“It’s quite simple son, you’re a City fan – you have a home. You mention George Best again and you’re out.” Loving words indeed. I was six at the time, so my mind was made up.
Not entirely convinced of my father’s threats, I decided to put him to test. It was Bobby Charlton’s name that finally caused the car to stop and me be put out on the pavement. It was February, it was Oldham, I was five miles from home, it was bloody cold. At that moment I realised, I was Blue and there nothing I could do about it. He did come back for me, thanks mum!
As tradition dictates, my brother and I would spend our Saturday lunch at the “City Arms”, just off Albert Square, sitting outside and waiting while dad had a few with his friends. Eventually we’d head off to Moss Side. Allison Street was the favoured parking spot. After coughing up some change for a “Car Minder”, we’d head towards the ground. First stop was always the sweet shop for a 1/4lb of Liquorice and Blackcurrant, then we’d join the river of blue towards the ground. At first I thought my dad was really important, he knew everyone, the more trips I made the more familiar faces. It appeared everyone had their own pre-match routines and week after week our paths would cross. Always at the same time, always at the same place. I soon began to recognise people, they soon recognised me. I was important too. I was a City fan. I’d joined the ranks and they’d welcomed me with waves and smiles, this was what it was all about, we were comrades in blue. These were the glory days, these were the 60’s. When 45,000 would descend on Moss Side and the only police there were for traffic control.
We’d always sit in the Platt Lane End. Dad liked it there. I was never keen, until the day I arrived to find my name painted in big white letters on my part of the bench. I can’t remember any specific matches, except Coventry City for some obscure reason. Perhaps the particularly nasty colours they played in are etched indelibly in the tiny section of my mind reserved for moments of sheer fright. Whatever become of that lovely brown number!
Once, during a major construction project at home, a house brick and my head became one; anxious that I’d miss the game due to a visit to the hospital, my mother bandaged me up and succeeded in hiding the wound under a City bobble hat. Seven years old, concussed and in need of at least twelve stitches, my mother knew what was important. Through lapses in consciousness I believe we managed to win. To this day I think mum followed the correct course of action. People who know me now tend to have a different opinion!
My earliest memories and my most recent memories of Maine Road are painfully simular. A house brick flying 2 feet above my dad’s head signalled the end for us. We’d witnessed the scenes on TV of United fans demolishing the stands at Norwich. We never thought such things could happen at Maine Road but once you have United fans anything is possible. Why do I hate United? It’s not through jealousy for their success. Not my distaste for the colour red or the spoilt brat attitudes of both management and players, but for destroying a family tradition and depriving me of the right to become educated fully at the Academy.
My trips to Maine Road from the mid-seventies to the present day can be counted on one hand. A relegation battle against West Ham in the early 80’s, which also involved a brick! A 2nd division match against Shrewsbury which involved bananas. Finally a dismal preformance one Christmas against Stoke, again involving bananas, but at half time I did try to trade it for a Pink Panther! I Iooked to find my old bench and was horrified to find it patrolled by police as part of the crowd segregation. To be fair, my trips were limited because I moved 4,500 miles away but I’ll always be bitter about the way United curtailed our Saturday adventure.
My last direct contact with City was at Boundary Park, Oldham. The day Peter Reid took over as manager. My dad had retired and managed to get a job as a steward in the directors’ lounge at Latics. I was visiting from Bermuda and was given the VIP treatment by Oldham; either they were impressed by my tan or dad could pull some strings. City were not due to play until Sunday so Reidy took the whole team to see Oldham. I spent the entire game sat next to Reid and Niall Quinn. Couldn’t believe my luck especially when an Oldham Chronicle reporter trying to interview Mr Reid about his new appointment, thought I was one of the team! Oldham beat Watford 4-0 and Glenn Roeder lost a fortune on the horse racing.
On my last trip home, due to my father’s failing health. I tried to repay him for the VIP trip to Oldham. His first and only love is City (during an Oldham vs. City game he nearly lost his cushy job, due to over exuberant celebration of a City goal. Apparently Joe Royle was less than amused!). I tried to arrange a VIP day at Maine Road. Unfortunately City do not entertain such requests, or so I was told. The only home match left was that particularly nasty game against Liverpool last season. “Too important a game for that kind of stuff.” Another crucial game was happening at Oldham as well, they needed to beat Stoke to avoid relegation. They won 2-0 an we sat between Lou Macari and Graham Sharpe. Great game, but I’m not at all sure my father followed any of the conversation! He sat perfectly still for fear of being called upon as a Sub!
Still Blue, though in recent months I’ve been getting darker and just recently stripey!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #257 on