A study in mental dysfunctions
I’m not a Manc. I’m an out-of-towner. Never even been to the place before becoming a Blue. No Manc uncles, aunties, cousins or grandpapa to take me to matches or to give me cigarette cards to embark me on a lifetime of expensive rides on the biggest and best rollercoaster in the world.
No, I was a PNE fan. My only contact with City was that everyone in junior school supported Man United and I didn’t know who they were (we were povvies, so no telly)! An uncle was a steward so I could get to watch PNE until they booted Alan Ball’s dad (PNE manager) out and I swore that I would never go on again.
Prior to that, MOTD had a studio at Shepherd’s Bush, not a million miles from Loftus Road, and whenever a match was called off they would just whiz a camera round the corner and film that. So when a certain longhaired QPR player got signed to play in the frozen north I thought it was Christmas.
No one has come close, in footballing terms, to getting under my skin as – Rodney Marsh. The man was a God.
And I had to see him. It’s 1972 and I’m 16, and just about to start the run up to exams. I scab some money, get the train to Manchester and the bus to the ground.
Now up to this point, my contact with footie has been with a team that was successful in Division 3 and struggling in Division 2. A night match! I have never seen so many people in Preston, never mind at a football match. I walk around the ground looking for the cheap entrances and end up, inevitably, at the Kippax. A couple of minutes later and I’m in. Proggy in pocket, pie in one hand and Bovril in the other. This is like Easter when the fair came to town!
So now I head to where everyone else is heading but I fail to see the tunnels. All I see is a staircase. Not a staircase that you see in a house. In fact, the Tower of Babel did not have a staircase like this one.
I walk up the stairs twisting left and right every twenty steps or so until I get to the top. A couple of hundred people stood at the apex waiting to enter so I wait in turn with them. Shuffling forward and finishing off the pie, I finally reach the top of the Kippax. This is the moment I remember. Pouring Bovril down my leg as my arms came down to my sides in awe at the sight in front of me.
A million people just stood around as I gawped over their heads. I walked all the way down between bodies and not taking in a thing just looking at the pitch, as more and more of it was revealed as the roof slid back (metaphorically of course, we never had a sliding roof).
Next thing I know I’m picking myself up with a chipped tooth (just stop it, you know what I mean) as the crowd surged forward, pogo-ing during the chanting session.
And that was it really, I can’t remember who we played or what the score was. That bit is a blur. But it’s also irrelevant. It was the footballing equivalent of Herpes.
The crowd parted, a minion of Beelzebub came out and read a proclamation:
“From this moment on thou shalt be forever known as a Bitter Blue. From this day until the Armageddon Saturday will be known as Despair day. I do also grant thy team the ancient art of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”. Ye can never ever look at another team without feeling the gut wrenching feelings of cold turkey. No matter how far you travel you will always return. And if you think that’s bad, just wait until you see the neighbours I’m preparing for you!”
And with a maniacal laugh renting apart the night air he vanished. I went home and got pasted off my dad and I didn’t care. That’s a lie. I did care and it hurt like hell.
But I’ve been going back ever since and a supporter of City through thin and thin. I feel like a boozer at an AA meeting now.
“My name is Chris and I’m a City fan”
(All kindred souls clap, and say in unison “welcome Chris”)
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #906 on