Newsletter #416

City fought out a goalless draw with Sunderland on Saturday. The game was a little strange, definitely one up from the usual testimonial occasion – from a competitive standpoint – but not quite a full-blown game. City had enough chances to win, with Bradbury playing very well (IMHO), except for the finishing part! Other news is that Colin Bell is due to take on a corporate ‘meet and greet’ rôle at the club, a welcome back, but surely not the responsible position he might have expected? City apparently put the reserve squad in the shop window by playing a hastily arranged friendly against Altrincham on Saturday, a game they won 4-1.

This issue also has news of Rösler and Gaudino, an article on Northampton Town and a long and very readable Why Blue which is anonymous. The reason that it’s anonymous is that the author forgot to add his name and replies to the address bounce! However, it’s really too good to leave out simply because we don’t know who wrote it!

Lastly, we desperately need to share the load as far as match reports go; I personally cannot spare the time to do them as well as editing MCIVTA. Any submissions gratefully received.

This one reaches 2,137.

Next game, Sheffield Wednesday at home, Thursday 23rd July 1998


I’ll be taking a holiday during the 2 weeks from Saturday August 15th to the 29th. Needless to say, MCIVTA will need an editor for the 4 issues which fall within this period. Since MCIVTA’s inception, we’ve tried to have a guest editor for these occasions, and this time is no different.

If you’d like to have a go, then please email me so that we can pencil someone in well in advance. The job is very easy; technically it’s just pasting what you receive into a template and then mailing it out to a single distribution address. Other than that, it just requires a bit creativity in writing an introduction and a little bit of editing.

Please consider having a go.

Ashley (


It’s been quite noticeable of late that MCIVTA has been missing out on pieces of news that are readily available, i.e. they’re on TeamTalk or GMR, or in the MuEN. Originally, people used to send in any news they got and I pasted it into the newsletter; much of this was typed in from things read in newspapers or heard on GMR, rather than pulled off the wires, as there wasn’t anything on the wires at that time! Eventually, Paul Howarth started to pull these together, and towards the end of last season Steve McNally took over. However, collating the news in this way is quite an onerous task for someone to perform on a regular basis.

After some thought, we think it would be better to go back to the old system with subscribers sending in the news. The one problem with this, is that nowadays it’s very easy to copy articles that appear on the Internet; as this is plain plagiarism, we really need to avoid it. So – an appeal:

If you can spare a few minutes, please send in news items that you pick up, but in your own words. I’m sure I’ll get multiple copies of articles, but that it’s much better than missing them!



Uwe Rösler played his first game for Kaiserslautern (the German Bundesliga Champions) this week. The match was a pre-season friendly against a team of Vauxhall Conference League standard. Kaiserslautern won 11-0 and Uwe scored four – two with headers. Uwe commented after the game that the Kaiserslautern style of play – with plenty of crosses coming in, suited him down to the ground!

Maurizio Gaudino has returned to the Bundesliga from FC Basle in Switzerland – he’ll be playing for VFL Bochum who narrowly escaped relegation last season.

Another ex-Blue, Steffen Karl, is still under contract to Hertha Berlin and should be in the team for the start of the new season.

Steve Muchall – Bonn (


City vs. Sunderland

7,000 fans turned up, including quite a few from Sunderland in the North Stand.

Sat in the Kippax in my usual seat with a cold wind blowing, the Main Stand looking very empty, no atmosphere and the football not giving me any reason for optimism for the coming season, it gave me an eerie feeling of what could be if this great club continues to ‘freefall’.

Bradbury missed his usual handful of sitters, looking no more confident than last season, wanting to get rid of the ball all the time in the 2nd half. Goater also missed a sitter. Weaver played well first half but he seemed to pick up an injury in the 2nd half and he dropped a ball that seemed to go over the line but the goal was not given. I think I still prefer him to Wright who I think is a ‘crock’. Sunderland also had a goal disallowed for offside.

We miss Gio’s flair. There is no imagination or anyone with any pace going forward.

I know it was only a testimonial and we were playing Sunderland, a full division above us (could have been two), but I really didn’t enjoy it and I got cold into the bargain!

I hope this doesn’t sound too depressing, let’s just hope things get better.

Forever Blue but wondering how long my sense of humour and patience can last if they don’t get it right next season.

Elaine Taylor (


Quite simple. Win every game, although I doubt the “Mighty Navy Blue and Fluorescent Lime Green with Thin Lazer Blue striped army” will give us such a luxury this season (so close and yet so far).

Instead it is likely the we will have to achieve promotion to Division 1 by either finishing 1st or 2nd. Surely not even City could put us through the 2nd Division play offs (Sunday 29th May 1999, book early)?

Looking at recent trends, it would appear that some 90 points from 46 games will be the required standard. Being an average 1.9565217 points per game or equivalant to winning all 23 home games and drawing 21 out of 23 away games. Sounds a lot but at least two teams do it in each division each year.

So at the end of August City should have some 10-11 points to be on target, being;

         Blackpool ( H ) 3
         Fulham    ( A ) 1
         Wrexham   ( H ) 3
         Notts Co  ( A ) 1
         Walsall   ( H ) 3

So August should give us some indication of where we are likely to be. Fulham just missed out last year but have strengthened closed season, Notts Co. have walked Div. 3 and will still be flying. If we want to beat Notts Co. then it’s the League where the win counts and not the Worthington Cup. What’s the point of having good cup runs but still being in the 2nd Division next season?

I would see the end of August giving us some indication of how we are likely to fair;

         POINTS          INDICATION
          0-5             3rd Division here we come
          6-8             Another season in the 2nd Division
          9-10            Book that Wembley Weekend
          11              On Target
          12-15           Div 1 here we come

September provides 2 home games and 3 away games so we would be looking for a nine point haul that month (3+3+1+1+1=9) and so on each month.

Notts Co. found last year that once they had gone 10 plus points clear of the rest of the pack that they were comfortable because no one seemed able to close the gap (ok Arsenal did and I for one was particularly pleased about that) but perhaps that is hoping too much.

I shall endeavour to do a monthly statistical return as to how we are doing, except if it’s been like the last four years where we’ve been knackered by the end of October and I’ve given up.

P.S. Never did get my commentary working.

C.T.D.B.I.F.W.I.M.C.I.N. (City ‘Til David Beckbum Is Forgiven Which In My Case Is NEVER)Peter Astbury a.k.a. Newton Blue (


Due to the circumstances of the last couple of years, City will now have a few more Cup matches this season. Could someone please post in this space or email me directly the dates for the various Cup competitions: League Cup (whatever the hell they are calling it this season), the first round of the FA Cup (this should be interesting), and the prestigious Auto Glass trophy or whatever it is. The good news is that for fans coming from thousands of miles to see the Blues there’s a greater chance of getting in more than one match – oh, is that really good news?

Anyway, all the info would be greatly appreciated!

CTID, Frank Fariello – New York City (


Further to Colin McKarell’s request in MCIVTA 415 about the share options granted to some of the Directors, I admit that the deal must sound strange and “underhand” to some fans. As a small share-holder in Manchester City plc I receive documents such as the annual report and accounts, as well as bits of info on rights issues etc.

The fact that these options would be available was known to all shareholders before the rights issue was subscribed. In their optimism City shareholders clearly never thought the day would come when the options could be used, but now find the circumstance where their own shareholding is to be “diluted” by the issue of new shares.

The people who own the options are businessmen. The granting of the options was a pay-off to the likes of Boler for underwriting the rights issue – this means that if other shareholders didn’t take up the issue they would have been down for the whole lot, thereby guaranteeing City the cash. I think it is fair that some kind of eventual financial pay-off for this risk should take place, dependent on success.

The only winner in the issue of new these new shares, assuming the options are exercised, will be the club, who will receive the cash for the new shares. The existing share-holders will have their holding diluted and the people taking up the options will be left with shares that are currently of little value to anyone (unless a buyer comes along).

Hope this helps.

Joel Adams (


I read from MCIVTA 415 that you are interested in items on fellow Division Two clubs. When I edited the Durham City programme last season, I asked our supporters to pen an item on which team they supported. Most of us in the non-league world usually have a professional side we follow, and watch non-league because of geographical distance, finance or a mixture of both.

Dave Thornton wrote the following piece for me on Northampton Town, and he’s also added a couple of paragraphs on at the end to bring it up to date.

Hope it’s of some use…

Well I come from Northampton and whenever anyone tries to pick my accent, and they are very rarely correct, the first thing they nearly always say when they learn the correct location is ‘Ah, the Cobblers’. This in itself is testament to the importance of having a local football team (which I am sure the residents of Halifax, Workington and Hereford will tell you). Especially when you think Northampton is the home of both cricket and rugby union teams which boast top internationals, yet it is the third rate football team that most people will think of if you ask them if they know anything about the town, even if they are not sports fans (the only other thing people say is that they’ve passed it on the M1 or it’s near Watford Gap Services).

So Northampton Town are the Cobblers and are one of the few teams who are always known by their nickname and of course therefore the butt of many jokes, not helped by the fact that one Des O’Connor was once on the playing staff. Though he never made the first team, he does use the fact in some of his material. The club is also unique in the football league in its colours which are claret and white.

This year is the club’s centenary so it is perhaps opportune to give them a mention. The first 65 of these years by all accounts seen to have been fairly uneventful with the main claims to fame being winning the Southern League Championship in 1909 and an FA Cup victory over the mighty Arsenal in 1958. Incidentally, the manager of the Southern League winning side was one Herbert Chapman who I believe later had some degree of success at a certain North London club. I have never seen an article mentioning Chapman without prefixing his name with the word legendary so I had better be no different here, but few people know he cut his teeth at Northampton. When the Fourth Division was formed out of the old Third Divisions North and South, the Cobblers found themselves one place the wrong side of the cut and went into Division 4.

If the first 65 years were uneventful, the latter 35 most of which I have followed have probably made up for that – not always for the right reasons. The first game I went to was a 1-0 home victory over Watford in the 1962-3 season in the old 3rd Division, the club having won promotion from the 4th two seasons earlier. It was only natural then to go to a game if you wanted to see a match as BBC2 and Match of the Day had not been invented, and the only football TV coverage was the Cup Final and there was second half radio commentary of one game on a Saturday afternoon.

1962-63 turned out to be a championship winning season for the club and they went into Division 2 for the first time in their history. But even better things were to follow. They established themselves with a comfortable mid-table position during their first season in which Sunderland were promoted as 2nd Division champions but lost twice to the Cobblers 2-0 at Roker early on and then the memorable ‘baseball boots’ game played on a frozen rock hard pitch at the County Ground which would probably be postponed today. Both teams came out for the pre-match kickabout but the Northampton team went back in and came back out again wearing the training shoes of the day – baseball boots – as the ground was not taking a stud. This was unheard of but they kept their feet better and won 5-1. In their second season in Division 2 they were runners-up to Newcastle and gained promotion to the top flight. It only lasted one season but 1965-66 the club stood shoulder to shoulder with Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and the rest. Sadly, relegation to Division 2 after a valiant fight was swiftly followed by further demotions and in the 1967-68 season saw relegation to Division 4 and we were back where we started – Division 4 to Division 1 and back in 9 years.

The achievement of 1st Division football was in itself a remarkable one and was down to the manager of the time – Dave Bowen – who also doubled as the Welsh National side’s manager. He put together a very tight, efficient team on a shoestring budget as there never has been any money at the club. Anyone who ever visited the club’s home ground, the County Ground will have realised this. The ground was a shared one with the cricket club and not shared in the way Darlington share Feethams with two separate surfaces but one single area. The cricket outfield overlapped into the football pitch area and in the summer the football pitch was used as a car park for the cricket spectators with obvious effects on the surface – a groundsmans’ nightmare. The cricket club were the senior partner and each year as football and cricket season began to overlap, the Cobblers had to rearrange their opening home games as away fixtures as the cricket team were still in full swing. So the football pitch was a three sided affair with temporary duckboarding along the cricket side if the gates warranted it. Even in the sixties the facilities were a joke and they got worse.

The shortage of cash was never more typified when on promotion to Division 1, Dave Bowen agreed terms to bring three players to the club for the total cost of around £72,000 which was not a fortune even in those days. The board said they couldn’t afford it and Bowen had to make do with his existing staff with the inevitable result. The names of these then unknowns? Bury’s Colin Bell, Swindon’s Mike Summerbee and Alex Stepney who was at Millwall. Certainly a case of what might have been!

Bowen stood down after relegation from Division 2 and a procession of managers followed including Ron Flowers, showing that good players do not necessarily make good managers (an achievement repeated in 1976 by Pat Crerand). Most of the seventies and eighties were spent languishing in the Division 4 basement with brief flirtations into Division 3 under Bill Dodgin in 1975 and Graham Carr in 1986.

I left the town in 1971 to go to University and have never lived there permanently since, but my family still live in the town. You can imagine the period when I was able to be a regular, and saw a wide variety of visitors to the ground in all four divisions. Probably the most memorable match I witnessed in those days was in 1970 when the Town progressed to the 5th round of the FA Cup and were drawn at home to Manchester United. The result was 8-2 to United with one George Best returning from suspension and scoring six.

And so to the 1990s and if ever you meet another Northampton supporter and you want to upset him say the two words Michael McRitchie to him and stand back. This was the man who nearly brought about the death of the club. By the beginning of the nineties the club had had no success on the field for a considerable time and the ground had degenerated to an even bigger embarrassment than it always had been. In the aftermath of the Bradford fire the only stand had to be demolished for safety reasons and was replaced by a strange small temporary structure which became known as the Meccano Stand which had to be seen to be believed. So Mr. McRitchie arrived in April 1991 as a Kenilworth businessman and the new chairman. During the next year he proceeded to alienate everyone, sacking the rest of the board and refusing to communicate with the local press. The financial situation went from bad to worse, typified by the match day program for a game against Burnley being a single folded sheet of copied A4 paper. There were many supporters’ protests against him and the players even went on strike, refusing to train as they were not being paid. But still McRitchie doggedly would not let go of the club. The supporters in desperation formed the Supporters’ Trust as a fund raising mechanism to save their club but McRitchie refused the money unless it was placed directly in the football club’s control which the Trust understandably could not go along with.

However, things finally had to come to a head and in April 1992 he could hold on no longer and the club was placed into administration; nine senior professionals and three staff, including the manager Theo Foley who had left the job of assistant to George Grahams’ Arsenal for this, were sacked. The club were left in administration with a skeleton staff plus YTS lads, huge debts, a dilapidated ground and a transfer embargo imposed by the League until the PFA were repaid as they had been paying the players’ wages. Not a rosy prospect but the club was still in existence and McRitchie had gone.

The only surviving senior pro Phil Chard took over as player manager but it was obviously going to be hard. There were some dark days ahead not least the next season May 8th 1993 and the last game of the season. The Cobblers had to travel to Shrewsbury who were looking to be in the play-offs, Halifax were at home to Hereford. If Halifax were to win and the Cobblers lose then it would be Conference football with Wycombe ready to take their place. I was at home in Durham that afternoon and I remember the half time scores – Shrewsbury 2 Northampton 0; Halifax 0 Hereford 0. Unbelievably the Cobblers hit 3 in the second half to win 3-2 and keep Shrewsbury out of the play-offs and although in the event it didn’t matter (Halifax lost 1-0) it was a very important day and Halifax have only just returned from the wilderness.

Things didn’t get much better on the field next season. I was actually at the last game that season at Chesterfield where the Town were thrashed 4-0 and condemned to 24th and bottom of the League for the first time ever and only the failure of Kidderminster to get their ground up to standard saved the drop.

But off the field things were starting to happen, the administrators Pannell, Kerr, Forster were actually doing a very good job and the man doing the job began to take a genuine interest in the club and in fact joined the board. He agreed terms with the creditors and the transfer ban was lifted though there were still no funds to take advantage of this. Furthermore the local Council after years and years of prevarication had decided to build a new Community Stadium and the Cobblers if they were still surviving were to be the main tenants of a brand new 7,600 all seater stadium. But most important of all in this rebirth was the recognition of the Supporters’ Trust which the genuine fans had formed in the darkest days and was genuinely raising considerable amounts of finance. The outcome was the first and I still believe the only club to have a democratically elected member of the supporters on the board of the club as a right.

The club played its first game at the new ground, Sixfields, in October 1994 in front of a near capacity crowd. Under the management now of John Barnwell things were still not gong right on the pitch. When he was sacked the new man to come along was the present incumbent Ian Atkins, well known to the Stoke City and Sunderland fans as player and deputy in the Terry Butcher era. I don’t know how popular he was on Wearside but he has made his mark in Northampton, not always pleasing everyone but he wears his heart on his sleeve and does what he thinks is right and sticks with it. He attends monthly Supporters’ Trust Open meetings and talks to the fans explaining his decisions but always knows his own mind. The open style of management I think is appreciated.

1997 was the club’s Centenary Year and on a sunny May Bank Holiday this year I witnessed something I thought I would never see. The Cobblers ran out for a competitive match at Wembley Stadium in the Third Division play-off Final against Swansea. I know there are the critics of the play-off system but the occasion is something to be remembered with the town taking up its full 32,000 allocation of tickets. Sure most of them will never watch a game again but a few will and especially after they won and gained promotion, season ticket sales have been going well. I have certainly never experienced the pride in the club that the town currently has for the club; even in the Division 1 days the state of the ground and financial limitations meant were detractors.

So in summary I have seen everything from playing in the top division to being 1 game away from extinction. Whether clubs can now rise up through the leagues and stay there is debatable. Northampton number among clubs like Swansea, Orient and Carlisle amongst others who have got there and slipped back. The club is lucky in that there are no really local clubs (Coventry and Leicester are the nearest, 30+ miles away) so there is a large potential population but they are not far from anywhere so get a good away following.

The club does bemoan not having a money man but on the board only a few years ago was a certain Mr Max Griggs. ‘Sack the board’ shouted the supporters when things were not going too well. Mr Griggs took the advice and went. He didn’t go far – just up the road to form Rushden & Diamonds out of Rushden and Irthlingborough Diamonds. Mr Griggs is chairman of Doc Martens footware and has a bob or two. Diamonds have a very impressive new stadium and consolidated themselves in the Conference. They are very forward looking, well supported and you should watch that there may be another league club from the Northamptonshire backwater in the not too distant future if things go well. Once again an opportunity missed by the Cobblers.

1997-8 was a complete surpise – going to Wembley for the second consecutive season – losing to Grimsby in the play-off final. This was achieved again without the financial resources of the likes of Watford and Fulham. Ian Atkins has built up a good team spirit but sometimes it ain’t pretty and a few teams complain about them being a bit physical. But he has got the basics right, first building around a sound defence. His major signing over the summer has been £70,000 youngster from Southampton – called Spedding I think. He has strengthened midfield and the forward line. The two main midfielders were injured for the bulk of last season which does account the ‘basic’ method of play.

The ground capacity is only 7,600 and City will get just under 1,000 seats I guess behind one goal. The fixture has already been made all ticket and they are selling fast. If the Fulham game last year is anything to go by, they probably won’t sell tickets over the phone to Manchester addresses in the rest of the ground.

Must admit I am looking forward to going to Maine Road – have been there once before though – a long time ago. The only things I can remember are it was a pre-season Cup match – Watney Cup or similar vs. Sheffield United for whom Tony Currie was playing. And I have a lasting image of a noticable lady behind the goal continually ringing a handbell.

Best website is at:

Dave Thornton, c/o Martin Howarth (


I saw the new away kit today. It’s on show in the club shop, on a dummy (no change there then).

City are getting the kits in next week but they don’t go on sale until 30th July (day of the Cardiff game), two days before they go on sale anywhere else. They can currently be reserved with a £10 deposit.

And just to end the speculation: It’s navy blue striped (thick stripes, blocks I think they call ’em) and the other colour in the stripe can only be descibed as a fluorescent green/yellow colour. Kinda like the goalie shirts. It sounds horrible, but actually looks okay. As long as you’re wearing sunglasses.

We sure won’t be able to use the Rag excuse of not being able to see the shirts, this is definitely a kit to be seen in.

The shorts are navy blue with two thin stripes along the bottom edge, one white and one the bright thing again. Socks are navy with MCFC round the top.

And yes, I have mine reserved already. =c)

Jen (


Having been critical of the first MCFC official website, I feel obliged to write in this time to say the new incarnation is… fantastic! It has updated news (much of which I haven’t seen in the other usual places), RealAudio comments by Royle and Bernstein, a flash squad section, video clips, wallpaper and screensaver, among others. The design and graphics work is also tasteful, and navigation is easy. Great stuff!

Toh Hsien Min (


Are there any Blues from the South West of England? I will be working down there from late August and would like to meet up, especially if you fancy the likes of Bristol Rovers away!

Kev McMeeking (


If anyone can get/knows anyone with a spare ticket to the Fulham game then send me an email.

Paul Odusanya (Odusanyp@Sky4.BSkyB.Com)


Since it seems to pretty quiet on the news front at the moments it seems like a good time to compose a “Why Blue”.

From reading many other submissions it seems that I’ve been wondering “Why Blue” for longer than most. As I probably owe my existence to one last wild fling to celebrate the end of the war, I was first taken to Maine Road in the early 50’s, carried in on my dad’s shoulders to share his seat in “F” section of the Main Stand. That’s a long time ago and memories of those days are pretty blurred and I’m afraid one of the things that stands out in my mind was watching United play a few times, I believe because they didn’t get floodlights until after us.

So obviously the first reason for being a Blue was to follow in my dad’s footsteps. In fact the whole family were strong City fans. My dad had the dubious distinction of getting stuck in one of the entrance tunnels for the City – Stoke cup game that set an attendance record – he saw the ball twice when it was in the air. If you watch the films of the cup finals in the 50’s and can pick out the sound of a klaxon, that was my uncle Frank – no he wasn’t actually the klaxon but he was using it, and what a sound it made! My other uncles, Stan and Eddie were also City fans though later Eddie became a “bi-fan”, becoming more closely associated with United though he did report on City games and I believe edited the Junior Blues magazine for a while.

In those early days of course, City had some great players but the greatest had to be Bert Trautmann. I can’t imagine City having stayed in the First Division for long without him. Headlines usually screamed that Bert had saved us again. But there were others. Roy Paul, of course, who had the drive that seems to be lacking so much these days (remember the story about him throwing his cup final loser’s medal across the dressing room), and to my mind, the best uncapped player of all, Ken Barnes. The story I remember about Ken was that he was very one-footed and to try to improve his left, he played in practice games with a slipper on his right foot as self-encouragement to use his left – and he broke his foot. He was special also because he lived in Burnage.

Another great whose potential was never fully realized was Jimmy Meadows. As everyone knows he broke his leg in the Cup Final and couldn’t make a comeback. I remember being at Maine Road for the reserves game where he did try to make it back. It seems to me there was a huge crowd all hoping to be in at the new beginning of his career. Unfortunately it was not to be.

As to individual games I don’t remember too many. I did get to the two semi-finals at Villa Park and seem to remember standing at the open end both times getting soaked to the skin. I also seem to remember that they had to carry Nobby Clarke off after one of the games – he was too exhausted to walk off under his own steam. He did walk though, and further cement my love of City, to my elementary school, the Acacias, and it was great to see a hero up so close. For some reason my dad took my mum to Wembley for both cup finals so I have never been there to watch City – only to watch the “M” word (more of that later).

After that time there seems to be a period in the wilderness, though by today’s standards it was probably a period of great success. There were frequent battles against relegation with some key games – one against Villa and another later one that I remember against Leicester. “Stars” were few and far between too. Some names that a few might remember were Cliff Sear – a phenomenal slide-tackler and a Welsh international (our only international at the time I believe), Bill Leivers, a central defender who might generously be called “uncompromising”, and much later, David Wagstaffe who was certainly one of the most gifted players I have ever seen. He was particularly effective in demolishing a top class Spurs team in one memorable game.

I was also sitting in the Main Stand for the only game I can remember when I didn’t care if City actually won or not. I think most of the City fans felt the same and so did the players. It was the last game of the season and City were playing Burnley, who had to draw to beat Wolves for the title. It was mid-week and Wolves had quite a contingent sitting not far in front, and I remember their manager, Stan Cullis, and a number of their directors leaping up when City opened the scoring. Fortunately Burnley equalized and my final memory of this game was the last ten minutes when Jimmy McIlroy seemed to spend the entire time in one corner of the pitch shielding the ball. City gave away a throw in, Jimmy got it back, City gave away another throw-in, and so on. It was great – unless you happened to be one of the Stan Cullis party.

Anyone still reading? This is getting too long so I’ll try to speed it up.

By this time I had graduated from the Main Stand – wouldn’t fit on my dad’s shoulders by this time – and had moved first to the Scoreboard End where, for a time, the really enthusiastic fans used to congregate, and then to the Kippax. My family had introduced me to City and all my friends were City fans and the same group of us used to stand in the same spot week after week. Most of them went to Burnage Grammar and played on one of the best school teams ever assembled. We watched in utter disbelief the game in which Paul Hince made his début (and scored). There were at least half a dozen lads standing with us from the same school as Hincey who were far better players than him, yet they were in the stands and he was on the pitch. Unbelievable!

Can’t omit the greatest moment of my life (Wives never read this stuff, do they?)! Again, my greatest memory is not of one of the heroes of the late 60’s. Success almost became a habit in those days but some of us still had a lot of suffering to go through before then. Occasionally though there were those moments of sheer ecstacy. Mine came courtesy of one Alex Harley. It was a derby game at Old Trafford. As usual we were the underdogs but made our way to Old Trafford with the usual City optimism. Again, I seem to remember getting soaked as it rained all through the game but in the first half it didn’t matter. Peter Dobing was brilliant for us that night and we were two up at half time. At last the world was unfolding as it should. But the second half was a different story and, led by Denis Law, United equalized and looked certain to get the winner. Near the end of the game we were whistling like crazy to try to get the hint to the referee that it was time to end the game. We would have given anything to get out of there with a point.

And then, one City player ran into another in mid-field, United picked up the ball, moved down the pitch and scored. City were relegated a few games later. No, wait! That’s the game I saw on TV a couple of years ago. This was different. Our goalie (who was it?) had the ball and booted it straight down the field, probably to relieve some pressure and play for time. But suddenly it became more than that. Charging down the field, straight towards the faithful City fans were two players, Alex Harley in blue, and Billy Foulkes in red. Incredibly Harley inched ahead. Today, the defender would probably make a professional foul, but there was still some honour in the game in those days. Harley won the chase for the ball and was sprinting towards us and for once things went our way as he smashed the ball into the net. Sheer ecstasy!

Of course we got relegated either that season or the one after and Alex moved on to Birmingham, never to be heard of again. But those of us who were there will never forget him.

The other most memorable derby game was 1972, shortly before I emigrated. This time I was sitting in the press box doing a bit of reporting with my Uncle Eddie. This game had everything. I think Sammy McIlroy made his début for United that day. It was a black day because it was the game that brought the career of Glyn Pardoe to an end as he broke his leg – having been converted from a schoolboy international striker to a potential long-time international defender. It was end to end stuff with City generally getting the best of it – and being behind 3-2 with only about 10 minutes to go. If you wonder why the game you watched is obviously not the game the reporters watched it’s because the reporters only have time to watch half the game – they’re writing the rest of the time.

In those days regional reports shortly after the game used to be broadcast to the big sports show hosted by Manchester’s David Coleman (can’t remember the name of the show) from the main studios in Manchester. The north-west guy was Gerry(?) Loftus. If he was to report on the match he had to leave Maine Road 10 minutes before the end of the game to get to the city centre. One of my Uncle Eddie’s jobs was to phone him if anything significant happened in the last 10 minutes. Needless to say those last 10 minutes were taken up by most people in the press box writing their copy which they would phone through to their newspapers immediately after the game. If they were lucky they might keep one eye on the game. Once again, this was a day of minor miracles because with a few minutes to go City tied the game. My Uncle Eddie sprang into action to phone the TV studios but there was a problem – he wasn’t sure who had scored.

When he called out to ask who the scorer was the answer came back loud and clear, “Colin Bell!” and just as loud and clear, “Wyn Davies”. Half of us were convinced it was one and the other half were certain it was the other. To be safe I guess the report could have been something like, “City equalized in dramatic fashion with just a few minutes to go when a tall, blond fellah scored.” I don’t think I ever did find out who it was but it didn’t really matter, we had snatched a draw in a fantastic game.

Between these two derbies, of course, were the true glory days – and in typical City fashion I missed most of them. In 1965 I went to college at Sunderland so I rarely got to see the Blues, though they did generously arrange to come up to the north east to clinch the title at Newcastle a couple of years later, so I had a far shorter distance than most to travel for that great day. Other people have written lots about that great team so I’ll only say that like many others Colin Bell was my hero but I have always had a real admiration for Alan Oakes. Most games it seems to me that he never made a single bad pass. He worked his heart out and was Mr. Reliable and he seemed very unassuming (just like the sports stars of today).

The other player I must mention is Neil Young. Lots has been written about the tragedy of City going down etc. but it seems to me the most tragic thing I have read in McVitee is that Neil Young is now destitute. If he was playing today he would be a very rich young man because his talent was tremendous. To be honest, his misfortune also makes me feel guilty because from the terraces we used to laugh and taunt him with, “Hit him with your handbag, Nelly,” and, “Don’t get a run in your tights.” etc. Looking back he certainly wasn’t the most physical player but he was probably as hard as any of the prima donnas who we have watched rolling around in “agony” at the World Cup. For myself, I’m sorry, Neil, because we really did get tremendous pleasure from your performances. Maybe, when City get back into the Premier, just in time to move into the new stadium, they will remember you and arrange some kind of recognition (and money).

A few other memories: the head of my rattle flying off and hitting a couple of Liverpool supporters in a queue at Anfield – they gave it back to me in my hand, not in my head; a huge crowd of us marching across the prom at Blackpool after watching Bert Trautmann’s 500th game for City – just good natured fun; changing ends at half-time at Huddersfield – and meeting the Huddersfield fans going in the opposite direction — and many more.

After college I moved back down to the north-west and got a teaching job in that “M” word town. Yes, reading McVitee recently it seems that Macclesfield has taken its place alongside the f… word and the Rags. As it says in the bible, “Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed…” and in true City fashion I did. I came back to the area in 1968 with City on top of the world but I got married fairly shortly after and my priorities seemed to change a little. Actually, I couldn’t afford both the bus fare to Manchester and the entrance money to go to Maine Road very often, so I went to the Moss Rose instead. We thought those were the glory days in Macc, capped by the F.A.Trophy win at Wembley – so I got to Wembley after all. But I still went to Maine Road whenever I could – to put things into perspective I was turned down for a mortgage of 3250 pounds at the time, so bus fare was tough to raise. As we now know the real glory days of Macc are now. It’s tough for us City fans to believe that we’re in the same division as Macc but think of it positively – what Macc have done is incredible and I know it’s a fantasy but it would be great if both clubs could get promoted at the end of this season.

Anyway, in 1972 I emigrated to Canada so my support for City has had to be of a long distance nature. It has been difficult but I have tried over the years to bring a little enlightenment to this part of the world which seems blissfully unaware of the greatest football team in the world. Naturally I taunt everyone I see wearing a United shirt (and there are quite a few), but making comments about there really only being one team in Manchester don’t have any effect because most of them don’t even know where Manchester is, let alone that City exist within the boundaries of the city.

I have done a few more positive things like giving a lecture/demonstration at the Alberta Teachers Phys. Ed. conference entitled, “Maine Road to Soccer” and going to great lengths to tell them where I got the title from. Also, I brought back a set of City shorts and socks (we couldn’t afford the shirts) for the inner city junior high school I was teaching at. They promptly won the city championships the next two years despite having only 90 kids (half of them girls) to choose from – would they be the last team wearing City colours to become champions anywhere? When I went to pick up my daughter at a concert I screamed abuse at a rock group called Platinum Blonde, who were avowed United fans – again to the total amazement of the kids at the concert who had no idea what this middle-aged guy was screaming about, and I have shouted myself hoarse when City came to play here in Edmonton a number of years ago.

But why City? People over here with a bit of knowledge about the game look at the league tables and can’t understand it. So the reason? Family, friends – yes. Maybe even a bit of religion, though I’m not really religious but my dad did used to say, “You have to be Catholic to play for United.” But really, it’s simply because City are City. Those people who have come here from England generally haven’t got anything bad to say about City, while they really dislike, if not hate United. City are well liked by everyone and I’ve even met a couple of people who have demonstrated their superior intelligence with their remarks when I’ve told them I’m from Manchester. One’s immediate response was, “Bert Trautmann” and another’s was “Maine Road”. Not bad – two insightful responses in only 25 years. Actually there have been more.

Two final things that re-enforced my love for the club. The last game I went to at Maine Road was ten years ago when City played their second game in the new league season in Division 2 (you know which Division 2 it was). It was against Oldham and a very accommodating gateman heard my accent as I explained why I didn’t have a membership card, and let my into the Kippax. At half time I think Oldham were leading 2-0 and the fans were beginning to grumble a bit. Listening to the conversations though, I noticed a strange thing beginning to happen over half-time. At the end of the first half everyone was down but by the end of the interval they had managed to convince themselves that things weren’t that bad and City would make a come back in the second half. So they got behind the Blues once more and City responded – by losing 4-1 I think. More grumbling but then the City touch! As we left the ground I could hear a few of the supporters singing. More and more joined in and my last memory of walking out of Maine Road after a heavy defeat was hearing, “Walsall, Walsall, you are next!” Only at City.

My final fond memory came when I brought a bunch of people from Edmonton Harriers Track Club to Britain for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. They all spent a week or so in Manchester and Stockport and I arranged for a tour of Maine Road. We were a mixed bunch of young kids and parents – both sexes. We got to the dressing rooms and were being told how wonderful City’s facilities were when in walked one of the players – straight from the showers but wearing a towel. He took one look at us, gave a little smile and went back into the showers. A few seconds later Kenny Clements appeared – wearing nothing but a very startled look on his face. Obviously the first player (sorry I don’t know who it was) had asked Kenny to go the the dressing room to get something for him, and hadn’t mentioned that there were women in the there. City won a few more female fans that day, I can tell you. Somehow I don’t see that happening at Old Trafford.

So, why Blue? For all the memories above, and a thousand others. For the knowledge that as a City fan you’re a member of a very special extended family. As far removed members of that family, City fans abroad have been cushioned somewhat from the troubles of the last few years. But we don’t have the hope that you do of “being there” when things turn around – as they surely will do. I was there with thousands of others to watch Jimmy Meadows try to resurrect his career. Are any of you going to fail to support the team after supporting them through the recent lean years, and miss out on the chance of saying you were part of it when City started their march to greatness once again?

Finally, how about an off-the-field fund raiser – a City marriage bureau? What does someone want in a long-term partner? Loyalty – City fans have proven it year after year. Sense of humour – absolutely vital for City fans. Patience – is it 30 years since the last trophy yet? Eternal optimism – things are always going to get better for City fans. Excitement – you really don’t know what you’re going to get when you go to Maine Road.

That’s it. My apologies if I have “misremembered” anything – for “remember” substitute “think I remember” – it’s tough when you have no-one who can share the memories, which is why McVitee is so welcome. Keep up the great work!

City Till We Become A Farm Team For Juventus (and maybe even after that) – Name to follow?


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The views expressed in MCIVTA are entirely those of the subscribersand there is no intention to represent these opinions as being thoseof Manchester City Football Club, nor of any of the companies anduniversities by whom the subscribers are employed. It is not inany way whatsoever connected to the club or any other relatedorganisation and is simply a group of supporters using this mediumas a means of disseminating news and exchanging opinions.

[Valid3.2]Ashley Birch,

Newsletter #416