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Barry Leeming

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The Dennis Viollet Fund

www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Fri 31 Dec 1999 01:11 GMT
Mail: barry@www.red11.org

 Happy Y2K  From the www.red11.org Web Team

This Issue:
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



Webmaster comment:
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
Yoel Druker

* If you have an article for this MUFC Daily News bulletin
   please mail it to  Thanks!


Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT
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 that way. "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 Paul Scholes. 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.
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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.’’
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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 South Melbourne. 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 same day. 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 tournament. To Worldwide Manchester REDS Happy RED 2000! 1999 'The Triple'
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Barca 99.. Part 1 of 5 by Paul Scully PICS: http://www.red11.org/mufc/images/99/ecfinal/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 around 7am. 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 cool drinks. 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 forever. 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: scullyp@logica.com Paul's Barce Pics available on the website at: http://www.red11.org/mufc/images/99/ecfinal/scully/
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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 our passengers. 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 Matt". 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 celebrations began. 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 scored. 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
Click On pic - for all player stats from OT
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 I'm not. 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 bit. 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 treat! 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 peered inside. 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 from inside. 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 kids. 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 these girls. 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 thousand patches. 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 minutes. 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 before. 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 net again. 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 shattered. 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 again. 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 "incredible". 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 come home. 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!! RED KELLY Copyrighted
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