Clarets, Cables & round the bend Robbie Savage

I write from Oxford Road in Manchester.

A yonner (someone from one of the former mill towns close to Manchester) has put a big ‘BFC’ flag on an apartment building overlooking Oxford Road train station, whose roof resembles a very poor man’s Sydney Opera House.

More people will see the flag each day than live in Burnley, where United play on Wednesday.

I first noticed it on Saturday before taking a train north to Lancaster to see our Joz play for Prescot Cables.

The train was full of City en-route to Blackburn and there were plenty of police at Bolton station ahead of their game against Sunderland.

There are eight Premier League teams in what used to be Lancashire and if Preston finally come up, teams from within a 40 minute drive of Manchester would make up almost half of the league.

The day before, I was invited into Channel M’s studio to preview the weekend’s football.

They wanted me with my serious football journalist hat on, rather than a Manchester United fanzine editor, and I was asked to offer thoughts on City’s game at Blackburn.

I couldn’t do it.

“Are you seriously asking me to be objective about Manchester City?” I asked the presenter. We moved on to talk about Wigan.

The following morning, the drizzle started just north of Bolton, but it couldn’t curb my excitement for the new season.

I took my fiancee on the promise that Lancaster was a nice city – and it is – but I was eager to get in their Giant Axe ground while she wanted to look at shoe shops.

My brother offered us free tickets, but I’m all for supporting non league clubs, even if the money ultimately goes the same way as at every other level of football – into players’ wage packets.

Joz told me that Lancaster were paying decent money this season, which immediately made them favourites against a Prescot team who are not.

I settled into a seat in the mainstand with a view over Lancaster Castle and the busy west coast rail line.

A man sat nearby and turned to a stranger on the row behind, before saying:

“What do you reckon to Norwich then?”

In any other area of society, that would invoke wild stares, but the stranger replied: “Two games isn’t much for a manager is it?” The pair never spoke again.

The Lancaster match-day programme achieved the honour of not listing a single Prescot player correct - nor a player any of the Prescot lads had even heard of.

Lancaster’s a good club though with a picturesque ground.

It was brightened further by the pastel shades worn by 10 young men who entered the turnstiles four minutes after kick-off, walked through the rain to the back of an uncovered terrace before launching into a chant of “We hate Morecambe and we hate Morecambe.”

Prescot held out until the 45th minute, when Lancaster scored their first of five. It was not pleasant to watch my brother suffer in his rapidly assembled side.

Sunday meant selling a new edition of United We Stand outside Old Trafford. The day I stop buzzing when I receive that freshly printed copy from the printers from will be the day I call UWS a day.

It was also a chance to catch up with so many readers who’ve supported us for so long.

We’re now in our 20th season, but each year I notice the people who sit near me in K Stand change a little – part of football’s often unfortunate gentrification.

For the first time, my season ticket behind the goal will cost more than £1000 including cup matches,  should United play a similar number of cup games as in recent seasons.

I listened to Radio 5’s commentary while watching the game and they had Robbie Savage as their guest.

He’s off his head. He couldn’t pronounce several Birmingham players, referred to United as ‘Man U’ and was as inarticulate as a Geordie toddler scoffing chips and cheese.

So why was it such compulsive listening?

He also told listeners that he’d seen Patrice Evra on the next sun lounger at the luxurious Sandy Lane hotel in Barbados, that he had a bigger garden than his Prestbury neighbour Alan Green and talked the commentator into comparing Cameron Jerome… with Karren Brady.

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