Why 'Jesus' was on the cover of United Review
There have been some great nicknames attached to hardcore United fans over the years – names like ‘Banana Bob’ and ‘Paraffin Pete’.
A unique moniker is a useful distinguisher in a huge fan base, and often entertaining. The star of United Review's latest handshake illustration, home-and-away fan Mark Gregory, of Urmston, has been following United since 1985 and, to most Reds, is simply known as ‘Jesus’.
For spreading the United gospel far and wide, maybe? Or his religious convictions, perhaps? The truth is more straightforward.
“I had long hair in the mid-’90s,” laughs Mark. “At Juventus away in ’96, someone decided to christen me ‘Jesus’. I had long hair for about a year but, 22 years later, most people who know me at the match still call me ‘Jesus’. It slightly baffles people who know me but don’t go to United! But it was the ’90s – most of us had some level of centre parting! Mine just grew a bit longer.”
Here's how Mark was illustrated for the cover of United Review, along with his sons Ted and Ole (and scroll down for more on those names)...
Clearly, 'Jesus' (Mark) had developed a taste for interesting names because, years later, he and his partner, Laura, had two sons. Their names? Ted (now 13) and Ole Gunnar (5), mimicking our two scorers in 1999’s Treble-sealing victory.
Now, ‘Jesus’ and his flock go to Old Trafford together for every match, while eldest son Ted attends “70 or 80 per cent” of away games with Mark and his own dad, Colin. But the family’s connection with United goes even deeper.
“My dad’s aunty, Molly Leach, was engaged to Duncan Edwards,” Mark tells us. “I’ve got the Real Madrid team’s autographs from when they stayed at the Midland in ’57, which came from Duncan. That’s how my dad’s real passion for the club started in the ’50s.
“I went with him until the early ’90s, and then with my schoolmates – first in the Stretford End and then the Scoreboard Paddock. I went to every game in the Treble season, from Lodz to Barcelona, and didn’t miss a game between ’95 until my twin sister’s wedding in 2001 – even that was under duress!”
Settling down changed things, but not for long. First Ted arrived (“we just liked the name”) but the story developed when Laura bumped into our eminent manager while shopping. So lovely was Ole in posing for a photo while cradling Ted that Laura was, in Mark’s words, “softened”.
Eight years later, Ole Gunnar joined the family, after United-mad Ted was given the decisive naming vote. “Ted first went to the game aged three, and has barely missed a home match since, but Ole is more normal!” says Mark. “His attention span is not quite there yet. But Ted wants to go to every game, home and away.
“Kids change things massively,” admits Mark, “because matchday doesn’t start at 7am getting on a bus somewhere, or finish at 3am, but I still love it. It’s one of the greatest things you can do with your kid. It keeps you close together; it’s a bond that will last a long time.
“From a nostalgic perspective, there was no better time than the ’90s to grow up watching United. But I wouldn’t swap taking my lads for anything.”Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.