The Day I Became a Blue
There was absolutely no logic in how I became a Manchester City football fan; but then again, is there ever?
It was April 1945. The war was coming to an end and I was settling down in my third year at Sale Grammar School. I lived with my mother in Sale and my father was working with the BBC in the south, monitoring foreign broadcasts.
I hated school; although quite bright, I was lazy and got terrible reports but managed reasonable exam results. I was mediocre in everything I did. Never made the school first cricket or rugby teams but captained the seconds. Hated cross-country running but always finished in the middle of the pack; and so on. I was small and in rugby there was only room for two little ones in a team, consequently I turned to football and could hold my own in the park games that we tried to organise. I had plenty of friends and we were never in. Saturdays and Sundays we would be out from morning to night and nobody worried; how different from today.
Professional football was played but seldom talked about. The media consisted of the Manchester Evening News and Chronicle and football got an occasional mention on the radio; BBC only, of-course; independent radio or television had not yet been thought of. The cinema was the main form of entertainment and the accompanying newsreel occasionally referred to football giants such as Matthews, Lawton or Swift, without really mentioning the teams to whom they belonged. Hence I didn’t even know that Manchester had two teams. My family had no interest whatsoever in sport so they were not much help either.
I was seldom alone but, when I was, I couldn’t bear to stay home and used to buy an all day ticket and travel from terminus to terminus on the bus, always sitting on the front seat upstairs and following the route on the A-Z map of Manchester, which I probably got to know better than most of the taxi drivers. On Easter Monday, the 2nd April 1945, I got on a number 50 bus and settled down in my usual seat. As we proceeded down Princess Parkway, I noted more and more people walking towards what my map showed to be a football stadium. Being curious, I alighted, joined the throng and decided to experience my first football match.
The Manchester United pitch, at Old Trafford, had been destroyed by a landmine a couple of years earlier so they shared Maine Road with their rivals, Manchester City. Programmes were sold outside the ground with the first sellers being already at the Princess Road bus stops. I handed over my one (old) penny to discover that it was City who would be playing and made my way to Maine Road. I treated myself to a seat and climbed the main stand to the top and got my first view of the ground. Never having been to any form of stadium before, it seemed enormous. The headlines of the programme, “Stockport’s Advantage”, should have warned me that this was the beginning of the end; it was, we lost 1-5!
Now, after 60 years and countless games, I still get inspiration from this first match. We got thrashed but I was back the next week and, most important of all, I thank heaven that it was City at home: I might have ended up a Red!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #1084 on