Sunday 23 April 2017

The joys of supporting Manchester City FC through thick and thin

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Manchester City FC
For Manchester City fans living outside of Manchester, perhaps the question you are asked most frequently and one which is probably the most annoying of all is "Why don't you support United?".  I doubt supporters of any other club are ever asked such a question. I once asked a London based Birmingham City fan if he'd ever been asked why he didn't support Villa. Now in my family, there is  a City/United split. My mum's family were born in Oldham and were City fans (my Dad was an Aussie so didn't do football). When they moved to London, they took the love of City with them. My eldest brother, raised in North London, started life as a Spurs fan, but defected to Manchester United, when he went to Uni, seduced by Charlton, Law and Best, Busby, the League Title and the European Cup. Many people in the mid '60's had a soft spot for United following the Munich crash and for a few seasons they became an acceptable second team. I'm a bit younger. I started to take an interest in Football when I was five. My brother tried to persuade me to support United, but I chose City. There were several reasons. Firstly, I was born with the rhesus syndrome, what was known as a "blue baby". How could I ever possibly be a Red? Secondly, in the 1960's we were told that blue was for boys. Thirdly, as the 1968 season came to it's cumination, City were playing United and the winner was odds on for the title. My brother persuaded me that United would stuff City and that would prove they were the better side. even though I was only five and my brother was twenty two, I realised that football presented an opportunity to get one up on him and wind him up. Imagine my delight when City won, and went on to win the title! I realised the delight of how pleasing it is to wind up Manchester United supporters. That is one pleasure that never goes away. For most of the next decade, life was good for the blues. Under Joe Mercer, City followed the League title with the FA cup, then the Cup Winners Cup and the League Cup. In 1974, United were relegated. That was a golden time in our house (for me at least).

However, supporting Manchester City is not about glory. It is about something far more important. At the end of the 1970's things turned sour. The nemises was 1999, when City were in League 2, going nowhere. For a while, it seemed like they would say there. For reasons I can't fathom, this was perhaps the period that I loved the club most. The supporters, who still turned out. When the football on the pitch was dire, we brought inflatables and had a party. At many away games, the away support outnumbered the locals, and several clubs were kept afloat that season by the  inflated gate takings.

The season finished with a play off final vs Gillingham. At the time,  I explained to my nephew Alex, that the best reason to support Manchester City rather than Manchester United, is that it prepares you for life and makes you a better person. To support City requires a sense of humour and strength through adversity, wheras to support United simply requires arrogance, a feeling that you are better than everyone else and a sense of entitlement. I took my nephew to the game. The efforts of Nicky Weaver and Paul Dickov ensured he saw the lights. That season United won the Treble, but for City fans, the play off final was a far more pivotal point. Had they lost, it felt like we'd be cast unto Hades itself. With 89 minutes, we were two goals down and playing appalling football. That was my last visit to the Old Wembley. No one there could imagine what the next couple of decades would bring, but that was the key moment. At 88 minutes, it seemed like we were doomed. Noel Gallagher famously stormed out. But we are Manchester City. The word impossible is alien to us. If we win we win impossibly. If we lose, we lose spectacularly. Under Mancini, I went to watch City at The Emirates. We were rubbish. With six games to go we'd blown the title. I left feeling truly depressed, the train carriage had City fans morosely saying we'd never win anythingunder Mancini. But as ever, with City, you have to lose your faith to find it. I wrte a song recently about the experience of being a football supporter, with Allen Ashley, (my co writer and a Gunners fan). It contains the line "Keep the faith, Always believe, take us to the top of the league". Sometimes it is only the gallows humour that makes that possible. I was at a City vs Bournemouth game at Maine Roaud in around '88. City were 3-0 up at half time. That was in the Harry Redknapp period at Bournmouth. The guy standing next to me was raving and saying "We really are back (we were in the 2nd tier), we are awesome". The game finished 3-3,with him vowing never to come back. A couple of weeks later, there he was. That is the life of a City fan.

Once more I head off to Wembley to watch the Blues, with a sense of trepidation and impending doom, mixed with excitement and expectation. If they lose, it will be "Damn, typical City" if they win, then the anxiety will simply shift to the forthcoming date with Chelsea. No other team are as capable of losing when it seems impossible and no other team would ever have that Aguero moment, with the camera moving to Fergies face as the truth dawns that the noisy neighbours have snatched the title with the last kick. That is how Premier league seasons should finish. As myself and Matthew sat watching the moment, completely emotionally drianed, Clare came in and said "Oh dear, so they lost then" we said "no they've won!". She said "Why aren't you happy then". I said "we are too drained". That is the life of a City supporter. #CTID

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