Uefa Cup Final 2008
Manchester Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Probably remembered for the wrong reasons, but given that 200,000 were in Manchester ,the vast majority had a great time there despite the result. Great day for me personally, as I never thought i would see my team compete in a European Final .
Met my mate, who had travelled up from Newbury, at Piccadilly Station and we headed round to the hotel. For the two weeks prior to the game the authorities in Manchester had bee urging people not to travel unless they had a ticket for the game. This was never going to happen, and we knew everyone and their granny intended being in Manchester for the final.
Walked through Piccadilly Gardens,which had been set up as a Fan Zone, and there was a large TV screen up, for showing the game later. There were 3 areas in the city centre set up like this. Even though it wasn't yet midday,the game wasn't until 7-45pm, there were thousands of people already gathered here. we went into the Fan Zone as they were selling official match programmes and we thought we would get them now and leave them in the hotel so that they stayed in pristine condition. It wasn't that pleasant, with the amount of people drinking, drunk and many already crashed out.
There were empty cans and broken glass all over the place. we got what we came for and headed out through the streets that were crammed with people. It was going to get a lot worse later as the majority of the people had still to arrive :O.
My old man and hsi mate and sone joined us and had something to eat at the hotel.
To get there we had to go back up and through Piccadilly Gardens and it was horrendous. You literally had to squeeze your way through the assembled crowd, and this was on the streets surrounding the Fan Zone and this was still with nearly 3 hours to go until kick off.
No problems getting in and when we got up the wwhole Rangers area had been set out with Union Flags on every seat. The tension in the build up was immense, as this was a great chance for us, but unfortunately the manager decided to play the same way as we had in qualifying, which had been dull but effective but was never going to work on a one off occasion like this and we lost the game 2-0.
Made our way back down towards the city centre,and all was quiet. It wasn't until we got to an industrial estate that we started to get an idea that things were not well. In the industrial estate were between 30 and 40 police mini buses and all the cops were out and putting on their full riot gear. when we down to Piccailly Station there was a queue that had come all the way along the street and back under the bridge as we walked down. Thought it was for taxis at first but it was just to try and get into the train station. There was little or no traffic on the roads and as we got into the city centre I noticed a bar that still had it's lights on and was empty. i thought it strange as I would have expected them all to stay open late as this would probably have been one of their busiest days ever.
Then we started coming across groups of police hanging about on corners in their riot gear and then the roads were full of bricks and broken glass and every pub we passed was shut and we started guess that it must all have kicked off in town. With everywhere being shut the streets were remarkably quiet, whither folk had wandered somewhere further afield in search of more booze, or the police had gone in and dispersed them all I don't know, but there were very few people about, especially compared to what it had been like a few hours before.
We went back to the hotel and found the bar there still open, so we were sorted.
Turned out trouble had flared in the Piccadilly Gardens fan Zone when the big screen had gone off just before the game was about to start.
The police released a whole load of CCTV footage to make it look like they were the subject of an orchestrated attck, but in these days of mobile phone cameras there are other clips of police over reaction as they lost control and had no plan on how to deal with things or the numbers of people. Given the seriousness of it, the fact that we weren't banned from European competitions for the following season shows where the football authorities pinned the blame.
Still it was something I never really thought I would get to do, to go and see me team in a European Final, as it had been 36 years since that last happened, and in those days there wasn't the great financial divide between the large and small clubs. However with the result and the aftermath it is something that is rarely talked about here now :(