'My love for the club is still the same'

Friday 27 January 2023 06:00

I was born in Manchester and grew up in Ancoats, so I couldn’t be any closer to Manchester city centre if I tried. With that in mind it was inevitable that I was going to be a red or a blue.

My dad is a big City fan, so you’d think that he’d have shoved them down my throat from an early age, but he left me to it to make up my own mind. Probably the best bit of parenting anyone could do really. 

I can’t remember the exact time I decided that it was United that won my heart, because I don’t think there ever was one. All I can remember is that United were always my team and City never entered my head. 

Even when my dad would stick the results on the telly or flick through the teletext to see if his team had won, I wouldn’t be interested – I’d just be looking for United.
Ryan is one of four members of The Slow Readers Club, who began performing together back in 2009.
Football back in the late ’80s wasn’t as accessible as it is now and, as a young kid that didn’t go to the games because my dad didn’t support my team, it was difficult to “follow” United. That didn’t mean I was less of a fan than my mates who went to the games though. It just meant that I had to support them from our house, which was about four miles away.

Then one day, out of the blue, my uncle asked my dad if it was alright for him to take me to the match. 

Fortunately, my dad was fine with it and two days later I was walking up the concourse and out to Old Trafford. 

Honestly, the first time you walk up the steps and see the ground and pitch in front of you is something you just can’t describe, so I’m not going to try. Anyone who has been to a game and is reading this will know exactly what I mean.
It was 1989 and we beat Southampton 2-1. Being there and joining in with the songs I’d learnt off my mates who went to the games, and cheering goals with random people I’d never met before, was something I’ll never forget.

Aside from going to the games, the feeling of making new signings is another buzz you get as a fan. 

I remember us signing Van Nistelrooy and Veron in the same summer and thinking we were going to be unbeatable. Obviously, there was the Cantona signing too, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Wayne Rooney. Just a few of the buys we’ve made that gave me a similar buzz to winning a trophy. 

Me and my mates were so buzzing in 1998 when we signed Jaap Stam. There was a rumour he was joining United and, on that day, six of us got on the bus and went down to The Cliff and stood there for three hours in the rain. 

The security staff told us he wasn’t there, but Andy Cole was leaving training and I went up to his car and asked if Stam was inside and he looked at me and my mates and gave us a wink. We knew.
Jaap Stam was an integral part of United's 1998/99 Treble-winning side.
Finally, Stam emerged, and he came straight over to us (we were the only people there) and he shook each one of our hands and told us he couldn’t wait to get started. The following season he made history with the rest of the team. 

Unfortunately, I never managed to get to the final in Barcelona the following season, but I’ve been to Europe to see United over the years. I’ve driven to Paris, flew to Rome via Edinburgh and Bologna and travelled to Monaco via Milan and Nice to name a few. 

The feeling of travelling with your mates to see your team is one of the best feelings in the world. There’s something about being away with United. Although we have often been favourites to win when on these travels, you feel like you’re the underdog because as fans you’re outnumbered and there’s an unspoken agreement that you have to give everything you have when cheering the team on. It’s addictive. You just feel like you’re one big family and you’re all there for the same reason. As a United fan you get a lot of stick from other fans at away grounds and I think the camaraderie between us makes us the best travelling fans in the world.

One game in particular springs to mind for me. 

We played Blackburn away in 2008. We were chasing a league title with Chelsea, Blackburn went 1-0 up early on and Brad Friedel was having an absolute worldie for them in net. We hit the post and the bar and he saved numerous chances. 

Around three minutes before the end, Carlos Tevez scored a header right in front of us to send us home with a point. The noise and buzz was something I’ll never forget. I think I was on row 10 before the goal and ended up hanging over the advertising boards at the front during the celebrations!
Carlos Tevez peels away to celebrate after rescuing a point at Ewood Park back in 2008.
We didn’t win the match or the league that day (we won it at Wigan a few weeks later) but it was a massive result and still to this day is probably the best single feeling I’ve ever had supporting United. I know that might not make sense, but if you know, you know. 

Fast-forward to today’s United and my love for the club is still the same. 

I think we have a genuine world-beater in Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes epitomises everything about United, Lisandro Martinez brings fire and passion to the team and Casemiro looks like he’s been playing in the Premier League for years. Not forgetting the manager. In Erik ten Hag I feel like we have somebody who knows what managing United is all about. He’s hungry, has a desire to succeed and you know that he won’t accept anything below the standard he expects. I think we’re in good hands for the future and I can’t wait to see how this period in our history pans out.
Ryan is full of praise for the influence of Ten Hag and Fernandes so far this season.
I’m really fortunate that I’m in a band that gets to play our songs to fans all over the UK and Europe. The emotion, togetherness and joy you feel at a gig is similar to what you feel at a football match. 

The two professions are poles apart, but the one thing they have in common is the most important thing: the fans. I love playing in a band and I absolutely love being a United fan.

The Slow Readers Club's new track Modernise is out now via streaming services. Forthcoming album Knowledge Freedom Power will be released on 24 February 2023.