Summary Of the 1997/98
from Our RED "Salford Lass"
July '97 - October '97
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Standing on the concourse, behind East Lower waiting for the start of the friendly with Inter Milan with a foolish grin on my face, waiting for the start of a new season. Like a child on Christmas morning because I was back in Old Trafford! Kevin Pilkington coming on as a striker and almost bringing off the most unexpected goal of the season! The first rendition of "If you hate Paul Ince clap your hands.
Seeing the looks on the faces of the four Chelsea fans who arrived at Warwick Services at the same time as 15 coachloads of United fans on their way to Wembley! Meeting list members behind the seats at Wembley and singing songs for the King. Fergie wearing his new specs, looking tanned and very, very relaxed. Jordi Cruyff having his one good game for United. Peter taking the piss during the penalty shoot-out. Sparky leaving the pitch to the sound of "Hughsie, Hughsie" from the United fans. Keano lifting the trophy.
Appearing on TV at White Hart Lane. Standing up with 3-400 Reds, out-singing 20,000 Spurs fans. Singing "Ginola, Fell over" and "Brian McClair, he may be fat". Teddy missing his first penalty. Spurs fans singing "What a waste of money" Nicky Butt scoring and running to us with both fists raised in the air. "We'll be top at 6.O'clock" and "2-0, without Cantona".
Returning home to East Stand for the Southampton game, after a year's exile in the "land of the living dead" on the second tier and finding a war zone. Stewards and "suits" patrolling up and down, standing in the aisle, shouting at fans. Arguing with a "suit" and getting a mouthful of abuse in return. One lad thrown out of the ground at half-time by 8 police officers. "You are all witnesses to this". Chants of "Fergie sit down" and "If you all hate Stewards clap your hands".
Being given a free gift by the PLC as I arrived at the reserves' first home game of the new season: a free pen! Choccy chipping the ball over the 'keeper. Terry Cooke - an enormous talent
Sitting on the coach to Filbert St next to the bus driver from Hell. Choruses of "Wanky, wanky, wanky, wanky Wanderers" on the M6. Standing up for the champions in the bus shelter, despite the efforts of the steward with the megaphone ("You can stick your megaphone up your arse"). Wonderful performances by Giggs and Schmeichel ruined by the poor finishing of Sheringham - a precursor of things to come. "We're shit and we're champions". The long, slow drawl of "Glory Glory Man United" developing into a staccato, drumming beat accompanied by stamping feet and banging on the metal stand. A rather large lady on a motor bike on the M6 on the way home!
A sunny Bank Holiday Monday afternoon at OT. At last, the reserves managing to get a win, with two young sides playing fast, passing football. Terry Cooke outstanding again.
Walking through a darkened East Lower before getting on the coach for the Everton game, full of ghosts and half-heard noises. Getting a warm welcome from the locals in Merseyside. A pint of Boddy's and a pasty before the game. Trying hard to be sophisticated and not stare at the Nevilles and the Beckhams just in front of us. Separated from the Everton fans by a row of elderly stewards and (very) young policemen. "You've only got two songs" and "In your Liverpool slums." United and Everton fans screaming abuse at each other, the sheer hatred leaving me breathless. Feeling very small, very helpless and very, very angry. Being covered in spittle by a United fan aiming at the Everton fans. A little girl getting hit on the head with a bottle and being comforted by Neville Neville.
Becks wheeling away from the goal, signing to the Everton fans that he couldn't hear them anymore, "David Beckham, King of all cockneys". Ryan Giggs, absolutely awesome. Teddy poking the ball into the net for his first United goal. The Red corner of the ground erupting with a mixture of relief and mad celebration. "2-0 without Ralphie Milne" and "Frannie wears a wig". The United Calypso and the first chant of "Jingle Bells" for the season. Laughing at the Geordies on the Five Live radio phone in and ducking to avoid the missiles raining down on us from the top deck of a Liverpool bus. Hansen - "They hunt in packs".
On the morning of the Coventry game, sitting down with my breakfast watching City fans making fools of themselves on TV - "How much do you hate Man United? "More than we love City". The forecourt before the game, stalls selling t-shirts and badges, lads selling fanzines, the smell of burgers, excited children with wide, shining eyes, fans congregating on the forecourt, gazing up at Sir Matt. Andy lifting the ball over Ogrizovic and a loud chorus of "Andy Cole, Andy Cole, Andy Andy Cole". Stewards shouting at everyone to sit down. Most fans giving up and a funereal silence descending over East Stand. Heard from the next row: "It's becoming a chore coming to Old Trafford these days."
Going to watch the reserves while the rest of the country was watching England. Finding Fergie was there as well! 20 minutes into the second half, the scoreboard giving the England score (1-0), pausing, and then: "scorer .....", another pause: "Paul Scholes" and a massive cheer around Old Trafford. Sitting with a silly grin on my face then disaster - Terry Cooke being stretchered off.
Walking down Trafford Rd before the West Ham game, on a cold blustery day on my way to the Throstle's Nest. Early coaches arriving, cars with scarves waving out of their windows, car park attendants putting out their signs, burger sellers setting out their stalls and police horses arriving in the GMP horse box. Arriving first at the pub and enjoying a drink with Steve and Brian from the USA, Roger from South Africa, Mark from Cornwall and Steve from UMIST (who wasn't going to the game but came to have a drink with us anyway!) Pete active with his camera, as usual. Mick showing off his torso. Taking the mickey out of Alan. Red Issue's "Rentathug Security Uncovered".
Brilliant atmosphere in East Lower, no aggro between fans and club and an exciting, end-to-end game with a happy ending. All of East Lower standing up from start to finish. "I'm forever blowing bubbles" and "Posh Spice is a dirty slag" from L Stand. Keano silencing the "bubbles" by putting the ball into the net. Keane, Becks and Gary Neville facing up to L Stand screaming with triumph. The half-time downpour which had us all running for cover. The sun coming out in time to see Scholes scoring down the other end. Splashing around in the puddles, hugging each other and chanting at the West Ham fans "United, United, top of the league". Mass aeroplane impressions in response to one or two pathetic attempts to wind us up. Peter dropping the ball right on the line and stopping it going over by a matter of inches and turning to us with an audible "Phew!!"
Off to "the land that time forgot" with Pete and Hal. Finding a supermarket on the site of the new Reebok stadium. Singing a chorus of "You only sing when you're shopping!" outside the ground. The new stadium - half-finished, dusty, dirty. Climbing all those stairs and no programmes. Fighting outside the ground. The curse of the execs striking again, silence and polite applause. "Private boxes, we are here". Thousands of aeroplane impressions, Munich songs and "We only hate United." McGinlay trying to head-butt Pally. Pally laughing down at him. Blake punching Pally on the chin, and Pally getting sent off. Everyone in the United end on his/her feet howling.
Singing the United Calypso for 20 minutes. The Bolton players winding up our lads. The whole of the Reebok rising as one to celebrate its first goal only to notice, a few seconds later, that the off-side flag was up. Screaming with frustration as chance after chance went begging. Trudging back up the hill as the police sirens blared - more fighting after the game.
Chelsea at home - the day of the silent protest. Arriving in East Lower, to find police and suits out in force and lads from Action 135 handing out leaflets. "No Surrender to the PLC". The club handing out revised words to our favourite chants (minus swear words). Keith Fane trying to get the Family Stand to cooperate in singing the new words - boos and catcalls all around OT. The Family Stand singing along, swear words included - after a couple of goes, Fane giving up with the immortal words "Oh alright, sing what you want then!". Loud cheers from the Family Stand and laughter from the rest of the ground!
The protest - sitting silently in East Lower with 3000 Chelsea supporters trying to wind us up. West Stand deciding to have a chorus of "Stand up for the Champions", despite the shushing noises coming from our end. Areas of North Stand, normally are as quiet as the grave, deciding a bit of chanting might be in order! South Stand nodding off to sleep, as usual. The silent protest helped by Berg's own goal. Delirious celebrations in the away corner and total silence in the rest of the stadium. The Chelsea fans moving up a gear singing "You're not very good". The protest falling apart as the taunting from the Chelsea fans becomes impossible to ignore. Then, Cole bearing down on the keeper, passing across the front of goal and the Ginger Prince is running over to us with a roar and a massive grin on his face. "You're not very good" and "Chelsea rent boys".
War on the pitch. Dennis Wise in the middle of everything and the cause of most of it. Poyet "innocently" shrugging his shoulders after hacking down a United player. Keane kicking him up the arse to loud cheers from the United fans! Brilliant atmosphere for the second half, standing up and going through the songbook, the suits nowhere in sight. "Forever and Ever", "The Red Flag", "Glory glory", "We are the Busby boys", "If I die on Kippax St". Sparky scoring right in front of us. The Chelsea fans singing "Hughesie" (that hurt!). Ole - striking the ball like an exocet missile, curling into the top corner of the Chelsea goal.
Disaster at Elland Rd. Having lunch in a local pub, stuffed full of Leeds fans, not a red shirt in sight, trying out our newly acquired Yorkshire accents. Walking to the ground, blending in with the locals with our stuffed sheep under our arms. At first glance, the street full of Leeds fans. Small groups of fans separating off and entering the ground through a particular set of turnstiles. Transformations taking place inside the ground - United scarves being produced out of bags and, pockets, coats unfastened to reveal United shirts. Being 'entertained' by the Leeds mascot (an elephant?) The Leeds fans in the corner to our left who spent most of the warm-up gesticulating at us and inviting various members of the United party to "come outside if you're hard enough".
Tinkerbell resurfacing - no Cole, Butt or Giggs, Poborsky starting on the left again. Standing up for the champions all through the game. "Where are you when we're not here" and "Shagging sheep when we're not here". The reply? Aeroplane impressions and "Stand up if you hate Man U". The United play sloppy and uninventive. Wetherall scoring with his head from a free kick. Three sides of Helland Rd erupting as Leeds fans had multiple orgasms. United fans silent in shock "You're not singing anymore". Mandy Dingle at half-time, "looking for a man". Improvements in the second half, as Poborsky went off and Johnsen came on. Nigel Martyn having the game of his life. Time running out and the Leeds fans getting noisier and noisier. Then disaster! A flurry at the other end, Keane going down and staying down. Becks running over to protect him as Leeds players gave him grief. The sad sight of hobbling around for a few minutes, but then limping off. Schmeichel going "up front", but no happy ending. Dancing Leeds fans everywhere. Leaving the stadium feeling sick and disappointed. Melting into the crowd and walking back to the car pretending to be happy Leeds supporters
A few days later, making our first trip of the season to Gigg Lane for a reserve game against Tranmere, only to find Bury had been invaded by Scousers. Behind us, the Witches of Eastwick screeched abuse at the United players, in broadest scouse. Coming to Gigg Lane on a Monday night, to watch the reserve team obviously being their Cup Final! David May back and our first sighting of Erik Nevland. Ending 2-1 to Tranmere, it was not a classic. Michael Clegg and John Curtis both impressive.
October 1 1998, a date never to be forgotten by those of us lucky enough to be there. "You are my Solskjaer", on the crowded forecourt before the game. Inside East Lower, white faces and nervous excitement. Not being able to stand still. Optimism one minute, despair the next. Wanting to cry with pride when the players came out. The new Euro kit, in its traditional red. A stunned silence when Del Pierro scores right in front of us. Peter picking the ball out of the net with a look of total disgust on his face. 24 bloody seconds! "United! United!" Praying silently. "If you don't let them beat us, I will never swear again, I will be nice to old ladies on the bus, I will never again say Teddy Sheringham is useless". From the whole stadium - "We love United". "The Red Flag". "Forever and ever".
Gradually, the lads getting back into the game. Sheringham having a goal disallowed for off-side, Ole coming close after a sweeping move downfield. Then, ecstacy! Giggs taking apart the Juventus defence and crossing a high, looping ball into the box. The ball seemingly in the air forever. Then, Sheringham getting his head to the ball and every part of Old Trafford going wild! Hundreds of fans surging down the steps the son-and-heir hugging a steward, one bloke lying on the floor with a dozen people trampling all over him but screaming with pleasure. Peter roaring with triumph. An awesome atmosphere with a toe-curling "Forever and Ever."
Chanting at Peruzzi in the second half - "You fat bastard". The Italians kicking everything that moved and falling over like delicate flowers. Deschamps going off. Our lads keeping their cool. The ball coming to Scholes, directly in line with where we were standing. Time standing still. Scholesy going one way, Peruzzi countering. Scholesy going the other way, cool as a cucumber. Realising I was screaming as the ball hit the back of the net! Jumping up and down singing "Glory, Glory" and "We love United" and "Shit on the Eyeties" Out-running, out-passing and out-defending the best Italy can offer. Then dying and going to heaven as Ryan scored one of his best goals ever. Almost having a nervous breakdown in the last couple of minutes as Zidane scored from a free kick. The noise deafening as the crowd whistled for the ref to end the game. In agony, holding my breath and praying! The whistle blowing and the tension being released in a cheer that shook Manchester. Standing in East Lower singing and hugging and kissing after the game. Emerging into the cold night and grinning up at Sir Matt as the chanting continued across the forecourt and down Trafford Rd. Grinning for days afterwards.
Arriving early on the forecourt before the Crystal Palace game, to find it already crowded and noisy. Queuing up to get coach tickets for Ipswich away (on a Tuesday night!). Seeing Lombardo's head shining from 200 yards. "We support our local team" from the Palace fans, "We support the champions" from us. Most of us feeling wiped out emotionally from Wednesday night, but managing to chant "He's red, he's white, he kicked the Cockney shite" and "Simmonds, are you here?" Standing up at the beginning of the game (as we had for Juventus). Then the "suits" appearing "Sit down mate", "Can you sit down mate?", "Come on, sit down mate". A baboon in a suit screaming down my ear every few seconds. Politely enquiring where he was on Wednesday night and only getting a shrug of the shoulders in reply. Teddy scoring an absolute scorcher, prompting the son-and-heir to comment "you're going to get the piss taken out of you again, Mum." A few minutes later, one of the Palace defenders doing a totally unnecessary back-pass to his 'keeper, and we were two up! Not being arsed winding up the Palace fans but concentrating the chanting at the PLC - "No surrender to the PLC", "We are excited, we are excited", "We don't need no aggravation". A dire second half. Having to stand up to stay awake. The only entertainment - watching Lombardo fall over. The "suits" deciding to liven things up a bit, throwing out a fan in J Stand for standing. "You're just a bunch of wankers", "Stand up for the Champions". Pockets of trouble all over East Stand as fans were thrown out for daring to argue with one of the suited ones. The away fans joining in with "You're just a bunch of wankers" as one of their number was thrown out. Still, at least the activities off the pitch were more interesting than those on the pitch!
Off to Maine Rd for Paul Lake's testimonial. Despite the hangovers, good to see the Reds standing and singing and generally having a party in the warm sunshine. Over in the Kippax, the blues noses sitting in bitter silence. An announcment at the beginning of the game that seven United players would only be playing for the first twenty minutes and would then be substituted so that they could journey South to join the England squad. Singing "Engerland, Engerland, Engerland". David May, captain for the afternoon. Not caring what was going on on the pitch - as most of us had come for a rare opportunity to wind up our blue brethren.the City fans! "We all know that Franny wears a wig" and "Franny, Franny give us a wave". "Always look on the Kippax for shite", "We're the cream of Manchester", "You're the shit of Manchester", "Which division are you in?", "You're a big club", "The only big club in the Nationwide" and of course, the well-known classic - "1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 5-0".
Replacing our established players with the youth team and Raimond coming on for Peter, which sparked off the chant of the day: "Oh Van de Gouw" (to be nicked by Andy Cole, later in the season). Singing "1-0 to the youth team" and then (patronisingly) "1-1, in your cup final". The celebrity penalty shoot-out at half-time - Umberto offering to take on all-comers after a chorus of "Do you take it up the arse"! Singing Cantona songs in the second half and "Going down, going down, going down", "We won't see you any more". A United fan walking up the whole height of the Kippax giving a well-known salute to all the City fans. "Reds are 'ere. reds are there".
Suffering a long, boring coach trip to Ipswich on a Tuesday night, just to watch a reserve side get kicked out of the Fizzy Pop Cup. Having serious doubts about my sanity. My daughter (not well versed in the ways of the away trip) saying in a very loud voice as we get off the coach "what are all these pigs doing here?" Smiling sweetly at the police officers as I ushered her away. Almost getting run over by the team bus (who's occupants looked as thrilled to be there as we were) and blowing kisses to Choccy. Watching the locals arriving on their tractors outside the ground. Hunting the bookie inside the ground, without any luck, despite following the signs into the Gents toilet. Meeting Barry at last and realising it's not my sanity I should be worried about! Getting my very first Christmas pressy! David May - captain again. The team having no intention of making any real effort to win the game. Fergie grinning all the way back to the dressing room, unlike those of us who had paid more money than we could afford and travelled on a 12 hour return journey for the privilege of watching the team throw away the tie. Despite that, enjoying singing "The 12 days of Brian McClair", "Ooh Aah, Brian McClair", "Brian McClair, Brian McClair, running down the wing" and "We're here, cos Choccy's here". Arriving back in Manchester at 3am. Getting an early morning phone call from the son-and-heir the next day, telling me how much he had enjoyed watching the game on the tele!
Sitting on the coach in front of the Munich memorial before heading off to Derby, thinking about the boys and Munich. Travelling through the Peak District on a beautiful autumn morning. Pride Park - modern, ugly, in the middle of a building site, but surprisingly impressive inside. Football's new era: the "Rams Superstore", a new Derby official magazine called Rampage, Rams Milk on sale for 50 pence. Cheerleaders, a new club anthem and not one, but three mascots (one of them a milk carton!). Derby fans with inflatable sheep. Making friends with a steward who just happened to be a Red from Chesterfield. An inept first-half display making the first half at Ipswich look good. Sheringham stepping up to take the penalty and the United end collectively holding its breath and covering it's eyes. Wanchope taking the piss out of our defence. 2 nil down at half-time and the Derby fans are in heaven. "Who the shit are Man United", "We are the Forest haters", "Stand up if you're 2-0 up" and "Are you watching Nottingham?" Our reply? "Stand up for the Champions" and "We're shit, but we're Champions".
The lads finally remembering who they are in the second half. Sheringham redeeming himself - a little! - by heading in our first goal. Cole coming on and scoring a pure 'poacher's' goal. A 15-minute rendition of "The "United Calypso". A pulsating wall of sound which makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Going through the songbook as the Derby fans go quiet. A few saddoes singing "Who's that lying on the runway" leading to a massive (and moving) "We'll never die" from the United fans. "Derby is your name, Derby is your name, 2-0 up and fucked it up, Derby is your name" and "We can see you sneaking out".
Back in Old Trafford on the 22nd for another European evening. Being presented with a statuette of Mark Hughes before the game by my pals in the Throstles Nest and meeting the infamous Billy Read. Shouting abuse at Mick and Alan outside the chippy. Sir Matt Busby Way heaving with fans. Feeling nervous and sick. Old Trafford on a cold, autumnal evening. - a slight mist in the air, giving the stadium a ghostly glow. To our left, 3,000 very noisy Feyenoord fans, but closer inspection revealing a Chelsea flag, several Ireland shirts, a Tottenham shirt and, most surprising of all considering that City are fighting for their lives at Maine Rd at precisely that moment, a number of City shirts! The Dutch fans singing "You're shit and you know you are" in Dutch accents! This theme continuing throughout the evening with "Giggs is gay" and "Cruyff is crap" (several inhabitants of East Lower being heard to join in with the latter!).
The usual stomach-churning moment as our red-shirted heroes come onto the pitch. The son-and-heir panicking, thinking Fergie was "tinkering" again, until he saw Denis Irwin hiding being Pally. Half-an-hour of frustration - lots of chances but no goals. Then, a moment of magic from our red-haired hero: Irwin crosses into the box, Cole heads the ball down to Scholes and Scholes (as cool as a cucumber) controls the ball with his chest and flicks it into the corner of the net with the outside of his right foot! The son-and-heir doing another dance (this time with a car park attendant) down the steps of East Lower! More frustration for the rest of the first half, but we're happy enough - one-nil up and Newcastle losing by the same scoreline in Germany. The second half beginning with Peter trying to wind up the volume of the chanting. Peter sharing with us the frustration of being stuck up at our end whilst all the action was going on in front of the Stretford End! Then, Sheringham going down for a penalty. "Irwin, Irwin". Mr Dependable smashing the ball into the net and then falling on his arse! A nail-biting finish - holding our breaths and praying. Leaving the stadium to the sound of "You'll never walk alone" and "Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool" and the sound of United fans' laughter. Another great European night at Old Trafford - we're the top of our group, above the mighty Juventus.
A few days later, oh the joy of seeing Andy Cole shine on a sunny October afternoon. Arriving to find the Barnsley fans already filling the away corner, their samba band playing loudly. Unlike the Sheffield Wed band, at least they play in tune and seem to know more than one song! Our first exposure to the players' new single, being released in time for Christmas. Somehow, I don't expect it to be a big hit in our section of the stadium, consisting as it does of "our" chants, with all the swear words taken out! A very young (and local) United side starting the game. Being proud as punch to see Curtis making his first team debut. For the first 15 minutes - "It's like watching Brazil", but the signs not good for Barnsley. "This could be another Ipswich". The Barnsley fans are singing the ABU version of "Andy Cole" as the said player leaps onto the ball, pushes it to the right, goes round the defender to the left, reconnects with the ball and places it into the net with the sweetest finish imaginable. Hugging and kissing each other, we sing "Andy Cole, Andy Cole" and "It's like watching City". Were still singing when the ball once again comes towards us. Ole passes the ball across the area to Cole, and another sweet finish puts it into the net. Bedlam in East Lower and the son-and-heir has the biggest grin on his face I've seen in months! Andy runs over to us, turns his back and points to his name on his shirt!
Going through the songbook (whilst standing, unmolested by the men in suits). "Choccy, Choccy, give us a wave" and "Choccy is our hero ". Then the awesome sight of Giggs weaving down the pitch towards us, cutting across the front of goal and curling in the most beautiful shot with his right foot. Andy doing a Prince Nazim impression after his third goal. Ole coming up behind him and lifting his arms in the air to the cheers of East Stand and the sound of 50,000 people singing "Andy Cole, Andy Cole". The Barnsley fans giving their all despite the stuffing they were getting on the pitch. "We all come from Barnsley", "Who wants to come from Barnsley?". At 5-0, the chant was "6-5, we're gonna win 6-5!" leading to a round of applause from East Stand. Then, "7-6, we're gonna win 7-6!" Going through the scouse songbook in the second half - "Fuck McManaman, Fuck McAteer", "We won the football league again" and "He's only a poor little scouser". The Barnsley fans singing "We love you Barnsley" and "There's only one Danny Wilson". Both sets of fans joining in a chorus of "We all hate Leeds". Alan Hansen taking the mickey out of himself later on Match of the Day - "You still can't win anything with kids!"
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