Anybody who follows Manchester United has the dream of putting on the famous red shirt. This season quite a few have had that opportunity as players from far and wide have turned up at Old Trafford to begin, hopefully, great careers for the club, and memories for us, the supporters.
What about everyone else though who does not get to have that particular dream of representing Manchester United? Nowadays you could get closer to the club via the excellent fanzines or the fantastically well produced websites such as this by writing of your dreams, complaints, happiness and aggravation.
My over achieved ambitions have come from writing books on the clubs but it all started by writing in the famous club programme ‘The United Review’. This has been the title since 27th August 1932 when the title was first given to the club programme. The late Mr J.W.Gibson, one of the clubs finest chairman alongside Harold Hardman, was determined that as part of his rescue of the club’s fortunes, United would have a programme which would stand out from the leaflet type of the day. I always collected them, in the days when they sold them on Trafford Road by the swing bridge. In 1979 a chance conversation with a fellow Salford lad, Ken Ramsden, opened the door to sending him articles for the programme, as he had just become the editor! In later time, Ken Ramsden went from an office clerk at Old Trafford to Club Secretary
My first article was for the 3rd round FA Cup replay with Tottenham Hotspur in January 1980 at Old Trafford. Ken wanted a spare article in case he had to do a quick edition for replays, so I looked at the 1947/8 season when we lifted the famous old trophy. That was a very different year as United were already playing their ‘home’ matches at Maine Road due to the war time bombing. For this cup run, they were away at Aston Villa in round 3, then when they were drawn at home for rounds 4 and 5 they actually had to find somewhere different to Maine Road. So, for round 4 against Liverpool we took the game to Goodison Park, home of Everton. Interestingly, the programme for this tie is actually a Liverpool one, even though Manchester United were the official home side. Another victory resulted in having to play Charlton Athletic at Huddersfield Town’s ground. By now Wembley was on the horizon and another ‘home’ tie could this time be played at Maine Road, against Preston North End. Victory meant a semi final at Hillsborough against Derby County which, finally, lead to Wembley Stadium and a match with Blackpool, Stanley Matthews and all. A great team performance resulted in our second FA Cup triumph. To accompany my article that Final prog, one of the earlier rounds and a famous cartoon piece which always appeared in the ‘United Review’ was shown.
Can you imagine my feeling as I turned up for the match in my usual ‘K’ stand place, buying my programme inside the concourse and opening the pages and seeing an article with my name on it? This was my ‘living the dream’.
An even bigger excitement followed a couple of months later when Ken asked if I would do a two page spread for the 100th Manchester ‘derby’ against City. Wow! a massive game and there is your name on a two page article which looked back to such famous encounters as the 1926 FA Cup semi final at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United. Another match featured was the Manchester Senior Cup Final between City and United at Old Trafford in 1959, in the days when both clubs played their first teams. At that moment I could have happily given up but programme collecting is, or perhaps was, a big part of match day for Manchester United followers.
What followed was a weekly article looking back at fixtures against whoever the day’s opponents were. There was also extra games played at Old Trafford which offered me the opportunity to write in the programme, such as the England ‘B’ match with the USA where I looked at the American version of football or ‘soccer’ match day magazines called ‘Kick’
Whilst those first couple of articles will always be in my memory, there was a really special occasion when Manchester United gave the European Cup Winners Cup competition a real go in the 1980’s and teams such as Barcelona and Juventus brought back all the great nights to Old Trafford. The Barcelona one, of course, has gone down as one of the clubs greatest nights when Robbo led us to a 3-0 victory. 3-2 on aggregate against Maradona and all. My article actually concerned Manchester United’s great rivalry with Barcelona’s great rivals, Real Madrid, looking back at our memorable European Cup Semi Final in 1957, which commenced the great link between two of football’s greatest clubs.
In all, 82 editions of the ‘United Review’ have articles by myself, a local lad from Salford never good enough to play for Manchester United but able to have a chance to ‘Live the Dream’ of being involved with the most famous of football clubs.1
Also in the early 1980’s a couple of mates, Alan Bradshaw and Kevin Burthem along with me decided to create a ‘United Collectors Club’ newsletter. The first issue was in May 1981, vol 1 no1. By 1990, Iain McCartney offered to help run it and now a further 24 years on, he produces an invaluable magazine for all Manchester United collectors. Back to that first issue, it was of 12 pages with a compilation of old Reviews, Football Pink’s and tickets on the cover. Inside after introductions of us three, there was a couple of pictures and write up on reasonably recent special aways such as Linfield in Feb 1981, Home Farm in Dec 1980 and Portland Timbers in May 1960. Information on forthcoming Programme Fairs in Chorley and at Old Trafford were mentioned as was a back page of adverts put in by Iain McCartney, Robert Brimicombe and Barry Ellison. The quality of paper (and content!) improved and hopefully helped continue or create collections for United fans.
That is how I started, why don’t you give your thoughts a run out and send to one of the three fanzines or even get in touch here. Go on, live YOUR dream!