Why Blue? Because Manchester City was, and will be again, one of the glory teams of British football. And because you remain faithful to your one love. And finally, as so many fans have pointed out in these pages, to be a City fan is to be part of something special – no matter the disappointments that fly in our face like litter whipped up by the wind.
Typically, for a fan of the Blues, my first clear memory of a City result is of a defeat – our loss in the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup at the hands of Chelsea. Sadly, I was too young to have been present at the victories of the late sixties and early seventies. But at least I’ve seen some of the action on video!
In 1973, when I was 9, I began to attend matches with my brother Gary. These were the days of Colin Bell, Tommy Booth, Mike Doyle, Rodney Marsh, the ever-improving Joe Corrigan, and of course Denis Law – and his infamous back-heel. My first big occasion as a fan was to go to Wembley in 1974 for the League Cup final against Wolves. The disappointment I felt at losing 2-1 was only superseded by the gnawing hunger I felt as we clambered onto the return train back home.
The League Cup run in 1976 featured promising young players in the City team, including Gary Owen, and how they shone in a 4-0 demolition of Middlesbrough on the way to the final. My dad was still looking for a parking space and missed the opening two goals that night. Gary took me to London in 1976 when Dennis Tueart’s stunning overhead effort clinched the cup. The muscular Joe Royle was in our team, along with the wonderfully dependable Willie Donachie, and the often inspirational Asa Hartford – although his shooting certainly left something to be desired.
Under the wise guidance of Tony Book, City’s resurgence began; he built a team of skill and steel. I can still feel the chill of the evenings and the excitement of the crowd at our home European games in the late seventies. I can vividly picture the great Dave Watson’s bullet header against Ipswich in 1977, when we were ultimately to finish one point adrift of the Championship, and for a period we were indubitably a quality outfit. And yet, by 1979, with Malcolm Allison back – proving that you can’t go, or shouldn’t go home again – City was losing its way. Book was displaced, and Allison’s wild spending, in tandem with Peter Swales’ financial swagger, set in motion near-disaster.
I think we supporters knew that Steve Daley was no more than a decent midfielder, yet he was bought for the outrageous sum of one point four million. Watching him on the pitch, you could almost see the weight of the price tag around his neck. He was Allison and Swales’ centrepiece to flaunt City’s big club status, but it was to our detriment.
When John Bond came on board, and astutely acquired three seasoned campaigners in the form of Hutchinson, McDonald, and the ferocious Gow, we had a fighting team, and another excursion to Wembley. I remember running out of Goodison Park with Gary immediately after Paul Power scored against Everton in the F.A. Cup; we were a little concerned with violence outside the ground. But in the safety of his Ford Cortina as we sped back to Manchester, we were exultant. And no City fan who was at Villa Park for the semi-final will forget the ecstasy that followed Power’s swooping free kick against Ipswich.
After the disappointment of the draw against Spurs on cup final day, Gary and I knew we had to return to London for the replay. I was in my last year at William Hulme’s Grammar School, working hard for ‘A’ Levels, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I skived off school and we headed down south. Although outnumbered by Spurs fans, we made our voices heard, and after the shock of their early goal, we vaulted towards heaven when Steve McKenzie’s thunderbolt brought us level. My delirium wasn’t subdued by a shower of beer from some disgruntled Tottenham fans in the next section. But the victory wasn’t to be – thanks to Ricky Villa.
With the profits of the F.A. Cup progress, we signed Trevor Francis, and it was a coup. Do you remember that Christmas and New Year of 1981, when we beat Liverpool at Anfield to go top of the table? And yet, we let Francis go to Sampdoria, and the rot set in. Francis told a newspaper that finances were so bad at City that players had to buy their own crisps on away journeys!
The mid-eighties found me at university, and I saw fewer games. I was there, however, to witness David Pleat’s infamous dance when Luton (with a certain Brian Horton in the team) beat us to stay up and send us down. I was there when we hammered Charlton on the last day of the 84-85 season to return to the top division. I was there when we massacred Huddersfield 10-1 (after they had the best of the opening minutes). And I was there for the 5-1 trouncing of United, and can easily reconstruct the final goal. Ian Bishop’s majestic cross-field ball, David White’s powerful wing-play, and Andy Hinchcliffe’s perfect, lethal header to seal a memorable day.
I’ve been living in Los Angeles since August 1990, but get back to Manchester at least once a year. As so many of us ex-patriots will testify, the ‘net, MCIVTA, Doug Bennett’s Blue View, and Mike’s City Service are invaluable; they help us track City as if were still home, and my deep thanks to all involved. Having just bought a computer for home, I relish the live commentary from City games after I rise early on Saturday morning.
The early nineties held promise for us; I can recall reading a ‘Sunday Times’ article in, I think, 1991, that predicted a second place finish for the club. But as we know, so much has gone wrong. Poor choices of managers, the collapse of our once vaunted youth system, far too many ordinary players on high wages, the powers-that-be taking advantage of the now-legendary loyalty of City fans, and so much dissension and back-stabbing within the club.
I am delighted Joe Royle took the City job. His sterling work for Oldham is incontestable, and he is the first City manager since Howard Kendall to have won a trophy. Look at how he has cleared a lot of the deadwood from the squad. And look how he is promoting youth; with what I read of Fenton, Mason and Weaver, we have youthful potential indeed. United may have had far more money to spend, but with a superb manager in Alex Ferguson, a great assistant in Brian Kidd, and an unrivalled youth policy, they have reaped the benefits of a youth development policy that works. Francis Lee never had the financial muscle to back his dreams; in David Bernstein, I feel we have a steady and sensible chairman, and the future is beginning to glow.
To conclude: a selection of memories, good and bad. The tackle by Martin Buchan on Colin Bell that essentially ended Nijinksy’s career, and how we carried on to vanquish our rivals that night. And Bell’s long-dreamed of return to action against Newcastle. At half-time, it was a sterile 0-0. Full-time, a 4-0 romp for City.
The emergence of Peter Barnes; he was a player of great promise. When he got the ball and ran, people stood and craned their necks. Franny Lee’s winning goal against us at Maine Road for Derby in 1975. A sickening feeling, and the question: why did we sell him? Kidd’s goals against Leicester City when we won 5-0, and the game was the featured fixture on ‘Match of the Day’. Paul Stewart’s over 20-goal season, and Paul Simpson’s goal surge when he emerged from the reserve team to rescue our year. The sending off of Trevor Francis for the first time (and only time?) in his career. Colin Hendry’s Viking presence in the team, and letting him return to a pre-Daglish Blackburn. The 6-0 victories against Norwich in 1981 on the way to Wembley, and last season’s destruction of Swindon, with Gio beginning the scoring. And the 1985 Full Members’ final, when we were 5-1 down to a pre-Gullit Chelsea, and we staged an astonishing comeback to 5-4! Just as we did against in that final, we will fight, and we will taste glory again.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #449 on
Paul B. Cohen