22 Jan 2013

Wigan Away (Featured In Red News Issue 197)

Red News Issue 197
Its 9am on New Years day 2013, previously only 5 hours ago I was dancing around my kitchen with the wife to the sounds of the Stone Roses and the Smiths celebrating the start of the new year. My head hurts and I'm not entirely sure why I set my alarm to go off at this ridiculous time on a bank holiday, then I suddenly remember that its Wigan away today.

My old man sorted the tickets out through Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi who is a frequent visitor to Old Trafford whenever his team are not playing. On match days my dad works at United on the car park and in exchange for a good parking place at the front, we get 2 tickets for Wigan away every season so fingers crossed they stay up this season!

In no time at all I am showered, clothed, fed and ready to make my way to Piccadilly station in time for the train. I call at my mates house on the way, he looks exactly how I am feeling! We then meet our other mate at the train station who has clearly got his New Year priorities correct as he has a plastic bag full of cans with him for our journey!

On arrival at Piccadilly train station in our tender state we are a little confused as to why there are no United supporters knocking about, in fact there seem to be Bertie's all over the place? I'm getting a little anxious because my only job was to check the train times and inform my mates what time the train was leaving at. A City supporter in a half and half scarf visually tells us that they are playing Stoke today and another quick glance up at the digital arrival monitor confirms to us that the influx of City supporters around us is because the train from the Stockport line has just arrived at Piccadilly!

We get on the train and there is not much of an atmosphere, its very subdued as most people are obviously still recovering from the New Years eve celebrations. There is just enough time for us to sink a couple of cans and chat about past away day experiences before we arrive in Wigan.

As we are getting off the train I get a call from my dad who tells me to hurry up and make my way to the stadium as he has us "Golden Tickets", this means we can drink in the players lounge before and after the match, "I'm having a bit of that" I said! My mates at this stage had stopped for a toilet stop at a pub near the train station so I told them I would meet them after the match to travel back to Manchester as we were not sat together in the ground.

Players Before Kick Off 
On arrival my dad come out of the players lounge to give me my ticket and we went in for a few swift pints before making our way into the executive seating area in the main stand. I had a quick glance around to establish where the United supporters were gathered, it wasn't hard as they were the ones making all the noise to my left behind the goal, our full allocation had clearly been taken up for today's game.

Its away days like this make me think back to just how vocal Old Trafford was on a match day, the days before the corporate sections, prawn sandwich munchers and day trippers diluted our home atmosphere. The United faithful were in full voice as they rummaged deep into the United song archives to sing a wide variety of terrace chants passionately, they were all in great spirits and I found myself sat in the Wigan end a little devastated that I was not part of it. Although I was there to watch the team I adore I found myself looking to my left at the travelling support on many occasions to see what was going on and what song they would sing next, the atmosphere they were generating was brilliant.

Players Celebrate RvP Goal
I constantly found myself tapping my foot and muttering certain songs quietly under my breath as I tried to get involved, I was proud of the United supporters that day who sang throughout the match, I was proud to be a Mancunian. I even overheard a Wigan supporter say to his mate just near me "those lot have not shut up all game"! It was in stark contrast to the Wigan supporters who had bothered to turn up for this game, if this had of been a church service they would have been applauded by the priest for behaving quietly and staying in their seats throughout the service!

The match finished 4-0 and will be remembered for a moment of brilliance from van Persie and the United supporters who created a carnival like atmosphere inside the stadium. We made our way back to the players lounge in the hope that maybe a few of the United players might show their faces. The Wigan players all walked in about half an hour after the game and sat with their family and friends, no sign of any United players. Then Darren Fletcher walked in, I was instantly shocked by his gaunt and thin look which are the effects of his chronic bowel complaint, my dad even doubted for a minute it was actually him. I have seen him on the television but to see him in the flesh makes you realise the amount of weight he has lost during his difficult time.

Darren Fletcher & Me In The Players Lounge
I'm not one to pass up on a photo opportunity so I made my way over and waited for him to finish his conversation with the person who he had come in to talk too. He then looked at me and I asked if I could have my picture with him, my dad took the picture and I told him that I hoped to see him back in the first team soon to which he replied "thanks", before saying "I better get off before the team coach leaves without me".

I then get a text off my mate who tells me they are in the queue for the train, I say my goodbyes to my old man and as I get outside the ground I ring my mate who tells me they have now boarded the train, I knew that it would take me 10 minutes to get back to the train station running, so I told them to go on without me and silently prayed that there was another train later on.

I make it to the train station and to my delight there are United supporters all over the platform which obviously means that another train must be arriving soon, when it does I make my way into the first carriage and stand at the front watching the train fill up with everyone in high spirits and singing. I notice an innocent looking couple at the front of the train who's faces drain and drop as they realise that the train has just been taken over and invaded by a gang of alcohol fuelled football supporters celebrating! Its not long before the 'Kicking a Blue' song gets going and some reds stand on their seat proceeding to beat the roof of the carriage for a drum sound effect. At this point a train conductor walks on, takes one look and walks back off! His face was a picture, I'm sure that he said under his breath as he walked off the train "Fuck this"! A sarcastic applause and cheer is followed by everyone singing "We're Man United We Do What We Want"!

The songs never stopped on that train back from Wigan, song after song after song, just like at the match that day. A Wigan supporter with an official training ground top on had tried hard to keep himself to himself on the journey home, he departed us at the Bolton stop off with the sounds of "You're going home to shag your sister" still echoing in his eardrums! It was all harmless banter! By the time I got home that evening I sat down and thought to myself, great away day, great result and a great start to 2013.
Panoramic Picture Of The DW Stadium


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