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Hitting the Fan with United (Part One): Homage to Harry Gregg

I have often wondered if I am the only person who witnessed both of the two most spectacular match-day assaults ever perpetrated by Manchester United players on spectators, explosively sudden moments of violence which occured with a 35 year interval between them and which had markedly different impacts on the players concerned, and on the club. The term is over-used, but in both cases true United Legends were involved, heroes to me then – and now – and the memories of these dramatic occurrences remain as vivid today as when they happened.

Here I want to concentrate on the earlier event, because it’s long ago and largely forgotten, but also because in telling the tale in some detail it’s possible to give a picture of what it was like to be a United fan around half a century ago. Some will have no interest in such things, but for me supporting United is inseparable from understanding the club’s complex history, which can include uncomfortable truths about those we revere. I wish when I began supporting the Red Devils I’d had access to detailed memories of fans from 50 years previously, which would have meant from before World War One, so I hope the younger readers among you will find something here to forge a deeper link to United’s past, and for older folks maybe there’s a memory or two to share.

There are no prizes for guessing that the more recent incident involved Eric Cantona’s astonishing kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace in January 1995, when I had a perfect view from the Selhurst Park stand of how he felled his antagonist with one rather elegant studs-up leap.Eventually there was some sort of ban on showing the TV pictures of that martial arts moment, apparently for fear of ‘bringing the game into disrepute’, but initially the clip was re-played on TV so many times it felt like we’d all been kicked into submission on the point that this was absolutely unprecedented and the worst such crime by a player in football history.

I disputed that view at the time, as I will come to in due course, but first I want to explore what happened one mild Spring afternoon in Luton on Saturday 9th April 1960, which indeed shows that Eric was not the first to fell a fan…

To read this story in full, purchase Red Matters from Amazon.




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20 Comments

  1. Macheda is GOD says:

    That last line just cracked me up

  2. Macheda is GOD says:

    I was never aware of this incident with gregg.
    The thing that pissed me off was that the fans where being cunts to harry.

  3. Red Dave says:

    Fantastic read
    its rewarding to know about events involving our club from decades before my time
    makes me feel like more of a fan
    cheers scott

  4. Its in my blood says:

    Giles, what a wonderful account of days gone by!
    I can relate to much of what you have said having followed United for nearly as long as you. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. Mic says:

    Think i’ll get a brew and some toast and have a read! Looking at the few comments, looks well worth the read.

  6. nomoreargies says:

    great article cheers scott.

  7. Chingar says:

    A great historic account on our history, and a pleasure to read. Mr. Gregg has always been a favourite with me, now more than ever. Are the other articles written by mr. Oakley available online?

  8. theboogeyman says:

    Fantastic article!
    Thanks,Scott and Giles.

    Quick question,Giles,or anyone else for that matter,have you read The Biography of Manchester United by Jim White?It’s a fantastic read.

  9. READ CAREFULLY WHAT I says:

    What a superb piece of writing and first hand account from Giles Oakley – well done to both you and Scott for sharing these heirlooms with the rest of us. It is so important to remind us all that we did not invent being passionate about our club, the likes of Giles have been obsessed with football long before it became trendy. United has so much rich history and so many Saturdays gone by,each one part of a lifetimes support to those that lived them on the day. The club goes on and the tradition endures.
    Supporters like Giles have seen it all before and are very informed about what made the club what it is today. Thanks again Giles , a great read.

  10. cantona7 says:

    it has been a pleasure to read your writings Giles Oakley. Thank you

  11. Ooh Aah Cantona... says:

    Giles, you should write a book about united good old days for young supporters like us to share.

  12. jespermoses says:

    That was a superb article.Thanks to Giles Oakley for sharing that.

  13. Giles Oakley says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. I fear this piece was too long and has put others, so maybe I’ll keep it shorter in future. Thanks to Scott for letting me prattle on at such length though.

    Chingar, you can see the earlier articles (50 Years of Disappointment and the two on Denis Law) if you click on ‘Contributing Writer’ at the end of the Gregg piece, or under ‘RoM’s Best Writers’ (I’m very proud of that , thanks again Scott)

    Boogeyman, I haven’t read Jim White’s Biography book, but I loved his ‘Are You Watching Liverpool? after the first Premiership title. I met Jim at the Edinburgh TV Festival in 1996 . I remember it well as that was the day Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his debut against Blackburn, and scored a lovely goal!

    Ah for writing a book, Ooh Aah, well I’m open to offers!

  14. theboogeyman says:

    Don’t make it shorter,Giles,it won’t be the same.
    I’ve not read the book you’re talking about,but I will look for it now that I’ve heard of it.

  15. GreenRed says:

    What an outstanding read. Makes me feel closer to the club.

    Its good to see proper articles written rather that tabloid extracts copied and pasted of who the Sun think we are going to sign this summer

    Thanks again I wouldnt have known some of this

  16. roadkill4u says:

    Mr. Oakley and Scott,
    Our thanks first to Mr. Oakley for a great piece. The length was fine as you are a great storyteller and the telling of history should not be shunted. Especially if it is United history.

    Scott,
    Will now go to the RoMs Best Writers section as I fear I have been missing something special. Cheers.

  17. theCount says:

    I love reading Giles´ “Historical” Articles on The Greatest Football Club In The World. Can´t wait for the next one (part 2 of this?)… Great work Giles and Good on you Scott for making this possible…

  18. Giles Oakley says:

    Thanks people. The next one will be Part 2, with more about what I saw at Selhurst Park in ’95, and other memories of Le Roi. There will be a slight delay as I’m off to Italy for a postponed 30th Wedding Anniversay.Hoping for maximum points from Burnley & Wigan. Wigan could be tricky.

  19. JLC21 says:

    Brilliant read, thanks so much for sharing. For those of us born over 20 years after Munich, being able to read these accounts of our club’s history is special and invaluable. We can’t overstate how important it is for us to have storytellers such as Giles and Tom Clare around to regale us with these memories.

  20. Wazza says:

    Wow man what a read…I had postponed reading this lengthy article at the time it was published for sometime leisure and had completely forgotten .. Thanks for the part 2a scott and giles… Simply fab :)

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