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    by David Blatt

    Manchester United Ruined my Wife by David Blatt now available on the Kindle here

    An ex-pat Red’s life is not all sun, sea, sand and…satellite TV I’ll have you know. Withdrawal symptoms can get rather acute, and 300+ days of sunshine cannot compensate for seeing Eric’s Disciples on Earth in the flesh.

    When I lived in Cannes from 2000 to 2006, by booking at least two months in advance I would return to Old Trafford around once a month, my return easyJet flight from Nice to either Luton or Merseydive costing between 20-45 euros return. That’s less than if I drove by myself from London to Manchester and back and paid for the petrol. However my current abode in Ibiza has suffered from the global economic crisis. The powers that be on the White Island have withdrawn all flight subsidies, which meant last winter Ryanair fucked off leaving Ibiza as a delightful open prison. There were no direct flights at all from Ibiza to the UK, whilst this winter British Airways have stepped in to plug the gap, but with just two flights a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, and return tickets rarely below £200, an impulse buy it is not.

    Such were the conflicting emotions raging within this 10 ½ stone mess of skin and bones as Christmas 2012 drew near. With the immanent release of the updated 3rd edition of my book, “Manchester United Ruined My Wife” as an E-book, I had persuaded the publisher to print 10,000 A5 full colour leaflets which I intended to distribute outside Old Trafford on the morning and afternoon of the West Brom game on the 29th. Meanwhile I had booked the Copthorne Hotel in Clipper Quays at an enticing “early bird” discount price of £50.15 for a twin bedded room for one night. Red mate Mick and I are close, but not THAT close.

    Requests for 4 tickets (2 for Red mate Mick and me, 2 for Mick’s boss) on Facebook and Linkedin resulted in two offers. One from a source from whom I had acquired my Swansea tickets at the end of last season (Shit. That walk back from the Lime Bar to the ground that day had been a wake and a half) and another from one of my “friends” on facebook and Red11. So far so good.

    Not so fast. The Swansea source went silent for a few weeks, then came back with an offer double face value. That pissed me off. So I politely declined (you never know, I may need her in the future so I didn’t want to burn my bridges, although I could well have burned her bridge at that moment) With just a couple of days to go, another “friend” on Facebook came to my rescue. He said he couldn’t make the game himself as he was committed to visiting his wife’s family that day in Newcastle, but would leave two season tickets with his parents at an address on Didsbury Road.

    No sweat. With a Googlemaps print out I navigated the M60 with aplomb, and before you could say “Stockport are a massive club” we were parked outside. I navigated the overelaborate front garden, disturbing images of Day of the Triffids coming to mind, and knocked on the door. Through the letter box I could see a large grey dog jumping and barking at the top of his voice. “Oh, great. That’s all I need.”

    The front door opened and this old guy looked at me quizzedly. I introduced myself and told him that Neil had left two United season tickets for me. The REM and nervous twitches instantly informed me that something was amiss. He invited me inside, while the young dog jumped and slobbered all over me.

    “Down boy!”

    “Not you. The dog!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

    Nervous looks between the old guy and the old girl and I instantly knew what was amiss. My tickets were amiss. A flurry of phone calls later and it transpired the season tickets were in Newcastle.


    Apologies all round. Well, from them, not from me, and a promise to “sort something out”.

    They took my number and e-mail address and promised to get back to me. Realistically, the chances of the guy driving all the way back from Newcastle were remote so I put Plan B into operation. Only there was a drawback. I didn’t have a Plan B.

    I left the old couple and their uncontrollable dog and Mick and I drove onto the Copthorne Hotel and put our bags and my leaflets in our room. I told him not to worry. I’ll just monopolise one of the hotel’s internet computers and something will surely turn up. I mean, West Brom at home is not the most pulses-racing fixture on the United calendar. On the other hand, it was post Christmas, and any excuse to get away from cloying family members you only saw once a year was a factor I couldn’t dismiss.

    I went down stairs to reception and asked where the internet computers were.

    “It’s over there.” came the robotic reply from this young woman who wouldn’t have looked out of place in that hotel in Norfolk where Alan Partridge had rested “between engagements”.

    What! Only one! This is meant to be a 4* hotel. WTF!

    “£1 for 10 minutes”.

    Shit! This is going to cost me a pretty penny. Or pounds(s)

    The next hour and a half was spent, literally, posting messages on my Facebook page, tweeting, Red Issue fans forum…the lot. To make matters worse, the one hotel computer was incredibly slow and kept losing its internet connection. The one thing that did work properly however was the little counter showing my money being swallowed up at an alarming rate.

    Funny that. Not!

    As you’re still awake I won’t bore you with the details, but the demure dated surroundings of the 4* Copthorne lobby helped keep my Anglo Saxon down to a minimum. I asked for the manager so I could register my disquiet (I was fucking livid on the inside but my exterior portrayed an aura of professional concern) I even asked if I could use one of the computers in the hotel office but that was even older and wouldn’t allow access to either Google or facebook.

    Bloody Gestapo.

    The hotel manageress apologised and offered to give me my money back (£12) which I gratefully accepted but failed to solve my immediate problem. I still needed to secure 2 tickets.

    “I want them both. I want them now.”

    Eventually, after much Grecian2000 Yorkshire Red Andy Pickin came to my rescue and we agreed to meet under the statue of Sir Alex at 2.00pm.

    Phew! What a scorcher. But what a shambles the Copthorne internet for guests was. I never got a chance to get back online and thank everybody for their help and concern, or to let those still searching that I was sorted.

    By now it was just gone 10.00pm so Mick and I went out to get something to eat. What is it about Stretford? Friday night and everything was shut. Cursing our luck we returned to the hotel, only to find they had shut down their kitchen and the only thing they could offer were overpriced cold sandwiches.

    Bah! Humbug!

    So we went to bed without any supper, like to two naughty boys. (Well, not strictly true. Mick lost patience during my crisis management masterclass and had ordered a portion of chips at £2.95. Now that’s what I call “expensive tastes”)

    The following morning we woke up to pouring wind and a howling wind outside our window. Went down for breakfast and the pouring rain and howling wind had followed us. In fact it was everywhere.

    Fuck this for a game of silly buggers. I’ve got roughly 5 hours of standing in the pouring rain ahead of me, distributing my leaflets to people who won’t want to take their hands out of their pockets. My luck. Rain. Manchester. Welcome home Blatt.

    Live for the present I say. A full English breakfast beckoned, with somebody else doing the cooking and the washing up. I deserve this. I need this. Insulation for the coming meteorological onslaught. I went round the self-service buffet twice. Nodded to the young couple at the next table, as you do. Not a word was spoken but I just knew they were at the beginning of a dirty weekend, and I’m not talking about the weather.

    Lucky bastards.

    After a nice crap I told Mick to relax in our room as I had arranged to meet Essex Red Shane in the Bishops, who was acting as a substitute for legendary Red, Mick Groom, who was making a rare non appearance as gout has infected one of his feet (he has two you know) Mick had promised to give out my leaflets in the pub and Shane had taken over his mantle.

    Double hooded, from both my long black coat and grey sweatshirt, I ventured out into the rain with 9000 leaflets in my dark blue IKEA bag slung over my shoulder, that got heavier the further I walked. Despite only my grey moustache showing from under my hoods, the first grafter I passed recognised me, and after a short conversation, agreed to take a few leaflets to place strategically on his stall.

    Nice one.

    Got to the Bishops around 9.30. No queue. Halleluiah! Got stamped and in. Couldn’t find Shane to begin with, so started to hand out my leaflets to all the Scandinavians until the manager told me to stop. Seems like he didn’t fancy the idea of customers dropping my leaflets on the floor.

    As if they would.

    Spotted Aussie hatted Shane and chatted for a while, drying out in the process, followed by a chat, hug and photo with Heide, Red haired Red from Essex who hadn’t missed a game for years.


    Then it was back out into the rain. Next stop, Angelo in Red Star Sports. Had a book signing in his shop when the first edition of MURMW came out in 2004. Been in contact ever since, but the bugger never did buy any of my T-shirts when I ran my screen printing and embroidery company on the 80s.

    AND I gave him a 2 page editorial in Red News at the time. I don’t forget.

    More Rain Man impersonations. Now it was back to the hotel to collect Mick and together we would assault the Red hordes as they made their way up/down Sir Matt Busby Way.

    With the rain dripping from every external orifice, I lurched forward like a real-life Lowry painting, hood covering my head and dark blue IKEA bag over my shoulder, gaining weight with stride. Approaching the hotel I recognised the young couple who had sat next to us at breakfast. I was going to give them a nod when the young man broke into a smile.

    Ah. He’s recognised me. Maybe a little bonding will ensue.

    “Sorry, mate.” he said. “Here’s £1.20. It’s all I got.”

    Fuck me. He thought I was a tramp!

    That just about summed up my morning so far. What must I have looked like?

    I pulled down my hoods and calmly thanked him for his kindness, but, handing back the £1.20, I suggested it could be better spent on purchasing the latest E-Book edition of my book. I took out one of my now soggy leaflets and handed it to him.

    His girlfriend suddenly burst out laughing as she recognised me and the guy’s expression was a picture.

    I wish I’d had a camera.

    I pissed myself as I waved goodbye and squelched the last few hundred metres to the hotel.

    Me! A homeless tramp! Sixty three years on this planet and this is all I have to show for it. There’s a moral here somewhere but I’m too wet to work it out.

    OK. Now for Mick and our sophisticated marketing campaign. Suitably hooded and booted we made our way once more to Sit Matt Busby Way. Spied Sir Barney, editor of Red News, giving his Battle of Agincourt speech to his troops. Went to say “Hello” and we both tried to outdo each other with hard luck stories of selling/distributing in the street, in the rain. Considering Barney and his hardy sellers do it every home game, he won that one hands down. In fact, I have the highest regards for all fanzine sellers up and down the country. Abused, dismissed and only occasionally loved, their passion and support of their clubs is worthy of the highest honour in the land.

    I set up shop just behind one of the fanzine sellers and off I went. I didn’t care about myself, but attempting to keep my leaflets dry was a major operation. The trickle soon became a flood, as thousands of Scandinavians and Asians passed me by. Some took leaflets. Most didn’t. Local Reds followed Captain Sensible’s advise and kept themselves in the pubs until the last possible moment. I mean, what sort of person would venture to the ground in the pouring rain when it was still beer ‘o clock?

    Suddenly my mobile rings. (It has a habit of doing that). It was Andy from Yorkshire. Had I heard the news? There’s going to be a pitch inspection. There’s a possibility, what with all this rain and 2 games in 3 days, the match might be called off. He said he’d heard from a good source that Fergie was absolutely livid and had told the groundsmen in no uncertain terms, to pull their pitchforks out.

    What! You mean I’ve come all this way, withdrawal symptoms and wet through, and now there’s a chance I won’t even see the game.

    Told you there was no God.

    “I’ll keep you informed.” he said.

    “Thank you very much.” I said.

    Kept on dripping and distributing. Then the phone rings again. I was ready this time.

    “They’ll be another pitch inspection in 15 minutes.”

    “What’s this? A fucking soap opera? Nothing we can do I suppose. OK. Speak to me once you know.”

    Drip drip, soggy soggy drip drip…

    Phone rings.

    “Game on!’


    2 ‘o clock and it’s meet Andy time. Squelch my way over to the SAF statue. He recognised me first. Not a homeless tramp this time. There’s hope for me yet. Did the business. Took a deep breath and mentally and physically psyched myself up for one final assault outside the ground. Then Mick and I raced back to his car and dumped the remaining leaflets in the boot. I had intended to leave right on the final whistle and position myself on the forecourt and perform a 360 degree distribution fountain, but rust had infiltrated my inner workings and I gave up. Which made me feel really bad, because the last time I had this I had been able to attack all the parked and slowly moving cars that couldn’t get out of the way of the way of this demented Red.

    Damn effective it had been to. But not this time.

    I was a damp squid, and so was the match.

    You were there. You know West Brom was the match too far after Christmas. After the thrilling 4-3 victory over Newcastle just three days earlier, the pitch and the players had trouble raising their game. A plodding 2-0 win was 3 points in the bag, and at least I had witnessed another of RvP’s amazing end of game goals.

    Too good for this game, but you won’t find me complaining.

    Mick drove all the way back to London. Stopped off at our regular service station on the M6 toll road, and comforted myself by handing out leaflets to any stray Reds who had the misfortune to find themselves in my line of vision. As I tucked into my sausage and mash one came over to our table and showed me he had just downloaded my book to his iPhone.

    We eat tonight!

    Little things like that make life worthwhile. Being a Red makes life worthwhile.

    Wouldn’t want it any other way.

    by David Blatt

    Manchester United Ruined my Wife by David Blatt now available on the Kindle here
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