New Life; New Blog: Family And Football

With the demise, temporary or otherwise, of my son James’ team, Bury FC, I started taking him to watch a local non-league team by the name of Prestwich Heys.

A world away from the Premier League football that we could stay home and watch on the TV, it’s a real community club that values our support and attendance.

With no pretensions or VAR in sight, it’s proper football with proper fans, giving a warm welcome and an inclination to visit again – for the club quickly got under our skin to the extent that it has now become a family affair with both my wife and daughter also attending games.

We were having a great season, and then that damn Covid-19 virus arrived and everything was brought to a premature close.

In the meanwhile, a friend has started up a blog about all thing Heys to keep everyone still connected in these barren months. It isn’t on WordPress, but if you follow the link below you can enter your email address to subscribe to his posts.

So if you have an interest in non-league football; football in general; want to know what is going on in this part of Northern England, or to gain a glimpse of some of the things that I and my family get up to here in Manchester, UK, please follow the link and subscribe.

It’s a new blog and I’m sure the writer will appreciate the support of you lovely people.

His name is Rick, go say hello.

https://rickbarrett753.wixsite.com/website-2

Death Of A Babe

R.I.P to one of the Busby Babes, Harry Gregg, 87.

The Manchester United goalkeeper was hailed as a hero after rescuing survivors from the burning wreckage of the plane in Munich, 1958.

Among those who died were eight members of a young team that had been standing on the verge of greatness.

I’m a Man City fan, and from all accounts I’ve heard, both personally and through media, the disaster brought the city of Manchester together, in the days when football existed before an often toxic and tribal rivalry.

I remember my Mum saying that when the accident happened she was, aged fourteen, in bed ill with Scarlett Fever. Her twin brother was a City fan, whereas her older brother, Jim, was a United fan. This brother came in to the bedroom to make the fire up for her, and my Mum said “I’m sorry about United, Jim.”

He didn’t reply, just silently cried with his back to her as he went about his task.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster fell, in 2008, on, of all fixtures, Derby Day, with my team travelling to Old Trafford. As a City fan I was dreading the possibility of the moment being ruined by a few idiots, but felt proud as both sets of teams marked the occasion perfectly.

This year, a friend of mine was chosen, along with her son who is a teammate of my son, to travel to Munich to represent the fans at the annual memorial service. Having lost her father a year ago on Christmas Day, she commented:

The occasion itself held an extra poignancy for me, travelling in the footsteps of my father who had made this same pilgrimage twice himself. I know he’d have been so proud of his grandson, reading out the players’ names and laying a wreath down for those who died, players and non-players alike. That is why the Busby Babes and their legacy will never be forgotten. Each generation passes the torch of remembrance on to the next.

R.I.P Harry Gregg

A Stonewall Certainty

Over here in the UK it’s Boxing Day, a day that is right at the forefront of the No-Man’s Land that lies between Christmas and New Year.

My Boxing Day plans have been ruined by the weather, which is another British certainty.

There are many people who go walking on this day (an activity that is also in the lap of the Gods), but I’d planned to go to watch my local non-league football team play but, alas, a waterlogged pitch has scuppered that.

Then I had a close call when my wife suggested shopping-but while she and my daughter brave the hustle and bustle I’ve managed to retreat into Costa with a book about Orkney. I’m surely due another visit. To Orkney, that is, not Costa.

Anyway, I hope you guys all had a good Christmas, and if not maybe we can navigate this treacherous No-Man’s Land together on the way to 2020.

Catch you soon. It’s raining in Orkney too.

No Man’s Land; No Man Knows

And still, the no man’s land between summer and autumn.

The green foliage hangs heavy, but the odd leaf is beginning to turn.

What’s a guy to do, when travelling to watch a local non-league team?

The sun is still there, but sinking, diluted.

Is it too warm for a coat, or too cold for a jumper?

Just bring on winter and we’ll all know where we stand.

Breaking Light At Dusk

I’ve written that much, over on Facebook, about the tragedy and travesty that is unfolding at Bury FC, that I don’t feel like adding much more about it here.

But tonight, with tomorrow’s deadline looming, a deadline after which this historic club, after 134 years, will slip from existence, I took my son to Gigg Lane.

This is his club. Not a club he inherited from me, just as I inherited Manchester City from my father, but a club that he gave his heart to of his own accord. It’s a club that I have learned to love because he loves it.

On the journey there we heard a first glimmer of hope over the car radio. A chink of light in long-gathering shadows.

I feel a little more optimistic, but the margins are tight. It will go right down to the wire. It’s not dark yet.

Blue Saturday, Blue Monday

I’d tried to prepare my son. You know, just in case.

I’d previously been to Wembley three times. The old Wembley once, this new Wembley twice. Three visits to the renowned, fabled stadium. And three times I’d seen my team get beat. I’d once proclaimed that I’d retired from Wembley. Who’d have thought that of a Manchester City fan, a few years ago? But then my boy came along.

“Even if we lose,” I’d told him, “you’ll get to experience Cup Final day. A match at Wembley. You will come back again.”

I needn’t have worried. For once everything went as planned. A crushing, 6-0 win and quite a memorable day. An historic domestic treble, although this was actually our fourth trophy of the season.

When the fourth goal went in, the man sat on the other side of my son hugged him, and then said to me, while beckoning towards his own young boy: “They don’t know how lucky they are, do they?”

I knew what he meant. The 90’s were a nightmare. Schooldays were insufferable.

“What do you think we’ll win this season?” James had asked me back in August.

Listen to him, I thought, the new City fan. Full of expectation.

There is a ‘knowing’ among we older fans. A wisdom built on pain. But on Saturday we could forget all that, that part of our DNA was lost in celebration.

And the music was great, too. Belting out adopted, and adapted, anthems by Mancunian bands such as Oasis, James and Joy Division. And that certain band from up the East Lancs: The Beatles.

Before the game I met up with some familiar faces from my past, camaraderies of work place and youth.

I never got to go to a City game with my Dad, but I know the stories. The ’56 Trautmann final. He and his friends reported missing, later found sleeping in an otherwise empty train in the Manchester sidings.

I was conscious I was making new memories for my lad. Life is all about passing on the baton. Saturday was a marker for him.

And then Monday night, a time to celebrate in our own backyard, my son and daughter decked out with replica kits and flags.

We went into Manchester to see the victory parade, as the Manchester City players milked the acclaim while showing off the four pieces of silverware that they’d won this season.

And to say goodbye to Vincent Kompany, our most successful captain and our leader, whose stature is just as great off the field. An adopted Mancunian from Belgium, he had married a local girl and wanted to give something back to the city that had given him so much in his eleven years here. He’d set up, with the mayor of Greater Manchester, a charity called Tackle4MCR, to help the city’s homeless, and all of the money from his testimonial year was going into that.

It was loud and jovial, (blue) Mancunians at their best, people gaining vantage points from bus shelter roofs and clinging halfway up lampposts, singing songs and cheering on their heroes.

In the middle of this lot, this throng 100,000 strong, my wife turned to me. “I need a wee.”

I suddenly imagined another use for one of those trophies.

Kompany’s charity:

http://www.tackle4mcr.co.uk