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Manchester Brace Yourself: Rangers are Coming Editorial Review: Ask anyone about Rangers' appearance in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final and they will most likely refer to the trouble which flared in Manchester when the big screen in a fanzone was blacked out. This is a scar on the psyche of every Rangers fan & this collection of memories, not just from the Final itself but from the dramatic 19-game European campaign, is Brent MacFarlane's bid to focus on a carnival atmosphere, rather than a few isolated incidents of disorder.
The title comes from ITV commentator Peter Drury's words when Nacho Novo slotted home the decisive penalty kick against Fiorentina to book Rangers' place in the Final. Sadly, Manchester did not brace itself, the local authorities & the police were totally unprepared for what ensued & their responsibility for much of the subsequent chaos cannot be denied.
A blue tsunami of around 200,000 fans invaded Manchester on those sunny May days in 2008, the biggest movement of humanity in the UK since World War II, only a small proportion of them had tickets for the match but the need to be in the city on the day was paramount as they flocked in from all over the world, many finding that the closest available hotel accommodation was in Huddersfield.
But for many the road to Manchester had begun ten months earlier as Rangers embarked on the adventure in the Champions League. There was fun & drama aplenty, like the travelling fans facing a hostile home crowd in Belgrade, like a sensational victory over the highly rated Lyon, like the guy who walked out of the ground delighted as soon as he'd seen Rangers force a corner kick in Barcelona, like the Belfast man who was burgled & lost his passport on the eve of his trip to Stuttgart. And when their team dropped into the UEFA Cup, the Rangers fans continued to follow-follow to Athens, Bremen, Lisbon and Florence, with one expat agonising over the semi-final shoot-out against Fiorentina in far-off Colombia.
And with the Light Blues having made it to the Final, things got really chaotic as the Ibrox club tried to distribute an official allocation of 13,000 match tickets among its worldwide support. Needless to say, the black market flourished, fans paid well over the odds to lay their hands on the coveted briefs but nobody lost too much sleep over the risks of dealing with unsavoury characters or of being ripped off. Being there, whether actually in the stadium or merely in the city, was all that mattered and the fans' tales certainly make interesting reading.
One exiled Scot turned his garden into a camp-site for the fans, a newly wed fan honeymooned in Manchester without his wife (!), another broke off a surprise 60th birthday treat in Las Vegas to make a day trip to the Final, Marc and Julie met there for the first time & are now the proud parents of little Jack, long lost friendships were revived as old pals bumped into each other in the grid-locked city centre, it was party time, everybody just wanted to say 'I was there'.
Of course, Rangers didn't win the UEFA Cup, losing 2-0 to Zenit St.Petersburg, and as things got hairy, the Scots found their club's name being sullied with association with the sporadic outbreak of trouble. My own views on events command a few pages towards the end of the book and the author does not gloss over the violence. However, he feels Rangers fans were badly wronged by the excessive coverage of the aftermath, as opposed to the pre-match feelgood factor.
These assembled anecdotes do much to right that wrong.
All proceeds from the sale of this kindle will go to 'The Rangers Supporters Erskine Appeal'