Newsletter #506

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Coffee table edition!

I make no apologies for an absolutely mammoth issue! It’s probably much more than many want to read, but almost every article is someone’s story of that special day, and many are touching and evocative, they all deserve bandwidth! My only apology is that I haven’t had time to edit all of them so some typos etc. will have inevitably got through.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Thanks to everyone out there.

Ashley

NEWS SUMMARY

City Reject Parade Offer

Despite being offered the chance by Manchester City Council to have their own parade through the city to celebrate promotion, City have rejected the opportunity. In the wake of Manchester United’s celebratory trip through the city last Thursday, Joe Royle had already expressed his opposition to a similar event should City overcome Gillingham. When the Blues duly did so, chairman David Bernstein was in full agreement. ‘At the end of the day,’ he explained, ‘we have got into a division we want to get out of as soon as possible. When we get into the Premiership, I might reconsider.’ As indicated by those comments, the powers that be at the club have their sights set on further progress. ‘This is only the first stage,’ promised the chairman, who will meet with Royle and members of the backroom staff this week to thrash out what the Manchester Evening News called “a strategy to get out of the First Division and into the Premiership.”

United Success ‘An Opportunity’

David Bernstein has denied that the success of our cross-town (or, rather, out-of-own) rivals puts the club under any more pressure. In fact, he feels it may spur City on to greater heights. “I see it as a magnificent opportunity for us,’ he waxed just a little lyrically. “We must strive to match their achievements and my great hope is for Manchester to become the greatest football city in Europe.’ All very commendable, though as far as the aim to match United’s achievements goes, it has to be seen as a rather long-term ambition, after consolidation, promotion and more consolidation.

No Pressure On Royle

Despite observations this week in some quarters that Watford’s success could be seen as pointing the way for a City promotion charge immediately on their ascent to Division One, David Bernstein was keen not to over-burden his manager with the expectation that the eagerly-awaited promotion will be immediate. “I’m extremely optimistic,” he enthused, but cautioned, “I’m not going to say we are going to the Premiership next season. I don’t want to put pressure on Joe and the club.” Expressing the utmost confidence in his manager, he continued, “To say I’m delighted with Joe is putting it mildly. He has been outstanding for us and his qualities were just what we needed. He has brought pride back into the side. We will be with Joe for a long while, of that I am sure.”

Royle Confirms Faith in Squad

While speculation has begun in earnest as to potential summer transfer targets for the Blues, Joe Royle has said he’ll be going for quality and not quantity in his close-season recruitment. The City boss has reaffirmed his belief that the core of the current side should be able to compete effectively in the First Division, claiming, “The players have developed a great team spirit over the season. We are planning for the future and will need one or two reinforcements. I have a few ideas about new players but a strong nucleus of the team will go forward.” Joe has already admitted that the need for a left-sided defender will be examined closely, with City being linked with Wigan’s out-of-contract Kevin Sharp and Chesterfield’s Shane Nicholson. The City manager said both players had come into consideration but that they’re not top of his list. Meanwhile, reports earlier in the week that Spurs’ Norwegian international left-back Roger Nilsen could be Maine Road-bound appear to be wide of the mark, with the player reportedly destined for a club in Austria.

Collymore Link Denied

A striker is also widely reckoned to be one of Joe’s priorities and a couple of Thursday morning’s tabloids claimed the City manager was set to give troubled Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore the chance to resurrect his career at Maine Road. Royle was prepared to smash the British transfer record to take Collymore from Nottingham Forest to Everton in the summer of 1996 but the player opted to join Liverpool instead. Now Villa, who paid £7 million to bring Collymore from Anfield only two years ago, are prepared to let him go for a cut-price fee following much publicised drug taking allegations, violent incidents and psychiatric problems. However, City have told BBC GMR that there is “no truth” in reports that the club is poised with a £2 million bid.

Pollock to Head City Clear-Out?

While there are unlikely to be too many new arrivals in the summer, there are likely to be a number of departures as the squad is still in excess of the size Royle stated was desirable at the start of his pruning exercise. The most high-profile casualty may be Jamie Pollock, who lost his place towards the end of the season amid claims that the management was unhappy with his discipline and attitude. Pollock is said to be willing to stay and fight for his place but it’s reckoned a bid of £1 million may tempt Joe to do business. Others who may be on their way out, at least according to the Manchester Evening News, include Richard Jobson, Tommy Wright, Alan Bailey, Chris Greenacre, Neil Heaney, Craig Russell, Jim Whitley, Murtaz Shelia and Alan Reilly.

Seven Million Pound Boost?

The funds available to Joe Royle as he enters the transfer market are unclear. David Bernstein is being coy over cash for reinforcements, commenting only, ‘I’m not prepared to say whether there will be money for new players.’ The press seems to reckon that money will be there for the manager should he require it. This opinion probably owes to claims that promotion back to Division One could be worth seven million pounds to the club. Although the financial impact can’t be underestimated, this figure seems rather on the high side to me, but it’s been arrived at by The Independent newspaper as follows: £2 million from extra gate receipts; £1 million from a new shirt sponsor; and £4 million from television and other commercial revenues. Incidentally, it’s also been estimated that the Blues took £500,000 from Wembley ticket and merchandising sales.

Pre-Season Shaping Up

Though the Blues kicked their final ball of the 1998-99 campaign only this week, there remain less than nine weeks until August 7, the date when the new campaign will kick off. Fixtures are apparently due out in around three weeks’ time but City’s pre-season programme is already taking shape, and as with last year, it looks like being an entirely domestic affair. In addition to the already-announced matches at Stockport, Everton and Bristol City there will be trips to Burnley and Halifax, the latter having just appointed former City striker Mark Lillis as their new manager. The players will, according to Joe Royle, be “back in training very early in July,” with friendlies probably starting a couple of weeks later.

Season Ticket Rush

Following Sunday’s victory there have been reports this week of queues at the ticket office for 1999-2000 season tickets. Around 14,000 had been sold by the weekend and it’s reckoned that the final tally could approach 20,000. Last season’s average gate was already the club’s highest since 1981-82, and according to chairman’s assistant Chris Bird, the levels of support have “overwhelmed” the club.

Police Praise Wembley U-Turn

Noel Gallagher made the front pages by doing it, but he wasn’t on his own. In fact, over 5,000 City followers had abandoned the stadium before Paul Dickov’s dramatic equaliser on Sunday, and though judging by radio phone-ins one or two didn’t make it back, the overwhelming majority did regain access in time to witness Nick Weaver’s penalty heroics. Normally, Wembley has a strict no re-admittance policy but on Sunday they re-opened the gates and were praised by the police for doing so. One fan even pulled the emergency cord on his tube train and walked back up the line to get back to the stadium!

Ref Joins Celebrations

Paul Hince’s Tuesday column in the Manchester Evening News sports section contained an interesting story about celebrations in a London hotel on Sunday evening. City fans staying at the hotel, a few hundred yards from Wembley, were celebrating in appropriately vociferous fashion in the bar when in walked match referee Mark Halsey. Recognised by the fans, he was greeted with chants of ‘The referee’s a City fan’ and ‘Thank you very much for the extra time’. His reaction? I’ll let Paul Hince take up the story: “‘Before long he [Halsey] was joining in the sing-song. In fact he was still there whooping it up after some of the bleary-eyed fans had staggered off to bed.” Let’s hope the Nationwide League allow Mr. Halsey to officiate at our matches on a regular basis next term. Bernstein’s Premier League ambitions may become a reality sooner than he thinks!

Final Word

From the Manchester Evening News, Monday 31 May: ‘When the team worships the fans, it must be City.’

Late News:

Manchester City plc announces two new appointments to its Board of Directors. Chris Bird is being promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Alistair Mackintosh to Finance Director – both appointments are effective from 1st June 1999.

David Bernstein, Chairman, commented as follows:

“I am delighted with these appointments. Both Chris and Alistair have made outstanding contributions and I am confident that the Club will benefit from the involvement of these two Executive Directors on the Board. Chris, who will report directly to me, will be responsible for driving forward the Club’s operations. Alistair will continue with responsibility for the Club’s financial and related matters.”

“I believe our Board now has the balance and strength to take Manchester City on to the next stage of its development.”

Peter Brophy (brophy_peter@hotmail.com)

MATCH REPORT I

“Football… bl**dy hell” as a certain Scottish manager said last week!

Stone the flipping crows what a fantastic day! I still cannot believe how we made it through when we were looking down the barrel at another season in the backwaters of Division 2. What courage, what guts, what joy! I was one of the many who queued up in vain for last Wednesday’s ticket fiasco at Maine Road. But undeterred I decided to get the train down in the faint hope of buying a reasonably priced ticket from a tout. There were a fair few City fans getting on the Liverpool-Euston train at Runcorn, plus a good number already on there, which surprised me. There was a party atmosphere (even at 10am!) all the way down, plenty of banter and songs such as “You can stick yer f*****g treble up yer arse” etc. After most passengers had been picked up I optimistically went down the aisle of each carriage asking any City fans if they had a spare ticket but no such luck.

A few of us (the others had tickets) had arranged to meet up at the Globe pub next to Baker Street tube. It was absolutely heaving with City fans outside on the pavement but no problem getting served inside. We managed to meet up with one of the lads for a quick pre-match chat and then it was onto Wembley. Despite several circuits of the stadium I could not find anyone selling tickets, although I’ve since heard several others were offered tickets between 150 and 200 quid.

So with about 10 minutes to go and to the strains of Nessun Dorma being sung inside the stadium, I buggered off to try to find a boozer for kick-off. Quite a few were locked/closed, but eventually I came across an upstairs pub called the Sportsman I think. After checking the score (0-0) I got a pint of Guinness in and claimed a square foot pitch of carpet to view the game. It was full of City fans, which was unsurprising as anyone in Kent who wanted a ticket was surely inside the ground. The atmosphere was tense (in the pub) and I’d only missed 9 minutes of the game. The first thing I noticed was that Gillingham seemed to have all the pressure while our players were slipping all over the bl**dy place, especially Lee Crooks; what a match to choose the wrong studs! After about 20 minutes we came out and attacked a bit more, Whitley had a shot over the bar and Crooks put another long-range effort just wide. Nicky Weaver made a good save from Taylor which went for a corner after yet another slip-up in defence.

At half-time I saw a replay of the blatant penalty that was not given in the 2nd minute. But then I thought Wiekens was lucky not to concede a penalty at Maine Road against Wigan so fair enough maybe. In the second half we seemed to have a lot more chances but the goal just wouldn’t come and the Gills’ ‘keeper was having a very good game. The pub crowd was now in great voice, we really got behind the lads as they strived to get the crucial winner. Then… “Oh No” a slick one-two and Asaba was in on goal. To be honest at first I thought young Nicky could’ve stayed on his feet longer, but I suppose he really had no chance as the ball was toe-bunged past him. The place went really quiet, but within a few more minutes it was 2-0 and like a morgue. A neat back heel from Asaba put Taylor clean through and he made no mistake as the ball swept past our No 1. How absolutely depressing, how utterly sickening. In particular I felt so sorry for this mad Norwegian bloke cloaked in a flag and blue masking tape everywhere. And all the young City fans who’ve known nothing but failure. Then as time ebbed away a nice dummy (Dickov) and Goater was put through on goal, but tackled, the ball came back to Horlock who cracked it into the net. We celebrated sure, it was 2-1 and we had slight hope but surely it would prove only a consolation goal? I didn’t see the board go up to indicate 5 minutes stoppage time, so I was expecting the whistle any time. Then a long ball out of defence by Wiekens, headed down well (Taylor or Horlock?), the ball is fed intelligently by Goater to Dickov… a slight opening emerges first touch is class by Dickov he shoots he scores! Delirium, pandemonium, relief, joy. All these emotions mixed into one heady cocktail. What a reprieve, the place completely erupts as everyone goes wild. Plastic pints go flying, people who don’t know each other are hugging with joy. It’s game on big time boys!

I though we were going wrap it up in extra time. I still don’t know if a “golden goal” would have won but it wasn’t to be and the dreaded penalty shoot out loomed ever larger. Being a big England fan I have unpleasant memories of 1990/’96/’98 and the only ones I remember for City was winning one in the League Cup in the ’80’s and losing to Blackpool last year. But I banished all negative thoughts from my mind. City won the toss and (obviously) chose the end where all our faithful Blue Army were sat. I don’t know the stats but I have noticed left-footed penalty takers never seem to do as well as rights, so it was with trepidation that I saw Horlock step up first. Hey no problem, sent him the wrong way – great start! Now, when it’s penalties, I’ve got this superstitious thing I do with my feet, where I put them tight together for their pens and wide apart for ours and I was doing it big style. Their first pen went right down the middle and Nicky saves it with his boot. Fantastic! Then Dickov comes up confidently but hits both posts as it agonisingly comes back to him. The next player for Gills completely bottles it as he sends it high and wide. Cooke slots a great pen home (side netting) but then they get one at last (top corner) to make it 2-1. Next up I see Edghill obviously very nervous rushing to take his. I thought “Oh no he’s trying to get it over and done with too quickly, a common fault in missers” I think. Phew, just goes in off the underside of the bar! 3-1. Now if only Nicky can keep out one more then (Wiekens?) won’t have to take the last. Butters (good name for a misser) steps up to whistles and Nicky saves. Fantastic! Pandemonium again (see description for Dickov’s equaliser). What a result, back from the dead…

Hall-el-bleedin?-uiah!

Some excellent flags in the crowd among scenes of pure jubilation amongst those lucky City fans “City Goater Wembley”“Sir Joe Royle”“City for the Treble 2001”

I ordered a large brandy to celebrate our success as thousands of disconsolate Gills fans pass by on the pavement beneath us towards the tube. Some of the lads in the pub crow “You started singing too soon” but I just felt sorry for the poor sods.

We can build on this. We’ve got a great set-up and of course fantastic support. I really feel this side (with a few careful buys) will find it less hard to get promotion from the 1st than the 2nd. That remains to be seen as we look forward to next season, now with optimism rather than dread!

CTID, Jon Reese (jon.reese@ons.gov.uk)

MATCH REPORT II

I have never, ever experienced a match like that before and I never want to again. The incredible lows then highs of emotion as City continued to live up to all our expectations and try to ruin our day were just undescribable (so I’ll try anyway…).

The day started well – we didn’t leave anyone behind in Cambridge when we got on our coach, complete with huge “Cambs Blues” flag (oh what fun we’d had making that the night before) and Barry, the latest addition to the branch, our little blue alien who bears more than a passing resemblance to Barry Conlon. As we arrived in London the heavens opened. You know how some bus drivers take perverse pleasure in driving through puddles in the road as you’re walking along on the pavement? Well now that I’ve been on a coach whose driver did that, I understand quite how much fun it can be to completely soak someone from head to foot then to drive off chuckling… Anyway, we arrived at Wembley and waved for the coach spotters, who were out in numbers. Strange pastime, almost as odd as putting yourself through 90 minutes of torture at Maine Road every other week. We headed off to the Globe for a good old sing-along then jumped back on the tube up to Wembley for some ritual opposing fan baiting and even more singing.

When we came out of the tube at Wembley Park the sea of blue and white moving up Wembley Way had to be seen to be believed. We were on such a high – the rain had stopped, the flags were waving, the crowds were singing, the Gillingham fans were wondering what that big white building with the two towers at the end of the walkway was… At the top of Wembley way I turned and looked round, back towards the tube station, and stood there frozen to the spot for about 5 minutes with a ridiculous grin on my face. This was what we’d been waiting for, this was the reason we’d been to all those games at all those awful grounds this year, this was why we hadn’t slunk off and supported someone else after the second relegation in three seasons. It was my chance to see City at Wembley, to stand at the top of Wembley Way and watch the expectant crowd make their way towards the ground, to finally realise my dream that I could one day see City play again where the heroes of the past had done so well. Also, the chance to introduce Barry to lots of new friends – yep, I was the one going up to complete strangers and holding out an inflatable alien’s hand for them to shake, but they all did so I’m not the only crazy one!

When we finally got to our seats (after shaking Paul Power’s hand on the way in, what a lovely bloke) the atmosphere inside the stadium was incredible. We had brilliant seats thanks to Anthony at the CSA, almost level with the centre line on the left of the royal box. City had slightly more of the ground but the expected masses of Blues in the Gillingham end didn’t seem to be there – Kent had obviously emptied for the day as the vast majority of the Gills’ end was full of Gills fans. There were an awful lot of new shirts walking around before the game, I wonder how many games they’ll go to next season? The teams were announced – City lined up as Weaver, Crooks, Edghill, Wiekens, Morrison, Horlock, Brown, Whitley, Goater, Dickov and Cooke. Vaughan had dropped to the bench and was kept company by Taylor and Bishop. Gillingham had Dickov’s best mate Vince Bartram in net and “goal machines” Asaba and Taylor up front.

As soon as the match kicked off I wished I was back in the pub. My stomach had been working itself into knots all day as it was, and the tension became almost unbearable once the game started. There was a belief in the crowd that we would win this and the support for the team was superb. In the first minute we should have had a penalty when Ashby handled in the area – I didn’t see it at the time though so I’m not surprised the ref didn’t give it. Gillingham settled far quicker than we did as our defenders kept slipping (wheeee!) and sliding (whoooo!) all over the place, but Morrison’s heading was awesome (shame his distribution wasn’t) and Wiekens was his usual calm and collected self. Edghill looked almost pacy against the lumbering Gills centre forwards and Crooks was having another steady game. Our first real chance came on 26 minutes, when Horlock should have scored with a header from a Cooke cross, only for the ball to be tipped around the post. A few minutes later Cooke had a corking shot which just flashed past the post. At the other end, Gillingham’s only real chance of the half (Weaver had the rest covered :-)) came when Asaba had the ball in the net, but he was offside by a small tanker’s width so the goal was disallowed. Just after that Brown played a lovely cross to Edghill, who saw his diving header go just wide. Brown was looking a bit out of sorts – I assume Royle had played him to come to grips with the large physical Gills midfield, but it wasn’t really working. We were by far the better footballing side though, Gillingham’s main tactic was to boot the ball up from the defence as hard as they could and let Asaba and Taylor try to run onto it past our defence. They hadn’t reckoned with Morrison’s defensive headers though had they?

Half time 0-0, some poor bloke got up on a box in the middle of the field to sing and got booed and whistled throughout. Quite funny really, at least he was better than the Queen and Status Quo that seem to make up the bulk of Wembley’s rather sad record collection.

The second half had nothing of interest for the first 30 minutes. Morrison was replaced by Vaughan and Brown by Bishop – Brown obviously wasn’t happy but it was probably fair, he wasn’t having his normal game as the ball was bypassing midfield completely and he isn’t skilful enough to change that the way that Bishop can. Morrison’s aerial presence and back of a bus-like stature were immediately missed, as a cross came over from the Gillingham right that completely eluded all our defence and just went wide. Just after that Weaver made his only mistake of the game, when a bad clearance led to the ball being shot straight back at him, luckily just wide. City forced a couple of corners, and had another chance to take the lead when a cross from Dickov just eluded Goater and Horlock, who was flinging himself through the air at everything by this time. On 81 minutes – well, we all know what happened now. A City attack broke down when Vaughan gave the ball away half way into the Gills’ half and they broke for goal. And how they broke. Our defence stood off them, watched them, let them shoot and score. I stared at the pitch and the players in disbelief then burst into tears. This couldn’t be happening, not to us, not after all we’d been through this year. We’d finished above Gillingham in the league, beaten them at Priestfield on my wedding day, this was our turn for glory, not theirs. Dickov had a chance to equalise but his shot was saved by Bartram, who knew nothing about it. Taylor replaced Crooks in a last ditch desperate attempt to have some fire power up front. Then came the killer blow. On 86 minutes Asaba put Taylor through and they scored again.

2-0.

Despair.

Utter misery.

I couldn’t believe we were going to have to go to Colchester again. That we would have to play Millwall at the New Den again. That my closest league City match would be against Cambridge. My husband said that we’d walk it next year, I just shook my head and couldn’t speak. I sank to my seat and stared at the floor. The minutes ticked away and with them our dreams of promotion – 87, 88, 89… Horlock scored a consolation goal. It was all too little too late, City don’t do comebacks in that way. I picked up the flag from where it had slipped to the floor, dried my eyes (and Barry’s head) and swallowed hard, waiting for the final whistle. The young lad in front of my was inconsolable, in an even worse state than I was. People around were trying to talk to me but I couldn’t speak, the feeling of dejection that seeped through me was worse than anything City have ever done to me before – worse than the Liverpool game, worse than watching the valiant performance against Stoke last season that proved fruitless as the other results came in. I couldn’t watch the game, I stared at Barry – some good luck charm he was, there was a ritual burning planned for the coach journey on the way home. The injury time minutes had been indicated but no-one around us had seen it so we had no idea how much longer we were going to have to endure. At least we wouldn’t have to pay the full amount for Terry Cooke.

Four minutes of injury time gone. I glanced up. The ball was in the air, flicked from Taylor onto Goater. Goater passed it to Dickov and time stood still. I swear, that ball took a full hour to reach the back of the net and the celebrations in the stands afterwards lasted a week. I screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed… I felt sick. My stomach, never reliable at City games as it is, packed its bags and left for Antigua. Extra time came and I still couldn’t speak. All around me 40,000 supporters sang “We love you City we do!” I couldn’t join in, I wouldn’t have meant it. I hated them at that moment. When the chants of “City!” rang out I couldn’t join in, my lips moved but if I’d tried to make a sound I know I would have been physically sick. I don’t remember what happened in extra time, after Dickov’s goal taking so long to hit the net extra time only lasted about 15 seconds. It was time for penalties, and this time I knew we would win.

Horlock.

Wallop.

Goal.

Celebrations all around me, I couldn’t speak.

Gillingham player.

Wallop.

Weaver saves with his legs.

He celebrates, all around me celebrate, I still couldn’t speak.

Dickov.

Wallop.

Off one post, then the other.

The Gillingham fans find their voices for the first time for 30 minutes, I still couldn’t speak.

Gillingham player no 2.

Wallop.

The corner flag moves in the wind as the ball flies past it. Celebrations all around me, I still couldn’t speak.

Cooke.

Wallop.

Goal.

I started screaming until I thought my vocal chords would burst. We were going to do it, we were, we really were, I knew we were. It didn’t matter that Gillingham then scored the next penalty, we knew Edghill wasn’t going to miss and we knew Weaver was going to save the next penalty and we were going to win and we did. The scenes on the pitch and in the stands will stay with me for the rest of my life. This time the tears were of joy. We’d won a cup and who cares that it was only the Second Division Play-Off final? This was our day, it belonged to the fans, and the players fell to their knees and worshipped us.

No more York, Lincoln, Wycombe and Bournemouth, not even Scunthorpe or Cambridge. We have something to be happy about at last.

Sharon Hargreaves

MATCH REPORT III

I’m not sure really where I should start this special report, so I think I should start by saying sorry that I wasn’t able to write it in time to make the first post-match newsletter. The problem was that the whole thing had been almost too much and it’s only now a day or two after that I am able to think straight and take it all in.

I suppose that more than enough has been written about the game itself and I don’t really think I have a great deal to add that would be new or different.

Rather then I tell you about my Wembley experience and my own pre-match preparations.

I had booked the Friday off work in order to prepare for the game and generally have a relaxing day off before the inevitable excitement of the weekend. Just before leaving work one of my colleagues, a rather sad soul who has the misfortune to support Sheffield Wednesday did actually do a decent thing. He presented me with a rather garish trinket that had a sort of podium with replica world cup and two footballers in blue shirts on either side. If I tell you he paid 0.99p for it you get an idea of the quality, apparently standard fare in The Owls souvenir shop/stall but crap to a sophisticated Mancunian such as me. It was a decent gesture and we carried it to Wembley as a sort of token.

As I made my way home disaster struck as a huge articulated lorry drove into me Thursday night. In the microseconds between impact and getting out to survey the damage, previous visits to Wembley flashed across my mind – never mind survival, would the car be intact to make it to Wembley?

Well it was OK to drive although it will of course look OK when I have a new door, wing etc – the accident was not my fault at all and in fairness the lorry driver was quick to admit liability. It was only when I got home that I was able to make sense of what had happened, this was not an accident, it was a special sign from other ‘powers’. Never mind the fact I’ve only had the car a month, the areas of impact were enriched by light blue paint that had come off the cab of the lorry. So I must have appeared quite simple on Friday as I sorted out my insurance and estimates etc. I explained to loss assessors and mechanics that whilst it was a mess I was not actually too bothered as I was pretty sure it was a sign that something special was going to happen at Wembley.

This messing about meant that my Friday was a little disrupted so by way of pre-match research I spent a little time looking at the Gillingham web site or should I say the Gills’ web site. I was struck by the stupidity of the nickname thinking how odd for a football team to be nicknamed after the respiratory organs of fish.

Sadly there was little of interest on the web site other than some special offers for pensioners and poor people who either lived in Kent, knew someone who had once lived in Kent, or had heard of Kent. The offer was fascinating – free tins of meat from the European meat mountain and a ticket to Wembley with every tin, no wonder they were able to get rid of all their tickets.

Whilst there wasn’t much to find about Gillingham, I did establish that the old village of Borstal is near to Gillingham and it was indeed this place that gave the name to young offenders’ institutes. This link to the world of crime made me smile as I thought of the crime committed by the football authorities in giving this one-horse town 30,000+ tickets. Another rather odd thing I established was that historically, because of its low population of about 10,000 (except every 106 years when it’s about 34,000) there is alleged to be a significant amount of ‘inbreeding’. I really don’t know if this is true, but I did meet some lovely Gillingham people who constantly smiled through glazed expressions many of them proudly showing how they could count to seven on the fingers of one hand.

I also established at Wembley that many of the children tend to be called Jack Tarr, Jolly Roger or Some Sailor, I don’t imagine for one minute that it’s due to the close proximity to the Chatham naval yard.

We left early on Saturday for an overnight stay at my brother’s in Surrey. Despite the dents the car looked splendid. Blue ribbon fluttered from the aerial, scarves adorned the windows and a large flag draped across the parcel shelf spelt out our allegiance. Our clear expression of the purpose of our journey ensured that we got encouraging waves and clenched fist salutes as we sped south in high spirits.

We made our destination by midday in good time to enjoy the searing heat of an early summer’s afternoon. Flags and scarves were draped across convenient plants, trees and shrubbery to provide the perfect backdrop to a wonderful afternoon, evening and night as we worked our ways through a few cases of Becks and enjoyed a pre-match barby. Final pre-match preparations fell into pace as my brother Paul arrived from South Africa. Those of you who made TG1 and TG2 will know him as the drunk from Japan, those of you around the globe who log onto Blue View will know him as Dolphin in a Tutu.

Match day came and by 7.30am we were all showered and clad in Robe di Kappa. Champagne was cracked open and a couple of bottles of Becks provided a good breakfast substitute. We made good time to Wembley and as we got near the rather bizarrely named Venue of Legends we began to see plenty of Blues heading towards the showdown – this was about 10.40.

We parked on the Asda car park – not bad value at £7.50 for the day and made our way to the pub on the corner, I can’t remember what it was called but we had to stand outside for an hour or so until it opened. This was quite a good laugh despite the rain, which at times was pretty torrential.

The poor people from Gillingham just didn’t know what to do. Not only was this the first time for most of them at Wembley, it was the first time most of them had actually been to a football match. They wandered around not really knowing what they were looking for, some looked bemused as they saw their own strangely shaped faces in the quickly forming puddles. Others huddled together clearly frightened to be near crowds. The massing City fans were in good voice and witty as well, proving quite a contrast to the Gills’ fans who for the most part stood and gaped trying to copy the words – each desperate to learn a football song before they entered the ground.

Inside the pub the atmosphere was just fantastic; we raised the roof. What a laugh and what a sense of togetherness as we waited for the final challenge.

We began to make our way to the stadium at about 1.20. A superb lunch of piping hot chips and battered sausage lined our bellies as we ambled down Wembley Way. The poor people from Gillingham could only watch in wonderment as thousands and thousands of Blues sang, danced, cheered and generally made merry. Many of them stopped to ask if they could be Mancunians as it seemed to be so much better. Others stood unwrapping their brand new but dull blue and black replica shirts to put them on for the first time.

As we got nearer to the stadium many of the Gills fans seemed to be quite nervous, I’m not surprised though as the last time Gillingham folk had been to London on a coach young Dick Turpin had been prowling the lanes. Even if I try to be fair to this bunch of fair weather fans it’s difficult to say anything kind about their sense of football fashion. I don’t think I have ever seen as many people at a final wearing those rather stupid and rather passé looking jester hats that I think may have been fashionable when Bob Stokoe’s Sunderland won the cup some years ago. How sad.

Inside the ground itself the pitch looked tremendous, it was to prove to be slippy due to the extraordinary amount of rain that we had.

Whatever you might think of the play-offs, it has to be said that in terms of occasion it is done well. The atmosphere built up steadily as kick off approached, the huge inflatable players shot up and danced in the breeze as the teams came out for pre-match practice.

I have never heard such frenzied vocal support, it was fantastic and quite a contrast to the mumbling from the Gills’ end. I have to say that I felt a little sorry for the genuine Gills fans who had to put up with the rest of Kent turning up, not knowing words to songs, not knowing which were their players and generally not having a clue.

As the teams came out, fireworks shot into he air and like modern-day gladiators they walked through clouds of smoke to a heroes’ welcome. I’m not sure but I think some of the Gillingham fans actually defaecated at this point.

I’ve already said I’m not going to attempt to write about the match as enough has already been said on that, but I will pick up on the last few minutes of ordinary time. When the first Gills’ goal came I was devastated; I just could not believe it – to listen to the simple folk for just about the first time get their act together and sing “you’re not singing anymore” was almost too much, within minutes we were stunned as the blackest of black clouds of despair moved in. A very well-taken goal shattered our dream, and all I could think of was the desperation of another year in the hell of Division Two. As the time on the giant electronic scoreboards moved on I said to my wife that I wanted to leave as soon as the whistle went, I could not bear to watch our boys troop off with heads bowed. In my deepest despair I had failed to notice that there were still a few Blues who hadn’t give up and it was a nice touch from Horlock to bag us a consolation goal on 90 minutes. But then there was suddenly a chance as the official showed the board for time added on – 5 minutes. Of course it was really impossible and I think we just all wanted it to end so we get out and find our own way of swallowing this bitter pill.

But then it happened.

With 12 seconds to go the ball was blasted by Dickov into the Gillingham net.

Unless you experienced it there simply is no way that I can describe what happened next in a way that will even come close to how it was.

Quite simply Wembley exploded. I have never, and doubt I ever will again, experience anything like it. Bodies tumbled into each other, as we crashed around in the craziest of celebrations; those that didn’t scream and cheer were numbed by the enormity of what we had witnessed. Rivers of tears cascaded across the Wembley concrete as we were swept along in an unending tide of emotion, elation and thanksgiving.

This was indeed a modern footballing miracle.

As the whistle went to signal extra time, the loudest and most deafening chorus of Blue Moon cracked out across Wembley. It seemed as though the Gillingham fans, day trippers and players shook with fear and envy at the devastation that had ripped them apart and prised away their own Holy Grail.

As Joe Royle brought his team into a circle with arms around each other the Gills’ players argued with the referee and seemed to lose any sort of focus.

You know the rest, the extra time, the ecstasy of the shoot-out, the heroics of Weaver, it really was magic. The deafening wall of sound that shook Wembley and shattered the nerve of the Gills’ penalty-takers will stay with me forever, and I have to say I screamed profanities at the top of my voice as players shot at young Weaver.

I couldn’t help but think of the last time I had reported on City vs. Gillingham when the Gills’ fans had sang at Maine Road (to the tune of Blue Moon) “no-where, City are going no-where”.

Oh yeah?

The very best song for me though and the one that keeps playing in my head and making me smile was the sound of 40,000 Blues singing in perfect unison and harmony “you can stick your f***** treble up your arse”.

Oh my word if you can imagine maximum volume being 10 then this was sung at 15. We stood on our seats for 30 minutes or so as we sang, cheered, screamed and released the years of frustration, barbed comments, cheap jokes, snide lines from Rags, press and just about anyone who will never ever understand that we are not an ordinary club.

I don’t ever recall a group of highly paid professional players prostrating themselves to their fans in an act of sheer appreciation and humility. Not once, not twice, not three times but four times at each part of the ground that held the Blue Army our team lay down before us.

The unique bond between this crazy club and its fans was once again there for all the world to see and if truth be known to watch in envy.

We left the ground and danced in the car park with Blue Moon blasting out of the car stereo on Asda’s car park.

The journey home was just superb, a Blue M1, beeping horns, waving fans and just great camaraderie. The stop at the service station was great – almost like being at the Blue Moon chippy but with a slightly faster service.

Tuesday morning was superb, the best part of five hours watching it all again on video.

Tuesday night was superb, watching it all again on video and Wednesday was pretty good as well watching it again on video.

A quick word on whether or not it was five minutes of stoppage time. When I first saw it at Wembley to be honest I thought we were lucky. If you have the video just have a look at how long it takes for the Gills to kick off after their second goal. In actual fact it was about five minutes in total that was due to us. Gillingham shot themselves in the foot to some tune.

The more I watch it the more I can’t believe it, and the greater the significance of this game becomes.

I had hoped to write something funny for this game but I just can’t get down everything I want to say and so this is probably the most disjointed match report of the season.

I loved Sunday, my wife cried, my daughter danced, my son said it was the best day of his life, my brother, nephew and I danced and screamed this was Blue heaven.

It was of course always going to happen though – check your diaries: Sunday was a full moon.

At last the Blue Moon is rising.

Finally: if there is anyone from the club reading this, please don’t ever, ever do that to us again.

Tony Burns (tony.burns@cwcom.net)

MATCH EXPERIENCE

I travelled to London on the Friday night. My dad has a flat in Cricklewood through work, so myself and the girlfriend decided to make a (dirty) weekend of it. Despite the fact I’d sat by my phone for seven hours on the Wednesday and must’ve pressed re-dial over 2,000 times ringing the Piccadilly ticket line, we were without tickets. I know the allocation was poor but there had to have been a better way of putting them on open sale (how about they went on sale to people who had a ticket stub for the Wigan game first?). Me and the missus will try the touts on Sunday. Saturday passes without anything of note other than the odd meeting with a few City fans and a conversation with a very depressed Orient supporter. Sunday, woke up at around 5.30 because of the nerves. Make some breakfast and try to actually eat some of it. Look out of the window (which faces the A5, one of the main routes from the M1 to Wembley) and wave to the City fans. 12.00, get the tube to the ground and begin making polite enquiries in to the availability of tickets. £350 each! After hanging around enjoying the atmosphere for about half an hour I ask again. £250. At least they are dropping. Good news as I couldn’t afford more than £150 for 2. After another hour or so I find my parasite (tout) and he tells me that he is now selling for £150 each. I try to bargain him down with the added incentive of a free mini portable radio (I had bought it to listen to the game whilst looking for a pub if I didn’t get in. I wouldn’t need it if I had tickets). I get him down to £100 (the radio wasn’t that good). He still has several left so I figure that if I wait around then the price will drop. With the time now approaching 2.30 I spot the greedy (tout) b*****d again and confront him with my £150 for two tickets proposition. He tells me that one of his mates had just been busted and that he had had his tickets confiscated. As a basic rule of supply and demand the price was now back up to £150 each (even with the radio). The time passed quickly and it was about five minutes after I’d heard the cry for a penalty in the first minute that we had one last try. Unfortunately the guy had also been caught by the police and we were receiving some dodgy looks from the long arm of the law. One of them eventually came over and asked us what we were doing. ‘Waiting for some friends’ I replied. He asked to see our tickets and I said that our friends had them. Ten minutes later and we were approached again. This time he was less polite. ‘Right, you haven’t got tickets, now f*** off or I’ll arrest the both of you.’

At this point we left. We found our way to a pub on the Finchley road. As it turned out there were about 20 City fans in the pub and we didn’t receive the dodgy looks we expected when we entered on the stroke of half time. The second half is a bit of a blur. I have vague memories of punching walls, thinking that we should probably buy Asaba (he was the only reason they scored two at all and then thinking that why would he come to us when Gillingham would be in the league above), and comforting crying girlfriends when something happened that didn’t seem to fit in with Manchester City F.C. … we scored! I took off my coat as I no longer wanted to leave. The fat lady was only clearing her throat. Then Sky TV decided to have a replay of the goal. Wait a minute… I’m sure it was Horlock last time… That was from a different angle… Yesssssssss! The girlfriend is still crying but now, so am I and for some reason, all I can think about is how much Terry Cooke looks like her brother. Extra time was half an hour of nail biting punctuated with more trips to the bar than I can remember (or want to) and one trip to the lav (it had to come out somehow) I’m so full of adrenaline that the alcohol isn’t taking effect. Then come the penalties…

Five minutes later the pub is going wild (Weaver is third string U21 ‘keeper, surely he is better than Simonsen or that bloke from Leeds?). I spent the next two hours or so talking to the people in the pub, Arsenal to Orient fans. Everyone was pleased for us but they kept on bringing up that other game that happened last Wed. Apparently it had similarities to ours. Surely they were lucky, we simply served justice? By now the adrenaline had worn off and I became extremely drunk very quickly. Back on to the Tube and up to Trafalgar Square. Nip across the road to the offy and buy a cheap bottle of bubbly, everyone cheers when I pop the cork. We, as well as many City fans, leave shortly after a girl fell off one of the lions. The first we saw of it was an ambulance coming and we watched her being lifted in, apparently unconscious. It put a dampener on the evening (if anyone knows who it was and, more importantly, if she is all right then can you let me know and send her our best wishes). The alcohol had really begun to kick in so it was a quick trip to KFC and then home. Had to check teletext every few minutes to see if it was true. Monday, when I set off to come home I found that I had left my lights on and my battery was dead. Bank holiday at 7.30, nowhere to buy any jump leads and no one coming in or out of the car park caused me to have to ring the AA and wait for about 3 hours for them to turn up. Drove to Stockport to drop off my girlfriend and then back to Macclesfield.

When I got back, I watched the video my mum had recorded off Sky. My heart was in my mouth during the penalties. I even thought that I may have missed something and we hadn’t won it and I was about to be brought crashing back to earth. Funnily enough the video evidence showed that we really had been promoted. Watford had proved that you can go up twice in two years (Macclesfield Town also proved it but with little luck in the Second Division). The Premier League doesn’t seem quite that far away now. For the moment we have Blackburn instead of Blackpool, Nottingham Forest over Notts County, Bolton and not Burnley, Wolves and West Brom rather than Wycombe. People are saying City are back. We’re not quite back but we are halfway there. and Looking forward to seeing Coppell and Ball back at Maine Road.

P.S. The guy who was complaining about the ticket office. Although it is incredibly harsh that you should not be able to get tickets, it really isn’t the girl who answered the phone’s fault. This is a touchy subject for me. I worked in the ticket office and on the gate at Macclesfield Town and I get abuse hurled at me all the time. The best way is to complain calmly, as shouting will not help; they will tell their superiors and your complaint will be heard, the alternative is to write a letter. The people who answer the phones do not make the rules. You have to think that, if you have been trying to get through for seven hours then they must have been answering the phone constantly to people for the same ammount of time. It’s not easy, especially if they are shouted at every other call (calling them a jobsworth doesn’t help either, I really can’t let people in for cheap or into the wrong section of the ground, it really is more than my job is worth. One day I’m going to go to the shop where one of these people works and kick up a fuss when he doesn’t sell me something for cheap. Sorry a bit of a rant there). The ticket office, though, has to be sorted out before next season but you can’t expect a receptionist to quickly fit more phone lines and build more windows as soon as a queue builds up. I for one am going to join the membership scheme as it will be almost impossible to get tickets next season.

Tommy Rance (Ttrance@aol.com)

MATCH REPORT – LIVE FROM OLD TRAFFORD!

My excuse is that the tickets for the West Indies vs. Australia (World Cup cricket) game were ordered months ago when City were mid-table so play-off final dates didn’t even cross my mind! Anyway, after not being able to get rid of £120 worth of cricket tickets I was resigned to the fact that I’d be spending the day at Old Trafford with another City fan, a Rag and a Liverpool supporter whilst the majority of City fans were heading off to Wembley. To make it worse, on my journey from Macclesfield to OT (via Altrincham) I saw many City fans setting-off for the twin towers, I must admit, it was good to see ‘kitted-out’ City fans getting onto the metrolink at OT as I was getting off.

Inside the ground I spotted a few more City fans which did make me feel a bit better as there would be others to celebrate with when City were (surely?) victorious. After a bacon baguette and a cup of coffee it was time for a quick walk around the ground and to check out the seats we were allocated. At the end of our row there were a group of partying West Indians, smoking some strange smelling substances and drinking something out of a ginger ale bottle that looked suspiciously like rum! With hindsight I suppose I should have ‘jointed’ them as it would’ve made me feel slightly calmer later on in the day. Anyway, I decided to settle for beer and me and my fellow City fan (Paul) headed off for the beer tent. I think the staff there must have job-shares with the staff in the City ticket office because it took us 1 hour to get to the bar only to find that the lager they were serving was Stein, the Aussies amongst the queue certainly weren’t impressed. We settled for 12 tins of Tetley Smoothflow and headed back to our seats to enjoy some cricket.

The next few hours of sheer boredom were only enlivened by drinking, some devastating bowling by Glen McGrath and of course Dwight Yorke driving the drinks trolley onto the pitch for the players!

Finally, it was time for the real match (the one at Wembley) and I drew the short straw which meant that Paul listened to the game on his portable radio whilst I bit my nails and constantly pestered him for updates. I got various garbled messages for the next hour or so, along the lines of “Horlock’s missed a sitter”, “Gillingham have scored, but it’s been disallowed”, “Goater’s hit the post”. I found this very hard to cope with and had to keep disappearing to the bar (where the queues had thankfully been sorted out) and the toilet – it must have been the nerves! By this point I’d completely forgotten that a cricket match was taking place and I probably couldn’t have even told you who was batting, never mind what the score was. Then it happened, the conversation I didn’t want to take place, “Gillingham have scored”, “you’re joking aren’t you?”, “no I’m serious”. For the next couple of minutes I was on a complete downer, head in my hands and ready to cry. The Liverpool fan and the Rag suggested Paul and me go to the bar to drown our sorrows; I didn’t want to move and felt completely numb. Finally Paul persuaded me to go for another beer and as we left our seats he stated, ‘the b******s have scored again’.

The conversation on the way to the bar was along the lines of City letting us down again as usual, the problems another season in Division 2 would cause on and off the pitch and on how we’d not be able to cope with all the grief we’d receive from Rags at work etc. I think I’d reached my lowest peak ever as a City fan and I wasn’t even at the game – at this point I was glad I wasn’t. As I got the beers in, Paul stated that he was nipping next door to the Ladbrokes tent to borrow a pen for a form for free Cigars that he was filling in. As I approached the Ladbrokes tent with the beers I heard a loud screech from inside followed by Paul running outside shouting ‘we’ve f*****g equalised’. Both the beers I was carrying were hurled skywards as I began a merry dance of my own. Inside the bookies there were also people jumping up and down and hugging each other, all these goings-on were met with puzzlement by the Aussies and West Indians who were milling about.

Neither Paul nor myself could cope with listening to the extra-time commentary so we tried to use the time up by purchasing more beer and searching for the “free cigar” ladies. Paul did keep checking his radio for quick updates and as there didn’t appear to be too many great chances from either side it was no surprise when he told me that the game was over and it would be decided on penalties! Now I’m not a religious man at all but at this stage I found myself secretly praying to the good man above to be kind to the Blues for a change.

A crowd of Blues (well about 3 or 4 people) converged around me and Paul who were now listening to the radio with an earpiece each. An intrigued Aussie approached and asked what was happening, I explained that we were listening to the Man City game and they were about to start the shoot-out. “Oh, I support United” was the reply – what a surprise! As each penalty was taken the City fans around us could tell what the situation was by mine and Paul’s response ‘yesssssssssssssss’ or ‘b******s’. When Guy Butters stepped up to take his penalty, everyone was well aware that if he missed then City were up. There were a few seconds silence and then screams of joy followed by sessions of hugging each other, shaking hands etc.

After a celebratory pint and a few minutes to sit and try to calm our hearts down, we ventured back to our seats remembering that we were supposed to be watching a cricket game. The Rag’s words were something along the lines of “lucky gits” – I couldn’t believe a Utd fan saying that after their recent exploits.

We actually left the cricket early to go and have a celebratory curry in Rusholme and I didn’t actually find out the Aussies had won until the following day.

Can I end by saying it was good to see so many Blues parading around on the bank holiday Monday. It made a lovely change seeing City scarves and flags being flown from passing cars around the Macclesfield and Wilmslow areas. I’m just off to watch the Wembley video for the 4th time!

Forever Blue, Rob Kerr (citymacc@hotmail.com)

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE BLUE KIND

At 2-0 down I say my goodbyes to those sitting nearby and stand up to leave. City had played passing football with no reward in the first half and although we looked a bit vulnerable to the counter, I genuinely thought we would win. In the second half it was much more even. I would have liked to say that their goals were rubbish but they weren’t. Though we had opportunities to score but didn’t take them. We were going to lose to a side which took its chances. This was not going to be our year and I tried to think positively of the advantages of the Second Division again: low ticket prices, unpretentious stadiums, honest endeavour from rarely talented players. Horribly unconvincing.

My neighbour grabbed my arm “You can’t go,” he said – “we’re going to win.” He had told me about his dream we would win 3-1. “How do we win 3-1 when they’ve already got two?” I said. I like optimists but sometimes I think they’re just unreal. He didn’t answer but joined in the “City we love you” chant which started after a short pause after Gillingham’s second goal. The crowd weren’t giving up anyway. I stayed – after all there were only 7 minutes left.

We get so close to full time that only miracles will do. Horlock scores. Miracle number 1. He goes through easily and slots it confidently into the net. We are all cheered up, but it only looks as though we have gained dignity. Then we notice that 5 minutes has been added on. Five minutes? Where did that come from? Must be Taggart’s watch – miracle number 2. We start cheering every promising move. They all seem to break down. Gills start to play in our half. The game is virtually over when Dickov gets through. I’ve seen Paul Dickov in this position on many occasions. He usually misses and looks ashamed. He lashes it into the net. Miracle 3. We go completely, ballistically, bananas. Hugging, cheering, punching the air, City ’til I die’-ing , ‘Blue moon’-ing and making some outrageous noise. Gills’ players are distraught. A bloke in a City shirt is carried on a stretcher past us with a saline drip attached. Heart attack someone says. No-one is surprised. Will we throw it away in the last minute? About 15 seconds later the ref blows for full time and we live again.

By this time Royle’s changes which include Bishop on for Brown and speedy Taylor the deadly striker, leave us short at the back. Joe shuffles things around. “Probably 4-2” says the optimist. “Easy.”

We look in control at first. Optimist says: “They are finished, look at them they’ve had it.” But there are no more miracles. We go back to being nearly but not quite good enough. They start looking dangerous on the counter.

Don’t say it’s going to be penalties. I hate penalties. Penalties are such a lottery. We might as well sub Delia Smith and have a Guess the weight of the Cake competition. The ref blows the whistle. It’s bl**dy penalties.

“Watch this,” my optimistic friend says “Nicky will save us.” I ask him if he enjoyed his half time spliff which I reason is the only explanation for his beliefs. I don’t remember Nicky Weaver saving any penalties but I do remember him not saving some and looking indignant.

How are decisions made with penalty competitions? My guess would be that you toss a coin for who goes first and the other side choose which end to shoot at. I can’t believe they would have chosen to shoot at the City end as well as City going first but that’s what happened. Big, big mistake. Horlock takes the first and places it easily. The 2-2 score has disappeared from the scoreboard and it says Gillingham 0 Manchester City 1.

Gillingham’s turn. Their man starts to move forward to the penalty spot and the City fans begin to make noise. Big, frightening sort of “We’re going to kill you if you score” noise. He bottles it and puts it at to Weaver’s right. Weaver saves with his legs. Yeeessss.

Dickov steps up. Noise level down. Gills’ fans try to make off-putting sounds but they are at the wrong end. I’ve been more frightened in a minute’s silence. Sound of 40,000 fingernails being chomped at the City end. It hits one post, goes across and hits the other. Dickov puts it in off the rebound. Ref gives “no goal” signals. Oh s**t. Their second man steps up. The crowd decide that they will see City through to Division 1. There’s even more noise than the first time. My ears begin to hurt. My friend says something optimistic but I can’t hear. The poor Gills player hits it towards the top corner but the crowd suck it wide. More elation.

Terry Cooke steps up confidently. I believe he will score. My friend believes he will score. Gills’ fans go very quiet. He scores. Gillingham 0 Manchester City 2 says the scoreboard. We think it might just happen for us. The next Gills player is unimpressed by the City noise and puts it in the net with Nicky Weaver rooted to the line. Half-hearted cheers from the Gills’ end.

Still we have the advantage. We need an experienced penalty taker/goal scorer to put us 3-1 up. Step forward Richard Edghill. I experience the same empty feeling as when David Batty came forward for England in the World Cup. Richard Edghill doesn’t take penalties. Richard Edghill doesn’t score goals. He can’t cross a ball and his passes too often go astray. I’ve seen him shoot so wide that a throw-in is awarded. Not for the first time I am misjudging the situation. He puts the penalty away like a veteran striker. Shearer? Boll**ks – Edghill first choice every time. Scoreboard changes to Gillingham 1 Manchester City 3. I lose count of where we’re up to. My drug crazed, wildly optimistic friend tells me Nicky Weaver will make a blinding save and we will be through without taking all five penalties. I stop saying something sarcastic suddenly remembering that so far he’s been right.

The Gills’ player steps up. He has to score. The City crowd aren’t going to let him. The hissing, jeering and shouting reach a 1,000 decibel crescendo. The stewards put their hands to their ears. I swear that the stand begins to shake. This is not good because Wembley is a crappy, old dump and it might fall down. No point in getting promotion if we’re all dead. Nicky guesses right, dives and pushes a good penalty round the post. We can’t believe it. All hell is let loose. The Gills’ players and fans are in shock.

Scoreboard says: Gillingham 1 Manchester City 3. He was right! We did win 3-1. City players are chasing each other around Wembley. Even Joe looks chuffed. I didn’t know that they get a cup and medals. City players troop up to the Royal Box. I don’t know who awarded the prizes but I think it was probably God. They lift the cup. We could not be happier if we had won the Holy Grail. There wasn’t this much excitement in 1976 when Joe Royle himself stepped up to receive his League Cup winner’s medal with City.

The crowd at the Gillingham end disperses. Only about 200 or so City fans remain behind at their end. They did bring about 34,000 fans after all. The Gillingham players are long gone after a few shirt swaps. The crowd won’t let City go. They do about three laps of honour. Then they start throwing bits of kit into the crowd. Optimist gets Andy Morrison’s shin pads. The stewards looked seriously pi**ed off. Not only do they get deafened but they have extra time and now their tea has gone cold. We sing “Blue Moon”, “City – the only football team to come from Manchester”, “Terry’s not a Munich anymore” and a late entry to the charts “You can stick your friggin treble up your rs.”

On the way home I stop at a service station in Warwick on the M40. It is full of Blues. The gents is all ticket. I go to the shop to buy a celebratory bar of chocolate or something. City fans stand in a queue all the way to the back of the shop and all round the paper stand. The manageress looks puzzled at the good humour and patience. I explain that they all think they’re near the front because the queue will be gone in an hour.

I press on home on a crowded M6 still finding it difficult to take in. But City are up and the crowd were completely brilliant, unswervingly loyal and they never gave up. Very few actually went when we were 2-0 down. Many came back anyway. The crowd definitely made the penalty competition one-sided. I should feel sorry for Gillingham but I don’t. City fans have put up with so much. It was our turn and it was the most fantastic day.

Peter Llewellyn (hw79@dial.pipex.com)

THE VIEW FROM A PUB IN MAIDSTONE

At 2:30 we were ready. I was so nervous I’d had to go for a drive to calm down. Jemma had on her scarf and badge and my wife had spent 4 hours doing Jemma’s nails. Blue and yellow with letters on her fingers spelling out MCFC. We got to the pub which had advertised a 60″ screen and lots of smaller screens so that everyone would get a good view. Jemma is less than 4′ tall so we needed to find a good seat but that wasn’t a problem – the landlady got a table and a couple of stools and put them in front of everyone else so that Jemma could see. Great except she and I were the only City fans and the other 60-70 people were Gills “fans”, most were still talking about the game last Wednesday when their “other” team had done a Houdini at the Nou Camp!

Guinness and kick-off. A friend of ours joined us although he’s not into football but always available for a beer. The fact that he is over 6 feet tall also helped settle my nerves.

Jemma has just about got the basics of football, i.e. a free kick to them is bad – a free kick to us means that Terry will score. In fact any set piece to us means Terry will score including goal-kicks. She still didn’t know about penalties but wasn’t worried because she kept telling me, very loudly, that City would win.

The first she heard about penalties was in the first few minutes when I alone leapt up and shouted for one. The general concensus was that we should have got it, even the Gills thought so.

A couple of guys behind us thought that Dickov’s name was funny and asked if his middle name was “your”. Gosh! How we giggled.

End to end – we were playing “pretty” football and they were a little more agricutural. Jemma needed the toilet at half-time and I needed a pint.

Second half more of the same. Not a game for the faint-hearted and some of the “tackles” that went in on Dickov should have had the police charging people with assault.

Into the final 15 minutes and talk is of extra time when the Gills scored. Bedlam! Jemma remained calm and said that we would still win. I needed a pint and a visit to the bog. While in there another gut-renching scream from the bar and I guessed what had happened. It’s probably the first time I have been applauded when leaving a public toilet! The guys in the bar are now taking the p**s out of the City fans on telly as there are clearly a number crying. Short memories these people though.

Then everything happened at once: Sky announced that Bartram was man-of-the-match and Horlock scored. A helpful chappy was still explaining what a “consolation goal” meant when Dickov finally retaliated after spending 93 minutes being beaten up. Had he hit a defender it would have been gratifying but wrong. His goal tore the heart out of the whole team and the guts out of a whole county. It went very quiet in the pub with the exception of me dancing and screaming.

I thought there would have been half an hour of extra time but it seems they only played five minutes. Jemma was going to finally see a few penalties but by then we were both singing about there only being “One Nicky Weaver!” Suddenly the pub was empty. The barstaff, my mate, Jemma and I had a final drink and we walked home singing Blue Moon. To Jemma it was just a match and the outcome was never in doubt.

At 6:00 on Monday morning our 3-year-old son was sitting on my chest singing “On Micky Weaver, airs ony on Micky Weaver!” He’s a bit young for Maine Road but in a few years time he’ll be there with us to watch City in the Premiership. This is just a start!

I really hope that some of the Gills’ fans now start going to Priestfield and getting behind their local team – of the people I talked to only a couple had been to a game. Jemma has more experience of live football even if it was only against the likes of Wycombe and Wigan. The catchment area for Gillingham is huge and after Sunday they deserve some support. As for the Blues, roll on this time next season when we go up by right and not through this mickey mouse lottery.

CTID, Nigel Gibson (Nigel.gibson@integralis.co.uk)

RUMOUR

A quick rumor from Wembley on Sunday…

Firstly, I was sat in block 201. Who do I see stood at the bar when I first walk into the ground – Uwe Rösler. He was spotted by some other fans around the same time and a chourous of Uwe, Uwe etc. started to ring around the inside of Wembley – followed by Uwe give us a song, Uwe Uwe give us a song then a shussh… Uwe started his song – CTID!

I heard somebody else in the stadium later on say that they had been talking to him – apparently he has been given a free transfer by Kaiserslautern and wants to come back to City. He was at the game to watch the team as his return depended on City’s return to Division 1. Certainly his song backs this up.

Also, on the train on the way back to our hotel in Teddington (after many pints in the Torch pub) we were talking to a City fan who was with his son and his daughter. Apparently, he turned up at the ground 1/4 hour before kick-off and paid one of the people on the turnstiles at Wembley £80 to let him and his two children in.

Joel Adams (joel@ppfs.co.uk)

WEMBLEY REFLECTIONS

Briefly met some Southern Blues in Hobgoblin Pub, central London. Had a ticket spare (don’t ask, long story) but the only guy without one had just left for Wembley! Tried to get him on his mobile but it was switched off! Phoned another mate who was already in the Olympic Gallery boozing it. He had a mate who needed one, so he phoned him (time Sunday 1.00). No, his mate was babysitting! Arrived Wembley, plenty of Blues looking for tickets but needed to find a genuine true Blue case. Found someone who was getting desperate. Offered him the ticket at face value (his best offer had been the Gillingham end for £150.00). Needless to say he was very grateful, even kissed me. Now we were 5.

Inside, guy with giant cardboard Joe Royle head on is doing the rounds.

Stale smell of alcohol, long queues for loo. Women’s even longer. Wembley is a pig sty of the first order no matter what anyone says.

The match – dreadful until the final twenty minutes. Bishop is on, City improve but entire section of ground half empties when City go 2-0 down. Man gives young boy in front his flag as a consolation prize. Young boy begins to wave flag for all he is worth. City get 2 goals, ref blows final whistle. I tell boy to keep waving flag.

Why didn’t we finish it in extra time? Why make it easy for your long-suffering fans?

Pens: Yes I could watch. All excellent penalties, even Dickov’s. The young boy won it for me. No not Weaver, the one in front.

Still can’t believe we’re up.

Men of the match: Bishop, Edghill.

Ken Foster (kfoster@blackpoolblue.demon.co.uk)

I DON’T BLO*DY BELIEVE IT!

It’s Tuesday 1st June, I’ve been to Wembley, I’ve watched the video twice (4 hours) and I’ve even watched the highlights, and yet I still can’t blo*dy believe it. I still can’t believe that we came back from a two goal deficit with less than 5 minutes on the clock, plus what injury time the MIB decided to add on. I still can’t believe that we scored two goals and went on to win the penalty shoot out.

I’m a Christian and I’ve never prayed for City to win a football match, but on Sunday after we’d lost the two goals, four thoughts went through my mind in quick succession. having to watch 2nd Division football for a second season, having to make the long journey back to Manchester, having to return to work on Tuesday. And the most upsetting thought – after having queued for 8 hours and 15 minutes (I know it’s not a record) in the cold and wind for it to finally come to this – then I prayed. I told the Lord that I would forsake winning the lottery or the pools, that I was even prepared to work to the ripe old age of 65 if only we could go on and win – then Horlock scored, I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate, then Dickov scored and even then it didn’t quite sink in that the Lord had answered my prayers.

Extra time came and went and it was still stalemate – so onto penalties. I have never watched a penalty kick being taken, whether it’s City or England or even the Birmingham versus Watford game I watched a week ago. I just think that it’s a cruel way for any game to end. On Sunday I got up and left and walked around with my hands over my ears (stupid prat!) and only knew that we’d won when a fan came up to me and hugged me. I got back to my seat just in time to see young Nick’s demonic run halfway around the pitch before Andy Morrison got hold of him and he was buried under a sea of bodies.

My everlasting memories of Sunday 30th May, 1999 will be the noise the City fans made, Nicky’s sheer delight after he’d saved the second penalty, and the sight of the players paying homage to the fans.

Do you know what? I still don’t bl*ody believe it.

CTIBBI – City ’til I blo*dy believe it, Averil Capes (a.capes@man0511.icl.co.uk)

WEMBLEY – A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

I’d like to offer a slightly different view on Sunday’s events, and focus on the emotion and atmosphere rather than the events which transpired on the pitch.

First a quick background:

As a Southern Blue, and a non-member, there seemed no way to get a ticket in the City end. So I phoned Gillingham and got a ticket no problem – in fact the first question they asked me was “how many do you want?”

After bluffing my way through a waste-of-time phone call on Saturday from Gillingham FC, who were trying to weed out City fans in the Gills’ end (they saw my West Sussex address and immediately assumed the worst), I got my ticket in the post with no problems.

And so, just over a week later, to Wembley. The trip up was quiet until Baker Street tube at 1.30pm, when the otherwise quiet Metro Line platform became a sea of chanting, singing, dancing Blues, partying all the way to Wembley Park. There were a few Gills about too, but the overwhelming feeling I had was that we were going to comprehensively outnumber them, with thousands like myself trapped – colourless because of all the pre-match warnings about ejection – in the Gills’ end. How wrong I was.

Walking up Wembley Way I longed to be able to be with all my fellow worshippers in the Blue flock, but with a grim face I turned right and walked round to turnstile M. Walking up into the seating area itself, I realised with horror that I was but 5 seats or so from the segregation area, right on the edge of the Gills’ allocation opposite the Royal Box. City fans bedecked in scarves, face paint and flags were singing joyously only a few feet from where I was standing with my arms folded and teeth firmly gritted. So near and yet so blo*dy far.

I couldn’t bring myself to stand amongst the Gills’ fans so stood in the aisle while the teams came out, the fireworks went up and the crowd went crazy to greet their heroes. I stood through the anthems, which were very well observed from where I was standing, and the team introductions. Looking around at this point I could see that at best there could only be a few City fans in the Gills’ end. They were making a tremendous noise, not far behind our lot. I must say that I was both impressed and worried. With a following like that, their team could easily raise their game and meet us head on…

Then the ball was placed on the spot, the tension cranked up another notch, and I could contain myself no longer. Risking ejection, I turned to a steward and asked if I could move the few feet to my right and sit with the City faithful… he immediately directed me back down the steps out of the seating, and I thought, no, don’t chuck me out, not now, not after all this season.

Then to my delight he left me with a very helpful lady steward who picked a ticket from a great wad marked “Manchester Sterile Area”, and let me back into the arena at the left edge of the City fans. Yes! At last I was free to express myself, sing my heart out, and watch the game properly.

So all was well, until the first Gills goal. Being right by the side of the Gills’ fans, I have to say that the noise they made when they scored was incredible. Definitely the loudest I have ever heard in any ground anywhere. What a racket! And it was sustained too. I don’t think they could believe it, all their dreams coming true. The sea of dark blue and white flags was very impressive, all credit to their fans for their support, even if it was the first ever football game for some of them.

Then Dickov nearly equalised, and I was starting to think this just wasn’t going to be our day, and dammit if they go don’t have the cheek to go down the other end and score again. Cue more mayhem at the dark blue end. Ironically – because they hadn’t been singing much in the first place – the chants of “you’re not singing any more” rose up, to be countered by a rousing renditions of “we love you City” and “City till I die”. I could see City fans starting to work their way out of the ground now. Mentally, I was with them, but something made me stay to the bitter end.

Not another season in Division Two. Surely not. Yet the clock showed 88, and we were two-nil down. What else could anyone think?

Then Horlock stuck in what surely had to be a consolation goal. Our celebrations were short lived and quickly muted, drowned out by the surge of whistles from the Gills, exhorting the ref to blow for time.

None of the City contingent around me saw the board showing the extra 5 minutes, and as Wembley’s electronic clock had stopped at 90, we had no idea how long we had left to play. Time stretched into an eternity until that magic moment when Dickov instantly bought his ticket to the City Hall of Fame.

And boy, what a moment. As the ball hit the back of the net rather than ballooning over the bar, all of the demons plaguing City this season were exorcised in a momentous cry of joy that rent the Wembley air asunder. Turn the sound up as you replay it on your video tape. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, a different note entirely from the roar when the Gills scored.

Forty thousand fans in laser blue and yellow leapt into the air in unison, the despair of the last few minutes matched and then beaten to a pulp by the relief and ecstasy we now felt. People around me had tears in their eyes, and grown men were openly hugging at a footy game. By the time the celebrations had subsided, the ref had blown for time and we were into the extra half hour. The Gills’ fans to my left looked on in silence, despairing that they would be able to hold us out for the extra half-hour.

As it turned out, of course, extra time came and went. The only two incidents I can remember from that period are when Weaver was flapping about all over his box following yet another botched clearance, and when Whitley handballed a left wing cross out for a Gills corner. For one fleeting moment I thought that as the referee extended his arm, he would point to the spot, but it was only a corner. The Gills fans went spare. They couldn’t believe the ref hadn’t given it. Actually, neither could I, but that didn’t stop the smug grin on my face.

In the end then, forty-nine games, half an hour’s extra time, and all our hopes and dreams boiled down to a penalty shoot-out. Having never known a decent result from penalties – England losing out twice in the only ones I’ve cared about – I was quaking in my boots thinking about the impending lottery. Good omens were that the pens were to be taken at our end, and that we were going first.

We scored our first, but early days yet. Then the wall of noise that rose from our end as the Gills’ player stepped up was amazing. The whistling and stomping must have been almost unbearable down on the pitch. Unsurprisingly, they missed. Celebrations began and ended just as quickly as Dickov hit both posts and out. Then they blasted one wide following another wall of sound. Cooke snuck one inside the left post for us, then they scored what turned out to be their only successful pen.

As Edghill stepped up I had to turn away, thinking, no, not Edgy, why him – the same feeling in fact when Pearce had stepped up for England. I just knew he would miss. But the fans around me physically turned me round and urged me to watch. And Edgy put it in, albeit off the underside of the bar. Oh me of little faith. Now we knew that only a successful conversion would keep us out of Division 1. The wonder wall of sound rose even higher, became even more intimidating, Weaver went the right way as the Gills’ player shot and Yyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssss!

Game over – goodbye Gills, auf wiedersehen Wycombe, muchas gracias Millwall. I still can’t believe how we got out of that, but hey! Who cares?

CTID, Nigel Edney (Edders) – Horsham Blue (nedney@hrfs.co.uk)

DAD’S DAY

I have corresponded once or twice over the last few years, but living in South Africa, I have often felt a little detached to express too many views. Having spent over 250 pounds listening to the Wigan games over a telephone line (UK end lay next to a radio!). I decided on Tuesday of last week to sod the expense and make the journey from South Africa to watch my team. I phoned my dad – who lives in Huddersfield, 65 years old, disabled and has been a City fan all his days – told him to meet me at Kings Cross – we were going to Wembley – a place he had never been; to watch his beloved City. This is not a story about my journey, but about my dad.

We lived for over 26 years at 61 Thornton Road, literally spitting distance from the Football Academy and would still be there today, but for the untimely death of my mother late in 1988. Since then, I have moved abroad, dad got re-married and we spend preciuos little time together – the little time we do is normally talking about City. With the distance between us, coupled with the poor performance of City, it would be fair to say that our relationship has been less bouyant than for many a year.

So, Saturday night at six, my mate Allan (who came for the ride) and I set off from Johannesburg to worship the Blues. We started quite brilliantly with an upgrade on the plane and in true Manc fashion I declined the champagne in favour of lager. Three hours later we were asked rather politley to sit down and stop chanting “who the **** are man utd?”; after 2 public warnings we succumbed, took the sleeping pills and awoke 6 hours later on landing at Heathrow. After the journey through London to meet dad, Allan asked me if I was going to tell everyone in London why we were here (a reference to my informing all I met that we were going to watch the only football team to come from Manchester). As dad ambled down the platform, off the Leeds train, with a big smile and his sports bag full of sandwiches and Yorkies, I felt like his son again.

We travelled to Wembley, via The Green Man for 2 hours of swally, on the tube with lots of Blues, dad even met a lad whose father used to play for City, which allowed him to impress all present with his deep knowledge and love of the club.

On arrival at Wembley we sauntered up the Way with so many, many fans, it was incredible. My mate Allan commented that that there must have been some interbreeding taking place at some point for all these fans to support a 2nd Division club – he supports Clydebank where there most definitely does!

My mates from Moss Side brought the tickets as promised, time for some fish and chips and then onto the game. What happened over the next 2 hours has already gone down in football history as astonishing. Rather than repeat other well chosen words let me say this. I smiled from start to finish, proud to be with my da, proud of my club, and most proud of its unique supporters. I turned to dad in the 88th minute and said something along the lines of “what a great day out for us – it cannot end like this”; he looked at me tearfully and “Yes, a great day son – but that is City for you.” Over the next 8 minutes, we seemed to just stand with arms aloft or around each other or some similar soul. As the penalites came, we helped dad up to stand on the bench, held him tight and I whispered “now see a bit of history” – he looked and laughed – me the eternal optimist, him the reverse. Ten minutes later we were all crying with joy. I coudn’t help feeling that this was what we all desreved after the disappointment of the last decades. As we moved back to Kings Cross, we sang and danced and chanted with our fellow Blues, so much that we never wanted the journey to end.

We arrived at Kings Cross with 10 minutes to spare, dad got on the train and I ran along the platform with a bottle of gin in my hand waving goodbye and mouthing I love you. He just waved back, smiling and shaking his head as he explained to he people opposite that this was his mad City fan son from South Africa. I cried. My mate Allan was also crying as I walked back up the station and I asked him why. “You looked like a 10-year-old again” he said. Ironic that that was exactly how I felt, like the days when we would leave the ground and walk down the pink passage together after City had won – my dad was the best in the world and me and him were City fans.

I know that still to be true, thanks for everything Dad.

Mark Bell

SUNDAY, BLO*DY MARVELLOUS SUNDAY!

It’s Wednesday evening in Hong Kong, I got back yesterday, but I’ve only just come down sufficiently to put this weekend’s event in print. I’ve deliberately not read MCIVTA so, if I’m repeating other people’s words, I do apologise.

I flew into London on Friday, having failed miserably to get a ticket – even the “leggy blonde” rouse didn’t work. Spent an evening with a couple of mates in Banbury, then it was back off to The Smoke to stay at the Mail Coach in Shepherds Bush (cheers Kev!).

Several beers, and still no bleedin’ ticket, later, and it was time for bed. Other than a panicky five minutes where I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I’d woken up, there was absolutely no problem getting my breakfast and a couple of pints before heading off to Wemberley with my (also ticketless) mate Glenn.

We probably spent about an hour hunting tickets and, I must admit I was panicking until I finally found someone to sell theirs. A hundred notes for a twenty quid ticket sounds ridiculous but, in retrospect, I reckon I got a great deal. Unfortunately, I had to abandon Glenn at that point ’cause – I’m like that really (I’m all right Jack and all that!). Luckily enough, he got into the Gillingham end for sixty quid.

First half was strange wasn’t it? I felt that the whole occasion with fireworks and national anthems etc. got to our blokes a lot more than it did to them. Also, considering that City had been warming up for at least half an hour, how come no-one figured out that it had been raining on the Saturday, and it might make sense to wear studs?

I actually don’t remember much about the beginning of the second half, other than it seemed more of the same. I guess the turning point in the game came when Ian Bishop took the field, though it didn’t feel that way at the time. Having said that, while we were getting more and more of the ball, we were allowing Gillingham to run through us on the break, and that time that young Mr Weaver played the most ridiculous ball I’ve seen since Andy Dibble well, ?

Then it happened, not once but twice, they just seemed to romp all the way up-pitch without a decent challenge and, in the one f**kin game we couldn’t afford to lose, we were two down with seconds to spare. My two thoughts at the time were “I hope to Christ that the cameras aren’t on me, ’cause I’m welling up” and “How come the Stretford B*****ds can score in injury time, when we never do?”

But I’d forgotten that Joe Royle’s reinvented City. While we used to have talented, but basically gutless, players, we now have a team of errm limited players who don’t know the game’s over. I felt that our first was a consolation, and I don’t really remember anyone getting too worked up about it, but as for Dickov’s I honestly can’t remember going so ballistic in all my life.

We should probably have won the game in extra time, but no-one around me knew whether it was half an hour or golden goal. I understand that they made an announcement, but we were making far too much noise at that point to give a toss.

Then, penalties, and a massive noise from our 40,000 – I thought my brain was going to leak, poor Gillingham didn’t stand a chance. If we went ballistic when we equalised, we went blo*dy medieval when Nicky Weaver won it for us. Oh, and who scored the winning goal? The bloke who hasn’t scored in nine years – obviously!

In retrospect, we got out of jail free, getting the goals and choice of ends and first penalty but, when was the last time we got that sort of luck? I’m specifically thinking of Birmingham’s injury time goals that sent us down last season but, you guys watch City more than I do, so I’m sure you all have your “favourite” moment to recall.

Strangely enough, Sunday night was fairly subdued. I felt that the game had taken far too much out of all of us to be really enjoyed. Still, we had a few, got thrown out of a Greek restaurant ’cause of an argument about an invisible twenty quid(!), nearly got into a fight with some QPR fans who thought we were United (we were all wearing laser blue!), and generally had a good time.

Monday morning was more of the same, until everyone went their own separate ways. I finally got back to Hong Kong yesterday evening, several pounds lighter (Sterling, not lbs!) with a larynx that was shot to f**k.

Being magnanimous in victory, I didn’t believe any more than anyone else that Gillingham could shift 35,000, but there only appeared to be a couple of hundred Blues down that end after the game. And they were extremely well behaved on the way back into London (dread what would have happened if that had been us!). So, good luck to them next year, hope they do it – but I somehow can’t see it. Also, was it true that Noel did a George Best? Arse!

Before I go, I’d just like to say thanks to all at the Mail Coach (Glenn, Kev, Paul, John, Bethan, Jo, Neil, Jean, Joe, some people whose names I forget, the guy from the West Country who looks the spit of Andy May…), but especially to Nick, Lee, Richard, Andy, Gerard, Michael, Kevin, Jeff, Paul, Shaun, Terry, Gareth, Tony and Ian for making that a huge bloody weekend, but not one I’d choose to go through again thanks a lot.

Yiiiiiiiiisssssssss, John Riley – Hong Kong (jonandjo@netvigator.com)

THE 2ND DIVISION ROLLERCOASTER RIDE

Story of a season

  1. Coming down to earth at Fulham.
  2. Late, late winner at Macc.
  3. Losing to Preston, Lincoln, and Reading and realising that we’re not actually very good.
  4. Having hopes raised by Morrison, Branch, and 3-0 vs. Oldham, only to lose at Wycombe and come home to find we had missed Craig Hignett.
  5. Dickie’s equaliser vs. Darlington (why wasn’t he playing all season?).
  6. Despair after Bristol Rovers, officially The Worst Performance of the Season, and then York.
  7. Winning very luckily at Wrexham, the game when Nicky Weaver firmly established himself as a hero.
  8. The Turning Point of the Season, 2nd half vs. Stoke, crucial, crucial late winner by Taylor, which set us up for our run.
  9. Getting let down the following week at Blackpool.
  10. Becoming a good team (Fulham, Walsall, Stoke, Millwall etc.).
  11. Shaun’s hat-trick! Thinking the guy on 5 Live had made some kind of mistake.
  12. Colchester. One match summary of why we had to get promotion.
  13. Having hopes raised of automatic. Easy game vs. Wycombe, couldn’t concerntrate in exam through suspense, come out and check the score, gutted.
  14. Robbed of 3 points in Bristol, but finishing 3rd after impressive win over York.
  15. 1st minute horror show vs. Wigan. Typical City.
  16. Showing the spirit and change of luck to come back and claim a draw. Atypical City.
  17. The joy of beating Wigan and reaching Wembley. Surely this elation could not be surpassed…?
  18. The greatest game in the history of the world. Quite simply, in termsof elation, football and City will never get any better then this.How us fans deserved that day. And how I can’t get that game out of my mind!Has anyone out there got a radio recording of the game? Wanted badly!And has anyone else noticed that the throw-in that led to Dickov’s goal wasactually their ball?

Alan Brazil: “There’ll be parties in Kent tonight.” Tw@t.
Great moment: the team’s ‘we are not worthy.’

Mark Braude (mark.braude@some.ox.ac.uk)

WIDE AWAKE IN DREAMLAND

It’s now 4 days after the most amazing game of football I’ve ever been to in my life. I’m not sure I’ll see anything like it ever again; for those who were there, or have seen it on TV since, you’ll know what I mean.

I won’t describe any of the action, I’m sure many others will do that. Suffice to say, we didn’t deserve to lose the game and I don’t think any of the players should be criticised for Sunday, there’s been enough of that this season. Let’s just enjoy this moment. For me though, Bishop made the real difference when he came on.

I’ve so many memories from Sunday. Did anyone see those 2 Blue Nuns? They certainly brightened up the pub in Kings Cross station! I can remember vividly the feeling of looking at the clock and seeing that there was only 2 minutes to go. All I could think was all those ‘little’ teams – Brentford, Chesterfield etc. and we’d have to go through it all again. I remember thinking that the magnificent support the players received at Wembley had been for nothing. Typically City, flattering to deceive. One last cry of “City ’til I die” went up, and to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered joining in. I was stunned into silence. I thought about a consolation goal, would I celebrate? I decided I wouldn’t. One Kevin Horlock shot later, and I did! But what made it worse was not knowing how much added time was to be played.

When Dickov scored I can honestly say that I have never celebrated a goal as much in my life; I’ve certainly never sang “You’re not singing anymore” louder! Even now, I have absolutely no memory of Dickov’s goal, it’s been wiped out in the euphoria that went on around where I was stood.

When it came to penalties, Nicky Weaver wound up the City crowd. The sight of him geeing-up the City fans will stay with me a long time. To be honest, even then, I never thought we’d win. This is City after all. It would be typical for them to throw it away after all the hard work. But Manchester City, version 1999, is different.

The celebrations when he saved the decisive penalty was unbelievable. People were crying, everyone was hugging everyone. Just think what would happen if we actually won a major trophy.

What I will remember most about Sunday is Blue Moon ringing around Wembley before, during and after the game. I truly, never thought that would ever happen.

A City fan summed it all up on the train home from Kings Cross, when he said that this just doesn’t happen to City. On Sunday 30 May 1999, it did. I saw my team win at Wembley.

Neil Towse (neil.towse@pinsent-curtis.co.uk)

FANTASTIC DAY

Just a quick note re the fantastic day we had on Sunday.

We began our day in a pub near Marylebone called the Constitution. The landlord, a mate of my brother-in-law, opened early for a group of 20 or so of us and we were joined by a few passing Blues. Any time you are passing there have a drink as they are really nice in there.

We joined the hordes of City fans heading to Wembley with huge anticipation. Could we do it – turn the corner and head up towards the heady heights of the 1st Division?

I have been to Wembley before for a concert but I forgot just what a complete toilet (literally) of a place it is. It is about time it was knocked down! We were unable to get programmes as they were all sold out as were just about all other items of memorabilia – some poor planning by someone.

Anyway on to the main event which all seemed to pass by in a sort of blur. All I can really remember until the 83rd minute is City players falling over a lot. And then… disaster followed by even worse disaster as they scored not once but twice. We didn’t leave (from my point of view it was Wembley and I was going to get full value out of the day) but many did only to come rushing back. The Evening Standard had a story of a City fan pulling the cord on the tube so he could get off and walk back to see extra time.

Well I cheered Horlock’s goal although few around me didn’t but then when that ball took off from Dickov’s foot and twenty minutes later (or so it seemed) hit the back of the net I had a moment of hysteria and screamed and screamed (typical girlie!).

Time flew until the end of extra time and when they went to take the penalties at our end I though we had a good chance especially since we made a huge (deafening even) amount of noise as the Gillingham players stepped up. I need say no more because what followed had me once again screaming and jumping up and down along with the other 39,999 City fans – and the couple of hundred in the Gillingham end – yes we saw you waving frantically at the other end of the stadium.

I have to say that I have never thanked my husband for introducing me to the Blues 8 years ago – let’s face it we’ve not had reason to celebrate in that time – but I wouldn’t have missed that day at Wembley for anything. I know it’s only a promotion to the 1st Division but we are travelling in the right direction at last and I really enjoyed that day so thanks John for making me a Blue!

Sharon Marsland (Sharon.Marsland@icl.com)

MY WEMBLEY WAFFLE

What an experience! It’s taken me ’til now to calm down enough to commit my thoughts to text, and in typical pessimistic City fashion, ’til now for me to believe there isn’t going to be a Tony Pulis led high court injunction on the referee whereby the judge awards that injury time wasn’t valid and declares Dicky’s goal null and void! I know for all Blues there, Sunday was the most amazing experience. For me it was to be the game that forever banished the nightmare of ’81. After the Wigan game I felt very unusually relaxed and calm. Inside (I didn’t dare admit it in case putting it into words jinxed it!) I felt confident, City would not, could not, let us down this time. There had been too many let downs, and God must have let them win the treble for some reason.

Once everything was booked I sat back and slept like a baby all week – not a nerve to worry about. Off to Leeds station for the 12.05 to Kings Cross, straight onto a tube to the hotel – everything was going perfect – too perfect. Then the room in the hotel – my God I wouldn’t have put a rat in there, nay I even wouldn’t have put a Rag in there, it was black with mould, paper peeling off the walls, and stank of… well I shudder to think – a hell hole! Oh no, this was the jinx, it was all going to go wrong from here. Never mind – go and get p****d then you won’t notice, I thought. Off into London – took us ages to find any crowds of Blues, then when we did they were being quite abusive – throwing bottles and singing that lovely “get your … for the lads” song at every female who walked by. So we headed for Trafalgar Square but not until we had spent an hour trying to find an offy (later saw one across the road from Nelson’s column!). Climb up Nelson(!) and got chatting to the Norwegian Blues. One of them whose name sounded like “Goater” and whose flag was tied on Nelson told me the game and trip etc. has cost him £4,000 but he said it will be worth every penny and predicted a 4-0 thrashing of the Gills (mmmm!). By the way if “Goater” or any of his acquaintances reads this I’d love to get in touch so drop me an e-mail.

Had huge fun singing and drinking before running out of beer at 2am. The next day – the biggest day of my life and it all hit me. I was sick to the stomach, hardly spoke and couldn’t join in the fun before hand. On the tube on the way to Wembley met an Irish guy who didn’t have a ticket. When I asked him why did he support City when there are so many Rags over there, he simply shrugged and said “I guess I was just lucky!” Into the ground and what a dump but the noise in the tunnels was deafening. Got to my seat – £32 for this – could hardly see as the gradient seemed to be going the wrong way. As for the match – don’t really remember it except for the scares (Weaver’s kick). When Goater hit the post I wisely kicked the bottom of the seat only for it to rebound into my shin at a greater pace. I followed this master stroke by thumping the back of the seat only to hit the number and gouge a huge chunk of skin off my knuckle – never mind, maybe the blood was lucky (what?!). Then it happened and my whole world fell apart. I slumped into my seat and sobbed uncontrollably. I was born in 1969, was too young to be a part of ’76 and so far have only seen torment and pain. 20 years of expectation. 20 years of being laughed at but still holding my head up knowing it would come right. It all rested on this day. Sunday was going to be the day I could start feeling positive again. The day I could turn their laughter back at them. But now it had all been cruelly ripped away from me. I didn’t see any of the rest of the normal time. I just sat there crying and saying over and over again “what have I ever done to deserve this?” At 2-0 the bloke behind screamed “You’ve let us down again, you’ve let us down big time”. Nobody around us cheered when Horlock scored.

Then all of a sudden I heard the most almighty scream and we’d only gone and bladdy done it Rodney! I jumped all over everyone (I currently have 10 bruises that I want to keep forever). The same bloke behind screamed “we love you City”. Ian Brightwell who had been sitting a couple of rows in front, and who had fled at 2-0, came running back in, and we all returned the “You’re not singing anymore” which had been directed at us only a few minutes before. Who was this team playing in yellow? It couldn’t have been City, City don’t do comebacks. As for the penalties I knew Edghill had been named as one of the five before the match so I wasn’t as devastated when he stepped up as most (I actually quite like him as a player, but whisper it or I might get hate mail). I heard it hit the bar and thought s**t, but it was safe. I knew Weaver would save it, I just knew it! The sheer ecstasy and joy. I turned to my mate and said “so this is what winning at Wembley feels like” and I loved every minute, even sang the Rag song (shame no-one had brought Supra). If anyone is still awake, I’d love to know how it felt for those fans who’ve seen success (and I mean real success) before. How did it compare to FA Cup wins, the League, ECWC and League Cup wins? All I can compare it to is Rags 5-1, Charlton 5-1 and Bradford 1-1, and none of these comes close to the feelings on Sunday.

Am I getting too easily excited? Are my expectations too low? We were the last to leave our block and sauntered back to Kings Cross for some booze! where we also met Tommy Booth. Got back to Leeds at 1am and watched it again on video. I was surprised to hear that the referee actually chooses the end for the penalties, and thought we were pretty lucky to get ours, then realised he probably did it because the tunnel was right behind that goal so it would be less of a distraction and more fair. Probably my favourite part of the coverage (apart from the obvious) was the dressing room where the cameras were treated to a rendition of “Oh Terry Cooke, you’re not Munich anymore” – with Weaver and Vaughan clearly singing all the words (naughty… but nice!). It struck me how much dignity Joe has and what a good manager he is, he created a team spirit that had been absent for many years. The next day I couldn’t move – everything hurt and ached so I used the excuse to spend the whole day lying on the settee watching the game over and over and over…

Anyone know if they are bringing out a video of either Wembley or the season as I think mine has worn out! For those fans not there, I am truly sorry for you, but I am also convinced this is the start of our return and we will be back. Apparently we were the first Manchester club to play at the existing ground, so we will be the first to play at the new one. Just to top it off when I got home my sister called to say her friend (a London copper) had got a programme signed by the whole team for me (oh yes!). Now the ghost of Wembleys past has finally been exorcised and I have no problem watching Villa dribble through the box anymore. The yellow shirt will become a classic – not because of the game but because it will be the turning point in our history, the one people will point to and say “it could have been so different” (like they do about the Ferguson ‘not’ sacking). Phew, now I need to lie down and watch it all again.

Elaine Clegg (elaine@city4eva.demon.co.uk)

YOU THINK YOU HAD STRESS

Yes there I was at Wembley, unfortunately it was for Scunthorpe vs. Leyton Orient as my mates from Goole came down to see the match. We didn’t have tickets for the Sunday and I had to go to a wedding that kicked off at 3. I wasn’t allowed to take a tranny into the ceremony in case City scored just as they asked if anyone knew any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony. I don’t think they’d have appreciated a cry of Dickovvvvvvv!

Anyway all photo’s were over at about 4.20 and we got in the car to drive to the reception. We parked and everybody was queuing up to meet the bride and groom. Except me that is who was still in the car listening to Alan Green. My girlfriend got out of the car to see how long we could stall it. Gillingham scored. I told my girlfriend to get back in the car. Gillingham scored again. My girlfriend being in or out of the car proved to be irrelevant. She went off to meet the bride and groom as I heard Horlock’s goal go in. The only thought I had was “You evil sadistic bastards, you’re going to pretend to come back like Man Utd. and then in the good City tradition, you won’t.” Then they announce five minutes of injury time. “They’re really rubbing it in now” I thought. Then the equaliser. I was shaking, speechless. I still thought they’d lose it in the last second. I’ve been conditioned to defeat for so many years.

So extra time, me sat in the car and everybody else sitting down for the meal. I was dragged out of the car in the first period of extra time. I didn’t speak to anybody during the meal and couldn’t concentrate on the speeches. They had a TV on in one corner but they had the cricket on and they didn’t have Ceefax. Purgatory.

At last about half past six, I managed to get hold of a mobile phone and call my mate Tim to get the result. One of the happiest days of my life. I wanted to scream and dance about but it would hardly have been appropriate. I opted for a smug self satisfied grin which I still have, and no doubt will have until I’m stood in the away end at Port Vale next season, it’s raining and we’re three nil down or similar.

No, wait! I must have dreamt it. Maybe I’m still asleep, Maybe you’re still asleep and you only think you’re reading this email. Maybe Alan Ball is still in charge. You see what this club does to you…

Jim Sim (jim.simmons@bbc.co.uk)

SUPER SUNDAY

At 2p.m on Sunday afternoon I ensconsed myself in my bedroom for the T.V. showing of the play-off final. Away strip worn, beer in abundance and the confident thought that City would win easily. Oh, how wrong could I be.

After 80 minutes Gillingham ripped our defence apart and Asaba scored, shi*, not to worry, there’s still time for our gallant lads to come back, let’s face it we’d done it a few times during the latter part of the season. My wife had to field phone calls from my so-called mates phoning from the pub, gloating b*****ds. A few minutes later and the whole world fell apart, 2-0 down. Again the wife had phone calls to field, do you want to talk to Mick? Tell him to get stuffed I told her.

The shirt came off, I was covered in sweat, noooooo this couldn’t be happening. I admit I was wondering what a second year in Division 2 was going to be like. Then a lifeline, Horlock scores a good goal. What’s that, five minutes left, still in with a chance, come on. Shirt once more covering body I bounce up and down on the bed, Yeeessssss… Dicky you little beauty. Extra time was all City, Gillingham had blown it you could just tell. So it all comes down to penalties. Horlock looked confident and dispatched his penalty easily. Up stepped the Gillingham player and I could tell by his body language that he would miss, he just didn’t look up for it, Nicky Weaver you beauty. The screaming in the bedroom reached Boeing 747 proportions. Edghill, great penalty taken with great confidence. Then the crowning moment, Weaver makes himself look even bigger than he is by stretching his arms wide and pulls off the greatest of saves. Oh what joy I almost came through the bloody ceiling.

Memorable moments of the day, Dicky’s face after he scored the equaliser, pure joy. Nick Weaver encouraging the team to chase him after his final save… brilliant. I watch that bit on tape time and time again and I fill up with tears, it is such a brilliant moment. The whole team doing the ‘We are not worthy’ salute to the amazing Blue horde. Joe Royle alone in the dressing room at the end, quietly contemplating the day with a can of Carlsberg in his hand. Fantastic day, fantastic team, fantastic support. Four and a half hours of Sky T.V. and a bloody good job they did as well. The pictures from inside the dressing room were just the finishing touch to a quite fantastic and totally draining day. Roll on Division 1. Oh yes, I phoned my mates at the pub, they didn’t really want to talk. Jammy b*****ds they told me, five minutes added on. Well you know how it is I said, in Manchester the match ain’t over till the ninety fifth minute.

Geoff Collins – Guernsey (colli@globalnet.co.uk)

MORE WEMBLEY TALES

Having flown in for the day (from New Jersey) the emotional extremes of the match were particularly acute for me. When the second Gillingham goal went in I just felt sick, and sat in my seat close to tears thinking that this was the lowest point in all my years of supporting City – worse even than the Luton relegation defeat because I’d gone to such extremes to get to the match. I wondered how long it would be before I could forgive them for putting me through this.

I hardly wanted to feel the glimmer of hope when Horlock scored, since all logic and prior experience as a Blue pointed to defeat, but as time went on and we continued to press forward we began to get more vocal. The feeling when Dickov lined up the shot and it hit the net was unbelievable – I can’t imagine when I’ll experience anything like it again. From that point on I couldn’t help smiling, even though penalties had been my worst nightmare before the match. Like the other 40,000 or so there was no way I was moving until the last player had left the pitch, and it looked like they were in no hurry either.

So, after all that I have to thank my wife for not giving me too much of a hard time for going (on the weekend of our 10th wedding anniversary); MLI for putting me in touch with Rich F; Rich F for organising a ticket, keeping me up to date day-by-day as he arranged it, and for putting up the cash for me; JT for the first beer of the day before the Globe opened; the chief steward on the BA flight from Newark on Saturday night – a fellow Blue who was also going to the match, and who sent back a bottle of champagne to me before we landed. Finally, credit to the Gillingham fans for filling their half of the stadium and taking a heartbreaking defeat so well. Their postings on BV afterwards were brilliant. Same again next year… ?

Martin Price (mprice2@lehman.com)

SUNDAY, BLOODY GREAT SUNDAY

Well quite frankly I don’t know where to begin. That game was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I laughed, I cried (literally) and I certainly almost died from the stress of it all. But, oh, we’re up and promoted in a way which only Manchester City could achieve.

As for the game I’ll let others, who were obviously more calm and sober than I, to recount the details of one of football’s truly great comebacks. For me, I didn’t actually enjoy the game as such, I was simply too tense. But the spirit showed in the match by the boys in citrus (doesn’t sound the same does it?) was out of this world. I mean, City don’t do comebacks do they?

To all the Blues who didn’t manage to get a ticket to Wembley on Sunday, I do feel desperately sorry for you. Words cannot describe the feeling when Dickov blasted the equaliser into the roof of the net 4 minutes into injury time. Somehow I always felt that once we got into extra time City would emerge triumphant. And to hear “Blue Moon” echo around Wembley at the final whistle was truly moving.

I also like to take this opportunity to apologise to Richard Edghill for being so bloody nervous as he strode up to take his penalty. Your penalty was, quite simply, superb Richard. But then again on Sunday the whole team were heroes.

In the central London pubs after the game the word on everyone’s lips seemed to be “unbelieveable” and the feeling was more of shock and amazement then sheer elation. For myself, even though I was there, I had to go out and buy all the major newspapers the next day just to prove we had done it in quite such a fairytale fashion.

So all in all a truly amazing game that will live in my memory forever. Even better it was spent with some of the best Blues in the land (you know who you are!). I always said to my mum that I’d never return to New Zealand until I had seen City win at Wembley. Well now that I’ve seen it am I tempted to go back? Sorry ma, but I’ve got an appointment at the Division One opener next season!

City till I die, most definitely.

Roger Sharp – The Blue Kiwi (r.sharp@gjw.co.uk)

THOSE FAMOUS FIVE MINUTES

After all the fuss about where the extra five minutes could have come from I thought that I would review my tape of Sunday’s events to see if I could find out. So here we go:

46 minutes, Ashbey takes a blow to the face, trainer on, game stopped for one minute.

56 minutes, Gillingham substitute, 30 seconds, this apparently the time all refs are allowed to add for substitutions.

62 minutes, Bishop and Vaughan substitutions, this could be a minute going by the ruling above but the substitution actually takes one minute and twenty five seconds.

68 minutes, Taylor booking, thirty seconds.

81 minutes, Gillingham goal celebrations, thirty five seconds.

85 minutes, Crooks substitution, thirty seconds.

86 minutes, Gillingham goal celebration, fifty seconds.

90 minutes, City goal celebration, thirty seconds, this may or may not have counted toward time added on.

So totting that all up that makes five minutes and twenty seconds, well done ref. As for you Tony Pulis, hope you’re satisfied now, and anyway if your team can’t protect a two-goal lead, in the most important game in your history, for all of nine minutes, then it’s bloody tough titty innit :-)))

Nothing to feel guilty about then.

Geoff Collins – Guernsey (colli@globalnet.co.uk)

HOW IT WAS FOR ME!

Here’s how it was for me:

Friday: left Japan.
Friday: arrived in London.
Saturday: met mate and prematurely celebrated victory.
Sunday: 85 mins. gone: staring the Division 2 abyss in the eyes.
Sunday: 90 mins. gone: 2-1: No consolation whatsoever.
Sunday: 93 mins. gone: can’t remember.
Sunday: an hour later: it can’t be true. No team does that. It’s unreal. Get a grip.
Sunday midnight: Trafalgar Square. It must be true then.
Monday: 11.30: left London.
Today: in Japan. It still seems like a dream…
Except it’s not!

By the way, for those interested in that kind of stuff and know what a blue moon actually is, there was one last Saturday night. Scary or what?

Andy Hoodith (mcfcok@yahoo.com)

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY

For many years now I have been to Maine Road foolishly with the highest of hope only for City not just to bring me back down to earth but further into the depths of despair.

So it was that after cancelling our holidays and (thanks to Bernard Halford letting season ticket holders have an extra ticket – yes I know it was a farce), I took the wife down to London.

Setting off at 6.40am, we arrived at our guest house in West Hampstead at 10.00 to be met by the staff who wished us the best of luck for the game. Later I found out that it was not the fact that London loved Man City, it was because they had Geordies staying the week before and they were miserable gits after the match.

My football partner and our two wives set off at 11.00 for Wembley via the Globe pub in Baker St. which was packed with City fans and a few Gillingham fans who were totally drowned out every time they opened their mouths. Americans and Japanese on open top buses videod us as we sang to them ‘what’s it like to see a crowd?’ The atmosphere was electric but I must admit that I was suprised by the small numbers of Gillingham fans around.

At 1.00 we left the Globe and made our way to Wembley and I must admit it was a great feeling walking down Wembley Way mixing with both sets of fans (altho’ again only a few from Gillingham). We only saw 2 bits of trouble. Three Gillies fans were walking up to City fans saying surrender or you’ll die and looking for a fight. It was soon sorted out when one of them was flattened by a right hook and we carried on as normal. The second incident was when a group of City fans recognised the wife who works for Co-Op travel and complained about the rain they got on holiday.

We finally got into the stadium at 14.15 to see the reason for the lack of Gillingham fans outside. They must have been in the ground from 10.00 because their side was packed. It was obvious that they were going to make a day of the occasion.

However, they were no match for the Blue Mooners and the noise was deafening as the players took the field. Personally as the City song selected by Moonchester, I would have prefered Wonderwall than Roll With It.

Let’s skip the next 80 minutes only to ask why did people boo that Opera singer, I thought he had a superb voice? Remember Oldham, Wycombe, Reading, Wrexham – great expectations? Always rely on City to let you down. 1-0, my head went down. But still Utd. did it, why can’t we (because we are not jammy gits!)? 2-0, Lynne said let’s go now, but I was too devastated to move and I just sat there with head in hands. 2-1, so what, but I did manage to stand up. I then noticed the 4th official and started shrieking, we can do it, we can do it. The game then seemed to calm down with Gillingham (understandably) timewasting, but still there was a feeling inside me (probably the same one that thought we would score 5 past Wycombe and go up automatically).

And then it happened. I have not seen that much hysteria since Little Jimmy Osmond came to Manchester. This could not happen to City in fact, I look at my watch, 30 seconds to go. I know what it is, God is taking the pi*s. Gillingham will now go to the other end, Wiekens will pass the ball back to Nicky Weaver and it will be an own goal.

Fortunately, you know the rest. The penalties came and all I remember is the noise of the City fans when Gillingham took their penalties. Maybe if the shoot-out was at the other end things may have been different. The celebrations went on and on, the fans singing away to the dam busters, rocking all over the world, match of the day (but no Wonderwall). Other things that stayed in my mind was Denis Tueart pushing Nick Weaver back to the City fans as if to say – make the most of this lad.

And so we left Wembley, my only regret, as I mentioned to Lynne was that Paul, my football mate was on the other side of the ground as it wasn’t the same hugging and kissing her when we equalised. Those of you who went will have witnessed the crowds on Wembley Way as the police held back the City contingent whilst Gills’ fans left on the underground. We turned back and went a circuitous route to the station and managed to jump on a tube full of Gillingham. Suddenenly just before the doors closed, another body squeezed on – it was Paul. We pushed past the fans and hugged each other in ecstacy.

We got back to West Hampstead and popped into the Rat & Parrott for a quick one before we got changed to go for a meal. Four hours later we were still there with a room full of City fans who sang every song going (apart from Wonderwall). Bleary eyed at last orders we downed our pints and got up to leave. Suddenly the last song of the night was played – yes you guessed it – Wonderwall – a fitting last song to an incredible day. It is now Wednesday, my voice is just returning.

Kevin Duckworth (kduck@frizz.demon.co.uk)

LAST SUNDAY

Sunday 30th May 1999 – Our Biblical Test

Nine months ago we all reckoned we’d be back in the First Division without much stress, we deserved an easy season after the trauma of the last 3 years. We’d run away with it and get back to the First with confidence and calmness. I guess I forgot I supported City and mistook them for one of the other 91 teams in the League. City were going to do it the hard way as only they know how.

Week after week I lived the sinewave-like rollercoaster of City’s 98-99 season. But at the end of the day, I doubt I could have written a better script, leading to the extreme emotions we all felt on Sunday. Flying into Heathrow on Wednesday in my holy Blue shirt, I received knowledgeable looks from other passengers, as if to say “you’re gonna do it, you have to do it.” The football supporter on the street recognizes City fans as the essence of what it is to be a supporter. After the euphoria on BV after our semi-final win, I had to find a way to get there for the final. Got my flight to London, and the rest fell into place.

Couldn’t sleep the night before. I’m not a religious man, but I just couldn’t stop praying. Offering the guy upstairs all sorts of negotiatory possibilities if only He’d give us the win tomorrow. I guess He decided to give my faith a test of biblical proportions. I think I passed. The journey down to Wembley was awesome. I was on some coach; 3 hours before arriving at Wembley, I started to hear the honks of the other Blues in the cars driving by. It was incredible. Waving, cheering, praying, fists in the air. We were going to do it, and it was going to be the start of the 5 year plan which would end with us in Europe.

Entering the stadium, a wave of sound and colour hit me. I’d never seen City at Wembley before and the occasion was too much for me. I got a lump in my throat. Best fans in the world. So, we’re in our seats, singing the anthem. What a feeling. The truth is the game is a blur for me. I remember thinking at 0-1 that God’s having a laugh with me and is just letting us go down a late goal so that we’d all cheer the 90th minute equaliser and win on penalties. At 0-2 my faith failed its test. I asked “why? why? why?” Luckily my dad sorted me out, telling me to get behind the boys. I felt so low, how could I betray my beloved City with 6 minutes left? I saw supporters getting up and heading for the exits. Feeling ashamed I got up, screamed a long “C’mon City” and, as God is my witness, we scored 3 seconds later. My dad looked at me as if to say I told you so. All the Blues legged it back to their seats and we entered injury time with hope in our hearts. I was now standing on the chair screaming my heart out (if you’ve never seen a cripple screaming for City, while hobbling on a seat trying to keep his balance, believe me, it’s quite a sight).

When the 4th official put that board up saying 5 minutes of added time to be played, it was a sign. City were going to do it in the only way they knew how, at the wire. I think there were less than 60 seconds left when we scored the equaliser. Never, ever have I witnessed scenes of pure ecstacy like the ones at Wembley in the 93rd minute of our last ever game in the 2nd Division. I reacted by bursting into tears. Within 2 seconds I was being embraced by around 5 City fans. I remember a young married couple behind me hugging me, all crying. We were going to do it. It was going to be a fairytale ending and we were going to win it in extra time. Nope, 30 minutes of continuing stress and praying were unanswered. I didn’t want the penalties. I found that I was able to watch every one of Gillingham’s penalties, but couldn’t bear to watch ours. So we missed ours and were down 0-1. Then Nicky Weaver did his stuff, I’ve not seen the penalties on TV since the game, but they looked like a couple of world class saves. When we finally won it, the joy on the boys’ faces made everything worth it. We had done the impossible. When the boys came over and got on their knees and worshipped us, it just summed it up perfectly. These boys did their best. We, the fans did our best. As a team, we and they got the job done. I must have cried more than I have in 15 years on Sunday. Hugging every Blue in sight, last Sunday will be a game which will be looked back on as I look back on the 10-1 and the 5-1. A game never to be forgotten. We’re on the up! CTID.

Benjamin Bloom (BennyBlue@mancity.net)

MATCH TICKETS

Surely there has to have been a better way to distribute the tickets? I am amazed that in the days of computer technology people have to queue for 12+ hours. Obviously the club’s priority is to those who have been the most loyal (i.e. for the club – those who have contributed money and support over a long period in the wilderness) but there must be a way of keeping records. For season ticket holders and membership card holders and even those booking with some form of credit card this must be possible. In fact, it must be possible to keep computer records of any tickets that are sold during a season. There has to be a better way.

Paul Howe (PHO@wpo.nerc.ac.uk)

THE MATCH

I recorded the game last Sunday and every evening since I have to play the last 15 minutes of the ninety with the four goals. I just can’t stop thinking about it. Will I be like this all summer? Is there a cure (I hope not)? Maybe it’s because I (we) have waited so long but success (even if it’s only the Second Division play-off final) seems so sweet. Maybe it’s because I remember the 3-2 defeat in the 1981 Cup Final. Standing after the game and applauding the players and then having to watch as Spurs showed us the cup! The journey back to Cambridgeshire with Spurs fans telling me what a good game it was and how we played well. Oh! for a 1-0 win I thought. But then that wouldn’t be City would it? On Sunday you just knew it couldn’t be 1-0. Blue moon…

P.S. If Andy Morrison hadn’t caught Nicky Weaver and pulled him to the ground would he still be running now?! Brilliant. What a perfect day.

Paul Howe (p.howe@ite.ac.uk)

YES!

I don’t normally contribute, and I know I’m only echoing what everyone else has trotted out, but it was fantastic, and I just had to say so… We did it! Yes!

As the days start to pass, it just gets better. Can you imagine what the summer would have been like if we’d lost?

But here’s my point – you know, we actually got a break! Who didn’t think, when Horlock scored, ‘here we go, too little too late, it just means we’ve lost by less – i.e. they’re rubbing our noses in it again.’? And then when we got to penalties, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘usual story, they’re leading us to water, but they’re not going to let us drink.’

But then they did it. They really held their nerves – all the penalty-takers, and of course Weaver, who was unbelievable (I’m excusing Dickov’s miss here, primarily because of that equaliser, but also because in my opinion, you deserve a goal if you manage to hit both posts from the same penalty kick!).

And I know everyone has different memories of it, and I wish I too had been there instead of leaping around like a total loony with my mum in a half-deserted, and slightly bemused, Sheffield pub, but I’ll never forget Weaver’s run at the end, playing catch-me-if-you-can with the rest of the team, on the most crazy, exultant victory lap that I bet Wembley has ever seen.

We did it.

Keep the faith.

Nigel Timperley – Sheffield Blue (nigel@ntimperley.freeserve.co.uk)

WOW (MUCH UNDERRATED EXPRESSION)

My dad was an avid City nut for more than 40 years – he said he remembers the 1956 Cup final against the mighty Huddersfield. He was at St. James’ Park when City won the League in ’68, and all the other finals over the next 13 years. He was Blue mad. He passed away on March 26th this year after losing the one battle not one of us escapes, but he always maintained that City would win the play-offs, a sure thing he said.

I was very fortunate to be at Wembley on Sunday to see the greatest day of my football life (if not my whole life – why, a friend said it was a better day than the day he lost his virginity). I, along with all you fans, have special, magic, unbelievable memories of that day that will never ever go away and I want to dedicate all my memories of Sunday 30th May 1999 to my best mate, my dad.

CTID, Steve Cooper (stephen.cooper9@virgin.net)

SPECIAL DAY

Just thought I’d share the special extras that made it for us – you’ll all have seen the match reports/highlights by now:

  • arriving at Watford Gap service station to be greeted by the Blue army singing
  • the convoy down the M1 (the coach with the I 8 UNITED plate in the window)
  • the tube, what a fabulous atmosphere, including the few Gills sitting with us
  • walking up Wembley Way, engulfed in a sea of blue
  • the depths of despair at 88 minutes
  • our “consolation” last few seconds goal
  • the clock stopping for an eternity at 90 minutes
  • the sheer disbelief at Dickov’s goal
  • the tortuous penalty shoot out (more than a few silent prayers were said)
  • the deafening noise greeting the Gills’ penalties
  • the absolute ecstasy at realising WE(aver)’D done it!
  • the elation, singing and partying as the team was congratulated
  • the joyous crawl back up the M1, flags and scarves fluttering from the windows
  • the banner on the bridge near Luton “Weaver Done It!”

As usual, they took us to the brink and back, but that’s why we love them.

Blue Heaven.

Heidi Pickup – Block 219, Row 14 (heidi@dratex.co.uk)

FROM NEW YORK

Decided to come over only at the last minute and found a cheap flight. Saw a good many City fans around London on the sunny Saturday, most telling horror stories about the lack of tickets and the distribution system, so got up to Wembley on the damp and drizzly Sunday without too much hope. Liberating a large “Metropolitan Police say beware of pickpockets” sign from where it had fallen (!) from its lamp-post, the blank reverse side was turned into a request for tickets, which drew attention from both City and Gillingham fans, the former applauding but not selling, the latter laughing (“come from WHERE?”) and not selling either, though appeals along the lines of “Do they play football in Kent, then, why don’t you stick to cricket?” probably weren’t likely to persuade them to do so. Touts wanted 150 to 200 pounds sterling, and even a City fan (drunk and nasty with it) wanted the same, talk of “Remember the 1955 Cup Final against Newcastle?” (he didn’t) not cutting any ice with him at all. Tried to get the “Come from NYC” sign on TV in hopes that someone in a posh box would get onto his phone and send down an invitation to see the game, but the camera crew only wanted to film a bunch of Gillingham fans with dyed hair. Eventually, outside the Greyhound pub an Arsenal fan who lived in Kent came up and did a deal at a price somewhere between the tube fare and the plane tickets, for the Gillingham end.

The 90 minutes passed unmemorably and mostly served only as a reminder of what a lousy stadium Wembley is. Gillingham fans in the row behind said “You’ll be all right, Gills’ fans don’t cause no trouble” but at least three City supporters in nearby areas got ejected when their shouts led to arguments. City should have scored in the first half when a downward header was somehow saved by the ‘keeper low and to his left and City put some nice passes together, but Gillingham seemed to want it more, City seemed the more nervous and certainly the Gills had less at stake. City fans in the far end could only occasionally be heard, such was the din that their fans were making.

Goater hit the post before the feeling that “it’s going to penalties” was knocked on the head by the first goal and knocked a bit harder by the second. Got up and left. Probably would have stayed if there’d not been such Kentish celebrations going on so close at hand, but couldn’t stand it, even as the nagging thought about the last two minutes in Barcelona went through the mind. The roar that went up a minute afterwards must be for the final whistle, I thought, but suddenly there were City fans holding up two fingers on each hand and people running for the Greyhound pub (closed!) then back the other way to a sports bar that was packed with City fans and letting in more by the minute. As it turned out, it was a better place to watch extra time than among the hop-pickers and Medway boatmen. City moved the ball at speed and with a sense of urgency that had been missing from the first 88 minutes (or was it just that the close-up view provided by cameras made it seem that way? They really should have won it in that half-hour, and when it came down to penalties (well, as soon as it was clear that they’d be taken at the City end, even more so when it was City to go first) there was only one team winning it, and everyone in that bar knew with absolute certainty that Weaver would save at least one and that Gillingham were too tired and dispirited to do it now.

In one of Monday’s papers Joe Royle talked about what he called “Cityitis”. the pessimism that surrounds the club, the result of living in United’s shadow. Expecting them (as I did before the game) to lose on penalties, or to a daft goal (the kind Weaver’s clearance to Bob Taylor almost produced) is of course a perfect example of that, I know. But maybe now City will put Cityitis away. Maybe (like Fulham threaten to do) they’ll turn from a loved comedy act to a contender, even a champion club. Success would be a nice change, but it carries the risk of becoming a “Theatre of Dreams, home of MUFC PLC world-wide consortium” type of club. And that’s why the new stadium, to link the new with the old, should be named for Joe Mercer.

Ken Corfield (kcorfield@berkeley-carroll.org)

CITY GO UP

G’day from downunder. Just had to drop you guys a line after the weekend’s fantastic result. My father Brian and I have followed City since we migrated to Australia in 1961. I still have memories of dad taking me to Maine Road to see the Blues in action. I lived in Middleton, before we moved. Dad went back a couple of years ago and says the place has really changed. We can’t wait to see the lads in action in Division One next season, and fingers crossed it won’t be too long before we grace the Premier League again (we live in hope). Fantastic week for Manchester… I hear another team from the area who play a bit had a bit of a win as well. Must be getting inspiration from the Blues. Keep up the fantastic job you do with the newsletter. Best wishes.

Dave Stretton (stretto@1earth.net)

CITY IS OUR NAME

City is our name, City is our name, two nil down and we still went up, City is our name. After a heart attack and a brain explosion I have finally sorted myself out. I cannot believe after what United did that some of you left early, the penalties were exciting, lifting the trophy great, but the real excitement was seeing Mr Dickov’s strike hit the roof of the Gills’ net. Unearthly. The main reason to write is that I am looking for video clips of any of the game’s action. I have seen Internet video clips of the United goals in Barcelona and I would love to have reminders of the most emotional day on earth. Please help me.

Jon Knight (jonk@dmpw.com)

OXFORD EXPERIENCE

The White Hart in Wolvercote, Oxford was where I saw the match, largely on my own. A Coventry fan dragged himself away from the pool match to watch as the amazing finale took shape and by the end of penalties a big group were jumping about shouting. Yes, this is what it’s about.

Charles Augarde – ex Wallace Avenue (charles.augarde@eng.ox.ac.uk)

AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCE

As the game was not broadcast on TV or radio in Australia, I phoned my brother up in Manchester and got him to put his phone next to the radio and listened to the game on Radio 5 Live. Three hours later I put the phone down exhausted from both the tension of the game and the fact that it was now 3.00am. Jesus, they don’t do things easy do they? At 1-0 and then 2-0 down I thought that was it, a couple of months of desolation when all the best players leave/are sold followed by visits to the giants of Division 2. Thankfully I stayed on and could not believe it when we equalised, as I’m sure no one else could. But being City we were now likely to go and get beat in extra-time and listening to a game over the radio where every time one team gets in the opposition half brings visions of a goal the nerve ends were jangling. Penalties were no better and the roar of the crowd (magnificent!) almost drowned out the commentary at times. The City Supporters’ Club in Sydney is getting a copy of the game sent over in a few weeks and I intend to go and watch and get pi**ed; see you there lads. Well done City and a big Hello and Thank You to all the Blues out there around the world.

Mark Jones (mark_jones@dwrsb.gov.au)

TV EXPERIENCE

I watched it on T.V. and I have to say I have never been through such a rollercoaster of emotions, to say it was miraculous is an understatement… I honestly prayed for an equaliser after Horlock’s goal, something I have done in the past and could not believe it when we were rewarded with a fantastic goal, from “never say die” Dickov. Unbelievable!

I know it’s an old cliché – “it’s not over till the fat lady sings!” but as far as I am concerned I heard her tuning up after they scored the second goal and my mates and I had given up – we all said a consolation goal would be nice for all the fans on the day.

The general feeling from a lot of people I have met since Sunday is “City deserve a bit of luck, and a club their size belong in the highest echelons of soccer” – hopefully this is the start of a Blue revival and dreams of the Premiership are only a season away… miracles do happen!

City are back!

Glyn Albuquerque (glyn.albuquerque@nestlegb.nestle.com)

WEMBLEY

Sunday was my second visit to Wembley and the atmosphere was one hundred times greater this time than it was in 1996 (the notorious England vs. Germany match). Outside the ground, City fans were everywhere and the noise was amazing. Did anyone else see those two City nuns? The match was even more tense that the Play-off second leg against Wigan, in which I held my breath every time they got the ball. I was surprised to see Whitley play, but I thought he was excellent considering that I have never rated him very highly.

I will skip the boring details that everyone knows and make a confession, although with a few thousand other fans. When the Gills scored their first goal, I knew it was over. When they scored the second, I left. The match was over, there was no way that we could come back into it. Well, I should have learned from United (and George Best). I was thinking ‘so what?’ What is another season in this dump anyway? We’d easily win the league next season (as we City fans keep telling ourselves every season). I never heard a cheer, like some people after Horlock’s goal. I was nearly at the tube station when a group of fans who had a radio screamed out loud and ran back up Wembley Way. I had no idea what was going on until rumours were spreading around claiming that we’d equalised. So we ran back to the top and a policeman on a horse clarified that it was 2-2 and going into extra time. I was ecstatic. It was a miracle.

The gates were opened and everyone went back in, and I am sure we were joined by some ticketless fans who seized the opportunity. The first half of extra time had just kicked off. The Gills’ fans sat there bemused. The City fans had just won a treble of their own. Extra time was even tenser and there was only one team in it really, as you’d expect. The penalty shoot-out was at our end, fortunately. Anyone who was there will probably agree with me that the City fans won us the shoot-out and promotion. We were totally intimidating, making it impossible for the Gills’ players to score. Horns were hooted as the players ran up and and deafening whistles and ‘boos’ were shouted. As a result, they hit three poor penalties. Two of them were tapped straight ahead and one nearly hit the corner flag. When Weaver made his final save, I just jumped and jumped and sang and sang. It was the weirdest feeling to actually be at the most famous ground in the world and be celebrating a meaningful victory.

The irony of the whole evening was that I was walking with my head down, almost suicidal (well, not quite) one minute and an hour later, I was stuck in a queue to get out, which I did not want to do, with happy City fans (for once) cheering about a memorable victory that none of us will ever forget.

Samuel Green, London CTID (sam@maine-road.demon.co.uk)

GUTTED

I’m gutted. I just couldn’t take any more, and when the second goal was pooped in by Taylor I just had to get out. Man City had let me down again. I know I should have stayed until the end and cheered them off the pitch, but I had done that so many times before.

I, and many other City fans simply wanted to get away from Wembley A.S.A.P. As I walked along Wembley Way contemplating yet another year in this awful division a guy walked past and said that it was 2-1.

“Great”, I thought, fat lot of good a consolation goal is. A couple of Gillingham fans ran past in joyous mood and I envied those “Ba^&*£%s”, getting out of this s**t league.

As I, and many fans got to the tube line a policeman took his hand away from his ear piece and said “I hate to tell you this guys, but it’s 2-2” “Rubbish,” I thought, City do not come back from 2-0 down with only 2-3 minutes to go. But it was confirmed and hordes of Blues turned and ran back to the ground. Being on the portly side I decided not to; anyway, I’d only get there to see Gillingham take the lead again. So I decided to get on the tube to Uxbridge and drive home from there.

When I got to the car I switched on the radio to hear the final minute’s commentary of extra time and then those fatal words “penalty shoot-out”. I told my brother to turn off the radio as I couldn’t bear to listen to it, especially as I was driving on the M25 in the rain.

Minutes passed when we couldn’t take it any more. We put the radio back on only to hear tennis commentary, we had to wait another agonising 10 minutes until Radio Five live mentioned the result. “Yesssss”, what relief, “Brilliant”, back to First Division football, but something was missing. When I got home I phoned a Chelsea mate of mine up to see if he wanted to go for a drink. He thought I was on my mobile and so asked when I expected to be home, I told him right now, this very minute. I’ll never forget what he then said as he wasn’t the only one that said it that night “What! Hold on, no you didn’t, tell me you didn’t.” I stayed in the pub and celebrated, but it just didn’t feel right, in my mind I could only see Gillingham 2 – Man City 0.

In the future, when people ask “were you there when City finally turned the corner” I’ll say Yes… and No.

P.S. I’ll always have one consolation, remembering those two Gillingham fans running towards the tube smiling. They, like the rest of them must have been gutted more than me.

Stephen Wallwork (Stephen.Wallwork@nestlegb.nestle.com)

MEMORIES OF AN EX-PAT – 30 05 99

Today I awakened at 6.00am to the sound of a mockingbird. I had set the alarm for 6.30 so that I would have time to eat breakfast and have coffee before logging on to the Man City audio connection through ThePlanet.com. I had been looking forward to this all week as I had already gone through these steps last week on Saturday (got the date wrong, Southern California has a way of making you lose track of the really important things). My wife is the child of a Red family so has no comprehension of these things and my children have been here 20 years are do not really grasp the importance of this game.

At the advertised time of 15.45 I tried logging on to the site only to be rebuffed! I panicked and tried several times more to no avail. I logged on to ICQ to get into our own version of Blue View to find out we can get it on Capitol Gold so I did.

We had to suffer the indignity of a very prejudiced southern commentator and Billy Bonds’ annoying accent and comments. Needless to say this is the most exciting match I have ever heard in my life! The most rewarding thing about this experience is to share it with other City fans on ICQ. The absolute best part of the whole thing was hearing those two clowns eat their words after having said it was all over with ten minutes to go and that “City have continued their miserable procession” was justice indeed to all our ears.

However, we in the colonies deserve better service than this. City should have their own commentators with video of the goals at least after the game. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all concerned with MCIVTA for all their efforts throughout the season; those of us so far away really appreciate and understand the work involved and can’t thank you enough. See you next year at some decent grounds!

P.S. Will be in Manchester in October, can’t wait!

J Heavis (JHeavis502@aol.com)

TO HELL, BACK AND BEYOND!

Does anybody have any cures for the Wembley highs? Oh well I’ll stay on it for the next few weeks.

I honestly couldn’t believe we could take advantage of what is now called ‘Fergie time’ and when Paul Dickov scored, the emotion built up inside me over countless years exploded in a massive sense of relief and exuberance (my mate, I won’t reveal his name, even let his excitement boil over by wetting himself); did we really do what the Rags have become so adept at doing countless times over the years?

Had I not been working in the press box I probably would have just left like thousands of others, not because I felt disgusted at our performance, it was more a case of the sheer disappointment of facing trips to Gillingham, Wycombe and all the other poxy grounds.

As for the game itself, I genuinely felt we bossed it from after Taylor’s shot was brilliantly saved by Lord Nick Weaver (if Fergiescum can have a knighthood then there’s a peerage in there for Weaver) in the 10th minute.

Asaba and Taylor always looked handy on the break, while Michael Brown had his worst game for a bl**dy long time to allow Hessenthaler to run midfield.

I’ve watched our goals countless times on video, both drunk and sober and I am still struggling to come to terms with them, all I can say is we should all be proud at the bottle shown by the players both to come back and stay brave in the penalty shoot-out.

Watching the replays on Sky I reckon it was Goater who would’ve taken our final penalty, the man who did have a hand in both our goals, by being tackled.

Edghill was outstanding, Horlock fought and fought, Bishop was excellent when he came on – but the highlight was definately when Terry Cooke was being interviewed on the telly – did you all notice what the players were singing behind him?

A fine end to a bad week.

City ’til I turn blue in the face screaming Paul Dickov’s name in the 95th minute of next season’s play-off final.

John Bradley (John.Bradley@airefm.demon.co.uk)

QUICK WEMBLEY STORY

I’ll keep this brief due to the undoubted volume of play-off stories.

Having failed miserably to get Wembley tickets, my pal and myself found a South Wales pub showing the game. Surrounded by Sunday diners, the surreal atmosphere was enhanced considerably by a cabaret band striking up cheesy 60’s songs in the second half.

1-0! Sh*t
2-0! We look at each other, stand up and leave.
Speechless, we tune in to 5 Live to hear the inevitable final humiliation. “City have pulled one back through Horlock!” I turn the car around and head back for the pub. Pal can’t cope so he stays in the car. Within 1 minute I’m running out to the car screaming “2-2” – he’s scrambling out of the door to get into the pub – we’re both drunk with disbelief.

We settle-in for extra time – regular glances to each other of sheer euphoria. Penalties, and we’re strangely confident – Weaver running away from his players in one of the most memorable scenes I think I’ll ever witness – we both weep.

Gary Pritchard – S. Wales (garypritchard@clara.net)

WEMBLEY TALES FROM IRELAND

It’s a testament to the power of Manchester City F.C. that I, a working class Irish catholic, should support them more than I do Celtic. However, this wasn’t meant to be a Why Blue, so I’ll get to the point.

My footballing weekend began at 3pm Saturday at Hampden Park. However, for the reasons above, I did not precursor the events there by pledging my support for the Celts. Instead, I sacrificed the Scottish Cup (and with it the second treble in so far the worst football season in living memory) to the least likable team in world football (yes, including the Rags). Anyway, the events there took their course, and as I grieved for the Bhoys, I also looked forward to the inevitable glory at Wembley.

Alas, when Alan Green disclosed, at 4.43pm on Sunday, that Gillingham had made it to Division 1, it was too much for me. The gods of football had swindled me again. I left that cursed place, and walked the sodden streets of Belfast, a forlorn shell of a man. I ventured into the library, to check my e-mail. I had one unopened message – MCIVTA 504.

…and so it was that while Dickov was pinging the ball off every post in sight, and Weaver was swatting away penalties as though they were beach balls, I was right here, reading the hopes and fears of you lot out there, with a tear in my eye for the devastation we were all now feeling.

Some hours later, I ventured back home to take the inevitable abuse from my housemates. It never came. At 8.04pm, on Sunday evening, some dude on the radio told me the news. I couldn’t take it in for some time, let me tell you. The impossible had happened, and I had missed it. What was worse, I had lost three hours of beer already. I made up for it though, and later dreamt it was me who’d scored the equaliser, except it was a backheel from about 8 yards out against the Scum. Very strange.

So here we are at the dizzy heights of Division 1, up against the likes of Blackburn, Nottm Forest, … Walsall? Anyway, thanks to the lads for the ultimate game. I’m sorry I missed it, but in ten years I’ll have convinced myself I was there…

Aaron McCann (m9620656@qub.ac.uk)

CONGRATULATIONS

I live in Virginia USA, I have been a City fan since the 50s. I have had the luck of being at Wembley 3 times with City winning 2 and a 2-1 loss to Wolves.

I was with my short wave radio on the decks of the Canberra in Hong Kong harbour when Tueart had that great overhead kick to beat Newcastle. But this time was really different, I have a 10-year-old who was having her 1st communion at church, so with the time difference I listened to BBC overseas before I left the house. They gave the half time score: 0-0. When I got to church I prayed please God let City get promotion. The first thing I did when I got back home was to get on the Internet, the rest is history. I would have loved to have been at Wembley, but would I have survived a heart attack?! Congratulations City – Yes I did party.

When the party is over let’s take a deep breath and go for gold, the Premier League where we belong.

Thanks to all connected with City for a great season.

Ernie Barrow CTID (EB2205@aol.com)

CONGRATS FROM DOWN UNDER

Myself and many other Aussie Blues are elated on the fantastic result. First thing Monday morning (Melbourne time) I awoke to get the great news. Unfortunately if it’s not in the Premier League we get no vision in Aussie Land – so I must rely on your information, updates and gossip to keep me informed.

I was lucky though, one T.V. programme showed 30 seconds and the goals. It wasn’t long but it was worth every second. Division 1 here we come.

Fairdingcum – Struth What a good result!

Thanks Derrick Bradshaw for keeping me updated on the Aussie influence at Maine Road. Drop us a line if you can.

I look forward to next season and I hope I will get to Manchester soon to see a game – maybe late next year in the Premier League.

Thanks again everyone for the great information and congratulations to all the Blue supporters around the world.

Roy Hunter (rshunter@bigpond.com.au)

CONGRATULATIONS FROM ROTHERHAM

Rotherham fan here again. Just a quick message of congratulations to City for causing me to choke on my dinner last Sunday afternoon. The tension was proving too much so I cooked myself a little something during the first half and part of the second. I was getting to the end of scoffing as Horlock tucked in the first one but worse still the last gobful had just been stuffed when Dickov scored, causing my carpet to be covered in partly chewed Jersey New spud and the contents of my tray. The resultant leaping around and the 40 minutes that followed gave me dyspepsia… but it was worth it. Having stood at a practically full Millmoor nearly 2 weeks ago, watching my beloved Millers disappearing out of the play-offs on penalties to the East End Cock Knee barra boys from Orient (smug ba*tards!), I was so pleased that one team that I follow managed to break the spell. I spoke to my good mate Andy Noise this morning who is still at the ‘Singing in the park whilst walking the dog at 6am’ stage… sad git, but who can blame him? You have waited a while for this (unlike Rotherham who are still waiting to climb out of the dungeon), and I’m delighted that ex-Miller ‘Bambi’ Goater was involved in both your goals. The slagging off he’s received in MCIVTA this year has been cruel… OK so he’s not Anelka, but if he was he wouldn’t be playing for you. A class lower league striker that’s him, and 20 goals have helped you into the 1st Division. With patience from you and him he’ll manage to score goals next season too – mark my words. And if you selfish gits don’t want him, we’ll have him back!

Here’s hoping for a City and Rotherham double next year?

CTTNRMONSTM (City till the next Rotherham match, or Noise stops threatening me), Steve Exley – Editor: Moulin Rouge Fanzine (Steve.Exley@novaceta.com)

CONGRATULATIONS FROM AUSTRIA

I live in Austria in a remote part of Nieder Östereich. When people here asked me where I come from and I say near Manchester they immediately assume I support you know whom! When I try and explain (in my appalling German) that I support Manachester City Football Club they look at me confused. Whether this is because of my German or total disbelief that there could possibly be another football team in Manchester I don’t know. So you can imagine there is not much media coverage of English Second Division football or even the play-offs. I dont have Sky TV as am trying to improve my German by watching Austrian TV!? So Sunday was rather a trying day for me. Sometime after 17.30 (we are an hour ahead here) I ring my brother-in-law (a QPR fan) in London to ask the score. He is watching the cricket! He kindly overlays teletext to tell me City are 2 nil down with only a few minutes to go! I go outside into the lovely sunshine to contemplate another year of Division 2 football reports on MCIVTA! I totally dismiss the idea that City can do the same as victors of Bayern (Oh yes Austrian TV televised that game, in German of course!). Much later in the evening I return to find my brother-in-law has left me a message on my answer machine: City have won 3-1 on penalties! What elation, what relief! What annoyance with myself for not having the belief they too (the City Players) could also have such self belief. Thank you to my brother-in-law and thank you to Roger Haigh for confirming the result to me even later that evening. Thank you to MCIVTA for keeping me informed and letting me, albeit second hand, enjoy and savour the moment through the match reports and the agony and the ecstasy (for some) of the frightful ticket allocation saga. Thank you to the City players and to Joe and Willie you really have worked wonders.

Peter Frank (frank@virgin.net)

WHY BLUE? – NEED YOU ASK!

Need you ask after that? By the way, what planet was Graham Lord on? Edgy (who has his faults) was head and shoulders Man of the Match and was run a close second by Jeff Whitley – a player transformed. I suppose anyone who bothers to write in but admits they were seeing Morrison for the first time ought to expect some criticism though shouldn’t they? After all he’s chosen our proudest moment in recent history to criticise our lads! Well done lads (all of you) from those of us who go to most of the games!

Keith Bolton (Keith@mancity.net)

WHY SUPPORT CITY?

Why support City? The answer is obvious! Witness that unforgettable, heartstopping, frustrating, brilliant, stupendous finale to our season, and understand what it takes to be a True Blue. My thirteen year old son was sobbing uncontrollably and I was trying to hold back my tears (unsuccessfully) as we watched the match in the ‘Dover Castle’ pub in Cheetham Hill. This is one of the unique pubs whose landlady is Red and landlord is Blue with the walls adorned with photo’s of both teams. The Red contingent were in the ‘bar’ playing pool and mocking the boys in the lounge glued to the big screen. It was unbearable to the Blues until Nicky Weaver pulled off that penalty save and made me feel ten feet tall, with my heart pounding, tears of joy streaming down my face and my son spilling my beer as he jumped around like a tasmanian devil knocking into tables left, right and chelsea.

Oh! Sweet mysteries of life! Now it was my turn to be David Pleat for a day as my mind raced back to that day and Colin’s testimonial where we cried tears of sadness and tears of joy for the privilege of paying homage to a supreme talent. The stomach churning in the very deepest pit, gnawing, aching at my very soul when we were relegated from the Premiership and they had won the title on the same day as I had travelled from my home in Portsmouth and taken my 9 year old son to the last game to see us draw with Liverpool, knowing that the ‘Scummers’ (local Pompey term for Southampton) had survived at our expense! His tears and the ridicule he underwent when I walked him back to my brother’s house in Longsight (where we were staying for our W/E trip); as we approached the front door we spotted the grotesque, full size picture of a paticularly nasty frenchman holding aloft the Premiership trophy and the banner ‘Glory, Glory…’, over the front door. Yes, my brother and his siblings are part of the ‘few’ mancunians (albeit, armchair) supporters.

So you see, we are enjoying our day in the sun, and this is retribution for the cold, dark winter recess which has bedridden our once proud and successful club for far too long. I truly believe that this will act as the catalyst to enable the phoenix to rise and once again soar with the eagles. Oh! I forgot to say, I just love, love, love our club with all my heart.

Hugh Doyle (hugh.doyle@gecm.com)

CITY’S MOTTO?

Does anyone know City’s official motto? Is it “Superbia In Praelia”? as it says on the badge on the Kappa badge? The old (better) badge didn’t have a motto underneath so what was our motto before the kit change? Is the new kit going to stick with the Kappa badge or are we going to revert to the original Manchester Shipping boat and Lancashire rose? The reason I’m asking this is because I made a drunken bet for a hundred pounds with a mate that our motto next season (after the change in kit) would not be “Superbia In Praelia”. If the club has a different official motto, I could claim a technicality even if we stick with the Kappa badge. Any info. will be appreciated.

CEIILAHQ (City even if I lose a hundred quid), Rob Springthorpe (rs8139@bristol.ac.uk)

OPINION – WALKING AWAY

What team has Graham Lord been following for the last few seasons? A major reason for City being in the 3rd Division is the fact that successive managers have seen fit to play the likes of Tony Vaughan and Kevin Horlock out of position at left back. Also in my eyes, there is nothing wrong with the City midfield since Christmas, the team has done significantly better without Jamie Pillock in it.

Also I have to say this to relieve my blood pressure – I’m not a big fan of anyone who leaves a match early, but how could anyone walk out on a match of such importance in the dying stages, it is an insult to all the thousands who wanted tickets but couldn’t get them, and makes a mockery of the ludicrous policy of selling two tickets to every season ticket holder. These people should p**s off to Salford with all the other glory-hunters. They deserved to miss such a fantastic finale.

CUTPGTALB (City until they play Gareth Taylor at left-back), Chris Ffelan (chris.ffelan@blackburn.gov.uk)

POMPEY BLUES?

Any of you live in Portsmouth or currently at or even going to the University next september? If so let me know, I’ve been here 4 years and over the last few months I’ve spotted 3 or 4 shirts then in my final exam ever! I see someone wearing a City shirt and it would appear that they are in the year below me. But I wasn’t able to talk to him so are there any Pompey Blues out there?

Also just wanted to say Hooray!

What a result; I wanted to leave the pub after that Gills goal, then even more so after the second, but thanks to my stubborn southern girlfriend who wouldn’t drink-up for some unknown reason we were still there to witness that miracle.

So I’d just like to say Joe should be given a big thanks as he called the club ‘we’ from the very first press conference announcing his arrival with true pride and a definite show of love for the club!

Secondly, how dare anyone ever say a hard word against Dickov ever no matter what he does! This guy may not be the most skilful player in the world or the most talented or the tallest. But at the end of the day he loves the club, he loves his job, he loves us the fans, he has pride, he has a never say die attitude, he never gives up, and he never stops running or trying. And that makes him the best player at the club and someone we should all look up to! Unlike some players who won’t even walk for more than two steps if it’s going to raise his pulse, even if that’s his job and he’s in front of an open goal with the ‘keeper having a cup of tea still in the changing rooms (think you know who I mean).

CTID, which won’t be much longer if they continue to give me heart attacks like that again! Phil Heally (ses80311@port.ac.uk)

THANK YOU

I would like to say thank you to the City fan who was kind enough to give my disabled brother and myself tickets for the most unbelievable game I have ever seen. Having seen many heart-wrenching games such as Bradford, Liverpool, Luton and Spurs (1981), I can honestly say I have never gone through such variety of emotions. It is a game I will never forget and as for my brother, well he was crying with joy.

Thank you everyone who offered to help.

Claire Quinn (clairequinn@hotmail.com)

REQUEST – VIDEO OF THE GAME

I am living in the USA and am looking for a video of Sunday’s game. Unfortunately, the video system here (NTSC) is different than Britain, so if possible I would need it converted. If not, I could find someone to convert it over here. I would be willing to compensate anyone helping me. Thanks.

Martin Prendergast (littlemartin@netscape.net)

REQUEST – PHILADELPHIA BLUES

Any Blues in and around the Philadelphia area over the next two weeks give me a shout for some celebratory beers.

Jonathan Tod (jonathan.m.tod@sb.com)

REQUEST – VIDEO I

My name is Marcus Watson and I’ve been a Manchester City fan from the other side of the world for over 20 years (ever since my auntie bought me a City shirt when I was about seven because she liked the colour!?). In New Zealand we only get to see some Premier League games on TV (Sky), the Premier league highlights and of course the Champions’ League matches. I’m wondering if someone could be kind enough to send me the video of the final play-off game when we got promotion! It sounded like the most amazing final few minutes of normal time and the eventual penalty shoot-out. A friend of mine phoned me from a pub in London to tell me the score. I was asleep of course but I was so happy afterwards.

Here’s hoping that I’ll see City on TV over here after we get promoted again next season!

Note: I’m quite happy to send money for postage.

P.S. My postage address is:
37 Aberdeen Avenue
Palmerston North
New Zealand

Kind Regards, Marcus (c/o Ken Watson kwatson@manawatu.gen.nz)

REQUEST – VIDEO II

As a City fan in Oz I was forced to follow the game on Internet chat (thanks to Casey etc. for that) and patchy audio coverage. Needless to say they were the worst/best hours of my life. However, there was no coverage on TV over here. Does anyone know if there will be a version on tape for sale? Failing that, could any kind soul who has the ability, sort me a copy for when I make a brief return in July? Also, any Sydney-based Blues would be welcome to watch it on my return to Oz.

I’ve already watched the goals on the Net… fantastic!

Julian Flitcroft (jflitcroft@hotmail.com)

REQUEST – VIDEO III

I was wondering what the chances of obtaining a video of the whole game at Wembley against Gillingham would be? We didn’t get to see it over here in the States. Please email me if you can help.

Andy Shawcross (ASMS1@BESTWEB.net)

A PLEA

With the season ending of such a positive note, and MCIVTA about to take a rest – I assume – here’s an appeal: Next season can we cease the endless stream of criticism about Manchester United and concentrate on the positive (and negative) aspects of Manchester City’s drive for a spot in the Premier League?

In my view, criticism of United smells of sour grapes and is motivated, for the most part, by plain old envy. By any objective standard they had an amazing season this year. Sure they’ve got pots of money and most of the media eating out of their hands but know what? It was forever thus. I recall when City were working their magic under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison, there was an almost grudging media recognition of their superiority over United and the biggest culprit was the Manchester Evening News. What’s changed?

It hurts seeing United do so well when we’re doing so badly but given the Division One campaign that lies ahead, perhaps we don’t have to be so Rags-obsessed. In another year, the City forward line can deliver the message for us.

Mind you, some of the anti-United jokes have been pretty good so I wouldn’t want a total Rags blackout.

Having said that: a friend of mine – an avid Chelsea fan – spotted this on the Chelsea fans’ e-mail list. The writer is also an avid Chelsea fan (my friend says City fans have to get more anti-social if they ever expect to make it in the Premier Division again):

“The Man City fans piled into my boozer (I own a pub) last Saturday night; our normal policy is never to let footy fans in (yes I’m a hypocrite) but it was really good to have them. Firstly they were all polite, all had Manc accents, knew where Maine Road was, understood football and really hated Manurinal for all the right reasons, they even stood their rounds. In addition they were very complimentary and respectful about Chelsea. Good on ’em.”

Chris Cobb (cobsun@intranet.ca)

BRAZIL UPDATE

Sorry, I forgot to mention that Palmeiras are also on for a ‘historic’ treble. They are in the Libertadores final, the final of the Brazilian Cup, and they may yet win the Sao Paulo state championship.

The Brazilian national championship doesn’t even start until July, so it could even become a quadruple. They call that a ‘tetracampeonato’ here. Stick that up your tri-campeonato, Fergie!

Marc Starr (MARCATU@aol.com)

WHY BLUE?

My name is David Goldich, an Englishman living in Brazil. For many years now I had forgotten how much Manchester City had really meant to me.

I have been a Man City supporter since I can remember. From the day I was born, my destiny as a Blue was written. As soon as I could sit up straight my father bought me a season ticket in the Main Stand. For the first few years, I took Manchester City for granted. We were doing so well. Those were the days of Colin Bell, Francis Lee and my all time hero Joe Corrigan. My thrill was the meat pie and bovril at half time.

Then, one day a fanatical Arsenal fan, my father’s friend, came down from London and we gained access into the executive lounge. There I was stood in front of my new found heroes Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes, Dave Watson and yes, Big Joe. From that day on my life as a true Blue changed.

When I was 15, I left England to live abroad. First Israel and now Brazil. I tried to keep a tag on all the updates. Whenever I could get back to England, my father who had kept my season ticket open, took me to the games.

In 1987. I was married in Brazil and unfortunately a few days later my father passed away. Many things died that day, including Manchester City. In 1999, about 4 months ago I was in England. Man City were starting their move up the table.

Suddenly I felt the need to get back in. I rode into London my with my 2 daughters and after a number of frustrating attempts in finding Manchester City shirts, I hit upon a shop in the centre of London which had everything I needed. Video, shirt, caps etc… I bought the lot. I have followed over the Internet every move of the way since then. I don’t know all the players, in fact I only know Joe Royle, the Manager. But I am back. I would like to dedicate this first step to Division 1 to my father. I am sure from up above, he has a great seat in the Main Stand.

Congratulations to all those Blue fans who stand out in the cold every Saturday, cheering on the Boys in Blue. How I would love to be there.

Best of luck next season.

David Goldich (paradigm@amcham.com.br)

BLUE HUMOUR

In light of the fact that the vast majority of United fans may have missed out on the recent open bus tour of Manchester, Chairman Martin Edwards has today announced a 2nd bus tour around the M25.

James Barber – Grenoble, France (JAMES_BARBER@HP-France-om4.om.hp.com)

BLUE HUMOUR

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Heaven, God went missing for seven days. Eventually, Michael the archangel found him. He inquired of God, “where were you?”

God breathed a deep sigh of satisfaction and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds: “Look son, look what I’m after making.”

Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, “What is it?” God replied, “It’s another planet but I’m after putting *life* on it. I’ve named it earth and there’s going to be a balance between everything on it.”

“For example, there’s north America and south America. North America is going to be rich and south America is going to be poor. Now look over here. I’ve put a continent of whites in the north and another one of blacks in the south.”

And then the archangel said, “And what’s that green dot there?” And God said “Ahhh that’s Maine Road – that’s a very special place. That’s going to be the most glorious spot on earth. The people there will be treated to football of the highest order by the very best purveyors of the beautiful game. The players will make the fans happy, and the fans will treat the players with reverence and love. No evil shall ever find its way into this place without being sent hame with its tail between its legs.”

Michael the Archangel gasped in wonder and admiration, but then seeming startled, he proclaimed: “Hold on a second, what about the *balance*, you said there was going to be a balance…”

God replied wisely: “Wait until you see the bas****s I’m putting next door to them.”

Aaron McCann (m9620656@qub.ac.uk)

WWW MANCHESTER CITY SUPPORTERS’ HOME PAGE:
http://www.uit.no/mancity/


MCIVTA ADDRESSES:
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DISCLAIMER
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, mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com

Newsletter #506

1999/06/03

Editor:


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