I must admit to feeling a bit of a fraud. Here I am sitting comfortably in North Carolina with mid-May temperatures in the mid to high 80’s with only limited access to the “Blues” over the last 20 years – and I’m attempting a “Why Blue”. A fraud because I’m a “born Again” City fan. In fact I completely lost sight of them and their progress throughout the decade of the ’80’s.
I saw my first game in the 65-66 season. They were in the 2nd Division and I travelled to Gigg Lane with my girlfiend who was a City supporter from way back. My memory says they lost that night – but I was on hand several days later when they clinched promotion away against Rotherham. I remember going to a party and meeting some of the players in the closed season. Dave Conner, Neil Young, Ralph Brand, Matt Gray among them. They were a loose bunch and obviously looking forward to the 1st Division.
What a rude awakening that was – after a decent showing at Anfield, Chelsea and West Ham came in and ripped our guts out. I think that first season back in the big league was one of the most satisfying that I can remember. I know they won the Championship the following year and the Cup the year after that but the challenge of survival in Div 1 was something else. My memories are of small events during that time period (late 60’s):
The sound of the grass swishing as David Conner ran in to tackle Charlie Cooke at the half way line. The sight of Ian Storey Moore breaking his leg in front of the Platt Lane goal (I think he had just joined the Rags at that point). The sound was really clear. The game where City played Burnley at Maine Road and were two up in 3 minutes and went on to win 7-0. I remember the Easter weekend when Paul Hince made his first team début (too old at 20 he was told). Ralph Brand played in that game too – and I remember the twinkle in Brand’s eye as he glanced over to Hince just before the kick off. They were both excited at the prospect of Hince playing. Hince got two goals that day in a 2-2 draw against either Chelsea or West Brom.
I remember the total frustration I felt watching Joe Corrigan in one of his early games kick the ball upfield in a game against Spurs. He then turned his back to run back to his goal line. He didn’t see Jimmy Greaves lob the ball into the goal from the centre circle whilst his back was turned.
I saw the development of some terrific players during those days – Tommy Booth, Ian Mellor, Tony Towers, Willie Donachie, John Barnes, Stan Bowles, Joe Corrigan and my favorite Ian Bowyer. I liked Bowyer not because of his talent (he was a journeyman player) but what a spirit he had. He was all arms and legs – but he had a talent for goal scoring. I think he made a decent career for himself with Nottm Forest. I also saw some memorable flops – Arthur Mann, Bobby Owen (known to the Kippax as “Bungalow Head” because he didn’t appear to have too much upstairs!).
I think though throughout the 60’s and 70’s the thing that kept me coming back to watch the Blues was their battling spirit. A win was never a sure thing – even with their championship team you often left the ground with the opposition scoring the winning goal in the 89th minute. But they battled. There are two players of that era that exemplify that spirit for me: Mike Doyle and Wyn Davies. Doyle was in my opinion one of the most underrated players the club had. He was passionate about playing for the club and never gave up. Davies was one of the bravest players I have ever seen. I have lost count of the number of games he played with a bandage around his head covering a cut he’d gotten in an aerial challenge.
In the mid 70’s I moved over to the US – the draw of the US dollar was too great and I didn’t go back to the UK until 1987. I lost sight of the team and today when I read in MCIVTA people’s reminiscences from the 80’s the names are just names to me. We has a pro soccer team in Charlotte in the 80’s “The Carolina Lightnin”; the manager was Rodney Marsh and the left half was Bobby Moore. The were quite successful for a couple of years and then they folded. Other than that soccer didn’t exist for me.
I went back to England in 89 on a business trip in November and decided to go along to Maine Road – didn’t know any of the players, but watched them lose 3-2 to Leeds. They were fantastic. They fought, they attacked relentlessly – just like the teams of old – and I was hooked again. Since then I’ve managed to see a couple of games every year – I try to coordinate business trips to the UK during the season. in ’91 I took my two sons to watch the Blues play Sheffield United on Boxing day – they are hooked too. I am not as lucky as some subscribers to MCIVTA in the US who can see games over satellite – so seeing soccer is a rare treat for me. On TV they have started showing the odd game every now and then from the Dutch league – and I enjoy that – but my lifeline is this website. I thank all who organize and contribute. I do not agree with all that is said (why should I?) but the fact that I have access to the discussions and debates is great. Many thanks to all.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #196 on