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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Italian World Cup kit

A Red World Cup Report by Dougie

I know some you have no time for international football and some support countries who have \ do not qualify for the actual tournament, but all I can say is you are missing out big time.

I got back from Germany on Friday after 2 of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. The whole WC experience was brilliant. At France 98 it was described as a party to which England were not invited, well this time it was a party at which England were the guest of honour !!

There were 6 of us in a camper van (1 United,me, 2 City, 1 Leeds, 1 Everton, and 1 Spurs fan) and we spent 2 days and nights in each of the cities where England were playing and in between games we went out into the wilds to see the 'real Germany' and everywhere we went the Germans were great hosts. We were given free drinks at 6 different bars (including a round of schapps sent to us by a group of Ukranians \ Russians) , my mate who collects glasses \ tankards was given 3 free steins when he tried to buy them at different pubs, we were given a free fish off a barbecue (long story !) . At evey camping place Germans came up helping us sort out electric and water when they saw us struggling. We had people coming up to us in the street wishing England good luck and welcoming us to their country and hoping we enjoyed it. We swapped a couple of shirts and badges with fans from other nations.

I have pictures of us with Trinidadians, Italians, Americans, South Koreans, Mexicans, Swedes and Germans.

The whole fortnight was one long party - the police for once being totally chilled and letting us 'do our thing', and for once no meatheads spoiling it for the rest of us (thank you banning orders)

I actually played in an organised cricket match in a park in Nurnberg for "england fans" against "T&T fans" watched by incredulous Germans and even more incredulous German police watched by a couple of hundred England fans and a smaller number of T&T fans, all mingling and having a laugh -it was one of the highlights and thankfully for once the press were there in force to record the good side of England fans. I have a great pic of me and mates with 2 Rastas - surprising when you all know every single England fan is a rabid racist !!

We even saw a few Jocks in kilts and a couple of Nothern Irish lads out there and a couple of Southern Irish with a flag saying "if only" written on it ! So it was not just countries who had qualifed who had fans out there.

One of the most bizzare sights was in Koln in front of the famous cathedral - a group of South Koreans doing some sort of dance round in a circle banging drums - after 10 mins it had turned into aobut 60 fans doing a circular type conga - in the front an English fan banging a drum, followed by 2 Germans blowing plastic trumpets, then an Italian with a flag, then some Mexicans, a couple in Brazil shirts etc etc.The whole atmosphere every where we went was just great.

Yes, so far England games have been pretty shite and yes in some ways the mixture of fans (lots of corporates) at games has taken it away from 'real fans' to turn it all into an 'event' - hence the fact that we only got to one game live, having to watch the Paraguay and Sweden games on big screens in Fan Fests which held over 30,000 and though great not as good as being there - but it is a unique experience.

I have seen United abroad 15 ish or so times, and been to many England games abroad 30 ish - this being my 3rd World Cup (Spain 82 & France 98) plus Euros in Holland \ Belgium 2000 and Portugal 2004 and have enjoyed everyone of those, but for sheer friendliness and atmsopehre and mixing with other fans this has been the best ever !!

So thank you Germany you have been great hosts and like I say to those of you who have never been to a World Cup - you are really missing out - next time around try and get there you will have a great time!!

England trips and United trips are usually quite different, United short and sweet, England tend to be longer competititions, but both good fun,good lads and loads of bevvy and strange food.

World Cup Deutschland 2006 - a Red Perspective by Nigel A

I'm as patriotic as the next Anglo Saxon Englishman but from a personal point of view Manchester United has always been more important than my national team. Given the choice of whether I could go the rest of my lifetime without United winning another European Cup, Champions League or whatever you want to call it, or England not winning, well, anything, and I'll settle for the latter every time. I have watched England on a number of occasions over the years when it suited me but have never been to an overseas international or for that matter an international tournament. I don't count Euro 96 which I did attend as that was on my bloody door step!!!

So, with 4 of my mates being 50 this year we wanted to go somewhere for a few days R&R (rest and recuperation), oh okay then, 3 or 4 days on the piss!! So it was decided we'd do Berlin while the World Cup was on. What a great decision, as it turned out to be an absolutely fan-tastic and unforgettable experience.

And so it was then that 14 intrepid explorers (pissheads) gathered at Liver...... - the other North West airport, to prepare for the short EasyJet hop to Berlin. One had flown in from Australia for the occasion and we were to meet an old pal over there who was travelling down by train from Sweden where he has lived for the past 20 years or so. Out of the assembled crowd there was only myself and one other who regularly travel abroad watching football so we became, by default, the "tour leaders". Not that that involved much other than finding the next bar, which wasn't difficult as there were that many!!

From the moment we landed in Berlin we were welcomed with open arms by everyone, and it was apparent that this was going to be one long party. For those who know Berlin's layout the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (the German Parliament Building) formed the city's focal point for the tournament. Outside the Gate you will have seen a huge football (just under the BBC studio) and on the other side a massive screen with loads of temporary bars dotted around. This was to be our first experience of the global party as we watched (sic) Italy v Ghana whilst drinking copious amounts of beer with people from all points of the compass, but most noticeably Swedes and Croatians.

Away from the Brandenburg Gate runs a mile long boulevard which was chocca with people just partying and having a great time!! This boulevard we learned later, had half a million people on it watching Germany and Poland the following night. The German people were 100% behind their team despite their reservations about manager Klinsmann and I think if they get any real momentum going they could prove difficult to stop.

Outside the Reichstag is a huge park, that for the World Cup has been taken over by the Adidas Arena, an 8,500 mini stadium with a screen at each end in which people could watch all the games for a cost of 3 Euros, with beer and food on tap. Surrounding this were 5-a-side pitches and more plasmas than you could shake a stick at.

We decided that this might be a good spot to watch the Germany v Poland match but, as you might guess, it was sold out, so we ended up buying some briefs from a tout for 10 Euros each. Nice earner for him but well worth it for the crazy, manic, surreal atmosphere we found ourselves in. Lots of Poles there too and no trouble despite the obvious potential. It is difficult to explain the wierdness of it, buying a brief from a tout to watch a game on a big screen surrounded by people from every point of the compass!! Unreal.

Also around Berlin the organisers of the "party" had set up beach areas, yes I said beach areas, with tons of sand, temporary bars and lots of chilled out sounds. Again, totally out of context with being in the middle of a huge, bustling metropolis!! Then again they must have had a good long range forecast as for the three days we were in Berlin it was officially the hottest city in Europe, hotter than the Costa's and the Greek Islands, with temperatures peaking at around 33C. Good excuse for another beer I thought!!

Add to all this fun was the cost of living, okay food & drink then, with average beer prices being about 2.5 Euros for a half litre of beer with 4 Euros being the most we paid anywhere. Food was equally affordable and none of us broke the Bank. That could have happened had any of us fallen prey to one of the many ladies of the night drafted (trafficked??) into Germany for the tournament. As with any other city there were certain streets with a liberal sprinkling of available ladies offering their wares for, I believe, not unreasonable prices. But I can't say that the place was swarming with them, despite what you may have read in the press over here. One of the funniest things we saw was a huge traffic jam caused by people just abandoning cars to join a throng of people outside a bar to watch a couple of young, naked Germans (one of each sex!) "showing off" with some very physical, almost sadistic behaviour on the pavement!! Never seen that on Deansgate!!

Overall then my verdict has to be that it was an experience to match no other I've ever had and a totally different experience to watching United abroad. We must have seen fans, and had drinks with most, from upwards of 20 different competing countries, together with several countries like the Welsh, Irish and Scots who hadn't even qualified. And not a bad word spoken in anger!! Absolutely great 3 days that, to a degree, restored my faith in humanity and showed that to be proud of your nationality and patriotic you don't have to be an aggressor!! Football was certainly the winner and proved that it can be "the global language". Fan-tastic!!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eric at the Brum beach football

along with the biggest World Cup wall chart in the world overlooking the beach tourny. pics by stalky

Uses for Peter Crouch... better than a footballer!

Bestie by Clive Tyldesley

by Clive Tyldesley

What can you say when you lose someone you loved, but never knew? Only a fan would understand. To tumble under the spell of a great sportsman, a gifted singer or a stunning actress is proof of being. You cannot truly enjoy life until you have fallen for someone you cannot tell. George Best was unique in far too many ways for his own good but I want to remember him only as the finest footballer I think I ever saw. Don't argue with me, don't reason with me, not now. The romance he brought to millions of lives is not up for negotiation.

All manner of romantic pictures will be painted of this tinker, thriller, soloist, chief. His character will be assassinated and glorified, his story will be told from both sides. Footage will be shown of him in the grip of drink and dream girls, but I just want to see him in the grip of genius. Show me his goals. All of them, over and over again. Remind us all just how good he was. Tell my son why I dreamt of being George Best when I was the same age he is now. Spare me the analysis, give me something of my hero back. Return George's magic to him.

It all comes down to that famous, infamous story of him sitting on the bed of London's finest hotel suite with the reigning Miss World, and the room service waiter delivering the vintage champagne before innocently asking: "George, where did it all go wrong?" European Cup winner, European Footballer of the Year, English champion, English Footballer of the Year. Well, you could say where did it all go wrong for Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and the rest? George won more medals than them and just about as much as a Belfast boy could win. Let's not pretend he under-achieved. He could have won all those trophies and awards again, and it still would not have been enough for some. True greats leave us wanting more.

And yet Best's career was more about memories than medals. My first memories were fleeting glimpses caught between the heads of taller Stretford Enders. Television archive never reproduces the sudden speed of his darting runs, the change of gear and direction. He would glide effortlessly like an eagle selecting its prey, then soar and swoop with blurred acceleration. His head seemed to tilt slightly to one side, and his lithe body lean into the gravity he constantly defied. Like a slalom skier swaying between the gates, he could twist and turn through acute angles, and yet still be perfectly balanced to accelerate into the next manoeuvre.

Only these were not flexible poles stuck in the snow at regular intervals that Best was sweeping past, these were hairy-armed defenders hired to stop him at all costs. Once he launched himself at a chink in enemy lines, he gave no thought to incoming fire. He was as brave as he was brilliant, as single-minded as he was multi-talented. In the Frank O'Farrell team who topped the table until Christmas 1971, there was no better header, passer or even tackler than Best. He had everything. Yes, he knew it, but so did his opponents. He must have been terrifying to play against.

The accepted wisdom is that his mercurial football was somehow a function of his mercurial lifestyle, that Best would not have been the same player had he been ugly or shy. Why? OK, his timing was perfect. He arrived on cue to become the fifth Beatle, he lived like a Rolling Stone, he was stalked like an animal. Somehow, George had to find his place in the new order alongside a stately manager and captain, who had both lived through a very different fairytale. Clashes and collisions were inevitable. Rebellion was natural. He was never short of friends and admirers, or opportunities to stray. His lust for life may have been ahead of its time, but it was his ability in his profession that singled him out for special treatment. He was a good playboy, but an exceptional player.

So forgive me if my tribute to George Best is blinkered, but his football was all I ever saw with my own eyes. Along with Denis Law, Tony Jacklin, David Coleman and a few others, he was a true boyhood hero. A hero you love with your heart, without engaging your head to wonder why. The very best kind.

Bestie fan tributes from last year

My thoughts will be on Bestie tomorrow. The tributes were really good and rightly so. I remember being on Euston a few times when George Best was there and chelsea or tottenham fans going up to him and saying are you George Best. Then saying to him, I'm a chelsea/tottenham fan, but can I shake your hand as you were brilliant. Not too many people in the world that would happen to. I once met him when he was walking down Bond Street with Mary Stavin (miss world) and I went up to him and asked him for his autograph, I ignored her!!!. I told him I was a United fan and he gladly signed. The irony is I used to see him in the betting shop in Dover street almost every day, but no one ever bothered him in there. I have so many things I wish I had asked him to sign. I still have the autograph he signed for me (it was on a cardboard bus ticket) when he was with Mary Stavin. I also got him to sign my passport when he was getting mobbed by Japanese schoolgirls in Tokyo. I don't think we'll ever see the like again.

Rest in Peace George

I went to Old Trafford on Saturday in the hope of signing the book of remembrance. Unfortunately we arrived late and didn’t have the time to queue up as my mate, the driver, had to be somewhere else in under an hour. We moved on up to Sir Matt Busby Way to pay our respects at the shrine that has been created opposite the Ground. I expected it to be emotional but the items that really got to me were the sentiments written down by supporters of other clubs, some of which came from three of our closest rivals; Leeds, City and Liverpool. Those heart felt comments say more about proper football followers than the moronic behaviour shown by some of their so called “supporters” at the weekend.

I remember being at Selhurst Park for a game against Charlton the Saturday after the Hillsborough disaster and being part of an impeccable show of respect from United’s huge following for those who had lost their lives. We all know of the hatred that exists between the two sets of fans but at least we could put that to one side for a minute to show we could respect the loss of human life. Liverpool’s followers showed the world their true colours on Saturday and should look at the events at Goodison Park the following day as Everton showed them how to respect one of football’s true greats.

Mick Roberts

For me unfortunately it is the bitter sweet memory of a man at a low ebb and how society and people in general derided a man who had fallen on hard times. I met George Best once, I even got to shake his hand which is closer than most defenders ever got.

My father told me the stories of what a great footballer, athlete and man he was, how he had as a teenager growing up in South Wales watched the images of a man that both inspired and enlivened via the wonders of the television. My father has said often that in the skysports world of football an average player could get a 30 mins highlights package made and that if George had played today then they would struggle to have enough time in the schedule to show it all. That is the way to remember George really, frankly how many other people get an entire night dedicated to them on BBC2, in fact no other footballer has, yes they have dedicated a night to football but never to a single footballer….That is how special George is.

Now to the sad side, a department store in south Wales, a sharp electronics roadshow and a small irish fella with a beard and an incredibly fail appearance, showing off microwaves, tv’s and juggling a football like a performing monkey for a group of people that frankly didn’t deserve to see someone so great being reduced to doing something so menial. When I met him in the sports department, he walked in my direction and I put out my hand, he shook it and said nice to meet you – surely it should be the other way around but I was too much in awe even if he was a shadow of the man that my father described – then he let go stretched his hand out further and someone gave him a glass of champagne. It was 9.30 am and he looked like it wasn’t his first.

It upsets me that bit, really does, it doesn’t go with the stories my father told me and frankly I now wish I hadn’t gone, for me the George Best that I watched on the TV, the one that accompanies stories of great wins and wonderful skill, those are the memories for me and the ones that will stay with me forever.

God bless you George. Rest in peace. Robert E

Monday, June 26, 2006

Spurs Blunted

Reserve Champions 'Final'

Spurs blunted

From what we had heard the Tottenham Hotspur side were pretty good. They had won the Southern League by a street. This is a League which includes teams from the two greatest Clubs in the world - er... Arsenal and Chelsea. But then I suppose the Chelsea view is that the Russian will buy whatever they want and thus the Reserves matter not a jot. That said their Reserve team must contain loads of internationals. Perhaps they can't be arsed to try in the 'nothing' matches. Isn't that a disgrace.

It turned out, by the way, that Tottenham Hotspur were not as good as our young boys.

The powers-that-be had decided that we could only sit in the North stand rather than where we always sit - when they allow the Reserves on to the Old Trafford pitch that is. Perhaps they wanted to perpetuate the Old-Trafford-is-full-every-match bollocks. It was no coincidence (was it?) that we were forced to sit where we would be in camera shot most of the time. The crowd was still disappointingly small for a game of such (to us, the Sad Red Bastards, at least) importance. I've watched the Reserves for as long as I can remember and we used to get good crowds years ago and yet these days the average is no more than 300 for the normal match at Hyde. What makes me chuckle is that we get to see most of the 'stars' (of the
future) years before they become 'famous'. But the realist in me understands that going to Hyde on a wet, cold and thoroughly miserable day in November or February is not on for the majority of 'supporters'. Plainly a large number of Manchester United supporters cannot get to Reserve matches but, contrary to the Blue bollocks, we still have a large fan-base in, or around, Manchester. Perhaps I might 'encourage' you to come along next season. You never know you might actually enjoy yourself.

The Sad Red Bastards are a group of old(ish) people who follow the Reserve and Academy teams purely because they like seeing good, honest football, where the standard is high and the (old fashioned) values are maintained. It is not the win-at-ALL-costs football that we now see in the Premiership. The players are honest and decent and are, without exception, real triers. It is football as we used to know it. It is what we, the SRB, want. It is something that the American Bastard and the Brothers Grim would NEVER understand as long as they have holes in their arses. It IS something I'm sure you want too. Give it a try.

We had an almost immediate attack when Lee went forward and could have had a shot but tricked to pick a pass and it was intercepted. After five minutes Ole won the ball well on halfway and immediately fed Gibson. He played a wonderful ball over the top but the goalie just beat Campbell to it. After eight minutes Lee made the most magnificent run, beating about thirty-two men, going into the box before playing a great square ball across the goal but nobody had gone with him and the ball ran harmlessly away. On ten minutes Fletcher and Campbell combined well to send Campbell into the box, inside-right, but his shot was deflected away for a corner. Then Campbell was unlucky again when Herman, right wing, put over a great cross which Campbell just couldn't reach.

On eleven minutes Lee and Rose combined well on the left then fed into Gibson. He was on the edge of the box and could have shot but didn't. Instead he laid it out to Rose but his subsequent cross was scrambled away. On seventeen Herman, wide on the right, put in a good looping cross which Campbell met with a fantastic leap above the goalie, but the ball went just over the bar. Three minutes later Herman, in centre midfield, played an excellent through ball for Ole to run on to. Ole tried to pick out Campbell but the ball was blocked out for a corner. The corner was knocked out to Ole and he held it up long enough for our lads to re-shape. He passed top Gibson, who fed Herman and his shot was well saved.

On twenty-three we opened the scoring. Herman put over a good corner which was headed out to Gibson just outside the area. He blasted a shot into the crowded box and it was diverted by Pique into the net. How much the lad knew about the flick I do not know, but that did not matter - we were in front and deservedly so. Five minutes later Lee and Gibson combined well on the left to feed the ball into Fletcher in the box. He laid back to Ole who controlled brilliantly and unleashed an absolutely unstoppable screamer with his left foot. He had about a 'ball-square' area to hit it into and he managed it with ease. The goalie, who thought he everything covered, looked absolutely astonished and stood for what seemed ages just shaking his head before he retrieved the ball from the back of the net. It was a goal of sheer artistry and mastery from the genius that is Ole Gunner Solskjaer.

We had been far superior in the first half. They had seemed a bit scared to be honest; perhaps overawed by Old Trafford and the relatively large crowd. Whatever the reason we were well worthy of a two goal lead - at the very least. I couldn't remember them having one attack of any note.

Rossi was a half-time substitute for Ole and he was involved almost straight away when he combined with Campbell, allowing the latter to get into the box and fire off a splendid shot which was kicked off the line with the goalie beaten. On twenty-two Herman hit the ball of the night when he played a quite wonderful ball from the right into the box for Rossi. The little man controlled well and turned his man with the ease we are coming to expect from him. But then rather than blasting it into the net he decided he wanted to beat every bugger in the half and the chance was lost. The wee lad was involved again a few moments later when he picked up halfway and hit the most delightful of chips over the defence for Campbell to run on to. The goalie, anticipating very well, just beat him to the ball on the edge of the box.

On twenty-four Fletcher was replaced by Richard Jones. On twenty-six Herman and Gibson combined well on the right allowing Gibson to run free and cross well to the far post but Campbell, once again showing his intelligence in
the run, was just unable to reach it. With the match coming to an end Rossi did well in the centre of midfield before playing the ball out to Herman, wide. He cleverly spotted that Campbell was offside so used his run to go to the edge of the box before hitting a shot which was well saved.

The final whistle and the 'Treble'. Tottenham Hotspur had played slightly better in the second half; played with a bit of passion. But we had still been the better side. Our defence had coped with all they could throw at us, whilst we had controlled midfield and always threatened on the break with Campbell's pace. All in all a splendid, controlled performance.

The Premier League had to build a platform and set up all the pyrotechnics before Herman could be given the trophy. The SRB's were slightly concerned that drinking time was being lost. But as the trophy was presented (well trophies in fact) and the fireworks lit up the now darkening sky it was all well worth it. These boys deserved that sort of 'show' - they have had a wonderful season. They have given us tons of enjoyment. Rene Meulensteen has done a very good job since taking over from Ricky Sbragia. We will never forget the influence of Ricky, a good man and a splendid coach. Rene has inherited a great set of lads and the future looks rosy, rosy indeed.

After the match we, the Sad Red Bastards, retired to the Bishop's to discuss the season now at an end. Everybody agreed it had been another great season of good attacking football, intelligent midfield play and resolute defence. We talked about all the players we had seen for the Reserves, or at least those we could remember!

Our Player of the Year was Giuseppe Rossi. He has had a quite magnificent season, scoring great and important goals and working both the line and midfield well. He is now ready for the next stage.

Our Young Player of the Year is Fraizer Campbell. It is hard to imagine that this kid was an Academy player just a short period ago. He has developed so well. He has incredible pace, good control, great vision and can score goals with either foot and head.

We all made mention of Kieran Lee as a close second to Campbell. He has also made the step up and looks the business.

Our Reserve Team of the Year (4-4-2) is:

1. Luke Steele

2. Kieran Lee
3. Phil Bardsley
4. John Evans
5. Gerard Pique

6. Lee Martin
7. Darren Gibson
8. Danny Rose
9. Herman

10. Giuseppe Rossi
11. Fraizer Campbell

Subs: Tommy Lee, Danny Simpson, Sean Evans, Sylvan Blake, Jamie Mullen

by Old Fart