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Love alone matters

Submitted by on January 9, 2012 – 9:43 pmNo Comment

We were thirteen and fourteen. We followed United. We’d hitch it. We wasn’t keen on paying in. We’d stopped wearing scarves whilst the rest of the Doc’s Red Army was chasing donkeys at Blackpool. We paid sartorial deference to the extremely new football thinking that was emerging from Collyhurst and Miles Platting. They numbered no more than thirty or forty and were all Reds. Known through school links; mostly Moston Brook.

City at best had three or four at the Wythenshawey end that meant nothing to us. We knew it existed in Liverpool. We knew it existed in Glasgow. The cockneys were still wearing donkey jackets. Bizarrely Bristol would even beat them to it. A few years back I watched reports of that whale dying in the Thames. At the same time I watched another whale survive and swim about merrily under Golden Gate Bridge in Star Trek 4. That told me all I needed to know about the south.

But anyway, back to Beswick – we took that quiet east and north Manchester born disposition of Collyhurst and Miles Platting to where we lived. It was only three stops on the 53 from ours to the Colony. We fought with Levi belts and kicked with suedey duffers. We were children growing. We thought we were young men. There was a case for thinking that, as we were aging quickly and faster than the goony older lads who weren’t in our company and who had no concept of the new football fashions. New football fashion that tiresome men would later talk about in the early eighties as if it was theirs. By the time the first dick said ‘Perry Boy’ in ’76 and ‘77 it had moved elsewhere.

We were sillily brave at games. We dressed different. Female tops and bottoms were increasingly becoming ours because of it and from that we could gain the knowledge that old fashioned smelling fanny used to be a lot stronger on the fingers in the 70s. We were defining ourselves. We travelled and we travelled well and we travelled with laughter.

When we were home the goony older lads who were not part of our ongoing process of Unitedfication were a lot bigger than us. A lot. I’m not sure what it is about evolution that designates that even though we were all as poverty stricken as each other with poor nutritional diets, that some should be defy that and be huge. The older lads in our area were mostly proper goons. To us they had no concept of what Manchester was or was about to become. Unfortunately our tin ribs were going to be as effective at fighting their hugeness as Deidre Langton’s hoopy metal belt is at keeping her big, round, womanly flump in.

The friction between our new-found and cherished suss and the backwardness of the bigger lads resulted in a mass stand off on St Aidan’s forecourt on youth club night. On their side and at the front was a goon so goony that the sentence “Two hundred city in Eighth Day” would not even approach the divvy nature of his divviness. He was Bellis. No brain, a bully, market dressed even though he’d started work, no football sense, no music sense, no anything sensed. If I were to go into racist stereotype I’d say he had the charm of the Germanic and the discipline of the Celt.

Not for him the semantics of questioning whether Mansfield should have an apostrophe or a quiet fondness for the silent ‘d’ in ‘Vaginal’. Unfortunately for us he was gable end sized. That didn’t stop him smelling of brown sauce though. It also didn’t stop the fact he was about to bully us. The new up and coming lads from east central Manchester were about to be battered back into oblivion. We all went outside. Not one of our lads was in any way optimistic. We didn’t run. We fucking wanted to though. This was where we’d fall. Outside Bellis was mouthing off telling the thirty or so lads and hangers on that stood behind him, knowing they’d taken to the right side in this battle, that we were dickheads.

We faced them. Perhaps fifteen of us. Bellis came up and the first lad he came to was my best friend Pete Stephenson. He picked on Pete. Every single one of us on our side was glad that it wasn’t us. That’s hard to admit but true. Bellis was taking the piss calling us little fuckers who could only fight at football but have a go at him and show how hard we were. This is coming from a bloke older and ridiculously larger than us. With my older head now I can understand who the real shithouse was. It’s like me picking on a ten year old.

Pete stood there. But not in an heroic way. He was the youngest of us. He stood as there was nowhere else to go until this moment was over and he’d been annihilated. Pete’s intuitive rum fuckery meant that he couldn’t run. However, his body language was of acceptance of defeat. I don’t think any one of our lot would have been any different. You were at home. However shitty it was, it was still your home and you wanted to be safe. In that defining moment though, Pete Stephenson defined a part of Beswick and United for me. When all semblance of a victory seemed gone; with being totally outnumbered and outsized by the opposition, Pete Stephenson said this to the lads around him. He wasn’t ashamed to say it. He said it with confidence. A confidence that I could only hope I would have in that situation. With Bellis right up to and in his face, he looked round to all of us lot and said, unscared: “Fuck, is anyone going to help us here or what?”

In that defining nothing of a second, Pete’s honesty of knowing he was facing a fearsome foe but knowing he didn’t have to face it alone, that those with him had come through things with him, saved everything. We knew it. And we were in. Bellis went from laughing at us to being fucking besieged by us. We had to multi-task him as he gave us no option with his bullying. His gobshite blood was everywhere.

The dozen mouths behind him got the twatting they deserved as the rest, in shock that anyone was going to take on Bellis and shift the balance of Beswick power, backed off and melted away. There was Pat Carnage as pent up revenge was dealt out. The beatings went on too long. I know that. But a fucking clear guidance was being established. It was cruel but it wasn’t bullying. The meek inherited the earth. They just Levi belted justice onto it. No bullying ever took place at that place again. We were known as lads who liked a laugh and were nice but, as Bellis himself was heard to say later, “They are fucking psychopaths I’m not going near them.” Notice the word ‘they’. I always liked that. It might be so tenuous to some that it is elevenuous, but I believe that if we’d lost that night a very small, but not insignificant part of Manchester’s development would have been arrested.

- This is an excerpt of one of the many articles to grace A Fine Lung issue three. If you would like to purchase a copy of said publication, click on the ‘Buy issues of A Fine Lung’ bit on what IT types call the ‘toolbar’ near the top of the page… All profits go to FC United of Manchester and the football fight back against greed and materialism.

ps Don’t half inch this article without contacting us for permission and a credit. Email: content@afinelung.com

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