Thursday, 7 August 2014

Salford City 5 Class of ’92 1

Pre-season friendly
Attendance: 12,000 (sell-out)

Well, I’m glad I checked the ticket carefully. Tonight’s game sadly wasn’t at Salford’s own ground but at the city’s new rugby league stadium which reduced its novelty appeal considerably although you could understand the commercial rationale behind the switch. I’d been expecting something closer to the kickabout that the Class of ’92 had with construction workers on the roof of their Old Trafford hotel; suddenly everything had gone a bit too Premier League – and I’m talking about the Barclays rather than step four Northern version where Salford competes. Ho-hum. I had tickets and my boy was keen to see some stars so over the Pennines we went …

I may have been disappointed with venue selection but had no qualms about the Class’s stellar line-up. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville and Nicky Butt (who have bought Salford City which is how this fixture came about) were all on show along with Raimond Van Der Gouw, Tomasz Kuszczak, David May, Mikael Silvestre, Robbie Savage (“booh!”), Quenton Fortune, cricketers Michael Vaughan and Steve Harmison and comedian Jack Whitehall.

Salford were by far the more spritely and eager side, keen to impress the club’s new owners and motivated by the occasion. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare this season. They scored twice in the first half but could’ve got four of five had it not been for Van Der Gouw’s saves. Each goal was greeted by a tune over the PA which was a necessary prompt since they were scored at the far end, I wasn’t paying much attention and there was no cheering. In contrast to Salford the Class were decidedly sluggish (with the exception of Giggs) and clearly demonstrated the extent to which age takes its toll on ability. Their only shot on goal was a penalty cheekily dinked in by Giggs on the stroke of half-time.

The game had a decidedly dozy feel to it, feeling more like a testimonial for the Class at a lower league ground with Salford as guests at the party they were actually hosting. I struggled to get into it. That’s friendlies for you, I guess. The best feature of the first half was that it was only 40 mins long and the interval was 10 mins which made up for the delay to the kick-off by 25 mins because of traffic congestion outside the ground. Thankfully, the second period was much more entertaining because Salford were attacking our end, the floodlights added some atmosphere and, moreover, the crowd livened things up.

The highlight of the night was when a fella in a baseball cap ran onto the pitch then acrobatically swung himself up onto the cross bar, sat in the top netting and bounced up and down, raising the rear stanchion of the turf. (See here for LOL clip). Four yellow jackets tried to get him down but he got his feet caught in the netting and ended up being dragged out of it, losing his shoes (and nearly ankles) in the process. Twice later two small groups of lads also ran onto the pitch to embrace or shake hands with the stars. The invasions were like looting: for once you probably won’t get apprehended so why not do it?

The team in red and white (Salford) continued to dominate the team that used to play in red and white, knocking in the last couple of goals with an almost arrogant nonchalance. I was surprised the match hadn’t been more of a contest.

The PA announcer implored spectators not to invade the pitch saying that such incursion might curtail interviews with the players and other post-match entertainment. Bollocks to that! At the final whistle on the fans all went – and had a mass kickabout too until a steward wrestled the ball away. Spoil sport.

Our route back to the car along a public footpath between a sewage works and the Manchester Ship Canal and under the M60 wasn’t very appealing by day and even less so after dark. What’s more, we were the only people using it. The path had been blocked off half way along by Herras fencing. The night watchman from the sewage works couldn’t open it up so two youths with scooters (who I was quick to befriend with an account of the match) lifted it up for us and we slid underneath. A couple of hundred yards and several glances over our shoulders later and we were back to what had originally looked like a nifty parking spot down a cul-de-sac. I was reminded of my escape from Droylsden as, with a sigh of relief, we joined the motorway. The only time I like to see signs to Leeds is when I’m getting away from an edgy part of Manchester.

White wash out: My season started unofficially with Knaresborough Town v. Blackburn Rovers U21s on July 18. Still digesting the World Cup, I didn’t fancy the whole match so watched 15 mins through the fence on the way back from swimming with my son. The towel came in handy; it bucketed down. We saw the first goal. Town then went 4-1 up before losing 5-4, three of the Blackburn goals coming in the last five minutes. Should’ve watched the whole thing!

Perfect pitch: As a sequel to my previous post about football grounds spotted on holiday here’s a beautifully sited and maintained pitch with new pavilion in the village of Scourie where I stayed in the north-west Scottish Highlands.

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