Thursday, April 09, 2009

It Was Forty Years Ago Today

On 9 April 1969 this blogger attended his first ever football match as a five year old with my dad. I can remember just about everything about the day leading up to the game - the rising wee-in-your-own-pants excitement that I was going to see my beloved (though, even then unsellalbe) United in action for the first time. A team which, remember, just two months later would win the only trophy I've yet to see them win in my lifetime to date (I'm not counting the Texaco Cup and the Intertoto Cup here). There was the bus trip on the old number Thirty Four route up Walker Road, round by the Central Station and getting off on Westgate Road and then, the walk from there along Stowell Street (long before it was packed with the lovely Chinese restaurants which it houses today), across Gallowgate and up Strawberry Place to St James'. I do that walk virtually every week these days and it's three hundred yards at most. But, it seemed like a marathon then because I was only small and had little legs! I can remember hearing the muffled tannoy noise from a distance which sounded uncannily like radio broadcasts from another dimension and the rumble and murmer of the, already assembling, crowd. I can remember the smell of hot dogs wafting, sickly-sweet, towards me - probably the first time that I'd ever experienced that smell in my life. I can remember the little gnarled fellah that used to walk around the cinder track before the match selling peanuts "a tanner a bag!" And the smell of beer on mens breath. I can remember getting into the ground on the old Popular side and sitting on the wall at the front behind an advertising board thinking "finally, I'm here."

I can, in short, remember just about everything about the day ... except for any details of the match itself! I mean, I've looked it up since, of course. I know that it was against Sheffield Wednesday, for example, and that United eventually won 3-2 (with goals by the recently signed Benny Arentoft, Keith Dyson and, the now virtually forgotten, Arthur Horsfield). I know - from reading the Journal report on the match - that Willie McFaul saved a point blank header in the last minute which ensured that United got the points. And, that it was Geoff Allen's last game for United's first team. It was his comeback after a six month absence but he lasted just five minutes before a heavy tackle effectively ended his careerat the age of just twenty three. And, I can even tell you that the crowd was 29,973. Or, 29,971 plus me and me dad.

What I can't tell you anything about, at all, is the game itself. I have absolutely no memories of that whatsoever. They seem to have been flushed away by the hyperactivity and stress of the day. In fact, although I know that I attended a smattering of games at St James' during 1969 and 1970 (usually with my dad, occasionally with my brother), it was really only the arrivals of Malcolm MacDonald, Hallelujah John Tudor and Tony Green in 1971 that kind of kick-start my memories of actual games. (Supermac's home début, against Liverpool, when he scored a hat-trick is probably the first proper memory of watching football and that may well be because the game was televised and I've watched the highlights dozens of times since.)

Anyway, in celebration of my fortieth anniversary of total and utter bloody misery (a couple of decent cups runs, two promotions, and five years of Keeganomics aside), here's a glass raised to the good ol' boys of Sixty Nine. And here's to Bobby Moncur with that Fairs Cup in his hands...!

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