I was a teenager living behind the Iron Curtain in Romania when I decided that the most attractive football is played in England. So I find myself in need to choose a favourite team to support, even through from a distance.
One day I saw TV highlights from a UEFA Cup game between Milan and Manchester City. What I saw that day convinced me that’s the team to follow, an option which was reinforced by the 3-0 win in the return leg.
The 70’s and 80’s were difficult years in my country, being ruled by hardline communists with the Secret Police hanging everywhere, tracking everyone having links with Western Europe. At that time there was only one sport newspaper in Romania and the English results were not given regularly. A friend of mine advised me to tune to BBC World Service and from January 1980 I did so every Saturday during the football season.
I still do it today and actually I cannot imagine a Saturday without listening BBC W.S. hoping that City will get a result. As you can notice I started to support City when trouble had begun to knock on their door. Malcom Allison had replaced Tony Book and he sold virtually an entire team boasting 8 or 9 full internationals. Of course they came back to haunt us as we’re all got used to that. Allison paid ridiculous prices for average players (there is only one Steve Daley) and results started to reflect how poor we had become.
The downfall was halted by the arrival of John Bond and we managed to survive after a horrendous start of the 1980-1981 season. I vividly remember my joy after Kevin Reeves scored a last minute winner at Maine Road against Leeds. Excellent Cup runs delighted me that season, Paul Power being awesome in our draw at Everton and semi-final victory Villa Park. What a goal did Tommy Hutchinson score in the F.A. Cup Final and what a super strike by MacKenzie in the replay.
Unfortunately, it was in vain. During the ill-fated 1982-1983 relegation season I was in the army, so it was more than difficult to follow the events on and off the field. We weren’t allowed to have a radio, no access to newspapers, only my father kept me informed through the monthly letter he was writing to me. But the relegation news occurred to me via TV when they shown highlights from the Luton game. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was totally devastated.
Then started the yo-yo period for our Blues, with financial crisis and managerial instability. Scarce wins in the old First Division leading to relegation, two promotion campaigns spiced with the usual nail-biting end of season, great memories listening live on BBC for our victory against Charlton, waiting anxiously for Morley’s equaliser at Valley Parade. Each time meant joy and jubilation, champagne flowing.
Howard Kendall’s arrival signalled a much awaited stability, even through his shock departure was an unbelievable act of betrayal. Only Steve Coppell came close to match Kendall’s “exploit”. Peter Reid did reasonably well especially the season when he finished above Scum in the league, but I understood the level of entertainment was low.
However, once he was hastily dismissed, the real nightmare began. A couple of mediocre seasons under Brian Horton were followed by the worst ever start of the season (am I wrong?) with Alan Ball at the helm. We never properly recovered from that and down we went like idiots, failing to win against a totally relaxed Liverpool side, almost inviting us to beat them. Again nervously listening live the closing stages, failure again.
Worst was to come as managers started to come and go like trains through the station, the result of this situation being hardly surprising: we dropped into the third echelon of English football. Did I think we hit the bottom? Yes, but how wrong I was! We had to lose at York City to start climbing the mountain.
As unpredictable as ever it took City just one year and a half to return where we belong. Wembley 1999 meant for me two hours in front of my TV looking on CNN teletext oscillating between despair and hope. Same proceeding repeated a year later while City were playing at Blackburn. Once again we came on top but not without a fright. We were back in the Premiership but for me an unpleasant surprise has occurred.
That meant I had to travel 400 km from my town in Transylvania to Bucharest where at Irish Pub is a satellite dish. Although the majority of results didn’t go our way it was great to have a chat with fellow Blues. Even long distances don’t matter when it comes to support the true team of Manchester.
During the 24 year period of supporting City, there were of course good memories and bad memories. At a glance, among the good ones I can see the 1981 Cup Final, Charlton ’85, Bradford ’89 and same year the Scum drubbing, Wembley ’99, Blackburn 2000.
Obviously, the bad memories are associated with relegations, the most painful for me being Luton ’83.
I can split this period of supporting City in two parts: one between 1978 and 1989, which coincides with the communist era when information was scarce and links with foreigners severely restricted. Being a student in Bucharest for 5 years I could make amends of that situation by subscribing to British Library, which was funding that time inside the British Embassy.
I used to go there on a weekly basis, each time the policeman who was checking my identity papers looked at me as I would have been the people’s enemy. From 1988 I had a pen pal from Prestwich who kept me up to date with events at Maine Road.
The 1989 revolution meant the fall of the Iron Curtain and all the restrictions vanished. We could see a lot of foreign TV programmes via satellite, that meant teletext with fresh news from all over. Then Internet was implemented, so at the moment we live in a different world.
Now I set my sights on making the dreamed visit to Maine Road. I want to see the place before we move to Eastlands. My desire is to be there in August, whatever will be the outcome of this season promotion campaign, but hopefully, I’ll find there a fresh Premiership club. Our future is definitely in our hands at the moment and let’s hope we’ll get it right in the end. Fingers crossed, come on you Blues!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #789 on
Ever Blue Mirel