Sadly I can't remember the first match I went to , but it was during the 1966/67 season soon after City's return to Division 1, and I recall only that it was a 1-1 draw. I became interested in football, at the age of 10, after watching theWorld Cup on TV the previous summer, and according to statistics I wasn't alone, as attendances rose that season. The mystery is why my Dad took me to Maine Road rather than to see U****d who were theoretically more of an attraction. Maybe because they were in the process of winning the Championship and getting in would have been difficult, maybe because Maine Road was nearer to Cheadle, where we lived, or maybe it was just that City were at home the day my Dad took it into his head to initiate me into the agonising life of a football fan. A recent 'Why a Blue' contributor referred to Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch', and I too feel I cannot better his description, this time of the chances and factors that influence what can become a lifelong passion. It could have been so different - if U****d had been at home that day nearly 30 years ago, I could have been sitting here now believing that Eric Cantona was hard done by, and that Blackburn were lucky, and with a drawer full of hideous shirts. I might even have got a job in Television. Does being a Red make you a whingeing ****, or is it the other way round?
Anyway, what happened the following season is history, and in retrospect it's no wonder I was hooked for life, but at the time I probably didn't fully appreciate the privilege of supporting a Championship-winning side. The excitement of the games I remember, and the end of the season watching a report on TV from Newcastle by an excitable commentator ("...the referee's looking at his whistle..."), and we were Champions. Mostly, though I remember the things associated with matchdays - parking in Whitmore Road, walking through the alleys to Maine Road, and the huge throng outside the ground; the man in the bowler hat telling us cheerfully every match that the End was nigh; the huge queues that you don't seem to get these days, even with a bigger crowd; the Juniors' turnstile being closed when the Platt Lane was full, and having to go to the gate because my Dad had already got in through the Adults' turnstile; having to jump up every two minutes when everyone else did. (Terrible stand, the Platt Lane, almost as bad as its hideous replacement.)
The football was wonderful, but I still remember relentless criticism of certain players - Neil Young ("Nellie") for one, though when I got the L,B&S and 200 great goals videos last year it reminded me he scored some great goals. Ian Bowyer suffered more than most, and Mike Summerbee was far from immune from barracking as well!
Of course, in common with the rest of you I've suffered 20-odd years (if you're as old as me!) of anti-climax since then, punctuated by some marvellous highs: FA Cup win, League Cup win (my first trip to Wembley) preceded by a Semifinal win over Newton Heath, European Cup Winners Cup matches at Maine Road, and the final (on TV!),10-1, and despite a lack of silverware, many more recent memorable matches. Also some desperate lows: losing to Chelsea in the ECWC, Colin Bell's demise, David Bastard Pleat dancing on our pitch, Steve Daley, - I'm sure any one can supply a long list of less than ecstatic moments.
Sadly, I live and work in Birmingham now, and with 2 kids who are avid Villa fans I rarely see the Blues these days.(I did get to see U****d get sh*t on 3-1 at Wembley last season, though!). I saw the recent match at Villa Park (wearing my City shirt to my kids' disgust) and thought we played any football that was going that night, losing 2 points to the hand of Ugo. Strangely, the Villa fans seem to have no animosity to Blues fans at all (common enemy, perhaps?).
I intend to visit Maine Road again this coming season, to see what it looks like with the Kippax gone, and hopefully see a win. See you there!
Does being a Blue make you a philosopher, or is it the other way round?