A pat on the back for Anthony Catterson.
I want to congratulate Anthony Catterson on his article, which appeared in last Friday’s issue entitled ‘Corporate Tosser’. Good points – well made – by a guy who unquestionably loves the club, which after all is what being a fan is all about (isn’t it?).
I have undoubtedly been made to feel inadequate about my Blue credentials by some City fans I meet now and again – or have it implied to me in the 3rd person through reading some of the articles in MCIVTA and other paper based City fanzines. It is based on the fact that (a) I was born outside of Manchester and have spent almost my entire life living outside of Manchester and (b) like Anthony Catterson I go to a certain amount of games through the grace of corporate invites. While I will patiently listen to any Blue on the issue that my current lack of season ticket is a problem to them when it comes classifying me as a ‘real’ Blue, I will not however, accept the fact that I don’t live within 3 miles of the ground as a credible reason why I should feel inferior to a Rusholme resident.
I was born and raised in Birmingham and grew up in the claret and blue side of that city. Both of my parents descend from Irish immigrants who were raised up in the deep south of Manchester – ‘Wythenshawe’ – who moved to Brum in the early 70s. My mother’s side of the family are Reds, my father’s side are Blue. At the age of five my father woke up in a panic having realised the present danger that his pride and joy could at any point be kidnapped by a Red uncle and taken down to the sty. With that in mind he bundled me in his car and we hit the M6 on route to my personal début at Maine Road (Derby County at home). It was the season when a certain Steve Daley arrived after we finished runners-up to Liverpool the year before. Heady days. Although I don’t remember anything we apparently got beat. An omen perhaps. Either way it was the start of what was, still is and always will be a true and deep-rooted love for City. Without any shame and embarrassment I will hand on heart tell anyone bored enough to listen (e.g. you) that Man City is unquestionably the most important thing in my life outside of my family/friends/work. The fact that I don’t live in Manchester is a complete irrelevance.
In the following years from my first game (in particular ages 7 to 14 – seasons 79/80 to 87/88) I can honestly say I hardly missed a home game. My father and I went up the M6 every other Saturday taking in Peel Hall (Wythenshawe – to see the Blue side of the family) then up to Moss Side to watch in awe as my father blagged a ticket for us both (most notably from Arty’s Barbers in Moss Side – anyone else remember him and his brother?) or from outside the main stand/players’ entrance). I say ticket (singular) as my father would then perform blag number two of the day as he pleaded with the bloke on the turnstile that he had “travelled up from Birmingham and been let down by the guy giving us our tickets at the last minute and could he let little me jump over the turnstile?” It was always my first time to Maine Road in his story and when he told them this I would, on cue, look up at the bloke (as instructed) with a face full of utter fear at the possibility that this man might deny me the right to see City. Job done.
Once inside (always the Main Stand) my strongest memories of my early days at Maine Road are more linked to people and the crowd rather than the actual football itself. Listening to grown man ‘F’ and blind about why were persisting with Kevin ‘fu*k**’ Reeves – or some man mountain berating Mick Channon. The crowd rising to its feet to clap the teams out to the to the sound of the ‘Boys in Blue’ – can we get that back at Maine Road please? Favourite player of that era – Peter Barnes. No question. Favourite game of that era – Beating Ipswich at Villa Park to go to Wembley – Paul Power in extra time. I went to the Cup Final that year and saw the 1-1 game. Worst game – getting beat away by Fulham 4 (or 5) – 0 in the cup – the same weekend that the boat sank in the Cambridge/Oxford Boat Race.
At the age of 14 my parents got divorced and after a turbulent few months it all resulted in my father moving abroad (NB city were relegated the year before and were currently looking for promotion out of the old Division 2). This chain of events meant that my attendance rate at Maine Road suffered horribly for a number of years. When my father returned for the odd weekend or if I saved enough money to go up on the train on my own (meet up with my cousins) then I would go see City. But my mother did not go back to Manchester regularly and my paper round could not fund a 160-mile round trip to Moss Side. Being in Birmingham made it easy to see the odd away game. West Brom, Villa, Walsall (anyone remember Dibble going off and Gleghorn going in goal and it being an absolute classic 3-3?) and Birmingham City (how moody is St Andrews? – probably the most dangerous away ground in England – any thoughts?).
I like to think though that when it mattered I was still there. The draw with Palace at home in the promotion season when we both went up. The 5-1 win against Charlton to go up. The 5-1 win over the Scum at home (a game a bit like Newcastle away for my father’s generation when everyone says they were there – I actually was), being in the away end when Brightwell got the equaliser that same season to get a draw at the Sty. All great memories. The 10-1 vs. Huddersfield I missed.
Then I ventured south at the age of 18 to go to that Mecca of academic excellence – Kingston Polytechnic. Due to work I have subsequently lived in either the south east of England or abroad ever since and like Anthony Catterson I make no apologies for it.
I do go to Maine Road. I go regularly. I do go away as well. Albeit less regularly (4 away games this season). My point is – am I a lesser fan than someone from Manchester? I don’t think so. If I have supported City all my life and regularly go (albeit not a season ticket holder this year) why should I get abuse (as I did at Reading away in Division 2 a couple of years back) for being a so-called ‘southern Blue’? As AC said in his article, City fans come from all over. I currently live in Berkshire. I know at least 5 other City fans in Windsor alone (all with genuine Manchester connections). It is a fact of life that Blues are going to have to accept if you support a big club like City. People have moved down south in huge numbers over the last 15/20 years that the growing ranks of ‘southern Blues’ is a trend that is unstoppable.
My kids will support City. Their kids will support City. My nephew who lives in Barcelona supports City. What is wrong with that? I know one of the few things that City fans can throw at Red scum is the fact that over half their support comes from outside Manchester – hence the ‘you’re the pride of Singapore’ song. But should this then mean that any City fans outside of Manchester should be swept under the carpet – so we city cannot be tarred with the same brush?
Well done Anthony – you wrote a piece that I had been meaning to write for a number of weeks. This is a time when Joe and the boys need all their support they can get – wherever you’re from.
As for the staying up/going down debate – my thoughts are last game vs. Chelsea City will win to stay up (probably on goal difference). Either way – it will go down to the wire that for sure. Stay up or go down I say keep Joe for consistency and also because I really can’t think of anyone better who would realistically come to us. Something changed at Wembley for us when we beat Gillingham. It was the day that we got the rub of the green for once. I reckon we’ll pull it off – Keep the Faith.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #685 on