I’ve seen the (blue) light
It’s taken as read (pun sadly intended) that your average rag would be born as far from Manchester as physically possible, in the same way that most people assume that all Blues are sure to have been born within the city limits. So, those of us who aren’t of direct Mancunian origin are forever trying to explain our allegiance. Nobody ever questions why people start to follow them, yet I’m forever being asked what makes me a City man.
The only thing that I can equate with the mindless red masses is that many of them come from areas where the great game is a minor feature in peoples’ diaries. I was born in the west country, and going to schools where rugby was the only proper sport left me with a passion for football, but no avenue to express myself. The nearest local club were Bristol City, but not being a native of that city meant that I didn’t feel affiliated with the club or the supporters. I did go and see them, but as a neutral rather than an excited youngster. It was at Ashton gate that I first saw the Blues play, when the west country club were enjoying a brief flirtation with success, although I don’t remember much. Only that it was before Gerry Gow, possibly the most ludicrously coiffured player ever, moved up to the academy.
So my teenage years were filled with a lot of playing and not much supporting. That was all to change when I was accepted by Manchester University. Why I put them top of the list I’ll never know, although my grandfather was born in Chorlton so I always think that might have swayed me. On arriving, I was surrounded for the first time by people who had had football instilled into them from an early age. I signed up for the college team, and began to train in the Students’ Union bar during freshers week. One of my flatmates was visited that first weekend by a friend from London who supported Tottenham. Conveniently they were playing the rags that Saturday, so off we went to Stretford to see the game. The most famous club in the world were pretty shit back then so there was no problem getting onto the Stretford End. I try to eclipse the afternoon from my memory now, but I do remember that Spurs lost 2-1 and my general opinion of the fans was that they were either from London or Wales and they whinged a lot, and had very little humour or humility.
Several weeks later, the same flatmate, a Notts County fan by trade, suggested we skip across Whitworth Park to see his boys play City. What a revelation! Mancunian humour, smiling faces and people who were pleased to talk to you just because you were stood next to them. By this time I’d found myself to be completely at ease in Manchester and for the first time in my life I was able to do my own thing and be my own man. The game, won by Paul Simpson’s twenty-five yard volley was the final piece in the puzzle. I bought a shirt at the souvenir shop and was at the Academy for all the remaining games of that promotion campaign (84-85 season). Over the next four years I was on the Kippax for all the home games as well as travelling to the away ones that my pittance of a grant would allow. Once I’d donned the silly hat and got the letters after my name I hung around, living on Arnside street for another year before my career decided things for me and I moved to London to “make it”.
I didn’t get to as many games over the next few years as I’d have liked, although I did get the sack from my prestigious job as guitar salesman in Camden for bunking off on the Saturday we played Bournemouth when a win would have put us back in the first division. Not such a bad thing when you think that I was free to go to Bradford the next week to see us clinch promotion in the most painful way possible. Only City could have been three up at half time and given away a penalty about a week into injury time, followed by letting Bradford take the lead early on before tricky Trevor Morley pounced in the 86th minute to give us the point we needed. Unemployment was eased by being there when we went up!
Since then I’ve found another Blue in the ludicrous business of making money out of Heavy Metal (although I’ve recently moved into a more sensible(?) part of the industry, VH-1 rather than MTV’s Headbangers’ ball) and yes he’s from Manchester. Anyway, to return to the point of this diatribe: “Why do you support City?” Mainly (ouch, intentional again) because I’m sure for most people there is a time when they find out who or what they are about. For me it happened when I’d got away from my constricted school and chose to move north. I’m sure the reason I support City was that I was so enraptured with Manchester. It was inevitable that I would ally myself with the club that really was part of the community I lived in, as well as representing the attitudes and circumstances of the people associated with it. City was and is the club that lives in the real world, not a glory-hunters’ paradise, not a financial machine with interest only in itself and its own propagation. Part of peoples’ lives, taken for what it is rather than a way to be superior, or part of the biggest gang in the country.
That’s why I can happily sing “City, we’re from Manchester” without feeling like a hypocritical wanker.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #77 on