When I was young, nobody in my family followed football. Therefore it was up to me to go out and discover the joys which lay ahead. Born in 1976; looking back now, it seems ironic that this would be the last time the team I chose to support would be victorious.
At the tender age of three I began to develop a love for the game. A love which will stay with me now till I die. It began with just kicking a ball in the garden, and little did I know then it would go on to take over my life. I begged my mum and dad for some boots and a kit of my own, and little did I or they know then, just how much pain that shopping trip was going to cause us. Maybe it was something about the pull of the sky blue shirt, simple yet stylish, defined only by the badge on show in the middle.
As I pulled on the shirt for the first time (remember I was three), I felt a pride. It was a different pride to what I feel now, but a pride nonetheless. It was a “look at me” kind of pride. Look at my new shirt (then again I suppose it is similar to what I feel now). Ever since then, the love has stayed.
At five years old (brother was 8), my constant football diet was beginning to rub of on the family. Had I been older I would have had the necessary skills to guide my brother, but at only five years old I unwittingly agreed with his plan to support whoever won the 1981 FA Cup Final. After all, we all knew deep down that City were going to win. Doh!
As you can imagine, being my older brother and all, the teasing was unbearable. His new allegiance to Spurs was to prove fruitful. The next season they were there parading their stuff at Wembley once again. That’s one slipped through the net.
At seven years old, my mum was expecting (as was I, expecting better days for City). Another chance, have a boy, someone to take under my wing and guide in the right direction. She gave birth in December 82, to a baby sister. Doh!
At the age of three, my sister began to take an interest in Football, She had no choice really. Perhaps the chance had not slipped by as I had previously thought. After all, I was now ten years old, a big boy, in double figures. Surely I would have enough experience behind me now to clinch the signing. After all, I had signed my life away at such an age. During this time my sister attending a playschool, which was fine in itself, but she struck up a real mutual friendship with another girl there, who was (to my bad luck) called Chelsea. Although it wasn’t immediate, there and then I knew that she had gone. I had achieved part of my mission, and she had become a Blue, but unfortunately for me, it was the wrong colour blue.
I think most of you have worked out what comes next. 1986, another trip to Wembley, and after 5 years of ribbing off my older brother this was my turn to put things right. A chance to hand down some of the grief etc., that I had received. All we needed was a victory against Chelsea. Despite a valiant performance, we ended up losing. Once again I was on the receiving end. Things can only get better I thought. Relegation followed. Doh!
Still, we’ll dominate Division Two (now a common phrase heard in abundance around Maine Road). Unfortunately as you all know well, we didn’t. The season after was a lot better. City were finally looking like a team. We had the emergence of a great batch of youngsters, one of them, myself, was destined to make a Maine Road début. The match I chose, Chelsea at home. After all, we had beat them 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, so imagine the damage we could reap upon them at Maine Road. Myself, my dad and my sister headed to Maine Road for the day. Perhaps I would finally be able to do some teasing of my own. The result, Chelsea won 3-2. Doh!
Despite this setback, the optimism remained (once again, a now well now trait). We were sure to be promoted. Champions a possibility. How wrong it went. Not only the fact that we needed Trevor Morley’s goal at Valley Parade to guarantee automatic promotion, but also the fact that Division Two champions were none other that Chelsea. Doh!
Back in the big time, the moment we had all been waiting for. What delights would the fixture computer throw up? This was a good season. Both games with Chelsea and Tottenham were 1-1 draws. Peace at last. And then that day. 23rd September 1989. The day that will stick with us all until we finally affirm our CTID commitments. Maine Road the scene, the opposition the Rags. What a day it was. Goals were coming from all sources. The one that sticks with me most though, apart from Ian Bishop’s little diving header, has to be Andy Hinchcliffe’s goal. The ball was played down the wide right for Whitey to work some magic. And boy did he. He sprinted onto the ball and whipped in a super cross to the far edge of the box. This was met by Hinchcliffe (yes, the left-back), at somewhere near Mach 3, and there was only one place the ball was going. The joy at Maine Road that day was unmatched in any time both before and since. Place their names on a pedestal, for what they achieved may never be matched: Cooper, Fleming, Hinchcliffe, Bishop, Gayle, Redmond, White, Morley, Oldfield, Brightwell, Lake, Beckford and the unused Gary Megson.
And so my first proper season ended. A season of Division One football. How good the memories seem looking back now. A season when we changed managers, something I was destined to become very accustomed to.
Since then the decline began. The constant desire for success which saw us install revolving doors on the manager’s office. The years in themselves were good. I met a bunch of like-minded City fans from nearby, so was able to attend many more games. There are plenty of memories from the 90’s to remember. Like the night we climbed to the top of the First Division, beating Nottm Forest, or the time we demolished Tottenham (with their famous five) at Maine Road.
And then came the fatal season. A certain Mr. Ball was given the reins. Little did we all know what the outcome was set to be. I for one hand on heart can say that I wasn’t happy when he was made manager. After all, he had a bad track record, and wasn’t even affiliated with the club. As we all know, we would die for the club, so why have somebody in charge that viewed it simply as a job?
Since then things have continued to worsen. More and more the question is put to you Why Blue? And yet the strength within us all grows, the desire to defend our team once more. The final part of this tale centres round the day we played Stoke. The game was live on Sky, and as I couldn’t get tickets I knew I would have to watch on TV. My friends, Rags, Owls, Toon Army etc, were going to the pub to watch, but as I knew that the outcome could reduce me to tears, I decided to watch at home. This was encapsulated, despite a valiant performance, when other teams decided our fate for us, decided Division One would be a better place without us. Then the truth hit home. Division Two (Three) for the first time in our history. As expected the tears flowed. But then, and this is a big then, I believe I displayed the qualities that all City fans possess, something which makes them unique among football fans. I put my City shirt on and headed to the pub. On the way there I thought about what comments awaited. But to my surprise, everybody was genuinely sorry. Sorry that such a great team had gone down, and more so, proud of the way I continued to display my faith in the face of adversity.
That last sentence I believe is paramount to everything City. As long as we remain strong we will prevail.
Keep The Faith
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #433 on