Our family was always traditionally Blue, this dating back to the pre-‘Great War’ era. My uncle John was a fantastic all-round athlete. He’d had a couple of trial games in goal for City, but decided to pursue boxing because there was more money in it. The Blue die was cast. John perished with many of his mates and the cream of the Lancashire Fusileers on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula.
I was born in Withington on the eve of the fifties and brought up in Hulme (within comfortable walking distance of our arena) and when that area was cleared we moved to Northenden. This is only relevant in demonstrating that my formative years were spent within the bounds of my own hometown. My earliest recollections of City games are in the mid-fifties. With my dad, I went on the proverbial ‘charra’, from the Wellington, on Stretford Road, to such far flung, exotic places as Blackburn and Blackpool, with the local branch of the supporters’ club.
I seriously began to follow City upon the arrival of Joe and Malcolm. Remember Johnny Crossan? We were languishing in the old Second Division and this great old footballer and statesman Mercer arrived and brought his brash but brilliant coach Allison with him. All of a sudden (well it took a couple of seasons) we emerged from the shadow of our brilliant neighbours. Honestly, I’m not trying to wind you up, but the hype and the nonsense was already firmly entrenched, and you can form your own conclusions why. The team of Mercer/Allison, instigated by the old Albert Alexander shook Manchester and Europe to its foundations and took us places. There was a real buzz about the place, City doing it all on the pitch, Malcolm ruffling all the feathers off it and Joe earning our club even more admiration by appearing everywhere as an admired and respected pundit. The rest, they say, is history.
I am City through and through. In the history of our eccentric club I have experienced breathtaking highs and faith-shattering lows. My own personal high was City’s inexorable march to the ’68 title when after giving the Rags a seemingly comfortable lead, in the league, we absolutely shattered them on their own patch at Vomit Village. This despite an attempted murder on the ‘King’. I’m convinced to this day, that performance instilled the belief among players and supporters alike that the title was ‘on’ and disheartened the Rags so much that their one time impregnable lead perished and their season redeemed only before a partisan crowd at Wembley. For as long as I live I shall never forget the sheer ecstasy at Newcastle. We went there knowing our team had a mammoth task. We had to beat a team with virtually the best home record in the league, and our team had to coolheadedly win in the knowledge that the Rags only had to beat an already relegated, disconsolate Sunderland. I’ve heard many stories of that game and was it Bell or Summerbee who said that if you believed all the people who claimed to have been there then, then 50,000 souls must have made the trip from Manchester! Every City regular I knew at the time was there.
My departure from the Manchester scene coincided with the club’s abysmal treatment of Joe and the soon to follow ‘merry-go-round’ of managers and coaches. I have been spared the jibes first-hand resulting from our plummet from those heady days. Nowadays, my trips to Manchester are few and far between. However, when I do get over then it’s always timed strategically to get a couple of games in. My most recent game was the 4-0 York game, at whatever level, what a joy to see a City team score more than an odd goal! Compare this to a relatively recent game, for me, Port Vale (who the f….) on a Boxing Day together with 30,000 like-minded souls watching our beloved (pale comparison) team lose and freezing our cobblers off into the bargain. Our club, make no mistake, has been sick. We have only begun on our road to recovery. We owe thanks to Big Joe and Bernstein and whoever else in the corridors for stopping the rot and turning our fortunes but it’s nothing more than we deserve for our faith and commitment.
My mission in life, here in Holland, football-wise, is to educate the average Dutch supporter who has been led to believe that all things English must be Red (thanks to the tinted media) must look further. When Liverpool were doing well there was an abundance of ‘Pool’ replica shirts. Arsenal feature prominently because of their Dutch contingent. The Rags are far away the most ‘popular’ foreign club team due to the perpetuated myths. This is where football gets confused. How much is down to football and how much to showbiz and hype? If the boys were so likeable and approachable, then it’s a question I could pose to Giggsy, Dwarfy, Butty, Becky Spice and Rudy (the red-nosed ‘keeper).
I can’t blame the BBC entirely, the NOS or Ajax Hilversum Mafia in Holland, maintain a love affair with the Amsterdam club spanning four decades. They begrudgingly give attention to Feijenoord and P.S.V.(both red) when they can’t avoid it. By the way, 60% of the so-called Ajax supporters I come across, 110km. south of Amsterdam have yet to see the inside of the Arena (sound familiar?).
Despite all the propaganda, on both sides of the water, what sort of a competition would it be if the rest weren’t there? I desperately hope we have now turned the corner and can return to some of our former glories. All my old mates have seen it all and what City are capable of. We’ve seen it, we’ve done it and been there. If we never win a Mickey Mouse League Cup ever again we’ll go better dead than Red. It is phenomenal that a City so deprived of success can claim new generations of fans. In a society of dog eat dog, only first counts etc. it’s unbelievable that we command an average home gate in the region of 30,000 in what was effectively the Third Division.
However, we now have a nucleus of a City branch here in Holland, numbering some 25 or so individuals. Approximately half are Mancunians (I hate manc – who the hell came up with that one?) and the rest Dutch. I appeal to all Mancunians to put less emphasis on this pure Mancunian, thus City, attitude because our City enthusiasm is contagious and it’s clear to all regular McVitie readers that our fan base is widening (e.g. 500+ in Norway). Further, and I know I’m a fine one to talk after what I’ve already said, but sod it, let’s quit groaning and spend less time having a go at the insipid Rags. Let’s just quietly hope that Murdoch comes back with an improved offer and that it’ll be the downfall of both mercenary organisations.
New Season’s Resolution
For the coming season encourage all our players wearing the City blue. They’ve earned their chance and if they don’t make it then it won’t be through lack of encouragement from us. Don’t undermine them by getting on their backs. Keep faith all you Blues.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #510 on