I originally wrote this for the current edition of King of The Kippax (No 148) and would like to share it with McV.
I am 44 years old and have been actively watching City since 1972. One of my first cogent memories is of my dad running around outside our house in Germany, bottle of ‘Newcie Brown’ in hand as the news of the win at St James’ Park came through. Probably unusually, my dad’s family was half Red, half Blue. I was ‘lucky’ enough to be brought up the right way I suppose. As we went on to win the FA Cup I got more involved and by the time of the West Brom League Cup triumph I was hooked.
We returned to England in 1972 and I have early memories of City being a big club, regularly beating United, whilst still managing to get beaten by teams like 2nd Division Forest in the Cup of course, having players in every England (and Scotland) squad for a decade, Maine Road being a place teams feared to play at, ah halcyon days!
The 1975-1978 period was a golden era for me. What a team. We went away and played 3 or 4 forwards as often as not. Royle, Tueart, Barnes, Kidd up front, Doyle and Watson at centre half, Asa in midfield, big Joe in goal. The full backs weren’t shabby either. I expected us to win every week. The end began when Malcolm returned and systematically dismantled the team. The 80’s and 90’s were a procession of mediocre seasons followed by poor seasons, there were more false dawns at City than the number of zeroes on Premier League players’ pay cheques. It did not seem to matter, the football experience has always been about more than following a winning team.
The vast majority of my time as a Blue has been spent as a season ticket holder, first standing on the Kippax (oh happy days) then in the Main Stand, the new Kippax and now in the East Stand.
My love affair with City in particular and the Premier League in general will end at home to United. Why? Well, in no particular order:
- A season ticket guarantees entrance but not if the changed kick off times mean I cannot get there. Work travel commitments often make Sunday kick offs impossible and Monday evenings very difficult. We’ve even had an 11:30 on a Sunday morning!
- The most important spectator for a club is the TV fan. People who actually attend are low on the priority list. Hmmmmmm, “City away at Norwich. I know, let’s play it on a Monday. Only a 10 hour round trip. I’m sure a day off work and getting to bed at 2 am won’t be too much trouble”. I’ve lost count of the number of games I’ve missed because the times have moved. Some of us have to plan our lives more than 4 weeks ahead. We’ve all booked holidays, flights etc. only to see plans screwed up by a date change.
- Atmosphere is gone thanks to all seated stadia. Big clubs need to tell HMG where to go. Why can I stand up at COMS for an Oasis gig but not for a match? Why are clubs totally uninterested in bringing in safe standing? It can only be money. Why can I stand in many away ends but not at home? If the Germans can manage safe standing so can we. Many people I speak to would actually pay more to stand.
- Today’s players are completely out of touch with the fans. They only go out to VIP clubs and are protected from us by chains and bouncers. That’s if us plebs are allowed in the first place. God forbid that one of them had to actually talk to one of us. City, for example, have restricted (banned?) players from attending supporters’ club meetings. City now charge £50 for a signed shirt even for charities. As recently as the early 90’s players would always appear in the social club, stand a round or two and sign programmes etc. There are exceptions I’m sure but generally the players are aloof and in a different world.
- Only 3 or 4 clubs will ever win the league again. I know that City have only been a major force for a 10 year period but we have won the league in my lifetime as have Villa, Forest, Everton, Derby, Blackburn, Ipswich and Leeds. There are effectively 16 clubs that are little more than cannon fodder for the big 3 or 4.
- The gap between top 3 or 4 is getting bigger and bigger. Success is rewarded with more money, which brings more success etc. Manchester United are nearly 30 points off teams from 8th down. There did not used to be 30 points between top and bottom. How is the game strengthened by giving the already powerful clubs even more money?
- Players earn obscene amounts of money. An average player earns in a week what the average worker/fan earns in a year. 20 year old average players drive £150,000 cars and are millionaires after a couple of years. I run a company, I earn good money, I believe in a free market. I don’t blame the players for taking what is on offer, I just think what’s on offer is wrong. 22 man squads and a £30 million total wage bill might level the playing field.
- Too much football on TV. A live game at 5:30 on a Saturday, for me the most acceptable time for a TV game, and maybe one at 3pm on a Sunday is enough.
- Too many cheats. Not enough action taken against them… unless of course you’re Bernado Corradi. How Ronaldo can even be considered as player of the year is beyond me. He is a cheat.
- Refs have never been perfect but the current bias towards big teams is ridiculous. City fans have always had reasons for believing that United get more than their fair share of the rub of green but with the Sky Blue glasses nowhere in sight I know that Chelsea and Arsenal get decisions that e.g. City, Everton, Spurs, Villa and this week, Wigan do not. How did Scholes stay on the pitch against Spurs? 5 bookable offence in a single game. Barton never gets a chance to commit 5 fouls, he’s sent off after 2. Rooney lunges 2 footed and stays on the pitch, Barton lunges and he’s off.
- The league is a foregone conclusion and the cups are going the same way. One of the big 3 or 4 will win the FA and League cups for 8 out of the next 10 years. I laughed for years at Scottish football, well the laugh’s now on me.
- Rich clubs buy players and do not use them, further weakening the smaller clubs. SWP is a case in point.
- Expensive, middle of the road quality food and expensive, big brand, zero taste beer in the ground. Why no Manchester beer, no Manchester food?
- Too many journeyman foreigners in the team. Too many journeymen foreigners in the league. Dabo, Musampa, Riera, etc. Does anyone believe they give a monkeys? Here for the coin and nothing else.
- No continuity in the team. It is 5 out and 5 in most summers. It’s hard to get behind a team when half of it changes every year.
- The Sky money should be spread around more. Some should go to the smaller clubs and youth development. Some should be used to reduce ticket prices.
As you may have deduced, I will not be renewing. It is possible that I’ll not even bother going to City again after this season unless some of the above changes. I love football, I am a City fan but my game has been taken away from me and my team are irrelevant. Unfortunately I think this is true of every club bar United, Arsenal, Chelsea (until Abramovich leaves) and Liverpool.
Stalybridge Celtic, Mossley and maybe Rochdale, Bury etc. will get my hard earned cash. I can turn up at 2 pm, have a beer in the social club or a local boozer, talk to some fans (home and away), eat a decent pie, pay on the gate, watch 22 players play a game free of diving and be home for 6 (remember when it was like this?). It won’t be City, there will be none of the ecstasy and agony of being a partisan supporter but this is outweighed by the good side.
There are some positives coming from the club. City’s £95 junior season ticket is to be applauded but it changes none of the above.
I hope something changes, I suspect it won’t. The vision of COMS with 25,000 in every week, except for when United visit, is going to come true some time soon. The club and all middle ranking clubs have to wake up or we will be just like every other league in Europe, a handful of clubs that can win something and a handful of clubs with full grounds. How much will Sky pay to broadcast games from 1/2 empty stadia?
I have thought about starting an Internet campaign to try to get our game back. The problem is that the only people who are really bothered about the state of the game are those of us who can remember what it was like pre-Premier League. If it was actually possible to get a nationwide boycott of all games on a single weekend just to show what the game would be like without us, maybe some of the clubs would wake up. As the recent boycott at Bolton showed, however, it is not possible to get people not to go. I have a dream of everyone turning up at the ground as normal but spending the whole 90 minutes outside the stadium, a demonstration of positive commitment to make a real point. It will never happen of course but imagine the impact.
None of the above mentions the fact that the football is stultifyingly c**p. It would be nice if we played open, flowing, attacking football and if the opposition tried to do the same of course but the quality of football is not the reason I’m sick to death of the Premier League in general and City in particular.
Will MCFC give a t**s if I don’t renew? I doubt it. My seat is in the 2nd tier of the East stand, 5 seats to the right of the corporate seats, it will be snapped up in an instant.
[Agree entirely on the nationwide boycott idea, Mike. The recent slashing of season ticket prices, and longer renewal dates, by some clubs makes me think that City have missed a trick here in persuading a lot to renew – Ed]
City ’til I Die
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #1307 on
Mike Strahand-The Blue Doctor