Posted: 3/14/2009


     THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS !!!. First a 6th Division German match in Rosenheim-cold and wet, then Champions League at Allianz Arena, FC Bayern 7 v Sporting 1, even colder and snowy. Then a visit to Red Bull Salzburg, then UEFA Cup Manchester City v AaB Aalborg and 2 days later Manchester once again, finishing up with Leeds Carnegie Ladies v Birmingham City.

     No chance of a ticket for Manchester United v Liverpool at The Theatre of Dreams.The ticket touts were asking 600 a ticket for THE big clash of the Titans. I called my friend Jim Ryan ex player and now coach at Man Utd, 5 minutes before the early kick-off and he was stuck in traffic. I stopped at The Bulls Head Pub in the leafy suburbs on the Hale/Altrincham border with its synagogue letting out smartly dressed families in black to walk home, and a sign saying 'No horse riding in this street'. This is the area of bankers and professional soccer players homes. There were bus stops, I guess for the maids and butlers to get to work.

     I sat on a stool in front of one of the many screens with fans dressed in Ronaldo and Berbatov replica shirts. There was a smartly dressed older woman with a Rod Stewart hair cut, a long ankle length cream dress, and matching very high heeled shoes, tortoise shell spectacles and long  earings, and a 20-something guy, maybe her son or a Toy Boy??, wearing a blue Man Utd jersey with Berbatov on the back.  I bought a chocolate coloured Robinsons dark brown ale which was very smooth.

     At half-time the landlord went round the customers with plates of free hot dogs and chicken.What a great pub! I remarked aloud that if a bank was foolish enough to loan me 1 million I might like to live nearby. On second thoughts 1 million might only buy me a time share. Bankers were probably there but are not too popular to announce their presence these days.

     Would the slow footed 'Pool defence be able to stem The Invincibles, and cut into the massive lead in the Premier League table?  After 22 minutes Ronaldo scored from a PK, and the pressure was on for the Mersey Reds.  Five minutes later Fernando Torres, with his great pace, equalized after Vidic hesitated and let the ball bounce.  "Bounce, bounce, the melody of beginners", was a favourite phrase of my old coach Dettmar Cramer.  42 minutes and Stephen Gerrard took the lead from the penalty spot, Van der Sar's first goal against for many months. The world-wide audience was spell bound.

    As the world knows it got even darker for United's players and fans. 4-1 defeat the worst at home for 16 years.

    I was off less than a mile away past splendid school playing fields and daffodils on the roadside of  to watch The Robins of Altrincham v Weymouth in Blue Square Premier, England's 5th tier, and was welcomed by my pal Andrew Shaw, a club director, and his son Jack.

    The Robins had suffered some defeats recently but Weymouth had fared even worse. Just over a month ago they lost 9-0 at home when players refused to play after not getting paid. They are one of those clubs that spent too much on players and coaches and are now in serious trouble. They had to field a mostly youth team, and so ALTY were looking for a decent result on their splendid field, where Manchester United play their reserve matches.

     It could not have been a better start with a first minute goal from Michael Welch, followed by goal number two 7 minutes later from Colin Little, and by 12 minutes the match was virtually over when Dale Johnson scored the third for the Robins.  They are much more careful with their money and their players are part-timers, training twice a week, while some of their opponents have a wage bill of 25,000 a week. All the directors, helpers and stewards are volunteers and so don't expect any transfers from Old Trafford, 10 minutes away by Metro Light Rail.

    I sit next to Brian Flynn in the Directors Box, who is the Press Officer, and records action notes on his mobile to Club Call, the club's official information service.   Half time and some splendid beef tips and rice, and ANDREW SHAW promises me sherry trifle if I return to support his club again this season, and mention his name in my blog-again!!  Joe O'Neill scored a fourth and nobody seemed to remember the last time they saw 4 goals at home, and that's the way it ended.

    On Sunday in Tadcaster I was a little late for the Leeds Carnegie Ladies match, their first at home in 2 months. They are well down the Women's Premier league table and were beaten in the Womens FA Cup quarter final by holders Arsenal, and so won't make the final, unlike last season. Birmingham City took a first half lead and kept it until 10 minutes from the end when Leeds equalised, but it was short lived, and the Blues scored the winner from a converted corner.  TWTWTW !!