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An interview with United author David Blatt, author of the new 'Red Eye' and his travels around the world watching MUFC

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  • An interview with United author David Blatt, author of the new 'Red Eye' and his travels around the world watching MUFC

    An interview with United author David Blatt, author of the new 'Red Eye' and his travels around the world watching MUFC

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    David Blatt is author of Red Eye: One Man's Attempts to Watch United in 25 Different Countries

    A United Fan and his distorted view of the world...

    Q) What is the book about?

    I think the back cover sums it up quite nicely. "365 days, 90,000 miles, 4 continents, 25 countries, 42 flights, 29 buses, 11 trains, 60 matches...and 1 wife who hates football!"

    Ian Dury once sang "Sex and Drugs and Rock ' Roll, is all my brain and body needs". Not quite. He left out football and travel. The first two lines of the book sums up my philosophy...

    "Travel is a bit like sex, even when it's bad, it's good.

    United is a bit like sex, even when it's bad, it's good."

    Now, let me make one thing clear straight away. United dominate my waking hours, and most of my sleeping hours if the truth be told. However, although Manchester United may be the most important thing in my life, it's not the only thing in my life. I also love sex, music and travel. With the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, (and to a lesser extent, Carlos Tevez) I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to travel round the world. Figuring it would take a year or more for Sir Alex to find another winning formation, it was now or never.

    With most of our bits still in working order, my wife and I sold our flat, making ourselves homeless in the process, paid back the naughty bank, then bought 2 x Round The World tickets. The rest, as they say, is geography. We had waited 37 years for our long overdue honeymoon. However, with three people in our marriage, (Helene has named Manchester United as “the other woman” in any future divorce proceedings) I knew I was going to push the boundaries of our relationship to the brink in order to catch as many United matches live as possible, between February 10 2010 and February 10 2011, at times and in locations round the world only a nutter would attempt.

    I mentally prepared myself for keeping a diary and recording each day the sights, sounds, smells and emotions the world threw at me. My trusted notebook would come out and I'd record every United match and how I attempted to watch each one live, no matter where I was or at what unearthly hour of the day or night the kick-off. I wasn't always successful, but nobody could claim I didn't try. Just ask the wife, she found me very trying.

    Q) How much Redness did you find around the world?

    True Redness - a lot less than I'd hoped. I mean, how many of the 75/330/659 million fans United's marketing machine claim exist actually exist? What many of us suspect is that United means more to us than to the GGMU20 brigade that proliferate planet Earth and various social media.. We all support the club in our own way, and I won't decry these supporters if they contribute to United's non-Glazer repayment purchasing power, but I bet a gut-renchering defeat won't spoil their whole week like it will mine, or bring them the orgasmic explosions that only United can create.

    To give you an example, Helene and I were waiting at 08.00 one morning in Goa waiting for a tuk tuk to take us to my dentist appointment in Margoa. A young man, recognising my United polo shirt, shook me by the hand and shouted in my face, "United are my favourite team." That would have been quite nice, 'cept for the fact he was wearing a snide Leeds United shirt!


    I tell you one thing I noticed. Many men in South America wore fake football shirts of European teams. I saw equal amounts of AC Milan and Inter, a smattering of Juventus and significantly more Barcelona than Real Madrid. In Asia many so-called fans support a player more than a club, so if the player moves on so does the supporter. I lost count of Ronaldo on both United and Madrid shiny polyester. Happily I saw more United than any other English club. I would say Chelsea have now taken over from Liverpool in second place. with Arsenal a distant third. Almost no Tottenham or any other British clubs adorned outstanding chests.

    Q) See many City fans?

    I only saw two Bitters the whole year. One on top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. I crept up behind him and let out a "U-NI-TED!!" at the top of my voice. His girlfriend let out a screamed but the Bitter turned round and smiled. Bastard. I was hoping for an overtly negative reaction but he took it all in good humour. Childish I know, but I couldn't let the moment pass, could I?.

    The other Bertie was a dentist in Mission Beach, Queensland who repaired my snapped dentures. I recognised his Manc accent straight way and enquired whether he encountered many superior clothed patients as I proudly puffed out my Red News "LOVE UNITED Hate Glazer" Green & Gold T-shirt. To which he unbuttoned the right sleeve of his shirt, only to reveal a MCFC tattoo on his shoulder. To make matters worse, the bastard also turned out to be a sound bloke. What's the world coming to, I ask you?

    Q) What was the most bizarre incident watching a United game

    Eric, there are so many. I developed a hate/hate relationship with streaming games on my notebook. Picture the scene. It's a 5 'o clock in the morning kick-off away to Fulham on August 22nd. I'm in Moorea, (no, not that beach bar in Ibiza) a stunningly beautiful island a few miles across the South Pacific from Tahiti in French Polynesia. We're staying in a run-down campsite due to close any day. Our room is like a prison cell with only mosquitoes for company and the only place I can get an internet signal was by sitting on a wooden bench on the beach with my legs dangling in the warm azure waters.

    By the time I got connected it was already half time and I'd missed Scholes's stunning opener. Damn. Then throughout the second half the screen kept freezing, and each time the picture came back the score had changed. If you recall the final score was 2-2 and I missed all 4 goals! Queue genuine Anglo Saxon.

    I won't go into too much detail here because the memory is still so painful, but the second leg of our Champions League knock-out tie against Bayern Munich on April 7th, just 4 days after our gut wrenching, Drogba offside goal home defeat to Chelsea, co-incided with our final night in Srinagar in Kashmir. We had endured two nights on this freezing cold and damp houseboat on the gorgeous Dal Lake (scene of the recent murder of a British backpacker by a fellow Dutch boat passenger) and had transferred to a lakeside hotel for the remainder of the week.

    After almost 2 months of 40+ degrees, lusciously green Kashmir had been a welcome respite from the heat. Our final day had been spent lazing in our hotel room, doing what couples do, as I mentally prepared myself for the season defining match to come at around 01.45 in the morning. Only as the day wore on, Channel Ten, the only channel showing the United game, was getting weaker and weaker. In the desperate attempt to guarantee reception I went down to reception in the evening. To say the staff couldn't be arsed would be the understatement of the decade. There then followed a catalogue of growing disasters which you'll have to read for yourself, including transferring to another room just so I could watch the match, and freezing my arse off, literally as I lived and died the entire 90+ minutes.

    Q) Has the global brand of United been a good or bad thing on your travels?

    We're constantly being told United are the most popular club in the world, whether it's a Deloittes financial report or United's board pitching to sponsors, but my reality on the streets was that we were no bigger or smaller than any other major European club. In South America Barcelona and Real Madrid dominated. No surprise there, but I'd say Italian clubs were more prolific. Maybe their shirts are just a cooler design?

    I had my share of conversing with United wearing individuals but far less than I had hoped. Much to my wife's annoyance, as you'll see from the photos in the book, I wore various non megastore United related leisurewear throughout hoping this would evoke a response, but it was like I was invisible. Damn. Even visiting the rubble and renovation of the Maracana Stadium in Rio illicited zero on the richter scale of recognition by the staff.

    A) India Goa IPL cricket

    Our first two months were spent in India. The first of these in Goa, where I divided my time between the beaches and the dentist chair, the rest travelling around this vast country. "Premiership football? No problem mate, they're football crazy, you'll find it shown everywhere, especially in Goa what with all the tourists."

    Oh,. yeah!

    Not while the IPL is on, I can tell you. So many times I tracked down bars that Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and various online travel sights swore transmitted Premiership football, only to find cricket, cricket and more cricket.

    Q) Which was the place you'd most recommend to visit?

    There are so many it's difficult to know where to start. One thing I will say, with the honourable exception of the Taj Mahal in India, natural phenominum do it for me over man-made effices to mammon, military or religion. Yangshou on the Li River in south west China is just jaw droppingly sensational. The limestone monoliths that dramatically shoot up either side of the river even outshone Halong Bay in Vietnam. And Mount Fiji just has to be the most geometrically perfect mountain in the world.

    If you ask people what is the most beautiful island in the world, many plump for Bora Bora, And this was mine when we arrived by cargo ship from Tahiti. That was until we discovered Maupiti, a sea-sickening 3 hour boat ride from Bora Bora. As beautiful as Bora Bora but without succumbing to the Yankee dollar and those 5 star hotels on stilts over the water, This was a natural paradise and the people knew it, They'd seen what Bora Bora had become and said, "Thank, but no thanks." Respect.

    Q) Tell us about The Super El Clasico...

    A) Who told you. Yes, I couldn't believe my luck, but we arrived in our hostel in Buenos Aries and there on the noticeboard was a poster. "River Plate v Boca Juniors. Tickets $70". Rip-off but what an opportunity. Helene's worst nightmare was about to come true. I really had to pitch the match to her, claiming this was like no other football match she or me had ever been to. She didn't believe me, but she agreed to come with.

    What can I say? I know you'll find this hard to believe but the atmosphere was even hotter than Barca '84, and I was there! 90+ minutes and 360* of utter mayhem. Even Helene got caught up in the atmosphere. Next I expect to walk on water.

    Q) Any encounters with any real bad ABUs?

    A) Only once I'm pleased to say. We were in Xi-an, home of the Terracotta Army. In our hostel were this family of a bloated dad and his three sons. I sat down in front of one of the hostel computers and the bloated dad sat down next to me. I made some comment as a form of greeting, only to be subjected to abuse as, for him, my United T-shirt didn't marry up with my own cockney accent.

    He showed me his Arsenal cannon tattoo, which alerted his 3 sons who followed up with "I really hate Man U". "You should support your local team" etc.. Inexplicably, one of the sons turned out to be a Norwich supporter, who was initially confused by my Green & Gold T-shirt, yet also proclaimed, "I fucking hate United". You would have thought his venom would be directed towards the Tractor Boys, but no.

    The following day we all boarded a mini bus to the incredible Terracotta Army. On the way back, our Chinese guide tried to instigate a karaoke session over the buses stereo system. Normally the last to come forward, I was inspired to take the mike, and as Helene disappeared under the seat, I sang, "United Road, take me home..." word perfect.

    Not a peep out of the bloated dad and his offspring. Interpret that as you will.

    Q) Did you follow England in the World Cup?

    A) I belong to the United > England brigade. I do support the national team, but they don't do it for me like United can. Boring football and ABUs at matches. I didn't bother with the abysmal 1-1 against the USA but meeting up with an ex-pat Red in Perth we visited a pub for the Slovakia game. Full of St Georges, I wore my LUHG T-shirt hoping for a little banter. Nothing. Enjoyed the atmosphere though, enjoyed our victory and the beer shampoo that accompanied Defoe's goal.

    However, I was in another English pub in Cairns for our pathetic performance against Germany. We outnumbered the German fans by the same ratio as they outnumbered us with goals on the pitch. However, my moment of glory came with Fat Frank's unacknowledged equaliser. I set off screaming and jumping around the sawdust, only to be followed in hot pursuit by Helene. I couldn't believe she wanted to join in my celebration. The Aussie sun must have got to her, only her mission had been to inform me that the goal had been disallowed.


    Q) Happy Ending?

    A) Well, I'll never be able to do it again, but this realisation was offset somewhat by the anticipation of City at home 3 days after our return. I had licked and grovelled from the sights, sounds and internet signals around Colombia and Ecuador.

    Success. And there I was sitting in the stands to witness Rooney's amazing City thumping overhead kick.

    Life couldn't have been better.

    An interview with United author David Blatt, author of the new 'Red Eye'
    New Red News 266 out 20th October 2019
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