|Gerry with a dawn scrapper|
|Perfect Spanish roach|
We shared a river bank again in December when roaching on the Ebro in Spain and got talking about football – as you do. Gerry has been an ardent supporter of Man U. since childhood and my local team is Southampton so he kindly invited me to watch the contest at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening. He also challenged me to a return fishing contest, for I had beaten him in Spain and he wanted revenge. [A full description of that match and witness statements etc. will follow in a future post].
|The greatest football club in the world?|
Gerry had kindly arranged for a tour of Old Trafford, so on Tuesday evening there I was at arguably the most famous football club in the world, standing by the hallowed turf in the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.
|Just a few of the stars|
|In the 'theatre of dreams'|
|They've won a few|
|Sir Alex didn't even put me on the bench|
As I didn’t expect our football team to beat Man U. and keen to keep up the honour of us ‘southern softies’, I had secretly prepared a deadly cheese paste to ensure I beat him in the fishing match, not a nice way to show gratitude but it had to be done!
|Coloured but fishable|
|Otters had been fishing here first|
|Should be chub here don't you think?|
|Gerry's not smiling as he nets my first chub - funny that!|
The match rules hadn’t been set, just so either of us could change them to ensure victory. Being the away team, Gerry gave me first choice of swim – I told you he was generous – which he immediately regretted because almost first cast my secret cheese paste that came with a government health warning had snared a modest chub from the heavily coloured flood water. 1: 0 to Southampton. I wondered if the score would be prophetic. [I doubted it as I had predicted a hat trick for Rooney].
|A spectacular kitchen|
No more scores by half-time when Gerry brewed a life-saving cup of tea and tasty bacon roll. I had hoped to fish a couple of chub swims to die for but the wind was so strong and the crack willows so tall that I didn’t intend to do so literally, even if it was a match to the death.
|It was a big minnow|
Anticipation builds as you walk to Old Trafford for the match, thousands converging from all over the world. And when greeted with friendly warmth and fed a great dinner in the executive lounge you realise that you’ve come to a very special place.
|Just before kick off|
On entering the stadium, the sight of this massive ground filled to the roof – 75,600 to be precise is impressive and when United equalised the noise of celebration was breathtaking. Southampton had scored first … to stunned silence from the home fans but much jubilation from the Saints supporters.
|Home fans nervous already|
|Man U on top in first half|
|Rooney scores his first|
|The Saints battered them in the second half|
However, the second half was all Southampton, silencing the home fans as the Saints battered against United’s famous defence, nearly equalising but for a fine De Gea save from Lambert’s free kick. The Saints fans were in full voice and I thought I might have to offer the Kleenex back to Gerry as he was apoplectic with exasperation.
|The Reds fans weren't happy|
Despite Southampton's dominance, 2:1 it remained, reversing the result of the fishing match. So honours were even, especially as Sir Alex said that it was the best any opponent had played against them at home all season. I felt proud just to have watched them.
|Van Persie free kick|
|It was an honour to be there|
What an experience it had been, the spectacle, the colour, the noise, the friendship and the brilliant football ; sharing all this was one of life’s great privileges. Thank you Gerry, it was really kind of you, though it might be wise not to expect too much generosity from me when we next hold a fishing match!