Uefa Cup Final 2008

Manchester Travel Blog

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Zenit St. Petersburg fans in Piccadilly Gardens night before the match

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.

Bee In The Bang

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.

COMS
We went round to hotel and checked in (see seperate review of that). I had been in touch with my dad who was travelling down seperately and they were stuck in an 8 mile tailback trying to get into Manchester. Having seen what was happening on the streets, and the atmosphere that was already starting to feel wrong, I told him to head round to the hotel. They were a couple of hours before they got there as they were directed out to Old Trafford,by the police and had to park at the cricket ground there. There simply wasn't room for anything else in the city centre, and by now the trams had been forced to stop as they couldn't get through the sea of people.

My old man and hsi mate and sone joined us and had something to eat at the hotel.

Me and my dad :-)
Around 4pm we decided to head out into the streets and they were heaving. I'd been intouch with a few other mates, and they were round in the Albert Square Fan Zone and we headed round to meet them. Already around the big screen just about evey vantage point was already taken by ticketless fans who intended watching the game here. At least at this one the entry and exit seemed to be a bit more controlled and we spent about an hour here before heading up to the City Of Manchester Stadium.

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.

Fans gather at one of the big screens
Not a very scenic walk up to the stadium and had to go through a housing estate, where I'm sure the TV series Shameless is set :D. Having made sure my dad had got there safely we split up as we had tickets for different sections of the ground. My mate and I decided to go for a couple of pints in a place called Mary D's,that had been organised as a meeting venue by one of the supporters organisations. It wasn't as busy as I had expected it to be, and we stayed for a couple before going into the ground.

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.

Printworks
Still pretty gutted by it, even though we didn't deserve anything from the game.

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.

Me and mates

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.

Mary D's
Still accusations to this day the the plug was pulled on the orders of the police as the situation in there was out of control. This led to violent clashes between fans an police and the police lost it for a bit. Some two years later there are still people being arrested for what happened down there. While there is no excuse for the violence  a lot of the fault lies with the organisers, who really just weren't prepared for the invasion that would happen, despite being forewarned of the numbers that would be there. By saying for weeks 'Don't Come' they were in effect saying you are not welcome and that set the tone. It was only in the last few days leading up to the final that they started trying to do something, but it was to little to late.
Pub across from stadium
There were far bigger and better venues, that could have been a lot easier to control, like Old Trafford Stadium, that they could have used.

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 :(      

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Zenit St. Petersburg fans in Picca…
Zenit St. Petersburg fans in Picc…
Bee In The Bang
Bee In The Bang
COMS
COMS
Me and my dad :-)
Me and my dad :-)
Fans gather at one of the big scre…
Fans gather at one of the big scr…
Printworks
Printworks
Me and mates
Me and mates
Mary Ds
Mary D's
Pub across from stadium
Pub across from stadium
Flags laid out on seats
Flags laid out on seats
Welcome screen
Welcome screen
Stewart and me in hte ground
Stewart and me in hte ground
looking forward to the game
looking forward to the game
Filling up
Filling up
Still some waiting to get in
Still some waiting to get in
Banners
Banners
Teams come onto pitch
Teams come onto pitch
COMS Stand
COMS Stand
Game On
Game On
players wait for presentation
players wait for presentation
Going up for medals
Going up for medals
Zenit celebrate
Zenit celebrate
Zenit banner
Zenit banner
Players Thank The Support
Players Thank The Support
McCoist and Cuellar
McCoist and Cuellar
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photo by: klaaRA