by Noel Bayley (editor of Bert Trautmann’s Helmet)
The first holiday I can remember was in 1970… a week in Torquay. My mother bought me a couple of T-shirts especially for the happy occasion: one red which featured the Roadrunner and the other sky blue, featuring Bugs Bunny. On returning from the sunny South Coast we visited my grandparents and on our arrival there my grandfather took one look at my red T-shirt and promptly exploded. “Don’t ever come here again wearing anything red!” he said.
My grandfather may have been a lifelong Blue and he may even have been amongst the 84,569 crowd that crowded into Maine Road for Stoke’s visit in 1934, but black humour isn’t something you readily understand at four years of age! Not to worry though his advice stood me in good stead for the next twenty-seven years.
Fast forward to sometime later in my embryonic years and a schoolyard in Wythenshawe provided the daily battleground for any number of games of City vs. United. Difficult to imagine now I know but the numbers were fairly evenly matched back in the 1970s. Naturally, I took the City side, but if my grandfather’s influence was subconscious, my father’s was anything but. He hated City (called ’em the ragged Eleven and probably still does) and I hated him! He didn’t care much for Led Zeppelin either, but then what did he know? It was a vicious circle. Our relationship deteriorated probably from the day I was born. He wouldn’t take me to matches because he worked on Saturdays. That was his excuse and just to make his point I cannot recall him having a single Saturday off work in about five years. This only steeled my resolve.
The day of reckoning came on 12 November, 1975. City beat United 4-0 in a League Cup tie and I was truly a believer (not that there was any doubt of course). Now there was no going back. Of course I wasn’t there, I was under my ‘bedclothes’ listening to the night’s events unfold on a transistor radio the size of a house.
Maine Road would have to wait almost another year to witness my début. I doubt if anyone remembers the 0-0 draw with Newcastle on 6 November as, apart from Joe Corrigan chasing a black mongrel round the pitch, nothing much happened. For me, however, the memory of that day is vivid, even if the mighty Blues failed to score. My dad wasn’t there, of course; my teacher Mr. Murray took me, along with the rest of the school football team on some free North Stand tickets.
Oddly enough though, my father suffered a rare personality reversal some months later when he had an ultra rare Saturday off work and took me to a reserve game at Maine Road. Naturally, it wasn’t the same as a first team game, but while he was in an unusually good mood he promised to take me to one and so, on 12 February, 1977 I saw my first City goal from the Platt Lane Stand as Joe Royle scored against Arsenal in a 1-0 win. My dad must have been well and truly p****d off as he probably only went in the hope that City would lose!
Still, he got his revenge in a few years later by grounding me almost every time City were playing at home. It isn’t much fun having to leave home almost every other weekend at fourteen just so you can go to the match. In the end he gave up on trying to stop me from going, and while he still can’t get into Led Zep, there is no doubt that those early struggles probably explain why I have been prepared to move heaven and earth, lose out on sleep, girlfriends, holidays, and even work in my quest to get to watch City at Maine Road.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #322 on