Though I was born in Penketh, then in Lancashire, my father secured a job in Bimingham and we headed “South” in 1963 when I was five, to live in a suburb of Birmingham, Kings Norton. We were only there for nine months before we moved a further eleven miles south to the picturesque Worcestershire village of Alvechurch, which was to be my home for the next fifteen years. My mother was from Salford and my father from Chorlton-cum-Hardy. Though neither had a keen interest in football, my mother remembers walking with my grandad, a true Blue, from Salford to Maine Road on Saturdays to see the likes of Bert Trautmann and Frank Swift. With my mum’s brother, uncle Colin supporting City, my faith was decided.
In the 1960’s my interest in football grew with the success of our village, Midland Combination team, Alvechurch, in the F.A. Amateur Cup, which culminated with a trip to London to the 1965 (?) semi-final at Stamford Bridge against Wealdstone. Alvechurch lost 1-0, after Paul Cocking missed a penalty early in the first half.
As was the fashion then, tea companies had pictures of footballers on the back of packets, and my grandad secured me a collection of colour photographs of Manchester City players, complete with sky blue and white rosettes. I was now a City supporter. Throughout the sixties my grandparents sent me City cuttings from the Manchester Evening News and the Football Pink with my weekly comic, The Beano. Though I played football in the amber and black of Alvechurch, I was now a true Blue. Though it was okay to be an Alvechurch supporter at junior school, you had to support a first division team at senior school. With my City lapel badge proudly attached to my new blazer, I was dispatched in September 1969 to boarding school in Stourbridge, Worcestershire about twenty five miles away.
This was in the heart of the Black Country and most of the day boys were either Wolves or West Brom. supporters. Though there was one day boy on my form with a real strange accent who supported Millwall! Christ knows where that was? City had won the F.A. Cup the season before I started at Old Swinford and were embarking on a European Cup Winners’ Cup campaign that season, which only heightened my interest.
It seemed that the whole school was in the TV room at 4.40 on Saturdays to see the results on Grandstand, with regular cheering and booing depending on who had won. My group of friends supported a wide range of clubs: Dean was a Spurs supporter though he was from Birmingham, I think it was after the 1961 double when he was five, a forerunner to a modern day “Rag” supporter, David Price supported Leeds, his family was from Yorkshire and his uncle wrote the scripts for Morecambe and Wise. He used to emulate Norman “Bite your legs” Hunter in both house and school matches and he was sent off on numerous occasions. The strangest was Nigel Kirk, he supported Swindon, having been born there! They were in the fourth division and never beat, or even played our teams. I did have a soft spot for them after I found out that Mike Summerbee had moved to City from them. Others supported Liverpool and Derby County. There wasn’t a Rag in sight in my year, or is it just my memory fading?
Every Saturday night we had the ‘latest’ feature film shown in the main hall. The ritual was, after the evening meal, to change into your ‘civvies’, 70’s flares and congregate in the table tennis, locker and TV rooms outside the hall with your copy of the Sports Argus, which confirmed that the result on Grandstand or World of Sport was true. My ideal Saturday was a City and Alvechurch win, a good film and next day being an ‘Out Sunday’. These were two Sundays a term either side of half term when we went home for the day if you happened to be within a reasonable distance.
I remember City winning the European Cup Winners’ cup against Gornik Zabrze 2-1, beating Spurs 4-1 (?) which unfortunately was during the half-term holiday, and the result had lost its impact when I got back to school and Dean didn’t seem bothered. In fact he had discovered girls over the half term and Spurs took a poor second place.
I only saw City live a few times between 1969 and 1976. The crowd violence of the 70’s deterred my dad from taking my brother and me. We always watched Match of the Day on Saturday night and “The Big Match” of the old ATV on Sundays, but only if City was playing. In the summer of 1975 I discovered motorbikes, and I started road racing in April 1977 which dominated my life for the next 17 years. I had my helmet painted sky blue and white. In 1981 I made my Grand Prix début in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Franconchamps and continued to race abroad during the early to mid 1980’s; after racing in the UK from 1987 to 1993 I hung up leathers at the end of the 1993 season and needed something else to be fanatical about.
Though I was still ‘supporting’ City during all those years I had only been to see a few games when they played London clubs, having moved there in 1981 and only out of the racing season (November to March). The highlight was when we beat my ex’s club West Ham in a 1986 league cup match, when they were in the old first and us in the second. I remember jumping up after City scored, looking around to see the whole side of Upton Park sitting down.
At the start of the 1993/1994 I started to take a greater interest, but with now living in Hertfordshire I was still starved of information. In 1995 I discovered the Internet and MCIVTA. City web pages proliferated and I was now able to get information just as quickly as my fellow Mancunian supporters. I went to all ‘southern’ matches in 1995/96 and suffered the humiliation of the Swindon away defeat on my 39th birthday, I was working in Swindon at the time and it was Jan, my new wife, first trip to a live football match. Visiting Manchester for a family part in February of this year I returned to Maine Road for the first time in over twenty odd years for the Southend match. Jan found the atmosphere amazing and we both enjoyed the win. Since then we try to go to one home match a month and every match south of the Watford gap.
Why Blue? Keeping my grandad’s City supporting tradition alive, a connection with my parents’ home city, seeing people’s faces when the word City comes out when they were expecting the “U” word after Manchester. The optimism City generates. You convince yourself things will get better next home match (and they did) after spending over seven hours driving to Maine Road and back to see the Norwich fiasco. Going on my daily run round the Hertfordshire country side in my City Kappa shirt and getting abuse from southern Rags who’ve seen too many Liam Gallagher interviews and talk with a Mockney Manchester accent; “Supported them all my life mate, I’m mad for them.”
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #336 on