Tag Archives: Manchester United

Alas Myth and Cones: Counting the Costa traffic jams in a city of red lights

18 Jul

I am lucky enough to have two homes. One is a sunshine villa 30 minutes’ drive from Alicante airport, the other a modest semi 18 miles north of Manchester’s three flight terminals.

An airport trip at the English end is subject to an electrifying hazard in the form of 50 sets of traffic lights. The consolation is that no more than 47 tend to be stuck on red at any given time.

If you are lucky enough to actually catch your flight, you do at least face a delightful evening discussing traffic lights with the Spanish cabbie driving you to Guardamar on the N332.

Mention the super-hazard of every street corner in Britain and the taxi driver’s conversation is likely to consist of a quizzical look and the words ‘Que es trah-fick-lie-eat?’

Odds are he won’t know what you are talking about because, believe it or not, there’s not a single set of the things between Alicante and my Costa Blanca home.

At the Manchester end one can, of course, avoid the red-light menace by heading for the airport via the city’s Park-And-Don’t-Move service, otherwise known as the M60 motorway.

That trip is no fun either, aRoadworks on the A21nd unless you give yourself at least two days to get to the airport, a couple of hours with your head immersed in 50 Shades of Red may well be less stressful than counting traffic cones.

Either way, both routes to the airport provide ideal material for a ‘100 Reasons to Escape Manchester’ publicity blitz.

What sort of voyeur gets a kick out of watching traffic cones breeding on the M60, for heaven’s sake? Last time I used the so-called ring road I counted 428 million giant ice-cream cornets during a six-mile crawl to the Trafford Centre. The 14-hour trip was marginally quicker than taking the car but my knees didn’t half hurt by the time I reached my destination. And I was suffering from orange-and-white colour blindness into the bargain.

One of the few perks of driving to Manchester airport via the city centre is that you can stop off for a coffee and a bacon butty. The down side is the £60 parking fine you’ll inevitably get in addition to burning off eight gallons of unleaded in a desperate attempt to park sideways on the single metre of kerb untainted by double yellow lines.

I appreciate that comparing the Costa del Salford with the Costa del Sol is akin to confusing Bury Market with the London Stock Market. But that’s a bourse-case scenario.

There are, in fact, many leisurely compensations for those who choose not to drive in what must surely be the wettest part of the UK. One is enjoying a morning swim to the office in downtown Mancunia’s high-street ocean, known to the aquatic community as the Sea of Umbrellas. The rush hour is so busy that there’s no choice but to do the crawl, and not only because the breast stroke is illegal and a butterfly as rare as an English Mark Spitz.

Which brings me on to football or, for the gob-fearing amongst us, the mouths of Wayne Rooney and Kompany.

Manchester is of course home to two top football teams, namely Bury and Oldham Athletic. Fortunately I don’t support Man United or Man City either, which is a bit of a relief since I don’t speak German (heaven help whoever puts the names on United players’ shirts) and with my flight back to Spain only 24 hours away, I’m pretty low on Sterling too (boom boom).

Oh, a geeky friend just called to say there are actually 49 sets of traffic lights between my Whitefield home and Manchester Airport. Using the bacon-butty route, that is.

I believe there are also 49 million traffic cones between Anfield in Liverpool and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

All paid for in Sterling, of course.

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Bigger than Manchester United: Two-faced Ferguson’s ego trip

11 May

I’ve met Sir Alex Ferguson on a couple of occasions (well, been in his company ) and I have to say it was a pleasant experience. Even if the Manchester United boss’s red-nosed jollity had been inspired by a glass or six of vintage vino.

So why do I find it so pleasant to see his 27-year reign at Old Trafford finally come to an end?
It’s not that I’m anti United — how can I be when half my family are dyed-in-the-wool Reds? It’s just that I have no time for two-faced people. And I’m afraid Fergie is a classic example of a split personality .
You can’t argue with the Scottish super-boss’s record as a football club manager. He has no peers in terms of success over more than two decades. What I find disgusting is that Mr McMighty has become bigger than Manchester United—and that his employers  allowed him to do so.
Fergie’s press conference bans on newspapermen who dare to criticise  him or his team  have become folklore in Fleet Street. One agency reporter felt the full weight of Fergie’s wrath  a while back just for asking a question about Ryan Giggs. But it was nothing new. Over the years, Fergie has slapped ridiculous sanctions dozens of journalists who dared to write or say something he didn’t like.
Sir Alex is vindictive with it, too. Not for him the “let bygones be bygones” approach. His ludicrous vendetta against the BBC went on for almost a decade—fuelled by a Panorama programme which investigated the business activities of his son Jason, who was then a football agent.
Another example of his petulance was the recall of two players on loan from United immediately after Preston North End sacked another of his sons, Darren.
The fact is that Sir Alex became the victim of his own success. He seems convinced that he is even closer to the Almighty than Jose Mourinho and the late Brian Clough.
And the United board are entirely to blame for the situation. Quite simply , they lacked the bottle to tell Ferguson ‘‘Either talk to the BBC along with the other broadcasting companies, or find yourself a new job.’’
OK, we all know what would have happened. United would have been looking for a new boss many years ago. That has been the problem at Old Trafford for a long time. Quite simply , the board were just as scared of Fergie as the frightened media rabbits who bowed and scraped to his every whim.
They humbled themselves in the eyes of the Mighty Dictator,  which makes me suspect that few of those who cover United matches on a regular basis always write exactly what they think.
And I find that very discomforting.

Ferguson’s split personality is Manchester United’s fault

4 Jun

Unforgiving: Sir Alex Ferguson

I’ve met Sir Alex Ferguson on a couple of occasions (well, been in his company) and I have to say it was a pleasant experience.
Even if the Manchester United boss’s red-nosed jollity had been inspired at the time by a glass or six of vintage vino. So why did I find it so pleasant to see his charges on the receiving end at Wembley at the weekend?
It’s not that I’m a Barcelona fan – it’s just that I have no time for two-faced people. And I’m afraid Fergie is a classic example of a split personality.
You can’t argue with the Scottish superboss’s record as a football manager. He has no peers in terms of success over more than two decades.
What I find disgusting is that Mr McMighty has become bigger than Manchester United – and that those who employ him have allowed him to do as he likes.
Last week’s press conference in which he called for Associated Press reporter Rob Harris to be banned just for asking a question about Ryan Giggs received wide publicity. But it was nothing new.
Over the years, Fergie has banned dozens of journalists who dared to write or say something he didn’t like. Indeed, it makes me wonder if it is more than coincidence that the hack who churned out United copy for the Manchester Evening News for so many years was called David MEEK.
And Sir Alex is vindictive with it, too. Not for him the ‘let bygones be bygones’ approach.
His ludicrous vendetta against the BBC has gone on for seven years now – fuelled by a Panorama programme which investigated the business activities of his son Jason, who was then a football agent.
A more recent example of his petulance was the recall of two players on loan from United when Preston North End sacked another Fergie son, Darren (pictured) as manager during the season that has just finished.
The fact is that Sir Alex has become the victim of his own success. He seems to be convinced that he is even closer to God than Jose Mourinho and the late Brian Clough. And the United board are entirely to blame for the situation.
Quite simply, they lack the bottle to tell Ferguson ‘‘Either talk to the BBC along with the other broadcasting companies, or find yourself a new job.’’
OK, we all know what would happen. United would be looking for a new boss…and that is the problem.
Quite simply, the Old Trafford board are just as scared of him as the frightened media rabbits who bow and scrape to his every whim.
They humble themselves in the eyes of the Mighty Dictator, which makes me suspect that few of those who cover United matches on a regular basis write what they REALLY think.
And I find that very discomforting.

Ryan Giggs: Manchester United legend but no red-blooded Taffy

29 Mar

Anyone who thought Welsh football wizard Ryan Giggs would end his self-imposed international retirement and play against England last  Saturday must have been dreaming.

Because when it comes to the Land of His Fathers, Giggs and patriotism have never been particularly close partners.

I’m a big football fan. I am also proudly Welsh. But when it comes to Giggs and his contribution to his country’s cause, that’s where I grab my little red ranting hood.

When our best player Gareth Bale had to drop out of the squad for the England game, the cry went up for Manchester United legend Giggs to step in. He did – but only to show his face and perhaps offer some friendly advice during a family holiday in Cardiff.

Had he been as dedicated to the cause as any true red-blooded Taffy, he’d have stripped off for action there and then. The golden boy may be 37, but he is still as good as any player in Gary Speed’s Wales squad.

The problem is that throughout his career, the Cardiff-born star’s loyalty to the land of his birth has been tenuous, to say the least. And there was as much chance of him saying yes as there was of Speed calling ME into the squad!

Giggs opted out of international football three years ago – and Wales said goodbye to a tragic dragon rather than the magic one who has graced Old Trafford for the last two decades.

Ryan Giggs: No hero for Wales

For me, it was a case of good riddance because I can count the number of outstanding performances he made for his country on one hand, if not one finger.

Those who do not know the full facts believe Giggs chose to play for Wales rather than England.

The reality is that our Ryan was born in Wales of Welsh parentage and has absolutely no English blood.

So the option was never there…even though he did qualify for England Schools courtesy of being educated in Manchester (where I am assured Welsh was not on the curriculum).

Look at the contribution Giggs has made to his ‘beloved’ Wales since leaving his native Cardiff at the age of seven and began speaking more like a Salford scally than a true Taff.

Like myself and millions of other Welsh patriots, I’m sure he is proud of his blood line. But the reality is that everything about him, from his upbringing to his education and subsequent career, is pure English.

I was born in Birmingham but my Welsh father and English mother moved back to Wales when I was a baby and I will always by loyal to the country I regard as my homeland. Giggs is almost the reverse of this…so it would surprise me if his loyalty outside football is entirely to Wales.

I cannot imagine he supports Cardiff Blues at rugby and Glamorgan at cricket, as I do – and I’d just love to know which side he favours when Wales play England in the Six Nations!

Admittedly, the guy has played some blinders for United – and is right up there with the greats of the Premier League. But all those comparisons with George Best are ridiculous – George had tricks Giggs couldn’t live with and unlike his Welsh counterpart, he could do them with both feet.

The thing that irks me about Giggs’s Wales career is that when he condescended to don the real red shirt he invariably either went through the motions or developed a mysterious injury which incredibly cleared up before United’s next game.

For nine years from 1991 he refused to play for Wales in friendlies – missing 18 matches, many of them important build-up games towards major tournament qualifiers. Had he played in even half of those, Wales’s 49-year spell without qualifying for a major tournament may well have ended years ago.

Patriotic Welshmen simply do not refuse to play for their country without a very good reason. Mind you, it might all have been at Sir Alex’s instigation. Now that is a thought.

I’ll have a think about that one…and then maybe I’ll grab my hair-dryer and head for Old Trafford.

Is Sir a sport? The truth about Paul McCartney and Tom Jones

4 Mar

Can you imagine a young Paul McCartney beetling around the country following his favourite football team? I certainly can’t.

That’s not to say that sport and music don’t mix – just that Mac the Knight seems about as steeped in the beautiful game as old codgers like myself are besotted with rap music.

Yet various websites would have it that Sir Paul is a keen Everton fan.

The reality, however, is not exactly engraved in blue-and-white stone. ‘‘Here’s the deal,’’ the great man explains. ‘’My father was born in Everton, my family are officially Evertonians, so if it comes down to a derby match or an FA Cup final between the two, I would have to support Everton.

“But after a concert at Wembley Arena I got into a bit of a friendship with Kenny Dalglish, who had been to the gig, and I thought ‘You know what? I am just going to support them both because it’s all Liverpool and I don’t have that Catholic-Protestant thing.’

“So I did have to get special dispensation from the Pope to do this but that’s it, too bad. I support them both.

“They are both great teams. But if it comes to the crunch, I’m Evertonian.”

Personally, I would have thought that master musicians of McCartney’s talent would be too driven by their first love to be sidetracked by such trivialities as football. And it’s clear from his comments that Paul is a bit of a sporting fence-sitter, anyway.

At least his explanation sounds marginally more sincere than fellow Beatle Ringo Starr’s assertion that he’s a Liverpool supporter because ”I like the colour red”, which  presumably he also bangs the drum for every red-shirted team from Arsenal to Aberdeen. Well, I love the colour purple but that doesn’t mean I support the team they call the Royals – be it the monarchy or Reading FC.

The only celebrity I actually KNEW before he was famous is another shining knight, Tom Jones (yes, I am that old!). I gave him his first-ever write-ups in the Pontypridd Observer a couple of years before he hit the big-time – in the days where he sang around the South Wales clubs under his stage name of  Tommy Scott.

Tommy Woodward aka Tommy Scott aka Tom Jones

Great Scott: Tom Jones as I remember him

Whilst Tom may have been built like a sportsman, I can assure you he never showed the slightest interest in football, rugby or any other sport. And believe me he definitely was neither gay nor a wimp.

Cardiff City, the nearest professional football club to Pontypridd, were in the old First Division – the equivalent of the Premier League. But although I was a keen Bluebirds fan myself, the only birds Tom was interested in were certainly not blue. Nor had he any time for Spurs, Manchester United Spurs or any of the other big-name teams of that era.

The sporting fraternity sometimes wheels the great man out onto the green, green grass of home to sing at the occasional Wales rugby international and what have you. But while the old Jones heart may still beat for his homeland, I doubt that Sir Tom’s head really cares about match results, whatever the shape of the ball.

Having said that, many celebrities are completely smitten by sport – and particularly football. Some to the point that their names are synonymous with their favourites – for example the oasis of Gallaghers at Manchester City and Mick Hucknell’s simply-red love affair with Manchester United.

Others, I am convinced, just attach themselves to the mast of the big-name clubs for effect. Teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, for example, have such large fan bases that showing token support for them might just persuade a few extra fans to buy their CDs and albums.

Conversely, when I was young (and there aren’t many people alive who remember that!), major pop stars  were rarely linked with sports teams. Presumably with professional footballers no better off financially than miners or postmen, there was no glamour spin-off for the marketing people.

Indeed, I can’t remember Elvis Presley, the biggest name in music during that era, having any particular sporting allegiance. And the only British top-tenner I recall with strong football ties was Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers fame.

Until he came on the scene, if you weren’t a fan of Hollywood musicals, the song You’ll Never Walk Alone would have meant nothing to you.to the vast majority of people.

Now Marsden’s name is likely to live as long in the Anfield memory as those of Bill Shankly and Dalglish.

And thereby hangs a tale – because some sources insist that until Liverpool fans adopted his 1963 smash hit as their club anthem, Gerry was in fact an Evertonian.

Perhaps it’s time he had a chat with Macca and Ringo.

Tevez, Rio and Benayoun: The ugly truth about top footballers

28 Feb

Men who take their football seriously are strongly advised to read no further. Likewise all those male chauvinists who feel women have no right to comment on sport.

Hopefully the only fans left are those who, like me, prefer the game to be a bit of fun as well as a great adrenalin kick at weekends or whenever your team is in action.

Anyway, I’ve just been having a giggle at players’ looks (or occasional lack of them) rather than their onfield skills (or usual lack of them). And I’ve come up with two teams – the Donna Uglies and the Donna Dreamboats.

My sincere apologies to the Uglies – I know only too well that you can’t help the way you look and that, unlike us girls, don’t have the benefit of being able to wear makeup to hide the hideous bits. (Well, not unless you want to get kicked all around the dressing room and branded a fairy).

But I do question why men blessed with masses of money but few natural attributes other than twinkling feet don’t invest a few thousand in improving their appearance.

Carlos Tevez and Ronaldinho, for example – they took years to find a good dentist and I’m not sure whether the Brazilian has got it right even now. Perhaps he should ask Nottingham Forest striker Robert Earnshaw, who looked like a modern-day Bugs Bunny until he had his gnashers seen to a couple of seasons ago. Either that or the Wales hitman found a miracle cure for unattractiveness.

Carlos Tevez

Poor Rio Ferdinand doesn’t so much need a tooth job – even a ton of collagen couldn’t help the lipless one.

Not that the Manchester United captain is bothered, I’m sure. He could probably bed half the women in the city should he wish to – though I suspect the vast majority would have their eyes tightly shut throughout the ordeal.

Before you start telling me I’m no oil painting myself, I’d like to put you right on that one because a young guy told me last week ‘‘Your looks grate.’’ As he’s a Geordie I took that as a compliment.

As for footballers taking stick about their looks, well, not all of them can look like former Spurs and Newcastle pin-up boy David Ginola. But at least they can hide their deficiencies by plastering £100 notes all over their faces. Anyway, this is my squad for the Ugly XI , based on players who have featured in European football over the last 20 years.

Fabien Barthez (was he Donald Pleasance reincarnated?), Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Anton Ferdinand, Carlton Palmer, Yossi Benayoun, Ronaldinho, Ivan Campo, Peter Beardsley, Jason Koumas, Iain Dowie and Franck Ribery. The chairman would be Eggert ‘The Vulkan’ Magnusson (former owner of West Ham) and the manager Harry Redknapp.

Yossi Benayoun: Not a pretty boy

Harry’s no oil painting for sure but he must have the world’s most beautiful wife. Otherwise how did his son Jamie get his good looks? Now for the best-looking team (are you reading, girls?).

I apologise for most of them being forwards, but my Dreamboat lineup would be Kasper Schmeichel (or David James if you fancy someone more experienced), Warren Barton, David Beckham, Gary Speed, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Harry Kewell and David Ginola. Oh, and the manager has to be a special one, namely Jose Mourinho.

As for the chairman, are there any good-looking ones? So as a lifelong Cardiff City fan I’ll go for the Bluebirds’ Malaysian chief Dato Chan Tien Ghee. He’s not good looking – but he might just give me some complimentary tickets!

So there you have it, a team of Uglies against a team of Dreamboats (even if the good lookers would have no chance of beating anyone with only one specialist defender in Barton).

So much for the important stuff. Now I’ll get back to cooking the roast…