The Stretford End

The Stretford End was once one of the most famous stands in football. It was never the largest standing are, the Holte End the Kippax fought for that award but the Stretford End for many years was hailed at one of the nosiest vibrant stands in Britain. On a Saturday the turnstiles would open at mid-day and the fans would already be queued up in their thousands ready to find their favourite place and stand with their mates, later arrivals had to contend with the youngsters in front of the fence immediately behind the goal.

The place to be was over the main entrance where a famous United flag draped over every game, unfortunately for many of us this place was all but reserved by reputation and age and more often than not was the starting point of most songs.

While probably the Stretford End’s only major competitor the Kop had a history and tradition of humour and friendly banter the Stretford End turned away from any such pretensions. The Kop had earned a reputation of clapping and cheering goalkeepers as they came towards their end, the keeper would put is arms up in recognition or clap the stand, the Stretford end took note of this tradition and clapped and cheered the keepers, the keeper naturally obliged with a thankful gesture only to be booed whistled at and heckled by every fan once he had made the acknowledgment, keeper often looked bewildered as if they had done something wrong. But the Stretty only cared about United it didn’t care how the world saw it.

The turnstiles would click for the first time for a 3.00 kick off at 12 and thousands would be waiting already, the fight to obtain the key positions began. The most prestigious spot was over the entrance to the goal where a large United flag would be draped every United game no matter what, these positions were held by the main men, youngsters would often try their dandiest to take them but were shoved aside. The terraces were usually full by 1.30 and you daren’t go for a refreshment or use the facilities as you would be lucky to get back before 3 and with little if no chance of making it back to your original position.

From 12 to the end of the game song after song would be sang getting louder and louder as more people entered, we were the 12th man and we knew it. The songs usually elevated from the converted position from above the tunnel, many of those songs still live on over 3 decades after they came in to being. Hello Hello we are the Busby boys, We are the Pride of all Europe….etc.

Today the Stretford End is no more it is known as the West Stand it is still the main area for singing and will always be known to some as the Stretford End but it has lost the fear factor, the reputation of yester year which it fought so hard to obtain. The King of the Stretford End – Denis Law has a proud statue at the top of Tier 2 a fitting tribute to a great man.

Many United fans have fought to bring back standing and have fought the authorities and stand up all the game for certain games especially Champions League games it is a tradition, the fans only sit down at half time.

3 Comments on The Stretford End

  1. the stretford end, that was powerful..some of the euro nights in the 70’s was beyond todays efforts (exept away) and the reason is the cunts on the board at old trafford that dont give 2 fucks about home support and how its so important, and heres why.Whatever season (bar a few in 80,s)united were pretty much the best sopported team in england, they were the best supported team in england in div 2..and at a shout i would say 85/90% were from gtr manchester with the faithful 10/15% from ireland and wales and all over england..and im talking regulars..if you dident get to the ground on time the stretty was closed and you tried anywhere else.when united like the other clubs had to go all seating they only had eyes on money which is fine as long as you take care of the young supporters who should be the life & blood of the club..but no plans for that was there? there are a hell of a lot more united fans where i live but the kids may have been to a testimonial match for the head ballboy and thats it.a lot of these kids are living in one parent families who dont stand a fucking chance with a season ticket.when they built the quadrants why did they not consider a section then? all the prawn faced fuckers who have the money but not the love wont be there if united should ever slide-“it wont happen to united” prawny, it allready has! add to that the times fans have contacted united to consider a seat swap so that mates will be with mates and the ones who are called willhelm can get some peace & quiet elsewhere.but no, no, no the money is safe so why go to extra trouble? sir alex should grow up when he’s demanding the fans to sing, you could be sat next to a lithuanian nun and an incontenant 20 stone beckham loving 80 year old virgin who thinks he’s still playing..what fergy wants is what we cant get and its a fucking disgrace..imagine if the last part gets built and its 100,000 seater like planned the silence will be even louder..its strange how all my happiest memories at old trafford are not the 90’s onwards but the mid to late 70’s and going to the game in a gang not waving each other off at different parts of the ground..dont these fuckers know what love is?

  2. The Kop had a larger capacity than the Holte end, and the Kippax. Until the regulations that followed the Ibrox disaster, the Kop held twenty eight thousand. The Kop was a more world renowned terrace than the Stretford End, more unique,a towering cavernous piece of architecture that mesmerized with It’s colossal avalanches of passionate fans. Historically, and retrospectively, the Kop dwarfs the Stretford end. lee – Oldham.

  3. It`s true that the Liverpool Kop when packed to the rafters was a magnificent sight with it`s singing, chanting and swaying…..but it wasn`t the first !

    Actually there have been at least 22 other Kops of note including Wigan`s old Central Park and of course the Hillsborough Kop and it was said that Villa`s Holte End and the old South Bank at Molineux, both described as ‘Kops’, regularly held crowds in excess of 30,000.

    Indeed it should be noted that the first recorded mention of a ‘Kop’ as a sports terrace relates to Woolwich Arsenal`s Manor ground in 1904. This was two years before the term “Spion Kop” was used at Anfield.

    It is also a fair point that Liverpool`s Kop was a more world renowned terrace for it`s sheer size but I would argue that the Stretford End was more feared.

    I first went in the Stretford End in 1970 and was immediately taken with it`s intimidating atmosphere. One of the biggest problems was space. At a guess I`d say the standing part of the Stretford End (there were seats at the back) only held around 12,000 fans. This meant that this end filled up very quickly and quite often the gates were closed at 2pm….a whole hour before kick-off !

    Although not as large as the Kop the Stretford End always had its fans packed in like sardines and unlike kop ends which are fairly uniform in their design ie a sweeping terrace with entrance/exits at the rear or sides, the Stretford End was unique in that it had unwittingly been almost designed for a choir.

    Above the main entrance/exit tunnel plum centre and half way up behind the goals was a section simply known as the ‘Tunnel’ and as mentioned already to stand ‘on’ here was rite of passage.

    Not only would you be intruding on someone else`s turf ie United`s most ardent fans you`d also be putting yourself in danger as there was no crush barrier apart from the very front bit and no escape until half time as this section was a pen and even police would push everyone further into it to ensure maximum capacity. Big lads at the front would somehow take all the weight of the fans behind them. If you were new to this and after an hour or so of being pushed down the terrace, tripping up, nearly losing shoes(Doc Martins highly recommended) and getting crushed, you`d definitely want out at half time….your first chance of escape.

    Almost as crushed as the ‘Tunnel’ were the sections on either side known as the ‘Left Side’ and ‘Right Side’ pens which would taunt and compete with the ‘Tunnel’ for singing and chanting each in their own little singing ‘pew’ so to speak with the ‘Tunnel’ section raised slightly higher almost like an altar standing aloof, in charge of proceedings…..which is true as most chants started from here.

    People talk about the Kop as being full of good humour and banter etc whereas the Stretford End to me always had an edge to it. It`s no exaggeration to say that many scores were settled in there between rival gangs. It stands to reason that they should bump into each other in such a confined terrace. It happened to myself and I personally saw other United fans fighting each other on numerous occasions.

    With this intimidating atmosphere and well orchestrated chanting and singing Manchester United`s Stretford End was gaining a reputation far beyond it`s shores culminating in a temporary ground closure and subsequent safety measures at the beginning of the 1971-72 season due to a knife throwing incident at the Stretford End at the end of the previous season.

    Liverpool fans will always reminisce and favour the kop. Likewise United fans the Stretford End. However one thing is for sure, the likes of those times will never be repeated.

    Forever I will live with those memories of the Stretford End filling up to bursting point before the game then suddenly drowning out the Tannoy with a deafening cry of ……..

    “United !…United !…United !”

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