Shades of Red
It gets worse before it gets better. Are you ready for this? The first time I saw Eric play in the flesh was that Munich anniversary game. Inexcusable really (unless I had the excuse of being born in 1993 which, I quite clearly don’t). How can I live with myself? More pertinently, how can I happily (if sporadically) tend a blog devoted to United where I often pontificate on the ‘correct’ way to support United? Erm...can I get back to you on that?
Not really. I don’t need to duck the question. Having broke down my credibility, let’s have a crack at it from the other direction, and try building it up again. Fell in love with United on FA Cup Final Day 1979, aged 7. Same day they broke my heart (or Alan Sunderland and that bloody perm of his did anyway). Went to my first game (Everton at home, midweek, 0-0) in 1979. Second game better: Andy Ritchie scored hat-trick against Leeds. This was more like it.
Remember my Mum coming upstairs one night to tell me it had just been on the news that United had sacked Dave Sexton. Remember crying at this news. Don’t remember why. Sister took me about once a month then. Then she got married and my Mum took me. Then, when I was about 12, Mum decided I was big enough to go on my own. If I wasn’t the first on the Stretford End every other Saturday I was one of them. And if wasn’t the skinniest and slightest on the Stretford End every other Saturday, I was one of them. By three my dazzling view of the pitch had shrunk to postage-stamp size, at best. Didn’t matter. I loved being part of that roiling ocean of red humanity, particularly when caught by the current of celebration, swept along to land god knows where.
At first, Mum thought I was too young (and too weedy probably) to go alone midweek. Never did get to see Barcelona in 1984. Don’t bear grudges much, and Barcelona in 2008 and was pretty special and I was there for that. The weird thing is, during all this time, I never went to the game with anyone. At the time this never felt that odd. I was from Oldham and there were surprisingly few reds around our way at the time, nor were there many at school who had Mum and Dad’s blessing to go to Old Trafford on a regular basis (remember this was the 80’s and all that entailed, and United were still tainted with the Red Army 70’s vibe and all that entailed). I swing between gratitude at the fact my parents trusted me to go, and the desire to retrospectively shop them to Childline for such flagrant lack of parental solicitude.
In time, a couple of other lads would start going too, one every game, one just now and again. Sometimes we’d bump into each other on the 182. Sometimes we wouldn’t. It didn’t seem to bother us either way. What it meant, is that I never became part of a United gang, my matchday rituals were all of a solitary nature (ah, but what rituals aren’t when you’re 15?). A change came when a lad at the shop where I did my papers (even Saturday nights, straight off the 24, doing the Pinks, amazed that I could be reading about a game I was stood watching – or to be more precise, stood in near proximity to – just over an hour ago), started offering me his Grandad’s seat in H stand.
It meant leaving the Stetford End, which was sad, but it meant being sat immediately behind the United Road end, which wasn’t. Even better, for some games, the away end would creep round the corner in our direction and we’d get visiting supporters right beneath us. I have a memory from about 1989 (I almost don’t want to set it right and sully it by looking it up on google) of a late winner against Liverpool, when they were utterly dominant, me stood on my chair, jubilant, scores of scousers beneath, baying for blood and throwing anything they could lay hands on at us. Don’t judge me, but there aren’t many moments in life when I can say I was as truly, joyfully, exultantly as happy as then.
And then I drifted away. Loads of reasons. Saturday job. The Stone Roses. No trophies and to be honest no sign of any. Went off to University, barely even bothering to notice results most of the time. Never even occurred to me go back to Old Trafford when I was back home. But I remember taking a break from revising for my finals one Sunday afternoon to listen to Oldham play Aston Villa. And I remember shedding a few tears when it ended. And more the next night when I was in some bar in Newcastle in the company of some reds, singing every song we could remember from our times on the terrace. Geordies looking on, realising there was little glory to be had in picking on a bunch of specky twats like that. Thank god.
And in time I drifted back. The odd game at first. Then the bug bit. Season ticket. The odd away – but only ever Bolton or Blackburn – oh, and Villa Park too, where I saw Ian Brown, rocking along with a simian stroll only the finest primates can master. Anyway, have my red credentials been re-established yet? Hopefully.
These days, the season ticket has gone back and, for a multitude of reasons I’ve drifted away again. Mortgage to pay. Family. PIK loans. Those sort of reasons. But in many ways, my redness hasn’t wavered in the way it did last time. How could it? I’m here writing this. If I wasn’t, I’d probably be looking at twitter where half my timeline is clogged by United related items of varying degrees of interest.
So why the anxiety and insecurity? It’s not just the not going. In some ways, and I’ve argued this myself, right now not attending OT is the truest measure of redness, your stomach for staying away the litmus test of how much you really want the Glazer’s to fuck-off, no matter what the colour of your scarf says otherwise. No, I’m pinning the blame – and if you’ve followed these posts, you might have expected this – on twitter.
What did you do last night? Me, I watched Cemetery Junction. Not bad. Nothing special. Female characters sketchily drawn to put it mildly. Gervais too happy to retreat into his usual (dis)comfort zone for my liking, all that ironic-racist shite, the nagging old-gran, like it’s On the Buses or something. Looked like he couldn’t decide what he was doing with the main character. Stuck on that Tim and Dawn from the Office-type romance. Watchable though.
Only, I know that, if I want to call myself any kind of red, I should have been doing nothing of the sort. I should have been at OT watching the youth team in action against Chelsea (I mean, you can’t seriously uphold a boycott for a game that costs 3quid can you?). You can? Well then I should have been tuned into some stream or other (obviously MUTV is a no-no). Or, at the very least, I should have been watching via twitter (it’s the new ceefax don’tchaknow) where no shortage of those I follow where filing 140 character dispatches at staggeringly frequent intervals. (I know this because I trawled through them after the film, when I should have been watching Spurs v Arsenal).
I know, because many of those I follow on twitter do, that I should have a workable opinion on Will Keane and any of the other members of the youth team who aren’t Ravel Morrison (everyone has an opinion on him). Thing is, I’m just not that interested. Fleet Foxes have a new album due in a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to it immensely. But I’m not fussed about hearing the demo’s for the album, I want to hear the finished deal. I feel the same about youth football. I want the finished, produced album, not the rough and ready works in progress. Though it’s not surprising that the internet should be overrun with reds of a more completist, geekier persuasion. I just can’t find it in myself to join them, so I find myself staring into my navel and trying to gauge the degree of redness I see.
So, in summary. Youth team played. Didn’t watch it. Wrote about this at length. The end.