Was it the magic of ‘Bell, Lee, Summerbee’? Well no actually, as a 5-year-old my father used to take me to the Swamp one week and Maine Road the next. A strange generation of people who supported Manchester teams regardless of colour.
So, for 5 years I was a ‘Manchester supporter’ until that fateful day when I went to ‘Big School’; not only did I discover people who were bigger than me but also I discovered ‘girls’; what a lovely and confusing time that was. But one girl in particular who went around with the names of the City team written on her school satchel – that was me hooked. Sorry it was not the calling of the superior race or the magic of the football or the blue blood rushing through my veins, just simply a ‘girl’.
But what a time to cement my allegiance – the Rags at the Swamp won the European cup (this is when it was a proper cup) but my new found allegiance did not waver (I still fancied this girl) and I was proved right – League Champions, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup, Charity Shield, even an Evening News Five-a-Side Cup. For years we steamrolled through games and cups and we steamrolled the Rags. Late sixties and early/mid seventies I was on a wave of footballing ecstasy.
My very first trip abroad was to see City win at Vienna. I always looked at programmes on TV; abroad meant sun, sand and scantily clad girls. I was ready for this, dressed in my blue shirt, white shorts and a pair of pumps (these were the days before trainers). I boarded the plane from Ringway (Manchester Airport) with my mate and his father. This was the biggest moment of my life. We arrived at Vienna in the worst torrential rain the poxy country had for 25 years, we were frog marched by gun-carrying police to a caged compound on the tarmac and held for 2 hours in the pouring rain before being marched to the ground. Jesus, what happened to the sun, sea (geography was not my strong point, how should I know it wasn’t on the sea, after all I thought every place abroad was on the sea) and girls. Even being in an open end in the ground during the rainstorm and being scantly clad did nothing to spoil that memorable night. Returning to school a couple of days later, I was shocked to discover we hadn’t even been live on TV. Apparently ITV and BBC carried the FA Cup replay of Chelsea and Leeds from the Swamp (pub trivia quiz – ‘Who are the only British team to win a European trophy and not have the game shown live on TV?’).
My first all night party (age 13), totally wasted, probably on cider, waking up with what I have since learnt to be a hangover (thought I was dying) and travelling on a bus to the Academy for a derby game (God I miss them). I noticed blood seeping through the sleeve of my shirt; I pulled up the sleeve to discover a tattoo ‘MCFC’. I do not even remember having it done. Apparently I had a bet with a Rag, the joys of youth! Still, 31 years on and it’s still on my arm.
I have millions of good memories from following the Blues and even some funny ones from the worst moments in my life, like the day we were relegated after the Luton game; my mate (converted Leeds fan, who I made see the light) and I were with a couple of girls in the pub that evening, his girl made the comment ‘It’s only a game of football’. He kicked her so hard on her leg she leapt up knocking the table and drinks all over a Rag on the next table, he was saturated and jumped up with his fists clenched and moved in on my mate. He took one look at the anger in my friend’s eyes, he said ‘sorry about City, let me buy you a drink’. That poor girl’s leg (she is now his wife).
Five years ago I lived and worked for three years in the Czech Republic and only missed two home matches – I would fly back for the games. It totally wasted the money I made but what the hell, the only people who would understand are the people reading this. Once a Blue always a Blue. I listen to commentators on TV marvelling over our 30,000 plus crowds week in, week out and whatever division we are in, what sad people, they will never understand.
It’s been hard being a City fan over the last 15 or so years but I have always been proud to say ‘I support Manchester City’ and I will always thank the girl with the satchel.
To the next 44 years – cheers.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #577 on