So how does a Yank from the far reaches of the States become a City supporter? Back in 1979 I began working at Boeing (the airplane maker) and worked with a number of English engineers working on contract here in the States. I had a strong interest in soccer at the time, and we had a decent team in the old North American Soccer League, the Seattle Sounders. I began chatting with one man in my group, named Bryn Rigby (where in the world are you, man?). When he said he was from Manchester, I immediately said “Manchester United?” to which he replied “***k off!” Let’s just say a great friendship was born right then and there.
Over the next two years or so I began following City through news clippings Bryn would get through the mail. The City/Sounders connection began to get very strong. The first City player to come to Seattle was Steve Daley, who seemed very glad to get out of Manchester after his run with the club. Regardless of how he did for the Blues, Steve was one of our top players, always giving his all on the pitch, even if the pitch was made of plastic.
Other players followed. Kevin Bond came from Norwich to Seattle, then to City. During that summer of 1981 John Bond came to see his son play. He also spotted an English winger who was having a dream summer, Tommy Hutchison. Our side at that time had players like Daley, Hutchinson, Alan Hudson, Bruce Rioch, Roger Davies, etc. It was a superb side that won 25 of 32 league matches, but wasn’t crowned champions, but that’s another story.
My fondest City memory was in the summer of ’81 when I went early to a Sounders/Vancouver Whitecaps match for something called “Picture Night”, where you got to go on the pitch and have your photo taken with your favourite Sounder. Vancouver at the time had players like Peter Beardsley, Bruce Grobbelaar, and, dare I say it, Alan Ball. Anyway, Bryn had brought me a City replica shirt from back home and I was proudly wearing it for the first time. On my way down to the pitch I noticed a rather tall gentlemen with his back to me watching the players warm up. As I got closer he turned ’round to look at the stands. Right about the time I noticed him, he noticed me, or more precisely, my shirt. I realised then it was Joe Corrigan. He got excited because I was wearing a City shirt, and I got excited because he was Joe Corrigan!!! Anyway, we had a very nice chat, he was great, wanted to know all about astroturf, and the like, and said “I’d like to have a game on it.” 2 years later he did when he joined the Sounders after leaving City. And I have a photo to prove it’s all true!
I’ve seen City play twice, once in Vancouver in the summer of ’80 when they lost 2-0 in a friendly, and the second time when I made my pilgrimage to Maine Road at Christmas ’81. The Maine Road match was against Wolves and was played in bitter cold. The City side that day featured players like Corrigan, Paul Power, Tommy Caton, Nicky Reid (he later played in Seattle), Clive Wilson, Dennis Tueart, Hutchison, Steve MacKenzie, Kevin Reeves, Trevor Francis, and a lad making his début named Steve Kinsey, who later played indoor soccer in Seattle. I can’t recall who scored City’s first that day (I think it might have been Power on a penalty), but I remember Andy Gray equalising from a free kick in the 75th minute that skidded across the frozen pitch and through Joe’s arms into the net. The game was rather uninspired, and the crowd were all set for a draw when it happened. Five minutes from time, a long, loping ball out of the deep midfield toward Francis at the right of the box. He let it bounce once, holding the defender to his back. It seemed so harmless looking a ball. Then with a whip of his right leg he took it in mid-air, a 3/4 bicycle kick. The ball shot like a rocket off of his foot to the keeper’s left, who dived, left arm outstretched, to no avail. The ball shot past him into the bottom corner, inches from the post. It was the kind of goal a fan wishes to see once in a lifetime. The crowd exploded, surging towards the pitch. I moved 30 feet with my feet never touching the ground. Some lad jumped on my back shouting “Bloody great goal!” over and over. At that moment, I was hooked. For you see, it gets in the blood.
That side went on to the FA Cup Final and replay, and IMHO ranks as the best City side of my generation. I keep track of the club through Sky’s highlights package and on the various web sites, and hope some day soon to return to Maine Road. In the meantime, I content myself with the jersey and scarf I bought at the souvenir shop, now hanging proudly on my wall, and with replica jerseys and team photos from the various magazines. If anyone knows the whereabouts of one Bryn Rigby, please drop a line. And never forget, once a Blue, always a Blue.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #165 on
Dave Bara Seattle WA. USA