Thursday, December 05, 2013

James Went To Manchester

So for the first part of proving I am still young enough to handle crazy weekends was a trip to Manchester for the Rugby League World Cup Final.

I was first taken to The Boulevard in Hull (sounds nicer than it was but rugby league is not supposed to be gltiz and glamour…well except for the cheerleading girls) around the age of 7/8 to watch Hull FC.  This was my upbringing in terms of rugby league.

I used to go every week, me and my Dad were season ticket holders at one point.  It being a game mostly played in the industrial landscape of the north around the M62, and me living in Royal Berkshire, along with my refusal to give Sky TV money towards extortionate footballers wages means I hardly ever get to see a game nowadays.

So when the opportunity came to get a ticket to the World Cup Final, I jumped at the chance and made it a Christmas present for my Dad.

Sadly England didn’t quite make it to the final – having been beaten with 20 seconds to go of the semi-final against New Zealand.  Heartbreaking.  But this is England after all.  I expected nothing less.

So I wasn’t to fulfil my dream of seeing England at the World Cup Final in England.  Something I have in common with all football fans over the age of 47.

The 7am train to Manchester it was, delayed significantly of course, finally arriving, having a quick tour of Salford first (nowhere near as beautiful as Slough), then onto a few pubs in the town centre of Manchester.

The city itself has had a lot of money invested in it and you really can see the difference.  Lots of really nice apartments, a very busy shopping area, some superb restaurants and very welcoming pubs which are far better than all the bland monstrosities of many towns.

Also featuring in Manchester is an extensive network of canals, alongside remnants of the industrial heritage, to make for a pleasantly interesting area to walk around.

Oh and it has trams.

After a couple of pints we walked alongside the canals to Old Trafford, where many a rugby final has been held over the years.

I am used to the resplendence of an excellent KC Stadium for Hull City, and of course I have had a fair few visits to the truly amazing Wembley and it has to be said that compared to both of them, Old Trafford is a dump.

The innards of the stadium feel old and tired, cramped and a little dirty.  The seats are very tightly cramped compared with the luxury of Wembley and the soundsystem is shocking.  Such a shit quality soundsystem.  How is that befitting one of the supposedly greatest football stadiums in the country?

Anyway, onto the match.  Australia have won around 8 of the last 9 world cups or something ridiculous.  They are simply outstanding, almost unbeatable.  I knew if they scored first, it would probably be game over.

New Zealand didn’t exactly come out firing like they did against England in the semi-final – and Australia scored first.  By half-time the people next to us had had enough and left – wtf?!  I don’t agree with leaving 5 minutes before the end of the game unless your team has absolutely zero chance of getting back into it but to leave the World Cup Final – the biggest game and a unique opportunity to see this in England.  Ridiculous.

Australia comfortably ran out 34-2 victors.  New Zealand couldn’t even score a try – in fact no team since England in the first game scored a try against Australia all tournament.  They are that good.

Pretty much the whole crowd were behind New Zealand so the atmosphere was a bit flat and disappointed at times, leading to the inevitable Mexican Wave.  New Zealand may have broke the collective hearts of the English nation – but like hell was anyone supporting the Aussies.

The whole crowd stayed for the presentation, including the 3 hot and drunk New Zealand ladies sat on our row and then trudged off into the Manchester darkness, walking through the council estates back into the vibrant centre.

There is a whole plethora of really interesting restaurants to choose from and we went to Bem Brasil.  An excellent choice – seemingly pricey for the north at £25.99 a head but I absolutely loved this place.

It consisted of a bar full of starters to help yourselves (which could easily constitute a full meal in itself – the salmon was just delicious) but you have to be careful not to put too much on your plate because they bring round 14 – yes 14 different types of meat until you can eat no more.

I didn’t have as much as I wanted to – all you can eat meat before a night’s clubbing is not a good combination.

The food was absolutely delicious though, superb food.

Oh and to top it off they had Carnival dancers shaking their breasts whilst we were eating.  Those visions are for me only, sorry!

I spoke to the manager and told him he should open one in Reading.  Fingers crossed.

Then sadly and predictably onto the hole that is Wetherspoons!  Well a visit up north wouldn’t be right without going into some kind of total shithole.

The tournament as a whole has re-ignited my interest in rugby league and I will be making more of an effort to follow it in 2014.

Overall this was a really excellent day out, one of my favourite days this year – I wish I had more time to spend in Manchester and I really do want to go back very soon.