As a new subscriber to your delightful magazine, I am completely amazed at the the amount of adoration that my fellow subscribers heap on to my beloved Man City. To be perfectly truthful, I thought I was the only masochistic nutcase around but judging by the number of people who subscribe to “McVittee!”, there’s at least 2,000 of us roaming around this planet of ours… all I can say is God help us all… please.
I’ve been reading with great interest ‘Why Blues’, and after some trepidation, I’ve decided to bare my soul to my fellow subscribers. Growing up in the rather sheltered suburb of Withington in South Manchester in the early 1960s, I wasn’t exposed to football until I was almost eleven years old. My parents, who weren’t the swiftest of folks at that time, had forgotten to register me for St.Augustine’s school after my eleven plus exam reults were known. It was now too late to go there and the school was full anyway. It was deemed that I would have to travel all the way across Manchester to Prestwich (where?). This was a good ten-mile bus trip each way. The thought of taking the lethargic No 45 to Albert Square and then changing to the unknown No 75 and heading up Bury Old Road was way over my head but it had to be done so that was that.
After a one-hour bus ride from hell I finally arrived at my new school. I was told to sit down next to a guy called Paul Edge, who was a thin wiry looking chap even at the age of eleven. My first thought was “how come this kid is sitting on his own right in the middle of the class?” My initial thought was that maybe he had bad B.O. (every class in those day’s had a kid they called smelly or some other name, and I was sure this was the kid in our class). No such thing though with Paul I found out. After a couple of rather disapproving glances thrown in my direction, he then asked me in a rather mocking, sneering tone of voice, as if he already knew the answer, if I was a Red or a Blue. At first I just sat there staring at this kid wondering what the hell he was talking about. Then it came to me, the reason noone was sitting next to him was because he was Red … a communist, a Russian of some sort, someone to be avoided at all cost in the future. Then I began to think “who are the Blues then?” Maybe they were the good guys. So after some careful deliberation I pronounced myself a Blue, whoever they were, and that I’d just come ten miles on two buses from Withington and that I intended to return there as soon as the No 75 and 45 could get me back there; this school with its communists and two buses to get there were not for me!
After this declaration of independance, Paul’s eyes lit up and said “great, another City fan, that makes four of us out of an enrollment or 130 kids.” At first I played dumb, not knowing what Paul was talking about. Then I started to put things together, Paul was talking about football teams and I had just declared my allegiance to Man City, a team that was rooted in Division Two but who had just got themselves a new manager called Joe Mercer, who painted a rosy future for City that nobody really believed.
And so my love for City was born. Paul and I never went to a game together but I quickly found some City fans who lived in Withington. Off to the home games we would go,then we progressed to some of the close away games. In the early days of my life there was no greater disappointment than to hear on a Saturday morning that the Fingland’s coach had been cancelled because they couldn’t get enough people to go to the game. As City progressed up the league to Division 1, fans started to flock back to Maine Road; there was no greater sight to see than the old stadium filling up with lots of smiling, happy faces. To go to the away games you now had to book your coach tickets a week in advance, there was that much interest in following the Blues away. Even the football specials out of Piccadilly were running full and instead of hiding in some dark corner of the opposing team’s ground trying not to get beaten up, we were now thousands strong and ready to be seen and heard by all. Indeed these were truly magical days to be a Man City fan, trophies and worldwide recognition were being heaped on my beloved City; great days indeed.
After Joe Mercer left I felt that some of the heart and soul had also left with him (if you haven’t read “Football With A Smile” by Gary James I heartily recommend that you do so to get an idea of what it was like to be a City supporter in those days). As I said, I felt things were beginning to change… after much deliberation I decided I to had to move on. So one night after a large number of Marston’s Pedigrees, I announced to my friends I was going to move to the U.S.A. I’ve lived here in northern California for almost twenty years now. I’ve been back to Maine Road twice in all of that time. The last time was the beginning of last season, we saw the Portsmouth and Blackpool games and did the ground tour; we were with Francis Lee and had a wonderful chat with about some of the wonderful good old days. I hardly recognized the old place now with the new Kippax Stand where I spent so much of my early life. The Platt Lane end with its luxury boxes are a far-sight better color-coordinated than the purple, green and I think yellow seats that used to exist there in the old days. And of course the North Stand, I remember standing in it after we got Rodney Marsh for our season finale push to win the League Championship, great player just very poor timing… without him we would have the won the league that year.
After sitting there in the grandstand seats for what seamed an eternity, my son who is five years old and was born over here in the U.S.A brought me back to reality with his American twang, by announcing it was time to go and look at the trophy room. In the three weeks we spent in England I don’t think he took his new City shirt off for more than a couple of hours, and that was because he couldn’t climb in to the washing machine with it! It’s good to know that the future of City is in such good hands… the fans have had tremendously loyal throughout the last twenty five years and I really do believe that City will soon return to where they so rightly deserve at the top of the Premier Division and once again playing with the best in the world.
I know my or my son’s love for City will never die, all I have to do is go into his bedroom and check out all the pennants, scarves, pins and other memorabilia that adorns the four walls in there, to know that here lives a true City fan. Joe Mercer once said about football, and I quote: “The greatest thing in football is loyalty. The best thing to do is to rally around the club once more. We are part of a big family and success in football is brought about by everyone pulling together.” I think this just about sums up the City fans… we are family, we’re loyal and we are not Rags!
C.U.T.P.M.I.A.B.A.T.M.B.T.E.T.H.M.A.S.A.M.R. – City Until They Put Me In A Box And Take Me Back To England To Have My Ashes Scattered At Maine Road.
Best Derby match of all time? How about March 27 1968 at OT, City 3 Rags 1, City went on to win the League. Who went on to score his first goal for City in that game? Big George Heslop, off a cross by the bad boy himself, Tony Coleman.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #411 on