MUSC Berwick celebrate 30-year anniversary

Monday 05 June 2023 12:00

Way up in the border country that separates England and Scotland, there lies an unlikely outpost of the Manchester United fan base: the Berwick-upon-Tweed supporters’ club.

The town is less than three miles from Scotland, and within 70 miles of both Edinburgh and Newcastle. You might think it a place full of Magpies, or even fans of Hearts and Hibernian. And it is, to some degree. 
But within that melting pot there also resides a small, fiercely loyal band of United devotees, who have been slogging it up and down the A1 since the group was formed over three decades ago.
“All the people in Berwick were already going to games,” says secretary Margaret Walker, “but we were having to stay somewhere overnight. We were doing that [individually] for a long time, and it wasn’t until 1992 that we all put our heads together and said: ‘This is stupid. We need to go en bloc!’ ”
Margaret (right) and fellow fan Rebecca Wilcox share a laugh with fellow north-easterner Bryan Robson before the Wolves match.
An advert was placed in a local paper, and 50 people promptly turned up at a hotel for a first meeting. The group became official in ’93, formed by a cast of Reds from across the North East area.
“Barry Moorhouse [former membership secretary] came up, gave us £100 and we’ve never looked back really,” continues Walker. “We’ve got a cross-section of supporters, obviously. There are people that come from Scotland, because this is the best place to get a pick-up for them. I’ve got a lot of people from Ashington, where Bobby Charlton’s from.
“For a 3pm kick-off, we leave Berwick about 7.30am, and then we’ve got an inordinate amount of stops. The next is just 30 miles down the road, a place called Alnwick. Then we’ll pick up people from Ashington, Blythe... we don’t deviate off the A1 so people come to us. We’ll pick up at Washington, Stannington, Bosworth and even Wetherby, in Yorkshire.”
Many of the original members still travel today, but there are new generations coming through too, despite United’s relatively fallow years since Sir Alex Ferguson, and the recent rise of nearby Newcastle United.
“We take a 50-seater to every game, which is a lot of work!” chuckles Margaret, whose husband – a Rangers supporter – watches her trudge off to sort branch arrangements and various bits of paperwork most nights of the week.
“He comes in about 10pm and goes: ‘Office closed!’”she laughs. “It’s a full-time job, with my other job! People might only come to one game a season; that doesn’t bother me. But it’s the satisfaction you get, when people who have come for years come back with their children and their grandchildren and their faces say: ‘This won’t be our last time.’ You know they’ll be back.”
Margaret reps Berwick at the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona.
And while matchdays are an endurance test, due to the 400-mile round trip, there are some advantages to spending hours on hired coaches.
“We’ve even had a marriage from the bus!” beams Walker as she shares the story of couple Michael and Rebecca. “Michael came on his own; Rebecca with her mum. He spied her on the bus and asked me if ‘she was on Facebook’. I said you’d need to look! They’re now married with two young boys, so he must have checked her out!”
However, relations are less cordial with supporters of another famous ‘United’ – the one that hails from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. “Don’t get me started,” she snipes. “They’ve all come out of the woodwork [since the takeover]! Obviously that’s our nearest Premier League ground. When they beat us 5-0 in ’96, someone stuffed 50 pages of newspaper [cuttings] through my letterbox! I knew who had done it, and I got them back two years later, when Arsenal beat them in the FA Cup final. I sprayed ‘2-0 to the Arsenal’ in foam on the front of his car!”
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Passions clearly run high in Northumberland, but the really positive news is that United’s support here remains steadfast. Ahead of the recent Wolves game, Berwick MUSC was invited pitchside to celebrate its 30-year anniversary. Fans enjoyed a reception with Bryan Robson and Gary Pallister, before being presented with a special commemorative United shirt.
“It was the icing on the cake for a lot of us, because some of us have been there from 30 years ago,” smiles Margaret. “And Robbo knew a lot of the places where our members were from, being from the North East. Someone arranged for a YouTube video too, with messages from Alex Stepney, Sammy McIlroy, David May. But when Bruno [Fernandes] came on at the end, it was fantastic; I was so emotional.”
Few sets of supporters could be more deserving of such treatment, given the hundreds of thousands of miles the branch has racked up over the years. Happy anniversary, MUSC Berwick, and long may you thrive.