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When we really shook em up

Submitted by on April 14, 2011 – 7:23 pmOne Comment

White horse at Wembley, 1923

By Fletchermoss

Wembley, or Wembly as city fans refer to it as. Another trip beckons. Now I’ve been asked to pen a few words from my quill about Wembley memories. This is because I’m an old un and was there when the KO was held up due to a white horse on the pitch.

I’ve tried real hard to not talk about things being better in the past. It just makes me sound like a bitter and twisted olde get. I’ve tried to be positive. Too much of what we look back on as fans we see with rose coloured glasses. Football was better in so many ways when the world was all in black and white an all that. However try as i can I can’t work myself up in any way other than this trip is a derby. In many ways it’s because as fans of United we are spoilt.

I made my first trip to Wembley in 76 for the bobby stokes offside goal farce. I was gutted when we lost, not just because of the simple fact we had lost, but because as I slouched off down Wembley Way after the game I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see United play there again. Trips to Wembley were as rare as city winning a trophy. Little was I to know that when the Doc said we would be back the next year to win it we would be.

The Cup Final at Wembley was special. It was one of the few matches apart from internationals that would be shown live on TV. The place held 100,000 and if you had been loyal as a follower during the season you would get a ticket. Due to the live TV and FA Cup Finals being the highlight at the end of the season everybody would watch them. The football-following nation had a shared experience.

As a kid we would test each other on who had played in Cup Finals, what was the score etc and how far back we could remember.

It was a buzz to see the twin towers. You would buzz off them if seen on TV or when passing on a northbound train leaving Euston after a London away. Games at Wembley always provided a story – the underdog ,the defeat of a favourite. If your team wasn’t there you would still have memories as you would watch it at home with the whole family.

It wasn’t just about your team, I can remember Charlie George scoring for Arsenal, he lay on his back arms open wide whilst his team mates lifted him up. Nobby Stiles dancing with the World Cup, Bobby Charlton crying in Busby’s arms as they both held aloft the European Cup. It really was the ground of great memories. When did this start to change?, the feeling that it wasn’t as special as in the past. I’d say 99 was about the last special one for me.

I can’t count how many times United had played at Wembley since my heartache after the 76 Final, we’d beaten and lost to scousers, had last minute goals against us from Arsenal, scored four in a replay against Brighton when we’d nearly lost at the end of the first game, I’d been in the Forest end and taken a slapping as we broke the League Cup hoodoo, seen Wednesday beat us, been sitting in line behind Norman as he curled that winner against Everton…the memories are plentiful. Plus it was a great day out. Everyone would be on it.

We used to run our own coach from a pub in Northenden down to a pub in North Kensington called the Windermere then train in to the ground. The bus was full of older heads, people who talked of Wembley trips in the 60s. After 99 things changed. The same teams seemed to be always at Wembley, including us. TV was dominating the game so live football was by now everywhere. A live Final only became special if you had a link to a team in that Final.

Then they decided Wembley needed a makeover, no more pissing down the back of people’s legs, it had been all seats for a few years. Look at old pictures of the United end in say the 77 Final, go on google them, then look around you this year. What other country, when they did up a stadium that many would see as being iconic throughout the world in football, would have taken down the twin towers? It was a crime.

Finals gained some pull for a short while when they were moved to Cardiff. This was because of its town centre location plus the simple fact that it was a novelty. Now even the semi-finals are played at Wembley as they try and get back some of the money of the build costs. No more replays, no more memories such as one of the greatest games a United team has been involved in, the semi replay at Villa Park against Arsenal. No more Hillsborough matches against derby or leeds, no more Maine Road games or Goodison replays.

They’ve turned Wembley into another corporate jolly, like a rugby union or Wimbledon event. Just look at the empty seats behind the managers at the start of the second half of games as Tristram finishes his chilled white. Look at the middle band all around, “club Wembley” and all it entails. The real fans (sic) are in the bottom and top levels, having paid daft prices. The atmosphere will be better outside the Torch pre match.

Nope, I tried hard to not sound like it was all better then, I’m not like that honest, and if you are too young to have lived in that era then it’s hardly your fault you yawn at my ramblings. However for a working class United fan who followed his team all over, Wembley was a high point, it contains great memories, but it will never be the same again. Yes for fook’s sake beat the blues United, but if you do I doubt the Final will be high on my agenda, and yes, maybe I am spoilt.

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