The answer should be obvious to most of the subscribers. Because they are the only team worth supporting, at least that’s what I tell my wife who is Scottish.
Actually my tale is one of near permanent exile. I have seen City play ‘live’ on only about twenty occasions and have generally followed them from afar. I used to live as a child in Stretford and 90% of the kids at school were Red and were mad about Georgie Best and the Beatles. Probably out of contrariness as everyone supported United I had to support City. My ambition as a child was to see City win a local derby, all the other matches were unimportant as long as we could beat United. However, my dad had other ideas, he was a United man and the first match he took me to see was United playing Forest. Best scored a penalty in a one all draw. He did though, take me to see City a few times. We also had a next door neighbour who was a keen Blue and knew some of the players and would take me to the occasional match. I was City mad but barely knew anything about football. This was in City’s greatest era, I remember watching the FA Cup Final on TV and shouting the house down when Young scored.
Shortly, my exile from Manchester began; we moved to Cheshire and few City fans lived nearby. There were lots of scousers at school and everyone supported Liverpool or Everton, or for the non-scousers United. My father was too busy to take me to many games. I could still watch City on the big match on ITV or occasionally on MOTD, but rarely live. My main memory from this stage is buying Rodney Marsh, being top of the league by a point and still being theoretically unable to win it even if all the other matches could be fixed. I don’t know if this is accurate but it is my recollection as an eleven year-old.
My exile became more distant as I was sent to boarding school in the south. Rugby was the sport and we were not allowed to watch television. My following of football was limited largely to the newspapers and radio 2. I remember cheering as Law scored against United to send them down to Division 2 and desperately hoping the result would stand after the pitch invasion before the end. Hooliganism was a problem and I was not allowed to go to matches on my own in the holidays. I did get to see QPR play at this time as my cousins supported them and I visited them frequently. They had a good team with a City old boy Stan Bowles always impressive.
My exile continued; I went to university and subsequently to work in Scotland, football was taken far more seriously than at boarding school though most folk supported Celtic or Rangers even if they have never lived in Glasgow (sound familiar?). I watched some matches and remember an overweight Best waddle around Easter Road for Hibs against Partick Thistle. He still had one or two flashes where passes were played that none of the other players could have dreamed of but Hibs and Thistle were pretty awful then. City were harder to follow, TV showed Scottish football and the papers reported it. I had to hunt for the papers without a Scottish edition in the student unions. I did however, manage to go to see the occasional game at Maine Road on the rare occasions that I went home. More often, watching City was going down to the borders where you could get English TV channels. The FA Cup Final where Tommy Hutchison scored at both ends was watched in Dumfries, the replay was shown ‘live’ in Scotland but I forget the score.
Now I live in Hong Kong and watching City play live is unfortunately impossible; sources of info on City are the local press where coverage of the results is good but match reportage is scanty and focuses largely on lesser teams such as Trafford Park Rovers or whoever that team that play in grey are called. TV is restricted to the goals and highlights of the Premier League games one hour a week; the reportage is generally good but superficial. The BBC World Service radio carries radio 5 live each week on Saturdays and is essential listening, though at 7-8 hours time difference I have fallen asleep before the results are announced on occasions and missed other matches due to Saturday night parties. Needless to say the first football fan I met out here has never been to England and is therefore a Rag. I further contribute to MUFC coffers as he always wants memorabilia if my family are visiting. The local football is not too exciting, though usually better than the desperate performance England put on when they came out.
When one has lived away from The Academy for such a long time I probably see the players and teams through different eyes than the regulars. Much of my contact with the Blues is through newspaper and radio interspersed with occasional sightings on TV and even less frequent visits to Maine Road. Living away from regular viewing of City the questions you usually ask yourself are:
- I wonder is x as good as the papers say, will he be playing when I next see City, what does he look like anyway?
- Are we becoming a rest home for elderly strikers? (Wyn Davies, Law, Kidd, Royle, Channon etc.)
- Why do we buy Scots I have barely heard of and I live in Scotland? (Gow, McParland, Melrose etc.)
- Do we need to spend money on another unknown centre back (Symons) when we have a collection of indifferent ones already? (Curle, Kernaghan, Vonk, Brightwell).
I am delightied that now I can find out the answers to some of these questions via MCIVTA.
Highlights are seeing any good player play well when I visit (Bell a distant memory, Barnes, Hutchinson, Francis, Corrigan slightly more recent). Lowlights are seeing us lose, a 5-1 drubbing by Liverpool stands out as I was with a mate who is a Liverpool fan and I had last seen City at Anfield beat Liverpool in the same season around about Christmas. Still, following City is never purely about pleasure. Living away from Manchester for so long has many advantages but following your childhood team is not one of them.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #207 on