MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 20.10.1979

Allan Hunter and Mick Mills of Ipswich Town, dressed in their respective national kits, are the cover stars of this edition of Shoot. That can only mean one thing, England are playing Northern Ireland. It’s not a Home International game, but on a continent wide scale, a European Championsip Qualifier at Windsor Park.

Mills and Hunter get a joint interview in Shoot’s preview.

Shoot do a feature on soldiers in Belfast who’ll be guarding the England team.

The feature reveals that, despite a lot of them being football fanatics, they’re not allowed to attend Irish League games when in civilian clothes due to security fears.

As well as England and Northern Ireland, there are also previews of Republic Of Ireland, Wales and Scotland’s European Championship Qualifiers.

Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson expressed his frustration at a League Cup defeat away to Arbroath. Fortunately for them, a comfortable first leg win saw them go through.

As well as winning the European Cup on the field, Nottingham Forest were celebrating after being voted European Team Of The Year by France Football magazine.

Wolves get a profile by Shoot, with the headline “Wolves Are Biting Again”, and so it briefly proved, as they won the League Cup that season. The rest of the decade wasn’t as good for Wolves.

In Northern Ireland, Portadown defender Herbie Pearson fears his career could be over, while QPR saw off competition from Manchester United and Everton to sign Northern Ireland Schoolboy international Alan McDonald, while Bobby Carlisle has signed for Newry Town, who have ambitions of joining Northern Ireland’s top flight.

Gordon McQueen uses his column to describe Scotland’s European Championship Qualifier against Austria as “Win or bust”

The draw for the 1982 World Cup is coming up soon, and Shoot previews this and how it will be decided, as this is the first 24 team World Cup. Shoot writes that there is a possibility of two UK teams being paired together, and so it proved, when Scotland and Northern Ireland were paired in the same group.

In ads, Phil Neal is advertising Gola.

Derek Johnstone uses his column to deny he had a punch-up with Scotland manager Ally McLeod.

Meanwhile, teenage defender Tommy Caton is juggling playing for Manchester City with his studies. He is interviewed by Shoot and says he is yet to face his biggest footballing examination, a match against Joe Jordan.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 4.4.1981

Liam Brady, sipping from a bottle of water (a glass bottle as well, no health and safety in them days), is the cover star of Shoot, as he adjusts to life in Italy.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page spread on Brady, who has so far been a resounding success at Juventus.

In a bid to improve their style of play, Coventry City have banned their players from passing the ball back to their goalkeeper, while the National Hairdressers Federation have voted Lawrie McMenemy as Head Of The Year, alongside Felicity Kendall.

Derek Johnstone uses his column to comment on how Rangers have missed European football in 1980-1981, and are desperate for it to return to Ibrox in 1981-1982, as he reflects on his favourite memories taking on continental opposition.

Another Scotsman with a column is Andy Gray, who states that he is baffled by Wolves recent poor form.

The recent PFA Awards get covered, as John Wark wins Player Of The Year, and Gary Shaw wings Young Player Of The Year.

Ray Clemence’s column analyses the recent League Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham, which finished 1-1, with a replay due to be played at Villa Park this week. That match gets profiled a few pages over.

Shoot profiles two former England players trying to have success as a manager, Larry Lloyd of Wigan and Norman Hunter of Barnsley, while new Bristol City goalkeeper Jan Moller says he wants to be as good as Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper at the opposition end of the pitch in the 1979 European Cup Final.

Another foreigner in England getting profiled is Bosco Jankovic of Middlesbrough, whose contract is expiring, and he has decide wether to stay in England or return to Yugoslavia.

Diego Maradona gets a profile after becoming the world’s first £4m player when he moved from Argentinos to Boca Juniors.

Gordon McQueen uses his column to write about three young strikers at Manchester United he believes will be big stars in the future – Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes and Scott McGarvey. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Four footballing figures get interviewed on how to improve the game. West Bromwich Albion manager Ron Atkinson is not in favour of Sunday football, but is in favour of three points for a win.

The magazine ends with a profile of Steve Moran of Southampton, who reveals that his favourite music is Mike Oldfield and Diana Ross.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 22.9.1979

Nottingham Forest winger John Robertson, pictured holding the European Cup, is the cover star accompanied by the headline “CAN FOREST RETAIN THE EUROPEAN CUP?”, as Europe’s three competitions are getting ready to swing into action.

The biggest threat to Forest’s grip on the trophy, in Robertson’s opinion, came from Liverpool, who he said he hope would get put out early, but admitted the two teams playing in the final would be great for English football.

As it turned out, Liverpool had an early exit, a First Round exit to Soviet team Dinamo Tblisi, while Forest would go on and retain the trophy, beating Hamburg 1-0 in Madrid.

Turning over the page, Shoot does a full page feature on the chances of the British sides in their ties, against a various mix of opponents.

In news, Alan Ball Snr (father of 1966 World Cup winner of the same name) is singing the praises of Scandinavian players as representing value for English clubs, having just spent three years coaching in Sweden.

Colin Bell of Manchester City announced his retirement aged 33.

Lawrie McMenemy expressed his fears of a “Super League” emerging within England’s top flight, due to the spending power of some clubs.

Brian Quinn moved from Larne to Everton for £60,000 – a record between clubs from Northern Ireland and England, and is aiming to be the 10th Everton player to play for Northern Ireland since World War II, just short of the 14 players supplied by joint record holders Manchester United and Linfield.

Alex Sabella turned down a move from Sheffield United …….. because his wife wasn’t keen on living in the North-East.

Motherwell manager Ally MacLeod is to be investigated by the SFA after publishing a book claiming that Willie Johnston wasn’t the only Scotland player to have taken illegal substances at the previous summer’s World Cup.

In his column, Ray Clemence is looking forward to his first trip to the Soviet Union, for Liverpool’s European Cup tie with Dinamo Tblisi.

Shoot does a full page feature on the West Country, interviewing a player from Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Torquay United on the future of football in the area.

Dave Watson, recently signed for Werder Bremen, was sent off in his second game for the club, and bemoans the strictness of German referees, while also dismissing criticism of his signing by German newspaper Bild.

Andy Gray hits back after being booed by Aston Villa fans after requesting a transfer, and was upset by Villa holding out for £1m, stating no player is worth that amount (though Trevor Francis was earlier that year)

Later that month, Gray signed for Wolves for £1.5m

There was a four page feature on Manchester City, including a double page colour poster.

Tommy Docherty is in fighting form, proclaiming “I’m still one of the best”, and that he is happy with his summer spending having spent £1m on five players, including England Under 21 goalkeeper Chris Woods.

Docherty had been sacked by Manchester United two years previously due to an extramarital affair, and was hoping his spell at Loftus Road would propel him back into the big time.

QPR finished 5th in Division Two (no play-offs then, only the top 3 went up) and Docherty was sacked, before being reinstated, than sacked again in October 1980.

“Life has never been happier at the aptly named Gay Meadow” writes Shoot, presumably in The Flintstones sense, as manager Graham Turner has just led them into England’s second tier for the first time.

Shoot gives a page to Ian Redford, a star at Dundee described as “The new Alan Gilzean”

Redford joined Rangers in 1980 for a Scottish record, won four trophies at Ibrox, and played for Dundee United in the 1987 UEFA Cup Final. Redford died in January 2014, aged 53.

Gordon McQueen uses his column to claim that he scored United’s goal against Southampton on the opening day of the season, which was credited as an own goal, and denies rumours that Mickey Thomas was to be sold to Everton in an exchange for Dave Thomas.

On the back page, there was a colour poster of new Crystal Palace signings Gerry Francis and Mike Flanagan.

UEFA 101 CLUB – UPDATE

It’s been a year, and the opening rounds of European competition are drawn tomorrow, with Irish League teams joining the action, so it’s a good time to update my pursuit to complete a rather pointless list.

You may have noticed the new title – further research has indicated that 101 clubs, not 100 have played in a European Final. It’s not my fault, I was basing it on the When Saturday Comes article that inspired it, which at the time of writing said 99 clubs had reached a European Final, with the next one being the 100th.

Turns out, there had already been 100 clubs. Since you ask, the honour belongs to Fulham.

So, what is the UEFA 101 Club? Well, 101 clubs have played in the final of one of European football’s three competitions (European Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup) and there are people who try to see every team play live in person.

I’m doing it just for fun, but if I win the lottery, I might start taking it a bit more seriously.

Living in Northern Ireland, you’d think it would be hard trying to see some of these clubs, but tomorrow’s draw could see some clubs who’ve had greater European nights visiting Northern Ireland. It did last year.

In the European Cup, Cliftonville could have a rematch with Celtic. No use to me, as i’ve already ticked Celtic off my list.

Other possible opponents for Cliftonville include : Steau Bucharest, Dinamo Zagreb (already ticked off my list), Partizan Belgrade and Slovan Bratislava.

Frustratingly, Red Star Belgrade won’t be in the competition due to being thrown out due to Financial Fair Play. I would have loved to have seen them in the flesh, even though they’re now a shadow of their 1991 team, the mystique remains.

If they get drawn against Steau Bucharest, I might be tempted to go.

If Cliftonville get through, they could potentially face Red Bull Salzburg, Malmo or Dinamo Tblisi.

In the UEFA Cup, Linfield being seeded means they won’t be facing any members of the club, but there are opportunities for Crusaders and Glenavon.

By the way, i’m hoping the draw sends Linfield to Broughton (or Airbus UK, if you prefer)

Crusaders or Glenavon could face IFK Gothenborg, Aberdeen or Ferencvaros.

If any of the Irish League teams progress to the next round, there are no member clubs joining at that stage. Plenty of big clubs in the 3rd Round though.

This time last year, I was on 29 clubs, but I am on 31 clubs now, having added Dundee United and Everton to my list. I’ve applied for a ticket to the European Super Cup Final in Cardiff. If I get a ticket, that’ll be Sevilla ticked off the list. I’ve already got Real Madrid.

My list in full :

Team (Year first seen)

Aberdeen (2011)
Ajax Amsterdam (2012)
Arsenal (2003)
AS Roma (2007)
Aston Villa (1993)
Atletico Madrid (2011)
Barcelona (2011)
Benfica (2000)
Brimingham City (2010)
Celtic (2009)
Chelsea (1997)
Dinamo Zagreb (2008)
Dundee United (2013)
Everton (2014)
FC Porto (2011)
Feyenoord (1999)
Fulham (2001)
Leeds United (1993)
Liverpool (1994)
Manchester City (2000)
Manchester United (1993)
Marseille (1992)
Middlesbrough (1995)
Newcastle United (1993)
Nottingham Forest (1996)
Rangers (2002)
Real Madrid (2003)
SC Braga (2011)
Tottenham Hotspur (2010)
West Ham United (1997)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (2010)

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 18.4.1981

John Wark, in action with Nottingham Forest’s Stuart Gray, is the cover star of Shoot, previewing cup Semi-Finals in both England and Scotland, as title chasing Ipswich Town face Manchester City at Villa Park.

The editorial, calls for a change in the structure of English football, claiming there are too many games (there were 42 games in England’s top flight that season) as the national team is struggling as a result of players being too tired.

Shoot previews both FA Cup Semi-Finals, making the bold prediction that the final will be Wolves v Ipswich. The final, was Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City. They also predict that it would be an Old Firm Scottish Cup Final. They were half right, as it was Rangers v Dundee United.

Andy Gray has a column in this edition, focusing on Scotland’s recent World Cup Qualifier against Northern Ireland (which finished 1-1), complaining about the defending for Northern Ireland’s goal, and stating that Scotland were confident of getting a good result in the return game in Belfast (It finished 0-0)

He states that Scotland were happy with two wins and two draws, but had expected the two wins to be at home rather than away.

He also previews the FA Cup Semi-Finals, unsurprisingly predicting his Wolves team would beat Spurs, and that Ipswich would beat Man City. He’s got a future in the punditry game, that boy.

In news, Arsenal are battling with Inter Milan, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Hamburg for Michel Platini, set to leave St Etienne at the end of the season, and TV Commentator Martin Tyler has a book about the history of the FA Cup Final ahead of this year’s game, the 100th FA Cup Final.

For just £1.60 plus P and P, you could have a framed portrait of the 1981 Aston Villa team. To be fair, they did win the league that season.

There is a double page poster of all four FA Cup Quarter-Finals, and the goals which decided them.

Derek Johnstone and Danny McGrain take it in turns to do a Scottish football column for Shoot, and it was Johnstone’s turn, hoping for an Old Firm Scottish Cup Final, so that Rangers could get the chance to avenge their defeat to Celtic in the 1980 final.

There is then a double page poster of the Home Nations (England in a friendly v Spain, Scotland v Northern Ireland and Turkey v Wales World Cup Qualfiers) and Republic of Ireland (v Belgium) internationals. Shoot describes Wales as “The best placed Home Nation to reach the finals”

As it turned out, Wales were the only home nation not to reach the 1982 World Cup finals.

Rotheram United, battling for promotion to the Second Division, get a full page profile, focusing on the success of their young manager, Ian Porterfield, with a team poster overleaf.

After 14 years without the league title, there wasn’t much cheer for Manchester United supporters in 1981, but they did win one trophy that year …….. Shoot’s Best Programme of all England’s top flight clubs.

In 1981, a copy of United Review cost 20p, had 24 pages and only 1 page of adverts.

Meanwhile, Shoot does a feature on promising youngsters at West Bromwich Albion dubbed “Atkinson’s Angels” featuring Remi Moses and Bryan Robson. Within six months, Robson, Moses and Atkinson would all have left Albion for Manchester United.

On the back page, there is a profile of Brighton star Steve Foster, pictured with trademark headband, where he reveals his favourite singers are Paul McCartney, George Benson and Dennis Waterman.

THE UEFA 100 CLUB – UPDATED

You may remember a blog on here in September 2010 about something that was then known as “The UEFA 99 Club” based on an article in When Saturday Comes.

Basically, it was one man’s crusade to watch every team who had played in either the European Cup, European Cup Winner’s Cup and UEFA Cup, in the flesh.

Since the article was written SC Braga reached the UEFA Cup Final, so it is now known as The UEFA 100 Club. Obviously, when a club reaches a European Final for the first time, it will become the 101 Club, 102 Club, and so forth.

Living in Northern Ireland, you may think it will be hard to see teams, but if this season’s European draws were kinder, I could have added some. Cliftonville were drawn with Celtic, but i’ve already seen Celtic. Other potential opponents for Cliftonville were Dinamo Tblisi, Dinamo Zagreb (already seen …… twice), Steaua Bucharest, Partizan Belgrade and Slovan Bratislava.

For Linfield, Glentoran and Crusaders, potential UEFA Cup opponents included Malmo and Videoton. If Glentoran had beaten KR last night, they would have played Standard Liege. I might have been tempted along to add them to my list, cheering on Standard Liege, of course.

Linfield’s potential 2nd Round opponents included IFK Gothenborg and Red Star Belgrade.

Regular readers will know that I travel to Edinburgh every August. While i’m there, Hibs play Dundee United, so I can tick them off, a milestone one at that, as it would take me to 30.

In February, i’m thinking of heading to London for a weekend. While i’m there, Everton play Tottenham at White Hart Lane, so I might try and get a ticket for that one. Amazingly, in 20 years of travelling to Old Trafford 2-3 times a year, i’ve never seen Everton.

So, currently, i’m on 29, hopefully at least 31 by the end of the season. Here’s my full list.

Team (Year first seen)

Aberdeen (2011)
Ajax Amsterdam (2012)
Arsenal (2003)
AS Roma (2007)
Aston Villa (1993)
Atletico Madrid (2011)
Barcelona (2011)
Benfica (2000)
Brimingham City (2010)
Celtic (2009)
Chelsea (1997)
Dinamo Zagreb (2008)
FC Porto (2011)
Feyenoord (1999)
Fulham (2001)
Leeds United (1993)
Liverpool (1994)
Manchester City (2000)
Manchester United (1993)
Marseille (1992)
Middlesbrough (1995)
Newcastle United (1993)
Nottingham Forest (1996)
Rangers (2002)
Real Madrid (2003)
SC Braga (2011)
Tottenham Hotspur (2010)
West Ham United (1997)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (2010)

2010 IN PICTURES – FEBRUARY

February saw me head to Manchester for a weekend at the start of the month.

I was going to see United take on Portsmouth. but I took the opportunity to go to St Andrew’s the following day to see Birmingham take on Wolves, and see Kelly Clarkson in concert, at the Manchester Apollo that night.

I’d been to Old Trafford many times before, but i’d started to find the trips tedious, always going by coach, and never getting to see the city itself.

So that sowed the seeds of that weekend, wanting to go to a United match a different way, and make a weekend of it.

I also managed to take advantage of other things happening in nearby cities to make a proper weekend of it.

The United match was pretty routine, with United winning 5-0. Portsmouth were so bad, United could have won 10-0 if they really went for it.

The following day’s game was a lot more fiesty, and I was surprised that I was able to turn up on the day and get a general sale (at a reasonable £20) for the West Midlands derby between Birmingham and Wolves.

It was enjoyable to watch a football match without having a vested interested (I was in the Birmingham end, so I suppose I did have to cheer them on) and the atmosphere was brilliant and I learnt some funny tunes at the expense of Wolves from the Birmingham fans.

On my way home from the watch, I stumbled across some heartwarming graffiti, paying tribute to a cup of tea.

After legging it to New Street Station, I managed to get to Manchester for the Kelly Clarkson concert, which was excellent.

Later on in the month, I managed to get some photos of a new mural in Sandy Row paying tribute to the Northern Ireland football team, featuring Warren Feeney and local lad Grant McCann

Sandy Row Football Mural

Kelly Clarkson Photos

Birmingham v Wolves Photos

THE UEFA 99 CLUB

On a long bus journey home from Manchester last week, I purchased a copy of the new edition of When Saturday Comes to pass the time, and there was one article which really caught my attention.

It was one concerning the fact that 99 different clubs have reached a European Final (European Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup) and one man is on a mission to see them all in action.

His current total is 66 (Exactly 2/3s of the way through) although being a match going Rangers fan gives him a bit of an advantage, where he can see his own team and three SPL rivals on a weekly basis, as well as foreign opponents due to Rangers Euro adventures.

As the bus was still going through Scotland, I decided to see and tick off how many teams on my list, and got a meagre 22 in comparison, but I did get 8 former European Cup winners, including all 5 to come from Britain.

Can’t say i’m planning on making completing this list a life ambition, but just thought it would be fun to compare.

As with any list, there will always be ones that got away, and mine is not different.

Dinamo Tblisi, 1981 European Cup Winners Cup Winners played Linfield in a European Cup tie in 1993, which I wasn’t at. I don’t know why I didn’t go, but I definately know that I didn’t go.

I remember the first leg tie took place on the same night as a midweek Premier League fixture list, and Alan Green broke off from the commentary game to read out the score, adding “We have a great chance in the second leg with that away goal”

For a 10 year old, having Linfield getting a shout out on Five Live seemed quite exciting.

Linfield lost the tie 3-2, but Tblisi were thrown out for trying to bribe the official, and Linfield went through to face FC Copenhagen, who snuck through to face AC Milan.

If it wasn’t for that cheating bastard ref and his 6 minutes of injury time, I could have had 23 teams on my list.

In 17 years of going to Old Trafford 2-3 times a season, I have seen a wide variety of teams, but Everton are not one of them. For some reason, i’ve never seen them play at Old Trafford.

I was planning to see them in 2001, but that trip got cancelled and I got another game in compensation. I declined the opportunity to see them face a Northern Ireland XI in 2007 as it was only half a team playing, with the other half playing a friendly against Bury the same day.

2009 UEFA Cup Winners Shaktar Donesk played a European Cup Winners Cup tie at Windsor Park in 1995, but with the Ukranians leading 4-1 from the first leg, I decided to give it a miss. If only i’d known the success they would have in 14 years time.

Red Star Belgrade were the biggest miss for me. In 1991, they were reigning European Cup winners, and they began their defence in Portadown.

I wanted to go, but my dad wouldn’t take me. It was a school night, end of debate.

The first team on the list I saw was Marseille in 1992, the most recent Birmingham City and Wolves in 2010.

I’ll definately be adding Tottenham Hotspur at the end of October, and hopefully Barcelona and Athletico Madrid in February. Maybe one day, i’ll be able to add Linfield.

Feel free to post your own totals

Team (Year first seen)

Arsenal (2003)
AS Roma (2007)
Aston Villa (1993)
Benfica (2000)
Brimingham City (2010)
Celtic (2009)
Chelsea (1997)
Dynamo Zagreb (2008)
Feyenoord (1999)
Fulham (2001)
Leeds United (1993)
Liverpool (1994)
Manchester City (2000)
Manchester United (1993)
Marseille (1992)
Middlesbrough (1995)
Newcastle United (1993)
Nottingham Forest (1996)
Rangers (2002)
Real Madrid (2003)
West Ham United (1997)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (2010)

EVERYONE LOVES A CUPPA

It’s written on a wall in Brimingham, so therefore, it must be true.

I’ll get to how I ended up in Birmingham later. Anyone who has been following me on Twitter will have known how excitable I was about going to Manchester for the weekend.

Why Manchester?, I hear you ask, especially in February, it’s hardly a winter sunshine break.

I don’t know myself really. It had got to early October and I was getting down about the summer being over and the nights getting darker, and earlier, I just wanted something to look forward to, to see me through the winter months.

It had only been a couple of weeks since I was at the Manchester derby, and i’d grown tired of the long bus trips to watch United, and wanted to fly over to a game, and have enough time to actually explore Manchester, rather than getting a few hours on the day of the game.

So, that was it, mind made up. Off to a United game, early in the new year. Pick a game that is easy to get tickets for, on a weekend when Linfield have an away match which is more than missable.

With United at home to Portsmouth, and Linfield away to Distillery, at a ground with no parking, and no good views wherever you are, ticked all the boxes.

Booking this trip, as something for me to look forward to during the long winter nights, soon morphed into my “Something to Look Forward to Every Month” mantra i’m having for this year (and hopefully beyond), being the February event.

So, after all the waiting, I arrived bleary-eyed at Belfast City Airport and thinking to myself that it was not what I had in mind when I was planning this glorious weekend.

It was my first time flying from Belfast City Airport, and the flight was the best flight I have ever experienced, mainly because I slept the whole way through.

Arriving in Manchester, the first thing you notice is how much better the train stations are on the mainland. Self-service ticket booths and shopping to kill the time, compared with the depressing hole that is Central Station.

After arriving at my accommodation, it was straight into the City Centre, and most importantly, Empire Exchange, which was at the top of the street where I was staying.

For anybody who has never been to Empire Exchange, it’s basically like Video/DVD/Book/Magazine shopping in a Tardis. So much stuff you just want to buy, you really have to control yourself from going on a spending spree.

Managed to purchase a couple of old Shoot and Q magazines for £1 a pop. It’s really funny reading these magazines with the benefit of 15-20 years of hindsight.

If I get access to a scanner, i’ll post up a couple of the best parts of the magazines. Any magazine which has an advert for shinguards where Bryan Robson, Ian Rush and Gary Lineker parody Goodfellas deserves to have the piss ripped out of it.

From there, I headed to Urbis, an exhibition centre which will become the National Football Museum in 2011. One of it’s main purposes, is as a studio for the flagship news programme of Channel M (Think of it as NVTV, but with a budget), presented by Andy Crane.

Having decided against stalking Andy Crane, I headed in to view the exhibition looking at 50 years of television history in Manchester. It’s well worth a look, if you happen to be passing.

With the early start, I was knackered, and retired to the room for a powernap before dinner, but I overslept, and basically had to write-off Friday night.

But anyway, Friday night wasn’t the main highlight of the trip, Saturday afternoon was.

With my sleep pattern, gradually getting back to normal, I was up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, so headed into the city centre.

I was meeting a friend for lunch before heading to the game, so I had a bit of time to kill, and headed to the Arndale Centre.

I’d been there the previous day, but managed to find some of Manchester’s hidden pleasures, such as the Arndale Market, which is hidden at the back of the Arndale Centre, amidst all the major chain stores.

I managed to browse into a independent bookstore, which had perhaps the best thing i’ve ever seen.

It was a collection of Tom Baker Doctor Who greetings/message cards (Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, etc)

It would be the best card ever if you sent it to a friend, but you would hate yourself for actually using them.

From there, I headed to Picadilly to meet the only Man United fan on Merseyside, and we got a train to Old Trafford.

The first thing we had to do was check our GPS that we were at the right stadium, as the amount of Yellow and Green scarves seemed to suggest that we had accidentally ended up at Carrow Road.

You may have seen the scarves at the recent League cup tie with Manchester City. At the Portsmouth, there was far easily more scarves sold and worn. Those wearing Red and White, were in the minority.

We decided to head to the famous Trafford Bar to catch the end of the Merseyside derby. After we queued up, we were surprised to see that the match wasn’t being shown.

It really shows the hardcore anti-Scouse attitude of the regulars that their matches aren’t even shown on TV, to give regulars the opportunity to cheer on the other team

We headed on into the ground for the match, which was an expected routine win for United against a very poor Portsmouth team. If you think they looked bad on the edited highlights on Match of the Day, you had to see it in person for 90 minutes to really see how bad they are.

Heading out, I checked my mobile, and the day got even better with the results from home.

From there, we headed to a bar in the Oxford Road region, which was converted from a public toilet.

Come Sunday morning, I decided to head to Birmingham on a cheap return ticket, to see the city for a day and go to City’s match against Wolves.

I decided to chance it and wait until the day of the game to get my ticket, and I managed to get one with no trouble, which was a bit surprising, bearing in mind it’s a local derby.

St Andrew’s is a strange ground. From the outside, half of it looks no better than an Irish League ground, while the other half looks like the identikit new modern stadiums that have poppoed up in England over the last 20 years.

Inside, the stadium was fine, and I had an excellent view. It’s always good to experience a matchday experience from a different point of view.

The ticket was £20, which is twice the admission of a Linfield home match, so the game had a lot to live up to. It was a good game, but not twice as good as a Linfield match though.

It was a brilliant atmosphere and I especially loved the songs the Birmingham fans were singing to taunt their opponents. So childish and immature, but straight to the point.

There were some strange goings one which had me baffled. At St Andrew’s, all of Birmingham’s substitutions are sponsores, for example “Substitution for Birmingham, brought to you in association with ……..”

I dread to think if this was to catch on at Windsor Park, all of David Jeffrey’s substitutions could be sponsored by Specsavers.

As well ast he substitutions, all of Birmingham’s goals are sponsored as well. Very bizarre.

Back to Manchester, and headed over to the Apollo to see Kelly Clarkson in concert.

It’s a wonderfully strange venue that you really have to go to. A former disused cinema (and an old style one at that), someone just decided to turn it into a concert venue, whilst doing mininal rebuilding work to the interior.

If only someone had decided to do that to The Curzeon, what a venue that would have been.

It was an absolutely brilliant concert, with Clarkson managing to mix a collection of covers and acoustic version of her hits together, even though at times, she was relying a lot on her backing vocalists, which was a shame for such a fantastic vocalist.

Despite spending three days in Manchester, I can’t help but feel that there is still so much more to see. Thankfully, I will be heading back in April (along with trips to Sheffield, Liverpool and hopefully Blackburn) as part of my STLFTEM for April.

The only real disappointment was the lack of celeb spotting. When spotting Brian Laws at the airport is the most high-profile person you see, you know it was a poor show in terms of celeb spotting.

Oh well, at least there’s Ocean Colour Scene next month to look forward to.

Pictures

See Also