The Birth Of A (City) Blue
One of Vital Manchester City's newest recruit, Mariner sent us the following.
I was born at 210 Kings Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, built and owned by my Grandfather in 1934 - not to be confused with Kings Road, Stretford. This was an auspicious year for nearly all the teams that I was later to give my allegiance.
Lancashire won the County Championship outright and have never done so since, although they did share it with Surrey in 1950. Belle Vue Aces won the Speedway league and of course, Manchester City won the FA Cup.
Portsmouth were beaten 2-1 after holding a half time lead and Fred Tilson told his team mates that he would bang in two in the second half, which he duly did. The young Frank Swift, all of nineteen years was so overcome at the final whistle that he fainted in the goalmouth, but recovered in time to pick up his medal. If I had to be born then this was very definitely the year to do so.
Some twenty years on, my Grandfather sold the house to an old City player, one Matt Busby who was then of course manager of the team from Salford. My Grandfather knew little of soccer and at the time I was more than a little shocked at his choice of purchaser, an opinion that has mellowed with time.
The house incidentally appears on page 58 of the book 'Manchester United' 'Unseen Archives', showing Matt's return from hospital after the Munich plane crash. My bedroom is the one on the left above the front door.
The book was given to me by my daughter some five years ago as a Christmas present in the mistaken belief that I supported the Reds. She was then 37 years old and obviously knew nothing about football either.
During the Second World War my Father was stationed at RAF Cosford and we moved to a small village on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border. The nearest football team was Wolverhampton Wanderers, then about to embark on the most successful period in their history, and from the age of eight onwards I became a regular follower of their exploits in the wartime League South.
Watching only home games I never saw them lose and became convinced that they were invincible and this streak, amazingly continued up till City's Championship season in 1967,when they lost 2-0 at Maine Road. However, like most youngsters I had my cigarette card collection and with my Manchester roots, my favourite picture depicted Peter Doherty in sky blue, shooting for goal-this was to be my team.
In 1943 or 44-memory fails, we spent a holiday back in Manchester and I was taken to see a game against Bury, which City duly won 3-1.So naive was I that I even cheered Bury's goal as well, a mistake never to be made in the future. However my choice was confirmed and through thick and thin, with quite a lot of the latter, the die was cast.
We returned to Manchester at the end of the war and I was now enrolled at William Hulme's Grammar School. From the playing fields of which we could hear the roars from Maine Road every Saturday afternoon. United played there as well in the immediate post war years, as Adolph had indicated his preference and bombed Old Trafford.
Unfortunately we had a six day week at school, with Wednesday and Saturday afternoons being given over to compulsory sport. This reduced my chances of seeing the games to evening matches and the odd occasions when sport was cancelled due to rain.
Frank Swift, Joe Fagan and Maurice Dunkley all lived in one of the roads off Kings Road, and I used to loiter outside in the hope of being noticed and adding to my autograph collection. But the strain of not being able to watch them on the pitch eventually became too much for me.
In the FA Cup in 1946,the rounds up to the semi final were played on a home and away basis and. In the 5th round, having disposed of Barrow and Bolton earlier, City were drawn against Bradford Park Avenue (then, believe it or not, in Division 2). The first leg in Bradford had been won 3-1 and I eagerly anticipated a massacre in the return.
On the afternoon of the match I was down to play in a Junior House game, but the lure of watching my idols was too much and I decamped for Maine Road and the goal rush. At half time City led 2-1 and 5-2 on aggregate. I was slightly disappointed but was sure that the floodgates would open in the second half. This turned out to be correct, but hardly in the way that I had anticipated. An amateur International centre forward whose name appeared in the one page programme as A.H.Gibbon ( like cricket, we got the initials in those days) scored four times and ably assisted by the rest of his forwards. Bradford won 8-2 and 9-6 on aggregate.
The sporting Gods had abandoned their responsibilities and totally distraught, I walked the four miles home. Worse was to come on the Monday morning when I faced the mockery of the United supporters and then, to make matters worse, I received a dishonourable mention in Assembly as one who showed no loyalty to his House and was a disgrace to the School. Morale was at rock bottom.
Fortunately, City redeemed themselves by winning the Division 2 title in the next year comfortably, only losing one home game all season. This typically was in the match that should have assured them of promotion, but they went down 2-0 to Newcastle United, with a goalkeeper called Fairbrother giving a passable imitation of Frank Swift. In the very next game against the eventual runners up, Burnley, an Alex Herd goal four minutes from time was sufficient.
Over the years City have been the possessors of some remarkable records, having twice returned to Wembley and won following defeat in the previous year. One year after winning the title in 1937,they were relegated and with a positive goal difference. Has anyone else ever achieved either of these feats?
During the remarkable season of 57/58 104 goals were scored and we came down to the last game with 98 conceded and Aston Villa to play at home. They had an abysmal away record, so it was hardly surprising to those who know and love City that we were defeated 2-1, neatly bringing the goals against tally to the hundred mark, something again that I doubt has ever been equalled in one and the same season.
If the games I did see, Blackpool were defeated 4-3 after we had been 3-1 down and had missed a penalty with ten minutes to go. Everton were beaten 6-2 with Ken Barnes scoring a hat trick of penalties and the return was won 5-2. Luton was a 2-2 draw after being 2-0 down with two minutes to go and there was a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford'
There had to be a debit side, losing 4-8 at Leicester,2-9 at West Brom (who also knocked us out in the 3rd Round 5-1) 1-6 at Preston and 1-5 at Spurs, although we did win 5-4 at Sheffield Wednesday.
It has been a long haul of some 65 years since watching my first game, nevertheless my support has never wavered, although sometimes strained by results such as that at Halifax.
The current season promises to be one of the most eventful in our story and I have great hopes for the future.