Former Manchester United forward, John Aston, icon of both the 1967 League Championship winning side and the 1968 European Cup winning team, speaking in an interview for The Times in 2000, agreed that while training ground helped the development of all the world class players, “The Cliff wasn’t paradise…
“The Cliff was very basic, it was freezing cold most of the time” he recalled “We had no personalised kit and it was first come best dressed, which led to health problems. Everybody used to get sweat rash and the place was awash with Jensen Violet. I can remember one incident when I was playing for the B Team and one of the opposition broke his leg. The groundsman had to unscrew a door to carry him off because there were no stretchers. There was no proper gym so if the weather was bad we had to leg it down to Littleton Road because they didn’t want to disturb the playing pitch at The Cliff.
“My father played for United before me and he was also the trainer, a very practical man, so the lads who were to become very famous – George Best, David Sadler, Jimmy Rimmer…we built the car park at The Cliff” he explained “We used to come after training in the afternoon. There was an old derelict house in the grounds and we pulled it down for hardcore, mixed the concrete, shovelled it, levelled it off…and all those players actually built the car park.
“United was never as advanced as other clubs in facilities, like Burnley, but The Cliff was part of our upbringing” he added “It was a great time to be there, the 1960s, and it was part of a camaraderie building exercise really when you look back on it. Although we didn’t know that at the time, it built a great closeness. The only time United has approached what we had then was when Beckham, the Nevilles and others came through the ranks.”
He believes that the connection to Salford and the working class fans was fundamental to the United culture…
“By ignoring the Salford connection, they are ignoring the everyday guy who goes along. If there’s no access at the new training ground, it’s a shame…”