I’ve had my fair share of scraps over football in my time, but never the organised hooligan business. Whilst not something I’d be involved in personally, I am intrigued about how it all works. Why do they go around kicking the crap out of people every weekend? Do they really love the club? How much of it goes on these days?
I’ve read a few hoolie books but I got stuck in to Tony O’Neill’s Men in Black this summer. O’Neill, the supposed Red Army General, gives an honest insight to what it was like being heavily involved in United’s main firm.
A few pages in O’Neill gives us a few clues of what kind of bloke he is, and instantly I knew this was going to be my kind of book.
The England scene has never been one that got me going, for one reason: being a United fanatic, the passion for my team consumed everything in me. No way could I get passionate about watching anyone else, not even my national team. United has consumed my life, so trying to watch and sing along with any other fans does nothing for me. All my excitement is with United, from getting up in the morning on a match day to going to bed. I still can’t get my head round how people can switch, you support your team from childhood until death, that’s how it should be.
Here are some of my other favourite bits:
The final was the best thing in my life. I nearly had a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe when the first goal went in and the next one, I couldn’t hear my son and he was screaming on the chair next to me. My ears had popped and my lungs were coming through my throat. I couldn’t hear anything and this went on from the first goal to the second. It was the best feeling ever, and if I hear the commentary again or see the pictures, the hairs on my neck stand on end. There is no way in the world you can beat that script. You’ll never get that again.
England played Finland at Anfield. It’s not my scene, but people were saying they were going, and at the end of the day, I’m off. We arrive at Lime Street, get off and the police are there. Who are they bothered about? Man United.
That day was typical of the English hoolie bollocks at these games. Everybody hates Man United and they’re always going on about what they will do to us. Well that day there were different firms from all over the country and all they did was stay in Liverpool city centre drinking with each other, letting on to each other and avoiding each other.
In August 2002 I did a trip to Budapest to watch United in a Champions League qualifying round against Zalaegerszeg. We all stood there and couldn’t believe what we were watching. No-one expected to see such an inept performance against a bunch of schoolteachers, mineworkers and bus drivers – and they scored near the end fot win 1-0. The game was a joke. There was no effort from any of the players.
Back at the airport everyone was gutted. A few fans are singing, ‘It’s just like watching City.’ They were loyal Reds; they weren’t being abusive, they were taking the piss because that was the mood. The United players were going through Departures at the time and one kid where I’m stood says something to them. Next thing, David Beckham strides over as though he’s the main man. ‘Who are you?’ he says to this kid. ‘Call yourself a United fan?’ The kid didn’t know what to say but I went straight over. ‘Who the fuck do you think you are, you seventy grand a week, overpair bastard? Fuck off before you get knocked out.’ He had a fucking cheek after that performance, having a go at someone who had paid money to follow the team. Beckham quickly sized up the situation, turned on his heels and scuttled off, followed by me hurling more abuse.
Next thing I’m in a Cat D jail in Sudbury, between Derby and Stoke. What a joke. Some City fans were in there who’d got three years. The first thing that comes out of their mouths is that it’s my fault they received such long sentences, as I got three years nine months and the courts now think that’s the norm. Yet these idiots had only filmed themselves attacking a pub full of Stockport, put the film on the internet, then couldn’t understand why they were arrested. They were the saddest twats I’d ever seen; they even wore clothes with ‘City’ written on. Maybe in the property office in Reception they had their inflatable bananas tucked away.
I will always be a United fan and I will always follow them, but in a different way. The trouble is over. I will always have lots of fantastic friends there because at the end of the day United is one thing: a family. And everyone else hates us.
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Made in Manchester is available for just £3. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.