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Who Remembers United’s Service On Clubcall? I do..

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Before Twitter, Internet Forums & Sky Sports News – there used to be ClubCall, does anyone remember that?

Clubcall was a club-by-club telephone service, created by BT which allowed fans to listen to a news service dedicated to their team. It was a service that I had a brief relationship with as a fan back in 2002, which I thought would be funny reminiscing on here.

It was very popular in the 1990’s before the days of Sky Sports News and the Internet really kicked into motion and for need-to-know football fans was a great way for them to find all the latest gossip about their club.

Manchester United had a great service on ClubCall which I first found out about it on the old Teletext football pages.  I have to admit I was a big fan of Teletext and used to read it quite a lot when I was younger around the time I was at School.

Many a morning and evening saw me flicking through the Teletext pages to see what was happening in football. In the days before Sky Sports News and the Internet that was what most people would do to keep up to date or they’d only have the morning papers and a sports bulletin in the evening to know what was happening, so to speak.

Anyway during the summer of 2002 aged 14 whilst round at a friend’s house, I noticed when flicking through that ClubCall who I’d seen at the bottom of the sports pages on Teletext now had a TV Channel. After watching it for about 2-3 minutes, I took down the number that the presenter was rambling on about and put it into my phone.

A couple of nights later back at home, news was beginning to break about us signing Rio Ferdinand. As this was a massive bit of news and of course Rio was at the time not only one of the best young players in the country, but one of the best given how he had played over the last couple of years, I wanted to find out more about it.

So instead of turning on the radio or waiting of course until my dad brought home the papers, I thought ‘I’ll phone up ClubCall and see what they’re saying about our interest in Rio.’  

Eight and a half minutes later, I hung up on the phone after hearing about the logistics of the deal and that there was a strong likelihood that Laurent Blanc would be sold as a result of Rio’s arrival.

A couple of days later when Rio’s transfer was confirmed, I phoned up ClubCall again and heard another 7-8 minutes of a reporter confirming the deal and mentioning about other players we were rumoured to be interested in. Think one of them might’ve been Alvaro Recoba, who had impressed for Uruguay at the World Cup a matter of months earlier.

By now I was hooked on ClubCall and for the next months would call through to their service 2-3 times a day, on virtually every day on that time period.

I remember calling up to hear about the departure of Dwight Yorke to Blackburn, our opening day win of the 2002/03 season against West Brom and to find out our opponents in the Champions League after draw for the group stage was made.

I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong at this stage and was not aware of the financial implications my premium-rate phone calls were making to our family’s phone bill.

I was getting myself in a situation that was hard to get out of and just like how our bitter rivals Leeds United’s found themselves in a crisis, I would eventually get ‘caught out’ so to speak by my parents.

When the phone bill came through and my dad asked us about the weird numbers appearing, I had to own up to phoning Clubcall – something which Peter Risdale never did of course.

My parents were furious and of the £300 on the phone-bill for that particular month, I’d manage to spend a staggering £222 phoning through to Clubcall to hear the same repetitive news about us on there.

Funnily enough half of the news on our service was just a bloody ‘re-cap’ of the previous day, so I hadn’t even got ‘value for money’ in my calls – not that it was my money of course. It’s almost like the transfer market today only worse.

Instead of buying players for the future (at premium prices) like us paying £16m for Phil Jones for example, I was actually spending money listening to a service that was giving me news from the day beforehand.

In the end I was banned from playing on my PS2, was not allowed to go round any of my friends for 2 months and had to basically clean the house top to bottom for several weeks before my parents ‘forgave’ me to so speak.

So there’s a lesson for you, don’t waste your time phoning ClubCall up or any similar service up again like I did as there are financial implications.

Of course there’s simply no need to as with Twitter rolling out news/rumours 24/7 on the club giving you links to all the top (and naff) football sites and Sky Sports News (or similar rolling sports news stations worldwide) you don’t have to waste time phoning up to hear the news as you can read/see it for yourself.

Even better you can engage with fellow #MUFC fans and judge what they think about it as well, rather than make up your mind by listening on the telephone.

That’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve done as a United fan. What’s the most stupid or crazy thing you’ve done as a result of being passionate about United before?

By Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87