Call me the type that likes the underdog.
I guess being a Liberal Democrat, a Trafford Borough, Sale follower and City fan to boot, that could be the only explanation. Barring diminished responsibility.
My City roots are quite deep though. I was born in 1972, and we lived in Wythenshawe, Newall Green to be precise. If anyone remembers the big blocks of flats that used to welcome the incoming motorists on the M56, that was where we lived. Kennett Road was the first Egerton Towers. And Towers they certainly were to my mum pushing the pram up without a lift.
With a younger brother only just born to add to me and the other two, we moved. Unfortunately, we moved to Trafford and specifically, a house in Sale. Being not so far away from Stretford, there were not so many other City fans around. Indeed, our family was split fairly evenly.
I can boast the proud fact that my aunty lives a mere spitting distance from Maine Road. 173 Horton Road to be precise, and still does as far as I know (this is not an excuse for a piss-up at her place every Saturday evening though). I also worked once at the Ladbrokes just off Hart Road, though fortunately City weren’t playing that day. I did have the misfortune to work in the bookies near OT one Boxing Day, when in no particular order, U****d beat Villa 3-1, and Desert Orchid won the King George at Kempton. If anyone knows that bookies, they will know there are only two tills and the sight of 45,000 Scum trying to get into this tiny shop, demanding money from a terrified Blue and his mate, was not a particularly attractive one.
They will also know the meaning of fear as well.
Anyway, I digress. My aunt and family came from that part of the world, so my dad and eldest brother are both Blues. My second oldest brother and youngest brother are however not. You can imagine the scenes come Derby Day – it’s the same in every family, I guess.
As I said earlier, I seem to follow underdogs, or take a course the majority might frown at. Perhaps it was true of City as well. My earliest recollection of watching City was as a five-year-old with my dad watching them play Arsenal. I think this was in 76 or 77. Someone with the records might be able to help me out. All I do remember was that we were sat on the benches high up in the North Stand (I think – it must have been, we were behind one of the goals). I remember nothing of the game, only that Joe Royle scored with a header from a cross from the City right, and that was the only goal of the game. Help? More details?
The only other City game I’ve been to, was in 79 (I’m sure) against the Scousers. This time my dad took my oldest brother, second oldest and me. Unfortunately, we got beaten 4-1 (4-0) and Dalglish got a hat-trick that day. We were also sat next to a pair of very noisy Scouse fans, and perhaps my dad thought that was it.
The 81 season was when I really took interest and started following City quite closely. I remember the game John Bond took over and City drew, I think. It was certainly on Match of the Day. And then the cup run. The game in which we beat Peterborough, in a child-like way I thought we were going to Wembley. I don’t remember much now of the run, apart from the Semi. I sat on my living room floor with the radio on. Whoever it was, they were only having reports rather than live match commentary. Bastards. And then Paul Power scored and of course, the radio was elsewhere. How fast did they cut back? I do remember the sight on Match of the Day of the massed sight of the City scarves adorning Villa Park. Magical.
And then the Final. Nervous? I got up early. Made sure I was down in front of the box for 11.30 and Grandstand (ITV never got a look in in our house). The game itself wasn’t much to write home about, not that I would have minded winning 1-0. Ah yes, Ranson’s cross… Hutchinson…..YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!! Twenty-odd minutes before Paul Power lifted the cup, then bugger…
I knew the replay wasn’t going to be the same, especially after Archibald scored in the first few minutes. I had a fight with my brother who started teasing me, and then I went to sulk upstairs (i.e. watch it on the b & w portable upstairs). Little did I know, once I turned it on, that the greatest goal in a Cup Final I have ever seen (and I still think so) would be scored within 30 seconds. Once again, we were back in it. And after David Bennett got fouled, 2-1 up again and City were back in Europe…
I don’t mind admitting I cried when Perryman lifted up the Cup. I was only nine, for God’s sake. God knows what I would have been like, had my dad taken me with him and the oldest brother as well.
And then of course the steady decline. As the hooliganism reached a peak, and City hit decline, and my brother’s rugby feats for school knew no bounds (eventually he had an England U-16 squad session), the family lost interest in football. We’d moved to the suburbs now and since we lads went to the grammar school, we all played rugby (which is still I guess my first love and always will be) and Lancashire and Sale became more of a focus of my life. Of course, I always used to follow City. I was gutted when Luton sent us down and then the yo-yo years of the mid-80s have been enough to put off more diehard fans. Listening to James H. Reeve has always confirmed my faith, especially when he was doing his famed Emissions on Piccadilly. What a crying shame it is that he and a certain Mr Docherty get only an hour during the God slot, but former Cabinet ministers cashing in on their notoriety get an hour and half on Saturday. If there was any justice, James Hengist Reeve and Thomas Henderson Docherty would take over 606 now.
I still support the Blues and now even more so, since I’ve moved to Canterbury with university. When I studied out at Indiana University for a year, you don’t know what a blessing MCITVA became. Especially during the latter part of the season, when we beat Newcastle 3-0 and scraped a 1-0 win at the Dell. I am proud to say that I was here from the start and have read every one of Ashley, Paul and Svenn’s excellent missives. Despite my losing access, for nearly 7-8 months.
Though I went up to Littleborough and Saddleworth during the by-election this summer, where love blossomed in the romantic surroundings of Shaw and Crompton railway station (too bad you’re a Rag, Gabbi – needless to say, she lives in Worthing, but then you guessed I wasn’t going to say Manchester). I haven’t been back to Sale or Maine Road, since going to University. The thought appeals more and more and since an old school friend has provided a window of opportunity over the next few months, the only question is how much and when.
Just to finish, my dad must have been a Blue. He even bought that bloody record… “We are the lads who are playing to win… aaarrrrgggh”
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #164 on