Date: 18th May 2012 at 4:58pm
Written by:

The date was the 11th of May 1968. I was standing behind one of the goals at St James` Park, Newcastle with my friends…

I was a twenty one year old University student from Manchester, a rabid Manchester City fan and this was the day that City could win the English League Division One title for the first time in over 30 years, provided they beat a very good Newcastle United on their own ground. If they didn’t win, then the title would go to their bitter rivals, Manchester United provided they too beat a lowly Sunderland side at Old Trafford. So it was either Manchester City or Manchester United for the title.

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

I had started supporting City in about 1952. I can’t remember exactly when or why I chose City over United but any sport loving Mancunian had that choice to make around the time they were about five years old. At the time United were by far the more successful of the two Manchester clubs and most of my friends chose United but probably liking the underdog, I made the fateful decision to make City my team.

My father took me to some of their home matches and my memories were of being passed to the front at Maine Road to watch from ground level, that most of the supporters wore flat caps, that most of the youngsters had wooden football rattles and that City usually lost. In fact, in the 1952 season City only won one of their first sixteen matches but they stayed up and I stayed a loyal fan. You didn’t support City for the glory, that was the domain of an entirely different type of supporter who chose the most successful team to support. No names, no pack drill, no jibes, ok!!

However, one thing became ingrained. If City didn’t win, you just hoped, with almost an equal passion, that the dreaded United didn’t win, as otherwise you would be cruelly ragged in the school playground. These were the days before most families had television and you kept up to date by going to the newspaper shop at about 6pm on a Saturday for the Manchester Football Pink and the Football Green. The headlines often were ‘United Win, City Lose’ and one would think about another trying Monday morning in the playground.

So some sixteen years later I was on the terraces at Newcastle and yes City went one up, Newcastle equalised, City scored again, Newcastle equalised again but in the second half City scored twice more and although Newcastle pulled one back, we won 4-3 and the title was ours. Off to the Newcastle University Union bar for a double figure injection of pints of draught Guinness, knowing in those days there was little prospect of trouble from opposing fans. We toasted Colin ‘Nijinsky’ Bell, we toasted Mike Summerbee, we toasted Frannie Lee, we toasted Joe Mercer and we toasted Malcolm Allison and we went to sleep happy, to surface the next day a little older and a little wiser and with a heavy head but a happy heart.

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

Fast forward to the end of University, start a career, get married, have a son in 1981, who magically chooses Manchester City as his team. Well, what is it the Jesuits say?…get them young. He became as rabid and as passionate a City fan as myself and we both developed an equally strong distaste for the other footballing side in Manchester. They continued to take all before them whilst we in the late 1980’s and mid 1990’s survived in the Premiership, but trophies did not come our way. We stayed loyal but disaster happened in 1996 when we were relegated and worst was to follow in 1998 when we were relegated yet again, this time to the third tier of English football. However, we both stayed loyal and added some new grounds to our list…Bootham Cresent, York and the Manor Ground, Oxford stand out as particular memories. Oh, if only my son could see City win something and in my wildest dreams, please let him see City win the top league title, as I had experienced in 1968. Not very likely this, when one is playing league matches against Macclesfield Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Lincoln City and Wrexham. Never mind we had at least finished third in Division 2 and had qualified for the second division play-offs.

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

The date was the 30th of May 1999 and my son was now himself a University student and drove us both to Wembley Stadium for the Second Division play-off final against Gillingham. It was the first time City had played at Wembley for 23 years. Surely we could win this match which would then mean promotion to Division One and the opportunity to play such heavyweights as Walsall, Crewe Alexandra, Grimsby Town and Port Vale?

The match was a bit of a stalemate and we were not playing well and then nine minutes from time, disaster as Gillingham scored. Then four minutes from time they scored again…we needed two goals with only a few minutes plus injury time in which to get them…sounds familiar? One goal was secured in the last minute of normal time and then unbelievably Paul Dickov scored what was probably the most important goal in Manchester City’s history…the goal that got us out of Division 2 by the skin of our teeth. Bedlam ensued, my son and I bruised the back of our legs jumping up and down in the restricted space of our seats but that was of little concern given the other ‘injuries’ that we had taken on board over the years. There was the little matter of the penalty shoot-out but nobody had the least doubt that we would win this…the pendulum had swung in Manchester City’s favour for the first time in many moons. My son and I drove home triumphant, you would have thought we had won the Champions League, the Premiership and the FA Cup in the same season, like some other nameless team managed to do that year.

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

Fast forward to the 14th May 2011 and Manchester City have reached the final of the FA Cup beating Manchester United in the semi-final. My son and I have got tickets for the match against Stoke City and are hoping that it will be City’s first trophy for thirty four years and the first my son has witnessed since he became a supporter, twenty five years earlier. As we are going to take our seats in Wembley, we pass a betting stand right next to the entrance. My son suggests I have a bet and I wager £20 on Ya Ya Toure scoring the first goal and that City will win l-0. The rest as they say is history; City win, the malicious supporters of Manchester United are forced to take down their nauseous banner detailing how long it is since City have won a trophy and far more importantly my son sees City triumph and oh yes, I won £820. We have enough to fund a special celebration.

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

The season is 2011-2012 and now things are really beginning to happen. Manchester City are benefitting from the heavy investment made by their wonderful owner Sheikh Mansour. The neighbours are beginning to really take note and as well as disposing of their nauseous banner, are having to recognise that there are two teams in town and that the blue one have an excellent manager with a winner’s pedigree and a team which is playing better football than them.

Spurs are dispatched 1-5 at White Hart Lane and Manchester United are beaten 1-6 at Old Trafford. The Blue Moon has risen but can the performances be sustained?

We lead the league for many months but have a wobble and suddenly are eight points behind Manchester United and the bookies have us at 300-1 to win the league. Should I have one of my £20 bets?…no, lightning doesn’t strike twice, I decide not to invest. Then United stumble and lose to Wigan and are held by Everton…the gap is three points and their next game is the Manchester derby at the Etihad. They are dispatched 1-0 courtesy of a wonderful headed goal, followed by a never to be forgotten celebration from the City captain and Premiership Player of the Season, Vincent Kompany.

One match left and both Manchester City and Manchester United have 86 points but crucially City have a better goal difference, thanks to the two score lines in the Manchester derbys. The last games of the season will decide the Premiership title with City at home to QPR and United away to Sunderland. By now my son and his family and my wife and I, live a long way from Manchester and are not able to attend the match. We will have to be content with seeing the game on SkyTV and after a good lunch settle down to watch. United are soon ahead at Sunderland and then we also score against QPR. So far so good, not spectacular but if these half time scores continue we will be the Champions. But it was never going to follow that script, as QPR score once to equalise and then again to lead. My son and I are quiet but resolute, we have been here before, we have previous!!

Still, City cannot make a breakthrough and normal time is up…we have to score two goals in five minutes of injury time to win the League title and to prevent United taking it. Not very likely, thank goodness I don’t have to go to that playground on Monday morning.

Yet finally Edin Dzecko heads the equaliser and with barely a minute left it is Sergio Aguero to Mario Balotelli, back to Aguero who skips around a defender and blasts an unstoppable shot into the QPR net for the winner. It is utter bedlam in our living room, it is utter bedlam at the Etihad Stadium and it is utter dejection at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland.

The worthy champions of the Premiership for 2011-2012 are Manchester City and my son and I watch on with tears in our eyes. He has finally seen them win the League title and Bootham Crescent and the Manor Ground seem a very distant memory. The Blue Moon has risen, the years of pain are in the past and the future looks positive!

…You couldn’t write the script…could you?

all times East Manchester

Fri 27 July Arsenal, Birds Nest Stadium, Beijing, Friendly
Su 12 August, Chelsea, Villa Park, Community Shield
Sa 18 August, To Be Confirmed, PL

– The 2012/13 Premier League season will kick off on Saturday the 18th August 2012. Fixtures will be announced around the middle of June, with the first set of television picks selected approximately 2-3 weeks later.