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I was born in Salford (as you have probably all figured out by now!) about 3 miles from OT. My mum tells me she could see the floodlights from the window of the maternity ward. I grew up in the Pendleton and Seedley areas - streets full of terraced houses and a lot of poverty, but a warm and safe community in which to grow. We lived about 5 minutes walk from The Willows (the home of Salford Rugby League Club) and rugby league was (and is) a passion just as strong as football in that part of Salford. Indeed, many men in the area used to divide their weekends into Saturday at United (first team when at home, reserves when the first team were playing away) and Salford on either Friday night or Sunday afternoon. My family was not particularly interested in football so I got taken to the Willows long before I attended a live game at OT (when I was about 6 years old, I think). I'm still a season ticket holder there.
I don't remember when I first became aware of United. I do remember as a little girl going to my Gran's on a Saturday afternoon. She lived in Ordsall near to where Eddie Colman lived and all us kids used to go into Ordsall Park to see if we could catch a glimpse of Eddie going to the game, or even speak to him or get him to kick a ball about with us. We often did, and I grew up adoring Eddie even though I never saw him play. I think my parents kept promising they would take me to United when I was a bit older (even in those days, rugby league was seen as much more of a family sport than football, which was seen as a male pastime). Unfortunately, Munich intervened and I never saw Eddie play except on TV. Even now, that makes me cry.
I was 10 years old and the days after Munich had the most profound effect on my life and my psyche. I don't remember how I was told or who told me what had happened but I do remember how I felt, especially when I realised that Eddie was dead. I don't think I even considered Eddie would be one of the victims at first, it was unthinkable, but I remember to this day the pain of realising that the unthinkable had happened. Forty years later it is still impossible for me to think about that time without feeling that pain again and without getting very emotional (the tears are streaming down my face now). Other memories: men standing in the street outside the newsagent reading the Manchester Evening News with tears streaming down their faces; going to Eddie's funeral with my mum - lining the road into the cemetary with thousands of others; hearing about Duncan's death and hurting all over again; the quietness of the kids in school in the days immediately after the crash; going into Ordsall Park for months after and still looking out for Eddie.
I was a United fan before Munich, everyone was where I lived - it wasn't something you chose, it was what you were, like being female or being white or being the eldest or whatever. What Munich did for me was bind me to the club in a way that nothing else ever could. How could I ever suppport anyone else? How could I ever abandon Eddie and all the others? How could I ever leave the family of United supporters who had suffered as I had and who understood (still understand) how I felt? In 1958 I gave my heart to Manchester United.
I don't remember exactly when I attended my first game at OT. (I think I was about 12 or 13 years old) What I do remember is that it was against Liverpool, we won and I was overwhelmed with an experience which was a thousand times better than even I had expected. I will never forget the experience of emerging into the sunlight and seeing the crowd and hearing the noise. That wonderful feeling of knowing that here were thousands of people who felt exactly as I did. To see my heroes (especially Bobby Charlton) emerge on to the pitch was one of the highlights of my life. Unfortunately, because I was a girl, it wasn't considered 'safe' for me to go on the Stretford End, so I was stuck in the seats with the nobs (an event which probably did more than anything else to turn me into a feminist!), enviously looking towards the lads having a great time (echoes of our recent sojourn in the second tier!).
The next 10 years saw me attending games whenever someone would take me (always in the seats!). In those days, girls were not encouraged to attend football games on their own, without a male escort! Since I had no male relatives interested in football and made a pretty poor job of picking boyfriends (a couple were even City supporters!), my attendance was patchy - some seasons I attended almost every game, others very few. Increasing levels of violence at games kept me away from the more 'lively' fixtures and stopped me attending away games altogether for a long period. I then had two kids, got rid of my City supporting husband and became a single parent, so lack of money and baby-sitters also played a part in those bleak years.
But a happy ending was in sight! My kids grew up, my son became as fanatical as me, and at last I had someone to 'take' me to the games, even if he was only 12 years old! It didn't take long for me to make up for lost time! For the last 7 years I have attended every home game at OT (at all levels) and every away game for which I can get a ticket. I do everything us 'nice' girls weren't supposed to do - I go in the 'rough' end, I chant and sing, I swear, I drink and I love it! At the grand age of 50 I am making up for lost time, and nothing less than death will drag me out of OT (even then I intend to follow the example of the Spanish fan who instructed his son to take his ashes to the game every week!). The only thing I haven't done yet is go on a European trip, this I intend to rectify soon, preferably for the Champions' League Final and preferably in the company of some of this list's esteemed members!
Hope this hasn't bored too many of you!
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