For the sometimes pleasurable, but often frustrating experience that is being a Manchester City fan, I can thank my uncle Barry.
Back in 1969 I was an impressionable 9 year old, born and bred in Somerset, not a care in the world, hadn’t decided on which football team I liked best and settling down to watch the FA Cup Final with my dad and uncle Barry. Who should I support? Dad, being a lifelong Arsenal supporter couldn’t (in his own words) “give a stuff” and was watching as a neutral. Uncle Barry, married into my mum’s side of the family from Blackburn, told me to support Manchester City as they were the Northern team. So I did.
And it came to pass (Summerbee to Young… Goal!) that I became a Blue, having been dazzled by the sheer magic of this team.
Not that I hadn’t had other influences trying to sway me in non-Blue directions before then. Dad had made his case for the Gunners, and even in 1969, it was a persuasive argument. But I wanted to; no had to; rebel. My brother and I would eventually refer to them as “Fart-Smell”, much to my dad’s annoyance.
What about supporting my local team? The nearest to me, as the crow flies, was Bristol City, but there was nobody I knew who watched them, apart from the local psychopaths. Not much further away was Bristol Rovers, but they didn’t seem to offer much in the way of glamour or excitement. However, some time after declaring my allegiance to MCFC I adopted the “Gas” as my “local” team. This was because they seemed to me to mirror City in a lot of respects. Why? Well consider their relationship with the other club in town; Bristol City are “bigger and better”, they play in red, and I think (with a few honourable exceptions) most of their fans are certifiable arrogant t*ssers.
What about the Rags? Even in the late 60’s they were dragging little boys into their twisted and sordid lifestyle. This time it was my cousin who saved me from that fate worst than death. Not because he was a Blue who could show me the error of my ways you understand, but because he was a fledgling Rag, and in his bedroom he and his brother had all the wallpaper, lampshades, bedspreads, posters, the lot. I just knew instinctively it was all wrong, and that whatever I did, I should never give in to the dark side.
So when my uncle Barry and Neil Young pointed the way, I was ready. And it was oh so easy to support City in those days, lots of my friends at school did. But no one I knew in deepest darkest Zommerzet had actually been to Maine Road, except me, thanks once again to uncle Barry. The first time I went there was to see City play Stoke (I think) during one of the regular family holidays to Blackburn. We drove down to Manchester in uncle Barry’s Rover 2000; his pride and joy; and parked in one of the side streets around Maine Road (and it was still there with all 4 wheels attached when we got back!). My overriding memory was the sheer size of the ground, and the number of people crammed in (please bear in mind my only other experience of a football ground before then was from watching Blackburn Rovers at the old Ewood Park).
I marvel at other MCIVTA correspondents who have the ability to remember previous matches they have attended in such detail. For me it is just a swirl of snatched images and memories, but this may be due to the thermos filled with coffee and scotch that uncle Barry and my dad would let me sip from at half time! So I will zoom forward to today; and I’m now a family man with two daughters. Like me when I was young, they want to rebel against their dad and steadfastly refuse to support Man City. I did have a nasty moment when my eldest came back from school and declared her undying love for spice boy, but playing on her girlie love of furry creatures, I managed to change her allegiance to Wolverhampton Wanderers (OK, wolves are not cuddly, but they are furry). My youngest is horse mad, so logically supports Ipswich (because of their badge). At least they haven’t come up with any rude names for City yet.
I’m very hopeful we can get promotion this season, especially now we seem to have signed Terry Cooke, but this will probably have to be through the nail-biting play-offs. But whatever happens now, and in the future, I’ll always be proud to call myself a Man City supporter, because I’m a Blue and that’s just the way it is.
Some time ago I submitted my “Why Blue” and talked about going to Maine Road with my father and standing on the corner of where the North Stand now is. Sadly my dad died last Saturday evening (17/04) and on Sunday, nursing a hangover, I returned to Manchester to arrange his funeral. On Thursday I went to Maine Road and bought tickets for the Wycombe game for my daughter, Jemma, and I. Because Wycombe didn’t sell their tickets I was able to get into Block S of the North Stand – as close as possible to where I went as a child.
After the funeral on Friday I drove the whole family (mum, three sisters and my brother) down Claremont Road where dad grew up and past Maine Road on the way back to mum’s for tea and sympathy – mum thought that was a great tribute. And on Saturday I watched the game with tears in my eyes. We can’t make the York game but if it all goes right Jemma will be at Wembley and at the age of 8, I guess her own “Why Blue” is written. Please – no condolences. That isn’t why I wrote this. I think it’s probably just to get a head start for when Jemma writes her “Why Blue”. It’s also to recognise a Blue who has gone, my dad – Frank Gibson.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #495 on