blimey. this is, look you see, a whole load of pictures i have added here for you to have a gander at. there were many, many, many more that i could have selected. apologies to those that would have wanted more, sorry indeed to those who read this and yet complain there are too many.
pictures of what? the Old Trafford Tour we went on. as per my "dream reached" post from a few days ago, off we went to Manchester for a little stay. magnificent place, it is, to be sure.
anyway, so being in Manchester allowed me to get to do a dream thing, which was to buy a Stone Roses record in their home town. a dream James has had is to visit the home of his top football team, Manchester United. and so off to Old Trafford we went.
that there is the view from the second car park we went to at Old Trafford. at first we followed directions and ended up somewhere that a (genuinely) nice security guard told us was restricted to players and staff only. well, players, staff, dignitaries and legends, since it seems we missed a certain Bryan Robson by a handful of minutes.
me? no, i am not what you would call a Manchester United fan. also, though, i am not part of the "ABU" (Anyone But United) brigade who dismiss their achievements. to love football, which i do, in a true way is to admire monumental achievements, indeed greatness, in the game. foolish is the football fan that does not carry a high level of respect, if they cannot confess to admiration, for what this team has done over the years.
such greatness comes from great players, of course. Manchester United have fielded many over the years. few, however, have come to be etched in hearts the same way that Law, Best and Charlton have. and so there is a spectacular statue of the three of them outside the ground.
thinking about the above, an important travel advisory for all of you planning on driving to Old Trafford for the tour. your sat nav or phone will take you, like us, down Sir Matt Busby way to park. that's wrong. you want car park N2, which is on the other side, near or behind or around a hotel. so program your device for that rather than Old Trafford as such, as nice and friendly as the security staff are.
who exactly do i support, as a by the by, for non-regular readers of this blog seeing this? Boro born, partially Boro raised, all Boro for me all the time. it's a nod of respect to the team in focus here, however, that some of our greatest games are considered to be those times that we have managed to beat the mighty Manchester United.
beyond James, many of my friends over the years have been passionate Manchester United fans. not sure of the "have", for they still so surely are. to brighten the day of one, my old big boss out of verk and still a good friend Dewaldt, i sent the below picture on.
i trusted that this would brighten up his day as he would, by my calculation, have been sat it some top level corporate meeting as and when this arrived. it turned out that he considered it a good time to point out that i was going grey, and that he was insanely jealous of me at that moment for being where i was. oh well. despite being many thousands of miles away, Dewaldt did get to visit this ground the once, and i trust he shall do so again.
no, generally, smoking is not good for you at all and is most decidedly frowned upon at football grounds. hence me having this cheeky fag, so to speak, out in the car park. yes, i know my hair and beard are long and shabby and out of control to the point of being a disgrace. perhaps i shall get either or both styled, one day.
but we are not here to celebrate my lack of fashion. no, this is all rather a glimpse of the Old Trafford Tour for those who might not be able to get there in person, or are currently considering a trip and for some reason would like my opinion. also, of course, for friends and family out there reading this it is a most splendid way to show them some pictures of the boys and my (considerably) better half; the three whom make up the 75% of my family that you all prefer a good deal to the 25% which is i.
indeed yes, a poster featuring certain legends (alas my favourite is absent, but more on that later) directing members of the public towards the entrance for the museum and tour.
some practical advice for those of you who have or intend to book tickets. you are given a time for the actual tour, and are told to arrive "at least" an hour in advance. you are, however, not told why. this is to allow you to tour the museum. the tour starts from the museum, and batches of people are called towards it from the museum. it really is a good idea to leave yourself an hour to have a look at all which is on display before commencing the tour proper.
on the point of practical advice, for those in a rush is the Old Trafford Tour worth it? in particular if, like me, you are not quite a fully fledged fan? indeed yes it is. i think the family ticket we toured on was just north of £50, but it's an incredible stadium and a wonderful tour.
another, somewhat closer, look at the entrance to the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, then. as impressive as the achievements of the man himself, and yet that feels on both levels like an understatement. whilst some raised an eyebrow at them naming a stand after him whilst he was still the manager of the club, one suspects that there would have been something amiss if they had not done so at some stage.
recently, i believe during an episode of the TV show A League Of Their Own, no less than Arsenal legend Thierry Henry called on the Premier League to rename the trophy which the league winners pick up after Sir Alex Ferguson. this is one of them things that when you think about it makes sense. one can aspire and strive, but in a practical sense you do not really see any other manager ever picking up this trophy the remarkable 13 times Sir Alex did.
i suspect that the Premier League are planning to do exactly this, but not at this stage. let us be respectful and say the circumstances do not need to be spoken out loud, but when that day comes, hopefully many years from now, it would not be a surprise to see that naming decision taken.
yes, as you can see, that's the family by the plaque for the statue you saw at the centre of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
is William a Manchester United fan, since he has the shirt on? well, kind of. i would not say that he's all that passionate about watching football as such, but he does love playing it. and he does tend to follow what his big brother determines to be cool and right, so yes. i guess.
more of the family, and indeed moi, as we go, then. for now, though, let's get on with some highlights from the tour and museum. like, for instance, this quote inside the Red Cafe.
yeah, sorry that it is unclear. i had to zoom a bit, and was trying not to be rude as some people were sat eating below it. should you not be able to make it out, that is indeed the infamous, celebrated and wonderful moment when "King" Kevin Keegan had a complete brain melt on live TV, kicking off and shouting how he would "love it" if his charges at Newcastle could beat Manchester United to the title. they didn't, despite having a remarkable points lead towards the end of the season.
right, to go back to my favourite Manchester United legend. Boom Boom. as in, Keano. as in Roy Keane. why? a hell of a player, a hell of a leader. also, Brian Clough and Jack Charlton rated him highly, just as Sir Alex Ferguson did. and he upset Mick McCarthy too, which is a good thing.
it cannot, of course, be said that Roy Keane was the one who did no wrong, because he went off and managed Sunderland. perhaps we at Boro are at fault with that for not offering him a job to save him from that particular misfortune.
anyway, if we take it as a given that usually it takes something extra special to be considered good enough to be a Manchester United player (exceptions - Djemba-Djemba, Veron, Kleberson, etc), those who were that even more a little bit special are honoured within the museum with their own display.
sure, things might have gone sour between Boom Boom and Man Utd at the time of his departure from the club, but neither side would surely discredit the greatness of the other, together.
as mentioned above, prior to my apparent Roy Keane love-in swoon there, one has much to see within the museum aspect of the Manchester United tour. i would suggest that an hour is the minimum amount of time you need to have a gander, in particular if you want to stop and have a drink before going around on the tour.
hmn. the dilemma with exactly how much of the museum to show off. on the one hand i would not want to rob people of the experience of seeing things themselves. on the other there's the fact that the club has many, many millions of fans around the world. the overwhelming majority will not, sadly, get the chance to go there themselves. hey ho, let me just get on with what i have picked out.
that there above is what we in England call or commonly called a butcher's jacket. in purpose it was intended for wear by butchers for the most part, although other trades took to it. in the days before replica kits were made available to buy the fans used to take these jacked and beautify them with a celebration of their club.
no, seriously. whereas these days most football matches are played in a stadium full of fans wearing replica kit shirts this is a relatively new phenomenon. it was only in the mid-70s that anyone ever even thought to sell the shirts to the fans, and even then it did not take off straight away. there was a steady increase during the 80s, but for the most part fans felt you had to earn the right to wear the shirt by, you know, actually playing for the club. oddly, i think the fact that the NFL sold shedloads of American Football shirts in the UK during the mid-80s alerted clubs to the commercial gain they could make.
back to the tour, then. and on to that thing which Manchester United are one of, if not the, best at doing - winning trophies.
a centrepiece of the museum is the trophy room. note, room. as in a whole room full of many, many trophies. sure, certainly, one or two trophies - like the one above - are more prestigious than others, but still. many clubs - hello, my beloved Boro - do not have a whole room dedicated to success. it's more a trophy cabinet, or maybe trophy shelf as such.
want to have a look at some more of the trophies? why not. it was the shiniest room what i have ever been in. probably only a tour of Anfield, which i would most decidedly love to do one day, will reveal a room quite so shiny. or you know, them two Spanish clubs. but for now here's some 20% of the shiny trophies on display at Old Trafford. actually less, maybe 15%. they have won a lot. sh!tloads, even.
whilst it remains unlikely the number of trophies on display will diminish there is, look you see, every chance that the amount on display shall grow. it remains to be seen if Manchester United can capture as many honours as they did under Sir Alex Ferguson, but the incumbent manager seems to be taking them in that direction. at the least.
at the heart of the Manchester United museum in Old Trafford is a tribute to those who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air disaster.
for those unaware of the details of this i would really recommend clicking on the link above in red. briefly, it was a plane crash which took away lives and robbed a generation of some of their finest footballers. this was one of the first instances of the world of football having to face a tragedy which touched fans around the world; sadly it has proven to be quite far from the last.
a wonderful and appropriate gesture in this part of the museum is the placement of a sculpture of Jimmy Murphy.
by all accounts Jimmy was a man who was as talented as he was passionate about football, and was considered a pioneer in the realm of coaching. whilst normally one to shy away from the limelight, he stepped up and stepped in to help rebuild the team after the disaster.
and so on with the tour. exactly how long does the Old Trafford tour proper take? i lost track of time, but from what i could calculate after the fact just slightly over an hour.
in that time you see pretty much all of the important parts of the stadium, inside and out. that said, i don't believe we stood in the Stretford End, but could be mistaken. we did, however, at the least, look upon the hallowed turf of the theatre of dreams from the other three stands.
indeed, pictures like this next one reveal as much.
actually, let me limit the writing as much a i can and just leave you to the pictures of the ground. to start with, then, the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.
from the Sir Alex Ferguson stand one looks across and sees the stand named in honour of a true gentleman of the game, the Sir Bobby Charlton stand.
and for good measure here's another look at the celebrated Stretford End. the gentleman you can see was our tour guide on the day. more on him in a bit.
indeed yes, we were fortunate with the weather. one is led to believe that rain is a hallmark of the Manchester experience. we, for the most part, avoided such. perhaps that underlines the fact that we were on a relatively short trip.
my non-supporter ears may well have heard the tour quite differently than those of the converted. in this regard, two things were loud and clear from the words of our guide. the first of these would be the enormous level of thanks and significant debt of gratitude the club believes it owes Sir Alex Ferguson. the second is the enthusiasm for the direction of the club under the incumbent manager, Jose Mourinho. no other manager gains much of a mention, and there's limited anecdotes about legendary players of the past.
our tour host was, quite simply, magnificent. despite obviously doing these tours all day every day, he spoke with passion and enthusiasm, evoking the sense of passion the club has inspired in millions of fans over the years and shall undoubtedly continue to inspire to billions more. a very entertaining and gifted speaker.
you would imagine that our tour guide has, for as much of his life as he would care to remember, been a Manchester United fan. for a living, then, he gets to walk around the home of Manchester United, talking about how great Manchester United are. that, to me, is living the dream.
whereas i doubt there will ever be much demand for a Boro tour - certainly not some 20ish tours a day to sold out crowds a la Old Trafford - if someone offered me that job about one of my passions i would jump all over it. i could totally see me happily being a tour guide for a Frankie Goes To Hollywood or Stone Roses museum.
into the Manchester United dressing room, then. and a look at the hallowed tactic board that does not get used much.
our tour guide did not wish for us to walk away with illusions. he said that whilst the tactic board is there and is used from time to time, for the most part the strategy is drilled into the team by Jose at their training ground. but still, perhaps once Sir Alex used this to show Ryan Giggs how he wanted him to run through the entire Arsenal team in one FA Cup semi-final. or showed Boom Boom where exactly would be a good place to him to put in a "well timed and passionate" tackle or two.
the shirts of the current Manchester United squad were put on display in the home dressing room. something different awaits for the away team, but we will get there. everyone was given as much time as they may need to have their picture taken near the shirt of the player or players they wished to. William, presumably because of the colour of the shirt, opted to go with the team's celebrated and quite in demand goalkeeper.
earlier on i mentioned that few anecdotes about players formed part of the tour. an exception to this was made in the home dressing room. be prepared, for next you will see a picture of me, as reflected in what i have elected to call or dub "the Ronaldo mirror".
according to our tour guide, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo stood before this very mirror prior to each and every match, checking that he looked good and that his hair was perfect. well, as our at the time rather fawning tour guide pointed out, he's a handsome lad, that Cristiano. without fail, though, his teammates used to pelt if not bombard him with anything they could get their hands on as he did this. quite the lovely story of team spirit, so i couldn't not have a picture done. no, nobody threw anything at me.
on to the dressing room designated for visiting sides to Old Trafford, then. and something quite different. for the purposes of the tour this room is set up to showcase some of the legends who have graced the ground with their skills. and not all of them were footballers as such, at least not in the association football sense.
many of my friends and family around the world are as passionate about rugby as they are football, if not more so. thus, it would have been amiss for me not to have taken a picture of the jersey worn by Jonah Lomu on the occasion of him playing at Old Trafford. without doubt one of the all time greats of the game, and someone who is deeply missed.
but yes, mostly visiting football legends are honoured in the away dressing room on the Old Trafford tour. greats such as Maldini, and indeed Zidane, with the latter being at great risk of coming to be an even greater manager than he was player. which is f*****g saying something. also, to the delight of my (considerably) better half, Ryan Giggs.
erm, yes, quite, Ryan Giggs would usually be seen as a Old Trafford legend, and one that had little business in the away dressing room. except to pop in and say "great game, sorry you lost". in his capacity as a player for Wales, however, he was indeed required to get changed and ready in the visitor's dressing room. which must have been most confusing for the lad.
any memorabilia or merchandise on sale for the Old Trafford tour and/or museum? in a limited amount specific to the tour and/or museum, yes. as you would expect, there is a veritable shed full of general Manchester United stuff for sale, in particular expensive replica kits.
the tour programme / guide costs £5, and is very good. sadly no pictures of that here, as i would not want to see what kind of legal letter Manchester United might be able to throw at me. my pictures shall have to do you. here, though, are some coins.
the top one, the copper or if you like bronze, is made all by yourself. for a fee. one inserts a £1 coin and a 1p coin, and one of several possible designed are pressed onto the flattened out penny. a "penny press" i believe the machine is called. good fun, and a relatively cheap memento to take away.
at the bottom is an already minted coin. the cost of that one is £2, and no, so far as i am aware, one cannot use this coin as legal tender anywhere. although it would be fun to try in, say, Liverpool. fun if you presumably like hearing "no", or fights.
with the minted shiny coin you had a choice of two designs; one celebrating the treble and one showing off the Old Trafford stadium. as a non fan i had no need of one celebrating the treble as such, but that;'s irrelevant - the look of Old Trafford on the coin struck me as spectacular, so that is the one i selected.
do limitations exist on the tour? but of course. whilst they are generous with some matters - the dressing rooms, for instance - some places are well and truly out of bounds. at seemingly every turn you are told that under no circumstances may you touch or go on to the pitch. also, the press conference table, where Sir Alex and Jose have regularly expressed their displeasure at journalists, is something you can see but not sit at.
let us then concern ourselves with the things you could see and do. like, for instance, walk around the ground to the area where the managers and substitutes sit on match days.
what is that above? it's a time capsule. this was placed at the point where players used to come on to the pitch before the revamp. it was laid (buried?) as part of the 100th anniversary of the Old Trafford stadium, celebrated in 2010. the idea is for it to be opened only on the 200th anniversary of the ground, which if my finger counting is right will be in 2110. blimey, a way off yet. although time really is a trick; when you think we are currently closer to 2030 than we are 2000.
the seats for the squads and the managers on match days, then. indeed yes, much to the delight of many, you were indeed allowed to go and sit on these seats. so of course James headed straight to sit in the one ostensibly intended for Jose to sit in.
rare it is, of course, for Jose to actually sit in it. during most matches Jose, being the generous type he is, sacrifices his seat to stand on the pitch in his "technical area". whilst there he freely dispenses the benefit of his wisdom, informing referees, linesmen, lineswomen and visiting managers exactly what they are doing wrong.
don't take the above wrong. i am a fan of Jose. some find him annoying, arrogant even. to me it's not arrogant when they've actually gone and done it. Jose has pretty much won all that can be won in the game of football, at least at club level. i will sit and listen to him saying how great he is because, well, he is by any measurement. the same courtesy i furnish to Shane Warne, our lord Sir Ian Botham and a few others.
my (considerably) better half is also quite smitten with Jose, and was most eager to have her picture taken touching a chair what had touched the chap.
before the seats we obviously had to get on to the grounds. sorry, maybe i should have put these next pictures before the ones above, but hey ho, done now.
to get to the area you need to walk out of the same tunnel that the players do. in this respect, you also walk past the various "sponsor boards" where the TV people hold post-match interviews with players and managers. there is a separate board for each of the broadcasters that have permission to be there.
it might be fair to say that this was my favourite part of the tour. why? Roy Keane. this was the scene where the celebrated and cherished "i'll see you out there" moment occurred between him and Patrick Viera.
one last picture from the tunnel, then. a fitting one of James, caught by accident and looking like he's walking away from a question off a journalist that he has no interest in answering.
fitting, of course, as it was mostly for the benefit of James that we went on the tour. make no mistake, though, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
was this my first trip to Old Trafford? no. i think the first for some 21 years though. the last time i can recall being there was the Boro vs Chesterfield FA Cup semi-final. that was our "treble", in that we lost two cup finals and got relegated. great match, 3-3 after extra time and in truth Chesterfield probably should have won it on the day. perhaps i will pull the pictures of that day out and put them here one day.
phew. this blog feels like it is extensive and exhaustive, and yet i know there's stacks more from the tour and museum i could have included.
hopefully this has been of some interest to someone somewhere. should you be considering a trip to go and do the Old Trafford tour, well, i think you might have clocked that my answer to such consideration would be yes; it is well worth it.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!