I don’t often contribute to the forum but thought that my final visit to the hallowed ground (first visit for 10 years or so) warranted some action.
I can’t say why I am Blue but I always have been and always will be for my sins. From the earliest times in my native Benchill, all I can remember was that my brother (4 years older but not wiser) was a Red and I was a Blue. My first visit to Maine Road was in 1953-4 season with my father. I was 10 years old and my dad said that it was young enough as lads should be playing football and not watching it. Actually, I think that he was dead right – over the years, I’ve watched kids at matches and I think that they usually get bored. Anyway, the game was City Reserves vs. Bolton Reserves. Can’t remember much about the game other than that we watched it from the Platt Lane (before seats, of course) and that there was fair crowd – probably around 3-5,000. Don’t remember the score, but Ken Barnes was playing, as was John Savage, Bert Trautmann’s perennial stand-in.
My first real game was, strangely enough, City vs. Bolton – sometime around Christmas 1954. I think the score was 2-1 to the Blues. I recall that Dave Ewing had a head to head with Nat Lofthouse and ended up with a bloody bandage around his scalp. I saw another half-a-dozen games that season and, from 1955-6, became a regular with my father. We settled down on the old Scoreboard End, about halfway up, to the left of the goal. At the time, it was an amazing place to watch a game. The same people came week in, week out and, although they were City fans, they appreciated good play by either side. I recall a game when Matthews cried off fairly late and the crowd booed. In those days, unlike today, they wanted to see good players on both teams. Why not, we pay good money, so why not see the best?
I’m not going to go all through my City watching life, suffice so say, it’s had more ups and downs than the old Belle Vue ‘Bobs’. Ah, happy days, that included Saturday nights at the Aces when they were a power in the land.
My life has taken me away from Manchester for most of the last thirty-five years and now I live on the west coast of Ireland! However, as a birthday treat, my wife thought that I should see Maine Road one last time and bought me a ticket for the Middlesbrough game. Could have been better but, as a friend said, I was really there for the nostalgia not the football. When it was announced that City were going to decamp to the CoMS, I must admit to being a bit sceptical but now, having seen Maine Road again, I think it is for the best. The old lady looks really tatty now and none of the so-called improvements have been for the better. I used to have a season ticket in the North Stand but, with the passing of the years, had forgotten what an ill-designed stand it is. Ok, the viewing is generally good, but the facilities are appalling. I used to wonder what would happen to anyone caught in the bar/toilet area if a fire had broken out.
I have never seen the ‘new’ Platt Lane or Kippax before and just wonder what kind of designers City employed – they must have been sketched out on a ‘fag’ packet. The Kippax is staggering – it is an enormous and incredibly ugly structure and yet holds relatively few spectators. The old Maine Road was a purpose-designed stadium, really modern in its day. However, the integrity of its structure has been totally destroyed by the piecemeal nature of the various redevelopments. I managed to catch a sight of new stadium on the train into Piccadilly – it certainly looks impressive and I hope to see a few games next season.
I won’t bother to comment on the game itself, as others have already said all that is to be said – and that’s not much. Regarding the team, what a problem KK has to sort out. My host for the weekend was a long-term Liverpool season ticket holder and he told me that Liverpool fans had been demanding Fowler’s departure for two seasons before he left for Leeds. Everything that he said about Robbie was evident in this match – lack of pace, lack of effort, lack of fitness, lack of brains, you name it. If KK can bring him back from the dead, he will be a miracle worker (well, Easter is approaching!). I felt a bit sorry for Anelka – although he was fairly ineffective, he covered a lot of ground and received neither support nor service. Jon Macken looked good when he came on and he is one for the future but, sadly, Shaun is not. As for Paulo, I’m a bit sceptical whether we will see him in blue again – I reckon that he could be on his way during the summer.
It was great to see a 4-4-2 (of sorts) and to hear KK say on Radio Manchester that he would probably play this way in future. I thought that Distin and Sommeil were fairly impressive, although not unduly tested, and I reckon that Jensen will be ok playing full back rather than wing back, but I don’t think that Dunnie is cut out for this rôle. Agree with the comments about Joey Barton, he does look a decent player. Heard today that he has just signed a new 1-year contract – why only 1-year though?
There is definitely need for new blood in midfield. Ali will never be able to match the pace of the Premier, Eyal is good but a bit fragile, while Kevin’s day in the top class are numbered. Regarding Marc-Vivien, personally, I think that he is an excellent player but I don’t think that he will ever excel in English football – somehow, his style doesn’t seem suited for it. Anyway, it looks like he’s on his way.
Goalkeeper is a worry with Peter departing – mind you, I thought he looked a bit creaky on Saturday and was not surprised at the news. Nicky is an unknown quantity now, while Carlo is an excellent reserve but probably not quite top class. As for James, no way!
So, I reckon that City need to sign a top class ‘keeper, at least one full back, a couple of midfield players and at least one striker for next season.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #907 on