I was born within the roar of Maine Road at Withington Hospital (Nell Lane) on 24th November 1944. Here’s a few memories – I was taken to my first game by my dad, “surprise, surprise”, the game was early in the season, maybe the first home game of the 54-55 season. Main things I remember: the playing surface was green and lush, perfectly marked out, goal posts ultra white from fresh paint with new netting, corner flags fluttering in the light breeze, and no it wasn’t raining cats and dogs.
We entered the ground about where the ticket office is now, I can’t remember what it cost to get in but I remember dad went through one narrow turnstile and I went through the children’s. Once inside we had a choice of going through a tunnel or up flights of steps. This part of the ground was commonly known as the scoreboard end; we would make our way to the double rail barrier which kids my age were allowed to sit on. To a ten year old boy this football stadium was so big, all fans standing with the exception of the Main stand and part of the Platt Lane stand. The crowd was big, noisy, swaying, moving, generating clouds of smoke from thousands of cigarette and pipe smokers, especially in the Kippax stand, which was to my left.
The first player to catch my eye, and he stayed my favourite, was No.8 Joe Hayes. He scored goals, dribbled, headed, passed, always on the move (don’t remember him tackling anyone though, could be wrong). My other favourite was Bert, wearing a green turtle neck jumper, white shorts, sky blue and white hooped socks, yellow gloves. He was so big, a giant of a man, seemed he could touch the crossbar without a jump. When he came to our end he would give a wave to all his fans behind the goal, seemed he was waving just to me, I’ll tell you more later. At three-quarter time the gates were opened and bus drivers and conductors would flood in and stand near the scoreboard to watch the closing minutes.
I lived in Dalton Terrace, Hulme, and attended St.Mary’s Boys School on Upper Moss Lane until the age of 14, then moved to St Margaret’s Secondary Modern, Whalley Range (a few City players later went there, Beckford and Palmer to name a couple). It was there I received my one and only coaching lesson at the age of 14. Our PE Teacher (prior to that it was our class teacher who took us for games) said this is a wall pass and went on to demonstrate how to do it, all a bit late for me, I had already learnt how to do gas meters!
Roy Clark had a Sports Shop on Stretford Road (never seemed to be open); I had my eye on a T panel “Casey” with a yellow lace. I managed to save my paper money and bought one from the Sports Depot on Princess Road (must have been cheaper). I also bought a pair of “Continentals” with moulded soles, so I was starting to look the part with my T panel Casey, I could maybe get a place on the School Cup or Shield teams, big problem was that the lad who picked the teams was a Rag so my opportunities were few and far between even with the T ball.
My City match day clobber was a sky blue and white scarf, a rosette with a picture of Roy Paul in the middle and a rattle made for me by our local cobbler David (the only shop with an electric clock in the window); many a time I was sent to see what time it was on David’s clock by my parents, to this day I still don’t know why.
I have never seen myself as a City Supporter with an all consuming passion that I live for City, high when they win and desperately low when they lose, I was never committed to buying a season ticket, having missed out on a few of the important games, still very satisfied with games I have seen, like most Derby games, home and away (58-70 Seasons), crowds of 70,000 and no I wasn’t one of the 3,800 stand-outs. 3-3 draw at Maine Road, 4-3 win at “The Middin”, 6 goals by Denis (in the fog), 1 famous one at Old Trafford, 3 penalties by Ken Barnes, Bobby Johnston saved us from relegation, I ran on the pitch putting my arm around him but couldn’t help but notice the state of the pitch – not a blade of grass, just flat, hard mud.
Seeing Wolves supporters on the tube in London and wondering what are they doing here? They will be so upset at the end of the afternoon, with the line-up City had: Bell, Lee, Summerbee, Marsh, how wrong I was. My one and only Wembley visit, remember: Green Man, Wembley Way, great view, fish and chips on the way home, how small the pitch looked, how small a mini is with 5 adults. The fragile net at Burnden Park where Bolton scored through the side, protest by Ken Barnes, unheeded goal stood, another injustice that City have had to bear over the years.
Being in a big crowd at Anfield, I asked a scouser behind me, “how do you get out for a pee”, he said just pee in the pocket of the bloke in front of you. I said “won’t he notice”, answer “did you?” Seeing the first cantilever stand at Sheffield Wednesday,. Hillsborough. Rags getting beat by Bolton on the inauguration of the new floodlights, Harry Gregg wanted to know if it was going to be a night game, you can see by my jokes why I’m a City fan with Bernard Manning as my script writer.
Talking about floodlights, when travelling on the top deck of a 101 down Princess Parkway, the first glimpse you can get of Maine Road is as the bus goes over the railway bridge at St. Bernardettes, Hough End (27 steps), look to the right to see the floodlights and never could resist glancing to right just before the bus depot to see Main stand of the ground through the streets – that’s Why Blue.
Ray Sambrook’s dazzling run beating four defenders and the goalkeeper to score, Cliff Sears brilliantly executed sliding tackle, Alex Harley the best worth £20 million in today’s market. All these things and more make me “true Blue’, like it never seems to have rained or been freezing cold, or we never really got hammered. Last season’s championship was fantastic for City fans who have never felt or experienced what a sensation of being part of a fantastic new winning team that some older fans, like myself, have been very fortunate to enjoy; sit back and enjoy the ride.
Close encounters: Working as a ceramic tiler on the new Supporters’ Club (now the Superstore), being asked to go over to the Main stand and repair a couple of tiles on the step into the team bath, waiting for ages at the side of a VW Beetle for Bert’s autograph.
I now live in Adelaide, South Australia (arrived here 1975) with other City fans, formed a Supporters’ Club that meets every month (had many visits from UK fans over on holiday) and hold social events. As I write I am just about to get ready to go to the (15/9) game against Blackburn. Now we are in the Premiership, we here 13,000 miles away are getting to see City close-up, third full live game this season, brilliant. Will now sign off and get ready with my blue and white scarf and rattle.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #853 on