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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Red Perspective on the Charity Shield 2009

A Red Perspective on the Charity Shield 2009

Seamus is nothing if not professional so when he got a call from his other editor asking him to take on a tricky assignment, deep behind enemy lines, it was without hesitation that he seized the opportunity.
- “What is it Ed?”, Seamus eagerly inquired.
- “I want you to cover the Charity I mean Community Shield match down in that there London”, said the Ed.
- “Of course I’ll do it boss”, replied Seamus.
-“There’s just one thing though, Seamus……….it means you missing the ‘Mixed Bowls Pair’s Competition BBQ Shindig Hoedown Showdown’ at the Heights’ Barrfield Club!”
The Ed. sensed Seamus’ hesitation but, in a transparent appeal to his vanity, secured our hero’s services with this plea:
- “Seamus you’re my best man, I wouldn’t ask any one else to do it, your fellow Reds need you!”
And so it was that Seamus caught the first train out of Piccadilly, on Sunday the 9th of August, destination not Bangor, Maine, but Wembley Stadium.

Now the first time I went to Wembley it was in 1990, to see the Stones in the “Steel Wheelchairs” tour, and as a music venue it wasn’t great. However, that was more than made up for by the munificence of Mick, Keef, Ron, Bill and Charlie. I then didn’t go back until 1997 and that was for a Charity Shield match against Chelsea. Growing up in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s I firmly believed the ‘Wonderful Wembley’ myth so each time I went, in later years, I was appalled to see what to my eyes was a crumbling edifice, a decrepit mausoleum, symbolic perhaps of the Empire it was named after. Coupled with horrendous queues for extortionate food and drink as well as overcrowded and often literally overflowing toilets, the ‘Wembley Experience’ was rarely a pleasant one. However the new ‘National Stadium’ has been with us for a couple of years now and whilst gushing testimonials, about the venue itself, have been thin on the ground so have any negative comments either. Most griping has been reserved for the soulless swathes of corporates who usually miss the opening minutes of the second half because they’re quaffing shampoo and stuffing mushroom vol au vents down their scrag ends. As this was not a criticism of Wembley itself I got out of the Tube at Wembley Park with a keen sense of anticipation, not only about the first game of a new season (after a horrendously long close season), but also for what will the new Wembley be really like?

The view from the top of Wembley Park down Wembley Way was glorious; fans of all ages, some in red, some in blue eagerly making their way to the season’s traditional curtain raiser. I must confess even a cynical old goat like me felt a sense of nostalgic frisson. For a split second that view alone brought me back to FA Cup Final Grandstand. Anyway, kick-off was fast approaching and shanks’ mare was going to need a good gallop if I was going to get there in time to greet our red shirted heroes on to the pitch and, after a quick stop at Bobby Moore’s statue, I was in. What a transformation. A seamless automatic gate entry, toilets everywhere, hundreds of kiosks characterised by orderly queues and organised staff (are you watching Manchester?). It truly was a breath of fresh air with the exception of the fish and chip stall whose waft was, according to one of my companions, reminiscent of “a room full of rum women”. The pitch was immaculate, the seats had plenty of leg room and with a magnificent 80,000 seat panorama all around, it’s a stadium to match Camp Nou, San Siro and the Willows.
With excellent seats secured right beside the 4th estates’ box, a moving tribute and applause to Sir Bobby Robson observed, and the painful dirge that is “God save the Queen” over, finally United and Chelsea kicked off the 2009/10 season.
The talk all around me was about “Valencia and Owen” and “who’d be in nets”? The only people mentioning our erstwhile number 7 were the tabloids. Us United fans have moved on and are palpably looking forward to another season.

The game itself was a credible 2-2 draw with United and particularly Nani shining in the first half. Chelsea really came back in to it in the second half, though how much of that was due to Foster’s jitteriness and the ref’s inconsistency is open to debate for greater football brains than mine. But for me it was heartening that Wayne Rooney never tired, never gave up and scored with his only real chance of the game. I’ve no doubt he’ll be expected to do that a lot more this season and it was to good to see that he stayed calm, kept plugging away and got his reward against top class opposition. For me the penalty shoot out was immaterial as was the destination of the shield. The 90 minutes of action gave me a hint of how we’ll go this season, particularly with our new boys Valencia and Owen, and I have to say that I was encouraged by what I saw. I’m not saying that we’ll conquer all before us, Chelsea and Liverpool could well win the title. Arsenal, Villa, Everton and City will all have a huge, or should I say massive, say but we’ve as good a chance of winning it this season, as we did last, and that my fellow Reds is all you can ask for.



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