John Walsh

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Why Blue?

After reading and enjoying so many Why Blue contributions in MCIVTA over the years I decided to make my own small contribution during the annual slow period. Born in a typical terraced 2 up 2 down 300 yards from Bernard Manning’s Embassy club, I can’t remember seeing or knowing anybody of the Red persuasion in the 60s or 70s in Harpurhey. I do have vivid memories though of dozens of kids playing games of footie, kick can, and rally-o in the streets and back alleys, or making aeroplanes from lollipop sticks and sticky black tarmac on hot summer days while enjoying a frozen jumbly wumbly from the corner shop (7-11s were not a part of the urban landscape for a few more years yet). Another vivid memory would be watching more than a few City games with my dad and older brother on Sundays, the streets being deserted of kids as they were all the doing the same thing and starting a lifelong love affair with a club that would provide them with a rollercoaster ride for the rest of their lives.

At some point in the mid 70s, my parents made the decision to move the family out to the leafy suburb of Chadderton in between Middleton and Oldham. Their decision to move from their home for the last dozen years and the community surrounding it was assisted in no small part by the all knowing council, in order to be replaced by brand new council houses that were guaranteed to look like s***e in less than a decade. In Chadderton our impromptu games of footie were played on stunningly beautiful and numerous grass fields with real goals and marked fields. There were not too many grass fields in central Manchester and these made a huge impression on me and our kid at the time. We also came across other new and even stranger sights, and I’m not just talking about kids trying to play footie in standard Oldham Council issued clogs and flat caps along with the dark blue Latics shirts but an odder and even more comical breed wearing red shirts and pretending they were people called Bestie and Booby Charlton.

A few years later, after listening to my older brother regale me of his adventures at Maine Road, I finally pestered my dad into taking me to games, starting in the 75/76 season. Tony Book had an excellent footballing side that seemed to be the bookies’ favourites to win the league at the start of the next few seasons. Dave Watson, Peter Barnes, Dennis Tueart, Willie Donachie, Asa Hartford, Joe Corrigan and later Brian Kidd being my favourites of the time. We first started going in the Kippax; the noise, the banter and having to fight your way through the crowds were a huge part of the attraction. Later on, my dad would get tickets for the Main Stand through a mate at work who happened to be Ged Keegan’s father. While this would seem a nice benefit to most folks, to myself as an 11 year old it was a bad move for two reasons.

  1. The atmosphere in the Main stand was definitely more gentrified and not as exciting as the Kippax.
  2. My dad would always insist that I had to get a haircut before the game. Of course it was never a regular trimming but always a short back and sides guaranteed to make sure the girls at school would never give me a second look.

Later on, 6 years in the RAF introduced me to travelling to City away games, usually in or around London, and meeting people who upon hearing I was from Manchester professed how they supported United despite coming from towns such as Derby, Cheltenham, Bognor Regis or the like.

During my stint in the RAF I met a stunning blonde beauty from Chicago and since August of 1989 I’ve lived in the US. My prospective in-laws could not understand why I was getting so many phone calls from friends in the UK leaving messages about City beating the future Manchester Buccaneers by the score of 5-1. In Feb/March of 1993 on a trip back home to visit the family, I brought my wife to Maine Road to experience a game first hand. City were playing Spurs and we conceded 2 goals within 20 minutes; naturally enough my wife was not too reassured by my comments that there was plenty of time to turn it around. It was interesting to see the main target for our resident malcontent boo boys that day was Niall Quinn, until later on of course when we won the game 3-2 thanks in no small part to Quinn’s non-stop efforts on and off the ball.

The last game I was able to attend was the away game at Wolves at the end of the 2001/02 season; whoever won that game would assume first place and be almost certain of automatic promotion to the Premiership. In talking to fans around me it was amazing to meet others who had flown in from Singapore, Thailand, and the Caribbean to see their beloved Blues. It was very reassuring to see I was not alone in my long distance sickness/ affliction and love of the same club that has caused us so little joy in the last 40 years and yet so much pain and sorrow that if we were married to MCFC we would have won an uncontested divorce on the grounds of neglect and mental cruelty long ago.

In keeping in touch with my parents over the years, the flow of conversation with my mam was always non-stop; as soon as the discussion on one topic was concluded, another one would come along and take its place in an instant with hardly any pause or time to catch your breath, just as it does for most offspring around the globe when having a usually one-sided conversation with your mother. With my dad on the other hand, the opposite was true: after the usual questions of how are you, the family and the job doing, which was usually a short response of doing good… how about you and yours, there was then usually very little else to talk about. The one exception in our struggle to find something with which to communicate and connect with one another was of course City.

My dad passed away last July and whenever we talked on the phone or on my rare trips back home, the first topic of conversation was always City. How they were doing, why were they doing so badly or in more recent years why they were doing so well. Regardless of City’s fortunes at the time, we were always able to rely on a common thread for us to communicate along and maintain some level of continuity, despite the separation of several thousand miles.

While I am slowly indoctrinating my daughter, my son was bitten by the City bug several years ago and still remembers flying back to see City win 2-1 vs. WBA at the end of 1999/00 season at the ripe old age of 4 years. Although, on my advice, he has also adopted a second club with more resources than ourselves in order to help balance the sorrow and dashed hopes with some joy and success. Two years ago, assisted by another resident ex-pat from Shepherds Bush, he chose Chelsea as his second team but his first team is still City and we both look forward to our first trip to the CoM Stadium in the future and regardless of what division we will find ourselves in, or the result that day, we’ll still be singing: Blue Moon, I saw you Standing Alone…

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #1137 on

2005/07/11

John Walsh


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