I’ve noticed that nobody actually answers this question properly. I suppose that’s because nobody really knows. It just sort of happened. And we certainly don’t know the answer to that more nagging one… “Why stay Blue?”… “Why not switch to some other colour? … a colour with perhaps a reasonable chance of winning something in the next five years?”
At least we are sure of our reaction to that one. Ask any England cricket fan why he doesn’t simply switch his support to the Aussies, that way he’ll get to celebrate a series win at least once every year or so. And won’t have to debate with himself the vexed post loss question of what should we change, the captain? the players?, the chairman? And when we’ve changed all those and still we keep losing what do we do then?
So, at the risk of sounding like Bamber Gascoigne, the question Why Blue? is really a two parter, your starter for ten “How the hell did you get Blue in the first place?” and secondly for a bonus point “Why do you stay that way?”
I suspect that like most Blues I got to be that way in the first place by chance, by being at one particular spot at one particular moment in history. Following City’s 1956 FA Cup triumph against Birmingham, the victorious team took an open top double decker bus from the airport to the city centre. Once there, they were to receive the mayor’s traditional congratulations in front of a massive crowd of fans in St Peter’s Square. As they left Ringway that fateful Sunday afternoon they passed first through the quiet winding lanes between Styal and Heald Green. There were a few scattered groups of well-wishers. We can imagine that most of the players were initially reluctant to stand in the place of honour at the front of the bus lifting the cup for all to see. However, as the convoy rumbled onto the broad new surface of the Princess Parkway at Sharston, the players first saw and then heard the crowds of fans lining the road. At that moment Bert Trautmann, the hero of the previous day’s game, stepped forward to take up the trophy. He lifted it high above his head and simultaneously turned to his left, showing it to the groups of fans standing along the edge of Wythenshawe Park. In the middle of the crowd a four year old boy on his father’s shoulders waved at Bert; Bert, seeing the boy, took his left hand off the cup and waved back. That was the moment I became a Blue.
And why do I stay Blue?
Because to stay Blue is to stay loyal to that 4 year old and to Bert.
Because to stay Blue is to believe in a set of values which are mine and perhaps yours. Unflagging optimism in the face of all the evidence which should make us pessimistic. Commitment for life. Where else in modern society do you find that?
In the forty years which separate me from the fateful moment when Bert showed me the Cup I have experienced a few moments of bliss which have made my commitment worthwhile. The best was undoubtedly an evening in March 1968 when City, second in the league, took on United, then leaders, at Old Trafford . I stood in the United Road paddock surrounded by Reds. Let’s be honest, in the pre match kick around they looked good, Law, Best and Charlton oozed confidence, passing the ball around in front of a fervent Stretford End. At the other end the lads looked a little overwhelmed, or more probably that was just how my nerves made them look. I made my traditional deal with the devil. A straight swop, my current girlfriend for a City win. The match began. In the second minute Best beat poor old George Heslop (balding and slow on the turn) to a deflected pass. He calmly rounded Harry Dowd and slotted the ball arrogantly into an empty net. The Reds went wild, my neighbours gleefully punched me in the kidneys and I could feel a very heavy defeat coming on. But no, over the next ninety minutes we scored three without reply, Bell, Young and amazingly old George, who greased in a header from a floated free kick right in front of the Stretford End. As the match progressed and City moved ahead, an amazing thing happened. Old Trafford seemed to turn Blue. All those fans with their scarves carefully hidden down the backs of anoraks brought them out and started to hold them above their heads and sing. It was a moment I will never forget.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #324 on