My first inclination is to suggest that some mean-spirited deity has had it in for me!
I was born in 1948 and grew up in Broadheath, near Altrincham. This is largely a red zone! My dad actually spent his time watching Altrincham and I have memories of going with him to see the Robins in the Old Cheshire League. I do remember him taking me to Maine Road once, probably around 1955. My first impressions of the Blues came through watching, on some very small TV, the 1955 and ’56 Cup Finals. I think that these games hooked me on City more than anything else.
My dad died in 1956 and the few live games I saw for the next few years were when cousins, who were red fans, took me to Old Trafford. So I did manage to see the Babes play, though my memories are decidedly hazy. Although there was a certain amount of pressure to turn into a reds fan I mananged to avoid such behaviour and the City score was always the first one I looked for in those cliff-hanger seasons of 59-63. I went to a few games here and there but there aren’t many clear memories. I do remember Bobby Charlton scoring against Trautmann in a derby at Old Trafford. He seemed to have shot from the far touch line but the ball crept in at the far post.
Once I started grammar school a number of things happened which limited my appearances at Maine Road over the next few years. I played for the school team or one of the school teams in the morning and then in 1964 started playing for a local youth team in the afternoons. No great standard (as an aside, one of the many instances when I realized that I was not going to be anything other than one of the millions of enthusiastic but limited players happened when I had to mark Alan Gowling in a school game. He went on to play for the rags and Newcastle. I remember we lost 5-0 and I have a suspicion that Alan scored four of them!!!). The other thing that happened was that I got a Saturday job delivering groceries. This came about due to my early and continued passion of buying hillbilly, blues and old rock & roll music. Other cousins sent me down this road, the reason why I first came to the US and why I lived from 1971-85 in Tennessee.
Through the sixties then I had these two passions, football (especially City) and music. I bought most of my first records from White and Swales’ Music shop in Altrincham. I still have 45s with their shop name stamped on the cover. There was a red-headed shop assistant who worked there in the mid-60s. I wonder what ever happened to her? However, that’s another story. Anyway, you can blame me for partially setting Swales on the road to ownership of City. If I had just bought my 78s, 45s, EPs and LPs down the street at Shortlands, maybe I would have saved us all a great deal of worry?!
I did get to see games at Maine Road. I saw the game when they lost at home to Burnley, when the latter won the League. Law was playing. He was also playing in the game at the end of the 1962/63 season but this time for the rags. City tied 1-1, Law won a very dubious penalty and City went down. A win there and it may well have been United who went down. I seem to have picked some very odd and interesting games to go to. Losing at home to West Ham with Bert sent off; then his testimonial, then the game against Swindon with 8,000 odd in the ground; you had to shout at your neighbour on the Kippax to be heard. I went to games dependent on not having to work or play.
From the time City were promoted I started going to more games. I usually stood at the old scoreboard end. I went to college in 1967, down at Swansea, and saw games during vacation. I met a lad from Denton at college and we have remained good friends ever since. He is still a ticket holder at Maine Road. He hitchhiked home during the championship season to see home games and even made it to the 4-3 win at Newcastle. Me… well that is where with hindsight I perhaps erred. You see in May 1968 Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins were touring the U.K. and the day that City beat Newcastle I was making my way to London to see them in Walthamstow. It seemed the easier and right thing to do at the time. I remember walking past a TV shop near the theatre and seeing Joe Mercer’s face. I knew then that the League was won but music had won out again over footy. A few years earlier I had asked to be left out of one of the school teams so I could hitchhike down to Coventry to see Jerry Lee Lewis. Oh well, you live and learn – then you die and forget it all.
However, I have some very vivid memories of games in the late sixties. Old Trafford in March ’68 – the 3-1 win and the glowing article by Michael Parkinson in the Sunday Times the weekend after; the humourous game at home against West Ham when Jimmy Greaves made his début and City lost 5-1 including the goal where Joe Corrigan punted the ball out, didn’t look where it went, turned to walk back to his goal and saw a return volley from Ron Boyle(?) flash past him into the net. The game against Schalke 04, still standing in the scoreboard end. I don’t think I have ever heard a City crowd so loud as that night. I still have the press cutting from the next morning “City’s 5 goal waltz to Vienna” complete with a picture of Lee in the dressing room, socks rolled down and a ciggie in his mouth! I didn’t get to Vienna though another friend, Ron, did. I did not get to the ’69 final. I was at college and both my pal and I thought we were getting tickets through an acquaintance. It all fell through at the last minute and we ended up watching the game on the college TV.
I moved to London in 1970 for a year and saw the blues play a few times. Bell played superbly against Chelsea in one game.
Then it was on to the US in 1971. From then until 1985 I came home every Xmas and sometimes during the summer. I joined up with my mates to go to away games and I have some very fond memories of journeys to Leeds, Leicester, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Everton over the holiday period. City were still a good team until the late 70s; they beat a very strong Leeds team on Boxing Day 1976. I even made the game against Liverpool in late winter of 80/81 when they won at Anfield for the first time in ages and Reeves scored a delightful goal. A highlight has to have been the game where Bell made his comeback… I think it was 0-0 against Newcastle at half time and Bell came on. City won 4-0 but although the response was wonderful it was clear he was not the player he used to be; for those who didn’t see him, Colin Bell was a truly remarkable player.
City actually toured the US in 1980 and I saw them play in Memphis. I came home for the FA Cup in 1981 but typical City – they tied and I had a non-refundable ticket that left for the states on the Monday before the replay. I heard this game on a short wave radio, though the game was shown on cable TV a day or two later. To this day I do not know why Dennis Tueart was not played from the beginning of that second game. That was, in some ways, the start of the current silly season at Maine Road. Allison comes back and clears out solid players and brings in players who just were not good enough for that level. None of them, not just Daley (poor lad) but McKenzie, Robinson, Silkman and even poor old Tommy Caton. Strange times.
My trips back became a little less frequent after 1985 when my mom died but I did get to see City tie San Jose Earthquakes in 1986, thanks to a last minute own goal. It was sad to see them play in the old second division, especially as they bounced around during the mid-80s. My last visits were the summer of 1992 when, to Cindy’s amazement, our holiday to the U.K. underwent last minute changes thanks to Sky TV’s schedule changes.
TV has helped me keep in touch better these days. Since coming to the U.S. and playing and coaching football teams, I have come to appreciate the styles and skills shown by South Americans and other Europeans. Watching games from all over the world does, I think, give you cause to think. However, nothing matches the thrill of seeing Maine Road on the box (well, other than walking into the ground itself; how will I ever get over the experience of walking through those old tunnels onto the Kippax?), even when it is a dire game (where, at Maine Road?). I still get the Pink ‘Un now and again from my pal; he defaces the United news!!
Like all fans I have my favourite players: Bell, Lee, Tueart, Booth, Summerbee, Doyle, Joe Hayes, Bert but there were also others, unsung perhaps who I always felt were good players; some of whom perhaps were at the club at the wrong time; Dave Connor, Bobby McDonald, Brian Kidd, Freddie Hill, Pardoe. Law is a strange one; he played for a City side early on that depended on him, his final season was a grand experience… a forward line of Law, Marsh, Bell, Summerbee and Lee is quite appealing but perhaps only in theory. Marsh was an odd one. I am glad he came to City but I think that a crucial turning point in City’s history was Allison’s gamble on playing Marsh as soon as he was bought. It probably resulted in a lost championship in 1971/72. I realize that I have missed many, many players out of this list. Looking at the statistics book leaves me surprised at all the players who have played for City and who I have seen playing for City who I just cannot recollect in any way.
I think Tueart in some ways was the most inspired buy of the 70s (I was never that big a fan of Hartford). He didn’t play for England much but that might be because of the way he nutted a Hartlepool player in a 3rd Round FA Cup game. The lad was poleaxed, Tueart went off and only then did people realize he had nutted an innocent player – not the one who kicked him. The latter was also sent off, alongside Tueart and the guy being carried off on a stretcher.
It has almost been 40 years now since my first visit to Maine Road. Strange really; through all the ups and downs of these years, City have remained one of the very, very few constants in my life… I will leave it up to you to decide what that says about my life.
Come On You Blues
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #42 on