Getting a ticket for an away match for United is no easy feat.
You may know someone with executive facilities in which case it’s easier to get an away ticket than your run of the mill season ticket holder. If you have only got your Season Ticket and if you are lucky enough, you will get one in the ballot (at odds of about 30-40,000 to 1!) and if you are not lucky but have some spare cash you want to rid yourself of there is always someone to talk to. So when I count myself lucky when I manage to get a ticket…with one exception. The visit to West Brom in the 2010-11 season was not one of my fondest trips or memories. Television had dictated that we were to kick off at 12 o’clock on New Years Day so dragging myself through town to the train station at 7am on New Years Day (and still seeing revellers just about finishing their celebrations) was not kind to me. Nor was the ‘flu I had managed to burden myself with. Only the Little Pea’s goal to give United a 2-1 win gave me any form of joy that day. So when I got a ticket for United’s opening game of the 2011-12 game at The Hawthorns I was doubly determined to make the most of the trip this time around. I imagine Gary Neville probably thought the same, tucked up in the Sky studio this time, it was this very fixture early in January 2011 that effectively ended his career with United. So onwards and upwards.
On the way down to Birmingham I wondered what lay ahead and what state would greet us on leaving New Street station, following the recent rioting. Quite a few shops covered in wooden boards hiding the scars brought about by a night of looting gave an eerie backdrop for the day. It felt almost as if Birmingham had been hurt, and this was the morning after when the healing was to start. It was difficult to tell whether the police presence in the city centre was the current state or had been beefed up for the visit of the travelling United contingent. But we carried on and headed to a pub to watch the Stoke vs Chelsea game. In all honesty I wished we hadn’t bothered as a scrappy game with few chances failed to whet the appetite. We sat through most of the game before deciding to head off in the direction of West Brom.
We got into the United end just before kick off, the red contingent trying to make their voices heard over the sound of inexplicably loud dance music being blasted out of the stadium’s PA system. This silences though once the teams are out on the pitch, and the United songs start to flow. One thing I do enjoy about the West Brom fans is that they do make an effort to get behind the team so it makes the whole day a little bit more interesting to have some banter and rivalry across the dividing line of stewards. The game kicks off with United fielding quite a young team and this shows in the opening half an hour with slick passing and a verve about United that we saw so impressively in the Community Shield game. The reds go close a couple of times before Ashley Young and Rooney combine, the latter then arrowing the ball beyond Ben Foster and into the bottom corner of the West Brom net. The United end erupts in celebration, bodies and limbs are flying over the place before attention is turned to the now silenced West Brom fans to revel in our lead and general dominance of the game. Such was the confidence in the team the United end could even afford to direct our attention away from the game for a few minutes to acknowledge the presence of one Phil Neville, stood shoulder to shoulder amongst the United faithful. Quite what the blue half of Liverpool will think of this appearance I don’t know…but it was certainly accepted well from the United fans. Then cue the typical United way of keeping you on edge! A seemingly harmless shot from Shane Long creeps into the United net and it’s 1-1 and now the Baggies fans have their moment to revel, although I’m still not sure what all this “boing, boing” nonsense is, they certainly made us aware that we weren’t on top any more.
Half time is whistled, Phil Neville has disappeared as quickly as United’s grip of the game. Whist we looked good going forward I felt we looked very uncertain in defence, and unusually careless with the ball when it was spread back to our back four. Half time is spent catching up with friends who we haven’t seen for a few months since the season ended, and a spot of celeb look-a-likes (I spotted a certain Mr Mourinho double amongst the throngs of people).
The second half gets underway and the United fans seem unusually quiet. There is not much coming from the team to lift us and the Baggies fight and drive only serving to excite the home fans. The game flows back and forth with United losing both our centre backs in the process. United continue to flow forward but often unable to find the final, killer ball to get us ahead in the game whilst the home team continue to pile pressure on the United goal at every free kick, corner, and opportunity they get to get the ball into the box and throw bodies at De Gea. Then Ashley Young cuts into the box and the ball finds its way into the back of the West Brom net! Cue scenes of absolute delight as the away end turns into wild scenes of celebration and the new United hero’s name is lauded in song, with a crafty sarcastic chant of “Villa reject” back to the Baggies fans as they had hopelessly tried to make a point during the game that had now turned on it’s head. The quiet lifted the away fans were now in full voice, with verse after verse of an Ashley Young song being rhythmically belted out. The games runs its course with nothing now to dampen the United spirits. Over the weekend most of our nearest and dearest rivals had failed to muster a win or even a convincing performance, and whilst this was not a vintage United performance it’s certainly a better start to the away campaign than we endured last season!
With three points in the bag we set about on the trail home, going back via Birmingham for a quick drink amongst the police vans and boarded up windows making for one of the stranger away trips we’ve had.
Your last sentence it must have been like walking through Salford, but then you like most united supporters probably don’t live in Manchester because they are a novelty.
Firstly, cheers for reading and taking the time to comment, always nice to have feedback. Secondly bravo on the originality of the comment you’ll be telling me next that all United fans are from Essex? Out of interest, who do you support?
No mention of Two Shirts, £5.50 dinners or the other lookie-likes!
Pleasant read, look fwd to the next one.
Haha nice one Shinpad, only thing is I’m not sure the world is quite ready for the legend of Two Shirts!
I support West Bromwich Albion and have watched them since 1957.I was at the World Cup Final at Wembley in 1966, went to Mexico for the 1970 Finals. Was at Wembley to see the Albion win the FA Cup in1968 went back 4 days later to see Man Utd beat Benfica in the European Cup Final.I was also on the Stretford End in December 1978 M U 3 WBA 5. I was born and grew up within a mile or so of the home of the great Duncan Edwards. Refering back to my comment about united supporters in the sixties you had crowds of 60,000 + 90% of them lived in Manchester ,you average 75,000 + now but how many live in Manchester I bet not many more than 35%.
Fair play, sorry if I took your comment as a jibe, I was expecting it to be a City fan or something like that.
I actually quite enjoy the atmosphere at The Hawthorns, one of the few teams we visit that both get behind their team and aren’t just preoccupied with the United fans.