It started in 1968. I grew up in Surrey, Chelsea Arsenal and Leeds were the popular school playground teams, but for me it was City. Something about that shade of light blue hooked me. But it was the players who really captivated me. Summerbee, Lee and of course Colin Bell, who could resist that trio? Winning the Cup in 69 in black and red stripes is inked in my memory, but my team are forever sky blue shirts with white shorts. Manchester City are my team.
Ive always been attracted by flair players. Rodney Marsh was a football genius but cost us the league in 72. I couldn’t bear to watch when my hero Frannie lashed one in at Maine Road for Derby, I couldn’t just look at his face, Barrie, thanks for asking. My own somewhat limited footballing talent was modelled on Peter Barnes, whom I resembled more in looks than ability.
Brought up a catholic, but never believing, I remember one Sunday having been dragged to church yet again. It was February 1976. I prayed to God “please let City win the League Cup, and I promise I’ll believe in you for all my days”. He obliged, Dennis won the Cup for us. I reneged on my deal, quickly forgot about my end of the bargain and if He does exist, the following 35 years without winning a single thing was a hellish punishment indeed. 35 barren years and that silly sodding ticking banner at OT was all my fault, heartfelt apologies to my fellow Blues.
35 years of hurt, as the song sort of went. The other lot winning and rubbing our noses in it. Painful relegations. Losing at Wycombe, at home to Bury. Walking out of Wembley at 0-2. Seeming endless derby defeats.
Even the flair players were absent, save for a few sporadic beacons, Kinky, Keggy Keegans team, but I stayed loyal, hopeful. So did many many others.
You’re in a very special Club being a City fan. When Sergio recently became our all time leading scorer a friend of mine told me he’d seen every single goal. He’s barely missed a game since 1976. Loyalty, passion and self deprecating humour are hallmarks of being a City fan.
And now the flair players are back. It’s a joy watching City play. It probably wont last. Pep will move on, the oil money might dry up or Uefa (read big Spanish and German clubs) will act to prevent new blood stealing their thunder. But its been one hell of a ride and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Summerbee Lee and Bell started my journey, Sergio, Yaya, Silva et al are welcome travel companions now.