Saturday, Jun 26, 2004
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By Ted Corbett
MANCHESTER, JUNE 25. We drove 170 miles to the rainy city on Wednesday and it was not fine for more than a couple of yards; yet it was raining harder as soon as we crossed the border into the metropolis. We walked two blocks for dinner and the umbrella blew inside out twice.
This morning there were pools in the car park, spray hit the windscreen as if it was an incoming tide and by the time we reached Old Trafford the wind and the rain and the cold 14 degrees, believe me offered their own welcome from a city that built its reputation on damp that helped the production of cotton and will not let us forget it.
Peter Marron, the groundsman, was telling spectators that England and New Zealand would start on time "if there's not more rain" even though it was pouring as he spoke, the public address system reported an inspection in an hour and a latest start time of 7.47.
But old Manchester hands simply buttoned their raincoats tighter and expected the worst. What price 7.47!
That was two minutes after the start of England v Portugal in Euro 2004 and any Englishman or woman with an interest in sport would be crowded round a TV set. Besides there was a concern that the floodlights might collapse in the gusting wind.
By 4.30, the time of the next inspection, all the workers had disappeared and cloudsvividly across the horizon while spectators huddled in whatever shelter they could find.
They say in these parts that if you can see the Derbyshire hills beyond Warwick Road station it is about to rain and that if you cannot see them it is raining. The average, soaking wet Mancunian needs two aids for cricket watching; a waterproof skin and a dry sense of humour.
The game was eventually called off after a final inspection at 6 p.m. Within minutes every spectator headed towards a television set to see how David Beckham, Paul Scholes, David James, and the Neville brothers Gary and Phil; local heroes in rain or sunshine performed in Lisbon.
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