© May 2008 Inside United
James Guitarist Larry Gott waxes lyrical about the Lawman and remembers when Sit Down became the Red army anthem in 1991…
Earliest United memory
It’d have to be Munich – I was still in my pram when it happened. My mum and I went shopping and it seemed that every store was draped in red, white and black. Every single shop. I didn’t understand the significance of it all, but I knew something was wrong – that time made a big impression. When I was a bit older I read about the crash, and how the aftermath in Manchester was described brought the memory back to life. It was the city ‘s Kennedy moment.
When did you first start supporting United?
I grew up in Denton and my uncle was a big United supporter. My mum and dad were not really into football at all. I started supporting the club around 1967. I didn’t get into the game until I was picked to play in goal for the school team. I was fearless and dived at players’ feet, even on concrete. My uncle ran kids’ football teams in Ashton, where my dad’s family comes from. I played with and against Trevor Ross, who later signed for Everton, in one of my uncle’s sides and with him being a such a big Red he started taking me to matches.
I think it was against Sunderland, probably around 1968. The first time I went in the Stretford Paddock and that was all right, so at the next game my uncle took me into the Stretford End. We started going quite often after that and it was still during the magical time of Best, Law and Charlton.
First United hero?
Denis Law – what a player! I can remember one match in particular, when we were all packed in behind the Stretford End. The ball was crossed in from the right win, but it seemed to all the fans that the ball was curling away from play. We were all saying, ‘Oh come on, we’re losing it’ but out of nowhere, the Lawman launched into one of his overhead kicks. Despite the ball being behind his body, it just rocketed into the goal. The keeper didn’t even flinch – I don‘t think he saw a thing. It seemed to take everybody a few seconds to register what had happened. The ball was in the goal and the net was flapping, but nobody cheered at first because it was so unexpected – that was an amazing goal.
Do the band argue about football?
No we don‘t, even though we all like different teams. Jim Glennie, our bassist, supports Manchester City and Tim Booth, our singer, follows Leeds United, but there’s no rivalry between us like that.
Did you know Sit Down was an anthem of United’s 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup final win in Rotterdam against Barcelona?
I had an inkling because I was walking through Amsterdam with my wife the day before the final and hordes of United fans were singing before going to the game. We were there because Sit Down had taken off everywhere and we were doing loads of TV and radio work. We ended up walking behind a group of Reds singing the song which was a surreal experience. But music can take you to another emotional time and place. The extremes that you feel in music, from happiness to sadness, the football fan experiences every week. Take Barcelona in 1999 – how sad a person can be one minute and how joyous moments later.
Most disliked opponents?
It’s always fun to beat City. I used to live next to Affleck’s Palace and all packed in behind the net in on derby day, if you didn’t know the result, you could guess by the look on people’s faces. From my youth, it would have been Real, Madrid or Bayern Munich.
The European Cup final in 1968 the first time my mum let me choose what to watch on the television. I was so excited! I remember at half-time running outside with my football – it just going dark. There was a substation opposite with goals painted on the wall, and I starred hammering in goals! We knew it meant to the players, especially the ones who had survived Munich. They must have been filled with so much pride that they had won it for their lost friends, yet sad that same friends weren’t there. It was an incredibly emotional night.
Still Denis! There was something about him – an air of devilment that other players didn’t possess. Most United supporters of that era liked George Best, but I wanted to be different. I was attracted by the flamboyance of his character. I even used to pull my football shirt sleeves over my hands the way Law did, even though I was a keeper.
James’ new album Hey Ma is out on Mercury Records on 7 April.