My dad was always a City fan, as were other members of my family… you see we are from Manchester.
When I first started at St. Brigid’s infant school in Manchester – it must have been in 1960 – I made friends with a boy called Mike Feeney. He seemed to know the names of all the United players of the day, whereas I knew none of the City team’s names. He seemed eloquent when talking about how great it was to see players running around Old Trafford in red shirts, whereas I’d never been to a football match then and the nearest I’d got to seeing a footballer’s picture in colour – in those days of black and white newspapers – was to look at images in the Manchester Evening News “Football Pink”.
He (Mike Feeney) led me to believe that all human beings ran faster in red: faster than if they wore any other colour! I believed him. Why? because he was a friend and he was ‘dead intelligent’ about football and because I was only blo*dy well five years old and because his United supporter of a father had already infested his mind with Old Trafford misinformation. Five-year-old boys don’t know that people run faster in red shirts: no, no, no, grown ups tell them stuff like that. Such delivered wisdom, such pearls of information as these are handed down by lying United parents who fear that their progeny may follow their hearts and support the true Mancunian team (sorry, shades of bigotry showing there!). Nonetheless, I wish I’d been a grown up six year old when Mike Feeney told me all about the magic red colour; I wish I’d known that teams don’t always play too well away from home; I wish I’d known that teams have away kits that are different colours (and sell for mega bucks!); I wish I’d known what United’s away record was like at that time… why, I’d have given him a smartarse answer about playing in other colours than red! Just to add to the brainwashing process, Mike taught me – and others in the reception class – a few Man United chants.
So, this was football as I knew it at five years of age. It was fast, it was red and its so-called best team’s supporters were controlled by liars.
One day I arrived home and my dad’s friend, Mr. Collins, was there with him: I knew Mr. Collins as “Uncle Joe”. I was darting round the place echoing songs learned at the Mike Feeney school of music. Uncle Joe said to me, “What’s all that United stuff you’re singing?” I said, “They’re great! United this! United that! Come on you Reds!”
As he handed me two sixpenny pieces, Uncle Joe said to me, “John, here’s a shilling – you support the Blue team now, OK? Tell me you’ll always be a City fan.” I took the shilling and – like all City supporters – learned to make the most of riches while they last (well, 5 pence was a lot of money in those days!). With the ‘bob’ in my hand I ran around the house shouting, “Come on you Blues!” like a good un.
In short, I was bought for a shilling.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #636 on