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NEWSLETTER UPDATE TUESDAY 1 JUNE 1999 10pm BST WEEK 22

LAST WEEK WAS one of the most momentous periods in Manchester for many years with ecstatic celebrations following Manchester United's historic victory in three separate competitions: the English Premiership, the FA Cup and the Champions League. It's the first time an English club has achieved this.

The week started full of hope and with one of the biggest airlifts of Manchester football fans ever, and the busiest week in Ringway Airport's history. There were high spirits in Barcelona on Wednesday - local media including BBC Northwest Tonight reported live. There was virtually no trouble from the fans, who enjoyed high spirits but were well-behaved. Some suffered bitter disappointment when they discovered that tickets they'd bought in the UK as part of a travel package failed to materialise.

Eight minutes after the match got underway, hopes were dashed by Bayern Munich scoring in the eighth minute. Dejection and disbelief followed, many resigned themselves to defeat and quite a few turned off their tv sets. But they shouldn't have, because with only minutes to go, United did the impossible, deploying their secret weapon and scoring two goals to beat Bayern Munich 2-1, winning the European Championship and thus the premiership in one fell swoop. The agony of defeat struck down the German side, but that wasn't our problem!

Immediately, a wave of jubilation erupted among United fans in Barcelona, here and around the world. If you haven't already done so, read my Eyewitness extra update of the scenes in Manchester that night.


The next day, the party mood continued and Manchester enjoyed bright morning sunshine which later turned to hazy cloud. The team arrived home and thousands of people made their way to the parade route starting from Sale, going along Chester Rd and Talbot Rd, Old Trafford, and into the city centre. The first place we stood was at Old Trafford (above), where at around 6pm, a massive crowd waiting patiently, watched over by good-humoured police officers. Eventually the bus arrived, escorted by mounted police officers, who parted the sea of fans shouting "get back, get back". Like a ship in full sail, the bright red FirstBus open-topped double decker cruised along at about four mph, and thousands of adoring MUFC fans came literally within a few feet of their idols. Many followed in the wash of the United bus, but I was determined to secure my own "treble" victory by capturing the scene at three locations, and we headed back to the car.

Fifteen minutes later we were at Castlefield, well ahead of the bus, and we experienced the wave of adulation and excitement all over again. Here the crowd was even bigger, and many were holding pint glasses from nearby pubs and cafe bars, but there was no trouble whatsoever.

Returning to the car, we did a wide loop around the east side of the city centre, parked near Victoria Station and saw the bus a third and final time as it passed underneath the railway bridge at Victoria Street - not enough to take a photo though!. Soon after, Alex Ferguson and the team were inside the MEN Arena and made a brief appearence in front of thousands of fans who had paid £3 for the privilege of being at a triumphant homecoming event.


Outside on the streets, Manchester partied like I've never seen party before - the whole city was out - cars honked, people waved flags, the streets were jammed, crowds gathered and held up the traffic shouting "United! United!". Lots of people drove round in open topped cars. At the bottom of Miller St, I saw a pair of blonde-haired girls in the back of a Ford Escort cabriolet bearing their breasts for the lads drinking at a pub across the street. And if you're wondering, no I didn't get a photo! Yes, there was all sorts of boisterous behaviour that night, and the police were kept busy long after we went home.

This victory is like a massive shot in the arm to a city that's already doing very well. Now there's talk of a knighthood for Alex Ferguson and freedom of the city for the United team - on Friday the MEN ran a poll on that very subject, and you can guess what the response was! And if you thought they'd say "yes", you'd be wrong: 73% voted that the United team shouldn't be given freedom of the city.

"DON'T FORGET THE BLUES" someone told me, and on Sunday they had their night of victory too, though with less of an almighty punch than the Manchester United one. Like Manchester United, they pulled off a last minute come-back, beating Gillingham at Wembley on penalties and securing their return to the first division.

AND NOW, AS THEY SAY, the rest of the news.

WITHINGTON HOSPITAL is about to embark on a new role as a community hospital. Main hospital services will be taken over fully byWythenshawe Hospital, where a big new extension is currently being built. A book entitled "More Than a Place of Healing" celebrates the role of Withington over 150 years. But why can't it continue as before? Ian Rhodes, communications director at the Manchester Health Authority, tells me that the reason is that nowadays, multi-site hospitals can't deliver services to stringent modern-day requirements. Hospital services have been consolidated into a handful of main NHS hospitals in and around Manchester: Manchester Royal Infirmary, St Mary's, Christies, Wythenshawe, North Manchester General, in Trafford, Trafford General (formerly Park), Hope in Salford, Tameside General, in Stockport: Stepping Hill (my birthplace) and in other parts of Greater Manchester and beyond. Here's another view from the top of Gateway House, home of the Manchester Health Authority.


DON'T GIVE MONEY TO BEGGARS, says Councillor Pat Karney, who has urged the police to clamp down on those people who stop passers by with the words "Have you got any spare change, mate?". They make a full time occupation of sitting next to cash machines, on steps or in doorways, asking for money. It the "bad old days" of the Tory government, there seemed to be a consensus of opinion (not mine) that these people were victims of Thatcherism, and needed our support. But since Labour came to power, they haven't gone away, if anything, they've increased. In the opinion of Cllr Karney and others, Big Issue vendors, who are in effect salespeople, are the only ones who should be worthy of our sympathy and small change

AS THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS draw near, another group of people in society have been attempting to solicit our attention and support: Politicians! The postman remarked at how many campaign leaflet's he's having to deliver. Ours arrived last week. The LidDems say they're the only realistic opposition to Labour and point to their recent local election victories. Meanwhile the Conservatives are pointing out that they're the only realistic opposition to Labour, and point to their recent local election victories. The Labour leaflet is the biggest and looks to be the most professionally done. Meanwhile, on Market St, the British National Party are campaigning to save the pound, while further up, Socialist Worker activists are campaiging to stop the war in Kosovo. I'd like to campaign that whichever political party people support, they should make sure to vote, even in the Euro-elections.

PERFORMANCES THIS WEEK INCLUDED Cheadle Hulme Amateur Dramatic Society "Hayfever" by Noel Coward, The Mavericks, MEN Arena, Halle Bridgewater Hall, "Carmen" and "Arabella", Opera North, Palace Theatre. "Waiting For Godot", by Irish absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett, continued at the Royal Exchange, with Richard Wilson, alias Victor Meldrew playing a lead role. There were many attractions over the bank holiday weekend, including the Saddleworth Festival, a new museum of 20th century life at Wigan Pier, and a spectacular carnival parade last night to open the Great Northern Piazza, on Deansgate.

I WAS IN LIVERPOOL on business on Friday, and later visited the fascinating Museum of Liverpool Life, as well as the Tate and Walker art galleries. It's great to have so many attractions within easy reach - even if you don't always get to them, you always know they're there!

THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES SWIMMING POOL is taking shape like a giant Meccano set on Oxford Road just down from All Saints. You can get a great view from the top deck of a bus, but another possibility is the Pool Cam www.miid.net/poolcam, which I've referred to previously. The City Council are now reported to be setting up a camera too. See the City Council website for more details.

BEECH ROAD CHORLTON is online, as reviewed by Luke Bainbridge in the current City Life. You'll find it at www.beechroad.com. There are pictures of all the shops, each of which has its own page. They have a sense of humour too: "Material from this site should only be ripped off by eco-friendly worker co-ops." Well done!

BIRMINGHAM MAY "HELP OUT" MANCHESTER by staging the games, should the 2002 Games committee run into unsurmountable financial difficulties. But this generous offer was given a suitable (and possibly unquotable) response in Manchester. The 2002 bosses say we are on track for staging the games and they're currently negotiating to sell the tv rights.

"BRITAIN'S SECOND CITY" is how Manchester is often referred to, but is it? In population, the expansive City of Birmingham outnumbers the narrow, fried fish-shaped City of Manchester- see the map on the Manchester Health Authority website. Some people are still keen on the "enlarged Manchester" idea - more on the Reader Messages page to be updated later this week.

THERE HAVE BEEN TWO crashes involving light aircraft not far from Greater Manchester in the past week. A vintage Tiger Moth bi-plane crashed near Whalley Lancashire on Tuesday. The two occupants survived. But three local people died after two gliders collided in mid-air over Great Hucklow in Derbyshire yesterday. Per year there reported to be three fatalities out of around 6000 gliding enthusiasts in the UK.

WELL, I HOPE YOU LIKED THE 1000th image, apologies to Manchester City fans. And another important milestone today is the first anniversary of Eyewitness in Manchester joining Manchester Online. It's been great - many thanks to Lisa, Rachel, Simon and the rest of the Manchester Online team, and especially New Media Director Tony Whalley. I look forward to exciting new developments coming shortly - more details soon. Here's a picture I took on the way home from Thursday night's festivities - and in case you're wondering, I wasn't under the influence of 8 pints of Boddingtons - I had to use up the film and was feeling in an experimental mood.


THE AVERAGE OFFICE WORKER sends and receives 171 e-mail messages per day, according to a new report. 72% in the US use the Internet, 36% use it here and it's rising. The result is that people are suffering from information overload, so without further ado, and to recover from scanning over 50 photos this afternoon, I'll finish here.

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