Why blue? Why you? Why me?
A question I have often asked myself. If I had followed a winning team would success have bred success, would I now be confidently looking over my share portfolio? Does following City make me a supreme optimist? Surely anyone who follows City must soon become a realist? At what point does this turn to being a pessimist? Will I end my days, like one of those blokes you see walking along muttering to himself, occasionally looking up to shout profanities at nobody in particular?
My first recollection of anything at all to do with football, was when one morning my dad made a point of pulling me to one side and telling me that Manchester United had, last night, become the first English team to win something called the European Cup. All of this meant absolutely nothing to me, but I could see it was important to him so I tried my best to look impressed. Just as I did later that year when he bought an old B&W television and made me and my sister sit up half the night watching the first picture of the moon … but I digress. That morning at school, the teachers had us crayoning large United rosettes in class. I didn’t know the term blatant indoctrination then so I went along with it.
On my birthday, my 6th I think, I got a “Johnny 7 gun” (does anybody else remember them?). I played happily with it for a day until it broke. Mum, sis’ and I went in the car to take it back; for some reason Little Sis’ and I were left in the car. Bad luck no more guns, would I like something else? A football kit maybe? My mother as usual, rather cannily getting me to have, as a pressie, something she was going to have to buy for next term anyway. Yeah, I thought why not, I had seen a lad at school with a rather unusual kit on, All white with a maroon and blue stripe down the front. I understood this to be a Stockport County shirt, although whether it was or not, I am not sure, it looked more like the old Palace shirt on reflection, but I digress again sorry… Mum popped in, then out again: “no County shirts, only City or United.” My best mate at the time, Craig Johnson (no relation) had a United Kit, so, as my dad would say and still does “you have to be bloody awkward, don’t you?” so City it was, There that’s it. Little did I know what effect it would have on my life.
I always called myself a City fan from then on, but rarely took more than a passing interest, until I was about 13. By then most of the lads at school were actually going to matches. As with my first school (Fir Tree North Reddish on the border with Levenshulme), Two Trees Haughton Green/Denton was, I seem to recall, majority City but there were plenty of Rags to make things interesting and the rivalry was fierce. Eventually I convinced dad to let me go to a match. My first game was early ’76, football violence was very prevalent, which only added to the excitement I think, but no doubt was behind my dad’s reservations. He was, and still is a United fan of sorts, although he has never been to Old Trafford (familiar story). His uncle did take him to watch United when he was a lad, but United then played at Maine Road, thanks to grandad Rösler and his mates. “Showing your age, Pops!”
I will never forget the way the hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I walked through the tunnel into the Kippax, the noise! The atmosphere! A feeling I got whenever I went. I almost have tear in my eye, to think never again. Well I was hooked, I tried to get to as many games as I could but unfortunately I couldn’t get a ticket for the League Cup Final and it is doubtful if dad would have let me go anyway.
I was a season ticket holder for a few years, Barnes, Teuart, Hartford, Royle, Francis, McKenzie and even dare I say Brian Kidd.
I eventually succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh and got engaged. Being an electrician, I found it hard to turn down working Saturday overtime, when the money was so good and City were so crap, so my visits slowed.
I got married and moved to Australia; rather drastic you might think but City were going through a particularly bad patch. After I had been in Aus’ about 6 months I found a magazine called British Soccer Weekly; one week somebody put an advert in asking if anyone in Melbourne would like to form a City Supporters’ Club; well of course I replied, we got together and used to have BBQ’s and generally get drunk and talk about City etc.
In Australia once a year the British supporters’ clubs of Melbourne all play each other. Using full pitches, 11 a side (if you have them) teams, 10 minutes each way, no offside, no ring ins, only half cut ageing saddos allowed.
A few years ago with our recently purchased City kit we won the cup. I, realising a dream, imagine it all die hard City fans, City kits on, drinking from a real trophy, winners’ medals an’all.
No, United weren’t in it that year; they were thrown out for cheating a few years before! Since then we have won it again and been runners up. United are now back in the competition, in fact they have 2 teams, so they called the second one Newton Heath. We’ve been in different groups the last couple of years and haven’t met. But this year we played Newton Heath and won 1 nil, despite the ref’ giving them a penalty in time added on! Our boy Chidlow, a Welsh Blue, saved it and got carried shoulder high off the pitch for his efforts.
I honestly feel sorry for United fans, what a shallow existence it must be… once in a while in this faraway land I bump into someone in a City shirt, our eyes meet across a crowded room. We chat excitedly, sharing a genuine bond, of shared pains, shared false dawns. My brother in law who now lives over here is a Rag of the preverbial armchair variety, wears the shirt but has never been etc., he bumps into guys everyday, everywhere wearing the same gear but with even less knowledge than him. Where’s the brotherhood in that? They must go through life never knowing the joy of finding out your team scraped a 1 nil win away at Oxford. They just expect to win but there can be no real pleasure in that amount of predictability, can there? I wouldn’t know.
Lastly, Why Blue? When I talk to people over here and I tell them I’m from Manchester and follow City, they either say they have never heard of them or they give me the sort of admiring look you would give to one of those guys who ski’s down mount Everest in the nude. So there you have it, City’s my team, Premiership or bust!?
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #425 on
Paul Keelagher a.k.a. Abdom ex-Denton Blues now Port Melbourne Blues