Thirty years ago I was born in Lilian Street, Old Trafford. Thirty years ago an avid supporter of Manchester City was born in the said street. That person of course was me. I remember at 3 or 4 years of age my grandad, a Rag, taking me for walks in the park near the Swamp on Saturday afternoons when they were at home. “Isn’t it great Stuart, just listen to the noise”, he used to enthuse. I hated it, always covering my ears as the noise rose, and my grandad’s excitement grew. I loved Manchester City. Even at this young age I chose to ignore the horrid noises coming from that place on my Saturday afternoon walks. I couldn’t wait to get home so that my grandma could tell me how City were faring. I plagued, begged, pleaded with my dad and my uncles (who all hated football) to take me to Maine Road. The answer always ‘No.’ Eventually my Aunty’s friend took me to the Academy and to be honest I was scared stiff. The huge crowd at Maine Road and the eruptions of noise as 1, 2, 3, 4 goals whizzed past the Norwich goalkeeper was too much for a 6-year-old stood in the middle of the Kippax. When I got home though I was so proud to have attended my first City game that I was itching for more. My fanaticism for City began to rub off on other members of my family, especially my grandad, who would take me to Maine Road in the mid-seventies; I’m convinced that when he passed away in 1979, he liked City as much as he liked the Rags.
When I was in junior school my parents decided to move to Stoke-on-Trent. This was a horrific moment in my life. Stoke-on-Trent, at that time of my life, seemed a million miles from Maine Road. I wouldn’t do it. Sadly, a 10-year-old doesn’t have much say in where a family is to set up home. So Stoke-on-Trent, it was. ‘You can always support Stoke or Port Vale’ my dad would say, attempting to reassure me but making me feel quite physically ill. I yearned for Manchester City. Watching it on the telly just was not enough, I needed to be there. So, one day I decided I was going. City vs. Birmingham. “I’m just going to the park to play football, I’ll be back before dark” I lied to my mum as I headed off to the train station at Kidsgrove. I sneaked on the train to Manchester and then walked to Maine Road. Seeing the floodlights sent me wild with delight. I was going to see City on my own for the first time. City won, it was a great day and I got home safe and sound. So every second Saturday off I went and to this day my mum still thinks I was playing in the park rather than witnessing events unfold at the Academy.
When I was 16 my parents bought me a season ticket and I’ve had one ever since. At 18 I went to Hull University and rarely in three years did I miss a game, home or away, hence the poor degree I suppose. Since I started working in 1988 I’ve lived all over the place; Sheffield, Milton Keynes and for the last 18 months Paris of all places. But that draw towards City is as deep as it was when I was a young child and I could never stop going (I’ve only missed a handful of games in the nineties and despite the downs it’s been worth the time and effort). I’ve tried going to watch Paris Sainte Germain but there’s just nothing there, no feeling. I need to watch Manchester City. The most unpredictably, wonderful club known to man.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #250 on