‘You can stick your ****ing ISIS up your arse.’
That was the chant that rang out around Old Trafford this afternoon as the match between Manchester United and Bournemouth was abandoned amid a terror alert, evoking haunting parallels with the Paris attacks around the Stade de France last year.
Some readers will find such industrial language offensive, but for the common man, it is quite possibly the only weapon available to them with which to return fire at the spectre of evil that permeates every facet of modern life.
I make no apology for helping to amplify the defiant voice of those fans, today.
Make no mistake: the reverberations of what happened inside The Theatre of Dreams today – including the controlled explosion of a suspect package - will be felt forever more in football.
Just two weeks ago I made the trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United v Leicester City, hoping to see a little bit of history made. No history was made that day. Now, however, we may have witnessed one of the more seminal events to impact on the beautiful game in recent times.
I haven’t been to Old Trafford for many years. The last time I was there, I was attending a Bobby Charlton Soccer School camp made possible thanks to my granddad collecting tokens from packets of SilverSpoon sugar. I also had to squeeze in a visit to Granada Studios, that day. Escalators up to the upper tiers inside OT weren’t even on the roadmap.
How things have changed: on May 1st, just two weeks ago, as my friends and I strolled towards the stadium, I noticed two ‘rings of steel’ around the ground; the first being stewards who were keeping a relatively low profile near to the hotdog vans and cheap memorabilia stalls. The second a phalanx of burly security guards with metal detectors and, apparently, the right to frisk you with hands-on intimacy.
Oddly, despite the fact these men were not police officers, I naturally yielded to their invasion of my privacy, space and – I assume as a layman - legal rights. They checked my pockets, pressed my body with their hands and used technology to check the belongings about my person. I didn’t mind, but was saddened that this is what it has come to in order to keep families safe from terrorism at football matches.
Yet, somehow I instinctively knew that my passive compliance was for the greater good. I was part of the solution. Part of the fight-back. At least, with hindsight, that’s what I’m telling myself.
But today, the ‘football family’ as it has become known, got a chilling reminder of how vulnerable we are. The ‘cock o’ the North’ now has a fox on its chicken run that will never, ever go away. We all do, and we all have a responsibility to ward-off that threat, in whatever form that may take.
Details of exactly what happened are still emerging, and it will take time for us to understand exactly what happened at Old Trafford today.
However, one thing is certain: football is far too precious to allow terror organisations, be it ISIS, ISIL, Daesh or whatever, to intimidate families into staying at home.
If I can, I plan to attend the rearranged Manchester United v Bournemouth game.
Taking the rest of today's results into account, neither side has anything to play for, but after what happened today, both clubs (players, fans, and staff) have everything to play for.
We shall not be moved.