Martin Smith column: Old Trafford fiasco may prove to be penny well spent

Emergency services at Old Trafford but no game
Emergency services at Old Trafford but no game
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Imagine the moment when it dawned on him.

Perhaps he was settling down, beer in hand, to watch the game on TV, or in the pub or listening to it in the car.

Imagine that brick-dropped-down-a-well feeling in the guts of security company boss Chris Reid who staged the training exercise when he heard there was a ‘suspect package’ alert at Old Trafford…

The swift mental denial: ‘It couldn’t be one of ours, no chance.’

The nagging doubt: ‘Perhaps it was, maybe we left one of our devices somewhere.’

The frantic questioning: ‘I did count them all back in again, didn’t I?’

The horror of the haunted reply: ‘I think so. I saw the last one in my bag, didn’t I…?’

Chris and his colleagues must have been bricking it from around 2.43pm on Sunday when news broke that Old Trafford’s west and north stands were being evacuated. The fallout has been merciless, heads must roll – probably Reid’s - claims for compensation will already be flickering on a dozen lawyers’ computer screens.

But didn’t we ought to be thanking Reid rather than crucifying him after he delivered his dignified confession last night? His causing an almighty stink at Manchester United when he left a dummy pipe bomb hanging on the back of trap three’s door in the toilets after a security exercise has probably done the world a favour.

A real-life emergency evacuation at the country’s biggest club stadium, no injuries, no panic and no bomb.

If minds needed to be concentrated on security ahead of this Saturday’s FA Cup final and the play-off finals to come at Wembley then this was perfect.

The Old Trafford fiasco will probably mean Reid suffers financially – United reckon they lost £3m on the day - we all hope he’s insured.

Ex-cop Chris joked, saw in hand, about fixing his roof while he still has one.

But the vigilance that the affair will have triggered among security firms, football clubs, police and fans might ensure that other people don’t lose their lives. You still wouldn’t want to be Chris Reid today, but we might want to thank him if it means all our big games coming-up are more likely to go ahead without tragedy.

*Of course, and quite rightly, the jokers were straight at it on Twitter with one of the repeatable ones being: “We have unpleasant suspect packages that hang around in our toilet at work for weeks…”