Well, to tell you the truth I can’t remember the point in my life when I said to myself “I’m a City supporter”. On the other hand, nor can I remember a time when I was conscious of football and not a City supporter. So how did it happen?
I was born in ’51, in Bramhall to a middle-class rugby-obsessed family; my father played for Davenport into his forties, so winter Saturdays were spent there or on the touchline of some windswept, godforsaken rugby pitch in the wilderness of Wirral or up in Lancashire. Football was played by girls in fact, with an exemption for the working classes.
I do remember our neighbours being Reds but I think that back in the 50’s, City & United were rather like the Boat Race – you supported one or the other, whether or not they had ever played any part in your life or not. Our next door neighbours were reds though I don’t recall any of them ever going to a game, so maybe it was a reaction to that. My Grandfather was also a red but then he had been supporting them since they were called Newton Heath; again, I don’t think he had seen them since they were Newton Heath. Anyway, I still can’t pinpoint when I became a blue, so I can only assume it is a some sort of chromosomal number.
The first real consciousness I do have of it was that a mate of mine at school was also a City fan (notional at least), but switched to the Rags when we suffered one of our regular periods of R&R in the (real) Div 2. At this point I knew for sure there was something wrong with them and I guess it was then I became 100% blue.
However, good old rugby still got in the way. No way was I going to be allowed to go to Maine Road. However, in 1966, in a burst of enthusiasm after the World Cup and having finally gievn up playing rugby, my father at last took me to Maine Road.
I can’t in fact remember who we played – I think it was Stoke, with Banks in goal and I think it was a 1-1 draw. Unfortunately, when I left home to go to University, and in effect never lived at home again, my mother ditched all my City memorabilia, programs and all, and worst of all, the 14 foot sky blue and white woolen scarf my grandmother knitted for me – anyone out there pick it up at a jumble sale? If so, any chance I can have it back please! The only thing I have from that era is a special Championship brochure put out after we won the league (yes folks – it can be done!) and that’s falling to pieces.
Well, from then on it snowballed I guess; soon I managed to persuade my parents that it was in fact possible to go to a football match and come home in one piece. Mind you, in those days I guess there was at times doubt about that; I do recall the Leeds fans trashing most of Lloyd street after one game; it was the start of the era of full scale train-wrecking and inter-fan barnies. I do recall being set upon by a fearome-looking skinhead after the famous Stepney blunder at OT in a league cup semi-final. Also being chased from Highfield Road to Coventry station (quite a long way!) by a gang of skinheads, with not a policeman in sight until we got near the station (they are never there when you want them). Apart from those incidents, in-built cowardice ensured I never got near trouble when it flared up.
So at last I could go to the Kippax! Despite being away at school – and that continued after prep school, I managed to take in as many games as possible. A regular spot was reserved on the top left hand corner of the tunnel at the open (North stand) end of the Kippax, from where we could launch a regular chorus of “I hear the sound of distant drums” at the feeble peeps of the away supporters. Maine Road was, as it still can be, a madhouse, both on and off the field. From what I recall, we had to go a goal down fairly quickly to play well and a collective sigh of relief would issue from the Kippax when this did happen.
On leaving public school, I had a good chunk of time before going to University. Much of this was spent with a friend of mine, an Owl, whose family moved from Sheffield to Bowden near Altrincham, taking in any game within striking distance. We’d go to Maine Road, Hillsborough, Anfield, Burnley, Stockport & accessible away games. I clocked up over 40 games that year. A great pleasure was going with the away fans at OT!
In those days of sensible public transport, despite living in the leafy green belt outside Greater Manchester, I could hop on a bus in Woodford and get off on Princess Road, just opposite Wilbraham Street, so despite my affection for Stockport County, no-one can accuse me of not supporting a local club. A particular pleasure I remember from those days was going in on the bus for evening games and seeing the pylon floodlights of Maine Road from far away. Does anyone else miss those old-style floodlights; I for one think they are much more evocative of .. something? I’m not quite sure what, but I do miss them.
The Championship & Cup years were wonderful; I saw as much as possible of City in that time, highlights being the two cups, the FA Cup semi-final at a packed Villa Park; I still have an image engraved in my mind of a toilet roll sailing over the goal just as Tommy Booth (master striker) hit the goal that took us to Wembley, the 5-1 thrashing of Schalke in the ECWC semi at Maine Road, a league cup quarter final against Liverpool which we won either 3-2 or 2-1 (my memory is not what it was!), a game about which I recall Bill Shankly saying “It wasn’t a game of football, it was a cavalry charge”. but most of all, being at OT when we beat the Rags 3-1 to go on to win the league. 1-0 down after 30 seconds, we then proceeded to take them to pieces. Again, it can be done!
On going to Oxford, my football attending started to slow down. Well … Oxford United weren’t the greatest of clubs! I used to go and see City in London occasionally and go to the Manor for big games. In ’72 I met my wife to be and by ’75 children started to take over. Football watching was relegated to TV. Occasionally Pat’s brother & I would pick up games at the Manor; I recall seeing Forest in the FA Cup there, winning 4-0 with a young Viv Anderson scoring a cracker and even better, City, with Marsh & Law winning a characteristically loony cup game 5-2. Mid seventies, attendance at games ground to a halt. I did get to the ’81 Final replay, which we should have won, but that was it for a while.
In ’83 we moved to Bristol. It didn’t even cross my mind to go to Ashton Gate or Eastville (which Rovers had not yet been kicked out of). However, once again the World Cup came into play. Two of my three boys had by this time got a mild dose of football fever and the brainwashing was getting into action; they were told they supported City, so City they supported. At this point, I decided it was time to start frequenting the terraces again. By now, Rovers had been kicked out of Eastville and had settled in Bath, where they are to this day, so I started taking them to Ashton Gate. At this time, Bristol City were in the (real) Div 3, but pulling in 8 or 9k crowds and playing some good football. It was all pretty low key (but at least I could shout “Come on City” without thinking) but I realised just how much I had missed the fun of being on the terraces; I was even prepared to grant Joe Jordan a certificate of exemption for being an ex-Red for his great deeds at the Gate.
Time came, therefore, when the lads had to be introduced to higher things. At this point we were, surprise surprise, back in (the real Div 2), so playing the likes of Swindon & Oxford. My brother-in-law (he of Oxford United and therefore a Swindon hater) took them to see City at Swindon and that was their initiation. Soon afterwards, we went to the Manor, where they were privileged to see a performance straight out of the archives. 2-0 down at half-time, and playing like blind men, within 8 minutes of half-time they were 3-2 up and won 4-2 in the end. We were imprisoned in the dreaded Cuckoo Lane end at the Manor with a couple of thousand of fine, upstanding & completely deranged Citizens The boys were impressed !
Since then, we try to pick up a couple of games a season at the academy (although that has been curtailed this season with the membership number) and the odd away game. I notice that in one of the MCIVTAs, there is a reference to Gary Flitcroft as “Flipper”; I think I can shed some light on that. At the league cup replay at Twerton against Bristol Rovers, we were in attendance (with the Rovers fans). They have a deranged MC there by the name of Keith Valle, who comes out before the game and at half-time to whip up the “gasheads” as Rovers fans are known. Well, at some point in the game, Flitcroft came on as substitute. Mr Valle announced the change of personnel… “And coming on for Manchester City, is Gary Flit, er Gary Flit, Gary FLIPFLOP” – wild cheers!
And so it goes; it’s a pleasure to have stumbled across MCIVTA and find so many like minds there, who stick with the Blues through thick and thin. Of the future, well, I think Franny has a major job on his hands after 20 years of Swalesdom and I don’t think he can put us back where we belong quickly. I just hope the fans stay patient and recognise the enormous task he has taken on, which is I guess, on our behalf. I am still unsure about Horton; you can’t help but like the guy and you can’t help but sympathise with him having had to cope both with a flailing team, when he joined, and the anti-Swales campaign but to me he seems tactically naïve in the extreme; witness the Derby disasters. If we lose to Notts County next Wednesday, I think he will be on his bike.
As for the Rags, well, I blame Trevor Francis & Howard Wilkinson. Francis first; if he had sold David Hirst to the rags then I am convinced that none of the horrors of the past two years would have happened. Hirst would have been permanently injured and perhaps he wouldn’t have gone for Cantona with a 4 million pound signing under his belt. I have run this theory past a couple of Reds I know and they reckon there is something in it. So Trevor Francis; we name the guilty person! As for Wilkinson, well, that needs no explanation at all.
Up the Blues.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #39 on