It’s been a long journey to being Blue. I had the misfortune to grow up in Hartlepool and the first memory I have is of the guy next door giving us Hartlepool United junior kit. Didn’t mean much to me at the time but years later I was told it was Gus MacLean (McLean?), the Hartlepool manager. Seems the guy who lived there (and was the manager) before him (I don’t remember him) was a certain fellow by the name of Brian Clough! In fact I think Peter Taylor and Les Gray (H’pool and Derby ‘keeper) lived opposite too. Such is my brush with greatness <ahem>
Anyway, this kit got me into football and I started playing and watching. A year or two later, Chelsea and Leeds are all the rage (70 Cup Final etc.) and I start as a Chelsea fan before quickly following Leeds (days of Alan Clark, Lorimer etc.). However, my Leeds infatuation only lasted a while and was probably more to do with our school team running away with the town league and being compared to Leeds in the process, than any true allegiance.
Growing up in Hartlepool is weird, in more ways than one, but there is no natural club to follow. Of course everyone keeps tabs on the local team but it is more the vicarious thrill of watching the clean up of a major traffic accident, than any true support. ‘Boro, Sunderland and Newcastle are fairly close, and close enough to celebrate a victory over Leeds in a Cup Final (Ian Porterfield anyone?) yet also close enough to be “rivals” in a weird way. So most kids support one of the big clubs. My brother decided it was Liverpool for him and has followed them ever since. Interestingly Man. Utd. were not one of the main choices, even with Best et al, but rather Chelsea, Leeds, Liverpool and the odd (very odd) Wolves or Arsenal fan.
Being the bloody minded sort I was not particularly drawn to being a true fan of these teams even though I enjoyed watching them. And so I came not to City but to Crystal Palace. I have no idea what drew me to them, although their giant killing run of ’76 was probably it. Malcolm Allison was around at the time. And so Palace it was. I got the kit (couple of them) and followed them through thick and thin. And I had to have a very thick skin because lo and behold Palace draw Hartlepool in the 3rd round of the Cup, at ‘Pool! I somehow manage to get tickets and watch in horror as lowly ‘Pool kicks Palace’s butt for a 2-1 victory. Place goes nuts. You have no concept of what it was like for me at school the following week, although going down in flames on the Hindenberg is probably close. “Oh the humanity!”
No, that didn’t turn me away from Palace, in fact it made my commitment deeper and I have followed them since. However, in the mid 70’s various things happened around City. Dennis Tueart, one of my favourite players left Sunderland for City, Allison was around I seem to remember and most importantly my grandfather gave me a book. I’ve never found a City fan to this day who knows the name of the book. It was a hardcover history of City but each chapter was about a player rather than a specific team etc. Bert T was given a lot of coverage of course and I really got a sense of the history of the club. Anyone have any idea what that book was? Rumour has it that it is in my mother’s attic but I’m about 6,000 miles from that! So really I was Majoring in Palace and Minoring in City, if you get the idea. That book more than anything started my love of City. Just the flavour of the club and the history, especially the 50’s.
Comes 1981 I get on a plane for the US and have been here ever since. I live in Windsor, California (but hey, our Castles don’t burn down) which makes a nice change from ‘sunny’ Hartlepool. And so, although I hate to admit it I lost touch with the UK game. You probably all remember that your school year had one snotty-nosed kid who could tell you not only who won the cup final in ’33, but who scored the goals and the name of the guy’s mother. Well yes, you guessed it, that was me. I followed, and still do, just about every sport. Once I got over to these shores I became enthralled by Baseball, US style Football, Ice Hockey and Basketball. Baseball in particular has a sense of history about it that is very similar to the stories of the old teams. Just as old timers would whistfully remember Stanley Matthews, Danny Blanchflower, Duncan Edwards (yeah he was a Man U player, but still the best we have ever seen), and the great teams of the 20’s and 30’s, so I would hear stories of Rogers Hornsby, Jimmy Foxx, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. For those who love the old stories in football, I would recommend that if you ever get the opportunity, read the stories of old time baseball. Something magical in both.
Anyway I digress and prattling on, as is my wont. So for about 15 years I didn’t really keep track of Football at all. And then a couple of years ago I started to follow occasional bits of information online. I found, much to my shagrin that my overall tendency to follow a sport in its entirity rather than concentrate on one club had now transferred back to football and while I kept track of Palace, it just wasn’t the same. Like a girl you knew many years ago and have that same image, yet time has passed you both by.
So really I wasn’t following anyone until last season when Man City started to go through their trials and tribulations and there suddenly it was back. I had a team I wanted to support, to follow, to try to arrange my next business trip to the UK around a Maine Road home game. Strange, but there it was. And so I joined the suffering ranks as the season wound to an end. Last game of the season and I was online frantically keeping track of each goal scored. Alas it was not to be and we find City in the old 3rd Division. And yet, City gains another fan. As I said, strange but it feels right. So no, I’m not a City fan from my boyhood days and no I don’t remember some near religous experience centred around Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee (I was going to say Joe Corrigan but I couldn’t remember how to spell it!).
But as one of the other City fans said to me: “Well at least no one can claim you jumped on the bandwagon.”
And so that is why after being dark blue, white and having funny maroon bits all over me, I’m now Blue.
Frank Swift together with two elder brothers who were Reds. I didn’t need any other reasons!
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #427 on