Liverpool are off to Bury FC in two weeks from now and I’ve decided to take the missus along for the match which includes a few hours in Manchester and time for a couple of beers and lunch. It got me thinking as what one can do in Manchester on a sunny (hopefully) summers day in mid July? Well, being the clever bugger I can be at times, The National Football Museum sprung to mind first and foremost just ahead of Mumma Mia the musical. There were two sessions of Mumma Mia taking place whilst we are about. The first at 2:30 which clashes with the footy and the second at 7:30 which meant missing the last train back to Nottingham. That cancels out Mumma Mia. Next time maybe? Besides, I couldn’t think of a more romantic day out with the other half? Beer, food, footy and a footy museum in no particular order. Well, the drinking of beer will be a repeated offence methinks. I’m not a big drinker. Hardly drink at all these days mind. However, when in Rome.
The National Football Museum is a magnificent place to visit. It’s located in the Urbis building smack bang in the heart of Manchester city center and entry is free all year round. Even if you don’t care too much for football, there is still enough on show to keep almost everyone interested, even if just for a quick visit. I last went there in October 2017 with my good mate Baz and we had a blast. As part of keeping things fresh, the museum has a revolving door of feature exhibitions and upon my last trip, the greatest player to lace a boot, Pele was the feature. It was truly magnificent to wander through a maze of Pele memorabilia on show. He truly was something else so to be able to stand inches away from his match worn shirts evoked some beautiful feelings. If there is one player above all who I would go back in time to watch, it would be Pele without question.
The seeds of the museum were laid in 1994 when redevelopment of Preston North End’s Deepdale Stadium was given the go ahead. The eventual cost came in at £12 MILLION with £7.5 MILLION of that coming from a National Lottery Trust Fund donation. Preston North End were the original winners of the English first division in 1880 going undefeated whilst also winning the FA Cup without conceding a single goal. Preston North End were England’s first double winners. The museum was finally opened on June 21 2001 and won many awards during it’s stay in Preston. As the years began to roll by, visiter numbers dropped and the the trust was losing upwards of half a million pounds per year. By April 2010, the National Football Museum had closed it’s doors to the public whilst a move the the Urbis exhibition center in Manchester was developed and funded. The fruits of the new museum came to light in 2012 with the official opening on July 6 and visitor numbers have soared ever since making The National Football Museum on of England’s largest tourist attractions.
As you walk into the museum, you are greeted by a warm welcome, information leaflets and the option of storing your bag in a cloak room. What comes next are four levels of education and memories of the beautiful game.
Level one features stadiums, the world game, supporters and media features that include features on many of England’s clubs to name a few of the many attractions. Moving up to the second floor, you are graced with a toys and games section showcasing the many unusual items that have delighted fans over the decades, a fantastic area dedicated to the games greatest managers and a discovery zone for under 5’s to play in. That’s one of the best features of The National Football Museum. There is lots to keep the kids entertained which allows parents a chance to take a more in depth look at what’s on show. You would be hard pressed to lose interest on your visit. There is something for everyone and you can take as little as 30 minutes for a quick walk through visit or spend hours upon hours sifting through the many items and memorabilia on show.
As you move on wards and upwards to the third level, you are now greeted with one of the many revolving exhibitions that change every few months. As mentioned before, Pele was the feature back in October and currently, on show are exhibits featuring “Woman behind the football lens” and “The fabric of football”, a wonderful showcase on various match worn World Cup shirts over the years.
Level four is dedicated to interactive educational zones which allow the kids (and some adults) to get hands on with a myriad of adventures relating to the beautiful game. There really is something for everyone and considering entry is free, the value is sensational. Naturally, there is a no food or drink rule however, a decent cafe is located at the exit point as to is a wonderful shop which offers a number of singed shirts on offer for reasonable sums and loads of collectibles to pick up including mugs, posters, pencil cases, DVD’s and books.
The National Football Museum has constantly evolved since opening some 17 years ago now. What lays inside is a constant reminder of why we love the game and why people from all corners of the globe are drawn into the beauty of football. If you have a couple of hours to kill before a flight or train, kill some time here. If you are a family looking for a dedicated day out, then why not take a pack up and head to Manchester to explore what’s on show inside the Museum. I’ve been around a dozen times now since my first visit over a decade ago at the Preston venue and each time, I discover new and wonderful sights and sounds to take in. There is also a grassed area to enjoy outside with a plethora of cafes, pubs and restaurants offering great value food and beverage deals.
Bring on the new season and bring on another visit to one of my favorite museums. Oh, and up the reds!