I work at a large prison, about a mile from Elland Road football ground. Each day for the past two years or so I have proudly carried my Man City sports bag into work, cheerfully fending off the insults and jokes from the mainly Leeds United supporting gate staff. They have laughed at me – but I don’t mind – I carry my bag with pride, and surprisingly enough there are at least two other Blues in this establishment, and I recall there was even one other City fan who spent some time with us rather against his will. I never got to know what crime he had done, but he was probably innocent anyway!
Needless to say on Monday evening I got some stick from the Leeds fans on the way out.
“You’re with the big boys now – you’ll get pasted – you’ll be lucky to get nil”, and so on. I took it all in good humour. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today (Tuesday) was pay-back time, and in big style. I murdered the lot of them, so to speak. They had no answer, no sensible reply, other than vague threats of violence and no chance of scoring further points off me for a very long time to come. It was a wonderful, sublime experience to be savoured again and again in the re-telling and undoutedly to be re-experienced over the coming months; until that is we are relegated! I even stuck the words to Blue Moon on the notice board for all staff and visitors to see. I am surprised I survived the day without being smacked!
That is Why Blue. Brief periods of exultation amidst what seems like aeons of despair. I would not have it any other way.
In MCIVTA 195 I bared my soul to the world at large in the aftermath of relegation from the Premier League. A lot has happened to our team since then, mostly for the better and it is interesting to reflect on this.
I live in Melbourne and back in 1996 things looked gloomy for your average Blue. The prospects of actually seeing the lads play on TV had diminished to zero, apart from the odd cameo appearance on the cup (Middlesbrough, West Ham etc.) and the burden of having inflicted my passion for City on my eldest son (then 10) was beginning to weigh heavily on me. His younger brother was a little more pragmatic – he wanted to be different to his brother and to support a decent team, so he opted to support Liverpool, knowing that supporting the Rags would be unacceptable in our household.
Despite City’s lowly stature, number one son persevered, turning up to football training wearing the complete Umbro kit and enduring ridicule from the other kids, most of whom profess to support the Rags. As 1996-7 turned into 1997-8, the Umbro kit made its way into the wardrobe, to be replaced by the Kappa. Having had the misfortune to witness the Huddersfield and Bradford home games in November 1997 on a brief visit home, I despaired of ever being able to take him to see a successful City team, let alone converting his younger brother to the cause.
Still the boy persisted in his passion for things Blue – I knew he had it bad when we watched Chelsea throw away a two-goal lead, just about killing their chances of overtaking United for the league title, and he left the room in tears. By this time he had added the first Kappa away shirt to his selection and still he wore them with pride. When we were relegated to Division Two I thought that would finish him off – it’s one thing a sad old git like me supporting City, but why would my son want to waste his life, I thought? Losing to teams like Wycombe, York and Lincoln didn’t help matters. But no, he didn’t waver. Then came 30 May 1998 – a blue moon in Melbourne, I kid you not – and a ridiculously excited and slightly drunk forty-something woke him at 3:00 a.m. (we do it tough down under) to announce our return to the big time – well to Division One anyway. We managed to get hold of a tape of the game and the end of season review and boy were we happy.
By late 1999 the Le Coq Sportif strip had been acquired via my long-suffering parents and we were beginning to suspect that things were definitely on the up-and-up at Maine Road. Number 2 son even asked for a City shirt for Christmas – did he know something we didn’t? The thought of returning to Manchester round about the end of the season, financially irresponsible as it might seem, began to cross my mind. So it was that we arrived to a fairly cold Manchester morning at the end of March. Five days later, after several visits to the City Super(!) Store to have names and numbers applied to shirts, we walked along Yew Tree Road to the Academy for the Bolton game. This was the first live City home game my eldest son had ever seen and I have never seen anyone so excited. We walked past the Platt Lane complex and down Number 2 Alley, just as I used to thirty-odd years ago, and emerged behind the Kippax before taking our seats in the North Stand (‘gets a bit gritty in there’ my cousin said). We were behind the goal when Dickov and Horlock scored and the buzz was indescribable, not to mention the instant education in Mancunian language and humour my boys received.
We made it to three other games: Tranmere (Gene Kelly stand), Crewe (Main Stand) and Birmingham (Platt Lane) and didn’t see a single goal conceded. We sat three rows behind Helen (of bell fame) during the Birmingham game and when the final whistle blew both my sons were over the wall and onto the pitch before I could say ‘