Because my dad was Blue, that’s why.
Sorry to be unoriginal but that seems to be the normal route to addiction and I was no different. It would have been easier to follow the other lot, as everyone else in my class seemed to support them. However, if City were my dad’s team, then what else could I do?
For the success starved “youngsters” reading this, I have to admit early on that my first memory of going to Maine Road was in or about 1955. My dad was about 5’5″ and I at the time was obviously, as an 8-year-old, even smaller. Because of the huge crowds prevalent in those days, we used to arrive at about 11-30am to be first or second in the queue at the scoreboard end, where there would be a number of similarly “vertically challenged” fans waiting for the gates to open at 12-00. At one minute past, there would be a great rush of smallish people fighting for a place at the top of the tunnel at the side of the terracing from where there was an uninterrupted view of the pitch. At 5 past, we would all be staked out in our positions and I remember thinking, “what now?” as there were then 2 hours and 55 minutes to wait for the kick off! Can you imagine it today? Now, my mate Paul and I have it off to a fine art – into the Royal Oak in Didsbury for a couple of soft drinks, leave about 2-15 – park up and enter the Kippax at about 2-50 ready for the fun and games (fully anaesthetised to make it tolerable). Bear in mind that the scoreboard end was uncovered and there were obviously some days when the Manchester weather was not great. After a couple of hours or so, there was some excitement when the Beswick Silver prize band started the afternoon’s entertainment and people used to listen to and applaud each piece, including the vocal item by a lady whose name I forget. Again, what a difference to today where the loudspeakers throw out some sort of mind numbing c**p aimed presumably at teenagers who know no better! Do they think anybody really wants to listen? Then there’s that high pitched woman who bellows down the microphone! Another reason for not arriving ’til just before kick off.
Back to the 50’s – one of the things I remember was the good natured banter between the home and away fans who were all mixed up together. Those were the days. Then there was the time when I came home from work at 2-00pm to find that my dad had set up my lunch in front of the telly so that we could watch City play Birmingham in the cup final. In case you are wondering, Yes, I was still 8 and used to spend all morning “helping the milkman” after which, if he had managed to fiddle enough bills, I might get 2/6d in real money for my troubles. Life was great in Wythenshawe in those days — “we were so poor etc”. We won that game and wasn’t it our second final on the trot, having lost to Newcastle the previous year. Imagine that you youngies, 2 cup finals in 2 years! Spoilt only by the fact that I think the Rags then did the same the next two years?
Time went on – I was so fortunate to have seen the great days of the 60’s. I was sent by ICI to live in Hertfordshire (where?), but got home quite often, but only when City were at home. Came the great day when we needed to beat Newcastle to win the League, I drove back from the South on Friday night (pre M6 midlands link if I remember – usual horrendous traffic on the A5) and arrived late. Went to bed at some ungodly hour only to be woken by dad very early so that we could hit the road to Newcastle. What a day though – it doesn’t happen often if you are a City supporter but is the stuff of dreams. I’ll never forget driving home down the A1 past hundreds of happy, smiling City cars and coaches all sounding their horns. I still have a lump of (dead) grass sealed under a bit of sellotape, taken from Newcastle’s pitch at the end of the game! I wasn’t the only one digging if I remember! Perhaps I could offer it to Maine Road for the trophy room?
One of the great mysteries of all time to me is the lack of programmes on TV dedicated to the greatest player I’ll ever have seen, bar none. There are loads of retrospectives about Lee, Summerbee, B**t, Char***n, Law, but I don’t ever remember seeing a whole programme dedicated to Mr Bell – the king. I feel sorry for all the under 30’s who never had the privilege of seeing him week in, week out. I was there the day he came on as a 2nd half sub (against Spurs?) after his horrendous injury – I have never seen so many grown up people wiping tears from their eyes. Colin was carried along the pitch by a huge tide of emotion. I have never experienced anything like it and probably never will. Are there any TV producers out there? Why not do it?
Back to reality though – are we really in the old 3rd Division fighting for a play off place? Are we really throwing points away week after week at home to nondescript teams? Yes we are and how do I know? Because once a Blue always a Blue and I am there every game with the rest of you – sometimes elated – usually frustrated – but knowing that when we finally lift the European Cup (!) it will all have been worth it. I’ll probably be able to wave my pension book in the air with glee.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #486 on