TRUE BLUE STORIESWHY BLUE
"I'll kick your 'ead in if you don't support City".
This was as convincing a reason as any for a seven-year-old to support the blues. My brother Tony, eight years older than me and already a Kippax boy, was not happy that the black and gold of Derek Dougan et al had secured the League Cup for Wolves at the expense of City. That I should be running around, gloating that MY team had won the Cup was obviously too much to bear and so the threat of a good kickin' loomed large.
Sunday morning came and the six-member Burns family had their fifth and final blue. Every family has its 'black sheep' - we had a red one! My brief flirtation with Wolves - (hey I thought they had a great badge and cool kit - and arguably the best facial hair in professional football) - was over and it was time to be Blue. A state I've been in for over twenty years now ... and some state it is.
A season ticket for the Kippax was quickly acquired as was membership of the Junior Blues and it wasn't long before I made that magical walk through the turnstiles, across the concrete, down the tunnel in the Kippax and into the ACADEMY. In front of me was the largest pitch in the League (always quoted in playground arguments) and I was surrounded by strangers who all had one thing in common - a deep, passionate love of CITY - little did I know then how deep it runs.
'City, Manchester City, we are the team that are playing to win. City, Manchester City, the boys in blue never give in, The boys in blue never give in.'
The speakers crackled overhead as they struggled to blast out City's song. Soon the roof above us would struggle to contain the incredible roar that would greet the Blues as they ran out on the pitch - this was magic.
"Who's that?" as I pointed to some guy I'd never seen before.
Looking at my programme, I decided to see who else I was going to love. There was Alan Oakes, Tommy Booth, Glyn Pardoe, Mike Doyle, Dennis Tueart. Over the years I would read and watch Dave Watson, Willie Donachie, Mick Channon, Trevor Francis, Clive Allen, Paul Lake, Ian Bishop, Trevor Morley and Peter Reid. Others I would only read of but never see - people like Gio for example.
"What's happening? What's happening?" I cried out, frustrated that I all I could see now was the black coat of the guy stood in front of me. "Sit here son!" and I was lifted up on to the cross bar of a crush barrier. Now this was great. I didn't know where to look - in front of me the action was intense but behind and all around there was a deafening roar. Frightening and exhilarating - I'd never known noise like this.
Then it happened. I didn't see it. I felt it. A mighty surge forward, cries of anticipation and then the climatic relief as the ball exploded into the waiting bag. We were up. We had SCORED. What a great feeling.
'WE LOVE YOU CITY WE DO, WE LOVE YOU CITY WE DO, WE LOVE YOU CITY WE DO, OHHHH CITY WE LOVE YOU'
People hugged and kissed each other, declared their undying love for all things blue and as the intense feelings of joy subsided cigarettes were lit. When I heard that the only thing better that City was great sex I prayed every night for a good Cup run and the early onset of puberty.
"Well did you have a good day?" my mum said when we got home. "It was brilliant - we're going to win the league, and the cup and ... and ... everything. We're gonna win everything mum."
Very soon I was travelling to Wembley with my mum and dad on a Finglands coach that picked us up outside the news agents in Northenden. I couldn't understand why Tony wouldn't come with us - it seems he wanted to go with some others though.
Well there we were in Wembley, we were winning, I was happy when suddenly my world fell in - had puberty suddenly struck with all its attendant problems. No, a far more serious problem was in hand, Newcastle had struck, rubbed out Barnes' goal and suddenly my parents had a major emotional problem to deal with. We were sat opposite the Royal Box and the crowd wasn't segregated. Seeing an unhappy youngster a strange creature in Black and White and from another land offered me some sweets which I declined. I knew you shouldn't accept sweets from strangers and this guy couldn't even speak English. And anyway I was too worried about my blues to eat sweets - you see they just had to win the cup because ... because ... well they were my team.
With his back to goal, as if in slow motion, he launched himself into the air. Spinning backwards he caught the ball - his whole body off the ground - and 'thump', the net bulged, he fell to the ground and we'd done it. The cup was urs. We were the champs. Tueart was GOD and City were simply the greatest team the world had ever seen.
Sunday saw the family up early and into Manchester to welcome the team home. Life was indeed sweet for a nine year old. Supporting City was easy then - it's always easy to support success. I was yet to realise how loyalty could be tested and at the tender age of nine it was beyond my imagination that I would reach thirty and never experience again the euphoria that goes with a championship victory.
Today I'm fast approaching my thirty-first birthday and sadly that was the best it got. Sure there were other great moments, unforgettable times, priceless memories - but no more trophies.
But no matter how much my loyalty is tested, no matter how bad things get, no matter what - I'm City till I die - it's not a choice, it's a way of life.
Since 1991 I've been living and working in Japan - I've been back to the UK twice and taken in just three games. Keeping in touch with what was going on was difficult but a lack of news doesn't dim the enthusiasm - if anything it heightens it. Now with access to the Internet and the brilliant MCVITA (thanks to all who work on it and contribute) and 'Blue View' (thanks again to all involved) I know what's going on back 'home' and no matter where I am or what I'm doing when it comes to kick-off time - I am, like thousands of Blues all over Manchester, the UK and the World, thinking of one thing only - CITY, CITY, CITY.
Our day will come ...