Steve Higginbottom

Why Blue?

Born in Harpurhey in 1947 to a City family, I was lucky having an older sister and brother – Joan and Keith. It meant I got to Maine Road young. At seven, seeing Charles Buchan’s postcard players in the flesh. First game was against Charlton with the two best goalies in the league – Trautmann and Bartram. Poor Sam lets in 5 and I wonder how can he be so good. One week I run on the pitch before the game to get my hero Bert’s autograph and next fortnight, unbelievably, he is standing next to me on the bus to the game. No flash cars then.

The first taste of that special exhilaration and fear when we play United. We beat them in the cup and Joan celebrates by dismantling two of Keith’s teeth with her rattle.

Going to the reserves, where we are kings of a deserted Maine Road running from Platt Lane to Scoreboard end. One day a copper stops us in the middle of Kippax and tells us to walk – why? For some reason, we always had pork pies and Oxo at the reserves. Ken Branagan’s haircut comes to mind.

There were round the block queues in the city for buses to see Stanley Matthews, who we wanted to play well, but not too well and we hoped he didn’t get kicked too hard by our big full back. Games against Bolton with Ewing and Leivers versus Higgins and Hartley – no need for a midfield here – the ball rarely getting any lower than Bobby Johnstone’s head.

Those early years have goals and players engraved in the memory forever. Jacky Milburn’s goal for Newcastle in the Cup final of ’55 and Roy Little’s despairing leap, Roy Clarke’s header in the semi-final. I can still name all the City players of the ’56 cup final – “Bless em all, bless em all, Don Revie, Bert Trautmann, Roy Paul…”.

My support was not perfect – I did stop going when we sold Dave Wagstaff and was not at the Swindon game.

Getting older and going to away games – three or four of us in my mate Allan’s old Humber – all smoking and singing to the Supremes going down the motorway. I was fearful going to Liverpool, I felt rough and crude in London, but loved the friendly pubs in Newcastle and Southampton. Poor Allan was the only driver and sometimes we would get back about midnight and head for the Andaz restaurant in Middleton for a late night curry and a few more drinks – perfect preparation for playing in the local Sunday morning pub league.

Quick forward remembering: Ken Barnes’ penalty kicks, Denis Law, Alex Harley, Allan Oakes’ left foot, Mercer & (early) Allison, Colin Bell, Newcastle 4-3, Mike Doyle, Nellie Young and Leicester 1-0, Gornik and the Prater stadium in the rain (and getting drunk on beer and schliverwitz after).

Trying to forget Poyser, the Marsden Plan, Fenerbahce and Allan Oakes’ right foot.

And so living in Melbourne for the last 34 years. Visiting Manchester every couple of years and trying to tie it in with the Blues’ fixture list. I was the lucky charm for a time, going seven years without seeing a “live” defeat, including the 5-1 drubbing of United, where my Melbourne born wife was too scared to talk and was terrified by the intensity of the fans – and we were among the City supporters. There were the five goals against Charlton to clinch promotion and then all the joy evaporating on the way home down Lloyd Street hearing the news of the Bradford fire.

I go to the Australian Rules football here in Melbourne, and superstition means I wear a City T-shirt to all the Carlton Blues’ games. Carlton have finished bottom of the league the last two years, which upsets all the fans used to success. My years following City enable me to handle it well.

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #1297 on


Steve Higginbottom