My Mum and Dad both grew up in Manchester. In fact, they both went to the same primary school (kindergarten), a relic of which is a fantastic photo of them sitting cross-legged and unsmiling in the same class picture. This always had me scanning my primary school photos wondering who the lucky lad would be. Please not Andrew Atkinson. Please not Andrew Atkinson. Little did I know that my future spouse was living thousands of miles away and was already 53 (well, nearly).
My Mum supports Manchester United, my Dad supports Manchester City. My Dad's Dad supported Man U in the legendary days of the Munich Air Disaster and Busby's Babes. My Dad supports City and reveled in the glory days, of well...I'm at a bit of a loss here (hi Dad!). My brother and I support United because Dad supports City. By rights Anna should be a City supporter, something that is not likely to happen unless we move to Manchester within the next few years, because as anyone will tell you, only real Mancunians support City, people who've never been to Manchester support United.
I will readily admit that I've seen Huddersfield Town play as many times as I've seen United play (not many). In fact, out of the two of us, LK has seen Man U play most recently. My brother had an extra ticket to a Man U v Liverpool game, traditionally the most hardened grudge match of the season. He chose to invite LK instead of me, which rankled a bit at the time, but did wonders for their bonding, and I console myself with this fantastic shot of two of my favourite people:
So not all bad, and yes it is snowing on them and even though my brother was born in the wilds of Leicestershire, he is about to die of hypothermia. LK on the other hand is wearing a coat made from an entire flock of unfortunate sheep and was both toasty warm and oddly American-looking at the same time.
Even though I've seen Halley's Comet as many times as I have United, I refuse to be labeled a fair-weather fan. I at least have a little bit of provenance, and I've been a stalwart fan through some pretty trying times, the worst of which was probably us losing the league to Leeds in 1992. Not pretty considering how many Leeds United fans I was at school with.
So I'm not entirely a glory girl, although *cough* we did happen to win both the Premier League and the Champions League this year. Sadly knocked out of the FA Cup by eventual winners Portsmouth.
I wouldn't exactly call myself a die-hard fan though. As I found out quite suddenly one freezing morning in 1994.
I was with some friends from College, out on the town in London. We caught the last tube on the Northern Line to God knows where. We even had to sit for 45 minutes while they locked down the entire underground network as they'd found a suspicious package at Leicester Square station. About 1 o'clock in the morning. That's when my then boyfriend turned to me and said 'oh shit', not exactly an auspicious start to a conversation, followed by 'where's my bag?'. It was his bag, left on Leicester Square station, that had caused the furore. After notifying the authorities, letting them know it was more pants and toothpaste than incendiary device, and receiving a thorough dressing down we finally arrived at our destination in the wee hours of the morning. Stumbling up the tube station steps we were met with the sight of a nightclub opposite disgorging a pack of about ten absolutely shit-faced Aston Villa fans. Delighted to spy fresh meat they advanced across the deserted high street yelling 'Who The Fuck Are Ya! Who The Fuck Are Ya!'. Villa were to play Man U the next day at Wembley in the then Coca-Cola League Cup. To my absolute chuffing horror, Sammy to my left lifted up his tasteful knitwear revealing his blood-red United shirt underneath. The rest is a bit of a blur. I remember Sammy yelling, 'U-nit-ed! U-nit-ed!' The Villa fans sensing blood, smashed their pint glasses and began charging over to us and there was me thinking 'I'm not one of them, I'm Harrogate Railway if I'm anything. Actually I don't even like football, I like knitting, and not being glassed'. Never one to miss assigning blame I also thought 'fuck my boyfriend and his lost bag, this is all his fault' (we broke up shortly after).
Then, as if by magic the police arrived. Literally as if by magic. A previously completely deserted north London high street, baying Villa fans, Sammy eager for a bit of argy-bargy, and then the boys in blue. In retrospect the Villa fans were probably kicked out of the nightclub, and the police called before we even fatefully emerged from the tube station. All I know is we were bloody lucky and I realized that I was not prepared to die for Man Utd.
I know this just adds fuel to the fire that all English football fans are a bunch of violent thugs, but that's not true. Not even all Villa fans. I have a feeling those blokes would have had a go at us for our taste in knitwear or for our non-Brummy accents. I also wonder what they'd have said if we'd have replied 'The Villa' to their drunken challenge. Perhaps made us name the Villa back four - who knows, it would have been interesting. Either way, I lived to tell the tale