Retro Red: Sex and drugs and rock and Hull
A British boy band is causing hysteria on both sides of the Atlantic. The people of the UK are divided on the county’s position in Europe. The government’s facing criticism over soaring inflation. And a United side, on the back of a run of patchy form, preparing to take on a Hull team who are sinking towards the bottom end of the table fast.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
But this is 1975 and Manchester United face the Tigers at Old Trafford sitting proudly on top of the league table – the second division table that is.
Yes, these were the rock and roll years, where political scandal and promiscuous pop stars were part of the furniture, as was a United team who went all out to overwhelm whatever side they faced come 3 o clock on a Saturday afternoon thanks to a blend of pace, style, grit and determination.
Having come to terms with the unthinkable following relegation from the top flight for the first time in living memory, United had actually found life in Division Two something of a welcome respite.
After struggling for the best part of three seasons, following the departure of Matt Busby, with a succession of managers who were out of their depth and a collection of ageing players, a year outside the big time gave United the chance to regroup, make some changes but if nothing else, enjoy themselves. And enjoy themselves they did.
So by the time Hull came to Old Trafford on February 15th 1975 The Reds were at the top of the league with a three point cushion.
But they hadn’t had it easy to this point. Far from it.
After a barnstorming start to the campaign, United had only won once since Boxing Day, losing to local rivals Oldham and being unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup by Norwich.
But regardless of this spell of poor form spirits were still high as a crowd of over 44,000 turned up to savour what was now becoming a weekly helping of relentless, attacking football and goals galore under Tommy Docherty. And they weren’t disappointed.
Strikes from Stewart Houston and the irrepressible Stuart Pearson, who was scoring goals for fun in the lower reaches of the English game, meant United solidified their position at the top of the table and another vast Old Trafford crowd went home happy as the busy Easter period loomed on the horizon.
But despite the likelihood of an instant return to the top division and a diet of free-flowing, attractive football, all in the garden wasn’t rosy among some of the fans who turned up that day.
Yes. Strikes, inflation, unemployment, integration with our European neighbours and sex scandals were undoubtedly discussed over a pre-match pint at the time. But it’s the letters page of that day’s United Review that provides us with the opportunity to find out just what issues were really bugging match going Reds back in 1975.
Allegations of a press bias after the media reported 10 arrests at the United v Norwich League Cup semi-final, yet not the 34 who were arrested after Leeds’ cup tie with Wimbledon. An update on the Cumberland and Westmorland annual buffet and dance. Not to mention a report on former player Ian Moore’s career since moving to Burton Albion were all issues that drove Reds from around the country to put pen to paper.
But as today’s United fans face the prospect of forking out anything in the region of £50 for the “privilege” of watching a misfiring team take on an opponent from North Yorkshire in what could be described as a mid-table clash, one letter catches the eye some 40 years after it was written.
“Why must United fans pay 50p to enter the ground and another 8p for the token in the programme?” demands an angry Mr Keogh of Salford.
More evidence if we needed it that not everything was better in the ‘good old days.’ Eh?
Okay. Just most things.