Firstly I would like to thank Adrian Bates for his own personal ‘Why Blue’ in MCIVTA 993, for it is his story that has prompted me to put pen to paper (so to speak).
Just like Adrian (and I totally agree with his sentiments), I grew up in the same “cocoon”, albeit on the south side of Manchester. I was brought up in Wilmslow (not really Manchester, but near as damn it) and went through junior school and secondary school with just a healthy rivalry between the Reds and Blues and one lad who supported Bury, and he still does. Your best mates and the next door neighbour, the crowd of lads that used to hang around the corner shop or outside the bakery window on a Saturday morning, all Reds and Blues, and never a harsh word to say about anyone’s allegiance (apart from the Bury fan), just good-natured banter. Even my best man at my first wedding is a United fan. So now nearly 40 years on I find that you can still have sensible, constructive conversations with friends from the Red side of town about football. These mainly happen in the workplace, and not just with United fans, but Liverpool, Chelsea, Bolton and Leeds fans thrown in, there’s even a Forest fan (poor soul) but they all have sensible things to say. With some good-natured slagging off thrown in. My stepson is a Red, and he has been to City nearly as many times as United before his move to Oz last year, but we still have some decent banter about each others’ team. Given that, there are still some people out there who are blinkered in their thoughts and have nothing good to say about anyone else’s team (I include my son-in-law in that statement, and he’s a Red, so no football talk there). Anyway I digress, back to the story.
Well, my first recollection of football comes when I was about 7 and it was the World Cup of ’66. My gran, bless her heart, sat me down in front of the telly and made me watch the final, telling me that my uncle Bert was in the crowd. More about uncle Bert later. It was the first game I had ever watched. Anyway, I was hooked, football would become my passion, but not as a Blue; you see it was down to the players in that final. Heroes like Hurst, Moore and Peters, and more to the point local heroes Charlton and Stiles, players from ‘the other side’. I was being drawn to the Red side of town, other players like Law, Best and Kidd were household names, and playing football at school during that time everyone wanted to pull on a red shirt. The ‘other team’ in Manchester were to me, unknown, but that was to be put right.
Sometime over the next year or so (thankfully) it all changed. It all happened one Saturday night while my gran and grandad were babysitting for my sister and me (sounds like some cheap novel). Gran had just put my sister to bed when she came downstairs holding the pictures I had put up on my bedroom wall of the United stars of the day. Anyway, she started telling me stories about City; she and my grandad were Blue through and through, she had been in the 84,000 crowd of 1934 against Stoke, and had many more wonderful renditions of fantastic players and the ground ‘Maine Road’, and the best supporters in the land (we still are).
My gran hadn’t been to Maine Road for many years but my uncle Bert used to go week in week out and she asked him to take me, which he duly did. I can’t remember the first time I went, it was just a blur. There was just too much for a 9 year old to take in. One thing that I do remember is that we used to stop at one of the many corner shops that surrounded Maine Road and pick up a quarter of Everton mints for the game. Something which I was able to do at the last match at Maine Road as a tribute to my late uncle Bert. I was totally taken over by my trips to watch City, the smells, the noise and the pre-match tension, the old guys in groups who only ever met on match days stood by the bar talking about the old days. So this is where the love affair started. And what a first season to be a City fan, we won the bloody league. Fantastic. The next season I didn’t miss a game at Maine Road and it culminated in the Cup final. I remember that my dad was building an extension for this bloke, and he had one of the first colour TV’s. He knew I was a City fan and he invited me to watch the cup final. Lee, Bell, Summerbee and Young, what a day, could it get any better than this? You bet it can. The very next day the victorious team led by Tony Book got off the train from London at Wilmslow to start their open bus ride back to Manchester. I was at the front of a huge crowd of what seemed like thousands, and then there they were, our heroes so close you could touch them. I can still see them now, smiling faces and a shiny cup. It made a lasting impression on a 10 year old.
So I have followed the Blues now for some 37 turbulent years, good times and bad. I remember the last game of the old Kippax (the place I migrated to after I stared to go on my own to games); almost everyone had left after the game when a steward came and sat down with me for a good 10 minutes or so in complete silence, just remembering. Nothing was said, we just stood up together and left. How can one stand hold so many memories? Now of course the bulldozers have moved into the old place. I think I was more emotional when the old Kippax was knocked down, but we have a new home now, a place that befits our ambitions. I believe we needed to move on, the City of Manchester Stadium is a statement of our intention, and it can only lead to us bringing in the quality players we need in the future. We have in KK a manager with passion and somebody whose teams play football the Manchester City way, the way we graced the 70s with.
So let’s all get behind KK and the team, they need us as much as we need them, if we can do this for each other then in the words of the song by D-ream “Things can only get better”. We will overcome this wobble, it might not be next week but it will start to happen soon, we cannot carry on playing like we have done in the past few weeks and not survive.
A rollercoaster ride of emotion is all I can describe supporting City as, no other team has been through so much upheaval and still kept the fantastic loyal support of its fans.
We are the best, so come on!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #998 on