I was born and raised two miles away from Maine Road. I still live within a stone’s throw of Maine Road; although it now takes longer to get to Eastlands, I don’t mind. It’s the price you pay for having such a good stadium.
I suppose it all started when I was a little kid approaching the final years of primary school. We all played football in the playground at breaktime and lunchtime, which I always enjoyed. I never had much interest in the professional game at the time (I didn’t even know who the teams were) although I can recall that some people from my class used to go to Maine Road. The earliest instance that I can remember of Man City being mentioned was in class on a Monday in the early 90’s when this guy wrote on a blackboard what he had done with his weekend. “Gone to the City match”. This was when I was around 8 and I can recall my mam mentioning that I might want to go to a game, which I brushed off since I had no interest.
I can’t remember what made me decide to support a professional team. All I know was that I was 8/9 and I wanted to join the junior scheme of a club. Looking back I could’ve ended up supporting Everton, Liverpool, Man United or any other club. I sent off for junior application forms for Man City and Man United, so if Man United had replied first with a pack I could’ve ended up supporting them. As it turned out Man City sent me a full information pack, which for a 9 year old, is very exciting, whilst Man United never replied and came off as the arrogant club we all know they are.
From that moment, in 1992, I was a City fan. Looking out for the result every weekend but never seemingly asking to go to a game. My first game came three years later, in my first year of secondary school where football support was more defined. You were either a City or United fan, but our school had more City than United, or at least my form did. The whole experience surrounding secondary school and seeing hard lads from Burnage swagger around displaying support. My first game was in the North Stand that Christmas (1995/1996 season, the year we went down – or the year before that, can’t remember) when we played Chelsea. December 23rd, 1995. 0-1 to Chelsea with Sparky scoring the decisive goal at the North Stand end. It’s amazing how the details stick in your mind. All I can remember of the game is the goal being scored, a gang of lads above us yelling abuse to someone (they might’ve been Chelsea hooligans) and chants directed at the players and fans. It really blew my mind and hooked me on football, City and fan culture for life.
I can remember the next few games just as vividly too. Losing to Sunderland at home the season after (0-1, Kevin Phillips scoring for the 8/9th consecutive time), first time I saw opposing fans go mental at a goal being scored. Oxford United at home, 2-0 I think, I know Joey Beauchamp scored the second for Oxford. First time I ever felt bitter disappointment at a game. Walked out in anger at 12 years old when they scored the second. I think I went to the Tranmere game as well, which we won, but that might’ve been the season after. I know I went to Birmingham (1-0 with a late Kinky penalty winning the game for us) in our relegation season and Portsmouth at home (2-2).
I remember the Second Division campaign well. It was the first season I started to go more regularly. I went to Fulham at home (3-0 to us), Stoke at home (2-0 to us, Rösler was amazing that day for us), Millwall at home (4-0 to us, and my first instance of seeing football hooliganism up front), Chesterfield at home (3-1 to us?) and Bournemouth at home (can’t remember the score but I know Danny Allsop scored for us). By this time I had gone behind fandom and made my way into obsession. As far as I was concerned City were the most important thing in my life. I can remember sitting in my uncle’ front room feeling the lowest I had ever felt when Robert Taylor put Gillingham 2-0 up, and feeling sheer joy,which I doubt will be matched until the arrival of my first kid, when Paul Dickov levelled the scores. The biggest form of Agony and Ecstasy you can get, all within 10 minutes of each other. Even now I get shivers up my spine picturing Dickov’s goal. I have a video of the game and I spend boring evenings playing the goal over and over again. When I have bad days at work I think about the goal and it always cheers me up.
After that moment I swore I would be at every single home game. I got a season ticket for the Division 1 campaign and I have not missed a single home game, other than Leicester when I was in New Zealand 3 years ago, for five years now. I now go to away games and I think when I finish university I will be one of those people you hear about, going to every single home and away game. Man City have become part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #952 on