For me, the question Why Blue? has to be answered in two stages: why Blue in the first place, which is pretty easy to explain really, and why still Blue now, which is more difficult to justify in logical terms.
In retrospect, I don’t think I ever really had the option of supporting another team – my father, both grandfathers and uncles on each side of the family had all been avid City fans more or less since birth. From an early age, my father took me to see the reserves when the first team was away on Saturdays. However, I was desperate to see a “proper” game. I pestered my dad incessantly and, even though he’d always insisted I’d have to wait until I was older, he soon relented. I made my City-watching début at Christmas 1975. I was six years old. It was love at first sight, despite the game being a 1-0 defeat by Leeds (which ended an eighteen match unbeaten run!). What appealed to me was the drama of it all.
Over the next three years or so, City enjoyed success to a degree which seems unthinkable today as we lie eleven points behind Stockport with less than half the season gone. More or less two months to the day after my first game, we were parading round Wembley with the League Cup. We played in Europe for three successive seasons, in which time we managed to beat Juventus and thrash A.C. Milan. We twice finished in the top four in the League, attracting an average home gate of over 40,000 each time. Seven City players were selected by England at one time or another in this period (Corrigan, Doyle, Watson, Barnes, Royle, Tueart and Channon). We also had in Gary Owen the England Under-21 captain, while Donachie and Hartford were regulars in the Scotland side which went to the 1978 World Cup. Pundits and fans of both teams saw the Manchester derby as a game which genuinely could go either way.
However, my passion for the Blues did not develop because in my early days as a fan they were indisputably one of England’s top teams and had lots of star players. Given that these factors have now been absent for a good decade and a half, I’d have lost interest long ago if that had been the attraction. In fact, after the relegation in 1983, my enthusiasm increased and it has never waned since. From then until I went to university and in the three seasons I was in Manchester since graduating, I always had a season ticket. I’ve attended home and away games whenever I can, and obsessively sought out all the news I could find when my location has prevented me from witnessing events first-hand.
As I said, what appeals to me in the football supporting experience is the drama, and at Maine Road we have as much as anyone could ask for. There’s comedy, tragedy and farce each in liberal measure. Like any other Blue who’s been following the team for any length of time, I’ve witnessed three relegations, several humiliations at the hands of the Rags, cup disasters against the likes of Cardiff and Lincoln, and a host of pitiful struggles against mediocre Nationwide League sides. Obviously, I don’t enjoy these experiences, but I do enjoy being a Manchester City fan – I love the cameraderie and the joy of those unexpected results we seem to specialise in, like Tuesday’s at The Hawthorns.
Since I left Manchester to go to university in 1987, I’ve spent a total of about three years abroad and I’m now living in Russia. I’m convinced that, had I grown up supporting another club, I’d just be taking a passing interest from afar while getting on with my new life abroad. Instead, I make liberal use of all the resources available to me to keep up with the Blues. I’m at least as obsessive as when I was in Manchester and had a season ticket.
I realise that much of this piece makes me sound like some kind of masochistic nutter. I fear that this analysis may be a little too close to the mark for comfort, as it doesn’t only apply to my choice of football team – my personal life over the years can best be described as turbulent, while one has to question the sanity of anybody who turns down offers to work in London and Paris to come to Russia instead. However, I suspect that most other loyal Blues must have something similar in their character too. Why would they stick with it otherwise? But then where’s the adventure in making a nine-hour round trip to somewhere like Cardiff on a cold, miserable January Saturday and freezing for two hours on a platform at Crewe station if you can rely on your team to do a professional job and win?
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #353 on
Peter Brophy a.k.a. Subterranean Homesick Blue