My first memories date from the Cup Finals of 1955 and 1956. By the second final, just before my 7th birthday, I was definitely a Blue, and had found my first hero, Bert Trautmann.
I grew up in Stretford in a United-supporting family. Bert Trautmann was my reason for breaking ranks. I persuaded my father to take me to some City games, and vaguely remember being lifted up in a crowded Kippax to see Frank Swift receive a presentation and pick up balls with one hand. Like most kids, I went where I was taken, and saw as much of United as I did City. I remember the sadness of Munich and being taken to the first match played by the reconstructed team at Old Trafford. I still go cold when I think of it. So despite my love of City, I find it hard to ‘hate’ United.
My infrequent trips to Maine Road were disrupted when we moved to Chorley when I was 10. My early teens saw visits to Blackburn, Bolton, Preston and occasionally Maine Road until at the age of 15 we moved again to Sussex. So goodbye to watching City; until inspired teaching returned me to Manchester to study at the University.
Now came the golden years. 1967-70 said it all. A fabulous team winning everything in sight, student life, and happy hours in the crush on the Kippax. During one memorable Derby game, I pulled my girlfriend towards me to celebrate a goal, only to find a complete stranger attached to my sweaty hand.
I left University to work in Essex, and City watching was restricted to the occasional London match with Tony, a friend from University, whose enthusiasm for the Blues exceeded my own, despite his North London roots. Where are you now Tony? Are you still suffering?
My marriage in 1976, happy in all other respects, marked the start of the football wilderness years. A year in Oxford and the last twenty in Shropshire relegated my support to a casual interest in the results and the occasional TV game. Live football became a distant memory; one of those things you did when you were young and single. The arrival of two daughters seemed to confirm this view.
But all was not lost. My daughters grew up with a keen interest in football, which when linked to a similar interest in boys, drew them inexorably towards their fate. One day, they casually announced they could think of no good reason to support Wolves, Shrewsbury or Telford, and had decided to support my team, City. Would, I take them to a match? So, more than 20 years after my last live City game, we arrived at Maine Road to watch City take on Villa. The girls were photographed in front of the ground in their new City kit, and my boyhood hero, with immaculate timing, turned out to open the new Kippax.
My neighbour for the day, a grizzled veteran, filled me in with all the details of Bert’s life. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I still knew it all. And to round off a truly memorable day, a small player with a strange foreign name shooting straight at me into the net. I suddenly understood what it must be like to be a born again Christian.
We were soon watching most home games and away matches in the Midlands. My daughter’s friends quickly latched on to the chance to watch live football, and at last count I had introduced 8 poor young souls to the dubious pleasures of supporting City.
And so to this season. I finally got my first season ticket at 48, along with one for my daughters.
Since my rebirth, I’ve rediscovered the joys of terrace humour, half-time pies, the pre-match march through Moss Side, and the subtle allure of a weekend in Grimsby with two fellow sufferers from my local in Coalbrookdale. I’ve also found an enjoyable way of fuelling my compulsion through the Internet. And I’ve shared the drama that always goes with supporting City with my teenage daughters, at an age when I fully expected them to communicate with me through the occasional grunt.
So we’ve suffered a bit, but continue to live in hope and anticipation of better times.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #396 on