Archive | March, 2019

A Wander round Wakefield.

23 Mar

Once it was a mere field owned by an Anglo-Saxon called Waca. Waca’s field has long since disappeared beneath concrete, stone and bricks. It is now the West Yorkshire town of Wakefield. Correction — Wakefield is officially a city and has a Cathedral to prove it. But it doesn’t feel like a city. It is only the size of a large town. My friend, Ian, and I like to wander round old towns.  It’s one of our post-retirement hobbies. Towns are more manageable than cities but usually have more to offer than a small village. They are the perfect size for a day trip.

Up to this week, Wakefield, was just a place I glanced at from a train window, as we briefly stopped at Westgate station. A cluster of towers, cupolas and spires caught the eye as the town spread up a low hill. But then, when the train moved away, they quickly slipped out of  sight and out of mind. I had actually been there a couple of times in the 1960’s. I had acquired my dad’s Lambretta ( I was desperately trying to be a mod) and the Leeds conurbation was a comfortable 50 mile run from my home town. With a friend on the pillion we went out searching for adventure, and somehow we ended up in Wakefield. ( I don’t know how.) In fact we had a puncture there and a kindly garage mechanic helped us mend it. It was in the new 60s market hall of Wakefield that we discovered our version of paradise. It was a stall selling old juke-box singles. Everything we had heard on Pick of the Pops was there at a very cheap price. We were like little kids let loose in a sweet shop!  We would then chug back down the A61 to Chesterfield with huge grins on our faces, happy to be laden down with hits by  The Beatles, Stones,  Kinks et al. After that though, Wakefield disappeared from my radar until my recent visit.

Ian and I travelled on the struggling train system from the north-east of England to West Yorkshire. In this way, we made the journey part of the “adventure.” This time Ian had a train cancellation at Chester-le- Street to delay him so by the time I met him at Leeds we had already missed our connection and only caught the next service by the skin of our teeth. I have lost count of how many times I have had to run for trains at Leeds, across the busy connecting bridge, fighting through the crowds and running down  seemingly endless sets of stairs, seeing my train waiting to depart. It happened on my way home as well. But thankfully we made it on to the LNER London train — first stop Wakefield Westgate, 9 miles to the south east of Leeds. It was time to relax and look forward to the day. Once again the familier towers and spires slid into view, but this time I was going to afford them more than a passing glance.

As I looked at the cluster of buildings spreading out from the station, I thought of all the people to whom this is home and all the full, eventful lives that have been lived there over the centuries. If a town (or city) could talk wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear what it had to say? One of my favourite singers-songwriters, Mary Chapin Carpenter, had exactly that train of thought. One of her songs is titled: ” I am a Town.” An ordinary American town by the side of the highway, introduces itself. ” I’m a blur from the driver’s window”, “I am a church beside the highway, where the ditches never drain”, “I’m the language of the natives, I’m a cadence and a drawl”. It’s such an evocative song.  A humble, ordinary town trying to catch the attention of the travellers passing through. This idea has caught my imagination and came back into my mind as we wondered up to Wakefield’s centre. What would the bricks and stones tell us if they could speak?

Yes, an ordinary town ( or city) it was. We wanted to catch a slice of everyday life rather than visit a list of starry “sights”. As we followed city centre signs we were struck at how quiet Wakefield was. It was almost eerie. Then we realised that it had 2 major malls — The Ridings and Trinity Walk — and so presumed that many of the shoppers were there. Such malls are very convenient and provide shelter in the winter, but, at the same time, they suck the life out of the surrounding streets. We didn’t go in as most shopping malls are roughly the same, irrespective of the place and we were seeking buildings that were more characteristic of the area. Thus we resisted the lure of central heating and canned music and pressed on towards the cathedral. Wakefield’s cathedral is right in the centre of the little city, unlike say Doncaster Minster which has been severed from the town by a busy dual-carraigeway. The Cathedral has the tallest spire in Yorkshire. It is a beautiful building in the Perpendicular style of the early 15th century. The original 11th century Norman church replaced an earlier Anglo-Saxon place of worship. In the 19th century it was re-designed by the famous architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. Extensions were then added in the 20th century to honour two of Wakefield’s most famous bishops — William Walshaw How and Eric Treacy. The cathedral is a very beautiful and impressive space. When we entered an organ was thundering out but when the music finished, a serene peace descended. We saw a lovely modern altar, pulpit and font but there were still medieval remnants such as the strange , carved mythical beasts in the choir stalls. There is an abundance of attractive stained glass windows from late Victorian times.

Attached to the cathedral are: a cafe, a shop and the tourist information centre. However, when we arrived asking for street maps, heritage trails and guidebooks, the 2 nice ladies we spoke to didn’t have much to offer and seemed genuinely bemused that tourists had actually decided to visit the tourist office. Obviously, Wakefield does not experience heavy tourist tread. We ended up with a blue-plaque guide-book which turned out to be out of date and which had a very confusing map. Ian and I specialise in going to places that few people want to go to. When I tried to prepare for this trip by consulting the latest Rough Guide to England, Wakefield wasn’t even mentioned! This is despite it having an impressive cathedral and the award winning Hepworth Gallery down by the river. Barbara Hepworth, the famous 20th century sculptress, came from Wakefield.

We left the information centre and retreated to a cafe to make our plans. We couldn’t resist going into “Marmalade on the Square”, such a wonderful name. It was a spotlessly clean cafe with very large, tall windows letting the light stream in. The coffee and cake were excellent too. This cafe and 2 others is in an early 20th century building (1907) formerly known as Central Chambers and before that the “Grand Clothing Hall”, the HQ of the outfitters, John Manners Ltd. It’s an elegant building in light stone with domes , gables and subtle ornementations. It also has smooth, curving corners rather than sharp right angles. It stands on a triangular site between two open spaces — the Bull Ring and Cross Square. It made a lovely photo with the spire of the cathedral in the background.

After our enjoyable repast, we decided to go down to the river area. Wakefield sits on the north bank of the River Wharfe, nestling to the south east of the Pennines. It was once a thriving inland cloth and grain port. As well as the river, various canals linked it up to Britain’s once busy inland waterways system. There were the Aire and Calder, and Calder and Hebble Navigations plus the Barnsley canal going to the south. This transport system was eventually replaced by Turnpike roads. The town stands at an important  junction where the main road from the midlands to the north meets a major road coming from the Pennine Hills to the west. Later, when the railway came in the 1840s, Wakesfield’s Kirkgate station was an important stop on the Leeds to Manchester line. Today, the city has 2 railway stations ( Westgate and Kirkgate) and is situated very close to the M1 motorway, but its river area is now very “quiet”, or rather it would be if it wasn’t adjacent to a bridge carrying a busy 4-lane highway across the Wharf. Down in this area are the well-preserved, 18th century offices of the Aire and Calder Navigation, like a small, classical Greek temple. Also here, south of the river, are the remains of 2 old mills and an 18th century warehouse. They are adjacent to the ultra modern Hepworth Gallery. Inside, it’s display rooms are spacious and flooded with light, but outside it looks like a jumble of sombre grey cubes. We thought it looked more like a prison than an art gallery. Wakefield of course does have a well-known prison but we didn’t include it on our itinerary.

When we got down there, the river was in full spate. After a recent period of stormy weather, the Wharfe had been turned into a raging torrent. A barge had been wrenched from its moorings and had become jammed between the fast flowing water and one of the arches of the road bridge. I hope nobody was on it at the time! Our destination was an ancient 14th century bridge which lay beyond the busy road bridge. At the end of it is a very rare 13th century Chantry Chapel.  The Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, is one of only four surviving bridge chapels in the country. It sounds exciting doesn’t it? Well, to tell you the truth it was a bit of an anti-climax. First of all we had great trouble getting across to it because of the incredibly busy 4 lane main road that lay inbetween. There didn’t seem to be much thought for pedestrians and the nearest lights appeared to be at least a quarter of a mile away. We eventually plucked up courage and dodged across when the main stream of vehicles was temporarily held back by lights. I imagined  them all impatiently revving up as if at the start of a Grand Prix. The medieval bridge beyond was deserted — no visitors except us, despite it being trumpeted as one of Wakefield’s most famous sights on its website. The medieval chapel at the far end of it looked sad and forlorn. It’s windows were screened by anti-vandal wire mesh and its roof was protected by lines of anti-pigeon spikes. To my disppointment, I found out that only its base was original 13th century. Much of the upper part had had to be rebuilt in 1847-48, and even some of the Victorian replacement was restored in 1939 because the architect had chosen a stone that quickly weathered and deteriorated. The chapel is still a grade 1 listed building however. It is occasionally used for special functions but mostly it is neglected and ignored. Chantry Chapels were paid for by wealthy people so that others could pray for their souls as they passed through Purgatory. I doubt that even if prayers were still being said at this one, they would be heard above the constant din of the traffic on the next door bridge. Ian and I thought it was very sad. We also abandoned a plan to stroll along a riverside path because it was muddy and strewn with litter. It was disappointing.

We returned to the city centre alongside the busy road. It wasn’t eerily quiet here! This area was scruffier and had down- at- heel little shops and businesses. We noticed a couple of East European food shops featuring Polish, Czech and Slovakian produce. We didn’t notice an Asian presence though, unlike in nearby Dewsbury which we visited last year. However, I am aware that an impressive mosque was constructed there in 1995, although we didn’t spot it because it is a bit outside the centre. Thankfully we soon regained the cathedral area and walked away from the torrent of traffic. Up one side of the cathedral is an attractive , pedestrianised area. It has avenues of trees, raised beds of plants, art deco globes acting as street lamps and attractively patterned block paving beneath our feet.  On our left was a line of 1930s large stores but only a rather diminished Marks and Spencers seemed to have survived the arrival of the malls and internet shopping. From old photos from the 60s it seems that this was one of the major shopping streets in Wakefield. I looked at scenes which showed it busy and bustling with shoppers and traffic. Earlier photos showed that trams used to trundle up and down the main streets of the city. Now this area, although pleasant, is fairly quiet. Much of the retail activity is now being done elsewhere. Wakefield is not alone in experiencing this fate of course. The centre is struggling to maintain its relevance.

Ian and I started our blue plaque exploration. It was quite interesting but a bit confusing as new plaques had been added since the guide was printed. Basically, we ignored the non-descript and badly deteriorated 60s and 70s buildings and sought the stone Victorian edifices of the city’s 19th century heyday. They are mostly clustered on Wood Street and Westgate. These were largely impressive and in good condition. A couple were hidden behind scaffolding  and sheets screening the restorers busy at work. There must still be a lot of work for stone masons in the town (city). On Wood Street we were impressed by The Mechanics Institute, the Town Hall and at the very top: County Hall. The Mechanics Institute, paid for by public subscription, included an assembly room, a library and a news-room. This reflected the rise in literacy levels once compulsary schooling was introduced in the second half of the 19th century. The Institute is  graced with Georgian style windows and a line of 6 classical- style Ionic capitals. It is still a venue for large functions. Next to it is the impressively large Town Hall with a striking clock tower ( no pun intended) which has become another major feature of the Wakefield skyline. Finally, at the top of the hill is County Hall, built in dramatic Gothic style in 1898. It has towers, pillars, gargoyles, stone reliefs , pediments and big windows on all sides. It is a very large, impressive structure. At the top is a graceful cupola which makes its own distinctive contribution to the skyline. OK, it’s not exactly Rome, but this ensemble of Victorian public buildings made for an attractive and impressive sight. In the middle of them was another building hidden away behind restorers screens. When that is finished, Wood Street will be a memorable sight for lovers of Victorian architecture.

Inside County Hall , which is the administrative HQ for West Yorkshire ( formerly the West Riding), it was even more impressive. One might call it Wakefield’s hidden gem. It looked more like a beautifully decorated Gothic church, with multiple Norman style arches, large windows, a grand sweeping, snaking staircase, lovely Delft- style tile-work, delicate wrought iron banisters, mosaics and very unusual, colourful murals. One depicted a Viking longboat for reasons I never found out. I would like to return and have a proper guided tour sometime, on an heritage open day. As it is, the kind lady on reception just let us have a quick peek at the vestibule and the staircase. We thanked her and remarked that it must be very nice to work in such a sumptuous environment. She agreed she was lucky, but then complained that it was too cold in winter and too hot in summer! Some people are never satisfied!

Westgate also has impressive Victorian buildings. Primarily there is the Theatre Royal and Opera House designed by the great theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1894. It replaced an earlier theatre at that site. In the 20th century it served as a cinema and then a bingo hall but then returned to its original function as a theatre in the 1980s. It is a Grade 2 listed building. Opposite it is the equally impressive Unity Hall which was formerly the Victorian Co-operative building of Wakefield. It has now been restored and is used for events, weddings and conferences. It’s good that it has been given new life but sad to see that even the venerable Coop has become a victim of modern shopping habits. Unity Hall, like the theatre is made from red brick decorated with stone patterns and pictoral reliefs. It has large, curving, church like windows. Another striking street in Wakefield centre is Cheapside which features old, early 19th century wool-staplers homes and warehouses. Today they are mostly occupied by soliciters’ offices but the top floor hoists for the wool sacks can still be seen.

I’m sure that in just a few hours we didn’t see everything that Wakefield has to offer. We didn’t go into the museum for example and somehow missed the Gissing centre, the former home of the famous Victorian novelist George Gissing. We didn’t venture into the Hepworth Gallery either because of the usual time constraints. We had to make time for a late lunch at Cafe Lounge 46 back near the cathedral. It is a pleasant eating place with good food and friendly service. I don’t know where the idea that all Yorkshire people are dour and brusque came from. Everyone we met was perfectly charming. Ian marked the service in Cafe Lounge 46 as 12 out of 10. I think it was because the waitress kept calling him “my love.”

Finally it was back to the train station for another thrilling chain reaction of delays, missed connections and, surprise, surprise, sprinting across the bridge and down the stairs at Leeds station. It had been another fascinating town trail revealing the usual mix of delights and disappointments. We missed out the mind- numbing malls ( being men, we are not great shoppers) but acquired some sense of its Victorian hey-day. I imagine that many of its citizens commute into nearby Leeds, but Wakefield, as a small city , still retains its own identity. It seems mostly proud of its past and makes sure it takes good care of its important public buildings.  Wacu’s field may be long gone, but in another sense, it is still going strong.


Why I hate Manchester United.

16 Mar

I like to think I’m a quiet, easy-going, tolerant kind of guy. Most of the people who know me would probably agree. But there is another side to me — my alter-ego you might say. It seethes with hate. Underneath the apparent calm surface lies a boiling volcano that can erupt at any time. The other night I experienced one of these unexpected flare-ups of negative emotion. It partly spoilt my evening but I was helpless to change things — Manchester United had won their Champions’ league last- 16 match with a last minute, controversial penalty! Maybe it’s my imagination, but Manchester United seem to get a lot more than their fare share of dodgy decisions in their favour.

You see, like millions of others, I live in two parallel worlds. They are the real world and the football world. In the former I am usually pleasant, polite and sociable, but in the latter world, I am strapped helplessly to a roller-coaster of  irrational emotions, which are sometimes very difficult to control. These emotions can be both positive and negative. I experience exhilerating highs and dispiriting lows. Ordinary people would not understand. It is an alternative world only truly understood by die-hard football fans. It’s crazy to allow myself to be controlled by such trivial events such as sports contests. My intelligence and rational instincts tell me to rise above it and get things into proper perspective. But in sport, and especially in football, common sense and rationality are often thrown out of the window. Emotion is allowed to overcome reason. It’s a sudden surge of adrenaline, over which one has little control. Later on, once the match is over, things calm down and common sense returns. But those moments when one loses control are intoxicating and addictive.

That all sounds great. Football is an endlessly fascinating and exciting pastime for those who are into it. It provides an intoxicating alternative to our often mundane everyday lives. But, unfortunately, there is a dark side to being a football fan. As well as the positive aspect of supporting certain teams there is the negative side of “hating” certain other teams. We don’t really hate them of course. It’s just part of a childish game. But maybe this irrational hatred taps into deeper, more elemental aspects of human nature, traits that are usually kept buried and hidden from sight. So in some respects, maybe the pseudo loves and hates of football act as important safety valves, enabling fans to experience extreme emotions without them rearing up in and potentially ruining their real lives. One of my own inexplicable football “hates” is anything to do with Manchester United. I cannot really explain this hatred. I almost think it was born inside me. I am not alone. Manchester United are the most “hated” club in England. However, paradoxically, they are also the best supported club at the same time. It seems they polarise opinion. One either “loves” them or “hates” them. There is no middle ground it seems. The introduction to the Rough Guide to England explains that football ( soccer) is the national sport and involves many passionate rivalries, loves and hatreds. It explains that football fans all hate the team down the road but also  hate Manchester United ( except for United’s fans of course.) Although a joke, I think it’s partly true. That is certainly the case with me. I support Chesterfield FC, the Spireites, who have now sadly dropped out of the football league. I follow the fortunes of Arsenal in the Premier League. But I suffer from a deep loathing of Man Utd. It’s an affliction I have willingly carried through my life. I am 69 now and I should know better! I cannot really explain this despite the title of this piece. However, I will try to, although many of my reasons don’t make sense when looked at in the cold light of day.

First of all, Man Utd is one of the wealthiest and most successful football clubs in the world. I have instinctively been a supporter of the underdog. So naturally, I don’t support United as they are richer than most of the teams they play. They have not had it their own way in recent years however, with the rise of Chelsea, owned by a massively wealthy Russian oligarch, and Manchester City, taken over as a PR project by the Abu Dhabi Royal family, who have unlimited oil wealth. So Man Utd fans have had to get used to being financial underdogs when squaring up to these particular rivals. But usually they play sides that are a lot poorer than them and so have a massive advantage. It seems so unfair to me , even though I know the first rule of life is that it is inherently unfair. I naturally support most sides that play them because it is a David vs Goliath situation. In their post war history Man Utd have had to play second fiddle to Tottenham in the 1960s, Leeds United in the early 70s and Liverpool in the 70s and 80s. Arsenal became big rivals in the 90s and noughties. However for much of that time United have been either at or near the top of the top league and a big explanation for that has to be their wealth. Now that the Premier League is awash with obscene amounts of TV money, the disparity between rich and poor clubs has become ever wider. I now also dislike Chelsea and Man City because their enormous spending power has swept away any idea of fair play in the football world.  They, Man Utd and a few others, remind me that top league football is now a big, capitalistic venture rather than a fair sporting contest. Wealthy clubs poach poorer clubs’ players, coaches and managers.  They are able to build bigger grounds so they earn more from their supporters’ entrance fees. They use their wealth and power to influence the game’s authorities by bending financial fair play rules. The clubs of the Premier League, which replaced the old First Division in around 1990, broke away from the rest of the Football league so they could keep more of the lucrative TV money for themselves. Not surprisingly, Man United was a leading light in this move which has starved many poorer and lower league clubs of much needed cash.

So reason number one for my dislike is Man United’s immense wealth. I also dislike other clubs who have bought success rather than earning it through hard work, skill and patience.

Another reason for my dislike is media bias. This is something that I could well be imagining. After all, I am viewing the situation through a prism of pseudo “hatred”. It’s a bit rich I know, accusing the media of bias when I am biased myself. But this is part of the football soap-opera. Most if not all football fans howl about perceived injustices meeted out to their club while other clubs apparantly receive more favourable treatment. So here is my irrational rant. I think that commentators are supposed to be neutral, dispassionate and objective. But it seems to be that when they are describing a Man Utd match they often look at events from United’s point of view. When a goal is scored by their opponants it is seen as a setback for United . When United score they purr with delight. When Man Utd are only 6th in the top league it is perceived as a crisis and described so in the media. When this happened recently, the manager was duly sacked because United fans expect a constant diet of success. Thus their recent revival has been met with glee in the press with constant articles about how the caretaker manager, Solskjaer, should now be appointed on a permanent basis. Why all this focus on and fuss about one club and their pampered supporters? The other night when United scored their last minute, disputed winner against Paris St Germain, the Sky sports pundits couldn’t wipe the smiles from their faces and one was punching the air in delight. Hardly objective commentary. You might say they were just being patriotic except that there are very few English players in the current United squad and the team is managed by a Norwegian who took over from a Portuguese. The match was just one bunch of highly paid foreign mercenaries against another.( Paris St Germain are awash with money as well.) Would such biased jubilation be displayed if another team had won? Social media such as BBC Sport online, trumpeted United’s “sensational” last minute win with banner head lines. To be so overtly celebrating the victory of a club that has been sated with success over the years seemed to be a bit over-the top. But I would say that wouldn’t I? Some would say it’s jealousy and sour grapes.

I think this media love-in with Manchester United goes right back to 1958 and the tragic Munich air disaster. In the 50s, United had been one of the first British teams to get involved in the fledgeling European Cup. A team of talented youngsters managed by Matt Busby had made it to the semi-final against Red Star Belgrade. They were affectionally known as the “Busby Babes.” They won their match in the then capital of Yugoslavia. On the return flight their plane had to refuel in Munich, Germany. Taking off in very wintry conditions the plane crashed on the runway. The pilot had failed to go through the proper de-icing procedure. 20 of the 44 on board died at the scene and 3 more later died in hospital. Several of the dead were young team members. Tragically, the Busby babes had been decimated. Understandably, there was a great outpouring of public grief back in England. I was only 8 at the time but I remember my whole family being stunned. In the wake of this disaster came a powerful surge of sympathy for the bereaved, the survivors and the club as a whole. I’m sure that’s when Manchester United found a special place in the hearts of many football supporters, across the whole country and the World beyond.

I vividly remember one incident. A popular TV quiz show at the time was “Double Your Money.” Contestants answered increasingly difficult questions and the prize money was doubled for each correct answer. For the final question which was worth a thousand pounds( a lot of money in those days), the contestant had to sit in a small, soundproof box . Bobby Charlton, a teenage survivor of the air crash came on the show — an early example of a “celebrity” getting involved in a TV show to boost its ratings. Charlton got to the last question but expressed extreme nervousness about going into the claustraphobic “box” because of the ordeal he had suffered in the aeroplane. Not surprisingly, there was great sympathy for his plight and he was given special permission to answer the final question without entering the confines of the “box.” I think he got it right! This incident revived the special sympathy and affection that the terrible air-crash had garnered for United. A decade after the crash, in 1968, a new version of the Busby babes, including Charlton, became the first English team to win the European Cup when they beat Benfica 4-1 in the final. This triumph further cemented their place as a “special” team in the hearts of many fans. You could say that they were England’s first “celebrity” club, reaching out to many people way beyond Manchester.

Man Utd’s reputation as the country’s most glamorous club was further enhanced by its attraction of star players such as Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best. Best in particular became of of Britain’s first major sports celebrities, his glamorous life-style of “wine, women and song” as well as his brilliant play, attracting constant attention from the media. At one point, Best, with his long shaggy hair, was dubbed “the 5th Beatle.”

Reading all this, you might think that I too would have become a massive Man Utd fan. However, being an awkward, perverse sort of character, my dislike of them grew in inverse proportion to the affection of others. The more popular they became, the more I disliked them. I disliked what I preceived to be their preferential treatment by the media. To me, there always seemed to be a media bias in United’s favour ( there still is in my view.) This offended my sense of fairness. Being an idealist, I believed all clubs should be treated equally. Thus, I naturally gravitated to less glamorous, less wealthy and less successful clubs. Fir instance, as well as supporting my home town, lower-league club, Chesterfield FC, I had a soft spot for little, unfashionable Burnley back in the 1960s. I actually lived inManchester when I was a student and young teacher from 1968 to 72 but chose to watch Manchester City rather than join the chorus of adulation for United down the road. I did go to United’s Old Trafford a few times and marvelled at the skills of Best, Law and Charlton, but I was always supporting the opposition. I remember Best scoring a brilliant solo goal against Sheffield United but didn’t cheer it because I was shouting for “The Blades.”

Those experiences in the 50s and 60s set the pattern for subsequent decades, right up to the present time. Manchester United have continued to be Britain’s most “glamorous” club and the medias “darlings”, even though they spent quite a few years in the football wilderness. They enjoyed sustained success under Alex Ferguson from the 1990s  onwards, and. in my opinion, have bagged much more than their fair share of media attention. They are one of the most popular clubs around the world, probably only second to Real Madrid. People like success, so “fair weather” fans gravitate towards the most successful and richest clubs, to bask in their reflected glory. Supplementing and enhancing their football fame, United also have a prominant role in today’s “celebrity” culture. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest clebrities of all, David Beckham, played for Manchester United.

All this is anathema to me. I hate the vacuousness of the celebrity world and the media circus that follows it. Man Utd is not the only club involved of course, especially now that others have come into the money, but they are still leading players. Celebrity and wealth lead, in my opinion, to arrogance. Alex Ferguson, their most successful manager, personified this arrogance in my view. He talked dismissively of opponants without giving them proper respect. He teased and taunted them unmercifully. I remember Kevin Keegan’s famous on screen meltdown when, as manager of Newcastle United, he had been subjected to months of Ferguson’s barbed comments. Ferguson also allowed his players to aggressively surround referees and linespeople to try to bully them into changing their decisions. Alex Ferguson could be very aggressive himself, having been brought up in Govan, a very tough area of Glasgow. He was famous for his “hairdryer treatment” of his own players, tearing into them and if he wasn’t pleased with their performance. I don’t think he minded humiliating or frightening people with his withering remarks and naked bullying. After a cup defeat by Arsenal, he famously entered the dressing room in a fuming mood and kicked a football boot across the room. It famously hit David beckham in the face. Ferguson could be charming at times, but this intimidating nature would be smouldering, just below the surface. A bigger contrast with Arsenal’s erudite, intellectual, multi-lingual manager, Arsene Wenger. would be hard to imagine. I would find it impossible to support a club with a manager like Ferguson. To many fans, hungry for success at any price, the end justified the means. But I am repelled by such an approach to football management. To me it seemed that Alex Ferguson and Man Utd were a perfect fit.

United’s recent treatment of their post-Ferguson managers has been another source of my disapproval. David Moyes, a decent, earnest, hard-working football man, was sacked in his first season because he did not achieve instant success. Louis Van Gaal, a very experienced and previously successful Dutch manager, was sacked 2 days after United had one the FA Cup under his guidance. What was his crime? — well, his team were not playing the free- flowing, attacking football in the “United way.” Van Gaal’s treatment was particularly shoddy as the whole of the country knew of his demise before he was officially told. Even the “great” Jose Mourinho was given the boot because he was not meeting the insatiable United demand for attractive as well as successful football. Man Utd are far from unique in treating their employees poorly of course. Chelsea have become serial sackers of managers and even Leicester got rid of the sainted Claudio Ranieri just months after their incredible Premier League triumph.

I think certain clubs, including Manchester United, have an inflated sense of entitlement. They think it’s their destiny to be at the top and soon get restless and dissatisfied if a few matches are lost. I think such “fans” would do well to follow a less rich and powerful club for a while, perhaps one that is perennially struggling in the lower leagues and suffering from money shortages. They would then discover what being a true supporter is all about, one who supports his/her club through thick and thin irrespective of its success on the field.

I don’t really “hate” Manchester United of course. It’s all part of the black and white emotions that football fans exhibit in their alternative world. Let’s just say that because of: their wealth, their power, their celebrity status, the media bias towards them, their treatment of some of their personnel, their false sense of entitlement and, in my opinion, their arrogance, I don’t like them very much!