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Why I am a Manchester United fan by Doug

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  • Why I am a Manchester United fan by Doug

    You just don't realise the big decisions you have to take as a kid, do you? For me, at 7 years of age and a football-playing nut, I had yet to make no bigger choice (and it loomed large in my mind) than deciding which football club I would support.

    To set the background for you, this was the 1974/75 season and, don't laugh, but there was a strange pull for a lot of my mates in Dublin towards West Ham (God help us)! Those old enough to recall may remember that they were on an FA Cup run which would see them beat a Bobby Moore-captained Fulham side in the final. Isn't it funny how glory-hunters are not age-specific...even at age 7!

    But, to my eternal credit, and in spite of massive peer pressure, I stood firm. My mind had become fixed on Manchester United. They were in the old second division at that time I hear you ask - so why choose United? Well, honestly, not because of the usual paternal influence. My Dad is a Wolves
    fan but he never pushed me in a particular direction. In fact, I now know that he secretly revered the great Busby Babes and Sir Matt in the 50s, as well as the Lawman in the 60s. However, he never mentioned this to me at the time - I would work out his secret admiration for myself in later years. And I won't forget that in the end I have him to thank for letting the decision rest solely with me.

    So back to the why? Well, my footballing landscape had strangely been shaped as a 7-year-old by a chance hand-me-down. I happened to have bestowed upon me, by way of some discarded books from a local boys' school, a copy of the Score 1968 football Annual. At least I think that was the title. Some of you may wish to correct me - but who cares really because here's the rub. Little did I know, as I first thumbed its pages, that I would become so enthralled, so beautifully obsessed - so quickly!

    You see (and I write from memory as, sadly, the book itself has long since been discarded), there was a beautifully drawn comic-strip in this edition. And it detailed the History of Manchester United. I remember the strong imagery it portrayed: Newton Heath; Johnny Carey with the 1948 FA Cup in his hands; Denis Law signing for the club and his one-arm-aloft goal-scoring salute. These pages carried me, fascinated, all the way through to the (then) current crop of players under the charge of 'The Doc' (Gordon Hill was one of my first heroes!).

    But what I was drawn to - and how deep is this for a kid of that age? - was the tragic, heart-wrenching image of a mangled plane sitting mournfully on a runway in Munich. Here was a club that stood for something. This club has a history, I thought, to which it pays tribute. It has risen from adversity in the past and its heroes will never be forgotten. And this club with strong foundations, great, skillful players with character was all built on the foundation of a support that never dies. These supporters (of which I was willingly to become a member) had all risen to whatever life had to throw at them. They had character and the team played for them with a skill and flair that was demanded. Sounds like some comic-strip doesn't it!

    This tradition has largely remained intact through the near-thirty years I have subsequently supported the club. And I wouldn't change a thing. This club and its supporters has enriched my life. From being heart-broken from Bobby Stokes off-side Cup final 'winner', to the joy of a treble-stopping win over the Scousers in '77, to Big Norm's magic to the Fergie years - it has been tough and wonderful, in equal measure. But when I think back to the kid I was, particularly this season, when I feel that we may yet enter another fallow period, I still find a consolation in being proud of the club I chose to support. No matter the success or the failure - we have a proud history and one tailor-made for comic books it seems. This history is something that cannot be bought (by a Russian) or taken away from us (by a Gnome). This meant more to me then as a kid than following all the other kids and choosing a West Ham side that had just had a good run in the Cup (and little else since, thankfully). And it means, possibly, more to me today ahead of an uncertain future.

    For me, the 'culture' of being a true fan never changes. It has been and always will be the beauty of United and our history against everyone else. And we will always answer a call, with flair and imagination, from the terraces or the stands to the field of play. No matter what the future holds - 'We'll never Die'. Remember that this summer. And thank God for hand-me-downs. Here's hoping that all our tomorrows are met with some more heroes (footballing and otherwise) fit for comic-books. It seems we may just need a few...

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