The lengths United fans will go to watch their beloved team are legendary. Missed weddings, abandoned careers, mind-bending travel routes… the lot.
But even we were taken aback when Stuart Trueman told us that he started following the Reds away – on his own – at the frighteningly tender age of 12!
“I’ve got an obsessive disorder… I think!”
“I don’t do things by halves, and United has been an obsession, basically. It’s all I’ve known. I’ve barely missed a game domestically in 30-odd years.”
Stu and his son, Dan, at the Nou Camp watching the Reds.
Born in Blackburn to a United-supporting father, home games were straightforward – the pair acquired season tickets in 1983. But with his dad not keen to hit the road, and school friends supporting Rovers or Burnley, only one option remained: going it alone.
“Once I reached secondary school, I found that independence,”
“From 12, I travelled all over on my own. I was going to places like Charlton on the train. I was so naive. I didn’t even know where Charlton was from Euston!
“I’d get in some sticky situations. My parents would get calls saying: ‘You need to pick your son up.’ ‘Right, where is he?’ ‘Birmingham New Street.’ Did they know what I was doing? No! I cringe now, but I was dipping Dad’s wallet for a tenner [so I could go]!”
And first-team games were only the half of it.
“Around 14-15, I started going home and away with the Reserves too. This will sound pathetic, but when my mates were meeting girls round the back of school, I’d be off to Oldham to watch the Under-18s. I was a late developer! It was all about United. I’d be at Carlisle on Tuesday afternoons for Pontins League games.”
Eventually, Stu settled down and had two kids, Rebecca and Daniel. But when he and their mother separated, the football obsession only intensified.
“It sounds corny, but whatever’s happened in my life – splitting up, not living with the kids – United’s your constant,”
“Any issue I’ve had, it’s always been there for me.”
Stu’s children, Daniel and Rebecca, have also been immersed in the delights of following United.
Thankfully, son Dan is now
United too, and they go everywhere together.
“He’s probably at the stage I was at: you want to travel, you want to see different things, feel different things. His mates support Blackburn and Burnley too, so he’s got no-one to go with. He’s really got into it and we’ve had some fantastic times the last few seasons. In Europe, too. We’ve really hit a bond.”
The pandemic has inevitably led to some interesting adjustments to their matchday routine, but the passion for following the Reds over the past year has not flickered one bit.
“I can’t wait to get back,”
“There’s a big wide world out there. We need to get back out there seeing it.”