My parents saw City win the Cup in the 1930’s. I was never aware that they forced their views upon me, but it just didn’t occur to me to be anything other than a true Blue. Dad had a season ticket for the main stand and my earliest memories were of me waiting impatiently for his return on match days to find out the score.
He used to tell us, a family of 6 children, tales about his youth. He reckoned he played for a team called ‘Debdale Cinderpath Warriors’. The goalkeeper was called Dizzie, and the story goes that when the ball went one way, Dizzie would always be going the other way.
I think my first visit to Maine Road was made when I was about 11 or 12. After nagging my dad for weeks on end he allowed me to use his season ticket to go and watch City Reserves – the second best team in Manchester. They were playing Wolves. I can’t remember who won but one memory from that game remains with me. The stand was sparsely populated and my seat was only about 10 rows back from the touchline. The ball eventually came within reach of me. I picked it up to toss it back and I was amazed at the sheer size of it. It must have been at least 3 or 4 times larger than the ball I kicked around the local field with my mates.
I reckon I repaid my dad’s kindness some years later when he had me queueing up at the ground on a Sunday morning for FA Cup Semi Final tickets – I don’t think City were involved but Maine Road was to be the venue. After purchasing the allowed “… 2 tickets per person …” I would race round the ground to join the end of the queue again to buy 2 more. I went home with a fistful of tickets that day and my dad was very popular in his local (The Hanging Gate, Audenshaw) with an abundance of tickets for sale. He gave me one for my troubles and that was the first time (but not the last) that I would be part of a 75,000 crowd at Maine Road.
In those days (1950’s) I just couldn’t get enough of City. I would watch the ‘A’ team play at Hatters Park in Denton if the seniors didn’t have a game. For one year, I attended school at Ducie Avenue in Moss Side, and often I would walk to Maine Road at lunchtime just to look at the outside walls of the stadium and in the hope I might see one of the players entering or leaving the ground for training. It was on one of these trips that I scrounged an autograph from the legendary Frank Swift. I think this was after his retirement though because I never actually saw him play.
In 1961 I joined the navy and my opportunities for watching City became fewer. I got married and started a family, and, after leaving the navy, I just had enough time to introduce my son to the sheer joy (and sometimes the sheer frustration) of being a City supporter, before we migrated to a new life in Australia. I now have Australian born grandchildren who show a great deal of passion for the sport of Aussie Rules Football but who equally have a spot in their heart for City. They wear City shirts when out to play and I have promised them that one day I will take them to watch the mighty Blues. I believe they will hold me to that promise.
In conclusion, through the medium of this article, could I thank my nephew, Tony, for introducing us to McVittee, and for sending us a video of that amazing play-off final from Wembley. These have gone a long way to filling a void which absence from Manchester has caused.
I got talking recently to a bloke in the pub about identity. It turned out he was Jewish but he didn’t much care for this aspect of himself. He said that just because he was born Jewish this didn’t make him a Jew. It’s about choices, he said, and he never chose to be Jewish. My reply was that I never chose to be a Manchester City fan, either.
In no particular order… I’m Jewish. I’m English. I’m a City fan. I like dub reggae. I don’t like tomatoes. I’ve got a big nose. I’m good at languages. I’ve always been useless at maths. I’m taking evening classes. At footie I’m skilful, but lack positional sense. I have a thing about women who wear glasses. I drink Boddington’s. I used to live and work abroad. Etcetera. Some aspects of my identity I have chosen; some I haven’t. Unlike the man in the pub, I personally love the fact that some of the things which go to make up who I am were passed down to me by my mum and dad and the generations before them. Dad’s a Blue. Manchester City FC hasn’t been in the family as long as, say, my religion (5,000-plus years!), but it’s a vital part of me.
It wasn’t always. I had a difficult phase when we moved from Manchester to Leeds. I was an impressionable seven-year-old, for heaven’s sake, and everyone around was wearing white, yellow and blue (I must sound like Michael Portillo, confessing a past I’m not proud of!). One day I got taken to a Leeds vs. City game. I don’t remember much about it, but it was the turning point. This was me, all of a sudden. Roots! My home town.
Nowadays, I live in Southeast London, just a seat’s throw from the New Den. In Peckham to be precise. The area is almost exclusively Millwall, but for the odd other London team here and there and the obligatory United shirts on some of the kids (I don’t like it either, but it’s an inevitable part of their success). I have to say I’ve had some really good chats about City with Millwall fans. What tends to come through is this idea of “well at least you’re not United.”
But just suspend reality for a second. Would it be so bad if you were a Red? The only answer, I think, is that you’re not. Life didn’t turn out that way.
Why Blue could just as easily be Why not Red? How many times have you spoken to people from abroad about where you’re from and heard: ‘Oh Manshestair… Manshestair United!’ or whatever. I’ve grown to really enjoy setting them straight and telling them all about the joys of being Blue. I tell them as well that for too long it’s been about adversity, that we’ll get there in the end, and boy will it taste sweet (It’s the unfortunate thing about being thirty two in 1999. It’s been mentioned before in these pages about how City fans in my age group have guilt complexes, that they blame themselves for jinxing the team. The facts certainly don’t look good. I first became aware of City’s existence around the time of Swales’ arrival).
Jewish ritual says that every day a man should thank Him for not making him a woman and that a woman should thank Him for not making her a man. Be honest, how many times have you woken up and thought to yourself ‘Isn’t it brilliant that I’m a Blue and not a Red?’ But why? Is it just about birthright, or is there something more?
I have a friend, whom I’m not going to ‘out’, whose family is from Newton Heath and was brought up as a Red. He regularly tells me how he wishes he was City. Not everyone is proud of their birthright. It’s like anyone. I like some bits of what I am, but certainly not all. I guess that’s the point about choice – you choose to embrace certain things and ignore others.
But to come back to the question, what’s so special about being a City fan? What, if anything, makes us different from other sets of fans? What distinguishes City from other football clubs? It’s hard to put your finger on it. There is no doubt that our fans are special. There is something wonderful about Maine Road. But wouldn’t any fan would say that about their fans and their ground? West Brom fans must love The Hawthorns; Wycombe fans must have a special relationship with Adams Park (although I know how I will remember that place!).
Ok, City fans really are different class. Sense of humour. Loyalty. And the club is liked by an unusually high number of fans of other teams. But that’s just my luck. I was born into it. It was meant to be. And I happen to think I’ve hit the bloody jackpot.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #549 on