Maine Road Memories – Tales from a Manchester City Supporter

The first game I ‘almost’ attended at Maine Road was Manchester City v Newcastle United, on Saturday 4th January 1975. I was fourteen and I had been asking to go to a game for two years but I was a girl so my Mum didn’t think it was appropriate. It was okay for two of my brothers, they supported the other lot from Trafford and they got to go with their mates! It took me two years of harassment,

‘It’s not fair Mum you let them go’

‘Why do they get to go and I can’t?’

Yeah, you know what teenagers are like but my parents had split up and divorced it never occurred to me that Mum just could not afford it. [She didn’t tell me that until many years later when we talked about this game.]

It was the FA Cup third round tie but we did not know that Mum hadn’t checked and we turned up after the long journey, [2 long bus rides] from Oldham to Moss Side, to find it was an all-ticket sold-out game! Poor Mum, she did not know she had never been to a football match before and now she had two very disappointed teenagers [My cousin came with us as she was a City fan too] and a long journey home. Mum was brilliant, she knew how upset I was and two weeks later she took us back to Maine Road for the league fixture between City and Newcastle and this time she could pay at the turnstile. [Those were the days!!]

We sat on those hard wooden benches in the Platt Lane End, behind Big Joe Corrigan’s goal, gazing around this magnificent ground full to the brim with City and Newcastle fans and my lifelong love affair with this wonderful club began. To my innocent teenage eyes the spectacle of blue and white and black and white was amazing, the excitement, the songs, [‘It did not take long to learn them all] the delight when we scored with everyone jumping up and down ecstatically The game ended in a 5-1 win to City, with goals from Geoff Hammond, a hat trick from Dennis Tueart and a goal from my all-time City hero, the King Colin Bell. What wasn’t to love?

I wanted more, I did not want to go to the games with my Mum, I was fourteen and I wanted my freedom, I wanted to stand with the other City supporters. It was the only game I attended with my Mum, she left me to go with my friends and I got my wish, a season ticket for the Kippax. That’s where I discovered the City fan’s humour, always that incredible, self-deprecating gallows humour because City fans knew how to enjoy what they had. It wasn’t much back then but it was ours, so we made the jokes and sang the songs before the other supporters could, we were loyal, we were vocal and we loved our club with every beat of our Blue hearts.

I love the Geordies, they have featured a lot in the lives of City fans, we won the league at St James Park in 1968 by beating them 4-3, goals from Summerbee, Young [2] and Lee, in 1976 they were our opponents in the League Cup Final at Wembley that City won 2-1 with goals from Peter Barnes and the famous Dennis Tueart overhead. Kick.

The game that sticks in my memory for totally different reasons occurred on Boxing Day 1977 but first, we need to go back to the Cup Final in 1976.

During that Cup run in 1975/76, we drew our arch-rivals from across the city and on a cold night in November a match that has gone down in our history for all the wrong reasons took place. It was Wednesday, November 12th and City were 1-0 up after the first minute thanks to a Dennis Tueart goal when he sent a pass through to the King, Colin Bell, better known as Nijinsky, [After the racehorse for his phenomenal stamina]., took the pass and headed for goal. What happened next is etched on the minds of every City supporter crammed into Maine Road that night. Their defender, Martin Buchan, tackled him just below the knee on his right leg, Colin went down injured, he was not a player who went down easily. It soon became clear it was serious, very serious and the ground fell silent as we watched in horror.

I was in the Kippax with my friends and you could have heard a pin drop when they lifted him onto that stretcher and carried him to the ambulance. Although none of us knew it Buchan had ended the career of the greatest midfielder of his generation. Colin, ever the gentleman never blamed Buchan for the tackle, but he never visited him in the hospital and he never apologised, says it all about Buchan in my opinion. We went on to win the game 4-0 but that night the scoreline against our hated rivals was irrelevant, I went home in tears, Colin Bell was my hero. And the injury was so serious we did not know if the great man would ever play again.

Boxing Day 1977, I met my friends outside the Main Entrance at the ground, this was our routine now I made many friends through my love of City. The gang of us briefly discussed our Christmas Day antics but that was not important to us, all we cared about was City and the game we were there to see. The first half was not exactly inspiring, a boring 0-0 as the teams went in at half time we reflected that maybe both sides had indulged themselves into much turkey! Standing in the Kippax waiting for the second half a buzz began to flow around the ground,

‘It’s him, It’s him’

Like a jolt of electricity, Maine Road lit up as the cheering and singing began,

‘We’ll drink, a drink, a drink, to Colin the King, the King, the King’

Roared around the stadium, [Jeez it was 46 years ago and I’ve got tears streaming down my face as I remember] as Colin Bell ran back out onto the Maine Road pitch for his long-awaited return from that dreadful injury. The whole stadium, every single person in it, was applauding and I swear grown men were crying, just as my friends and I were. It never stopped, for the next 45 minutes, we showed this quiet, unassuming man, who hated the limelight but was the most gifted footballer of his time, how much we loved him. That old stadium rattled with Christmas joy as we sang and cheered and celebrated his return, it was an amazing, wonderful, emotional afternoon. City went on to win the game 4-0 with another Dennis Tueart hat trick, [He is a Geordie himself and was rejected by them as a boy no wonder he enjoyed playing against them so much!!] and a fourth from Brian Kidd but none of that mattered. It was the best Christmas present we could have had, the King had returned and we looked forward to the New Year with hope. Sadly it was not to be for Colin Bell, that tackle had effectively ended his career in 1979 after making 394 appearances and scoring 117 goals Colin left City. He did try to play for an American side but ended up retiring in 1980.

If ever there was a game that represented the ‘typical City’ saying it was our final game at Maine Road on 11th May 2003. By then the ground was an all-seater so the capacity was reduced to 35.150 and on that day, as we bid farewell to our old home it was packed to the rafters. We were moving across the city to the brand new City of Manchester stadium, [Later changed to the Etihad Stadium] It was meant to be our goodbye party to the old lady who had served us so well for 80 years, she was looking her age now and it really was time to move on and hopefully rid ourselves of the gypsy curse too.

[An urban legend has it that Manchester City upset a gypsy who cursed our club and whatever the truth it had lingered over us for long enough] The sun was shining we fans were partying Blue Moon rang out loud and proud, [Another blast from the past City fans have sung Blue Moon for more than thirty years harking back to the bad old days when it really was once in a blue moon that we won a game!!] Flags were waved and banners festooned the ground, and you’d think with all that love and emotion encompassing them it would have lifted the Team to victory. That wasn’t our City though, it’s in our DNA, and it still happens to this day, somehow, in that cauldron of love City managed to lose 1-0 to the Saints. Typical City? You bet and we would not have them any other way!!

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