state of him each time
he came in, it was no wonder he never managed to pull as he could
barely stand up and mutter his own name. The first night back in
Magaluf though was one of the best, as we were still trying to take in
the enormity of the match and come back down to earth. We went on a
massive bar and club crawl, part of which resulted in us lifting a
bottle of champagne up like the players did with the European Cup, to
the dumbfounded looks of the inhabitants of the club. We also found
Barney, Doug, Steve and a whole load of others outside a bar and ended
up staying with them and singing some real classic United songs before
we all moved over to another club over the road and got seriously
pissed, leaving for our hotels at various unknown times.
I did actually get to the beach a couple of times as well where I
managed to find Alan and Paula looking like typical British Lobsters,
along with Paul Wheeler and his girlfriend. Alan actually ran out of
the sea because he was scared of all the creatures, which I believe was
one baby jellyfish that he had spotted about 50 yards from the shore.
Anyway, it was good to see that the presence of Paula hadn't stopped
him perving at all the half naked girls lying around - it was obviously
a well chosen spot for using those sunglasses to disguise the direction
of the eyes.
One afternoon was spent watching City on the large TV in the hotel bar,
which drew a rather large audience of reds. Most of us were sympathetic
towards them as it was difficult not to be after winning the European
Cup, though we couldn't resist a wry smile and cheer when two goals
went in. The bastards though, somehow equalised in the five minutes of
added time after looking like they couldn't hit a barn door from 5
yards for most of the game - still who were we to care, we were the
champions of Europe.
I finally got home in the very early hours of Monday morning after
waiting 3 hours at Palma airport, though happily Ed, Jason, Rob and the
rest were delayed longer on their flight back to Manchester too. The
first thing I did though after getting some sleep was to watch the last
10 minutes of the game albeit in the presence of my girlfriend - well
actually it was the second thing I did. I finally got to watch it
again later when my girlfriend had gone and just burst into tears of
joy when Solkjaers shot went in. Even now, I watch it almost every week
and it still sends a shiver down the back of my neck. I guess it was
the moment I knew we had finally done what I had waited my whole life
to see. I know that those few seconds after Solksjaer scored will
never be beaten for as long as I watch football and I feel privileged
to have been there. Hopefully once the season starts I'll remove my
head from the clouds and come back to the reality of a fresh start, at
least for a while.
No copying without permission
Paul Scully email: email@example.com
Paul's Barce Pics available on the website at:
|Click On pic - for latest pics from OT|
Happy Birthday Sir Matt Pt1- The Journey by OUR SALFORD LASS
First of all, apologies for sending this report out with absolutely nothing
in it a few minutes ago!! I'm finding it totally impossible to come "down
to earth" at present and my brain is just not functioning as it used to
before I went through an experience so incredible that I may never recover.
Do I even want to recover? I think not! Apologies also for taking so
long to get to doing this but I only arrived back home last night, after a
week in which I spent over 60 hours in a coach, had about 6 hours sleep and
lived through the most incredible few minutes I have ever experienced. So
a lie-in was essential and I have only just got myself dressed and caught
up on the 130 emails arriving my return!
Back to the beginning .......... At 4.30am on Monday morning I was almost
(but not quite) regretting our decision to undertake the trek across Europe
on a coach. I blearily staggered to the bus stop with my "hand luggage"
(there was rather a lot of it as it was full of food!), my main bag having
gone off to Eccles with the son-and-heir directly after the Cup Final on
Saturday night. Due to paranoia about missing the coach, I had arranged to
meet the son-and-heir nice and early and we actually arrived at Old
Trafford at 6.50am and met up with Karen, our travelling companion , with
the coach not being due to leave until 7.30am. It would have been nice to
have been able to say goodbye to Sir Matt and ask him to wish us luck, but
his statue and most of the outside wall of East Stand were missing. As it
happened, it wasn't necessary anyway, since Sir Matt and his lads had
already set off for the Nou Camp, ready to give our boys a bit of a hand
when necessary. Just after 7.30am, our SPS guards shepharded us all to one
side and the coaches began arriving. After a lot of pushing and shoving
and dirty looks, Karen and I managed to avail ourselves of the seats next
to the emergency exit door where there is extra leg-room. The son-and-heir
was banished to the window seat of the long back seat where he spent large
amounts of the trip complaining about the heat and the lack of space,
although he did have a bit of extra room due to the non-arrival of one of
The journey down to Dover was spent watching the usual crap videos until
our resident steward (christened Pot Noodle as he seemed to spend most of
the journey to Spain and back putting water in Pot Noodles for starving
Reds) finally got the message and we watched a home-made review of the
season instead, starting with the Munich testimonial game. Our only stop
on the way down to Dover was at Watford Gap to get something to eat and to
pick up a couple of Irish lads. One of them was immediately christened
Father Ted and spent the rest of the week living up to his nickname! We
arrived in Dover nice and early and made our way to the ferry terminal
hoping to make an earlier ferry than expected. At this point, the day
deteriorated when we discovered that we were a passenger short. The guy
who hadn't turned up at Old Trafford should have been picked up at South
Mims (wherever that is!). Since our bus driver had been told he was coming
to Old Trafford, we hadn't stopped at South Mims!! A coach that had
arrived earlier than us had been sent back to get him (presumably not to
the pleasure of its passengers, being as they had to add another 100 miles
to their journey) and we had to wait for him to arrive so he could come
over the channel on our coach since we were the only one with a spare seat!
(Hope you are all keeping up here!!) We waited and waited and waited.
With nothing to do but watch games we had all already seen. There was
nowhere to get a drink and everyone was getting pretty fed-up (an
under-exaggeration that!). With the steward and our SPS men running around
trying to find out what was going on, we eventually discovered that the
coach sent to get him had arrived and he had left in his own car to drive
to Dover!! At this point, the ferry was due to leave in 15 minutes, the
passengers were revolting and the other coach was going to miss the ferry
anyway, so it was decided that we would go and the other coach would wait
for him and bring him over to meet us on the other side. So with sighs of
relief all round, we headed off onto the ferry and had a very enjoyable and
refreshing hour spent on deck watching the English coast disappear into the
distance, whilst drinking the son-and-heir's duty-free allowance of lager.
Once off the ferry on the French side, it was back on the coach for a
five-minute journey to a cash-and-carry to buy crates of cheap booze and
fags! Since we are not allowed booze on the coach this all had to go into
the hold (bar a number of cans which were held back for immediate purchase)
and we then spent an hour getting the drinking underway and eating chips
and chicken nuggets whilst sunbathing on the grass and waiting for our
missing passenger. By now, the sound of cans being opened was a constant
background noise and tempers were definately cooling down as a holiday mood
began to take us over. Vital exercise was gained as the men in particular
spent the time walking backwards and forwards to the loos. Having not been
to France before, I was fascinated by the differences in the the loos - no
barriers to stop you looking into the ones belonging to the opposite sex
(not that I looked, of course!), toilet paper on sale in vending machines,
an automatic light that went off if you sat still long enough and a flush
that was so vicious it was capable of taking a small child if care wasn't
taken! We hadn't yet encountered the "hole-in-ground" model that I had
been warned about - more of that later.
Eventually it was announced that our errant passenger was on his way on the
next ferry. It was also announced that this guy was a Frenchman and that
his name was something that sounded like vol-au-vent. Of course, that
became his name for the rest of the trip! The booze had worked it's magic
and the same guys who had been prepared to lynch him a few hours ago, now
were seeing things in a much more relaxed light. When he arrived on the
bus looking sheepish, he was met with a barrage of singing and chanting
beginning with "He's red, he's late, he couldn't get out of bed".
Obviously worrying about his reception, he hurried to the back of the bus
(next to the son-and-heir) brandishing his itinery sent to him by the club,
which clearly asked him to be at South Mims not Old Trafford. Having been
satisfied that it wasn't his fault, the passengers forgave him and spent
most of the next 3 days taking the piss out of him!! Many United chants
were converted for the occasion, the best being "Vol-au-vent, wherever you
may be. You're not the king of punctuality". This really warmed up the
atmosphere on the bus and the evening was spent driving through the French
countryside drinking, smoking and singing, with the SPS guys turning a
blind eye to the latter (but don't tell anyone!!). A new chant was sung
(which I also heard later in the Nou Camp) - "There's only one David
Beckham, only one David Beckham. He went to the World Cup and he fucked it
up. Beckham is a fucking superstar.", but mainly it was all the oldies -
including chants for Ralphie Milne, Nobby Stiles and Carlo Sartori!! We
continued to take the mickey out of our very own Frenchman and as Father
Ted drank the bus dry, he looked after our spiritual welfare! We were
feeling very upbeat. The people we were to spend the next 5 days with
seemed a good laugh and we were on our way to the European Cup Final.
It all seemed a little less exciting a few hours later when the SPS turned
the lights off and told us to settle down and go to sleep. No-one argued
too much because everyone was knackered but it is very difficult to sleep
on a coach unless you are about 6 years old. We slept in snatches and some
people just sat and chatted quietly. I managed to sleep fitfully - every 5
minutes I would wake up and look at the clock and then drift back to sleep
again. On one occasion of wakefulness, I looked out of the window and was
startled to see a massive Bayern Munich flag on a passing coach. It's
owner stared back at me, looking as bleary-eyed as I felt. So it was a
long night and it was a much quieter bunch of travellors who saw the dawn
break over central France on Tuesday morning. The rest of the journey was
much the same. We travelled across France and then Spain, stopping
occasionally for something to eat and for driver changes, whilst watching
videos and occasionally breaking into a song or two. On the way I enjoyed
myself in French motorway service areas stuffing myself with the the sort
of food never served on the M6 and trying not to look down to the bottom of
the drops that appeared to our right as we crossed the Pyrenees, in the
hope of keeping the food I had eaten in my stomach. About lunch-time we
crossed into Spain and met the Spanish police for the first time. Armed
with guns and nightsticks they came onto our bus and checked both our
passports and our tickets. Luckily no-one was questioned and we were
quickly sent on our way. We arrived in Palamos just after lunch, a couple
of hours earlier than expected.
Happy Birthday Sir Matt (Part 2 - The Build-Up)
As we journeyed through the outskirts of Palamos, my heart sank. It was
not very pretty - lots of dirty buildings and building sites. People were
laughing and joking but it was obvious that everyone was thinking the same
thing - what had the club booked us into?? As it turned out, we needn't
really have worried. The hotel had everything we needed - the rooms were
clean, adequate and had balconies. The hotel was built around a central
area containing a pool, bar and seating area. And the town itself, once
having reached the beach and the old town, was pretty if quiet (I didn't
really see all those coaches going to Eastbourne again, did I?). The first
stop was the bathroom for a shower and change of clothes (for the first
time in almost 30 hours) and then it was onto the son-and-heir's balcony
(which overlooked the swimming pool) with a few cans, in the afternoon
sunshine. As the Red Army arrived (all the coaches were booked into this
one hotel), flags began to appear over balconies and snatches of United
songs could be heard. We soon spotted familiar faces from domestic away
games and renewed acquaintances made during coach trips to Selhurst Park
and Highbury, St James Park and The Dell. By mid afternoon, the place was
buzzing. I rang the Mad Dane and tried to explain how to get to us, he
promised he would do his best for later in the evening.
At some point during the afternoon, we went a walk along the beach and
watched some very good looking Spanish guys playing volley ball (a much
pleasanter sight than watching the Manc lads stripping off and jumping in
the pool!). Then it was back to the hotel for a meal and into the bar for
the evening. For the first half of the evening, the Reds took over the
bar. We chanted and sang and got the party underway. About 9pm, a local
band arrived and sang traditional Spanish music which put some of our lads
off. Gradually, Reds began to drift away to the bars in the town and it
looked like we were going to have to follow suit. The police, however, had
other ideas and the lads were soon back with stories of police closing down
all the bars in the town, despite there having been no trouble. At about
the same time, the local band packed up for the night, so the real party
could begin. In the end, there were about 100 Reds in the bar. Singing
and dancing and getting slowly drunk. Every United song ever written was
sung. Some of them were sung over and over again (especially "Yip Jaam
Stam" and "Who put the ball in the scousers net?"). Some lucky people got
the piss taken out of them at regular intervals. One chap who has the
misfortune to look just a little like Arsene Wenger was greeted with
"There's only one Arsene Wenger" and one of our coach drivers (an
Evertonian) was serenaded with every anti-scouse song in the songbook. He
gave back as good as he got and got a round of applause when he wished us
the best of luck. Just before midnight, we were shushed into silence as
someone counted down the seconds on their watch. At precisely 12am we sang
"Happy Birthday Sir Matt" and there were a few tears being openly wiped
away when the song finished and we sang "The Red Flag."
The party went on into the small hours. We gave in to our bodies' demands
for sleep at about 3am, but there were many who never did get any sleep
that night. Unfortunately, the Mad Dane wasn't able to make the party
since he was driving round and round a mountain at the time!!
Most people were up and about pretty early on Wednesday morning. Most of
us had wakened early, too excited to sleep for long. Many had not been to
bed at all! We had breakfast and then it was a case of trying to fill the
hours between breakfast and 12 noon, when the coaches were to take us into
Barcelona. We would have liked to have gone in earlier, but the police
were immoveable, and threatening to not let us leave until 3pm, so it was
into the town to buy souvenirs or into the swimming pool for a swim and a
drink (at the same time mostly!). The few guests not going to the game
looked down from their balconies in amazement at all these fat, Mancs,
looking like great white whales with cans in their hands, splashing around
singing rude footy songs! Eventually time passed and it was onto the coach
again, to travel the relatively short distance to Barca.
My first impression was that it was nothing special. Lots of high-rise
flats clinging precariously onto steep hillsides. Lots of graffiti. Dirty
and dusty. It could have been Salford with sun!! But then, driving along
a raised highway not far from our destination, the son-and-heir said "There
it is". And there it certainly was! Even from that distance, and with
only the top two tiers to see (the lower tier is under ground level), it
took your breath away. The Nou Camp! And we were there! Even the most
seasoned travellors amongst us were silenced by the sight. We parked up
near the ground and clambered down off the coach. All the necessary bits
of paper were given out and then we were left to amuse ourselves until
kick-off. All we could say was "Are we really here?" It all seemed so
unreal! As it was now 2.30pm, we decided to head off for the Hard Rock
Cafe and see if we could meet up with a few list members. Getting about is
very easy in Barcelona. Down into the nearby metro station, queue up for a
single-priced ticket and after a 15 minute journey we were coming out into
the sunshine in Catalunya Square at the top of Las Ramblas. There were
Reds everywhere - United had completely taken over the centre of Barcelona.
Every available space was covered in Red. I've never seen anything like
it, anywhere. We dragged ourselves away and headed for the HRC, only to
bump into Ethel outside! We had a quick hug and then I was being dragged
inside (before all the people who had been queuing up to get in) by our
very own Sean Hennessy! We had intended to go on to another bar
afterwards, but the atmosphere was so good in the HRC, and there were so
many list members coming and going, that we decided to stay. I was also
hoping that Paul Windridge would come back (we'd just missed him) but he
didn't - sorry not to see you Paul - and I believe that Pat Jennings was
looking for us outside but never came in!! So sorry to miss you too Pat,
but you should have looked in the bar!
We did, however, see the Mad Dane (at last!), Bill McArthur, Fish,
Joined-at-the-hip, the Sausage man and the lovely Paula, Mark Roberts and
many others (sorry not to mention all the names - it's impossible to
remember everyone). I discovered that the Spanish are very generous with
their measures of spirits and I also discovered that I have more
self-control than I ever thought I had when I saw Andy Gregory (ex Salford
coach) and managed not to go up and twat him one! Apart from a brief trip
to McDonalds (which was full of very big Germans in leiderhosen) we spent
the afternoon in the HRC, chatting and drinking and generally taking in all
the atmosphere. About 6.30pm we decided we could wait no more and headed
off for the metro station. Unfortunately, so did everyone else on Las
Ramblas! As we descended into the metro, it was obvious that it couldn't
cope with the numbers using it. Crushed between thousands of United fans
and a few Germans (all very friendly, especially when some of our lads sang
the leiderhosen song which brought big grins from the Germans) we made our
way onto a tram which filled to overflowing. As we took on more Reds at
every stop, it soon became a bit of an ordeal (especially for the poor sods
who were on their way home from work!). It was very hot, very crushed and
seemed a much longer than the journey down. Some were not put off by this
and the singing went on the whole way, although I have to admit I was very
glad to arrive!
We had intended to go and find the Irish pub where Pat would be, but once
we arrived on the Ave Diagonal and saw the crowds heading for the stadium
we thought we'd better just get in there. So we walked towards the stadium
with thousands of other Reds, all singing and laughing in the bright
sunshine. As we headed down the long street which led to the entrances to
the United end, clutching our bags and wallets in which were our precious
tickets, the atmosphere deteriorated as touts were being picked up by
groups of United leds and forced to hand over their tickets. I've no
problem with that - they shouldn't be making money out of genuine fans -
but some lads obviously had decided that just taking the tickets wasn't
enough and were using their fists and feet. Luckily, it all fizzled out
with nothing too nasty happening and we were able to take our minds back to
the game. Until, that is, we came across our first cordon of police.
Rather than set up a proper cordon, they had simply placed police vans
across the road, meaning that we had to pass through a small number of very
small spaces to get further. There was a lot of pushing and shoving and
many of our younger fans were frightened by this. The police weren't of
course any help - all they did was whistle and shout in Spanish at the
crowd. Once we'd got passed this we breathed a sigh of relief, but the
worst was yet to come. Our next obstacle was a line of police horses. The
idea presumably being to slow the crowd down and let only small numbers
through at once. Unfortunately, using horses meant that many at the front
of the crowd were being pushed up close to the horses' kicking hooves. It
was impossible to move back because of the crowd behind you. As we neared
the horses, we were pushed over to the side towards the end horse. This
one seemed more upset by the crowds than the others and the policeman on
his back was struggling to control it. We tried to do exactly what he
wanted us to do but it was impossible. He was blowing on a whistle and
screaming at us in Spanish. If we went forward he screamed at us more and
gestured for us to go back. If we held back, he screamed and gestured us
forward. Eventually he lost his patience and pushed us back by charging at
us. For a few seconds I thought it was all going to get out of control.
We couldn't go back and people were tripping up and almost falling trying
to push against the crowd pushing us from behind. We tried to go to the
side, but the horse moved with us. Kids were crying, one girl almost fell
under the horse. As we scraped past, there was a couple of inches between
our heads and the flaying hooves. We were relieved to be on the other
side, but as someone said "It could all go off in a minute, no problem".
But our trials weren't over yet. We then had to queue up to get into the
stadium, through an outer perimeter of gates. As we queued, a group of
lads were coming out having been thrown out for having forged tickets -
they went off in search of the tout who had sold them to them for £200
each. As we approached the front of the queue we were nervous. We knew we
had legitimate tickets from the club and yet the way that the police were
handling the situation and the fact that others had been turned away even
with legitimate tickets was worrying. What was more worrying was that it
was impossible to argue with them - they knew no English and were not
prepared anyway to listen to any explanations. So we each in turn held our
breaths as we passed through - thankfully without problems. The final part
of the ordeal was to be searched by a female police officer who insisted on
very thorough search of both my person and my bag and pockets, whilst a
police officer with a very large rottweiller looked on! So at last, we
were in. We looked up at the side of the stadium where fans were hanging
out of windows at all levels, took a few photos and then we were on our way.
Happy Birthday Sir Matt (Part 3 - The Game and its aftermath)
We entered the stadium proper and began our climb up to the top tier. Yes
folks, we were the lucky ones who had been banished up the top tier. Never
again will I be allowing the club to choose my tickets for me! I have
never climbed so many bloody steps in my life! It made the third tier at
OT seem like nothing. We climbed up and up, up and up. Already hot and
uncomfortable from the ride on the metro and the walk through the
checkpoints, we were soon gasping for breath and water. On the way, we
looked out of the gaps in the wall and we were now one of the fans looking
out of the windows - ever higher - on the side of the stadium. It was an
amazing sight, looking down at the crowds slowly making their way towards
us down the hill. Eventually, we arrived almost at the top to find a
toilet (essential) and food and drink (almost as essential). The drink was
coke or non-alcoholic beer and the food was a very long sausage (Alan must
have been in heaven) in an equally long roll. We waited in the queue for a
while only for them to run out of sausages! (And this was an hour before
kick off!) There then followed the amusing sight of irate Reds screaming
an two Spanish girls who didn't understand a word of English who just stood
there, shrugging their shoulders calmly! We decided to go to our seats and
walked round the corner only to find an old couple, who looked like
something out of the Sound of Music, with thousands of sausages all waiting
to be bought! So I bought one and headed off for my seat, whilst nibbling
away at my tea.
There aren't many things in the world that can take my attention away from
food but the view from the top of the Nou Camp is one of them! As I
stepped out from the tunnel I just stopped and gazed in awe at the sight
before me. Many times I have heard people waxing lyrical about the Nou
Camp and I must admit, I have usually thought to myself that they must be
exaggerating. But they're not. It is an absolutely incredible sight. As
I stood there, near the front of the top tier, and looked to my right and
left, all I could see was this massive bank of people sweeping around an
oval of green at its centre. Above and beyond the top of the stadium,
could be seen the city of Barcelona - the hills and the sky, beginning to
darken. Because there is no roof, you feel that you are on top of the
world. And at the centre of that world is the pitch, at that moment
awaiting the arrival of the teams for the 1999 European Cup Final. At that
moment, it hit me - where I was and why I was there. Absolutely amazing
and awesome - there is no other way to describe it. I made my way to my
seat - up the steep steps and squeezing between the seats and the safety
bar that stops you falling down to the pitch below and just sat there,
taking it all in, and taking some photographs.
As I looked around the stadium, it was obvious that the Red Army had "Taken
over Barcelona". United flags and banners were everywhere, including in
the Munich end. Hanging from all the tiers - Salford Reds just opposite us
- and being passed over the heads of the lucky bastards down in the North
end of the stadium. All around me people were expressing what I was
feeling - "We're here, we're actually here!" United fans who had been
everywhere and done everything were standing in awe looking around with
eyes like saucers, like little kids in a sweet shop. Then there were
hundreds of kids and an opera singer on the pitch and "Barcelona" was sung.
It was a nice touch to include Freddy Mercury on the big screen. I found
it very moving and it set the atmosphere for me. Whilst it was playing, I
looked up at the night sky. The stars were just beginning to come out and
it was a warm, still evening. I thought of Sir Matt and I knew that if
there were any sort of existence after death nothing would stop him being
there. As I was thinking this, and thinking about the season and how
special it has been, the fans around me began to sing "Happy Birthday Sir
Then the game began, the shortest game I have ever been to. Each half
seemed to last about 5 minutes - where did it all go? As the lads ran out
on the pitch, 60,000 Reds roared a welcome. Everyone was worried about the
formation Fergie had decided on. Giggs on the right!! Surely we should
have put Giggs on the left and Johnsen in midfield? Why wasn't May in so
that we could do this? As the game got under way, our fears were not
lessened. The team looked out of shape and out of sorts. Soon after kick
off, Munich got a free kick and our wall just disintegrated, allowing them
to score. What the hell was going on? All around me fans were nervy and
worried, just as the players seemed to be on the pitch. A bloke behind me
nearly got an earful - he was slagging off all the players, but especially
Nicky Butt. Just to our right, two fans were having a right old go at each
other because one was standing. I began to look at the fans standing at
the North End with yet more envy! In what felt like a couple of minutes,
the whistle blew for half-time and the players disappeared down the tunnel.
We expected Fergie to make changes at half-time, but he didn't. The
players came out for the second half in exactly the same positions. "We
have to trust Fergie", Karen and I said to each other. "He's never let us
down yet." But it was difficult. Gradually, however, the lads seemed to
be getting a hold of the game and the crowd around us began to remember
where they were. As the second half wore on, it began to look like we
could pull something back. We did make some changes, but the Germans were
defending well. Every time one of our forwards got the ball they were all
around him, allowing him no space and time. We anxiously watched the clock
as they had two chances come off the woodwork. We were clutching at straws
outwardly, but inwardly we were all thinking of that long journey back to
Manchester the day after, all that time to wallow in the misery of losing.
All the times I had said I wouldn't mind if we lost this one after such a
great season - what a load of bollocks! I minded very much.
It came to the full 90 minutes and the fourth official held up the board -
3 minutes. It seemed impossible. Then we got a corner and the next thing
I knew there was Peter in the penalty area. I wasn't the only one who
thought that desparate measures were called for! I whispered to Karen,
"This is our last chance." There was a scramble in the goalmouth, the ball
seemed to be going all over the place and then suddenly I saw the back of
the net bulge. I couldn't believe it! As the subs ran on to envelop Teddy
Sheringham I looked at the linesman, ready to see a flag and feel the
shattering disappointment of a disallowed goal. I still couldn't believe
it but the players were celebrating and the referee was pointing back to
the centre circle. At that point I started to scream. I turned to Karen
and she was screaming too. We just grabbed each other, jumped up and down
and screamed incoherently. This feeling was the absolute best feeling I
had ever had at a football game (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Everyone was kissing each other and hugging and shouting. As the game
kicked off again, we sang "We shall not be moved" and waited for the final
whistle and the start of extra time. But wait a moment, we had another
corner. The ball came in to Teddy who headed it wide, but Ole stretched
out his foot and managed to get a touch on the ball which hit the top of
the net at the same moment as 60,000 Reds exploded in delight and
disbelief. I was screaming and crying (my throat is still sore but I've
got my voice back now). The tears were streaming down my face as I hugged
and kissed everyone I could get hold of (including vol-au-vent, who was
sitting just to my right). I couldn't seem to stop screaming at Karen "I
can't believe it, we scored!! We scored another goal! We've bloody won
it!!" I found myself telling everyone who would listen that we'd won -
just in case they didn't know already! Down on the pitch, Ole had
disappeared under a pile of United players, coaches and officials and the
German players and fans looked like someone had let all the air out of
them. They were sitting there, in total devastation. There was just time
for one last attempt at an attack by the wiped out Bayern players, which
was easily stopped by our Gazza, the final whistle blew and the
How can I express in words what it felt like to be there at that moment?
It's impossible, except to say that I have never felt like that, ever, and
never expect to feel like that again. It was like nothing I have ever felt
in my life before and it's the reason that football becomes an addiction,
because we all spend our lives looking for that buzz, for that feeling.
For me, it was a mixture of relief, joy, incredulity, astonishment. In
that moment, all the feelings I have ever felt in football, all the
experiences I've ever had, became as one. Every disappointment became as
nothing, every triumph just a step on a long road that led to this
particular place, on this particular night, with this particular group of
players. On this very special night, Sir Matt Busby's 90th birthday, we
were meant to win the European Cup - this I believe. It was our destiny.
"You are my Solskjaer" and "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole" rang round the Nou Camp,
followed by "Champions of Europe" and "We love United" and the most
incredible rendition of "The Red Flag" ever. I (and thousands of others)
cried when Peter and Fergie lifted that oh-so-beautiful cup together. Then
it was time for the celebrations. The players did a lap of honour (the
Germans did themselves proud by staying and applauding the United players)
and then stopped in front of the North end of the stadium. The fans
chanted for Peter and he raised the cup to the cheers of the crowd. Then
he raised it again, and we cheered again! Then he pretended to raise it
and we cheered and he laughed! Then all the players took turns to raise
the cup whilst we cheered. Dwight danced along the touchline with the cup
in one hand, they all did their only little party piece, until all the
players had had a go. Then the cry went up "Keano, Keano." "We want
Keano", "Bring on Keano". All the players sat down on the grass as we
waited. Eventually, Keane, Scholes and Berg appeared - looking
uncomfortable in their suits. Led by David May, the players formed two
lines with the Cup as bait at the end. The three players walked between
their team-mates and towards the cup, lifting it to a massive cheer at the
end. Eventually, it all had to end and the players left the pitch. Last
of course was Dwight, who had to be dragged off by Fergie after everyone
else had gone!
We made our way down the thousands of steps and swarmed out into the
streets. As we walked up towards the Ave Diagonal, we were singing and
chanting and laughing. Friends who had been sitting in different parts of
the stadium were meeting up, hugging and kissing and expressing their
delight and disbelief at what had happened. All round us, there were
stunned faces - with huge grins! We got back to the coach and everyone
collapsed - we were psychologically and physically worn out. We just sat
there, unable to stop grinning, watching the celebrations going on in the
streets as we made our way back towards Palamos. On arriving back at our
hotel, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. All the bars were shut and as
soon as we arrived there were police telling us to go to bed. We tried to
celebrate quietly in our rooms, but no-one was really in the mood. If we
couldn't have a big party, then everyone just wanted to go to bed. I spent
the night dreaming about Ole scoring goals. The next morning, my voice was
completely gone - lost somewhere in the Nou Camp in the seconds after Ole
After breakfast, we wondered into town and then waited for the coach to
begin the long journey back to England. We arrived back last night, after
all the celebrations in Manchester had finished and everyone had gone back
to their normal lives. But my life will never be "normal" again. Because
I was there, in Barcelona, on May 26th 1999.
Copyright © 1999 by OUR SALFORD LASS. All rights reserved.
Not to be reproduced without permission of the author
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A Day in the Life - a life in a day part 1 by RED KELLY
A Day in the Life - a life in a day
Barcelona - 26th May 1999 will go down as the most stunning football
experience of my entire life. It couldn't ever happen again and if you
could bottle it you would have to put a health warning on the label.
On Tuesday I got up around 7.30, went downstairs and switched on the radio
to 5 Live and who should I hear at that precise moment - Barry bloody
Leeming - he gets everywhere that man!! He was obviously in Barcelona
already and I was still at home, a fact which he reminded me of later when
he phoned and implored me to get out there as quickly as I could. As if it
was only down the bloody road!
I was due to fly out very early the following morning. At just after 8pm I
was hopping around so much I just had to get out of the house. I said my
goodbyes to Karen and the kids and set off to pick up Nigel. Twenty minutes
later I pulled up outside his house and he was looking out of the front
window waiting for me to arrive. A few seconds later and he was saying
goodbye to Sheryl and we were off up to Manchester.
The journey up the M6 and on to the airport was easy and as we arrived at
Terminal 1 there were the others waiting for us outside. We were early and
the first in the queue at the check-in desk. When the two girls finally
arrived we still had an hour and a half to wait before take-off so it was
down to the bar for some alcoholic preparation.
It was a strange feeling sitting in the airport amongst a few hundred Reds
at midnight with a pint of Boddies waiting to fly out to Barcelona for the
European Cup Final. The European Cup Final - say it again - the European
Cup Final. After 31 years we were standing on the threshold again and Reds
from all round the globe had pawned their lives to get there.
By now we were passed the point of no return and the sign said "no trolleys
past this point" what, no trolleys at all, but I put a clean pair on this
evening especially for the trip!
It was essentially still Tuesday night, but at 1.20 Wednesday morning we
took off for Barcelona. There were five of us who travelled together, my
daughter Eliza and her husband Steve, Steve's dad, John and Nigel. No-one
can ever know what to expect from a situation like the one we were about to
experience and no-one would have scripted it the way it happened, but
happen it did, however far fetched it may seem.
We were sat on the third row of the plane so saw everyone of the 170 strong
party get on and when an extremely overweight man brushed past John, he
remarked that he should sit in the middle or the plane would be sure to tip
up if he were too near the back or the front.
The engines growled into life and Spanair flight JKK 3376 taxied out onto
the runway. At just past 1.30 the plane roared down the runway, the boys at
the back sang, "here we go, here we go, here we go" and we lifted off into
the night sky and we were on our way to destiny.
The flight went well apart from the arrangements for a breakfast meal. I
know airline meals are notoriously poor, but who decided we should have
cheese, leathery turkey and coleslaw and who decided to repeat the meal on
the return journey when it had been repeating on us all the previous day
anyway. I paid special attention to the in-flight magazine dedicated to
Spanair which was called Spanorama. You think I'm joking don't you, well
An hour and fifty minutes later we landed in Barcelona, it was just after
4.20am local time. From there we were taken in coaches to the Placa de
Catalunya where we were dumped and left to our own devices. We were
informed this would be where we would be picked up in 22 hours time, wished
good luck, which coming from a bitter Blue was to be taken with a pinch of
salt and we were off.
Some headed straight for the park benches and got their heads down, but we
made it our priority to find the Nou Camp and check out the possibilities
of tickets. I already had one and so did Steve and John, but Eliza and
Nigel didn't and Barry had told me the day before of a rumour that tickets
may go on open sale that very morning at 9am.
At first we set off walking in what we thought was the right direction, but
we must have had the Red Issue map the wrong way up and got hopelessly lost
and in the end had to succumb to asking the way from a passer by. The only
person for miles apart from the vagrant who had just appeared from his
cardboard box home in a doorway opposite, and it had to be a Yank who was
as new to Barcelona as we were!
We had ended up in what was obviously the red light district with doors
parting furtively and women's voices asking us if we needed business. One
diminutive old pro stood on the street corner and was wailing on about her
wares. Surely anyone contemplating taking advantage of her offer would have
to be the worst for ware of drink that anyone ever has been, she was
absolutely revolting in every sense of the word.
We decided to take the Metro instead, found our way to the nearest one and
bought some tickets which at 145pts for a single journey were cheap enough.
Having had no sleep at all we were glad of seats on the train which was
empty apart from one man reading his morning paper. As he got up to get off
the train he stuck two fingers up to signify victory and pointed to a
picture of Fergie in his paper and to make sure I didn't get the wrong
impression about his v sign he gave me the thumbs up.
By the time we arrived at the stadium it was around 7.30 and some of the
stalls were already being set up and the touts were out in force. The price
of tickets varied between £250 - £750. It just depended how much they
thought they could sting you for. You could easily spot them wherever you
went. They were more or less the same as those who ply their trade at Old
Trafford only of more tanned appearance.
Tout after tout we tried and none of them came down below £250. Nigel and I
generally tackled them and at times became very angry at their attitude. I
suppose we should have directed our anger towards UEFA and the stadium
authorities, but they weren't around - the touts were.
We wanted to make it clear we were onto their case and at times pursued
them as they tried to escape our aggressive questioning - they didn't like
that, not that they seemed willing or able to do anything about it. I
didn't like them much and was at least going to make sure they knew it. I
don't suppose it helped our quest for tickets though and after a fruitless
hour we adjourned to a nearby coffee shop and drank a couple to wake
ourselves up. We decided we would return nearer to kick-off and see if the
price had tumbled to a reasonable level we could afford.
We chatted with some lads from Manchester who had been out for a couple of
days and were still searching for tickets they could afford. They were
determined to get in at any cost and were prepared to rush the gates at
match time and bust their way through - hope you made it lads.
We then heard from a member of the stadium staff that the ticket office was
going to be opening at 10 am to sell tickets. Some said they had opened the
previous day but had only sold to Spaniards. My contention was that if
there were no Spaniards in the queue, they would have to sell to us
instead. When the word spread the queue got longer and longer and became a
source of concern for the Guardia who then came and told us the Ticket
Office would not open at all.
For a while there was a peaceable stand-off where we argued our case for
spare tickets, but it was no go especially when the head of the bunch began
stroking his gun in a provocative manner. Now, I don't want you to get the
wrong idea about this provocative manner business - it was coupled with a
stare of some severity so we got the message alright.
We decided to call the protest off and wandered away feeling miserable. We
then decided to get away from the Nou Camp and go and explore some of
Barcelona - forget about the ticket situation for a while and enjoy being
there. We took the Metro back to the Placa de Catalunya and started with a
wander down La Rambla.
It seemed that everyone we ever knew who is connected with United was
there. A couple of minutes after the first encounter we had another and
another and another. We weren't getting anywhere, but it was a great
atmosphere of camaraderie and as the song goes, "Reds are here, Reds are
there, Reds are every f**king where."
When we met up with Mick he took us to a market to meet with Walshy and the
family and a few IMUSA members. They were off to Segrada for some culture
and we said we'd see them later, but got distracted and by the time we got
there, they had gone. In fact we seemed to be about half an hour behind
them all day!
From there we went to the proposed meeting place in the Hard Rock Cafe. We
were held up outside for a while but when we told the doorman all we wanted
was a drink he let us through. The place was heaving with Reds from all
over the world. Names and e-mail addresses were there in person - a real
multi national gathering. It was superb to meet up with you guys. I then
spotted some mates from IMUSA on the other side of the bar and went over to
them, but where were "joined at the hip"? Such a great atmosphere - sure
some were nervous, but that was understandable wasn't it!
Everywhere we went we asked for tickets. We were even told of a possibility
of a couple of tickets via SPS the Old Trafford security force, but they
never materialised either. We seemed to be getting closer and closer to
tickets but then always had our hopes dashed at the last moment, but at
least there were possibilities and definitely plenty of spare tickets
around, just the price was too high.
From the Hard Rock we went to the Segrada Familia which is a monument to
the genius of Gaudi. We had heard that the Segrada was right by the tube
station, but when we broke out into the sunshine once again it was nowhere
to be seen until we turned around. The sight of the Segrada Familia makes
you gasp at it's imposing size and structure. It is simply stunning. We let
out a gasp of amazement at the epic gothic quality of this most famous
Barcelona landmark. It has been another of my favourite buildings and this
year I've been chalking off visits to quite a few of them.
We were due to return to the Hard Rock as I wanted to see a few more list
members I hadn't yet met, but we were again distracted by ticket problems
so decided to return to the Nou Camp instead. This is where we encountered
problems. Mick had come with us and directed us around the stadium from a
different direction. We were around at the German end where the touts were
still asking silly money for tickets.
We carried on walking until we met with stern resistance from a member of
the Guardia who was erecting a barrier and had orders not to let anyone
pass. We had been forced outside the Guardia cordon and as such had greatly
diminished our chances of getting a ticket for Lizzie and Nigel. We were at
the wrong end of the ground and couldn't get through to a more familiar
Mick led us away and suggested taking a circuitous route around and back to
the ground from a different direction, but as he strode away we decided to
let him go and took off in the opposite direction. He was off to another
pub anyway, but our priority was always tickets first, bars later. But we
had a problem, the Guardia at the cordon would want to see tickets in order
to allow anyone through, how would Lizzie and Nigel even get through the
first barrier and give themselves that fighting chance.
We eventually made it around the back to a University building where the
United coaches were beginning to amass and drop their cargo. We followed
the disgorged passengers into the University buildings where they had
access to food and drink and we sat down had a drink and devised a cunning
plan: there were now hundreds of supporters waiting to get through the
initial cordon and down to the stadium proper and it was just a matter of
being patient and waiting for the right moment.
When the time came I would go first with the small rucksack I was using
mainly to carry tons of programmes I'd been asked to get for people all
over the world. As I went through the Guardia would want to search the bag
and I would chat with him to divert his gaze. Eliza would then creep behind
me and get through undetected. It worked a treat. Nigel would then follow
after Steve giving over his small sack for searching and when asked for his
ticket would point to me saying I had it. I would already be too far away
for him to call me back and Nigel would also be through. Again it worked a
We were in business again and then a minor miracle happened, Nigel asked
this Austrian who was wearing a United top about tickets. Bearing in mind
we asked everyone we could about tickets anyway, but this bloke was
different. He had actually had a couple which he only wanted £50 each for.
"Take them" we said in unison, but the snag was they were in the Bayern
end. "Just take the bloody tickets and let's worry about that afterwards".
They had tickets at last - what a huge relief that was, now we were really
in business and the buzz returned. Anyway, there would surely be no problem
- get into the ground and tell a steward you are Reds and they'll move you
to seats in the neutral zone which was mostly Red anyway. There were bound
to be a few seats empty.
Again it worked a treat and we were all in the ground and the three of us
with tickets didn't have to feel any guilt anymore. Not that we were ever
made to feel guilty, but nevertheless we did, we couldn't help it, we just
wanted them to have tickets too.
But there were still two more procedures to get through. Two more
opportunities for stadium security to show off their extraordinary powers
of compassion and awareness. On the main gate there was a rather vigorous
stop and search which involved a body search and yet another bag check. I
had a flat pack attached round my waist but hidden where I kept Passports
and money. As the security man ran his hands over me he came across this
hard object in the waist area. Now don't start thinking that - it was the
flat pack. Bloody hell what are you lot like!!
He prodded it as I stood there wondering what he was going to do. He
prodded it again - well ask me to do something about it you stupid oaf,
don't just prod me. He mumbled something totally incoherent and I showed
him the plastic pack. He then stood back a pace and pointed to it. I don't
know what he expected but he seemed nervous. I couldn't resist playing on
his nervousness and opened the pouch very very carefully and motioned for
him to come and have a look. He stepped forward rather reluctantly and
I wanted to shout "bang" but thought better of it. He was satisfied and let
me go, but not before an over indulgent search of the bag. I was surprised
they weren't taking coins off us, but they didn't with me. While all this
was going on Steve was suffering similar treatment from the next security
person, but after he had been allowed through a little lad fell victim to
the ridiculous attitude of some of these neanderthals. This lad had a
football which the security decided to slice open to see whether there was
anything hidden inside.
Is this mental or what - why would there be anything inside a child's
football? Surely there wouldn't be, would there - then why did this person
carry out such a moronic act? There's no answer and if you go so far as to
complain, you get turfed out and that's the end of your day. It's good to
be a football supporter!!
A Day in the Life - a life in a day Part 2:
Once in the ground I bought myself a huge slab of what looked like pastry
with sweet stuff on it. It was 300 pts if I remember right and tasted
exactly like any other pastry over there. Some of the stuff looks dead
fancy and costs a fortune, other pastry looks dead simple and doesn't cost
a fortune. But as far as I'm concerned it all tastes the same! It filled me
up though so then I went to the bar for a beer which I found out later was
non-alcoholic. I wondered why they were selling beer and why it didn't seem
to be having any effect on me. I thought it was the general buzz which had
dulled the effect of the alcohol and all of a sudden I'd be pissed. But
even after four of them I still wasn't!!!! At least I didn't have to pay
for the first one - the girl forgot to take the money and I wasn't going to
say anything, not that it was expensive anyway - far from it.
Now I felt great, a big pastry thing and a drink and off I went off to find
my seat. The stadium was only a quarter full at this time so locating my
spot was easy. It turned out to be behind the goal where all the action was
to be and smack in the middle on the first tier, but high enough up so that
I had a great view of the whole pitch. This stadium is simply magnificent
I was sitting next to two women who had flown in from Liverpool, but they
were proper Reds just in case anyone's wondering. I was wondering when I
heard a slight mersey inflection in the accent I have to say. Aaaagh I
thought, I'm in the bloody Nou Camp sitting next to two scousers. But they
were fine and after the initial trauma had subsided we were best buddies,
by the end of the night we definitely were!!!
I sat there with my programme stuffing this pastry in my face. All the
flaky bits were dropping all over me and there was caster sugar all round
my mouth, but strangely I didn't give a monkeys. I realised as I started to
eat that I was actually starving hungry - with all the ticket fiasco we had
forgotten to eat. I had kept some biscuits from the plane journey but apart
from that we only had Nigel's sweet collection to go at.
When I finally finished the pastry and wandered off in the vain hope of
finding Lizzie and Nigel. I was walking around the circular route at the
back of the stand. This route takes you all the way round the Nou Camp
except for the main stand. So you could even get into the bayern bit if you
wanted to - but why would you want to?
I was thinking to myself what a bloody fine experience it was in the Nou
Camp at a European Cup Final. I was stood there looking out from behind the
crowd onto the pitch. I probably looked a right jerk with my mouth open
gazing in awe at the scene, just taking in the buzz of it all, when Eliza
ran up to me beaming all over her face. We stood there hugging each other
like two excited kids. The plan had worked and they'd been given new seats
in the corner to my left.
She showed me to where she and Nigel were sitting. Nigel was engrossed in
his programme but suddenly became aware of us standing there looking at him
and his face lit up as well and we stood there hugging like three excited
The ground was a superb sight especially from pitch level where we went to
take a couple of photos. There were Reds everywhere - all over the bloody
ground. Well, what did we expect. No other tea m gets this, no other team
fills a ground like we do, and there were still several thousand locked
outside. Those sodding touts must have had a field day. And we thought the
price was going to come down. It just goes to show how lucky we'd been to
find the Austrian who sold us those two tickets.
The time pre kick-off sped by and by the time I went back to my own seat
there was only half an hour to go and several inflatable objects had
appeared on the pitch. I presume they were designed on the same Miro theme
as the ticket and programme, but whatever they were supposed to be they
were nothing short of eccentric and I fully expected them to metamorphose
into something else or explode or do something. Or maybe the beer had
finally taken effect. But in the end they remained exactly where they'd
been placed gently swaying in the breeze doing nothing more than being
inflatables. I suppose when it comes down to it, that's all inflatables
will ever do.
Much more entertaining were the scantily clad girls who danced in front of
us. There were loads of them all round the pitch, but none in front of the
Bayern end. We had noticed a lack of sympathy for the Germans throughout
our brief stay in Barcelona and maybe this was manifesting itself through
We had the Spanish flag-coloured yellow and red ones jiggling around in
front of us. It caused a degree of excitement especially with the male
members of the crowd when the beat of the music became stronger and more
lively. I'm sure you can use your imagination as to why!! The poor Germans
got none of this, but they seemed happy with their scarves tied to every
part of their bodies and their denim jackets heavy under the weight of a
The girls got a special cheer as they bounced off the pitch to be replaced
by a slightly bouncier Montserrat Caballé who was obviously too overweight
to walk and had to be transported everywhere by open top motor vehicle.
Freddie Mercury appeared on the video screen displayed on top of the Bayern
end and they did a duet which crossed the boundaries of life and death and
belted out Barcelona. We belted it out as well, but our efforts were well
out of tune, not that it stopped anyone! It's difficult to get that song
out of your head while you in that place.
The teams came out and two large inflatable black and white balls danced
above us as they were patted round the crowd. I'd been next to one of the
guys who deflated one of these at Wembley. He said he did it because he
wanted to take it to Barca and now it was bouncing over my head.
A giant flag appeared in front of us and was passed over our heads and
onwards and upwards over the United end. I have no idea where this came
from or where it eventually ended up but it was like '93 at the Blackburn
game when we won the first Premier title when that huge flag was passed all
round the ground til it got to South stand and disappeared!
The teams came out to rapturous applause and we got ready for the game of a
lifetime. At this moment we were prepared for anything. Philosophical about
any outcome and just enjoying the experience. Now we were in our own Cup
Final and not everyone elses, this was the big one. Nothing gets bigger
than this. We were there and that's what mattered. I was confident and not
nervous. I'd been nervous all week, but that was about the ticket
situation. As soon as that was sorted out all the nerves disappeared. I
bumped into plenty of others who were plenty nervous though.
Peter was down at our end for the last time. We gave him an extra special
welcome and we could see he was wound up for this one. He knew this was it,
there was nowhere to go after this. Nothing could surpass it and nothing
would ever be the same again. As he ran over to us he raised his arms and
threw down his towel. He didn't throw it in his normal fashion though, he
threw it more purposefully and aggressively and it landed in a heap some
way from his goal mouth.
The game started. I looked all around the stadium. I gazed up at the Reds
in the top tier and down at the Reds below and I thought to myself, this is
what I have always wanted. This is where I have wanted to be. Whatever was
in store for us I could take and to be honest those first few minutes
passed me by as I lost myself in my own thoughts. But then destiny reared
up and slapped me in the face. Suddenly Bayern were award a free kick on
the edge of the box for what I thought was never a foul, but then I'm not
the bald bastard on the pitch - merely the bald bastard in the stands.
You could see that the United wall was chaotic, they were together at all -
totally unco-ordinated with Peter unsighted and in truth it was no surprise
when the ball ended up in the back of the net with Peter rooted to his
spot. Sodding hell I thought and so did everyone else. "Un-i-ted, Un-i-ted"
we blasted back in utter defiance. They weren't going to beat us like that.
For the next twenty minutes we were glad it remained at 1-0 but gradually
the lads re-asserted some authority and gained the upper hand. By half time
I felt we had every chance and when I met up with Eliza and Nigel we agreed
we would win the game. There was no doubt in our minds that it would be so
- well, maybe there was a little doubt - but not much!
There was plenty doubt in other minds though. You could see the
disappointment written all over the faces as people wandered past where we
sat on a concrete step at the back of the back of the stand. I said, "when
we score they'll shit themselves and we'll win it." I didn't know just how
prophetic those words were to become. I bought a couple of packets of Barca
crisps for the kids' Friday lunch boxes and set myself for the next 45
We arranged to meet at the same spot after the game and parted with the
usual encouragements. None of us knew then what was about to happen. There
was an air of expectancy, but no-one could have expected the outcome. I
wandered back to my seat but went down the wrong aisle. The aisle were full
by this time. I wondered where they'd all come from but supposed they'd
jibbed in because all the seats were full as well. The seats were full of
people standing actually because no-one sat.
I hadn't made a mental note of where I'd been standing and it was so murky
I couldn't read the numbers on the ticket!!! I clambered over seats behind
their occupants as they stood in front of them and eventually found my own.
The second half was already five minutes old and the game was continuing
where it had left off.
I didn't really like the formation which was on the pitch. We missed Keano,
we knew we would. But I couldn't understand why our midfield was being
played out of position. Soon enough things got a little better when Teddy
came on. We had spotted him warming up and were instantly buoyed by his
appearance. Fancy saying that now - how times change!
The last fifteen minutes of the game were heralded by a rendition of the
Red Flag which sent goose bumps surging through every part of my body. The
sight of thousands upon thousands of Reds with their arms raised belting
out the Red Flag as it's never been belted out before was a sight which
will live with me forever. The noise was defeaning and the emotion sucked
you in and kept you there. It turned out to be good preparation for what
was to follow, but at the time was a show of defiance.
The grand finale was upon us. Bayern attacked their supporters and United
attacked the goal in front of us. The end was nigh and when Bayern hit the
post and then the bar I thought we would win. "Don't you mean you thought
they would win?" "No", I was convinced we would win. I know that's easy to
say now, but I can honestly say it was so. Mind you with about five minutes
to go a few doubts were creeping in and then..................
I hadn't realised we were already in injury time when Becks came over to
our right to take the corner. There had been a series of pressure raids on
the Bayern goal and we had come very very close to scoring. And Ole was on
with his accompaniment: "Who put the ball in the scousers' net, who put the
ball in the scousers' net, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer." We all screamed our
encouragement as the lad who has become a hero this season ran over and
placed the ball by the flag. Another hero came charging downfield. Peter
was in the box ready and waiting and everyone's thoughts turned to the
Volgograd game. It couldn't be - could it?
The ball was whipped in and what happened between then and the ball hitting
the back of the net I've no idea, but I did see Peter rise and I thought he
got a touch. We went absolutely mental. The place was out of control and
the noise unbelievable and as we collected ourselves for however much of
the game was left I found a phone on my seat. The phone was switched on and
the display lit up. I picked it up and put it to my ear. I said, "hello"
and the voice on the other end said, "if you think that was good - watch
this." It was a beautifully expressive Scottish voice I'd heard many times
I turned around and gave the phone back to it's owner who was scrabbling
around on the floor under her chair and turned back as the lads had forced
another corner. I can't believe this I thought to myself, but there was an
air of inevitability about it. In came the ball again and this time Teddy
flicked it on and there was Ole and there was the ball in the back of the
This time we were out of control. I don't just mean we went mad - we were
completely, absolutely and totally out of bloody control. I was screaming,
laughing and crying at the same time jumping up and down on my seat like a
demented lunatic. The poor woman next to me got the biggest hug ever and I
swear the bridge of her glasses got pushed so far into her nose she'd never
have got them off again. There were bodies everywhere. I ended up two rows
back before being catapulted back to my own seat.
I looked behind me and the phone woman was screaming her head off and she
just flung herself over the seat and landed in my arms. There were bodies
everywhere going completely mental and the noise was now breaking the sound
barrier. No-one stopped to breathe. It was the most fantastic feeling. A
huge collective orgasm of delight. 60,000 Reds coming together in
celebration of a 31 year wait in the wilderness. The Bayern players were on
the floor. There were at least five of them in the goalmouth strewn all
over the place unable to move all completely motionless. Absolutely
I've been through this before in 1979 when we drew level at Wembley and
then Brady took the ball almost from the kick-off and crossed for that
bastard Sunderland to score the winner for the Arse. I knew what the
Germans felt like at that moment, but I didn't feel sorry for them til
later. I was just far too happy!
The Germans kicked off and the whistle blew. Two minutes of madness which
changed the face of the earth for millions of Reds throughout the world.
Two minutes that will live in my memory forever. Two minutes that even if
you had to pay £20,000 to be there it would have been too little. Two
absolutely priceless minutes of sheer unadulterated joy.
From that moment on it was party night in Barca. We sang at the tops of our
voices, a wall of pulsating sound which echoed round the Nou Camp, the
stadium was ours and will forever have a special place in our hearts. If
Barca had just beaten Real Madrid in the Final it wouldn't have been any
louder than this was.
The players went mental. Gary Nev was running around kissing his shirt and
the rest of them were leaping into each other's arms. Fergie went running
around hugging everyone in sight for the second time in a week. What a
feeling, what a week, what a fortnight, what a season!
It always takes a while to set up the table and place the huge silver
trophy atop, but we would have stayed there all night if necessary, it just
didn't matter, nothing mattered, we'd won. After 90 minutes they must have
been putting red and blue ribbons on the Cup but then have to take them off
I watched the Germans take their medals and clapped them. They didn't come
round to see us. They should have done, we'd have clapped them and buoyed
them up a little. But I suppose they couldn't face the face splitting grins
we had. Then our lads went up and Peter lifted the Cup. What a moment that
was. The culmination of a lifetime's support.
The lap of honour lasted forever. we didn't want to leave and neither did
they, but they saved the best til last. I think it was the daft Dane who
started it, but he picked up the Cup and we gave a huge cheer, so he put it
down and then did it again. He then did it a third time but fooled us and
left the Cup on the ground. He was laughing all over his face. He then
decided to take things a stage further and commanded us to shut up while
someone else lifted the Cup. He counted us in 1-2-3 and as the Cup was
lifted we cheered.
This went on and on with everyone lifting the cup in turn. Some did silly
dances and some didn't, but as the last of the players lifted it we shouted
for Keano. "Keeeeeeeano, Keeeeeeeano" we screamed and the players formed a
guard of honour. Keano, Scholsey and Henning Berg came down in their suits.
Keano and Scholsey took the Cup between them, walked through the players
guard of honour and as they appeared at the end they lifted the Cup high to
a tremendous cheer. henning Berg then did the same.
All the time we sang our songs and danced. There was a bloke dancing back
and forth up and down our aisle. He just couldn't stop. The Calypso went on
forever and ever. The air was ringing with delirious voices. The lads
eventually left the pitch after several displays where they would link arms
and dance or when James' record came on they all sat down and rocked in
unison. You would have to have been there to see it, but maybe someone
recorded it for TV.
Reluctantly about 45 minutes after the final whistle we left our seats. I
made my way back to the appointed meeting place just as two very excited
people came rushing over to me and we had anther extended hug-fest.
Practically the only word anyone uttered during that time was
"unbelievable". We made our way out of the ground and into throngs of
supporters. The faces around were wide-eyed and I wouldn't be surprised if
we looked the same - we were all in shock.
Thousands piled out together and made their way up the road towards the
main artery the Diagonal. TV cameras were on us and their harsh lights
caught our attention so about half a dozen lunatics, including us danced
and sang for the cameras. It was mayhem and madness and nobody cared -
except the Germans. But no-one took the piss out of them.
We then waited by another appointed place for Steve and John and while we
waited we were entertained by two lithe young girls who delighted in
teasing then revealing parts of their bodies normally kept private.
Eventually they were prevented from revealing "just once more" by, I
presume, a boyfriend. If he wasn't, he probably is now! Just as the fun
stopped John arrived having been waiting further on, he didn't seem
bothered about missing the fun - something about a football match!!
Out onto the Diagonal and the traffic had no chance of keeping us out of
the road. It was one long procession of Red down to the Metro station. The
weather was still very warm and to be honest even if it had been cold we
wouldn't have noticed. The metro station was extremely hot though and
packed full of people. we follow the crowds down but we felt there was
something wrong and decided to go back.
Wading through the hordes like salmon swimming against the tide wasn't easy
but when we got back into the night air we were glad we'd done it. Later
that night we found out there had been chaos after an old man had suffered
a heart attack down there and they had to get him out and off to hospital.
It stopped the Metro for a while, but the feeling was he'd survived. He was
on our flight but stayed in Barca, let's hope he makes a full recovery.
So we walked back to town. A very long walk, but we cared not a jot. We
stopped of at a bar for a drink and only Lizzie and I had beer, the rest
had water. I think we were all intoxicated so who needed beer. I did!! I'd
have happily stayed there drinking beer til I dropped, but after two or
three they were off again and so I went with them.
We finally made it back to the Rambla where all the action was. Some of the
bars had stayed open and were doing sound business. By this time I felt the
need for a visit to the toilet and you know that one of my reports would
not be the same without a toilet story! This was a small and not very
efficient toilet and stacked full of Bayern fans who were well gone.
My identity as a Red could not be questioned as I had my 1968 European
Final shirt on so I stood there waiting for the barrage of anti United
stuff, but it never came. Maybe it helped that they were all considerably
smaller than me or the fact that the rest of the bar was jammed with Reds,
but they didn't bother me at all. That doesn't mean we passed the time of
day, but who cares.
Back on the street I bump into the daft Dane again as he conducted several
interviews with TV crews and then we sat down and tried to come to terms
with what had happened earlier that evening. Most of the time we sat there
in silence still smiling and occasionally uttering the word of the moment
At 3am the coaches arrived at the Placa de Catalunya and we left for the
airport. There were several flights delayed, but ours was one of the first
to leave. The airport as many other places was littered with Reds. They
were everywhere stretched out on the seats and all over the floors. Some
had made the place their home for the last few days.
The flight was over in no time. It was for Nigel and Steve anyway as they
slept all through it, even the cheese and coleslaw - how could they have
missed that. WEe arrived back in England at 6.30 local time and the sun was
shining. We made straight for the newspapers and bought several. There were
tons of people waiting for us and it felt a bit like a returning army had
Back in the car with a coffee and a sandwich I asked Nigel if it was all a
dream. He said it wasn't, it was real. How could that be real I thought,
things like that don't happen - do they?
That 24 hours in Barca were, apart from family stuff, the most complete 24
hours I have ever known and I know I will never experience anything like it
again. It was unique and priceless, a simply stunning moment in time and
was a privilege to have been there.
Happy Birthday Sir Matt and thanks for the tip.
Postscript to A Day in the Life - a life in a day:
On Thursday morning I finally got home at around 10.00am, the M6 was one
long traffic jam and the journey took an hour longer than expected, but
then why should we expect anything from the M6?
Nigel and I had stopped off at a service station for some coffee and people
stared at us as we walked in. Whether it was because we wore United colours
or just that we looked completely knackered I don't know, but they all
stared at us. Maybe they knew we'd been there and done it. Maybe it was
that obvious - written all over our faces.
I dropped Nigel off at his place and drove the short distance to
Leamington. I walked into the house on what was supposed to be a normal
working day, but of course it was nothing of the sort. Manchester United
were European Champions and the news was all over the papers, on every
radio broadcast and TV.
I couldn't focus on work, I just wanted to watch the game over and over
again. I had said to Eliza as we were walking away from the Nou Camp,
"savour every single second it will never ever be like this again." I
wanted to relive the experience and so it seemed did many others.
Every now and then the phone would ring, but all the person at the other
end wanted to talk about was the match, work didn't come into it. I went
down to the local corner shop where they were still talking about the game,
I told them I'd just come back and that was it - the shop stopped still and
everyone who was there wanted to hear stories about what it was like.
The papers were full of stories like the man who drove into the Blackwall
tunnel on 90 minutes with the score 1-0 and lost his radio signal. When he
re-emerged a couple of minutes later United were European Champions!
At 3.15 I wandered down to the school to pick up my daughter and everyone
was talking about the game. A few of them knew I'd gone and came over to me
- I had to escape for fear of attracting a crowd. How far fetched does this
seem? I can assure you it's the truth - everyone wanted to know, it stops
people in their tracks when they find out you were there and complete
strangers come over to you and want to talk about it.
I remember it was similar in 1968, but with the extra media coverage, even
though it was the extremely disappointing ITV coverage, the focus on
football is far greater.
By the time I climbed into my bed on Thursday night I had been awake for 65
hours continuous, I had blisters on my feet after walking over 20 miles and
I was just a little tired!
For the past two days I and the others had survived on pure adrenaline and
life will never be the same again. I wonder how the man we kept
encountering outside the stadium got on. We finally left him sitting on the
pavement still ticketless. He had been separated from the people he'd come
with and had money but nothing else apart from what he stood up in and that
was very little - a pair of shorts. He had one leg in plaster and had even
lost one of his crutches and to top the lot he didn't even have his
Passport anymore. But he was still desperate for a ticket.
At times like that you have to look after yourselves, it was a bit like a
war zone outside that stadium, but the camaraderie is there. Thousands are
in the same boat as you, all searching for tickets - you just need that bit
of luck and we found ours with the Austrian. But you have to be there, it's
compulsory - you have to give yourself that chance.
On Monday night I'm going back with Karen and the kids for a week's
relaxation and sunshine. It's the kids' half term and I got a cheap deal at
the last minute.
This year we're off to sunny Spain - twice!!
|Click On pic - for all player stats from OT|
|Click On pic - for the history of MUFC 1892-1976|
Pic Link today is http://www.red11.org/mufc/sound/99/