Club photographer: When I was trapped in the Kop

Friday 22 January 2021 08:49

Manchester United photographer Ash Donelon is a lifelong Red who has “the dream job”, yet even he admits there was one occasion when he wanted to be “anywhere else on Earth”.

The avid supporter has been capturing the club’s images for several years now as part of a talented team, initially specialising on our international fan parties before graduating to first-team matches. 

As Ash amusingly explains, his first experience of Liverpool versus United arrived at Anfield in 2020 and unfortunately it didn’t go to plan, starting with a uniform that would be a problem for any Reds supporter. 

“Although I have worked for United for several years, due to covering fan parties I’ve only ever photographed two Liverpool v United games live and the first was at Anfield in 2020,” he explains.

“The first thing that sticks out in my memory is, upon my arrival, I was told I must wear a Liverpool FC branded bib – which, as a lifelong United fan, made me feel somewhat violated [laughs]. At least I still had my United gear on underneath, though, so I didn’t feel like a complete traitor.
Our man Ash wasn't pleased when presented with this bib to wear at Anfield.
“When I got to pitch side and showed my accreditation the steward quipped ‘oh you work for United do you, what part of London are ya from?’, which set the tone for the day I was about to have.

“I wanted to get a photo of the famous Kop packed with fans, before heading over to the dugout to capture the teams walking out. After taking the shot, what I didn’t realise was I was now stood directly in front of the Kop at the precise moment they were unfurling a gigantic ‘tifo’ banner.

“It had been designed to cover the whole stand and, before I knew what was happening, someone behind me shoved the banner over my head and I was completely enveloped with no exit in sight.
“Being a United Club Photographer is my absolute dream job, yet somehow it had all gone horribly wrong as I was now trapped beneath an enormous Liverpool banner, wearing a Liverpool top, surrounded by thousands of scousers singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ at the tops of their voices. 

“It was a surreal experience and time seemed to stand still. Looking back, it was probably a good thing I had a Liverpool top on as I don’t think I would’ve been very popular if they knew I was working for the enemy. Anyway, after what seemed like an eternity, the banner finally started to move across the stand and I was able to escape to my pitchside position to shoot the match.

“Sadly for us the game wasn’t a particularly close affair and we lost 2-0. When Mo Salah scored in the 93rd minute, the whole place (bar the away section) went wild and I wanted to be literally anywhere else on Earth. At that point the same steward from earlier on, now beaming from ear to ear, said to me “ah well lad, at least you can claim your mileage back.” 

“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and the steward and I took the back-and-forth banter in the right spirit, while doing our respective jobs, but I couldn’t wait to take off that cursed Liverpool bib and get back on the M62 as quickly as possible.”

Look out for Ash's photos on Sunday when United host Liverpool in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round at Old Trafford.