Trip to Old Trafford.

Brought up in the small town of Silsden situated cosily in the West Riding of Yorkshire I had been passionate about football since I could remember.   Why would I support Manchester United?   I cannot be sure because in those post war years United were nowhere near the glamourous outfit that they later became.   I do remember seeing a newsreel at Silsden’s Picture House featuring that old United stalwart Johnny Carey leading out the team to face amateurs Walthamstow Avenue in a FA Cup game.   The year of that game was early in 1953 which made me a skinny whippersnapper just turning nine years old.  The game finished in an ignominious 1 – 1 draw but somehow that did not detract from my childish love of the team in red (the newsreel was black and white).

Living in Silsden gave its locals advantages that most of them would not have even thought of or appreciated.   On the one hand the small town was set in the countryside of the Aire Valley, close to Skipton, Ilkley and the picturesque Yorkshire dales, therefore, country life was readily available.   On the other hand, however, the industrial centres of Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield prospered menacing close by.   In these centres professional football clubs flourished, therefore, the weekly drama and excitement that they provided was on offer within comparatively easy reach for us country yokels .  

So why would a kid residing in West Yorkshire nail his loyalties to the Manchester United flag?   Well it seems that the unknown often holds an attraction that more local teams find hard to compete with, besides, my elder brother Tom supported Arsenal, and his best pal, Malcolm Archer supported Newcastle United of all teams, so what kind of sense did that make?   Another contributing factor could have been the countless games we youngsters played in the school yards, back streets and playing fields.   We always ‘bags’ be some or another glamour team from the first division.  

My best school friend during this period was a boy called Arthur Hall.   Arthur lived in the next village of Addingham, which was an unnoteworthy community in itself, but gained some credibility by being a conduit to the more illustrious destinations of Ilkley, Skipton and the historical Bolton Abby.  

Arthur was a Manchester City supporter, his idol being their German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann (incidentally Bert was my Manager at Stockport County in later years).   Arthur and I contrived a plan to travel to Manchester to watch our beloved teams in action, however, which club would we visit first?   Unfortunately, I lost the toss so our first venture to the hallowed city of Manchester would be to Maine Rd.

Manchester City V Everton.

Very little remains in my memory of the Manchester City venture except that their visitors were Everton.   I remember that we stationed ourselves at the front of the massive terrace directly opposite the main Grandstand and the tunnel from where the teams emerged at kick off time (incidentals such as warm ups were not deemed necessary to those players).   

In those days away teams often brought mascots to entertain the home crowd in some way or other.   Everton’s mascot was a lady dressed in blue and white who strode around the perimeter of the pitch throwing toffees into the crowd.   This seemed quite bizarre and was lost on me, however, I did not realize at the time that Everton were nicknamed the toffee men.  

I cannot even remember whether Bert Trautman lined up for City but for some reason I can remember a City player called Cliff Sear at left back.   In my mind’s eye I can still see him flying through the air to intercept a pass out to the Everton right wing, the City crowd going into raptures about it.   One other thing that sticks in my mind is that Everton’s centre forward was a burley character called Dave Hickson.   Incidentally, Hickson had once graced the colours of my, yet to become future professional club; Huddersfield Town).  

Unfortunately for City and Everton supporters I cannot recall the result of the game, but no doubt I enjoyed it.   In those days I could get excited watching Silsden versus Steeton in the Keighley League, never mind seeing two giants of English football in combat in front of large numbers of fans.

With the benefit of Google I refreshed my memory and traced the teams and the statistics of that day, thus confirming that Bert Trautmann did turn out for City.  It must have been an enjoyable game for City; look at the score.

Saturday 7th December 1957.   Manchester City 6 v Everton 2.   Attendance 20,912.

City: Trautmann, Leivers, Sear, Barnes, Ewing, Warhurst, Barlow, Hayes, Johnstone, McAdams, Fagan.     Scorers: Barnes (3 penalties), McAdams 2 Hayes 1.

Everton: Dunlop, Sanders, Tansey, Donovan, Jones, Rea, Harris, Temple, Hickson, Thomas.   Scorers: Harris 2.

Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers 1958.

More than 60 years have elapsed since my school pal Arthur Hall and I set off on our meticulously planned excursion to Old Trafford.   We contrived to meet at the main bus station in Bradford (Arthur arrived from Addingham via Ilkley; me from Silsden via Keighley) and we made our way to the Railway Station to catch the train to Manchester.   To remind older readers of the expenses of those days I have set out the following outgoings.   I received nine shillings from my morning paper round and this had to cover my outgoings.  The overall trip included, bus fares; Silsden to and from Bradford, Train fare return Bradford to Manchester, bus fares to and from Manchester Central to Old Trafford, a pork pie for lunch, entrance to Old Trafford, and a match programme.   Acknowledging, that as 13year olds, we got half fares on all our transport, and youngster’s prices at the turnstiles.  It still shows how a few shillings could go a long way in those days.

Our journey to Manchester began as the massive noisy steam train rattled its way from Bradford heading south west.   After leaving Huddersfield in its wake I can remember having an uneasy feeling of anxiety, which I put down to departing the familiar Yorkshire territory and impinging on the more formidable industrial Lancashire towns such as Rochdale and Oldham.  I had of course visited the county of Lancashire on numerous occasions when venturing out to watch Burnley.  But this was different; on those occasions we travelled to Burnley in the safe clutches of a chartered ‘Thompsons’ bus, which took us  direct from Silsden and delivered us back after the game.   Not only that comfortingly, Burnley was only just located only a few miles over the Yorkshire/Lancashire border; now Arthur and I were travelling deep into Lancashire on our own.    

On arrival in Manchester Central we somehow found our way to Old Trafford.     A double decker bus was the mode of transport, and I can recall being surprised at the close proximity of the Lancashire County Cricket Ground, also called Old Trafford. 

We managed to negotiate our way through the massive but friendly and eagerly anticipating crowd and, as at Maine Rd, we were able to position ourselves at the front of the terraces opposite the main grandstand.

By now, at the advanced age of 13yrs, I was a veteran spectator of League football having watched matches at Bradford (City and Avenue), Burnley, Leeds and Huddersfield but the Old Trafford atmosphere was something special to me.   A crowd of 40,000 plus packed into the ground, and they were not disappointed.   United murdered the hapless Bolton Wanderers (Nat Lofthouse and all) by 7 goals to 2.   Bobby Charlton, still a teenager, netted a hat-trick, Dennis Viollet scored twice, Duncan Edwards and Albert Scanlon were the other names on the score sheet.   Surprisingly, my particular hero, centre forward Tommy Taylor was not amongst the goal getters.

Not much more of the event remains in my memory but on the final whistle we made our way, along with thousands of Mancunians, back to central Manchester where we had a tiring but uneventful return trip back to Yorkshire.

I arrived back in Silsden late in the evening reaching home to my parent’s mildly interested comments of, “which game have you been to today”?   My father was a little more taken aback when I said nonchalantly; “Old Trafford to watch Manchester United!”. 

Saturday January 18th 1958.  

Man United v Bolton Wanderers.  Attendance 41,141.

Score: 7 -2. Scorers: Charlton 3 Viollet 2 Edwards & Scanlon.  

United: Gregg, Foukes, Byrne, Colman, Jones, Edwards, Morgans, Charlton, Taylor, Viollet, Scanlon.

Bolton: Likely line up; I’m unable to confirm.  Hopkinson, Hartle, Banks, Hennin, Higgins, Birch, Hill, Lofthouse, Parry, Stevens, Holden.

Munich. 6th Feb 1958. 

Although I visited Old Trafford on several more occasions, in a playing and spectator capacity, this account of my first excursion to Old Trafford took place only a short time before the devastating effects of the Munich Air disaster.   The core of the team which I applauded just a few weeks previously were decimated on that fateful day in Germany.