Manchester City: My life as a Blue
With Bury FC’s expulsion from the English football league recently, it’s prompted a lot of fans to reflect and never to take for granted what a club means to them. The passion and the pride in a team is something quite special and I have so much empathy for what Bury fans must be going through. As a Greater Manchester team, I’ve known many of their supporters down the years who are a great, loyal, bunch.
Supporting a team sometimes isn’t just down to choice; it’s steeped in family history and local heritage. At least, it is for me and my team – Manchester City, who are the current Premier League champions et al. But fortunes haven’t always been so kind – and that’s all part of a fan’s journey and makes the victories even sweeter.
It’s also 20 years this year since one of the best football matches I can remember: Gillingham Vs Manchester City at Wembley in the Division Two play-off final. The match that cemented my place as a City supporter.
The atmosphere was electric; although City’s season was in a tier much lower than what fans are used to these days, the support has never weaned. I was part of the ‘Blue Army’ that had made the journey from Manchester to London where the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium were beckoning.
I was 10-years-old and had travelled down with my Mum and Dad. Supporting City is very much in my family. It’s all I’ve ever known and had been going to matches since I was young and back then was a member of the ‘Junior Blues’ and the former Levenshulme branch of City supporters’ clubs.
Football is a big part of growing up in Greater Manchester and the reality is I’ve never wanted to support any other team – even if I did used to tease Dad by holding up United shirts in sports shops!
Everyone in primary school knew which team I supported because kids could bring in their own PE kit and mine was an old City shirt. It was just accepted, there wasn’t much bullying then, only banter.
High School was more brutal. Looking back it probably wasn’t a good idea to start off the new school year showing my footballing allegiances in the only way possible: by having it plastered all over my bag. A teacher took me to one side on the first day and warned: “This is a United school”. It wasn’t long after that my rucksack ended up being kicked down the corridors and having the contents sprawled all over the playground. It wasn’t quite like the scene from the film There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, but close enough.
It might not have seemed like it then but, when among fellow fans, there’s a great sense of belonging that has continued to this day, whether it’s at Maine Road, the Etihad stadium or having a banter with mates… especially United fans!
In 2012, City won the Premier League title for the first time in 44 years and the game was on a knife edge in a race against rivals Manchester United – it all came down to the last game of the season in extra time. I’ve never felt such a mix of emotions when Mario Balotelli passed to Sergio Aguero. It went in. The goal stood. First tension then jubilation – after all those years in the lower leagues, we were Premier League champions! The success continues to this day and I still have to pinch myself that it’s all really happening.
Some people think that if you support Manchester City then you must be a glory hunter – oh, the irony! One question I get asked most in regards to this is “how long have you supported City for?” The answer is all my life. But if there was any doubt, the date that sealed it was 30th of May 1999, the year city won at Wembley.
Long may the good fortunes continue but even if it doesn’t I, like all the football fans I know, would still support our team through thick and thin. That’s my life as a Blue.