I SPEND a lot of my life on motorways. (Bolton West Services? Dreadful.) And there’s one motorway junction that gives me more nightmares than any other. Please welcome the spaghetti-like one-way mess that is junction 5 of the M60.
For those of you who don’t spend much time around the North West of England, the M60 is effectively Greater Manchester’s answer to the M25. It goes round in one big loop, and when it’s not bringing you to a complete standstill, it’s an accident magnet.
On top of all this, the M60 has no direct motorway link to the M6. So if you want to drive to Birmingham, or the South, you have to join the M56, as if you were going to North Wales, and then hook off on to a stretch of dual carriageway through a leafy part of Cheshire, which at least affords nice views when you’re sitting in a queue for half-an-hour. Occasionally, this stretch of dual carriageway is closed for repairs, and then it can take several days to find your way south.
Junction 5 is the M60’s jewel in the crown, its piece de resistance, its icing on the cake, its jam filling, its Sgt Pepper, its Exile On Main Street, its Waiting For Godot, its Catch-22.
It has ingeniously been designed in such a manner that, however you approach the junction, it almost always manages to leave driving in the opposite direction to the one you want to go in. Because while most motorway junctions bring you out at a roundabout which gives you a choice of options, junction 5 doesn’t bother. Instead, it wheels you round on a long windy slip road, drops you off at the top end of Princess Parkway (or the A5103, if you prefer) and says: “I’ll leave you to it.”
If you approach junction 5 from the east (say, Stockport), it decides that you want to go into central Manchester, and so plonks you on to Princess Parkway heading in that direction. But if you approach it from the other side (say, Bolton, or anywhere further north), it decides you definitely want to go to North Wales, and so plonks you pretty much on the M56.
In this instance, the only way to escape the fate of an impromptu trip to Wales is to immediately come off at the next junction so you can turn round. Helpfully, the next junction is about 50 yards up the road and really easy to miss if you’re trying to figure out where the hell you are. I’m convinced that 50 per cent of all westbound traffic on the M56 is made up of people from Lancashire trying to get to Didsbury.
There are a few footballers who are the equivalent of an M60 novice at junction 5. However hard they try, they always seem to face the wrong way. Richard Dunne is one – scorer of more own goals than any other player in Premier League history. There’s Jamie Carragher, who famously has scored more times for opponents than he has for Liverpool (three for, seven against). And then there’s Tony Hibbert.
MOTD’s final match: West Ham 1 Everton 1
Reporter: John Roder
Everton defender Hibbert seems to have his own personal junction 5. It’s called Upton Park. When he visits West Ham, he goes out determined to do his bit for his team, only to end up scoring an own goal. He did it in the league last season, but Everton won 2-1. And he did it again on Tuesday, sticking out a leg and somehow turning Radoslav Kovac’s hopeful hook into the goal.
The bizarre thing is that although Hibbert has found the net twice for West Ham, he has never scored for Everton in 260 appearances over 10 years. Given that he seems to have a deadlier strike rate at Upton Park than Carlton Cole, perhaps Avram Grant should sign him next month and stick him up front.
Everton got a point thanks to the impressive Seamus Coleman, who has been doing a Gareth Bale this season by pushing forward from his natural full-back position into a wide midfield role, albeit on the right rather than the left.
It meant that Everton, whose season is showing little sign of taking off despite beating Manchester City the other week, had a point for the long journey back to Merseyside. But I’ve looked at the maps, and they wouldn’t have needed to go anywhere near the M60. Which means they should be home by now.
1. Fulham: 5 (2L: 4, 3L: 1)
2.Wigan: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 4 (2L: 4, 3L: 3)
4. Bolton: 4 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
5. West Brom: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 1)
6. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 5)
7. Everton: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 3)
8. West Ham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
9. Birmingham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
10. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
11. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 0)
12. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
13. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
14. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
15. Tottenham: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (West Brom 1 Blackburn 3)
3L=On third last (Stoke 0 Fulham 2)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony at The Trafford Centre, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Ken Barlow, Tracy Barlows 1 to 3 inclusive and Tony Gubba, with music from whoever won The X Factor this year.)