Colin Evans

Colin Evans
OLD TRAFFORD has been part of my life for one third of its 150 years. I grabbed one day of the Laker Test in 1956, and the following season began to make regular visits with my schoolmates, pocket money allowing.

We travelled from Knutsford to Altrincham by steam train, then switched to the electric service, getting out at Warwick Road. It was an expensive business, but we earned extra cash with paper rounds, and in the holidays there was occasional work at local farms for twobob an hour.

We didn't care about the facilities. We took sandwiches and a flask, or a bottle of Tizer and as long as the weather held and we could watch Statham bowling, all was right with the world. Of course, attention spans have decreased and modern kids (and adults) need a lot more to keep them switched on, hence the success of Twenty20 cricket.

Old Trafford hadn't changed much by the time I first went there as a sports reporter in 1971. But the cricket had been transformed. Jack Bond's side were sweeping everyone aside in the one-day game, and I remember the lights of Warwick Road station burning brightly through the darkness as David Hughes produced his stunning 24 runs off one over in that remarkable semi against Gloucestershire.

The Press Box was a long wooden hut, perched precariously on top of the Jubilee Suite. Hot in the sun, draughty in the wind, wet when the rain dripped through its leaky roof, it was, for me, the most exciting place in the sporting world. For the next 16 years I worked there alongside the big names of cricket writing (including John Arlott, Richie Benaud and Fred Trueman when he was contracted to the Sunday People) and while we all whinged constantly about the conditions in the Box, secretly I couldn't have cared less. This was where I wanted to be. I didn't want Old Trafford to change. I think others within the Club felt the same, and perhaps that's why the development of the ground was half-hearted and piecemeal. Now, of course, we need a new stadium and it looks like we are going to get a belter.

Sometimes Arlott, tired at the end of a Test Match day, would ask me to read his handwritten copy over to The Guardian. His sentences were tightly packed together with immaculate punctuation, and if you missed a comma you were in trouble. Afterwards he would shove a couple of quid into my sweaty hand, and grunt: "Well done, lad." (I was in my mid 20s by then!).
I feared for his safety when the stairway leading to the Box was closed after a fire and we all had to scramble up a set of ladders onto the flat roof. Arlott struggled. He was in his 60s, and not built for that sort of stuff. I was one rung behind him as he puffed ever more slowly upwards. I was worried for him, and also for myself - I wouldn't have had a chance if he had fallen backwards!

In 1987 Arlott opened the new Box, the Neville Cardus Gallery. Wasim Akram came along having just signed for the Club. It was the launch of a new era for Lancashire, a re-awakening of a sleeping giant. A great team emerged. Many memories,
and I hope, many friendships from the . 1990s will stay with me forever. But the Club faced a constant battle to keep the
ground up to scratch. Millions were spent on the Indoor Centre, the Pavilion extension and improvements, the Executive Boxes and Media Suite, the Old Trafford Lodge, etc, etc and still we found ourselves under fire from the critics. Loved but
unlovely, that was the basic theme when anyone talked about Old Trafford's future.

Now, though, a new, world-class stadium is on the horizon. Whether I get the same buzz of excitement when I first walk
through its gates as I did 50 years or so ago remains to be seen, and in any case, doesn't matter. The new Old Trafford
will be for future generations of cricket lovers, not for those who dwell too longingly on the past.