Tuesday 29 September 2009

Dreaming of the Theatre...

There is alot of bravado spoken when the subject of our football team's home is mentioned. The title 'Theatre of Dreams' (dubbed by Bobby Charlton) was once embarrassingly mentioned by fans in the late 1980's. The two words 'theatre' and 'dreams' were a million miles away from hooligan England in those days, where the reality was standing behind taller than man fences, getting sopping wet from Manchester's latest rainstorm, and maybe drinking a Bovril with a meat pie accompaniment. It was no visit to a theatre, and the only dreams we felt were a wish to beat Liverpool twice a year, and maybe end up with an FA Cup. Not such heady, dreaming days...

2010 marks the one hundredth anniversary of Old Trafford. One hundred years of Manchester United owning the keys to the doors. During that time it has been bombed by the Nazis, rebuilt from the ashes, then extended and expanded many times over stacking the stadium's build high up into the heavens. It stands above this Greater Manchester borough like a work of art. Modern engineering meets architectural beauty. It shelters all seventy six thousand, two hundred and twelve of us in perfection as we sing and dance and scream, like a pack of tribal monkeys. It truly is a theatre that puts on the most fantastic performances of dream-making wonder.

My first game at the ground was a (now defunct) Full Members Cup tie versus Everton. I was ten years old and just getting the football bug. The game was awful. I sat there with my mother, not really feeling 'it'. Then, in the last minute of the match, Gordon Strachan popped up out of nowhere, buried the ball and stole the game for us (remember, Everton were the bigger better team then!) It all clicked in my head at that moment. I understood everything.

Subsequent years passed, and i would make the two hundred mile coach journey to Old Trafford countless times, staying with our Mancunian family in the Tameside area. As i got older i would go to games on my own. In 1993 i was a sixth form college boy of 17. I would sit outside of the turnstile from 10am, five hours before kick off..these were the days that you simply qued up and paid at the gate. The earlier you got there, the better your choice of viewing. On those concrete floors i would make friends with whoever was sat with me..we were only united by our team and not our race, religion or demographic, but it superseded cultural matters. We understood everything.

I still get that Old Trafford buzz as a thirty three year old. The one i got as a kid. Without being too introspective, all of those joys we let go of as we pass from child to adulthood are relinquished without a second thought as well allegedly mature. We forget what it was like when we were more innocent. Going to Old Trafford ALWAYS reminds me of those times. That breathy excitement i felt as a kid. That trigger lives in all of us. We just need something to flick that switch. We let go of too much as the years pass. Muscle memory dictates that we should not let go of everything.

I personally hope United never leave Old Trafford. In a time where Liverpool are planning to bulldozer down Anfield, and Arsenal have turned the Art Deco masterpiece of Highbury into a block of flats, I hope our home stands as a reminder of the history of the club and our achievements in the sport of football. It IS a work of art. Because works of art are supposed to invoke something in you. An emotion. A memory. I am one of the lucky ones that get to feel that every couple of weeks or so. I sit in tier three, and i am a child once again. I'm not prepared to let that go. Not in this lifetime.

So thank you dear old stadium. Thank you for all the things i have witnessed within your boundaries...that Gordon Strachan goal. Neil Webb volleying in from 30 yards as we destroyed then champions Arsenal. Roy Keane scoring two on his home debut versus Sheffield United, and sliding on his knees directly in front of me. Ruud Van Nistlerooy beating the whole Fulham defence on his own to score a wonder goal. Slamming seven past Roma. Rooney's last minute goal to slay Milan. Scholes' blockbuster to beat Barca. Macheda's last minute curler against Villa. Our dramatic five goals in twenty minutes last season against Spurs. Owen's amazing second of beautiful clarity versus City. Thanks for all of it.

Happy birthday dearest Trafford...you may well have been Old for a long time now, but you are sure to outlast all of us.

(above) The old girl in the Eighties


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