This is the fascinating story of an Englishman called Albert Greengrass. I am sure you have never heard of him but I can tell you that he is probably the biggest Manchester United supporter the club ever had.
He was born in October 1928 within spitting distance of the Old Trafford football stadium in Manchester. His Father, like his grandfather, was a railway worker and the story goes Grandad was recruited as a goalkeeper at the turn of the twentieth century when Manchester United were called Newton Heath.
Albert went to his first football match at Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play in 1930 when he was only two years old. He swears he can remember every moment of that day but if the truth be told, he remembers nowt!
Manchester United, we can safely say, was in his blood until the day he died many many years later. As he grew up, he rarely missed a game and his recall of detail about the club was second to none.
Needless to say, like the club itself, he survived the second World War, became a successful business man in Engineering and married twice, alas, to two very unassuming Mancurian lasses (not at the same time I might add but consecutively) who did not share his passion for the red and white of Manchester United.
Divorce was an inevitable consequence of both marriages on the grounds that he loved Manchester United more than his wives.
Albert would be childless all his life but given his huge frame and ‘big Daddy’ face, he was a perfect fit for acting out as Santa Claus to children when Christmas came around. Some even thought that he was the original Santa Claus who had been used by Coca Cola in the marketing of their new soft drink to the drinks market in 1936. He would often say as much but again, if the truth again be told, it was all just a lie to impress.
Football and the world of Manchester United in particular more than made up for many years in his life without a wife or children. He was a popular and well known figure at the Old Trafford stadium and was well known to players, management and fans for many generations.
One of his great weaknesses in life was smoking. Coming from a working class background, he knew no different and certainly not that it would be the one thing which would take him away from his ‘theatre of dreams’.
He travelled the world in the course of his job, especially in the golden era of Manchester United during the 1950s 60s and 70s and in some ways was Mr. Marketing in a way that ex-United players do the job today around the world.
Albert was on speaking terms with Matt Busby and the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best and Dennis Law, later on of course with the irreverent Alex Ferguson. It was a stroke of marketing genius on the part of Albert Greengrass that Alex Ferguson was persuaded to buy the Frenchman Eric Cantona from Leeds United in the 1990s.
By then, the aging and charismatic Mancurian that Albert was, in semi-retirement, had settled in Indonesia and married a Sundanese woman named Beatrice. They lived happily in the Indonesian city of Bandung for many years until her death in 2005.
Albert stayed on living in Indonesia and Manchester United never left his heart or mind for a single moment. By 2011, his smoking habit had led to a cancer diagnosis at a major cancer Hospital in central Jakarta and it is there where I first met him and learnt of his story in 2013.
Albert was a regular patient at that Hospital which specialized in cancer care of patients who were terminally ill. Albert Greengrass knew he was going to die but as he had lived more than eighty years already, his way of thinking was that God would receive him when he was ready.
Albert’s popularity at the cancer hospital was undeniable. He had his own private room and all the nurses and staff loved him. His room was in fact decorated with Manchester United memorabilia. He wore pyjamas with the Manchester United logo, walked around the Hospital corridors quite often with a red and white scarf around his neck and could be heard singing ‘Glory Glory Man United’. Of course, he never missed a match on cable television.
I love the story of him always being romantic to the female nurses, whatever their age or religion, proposing to marry them and whisk them off the next day to some place in paradise. Of course, they always said yes. Nothing ever went beyond that but they just wanted to make a dying man happy.
The fateful day came for Albert one Sunday night in September 2013. He sat watching Manchester United play Leicester City at Leicester’s home stadium. Manchester United were winning 3-1 and the new foreign recruit to the ranks, Angel de Maria, had scored a wonderful chipped goal. Albert purred in delight.
A few moments later, Albert Greengrass closed his eyes for the last time and died peacefully in his sleep. He was blissfully unaware that Leicester City scored four goals in the last 20 minutes and won the match against Manchester United 5-3. He did not need to know.
RIP Albert Greengrass 1928 – 2014. Aged 86 years. Beloved supporter of Manchester United. There will never be a bigger supporter of Manchester United than Albert Greengrass.


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