Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

On 24 April 1971, Manchester United played their last home game in the English First Division Championship during the 1970-71 season. Ipswich Town were the visitors to Old Trafford and a crowd of 33,556 turned out to see the game. United won 3-2 with goals from George Best, Bobby Charlton and Brian Kidd. However, during the match some Reds threw knives into the away end. Football hooliganism was rife in English football in the early 1970s with many clubs up and down the country having gangs, better known as Firms, associated with them. Not surprisingly Manchester United’s firm was called “Red Army,” and they were among the most feared in the land, with thousands of Reds going to away games ready to rumble once they stepped off their coaches and from train carriages. Every time the Red Army visited a town or city, hundreds of uniformed police officers marched them to the ground with police dogs ready to attack any Red who stepped out of line.

As a result of the incident during the game versus Ipswich Town, the Football Association ordered Manchester United to play their opening two home games of the following season away from Old Trafford. On 22 August 1971, Manchester United walked out of the home dressing room at Anfield, Liverpool to face Arsenal in their first home game of the 1971-72 English First Division Championship. It was United’s third League game of the season having 2-2 away to Derby County at The Baseball Ground, Derby and a 3-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, London. On 22 August 1971, Liverpool Football Club’s world famous and iconic, Spion Kop, was a sea of red and white scarves as Reds crammed into it behind one of the goals. But on this occasion for the first time in the history of Liverpool Football Club, founded in 1892, the Reds in attendance were Manchester United fans.

The Spion Kop was built in 1906, as a reward to the fans after Liverpool had clinched their second English League First Division Championship title in season 1905-06 (also Champions in 1900-01). It had 100 steps and towered above the Walton Breck Road behind the ground. The name came from a small hill in South Africa known as Spion Kop where in January 1900, during the Boer war, a battle left hundreds dead. Many of the soldiers killed came from Lancashire regiments with a strong contingent from Liverpool.

United beat Arsenal, the reigning English First Division Championship holders, and FA Cup holders, thanks to goals from Charlton, Alan Gowling and Kidd. The match programme still carried the title of “The Anfield Review.” Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in 2010, Alex Stepney who was in goal for United in the game when Frank McLintock opened the scoring for the other visiting team, said he could not really remember the game, saying: “I vaguely remember that we had to play two games away from Old Trafford, but I can’t recall that match. I thought I’d only ever won one match at Anfield, when we beat Liverpool 4-1, so I can add a second win now.” United beat Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield in the English First Division on 13 December 1969 with goals from Charlton, Willie Morgan, Ian Ure and an own goal. Liverpool Football Club received 15% of the gate from the game which was attended by 27,649 fans. On 23 August 1971, United played their second exiled League home game at The Victoria Ground, Stoke and beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 (scorers: Best 2 & Gowling).

Did You Know That?

In 2005, the movie “Green Street” was released. In the movie an American college student (played by Elijah Wood from the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” of movies), falls in with West Ham United’s GSE firm of fans (Green Street Elite), which is being run by his brother-in-law’s younger brother. In the movie, West Ham United are drawn against arch rivals, Millwall, Football Club in the FA Cup. The GSE and the NGO (the Millwall Firm) meet up before the game for a hand-to-hand battle.


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