As a nice north-west London Jewish middle class kid, growing up in the 1970’s, supporting a football team was not a very encouraged activity. To watch Middlesex play at Lords, maybe. To consume large amounts of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, perhaps. To begin to prepare for Bar exams or medical qualifications, absolutely! But to follow the fortunes of a football team – never!
At my Bristol based Public School, football was a wet and cold afternoon trying to pump a half deflated ball into the net, against an equally cold and wet keeper, whose only thoughts were on visiting the tuck shop on the return to school.
My liberation into the world of football, and the “delights” of Manchester City, began when I moved to Manchester to begin my degree at the University in 1988. Free at last from the confines of the North Circular Road, I moved into a student house in Newlyn Street, not more than 200 metres from the Kippax.
It was one Saturday afternoon, a few weeks into term, when I began to notice streams of strange people flowing down our street wrapped in blue scarves carrying large inflatable yellow bananas. As we had nothing to do until the evening, a few of us decided to follow the bananas to Maine Road, pay up, and watch City lose in a game that lacked vision, skill and excitement. I knew from then on that I had entered a relationship that would last for a very long time.
When people ask me today why I chose City and not United, I always claim geographical convenience as a response. But I suppose in truth, there are other reasons. Being Jewish is certainly one of them. City are the alleged minority, picked on without remorse by scoffing United fans. City fans are loyal to the extreme and often seem enclosed into a world of their own. On any one issue, City fans will have a thousand opinions. And most important of all, City fans have a great sense of humour, evolved from years of being seen as the lesser team in Manchester.
Like a born agian Christian (which, in my case, is probably not the best analogy), I embraced Manchester City as if I had been a loyal fan from Summerbee senior to Summerbee junior. I was straight down the City shop to buy my first of many City shirts, scarf, flag and team poster, and felt like a 10 year old collecting soccer stickers to swap at school!
Newlyn Street was also one of the roads that connected Maine Road with the Platt Lane training ground, and on many a cold winter morning the majestic head of Niall Quinn would glide past our window on its way to the training ground.
As a “new” fan, I had to prove my credentials to many friends in Manchester who were lucky enough to have been born into a City supporting family, and had watched the boys since they were one month old. Nights of Student parties were replaced by watching tedious B team games, or even standing at Platt Lane watching Alan Harper and Adrian Heath pretend to be quality football players.
Over the next few years, I watched the comings and goings at City. The exit of Machin, Kendall (who I nearly had a car crash with on the day of his departure to Everton), and Reid. The criminal selling of Michael Hughes, the sad injuries of Paul Lake, the lazy runs of David White, the magnificent arrival of Tony Coton, the bursts of speed of Terry Phelan, the FA Cup quarter-final aggro with Spurs, the end of the Kippax, the erection of the new “whateveritscalled” stand, and the creation of the most revolting away Kit in football history.
A few of us soon found a regular place in the Kippax and began to travel to most of the away games across the country. Unfortunately, all good things have to end, and in 1991 I graduated (having found some time to squeeze some work in) and returned to London.
Since then I have still tried to get to Manchester whenever I can. I always go up for the United-City games, and try to get to all fixtures within a 100 mile radius of London. Unfortunately my job (I work for an MP) is very demanding and I cannot get to all the games I would like to. As I do not have a season ticket and with the ground restrictions presently in force, to get a ticket these days is like having to steal the crown jewels. Luckily I have struck up a very good relationship with a lady in the ticket office, but I still cannot get to the Palace game on the 11th January.
So, if you are lucky enough to be there on the 11th and you see a rather unfit bloke in a 1988 City home shirt climbing on to the roof of the Sainsbury’s next to Selhurst Park, you will know who it is!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #35 on