When the then plain and as yet not knighted Mr Alex Ferguson proclaimed the words “football, bloody hell” after the final three minutes of extra time in the Champions League Final of 1999, he summed up the feelings of a football loving nation.
Manchester United had in that extra time transformed a seeming 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 win with the faces of the Manchester United supporters reflecting joy, unbridled pleasure and rapture.
Unfortunately other words such as despair, disaster and whatever goes for ‘football karma’ in German could be witnessed abundantly in the faces of the opposite Bayern supporters, their team, and probably the nation.
Those three exasperated and exasperating words, proclaimed in almost staccato style by Ferguson in the post match television interview, were seemingly born out of the Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunner Solskjaer extra time heroics, the footballing equivalent of the old 1-2 to use a boxing phrase.
However no matter how dramatic that night was I also suspect those three words had their roots in Manchester United’s winning of the Premiership Trophy and the FA Cup in the previous ten days. Three words, three trophies, the historic treble, forever bonded in football folklore and most likely a never to be repeated part of United’s history, although you never know.
As the blood drained from German faces like snow melting in the morning sun, there seemed at least for me a connection with past United defeats and former glories.
The phrase, “football bloody hell” itself is ambiguous, in that it can be uttered in victory, as on that night in Barcelona, or in defeat, the FA Cup Final of 1976 and the 1-0 defeat to Southampton comes to mind.
What is really at the heart of those three words, which on the night in Barcelona sounded like one of Stanley Baxter’s “Glaswegian phrases” is the unpredictably of the game we love, of football. in which it is not always the best team that wins.
These words sum up the vagaries of any sport especially football and they are true for any supporter of any club at any time. Manchester United supporters, without doubt, have had their fare share of “football bloody hell” stories over the years.
Football fans in general will identify with those three words, and ultimately, whichever team you support, as a football fan, they will always I believe have a home within you.