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Memories Of The Cliff

Mention the Cliff to the majority of those (I almost said supporters) who visit Old Trafford on a match day during this and recent seasons and they would more than likely get the impression that you were making a reference to some aging pop-star. But for others, who take pride in the history of United and care more about the likes of Stan Pearson, David Pegg and Duncan Edwards than they do any of the present carriers of the flame, then the Cliff re-kindles memories of a bygone age. When football was a sport and the players were, let’s say, ordinary blokes.

Even those flimsy, single sheet programmes hold more allure than what is on offer at Old Trafford these days.

The first programme featured here is printed on light brown paper, something that also conjures up memories of days gone by, a far cry from those glossy publications of today.

Fourth Maccabiah X1 were the opposition, a name that was enough to attract you to the game out of simple curiosity if nothing else.

The game was arranged as part of the celebrations of the ‘World Jewish Sports Festival – Israel’ which had been held between May 3rd and May 12th 1953. This fixture, against a ‘Manchester United X1’, was played on September 7th of that year. The Maccabiah eleven were to represent Great Britain in the games of the same names which were being held later in Israel, with this fixture nothing more than a warm up match.

Who actually cares what the contents of this four page issue held, as it is one of those ultra-rare programmes and just owning it would be enough for any collector. But to satisfy the curiosity of many, what the programme does contain is as follows:

Page 2 has pen pictures of the Maccabiah players, who would quite obviously be completely unknown to I would imagine all of those in attendance and who were also amateurs.

Page 3 is the team line-ups, with United listed as – Howe, Foulkes, Redman, Harrop, Greaves, Barrett, Mooney, Whelan, Hamilton, Whitehurst, Scott.

The back page, strangely enough, is blank.

It wasn’t simply friendly fixtures that were played at the Cliff, as the Youth team and junior sides played competitive games under the floodlights at the somewhat Spartan ground. Floodlights, by the way, a facility of which Old Trafford could not boast.

The programme featured alongside is a single sheet issue and along the bottom is the legend – ‘To Read – Hold Programme To Light”. Would you do this on a pouring wet night? Perhaps many did, hence the reason that such items are now few and far between.

Obviously the opposition are little more than a nondescript side, but there are certainly a few familiar names in the United line-up.

Many supporters do not class themselves as “memorabilia collectors”, but will admit to keeping their match tickets, bringing them out of the cupboards and drawers from time to time to relive those games of yesteryear.

On their own, most of those tickets can be considered dull, uninteresting pieces of paper or card, but a few do stand out in their own right.

One such ticket is shown here, an ultra-rare issue for a game at the Cliff in 1953. To date, I have only ever seen one other ticket for a fixture played at the old training ground.

Remaining in Lower Broughton and by a strange coincidence, only a matter of a few weeks later than the previously mentioned programme against the Fourth Maccabiah X1, comes another rarity.

This in effect is a non-United programme, featuring a game between a Stan Pearson X1 and the Adelphi Lads’ Club, whom he had left in December 1935 as a sixteen year old, to join United as an amateur.

One or two familiar names within the ranks of both sides, with Billy Redman of United, Eric Westwood formerly with Manchester City and Joe Fagan best known in his association with Liverpool in the Pearson X1 and Frank Clempson another former United player in the Adelphi line up.

I wonder how many people turned out for this particular fixture? I wouldn’t imagine there was a huge attendance and I doubt if there are many copies of this programme still in circulation.

I mentioned earlier Stan Pearson’s association with the Adelphi Lads’ Club and also shown here is a telegram sent from that club to Stan on his selection for the England international side for the first time. Another telegram (can you still send them today?) was one again sent to Stan and this time from the Prestwich Cricket Club and sent to him at Wembley prior to the 1948 Cup Final.

Just to round off this particular article, I have also illustrated a signed picture of Stan in England colours and a ‘Turf’ cigarette card.

Taken from the excellent book Manchester United: Rising from the Wreckage 1958-68 available on Kindle and as a hard back. Follow Iain McCartney on Twitter.

About Iain McCartney

Iain is the author of many books on Manchester United.

Following the club brought a passion for collecting memorabilia and for the past twenty odd years he has been running the ‘Manchester United Collectors Club’, producing bi-monthly newsletters on everything collectable on United. If you're interested in joining, e-mail him itmccartney[AT]

Follow @IainMcCartney on Twitter.

View all posts by Iain McCartney »



  1. mes says:

    Ok, lemme get this straight. Going off the first paragraph, unless you’re more interested in players from the 50′s than you are of the players of right now, you’re not really a proper supporter and that assessment can be used to blanket most of the people who go to OT?

    Sure, most fans have a pretty good idea of the history of our great club, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid.

    But this snippet comes across as rather pompous and dismissive of our current “supporters” to me.

  2. Keane16 says:

    Played at the Cliff once against United!!!! Won 3-1 and played against my boyhood idol a certain Bryan Robson

  3. mancdub says:

    The house I grew up in was directly opposite the Cliff on Lower Broughton road.
    You could kick a ball from my front doorstep into the pitch.

  4. Chibwe says:

    I thnk united can take the advantage of outbursts btn Pep & barça to get Thiago!! If that fail Gundogun will be awesome 4 us!

  5. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Great memories of cliff days. Youngster still played there in the youth set up, Danny, Tom. But Ryan Giggs and Scholes would be the last to have trained there I imagine.

    Club wanted to upgrade the facilities there but not sure if anything ever came of it.

  6. slim says:

    Simply love the retro pics. I’m saving them on my computer.
    Little bits of history i like to go through from time to time

  7. Rob Mac says:

    Good article except for the opening paragraph. There is an element of United’s support that is geared towards painting all other United fans as complete and utter morons. And if you support United then why would you be more interested in the bygone eras than the current squad? Doesn’t that mean you don’t support United?

  8. BenHop says:

    I agree with mes, this whole “I’m a greater fan than yow” rubbish is ridiculous.

    To imply that season ticket holders are not worthy of being called supporters is frankly ridiculous, anyone who follows the club is a supporter and some of us are more passionate or knowledgeable than others; but in the end we share a common interest and that should be enough for even the most pretentious pedant.

  9. Dave Mack says:

    Good posts BenHop and Mes.

    I was born (just!) when this match was played and am a ST holder watching UNITED since the 60′s but I hate this whole bitter one upmanship stuff that says I’m a better supporter than you because blah blah blah….

  10. parjo says:

    Poor, poor majority ‘fans’, who knows nothing about ‘our’ club history.

  11. King Eric says:

    The Cliff is steeped in history to the time United moved and Fergie used to bang on the windows and Eric Harrison. To be honest this is more a post on the programme than the Cliff itself.

  12. brett1985 says:

    Such a condescending article and this on
    a blog where disloyal fans were praised for ditching their club and pissing all over loyalty by leaving to support fcum. Well I never.

  13. IAIN says:

    I feel I must respond to a couple of the comments on the ‘Cliff’ article.
    Firstly, there is certainly no intention of implying any sort of ‘one-upmanship’ or ‘being a better fan than you’, as anyone who knows me will certainly confirm.
    It simply relates to the fact that many who attend games today have little or no interest, or indeed knowledge of the club’s history.
    Many treat a visit to OT as a day out, something to tell their works mates on a Monday morning. They have little interest in the game they are attending or the club in general.
    Ask the majority what they think of the ‘half and half scarf’ match goers or those who ask for the way to North Stand. I was even stopped once by a family of four, all wearing shirts and scarves and asked what time the game kicked-off. A lad, a few rows in front of me once had a photocopied sheet of all the players photos so that he could recognise who was who.
    Would any of them have an idea of what the Cliff stood for?
    The article is actually about the match programmes etc illustrated alongside and first appeared in the United Collectors Club newsletter.
    If anyone took offence to it – sorry.

  14. MyCowIsTheBest says:

    IAIN – To me, the lad had a photocopied sheet of all the players photos so that he could recognise who was who, is a good and proper fan, maybe he is a new fan but a proper one because he took the effort to make a copy of the photos so that he can learn who is who. We should respect his enthusiasm.

  15. Little Red Ant says:

    played at the cliff a few times in the supporters branch annual five a side tournaments – remember Clayton “Sunbed” Blackmore turning up. Fun weekends

  16. King Eric says:

    Iain – No fair enough mate, I know what you mean. Fucking half and half scarves. No less when it’s dippers or City.

  17. Major_Tom108 says:

    I’ve got so many great memories of the Cliff from when I was younger. My dad used to take me there all the time to watch United train in the late ’80 and early to mid ’90′s.

    Shame I was too young to appreciate the first few years we used to go.

    Best memory ever was seeing (& then getting an autograph) from Cantona after he’d finished training on his own with his son during his Kung-Fu kick ban.

    Crazy to remember how close you could get to Fergie and players back then

  18. BenHop says:

    Hi Iain,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to the comments, please don’t be disheartened; the article is fantastic in its depiction of United’s misplaced histories.

    The opening comment has a resonance with those that have become disenfranchised with the match day experience, but personally I still love it despite how it’s changed.

    I sit on the front row of the North Stand, and everyone around me is a regular. It’s been the same faces for years and there’s a strong sense of community.

    That said, I enjoy seeing the first timers who’d travelled hundreds or even thousands of miles are unsure how things work on match day and at Old Trafford. It’s up to the regulars and the historians to pass on that oral history about the club.

    Sure some of these affiliations are fleeting in nature, but a few of the half and half’ers will leave the game affected in an unshakable way I’m sure we all remember, some of them will just get it.

    Not knowing, doesn’t mean they don’t want to know or infer some disrespect; in fact many of the day trippers are literally hanging on every word coming from some of the old timers in the stands.

    Keep writing, we’ll keep reading!


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