Why oh why indeed. I have Sam Leitch and the once great Football Focus to thank for my lifelong Man City affliction. As an innocent and impressionable 9-year-old, I would watch Football Focus featuring the equally once great Man City haring down the pitch to score what seemed to me a hatful of goals. It was always hugely exciting, with the ball zipping from one sky blue shirt to another, the ball eventually nestling in the opposition goal after another breakneck-paced attack. Misguidedly believing the badge to be an apple, which doubled my admiration for this exciting team, I decided there and then that this was the team for me. Lee, Bell, Summerbee – even Derek Jeffries and Ian Mellor seemed impossibly glamorous to me. 1971 it was.
I remember Rodney Marsh signing, thinking things could hardly get better. The discarding of Wyn Davies had, at the time, no catch for me. So when the championship was lost with if I remember right, a disastrous defeat against Stoke (or Derby), I thought it was merely cavalier bad luck rather than the now more familiar managerial folly.
My first sighting of the mighty Blues in the flesh was a stormer, but for all the wrong reasons. City came to Nottingham Forest in the fourth round of the FA Cup to play one of the first ever Sunday games. My Forest-supporting uncle and I took our places in the unprecedented 40,000+ crowd and I rubbed my hands in anticipation of City steam-rolling this average 2nd division side. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about Duncan McKenzie at the time. And neither did the City defence by the look of it. It ended up 4-1 to Forest, Rodney Marsh limping off after 5 minutes and Mr McKenzie destroying Doyle, Donachie, Barratt and Co. Keith Macrae was in goal, for what that was worth. I was gutted. I think I realised then that supporting Man City was not going to be all sweetness and light. The League Cup Final defeat against the unfancied Wolves merely confirmed this suspicion.
During the following years, I saw City regularly at Leicester, Forest and Derby. I was always thrilled to see Joe Royle, Joe Corrigan, Asa Hartford, Gary Owen, Mike Doyle, Peter Barnes and especially Dennis Tueart, who I loved more than I’m sure is healthy. I believe I saw Dennis Tueart’s last game for City before he went to America. Another cup game at Forest, another defeat, this time only 2-1.
Moving on a few years, I wonder how many of you reading this were amongst the thousands singing “We’ll be up at 5 o’clock!” in and outside The Navigation pub outside Notts County’s ground in 84/85? I was there, and once more the local team dashed our hopes, City going down 3-2 (there seems to be a bit of a pattern here).
I saw the 6-0 defeat at Derby – Justin Fashanu coming on as a sub! – I saw the 3-2 Zenith Data Systems Cup defeat against Forest, and the 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup against County when City did everything but score – even Alan Harper – before foolishly sending up both central defenders for a last minute corner – you remember the rest I’m sure.
I saw plenty of wins too, but they’re harder to remember – the absence of pain diminishes the memory for some reason.
My first visit to the academy was spectacularly late. Bearing in mind City’s track record when I had been in the crowd, I was reluctant to jinx City in front of their supporters at home. But on a freezing cold December afternoon, I was moved to tears as I approached the legendary Main Stand for the first time ever. We were playing Spurs. Lineker, Gascoigne and that interloper Stewart all in the line-up. I remember Gascoigne scored by throwing his arms into the air every time a City defender threatened to interrupt his mazy run. But we won 2-1 with a late penalty from Mark Ward, a victory which lifted us into 5th place in the top division. It seems like a lifetime ago.
Other memories include a rare Wayne Clarke goal in a win away at Forest over Christmas, and City wiping the floor with a doomed Forest – Keane included – with Garry Flitcroft scoring late on to send me into raptures.
The 4-0 against the champions elect Leeds was fabulous. I have never felt more proud to be a City fan, we were that good.
I also won a clubcall competition – the tie-breaker “Power, touch, skill and fight – there’s more to Niall than his height” proving successful for me. The prize was a day out at Maine Road, a tour of the ground with Roy Clarke – I also met Tony Book, Glyn Pardoe and Peter Swales, who was even uglier in real life than I could imagine. The boardroom was a joke, the odd pennant adorning the tacky 50’s decor. It was shameful. But after a slap-up lunch with the sponsors, we beat Aston Villa 2-0 and, even though Roy Clarke whacked me on the shin with Keith Curle’s boot to demonstrate how easy it is to get injured, I went home a happy man.
Unlike now, where happiness at being a City fan is a bizarre concept. Being amongst City fans at the two Notts County games earlier this season was a bit sad, morale was that low. It’s especially hard not even being taken seriously by Rags fans anymore. We are that inconsequential to the outside world. But I will always love City, no other team can enjoy the emotional attachment City fans have for the club. The last 27 years have been a rollercoaster, and no doubt the next 27 years will be too. I only hope there are more ups than downs ahead.
CWISGMSNTPHOMBWWWBF (City While I’ve Still Got My Signed 1974 Team Picture Hanging On My Bedroom Wall Which Will Be Forever)
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #469 on