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Red Army Soldier part 1

January 28, 2010

Written by: GW

Football fans always say that you don’t choose who you support, the team chooses you, well in my case it was a twist of fate, and a series of coincidences that led me to United.

My first memories of watching foottball are when I was about eight or nine, these were the days when the BBC showed a First Divsion game live on a Saturday afternoon as part of the Grandstand programme, my Dad didn’t work on Saturday afternoons so I spent a bit of time watching the games with him, he was a Sunderland supporter (don’t ask), and the one game that sticks in my mind was watching them play being a bit of a rogue I decided to cheer on QPR through the TV screen, I think QPR won and for some reason it stuck, I suppose I like the hooped shirts, they looked different to all the other teams playing in varying shades of grey on our 16″ black and white t.v. set.

Fate took a twist in 1968/9 my Dads parents were aging and being a young lad I didn’t fully inderstand things, but one day Dad announced that we would have to visit Aunty Kathleen in London, I didn’t even know I had an Aunty Kathleen, let alone one who lived in London, we had a car but Dad said we would have to go by train as it was too far for him to drive, so along with him and my Mum we packed suitcases and boarded the train, it was May 27th 1968, I was just past my eleventh birthday, we set off from Manchester very early, and arrived at my Aunties place very late at night, I was packed off to bed with a cousin I’d never met and who I thought talked real funny, it was like he was a foreigner, I could hardly understand a word he said.

The follow day Dad spent a lot of time talking to Aunty, I was left a little to my own devices, my cousin had to go to school, I can remember going out with Mum in the afternoon, the place was much like Manchester, very busy and lots of traffic, people were milling every where, later that day I met my Uncle Harold, he looked at me,
“Do you like football lad” he asked rubbing my hair.
My Dad replied for me “Aye he plays a bit, and watches games with me at ‘ome”
Uncle Harold looked at me and I nodded sheepishly.
“Would you like to go to a game tonight” he asked
“I can’t pay” me Dad chirped in
” No need for money Stan, he can come with me, I’ll look after the young lad”
Dad looked across at me and I nodded excitedly
“Ow can you look after ‘im if your working” me Dad said
“He’ll be fine, I’ll pop him in the crowd down by the tunnel, a few mates of mine get down there he’ll be fine” I could see my Uncle was trying to reassure my Dad, I looked across to my Mum.
“Oh let him go Stan, He’ll be fine with Harold, besides he’ll only be bored here”
I looked at my Dad.
“Ok son but mind you behave and do everything Uncle Harold tells you to”.
We shall have to leave quite soon, I need to check the pitch, and make sure things are alright for the referee.
“your Uncles a groundsman at Wembley” me Dad butted in, “He gets to see lots of games”
C’mon ******” said my Uncle, “you’ll not need a coat,it’ll be warm enough”

My Uncle guided me through the door and down the street, we went by the tube to Wembley, and as we walked up Wembley way I got my first ever look at those towers, it was still daylight, as I follwed him through a small side door and into a room where there were five or six men drinking tea, Uncle nodded to each of them in turn, saying a name.
“This is *****” he said pointing to me, “he’s down with his Dad from up north,… Sammy “?
One of the younger men nodded at Uncle, look after ‘im will ya, take him down by the tunnel after you’ve shown the lad around a bit”
For some reason I was expecting a guided tour of the ground, but instead I was given a tour of the groundsmans store and given a blow by blow account of mowers, nets, flags, white lining machines, and sweeping brushes with heads a special width to fit the terraces, I would probably find it all more interesting now, but back then to be honest I found it a bit boring.

Eventually with the tour over. we made our way back to the small room, I was completely lost, and had no idea where we were, after Sammy had drunk a cup of tea and managed to smoke two cigarettes he said it was time to go.

Sammy led me down numerous corridors and up stairs, until eventually we came out in the tunnel, he ushered me out quickly,
“We have to be quick!” he said
I ran behind him to the end of the tunnel, he helped me over the low wall.
“Now stay there, I’ll be back at half time to check on ya” I nodded excitedly, and stood nervously behind the wall.
People were already starting to arrive, and theplace I was standing started to fill quite quickly, at first I was ignored then one man started to talk to me.
“You Harry’s boy” he asked
I looked up at him, “No me Dads called Stan”
The bloke looked at me and smiled “Did you come here with Harold who works here?”
I remember looking up and down at him, “My Uncle Harold works here yes ” I said
He offered a hand ” I’m Tom, the one he told your Dad that would look after you”
I shook his hand and introduced myself, I was soon chatting to him, he was very patient, and must have had kids, because I reckon I tried his patience a bit.
The crowd was now begining to fill Wembley, and it was getting noisier, i was having to shout to be heard.
“Who’s playing” I asked
Tom Laughed, “Who’s playing, blimey lad I’d have though coming from Manchester you would have known”
I gave him a stare
“Its the European Cup Final, Manchester United are playing Benfica tonight”
He showed me his program, the list of players was mind blowing, I couldn’t believe it, I was going to watch the best team in England.
I turned to the pitch and my eyes were glued to it.

“It’s down there you need to look Tom Pointed down the tunnel, we get to see the teams first, far down in the tunnel I could see a group of players, some in blue, some in White, one stood out
“Is that George Best” I asked Tom
Tom craned his neck around the wall,
“Yes thats Best” he said
My mouth went dry, my stomach flipped, I felt sick inside and excited at the same time, I watched in awe as the two teams walked towards me, I was speechless as the Wembley crowd, cheered and swung their rattles to welcome the two teams.
Tom put his hands on my shoulders as I stood there open mouthed, then at the top of my voice I joined in with the rest of the crowd, for the first time ever I shouted


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 12:52 pm

    I have seen some crappy posts but this one really impresses me. Good work!

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