Bit of a strange one, mine; for any of you who have seen the Fast Show, I feel a bit like the bloke who supports Arsenal (this week) but knows ***k all about footie.
I was born and brought up in the Potteries, and so, by rights, the only choice should have been ‘Stoke or Vale’. This was the mid-to-late 70’s and Vale were slumped in the old 4th Div; Stoke, although past their best, were still a force to be reckoned with. However, because virtually none of the elders in my family took the slightest interest in football, I was never imbued with the appropriate sense of righteous bigotry in favour of either of the two. The only game I ever saw in those important foramtive years, was Stoke beating Coventry 3-1; and we were late for that ’cause my dad was late back from the pub. Indeed, as a child, although I enjoyed a kick about in the park (‘jumpers rolled up for goal posts – marvellous’) and was prepared to use supposed support of any given team as a completely acceptable reason to get into a fight, I didn’t really pay a great deal of attention to the game.
Time came and went, and in the Autumn of ’83 I found myself a student at Manchester University. Still the light didn’t dawn, and during my 3 years hard labour(!) I only went to two games, both at the Swamp. One was to watch Vale play them in the F.A. Cup, with a pile of other Stoke lads who were at Uni., all of us going as away fans. That was fairly off-putting, given the amount of vitriol aimed at the fans of theoretically harmless opposition (Vale lost). But what was worse was when I was persuaded to go and watch the s***e play against Barcelona. Although I know nothing, I am not from Barcelona, so it was in with the home fans. Never had I experienced a more vile set of people in all my years. In retrospect, it was probably my lack of experience, but I was still shocked at the hatred the ‘fans’ near me were directing at any and all to do with Barcelona. Admittedly, the fat boy was playing for them, and deserved everything he got, but there was one perfectly harmless looking old geezer sat behind me who spent the entire match specifying, in lurid detail, exactly what he was going to do to each of the opposing players and the members of their immediate family. I don’t think he even noticed the game. This was enough to put me off the dark side, but still I couldn’t feel the Force.
It wasn’t until I had left Uni. and started as a teacher in Oldham that I was guided towards the path of righteousness. My girlfriend was also a teacher at another school in Oldham, and we became good friends with a guy who started at the same time as us. To say Pete was a Blue would be a large understatement; his whole family were Blue through and through. His dad, Charles, is one of those fans who simply refuses to see anything bad about City and good times are always just around the corner. Although for some reason he hated Neil McNab, so any poor performances were always laid at his door. Anyway, Pete could not understand how I could not be a fan of football, in general, and City, in particular. I guess this must have been ’88, by now. He persuaded us to go along to watch a game and although I remember virtually nothing about it, I do remember that I was hooked from then on.
My highlights were being present at the 5-1 (although I did feel a little bit embarrassed that we were still singing ‘1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 5-1′ months later ’cause there wasn’t much else to sing about). The thing that really made this result special was that my mate Pete had had a bet with a Red mate of ours, about half way through the previous season with City still in the division below. It was a straight 50 quid bet that City would take 4 points off United the following season. Think about the amount of faith that that implied. The only thing that annoyed him, when he collected his winnings after the 3 all return fixture, was that he hadn’t put the money on at a bookies instead!
Also, being a travelling Blue at Luton in the League Cup, at a time when Luton had shut its doors to away fans (they only beat us ’cause of the plastic pitch). The inflatables craze was at its height, and as well as Frankenstein and GodZilla and a lot of bananas, some guy had brought in a full sized rubber dinghy. I nearly died for my club that night, because the guy who was driving us had a (very) bad twitch and would lose sight of the road for seconds at a time; this didn’t stop him from driving up the M6 at 95, in the absolute p***ing rain. He actually wrote his car off two days later, by piling into the back of a tractor, which, for some reason, he hadn’t seen.
I cherish my years as a regular on the Kippax. But now I live in the affluent Sarf, and I don’t get my regular fix. What with family commitments and all, I’m lucky if even one or two of the nearer away ties coincide with a free weekend. One of the things that keeps me going is the number of Reds that I have to contend with down here. I live in a little village in the arse end of nowhere and I play for the village team. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that there are five Reds in the team, none of whom have ever been to Manchester. It’s almost too easy to take the p***; even with things the way they are, they know in their heart of hearts that they are bandwagoneers, whilst I am a true fan.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #365 on