Les Saul

Why Blue?

I was born a Manchester City supporter, my father was one of four brothers who were all City supporters. The eldest brother married a Liverpool girl and went to live in Liverpool; he supported Everton because they played in blue.

My first memory of being a City supporter was listening to the 1934 Cup Final on the wireless with my mother; my father had gone to Wembley obviously. City went a goal down to Portsmouth and then their centre forward got injured and was taken off; there were no substitutes in those days, Freddie Tilson scored two goals and won the cup 2-1. The next morning when I got up there was a celluloid doll on the table it was dressed in blue and white feathers; my Father had brought it home as a souvenir – that was about the limit regarding souvenirs in those days.

The first game that I saw was in 1938, City were at home to Nottingham Forest and I was in the boys’ corner at the back of the Platt Lane Stand. I can’t remember the result but the season finished in typical City fashion, they were relegated after winning the First Division Championship the previous season.

The 1939 League programme was cancelled due to the War starting and there were two leagues, Football Leagues North and South. City achieved very little during the War years as most of City’s players were in the forces. I used to go and watch City reserves play at the Cliff; this was United’s training ground, the reason being that their ground was bombed and they played at Maine Road.

After the war City reserves played at Old Trafford. I would go and watch them when there was no game at Maine Road. When the League programme started after the War, City were in the Second Division and United were in the First. I used to go nearly every week. One week City, the next week United. Most City supporters did this but their supporters only went to watch them; that’s why they had bigger crowds at Maine Road and when they went back to Old Trafford they took their supporters and also quite a few of the City supporters.

I first joined the Supporters’ Club at the beginning of 1948. There was only one Branch and it was situated at the R.A.O.B. Club in Grafton St. Later on in 1948 a Hightown Branch was formed at the Waterloo Hotel on Waterloo Road Hightown. I joined this branch as it was closer to where I lived. I have a photo taken at the hotel on the 26th April 1949 of a farewell party held for probably one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers, Frank Swift. Unfortunately Frank Swift perished at the Munich Disaster, he was then a football correspondent for a national newspaper.

We then had to wait until 1955 before we sensed success by getting to Wembley for the Cup Final. We lost this game to Newcastle by 3-1. We lost our full back Jimmy Meadows early in the game and as there were no substitutes then we played most of the game with ten men. What I would like to mention is how we obtained tickets for this game. The Club announced that tickets would be on sale on a Sunday morning at 9am about 2 weeks before the Final. On the Saturday before City were at home. So straight after the match at about 5pm, myself and three friends got in the queue outside the ground and waited throughout the night until the ticket office opened on Sunday morning. We got our tickets and they cost 3/6d which is about 17p now. We went down to London on the Friday midnight train and arrived in London at 3-30am wandering around London until we left for Wembley at lunchtime.

We managed to reach the Cup Final again in 1956, but this time the Club had started a voucher scheme; this entailed having vouchers printed in each home programme. To obtain a ticket for the Final you had to send so many vouchers; this worked quite well as it meant that you didn’t have to queue up. After the success of this system most other top clubs followed. Well we managed to win this time beating Birmingham 3-1; even though Bert Trautmann broke his neck during the game he didn’t realize this and played on until the finish. He was told the next day that if he had got another knock on it he could have died.

After this short spell of success City went into another few years of despair, that was until the 1965/66 season when City had been in the Second Division for three years and they appointed Joe Mercer as manager and Malcolm Allison as his assistant. At this time I and a few other City supporters decided to open a branch of the Supporters’ Club. I had now moved to Middleton and was a member of the Langley Labour Club. We opened the branch in April 1966 and I was the Secretary. We called it the Middleton branch and is still going strong. We are hoping to have a 30 years Dinner some time this year, even though it will be 30+.

One of the original members of the branch is Bob Young who runs the Supporters’ Club site on the Internet. He was only 15 then. With the arrival of Joe and Malcolm success followed, in 1966 we were promoted to the First Division. 1968 we won the First Division title and one of the most memorable days of my life happened. We had to play Newcastle United away and win to make sure we would be Champions, the team next to us was M.U. and there were 20 thousand City supporters present. There was a continuous stream of traffic with City colours going up the A1. Well we won a nail biting game 4-3. After the game we went on the pitch to cheer the team and management, my father picked up a piece of grass took it home and planted it in our garden and, it’s still there.

In 1969 we won the F.A. Cup, 1970 we won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. We hired a mini-bus to go to Vienna and there were nine of us to see City win the Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Gornik 2-1. It was a beautiful sunny evening when the game started at the Prater Stadium but at half-time the heavens opened and we all got soaked because at that time there was no cover at all. After we got back from Vienna I put up as Chairman of the Supporters’ Club and was elected; I have held the position since and this is my 27th year.

I have travelled all over Britain and Ireland visiting new branches and members. I have been to Dublin and Galway in the Republic, Gilford, Coleraine and Belfast in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man. We have 40 branches at present all over the world and about 8 applications for new branches. When we open new branches the officials of the Supporters’ Club and representatives of the Football Club plus a couple of ex-players come along. I have mentioned my father a number of times; he died in 1980 when he was 80. He watched City until a few years before his death.

I was married but only for a few years. I never had any children, my late sister had 4 boys and 2 girls and I’m pleased to say that they are all City fanatics. I used to take them to Maine Road when they were young and bought them season tickets, so I feel that I have played my part in supporting the Blues. By the way they have 11 children between them and they are all City through and through. Personal memories over the years, some good, some not so good. In the 50s I went to see City play at Doncaster, Peter Doherty was the player-manager. City started off like a house on fire and were 3 up at half-time; we were wondering how many they could bang in the second half, but City never fail to surprise and before long Doncaster had equalised – just before the end Doncaster scored a fourth and City lost. In the second half Peter Doherty had really turned it on and had shown what a great player he had been.

In January 1948, in what had been one of the worst winters in living memory, City had a cup-tie at Birmingham City. I went with my father on a supporters’ club coach from Piccadilly bus station; there were six coaches altogether. We left at 9.30am; in those days with no motorways the journey would take about two and a half hours but due to the snow on the roads it took us 6 hours and we arrived just before half time. We dashed off the coach outside the ground and into the ground as the referee blew for half-time. The terraces were open with no cover, so they were covered in ice; we kept on sliding up and down as we tried to watch the match. The result? City lost 5-0. When we got outside we couldn’t find our coach so we had to travel back on another one which was full up so we had to stand all the way back and it took us 7 hours to get back.

During City’s cup run in 1955, I had to go into hospital to have my appendix taken out. City were drawn at Luton, I went in to have the operation, I was in for a week and came out on the Tuesday as the cup-tie was on the Saturday. Despite being advised not to go to the match I did; it was played in a blizzard and the referee had to stop the match every so often so that the lines could be cleared of snow. This time City won 2-0. When City signed Denis Law for a record fee of