Philip Gregory

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Why Blue?

If you’re running out of “Why Blues” have you considered re-running the old ones again? They were probably sent out when the mailing list was a lot smaller, so they are probably new to the majorty of subscribers.

Why Blue?

A difficult question and certainly one that psychiatrists have pondered over since the beginning of time – well almost!

I suppose that geography and family must be the main determinants although I suspect that there must be a major genetic throwback component as to why people become rags. Anyway, being born in a small Lancashire town (Helmshore) in the Rossendale valley in 1956 must have had something to do with it and the fact that my father was a City fan were the major factors.

My father was one of seven brothers, four United fans and three City fans. My favourite uncle was a City fan and so my footballing instincts became awakened at about the age of 9 or 10. I remember watching the World Cup final in glorious black and white in 1966 and Hurst’s goal in the last seconds. I knew it was good and important, but not quite how much so.

Anyway, from there I began to be interested in football, both playing and watching and it was all-consuming. I do have a very vague memory of going to a match with my father when I was about 4 and I am told it was Maine Road, but no-one can remember against who. However, I do remember Saturday afternoon excursions from about 1968 onwards to the ground and the first match I saw was against Tottenham – I think we won 4-0, but in fact we seemed to win everything then. The championship was great, only wish I had been older to really enjoy it and I remember the team more than the results from that time.

Good old Joe in goal, Pardoe was a great full-back and Doyle (the proudest player ever to pull on a sky blue shirt, especially in a Manchester Derby), and of course, Bell, Lee and Summerbee, plus Young and Coleman – both great wingers and what attractive football we played! One memorable match was a 7-0 drubbing of Burnley at Maine Road and of course the Cup Final winning year of 1969.

Luckily most of the rounds were at home and I went to every one, including Newcastle away, which was 0-0 and the night replay at Maine Road had 60,000 plus in the ground and ended with a 2-0 win. Then the semi at Villa Park against Everton, walking off with one minute to go and at 0-0 expecting a replay, only to see Tommy Booth score and Wembley was there!

The final was a great day, my first time at Wembley and I just knew we would win. I was lucky enough to get a ticket since my grandfather who was a great soccer fan and also a true blue had been a St. John ambulance man on duty at grounds. He somehow managed to strike up a friendship with a couple of league referees (although you wouldn’t know it to hear the things he called them) and managed to tap then up for a couple of tickets. I went to the match with him, the first of several Wembley matches with him as we also went to the England vs. Scotland home internationals – but that’s another story.

Anyway, in the Cup Final, Leicester had Allan Clarke, a great player and the only real threat to City. I remember that I never doubted we would win and in the end the result was a little bit of an anti-climax. It was great to see Tony Book lift the trophy and the delight on Franny’s face – let’s hope he gets to beam again soon. Neil Young’s goal was poetry and I can remember doing several jigs on the terraces when the goal went in. I still see it in my mind’s eye and relive the moment in its entirety very easily.

I managed to see all the home Cup Winners’ Cup rounds and again some memorable night matches, with full capacities and goal feasts at the Academy. I also went to the final in Vienna, first time overseas and remember being very wet but happy at the result.

I went regularly to see City whilst still at school in Lancashire, but when I went away to University in 1975 it became more difficult to go and see them, except for the odd Midlands game (I was in Nottingham) and during holidays back in Lancashire. City always seemed to eat too much Christmas pudding, since I never seemed to see them win over that holiday period. I still followed every result, saw us at Wembley again twice, but only winning once and had heart failure along with everyone else when Ricky Villa strolled thought the defence in the replay to sink us. I was not sorry for myself, more for Tommy Hutchinson, who had played his heart out.

After the glory days, some not so good times but still true blue even with the Luton débâcle. I have hated Pleat and Luton ever since and rejoiced from the roof tops when he got arrested for kerb crawling – no place was too low for him in my opinion. Relegation hurt and bouncing back did us some good.

Of course beating United was always sweet and the other hihlight of my Honeymoon was picking up a three day old newspaper in an airport lounge in Mauritius to see that we had thrashed then 5-1. I thought that it was a misprint, but a hurried call to Helmshore set the record straight.

Since the good and not so good days I have followed City from my place of work, firstly in Holland and for the last four years in Japan. The BBC World Service is a lifeline and I eagerly listen for the results, but now with Ashley’s great efforts, I can get great informed comment and match reviews in MCIVTA. To all contributors, keep up the good work as it is a real lifeline for us true blues who are not in the UK.

I have not enjoyed watching the rags in the ascendancy over the last few years, but now feel that we can all look forward to a new season, with a new manager, new players and a new optimism. That is one virtue that you have to have to be a true blue – or so my psychiatrist says!

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #108 on

1995/07/31

Philip Gregory


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