M Ian Bell

Why Blue?

As I was born at 112 Horton Road, just behind the Platt Lane Stand, it is plainly obvious that I should be Blue. However, due to contrariness, I started conscious life thinking that I was Red. It was the Munich disaster that changed me. There I was, at Wilbraham County Primary School, observing the outpouring of grief, the national attention, when I decided that this wasn’t for me. I came out! I went against the trend and sold my soul to City.

As a kid, I did the usual things. “Mind your car, Mister?”, that was worth a tanner. Mind a bike in the back yard? We had lots. The buses parked at the top of the street were playgrounds. Reserve matches allowed us to use Maine Road as camp. We had dens under the stands. On the other side of the ground lived my gran, at 4 Lloyd Street South. Her house was closest to the bus stop into town. She had all the stars of the fifties sheltering in her hall when it rained. Can you imagine that Don Revie used to catch the 75? We had trolly buses then, too.

The players began to have cars at the end of the fifties. They parked them outside the main entrance when they came for training. Kids were allowed in to watch. I once played in goal. Neil Young kicked a ball for me to save and it lifted me off my feet. I followed City, mostly home, sometimes away, for most of the sixties and some of the seventies. Sometimes I’d go to the Scoreboard End, surrounded by uncles and cousins, I’d listen to the quips, shouted out, which created such a ripple of laughs.

Other times, I’d be in the Kippax with mates, lifted up by the surging crowd in the middle. The big hardcase was known as ‘the donkey’. I can’t remember his real name.

I went to the Cup Final, courtesy of a ticket from a MU fan. His mother worked at Maine Road but her son, Jim Singleton, my mate, was from the dark side. She gave me the ticket, 10 bob. Best memories come from the semi-final at Villa Park, when Tommy Booth scored the winning goal. I was back at the Maine Road Social Club before the team, what a reception they got.

I was in a band which played at the social club round about 1967. We were crap and Roy Clarke had to drag us off. If Roy had been made manager after Big Malc, we might not have won much but the wage bill wouldn’t have been a burden. If anyone deserves a lifetime achievement award at Maine Road, it’s him. For me, what ended the golden years was the signing of Rodney Marsh. Not that he wasn’t a fine player, but his arrival appeared to precipitate a loss of team spirit. I don’t know if he was being paid more than the established stars. It seemed to me that the other players weren’t trying the same. Maybe someone else could comment.

Coincidentally I discovered girls and was led astray, married, worked abroad, finally returned to rural Gloucestershire. My kids (one of each) who had lived less than two years in Manchester, decided they were from the dark side. Surrounded by replica shirts, they took the easy option. All I had was a MCFC key ring. No contest.

Following 15 years of denial, my wife and I started to follow City with the arrival of the Internet. We have visited grounds I never even thought of, like Swindon, Reading, Oxford. The feeling of being with a few thousand fellow travellers is a trip on its own. Since then I’ve been to Maine Road a few times but even when Kinky was playing, there seemed to be no atmosphere. The away fans in the top RH corner of the scoreboard end always sounded much louder.

I’ve just returned from the pub after watching the Stoke game. Good result, crap performance in attack, defence soundish. My mother came out of Gloucester Royal Hospital two days before Xmas. Since then we haven’t lost in the league. I’ve told her to hang in ’till the play-offs. As a true fan she’ll be there when we’re back in the Premier.

Actually she isn’t a fan but will do anything to please me.

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #471 on


M Ian Bell