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Maine Road Memories Part Two

A Nostalgic Look At The iconic Ground

Ian Bishop

It was a cold dismal night in January 1976 (Wednesday 21st), nothing new there then, and I was sat in my Dad’s flatbed truck as he drove us to Maine Road. We were heading to the League Cup semi-final - my beloved Manchester City were taking on Middlesbrough in the second leg. They had lost the first leg 1-0 and not many people believed City could retrieve the situation. They had injuries and the team that night was a young one.

It was the first time I had gone to a game with my Dad, I was only fifteen and still at school so when we had got through the previous round, (A 4-2 win at home to Mansfield Town) he knew I would want to go to this game. It was my first full season watching my team. I had a season ticket for the Kippax, (It cost my Mum the grand total of £5) and it meant I could get tickets for Cup games easily.

Dad had offered to take me and he paid for the tickets although they were in different parts of the ground - no way was Dad standing in the Kippax with his City crazy teenage daughter and her friends; he sat in the Platt Lane end and we arranged to meet at the Main Entrance after the game. He parked in a side street near the ground, (A novelty I know!!) and he went off to the pub while I went to meet my friends at the Player’s Entrance )Next to the Main Entrance]. We met here for every home game.

The Players Car Park was next to the ground and back then they would drive themselves (Occasionally some of them were driven but back in the 1970s they mostly drove themselves). After they had parked, they would walk the short distance to the entrance, chatting happily with the supporters, signing autographs and posing for photos. It was very different from the over-protected multi-million-pound superstars who play at the Etihad.

We knew most of the younger players - my friends and I spent ALL our spare time at the club, watching them train at the Platt Fields complex and watching any and every game at Maine Road (We would even watch the kids play as long as we could be close to our club!) So when Peter Barnes or Gary Owen arrived they would say hello and ask us if we thought they would win. (Of course, we always said yes!) Paul Power once told us we must have more photographs of them than their own families had, and Joe Corrigan gave us the nickname the ‘Magnificent Seven’ as there always seemed to be seven us hanging around together.

We thought we were so special because they took the time to talk to us and get to know us a little. We loved it when other fans would look at us and ask how we knew them. Little did they know my friends and I spent more time at Maine Road than we did at home! (Don’t tell anyone but we wagged school so often to watch them training at Platt Fields and boy did they tell us off for doing that)!

The game that night was a wonderful display of all that could be right when City played their best. We were 2-0 up within ten minutes with goals from Keegan after five minutes (No not that Keegan, he became our Manager a few years later. This was Ged Keegan, absolutely no relation whatsoever to Kevin), and then Alan Oakes after ten minutes. In the second half, we scored two more, Peter Barnes a minute after halftime (46) and then Joe Royle finished the rout with a goal in the last minute. We were ecstatic - our beloved team were going to Wembley. We had reached the League Cup Final and would play Newcastle United at the end of February (We won it too but that’s another story).

After the game, we met my Dad and, as two of my friends lived on the same estate as me, he agreed to take them home too. I told him we wanted to get in the back, not in the cab and we clambered in and stood up leaning on it as he set off for home. We shouted and sang our hearts out waving our scarves at all the other Blues heading home as well. It was SO dangerous. Can you imagine three excitable teenagers standing unrestrained in the back of a truck jumping up and down like maniacs? That was us and how we did not get stopped by the police or manage to not get ourselves killed was a miracle. Like all teenagers, we thought we were invincible. It was a magical time, that League Cup winning team held so much promise.

It’s a good job we could not see what the future held for the club we loved so much.

Derby Day Memories

I have many memories of Derby games. I’ve seen us lose to our bitter rivals more times than I want to remember! One game that does stick in my mind was on September 23rd 1989. City 5, [with goals from Oldfield 2, Morley, Bishop and Hinchcliffe] - United 1 [Hughes].

I met my friends at the Players Entrance and we took up our usual spot in the Kippax, preparing to get hammered once again, it was a bad habit for City now. We had not beaten them since 1981 and it was getting to the point where we believed we would never beat them again; they were so far ahead of us.

We were the underdogs every time we met, so what happened that day was truly amazing. City had only just been promoted back into Division One after one of our many relegations to the lower divisions. We had played six games in the First Division and, already true to City form we had lost four, drawn one and won just one, and here we were facing their mighty, expensively assembled squad that had just been improved further. Their Chairman Martin Edwards had sanctioned a spending spree for their Manager [We all know who HE was!]

How could we compete?

We were a team of little-known nobodies, not a famous star-studded one like our neighbours!

It wasn’t fair, if only the FA/UEFA would introduce something that would stop rich clubs from dominating, City would have more of a chance of competing with their rich neighbours (Tongue firmly in the cheek moment. :-))

On paper, they were so superior and definitely the favourites but this was a Derby game and all bets were off. City love to do the unexpected - usually that means losing to teams like Shrewsbury and Halifax (Attended both, unfortunately). Not today though, City were two up within fifteen minutes much to our delight. We sang and cheered every move our boys in blue made - it was pure City heaven. Incredibly Ian Bishop made it three before half time and the team went in to rapturous applause, but even the most optimistic of us did not believe it would stay like that. Our rivals were far too good, and we thought and prayed our defence would hold out.

Five minutes into the second half our fears were confirmed when they got a goal back, every City fan in Maine Road had the same thought - here we go again! We fully expected our team to buckle and capitulate, that was ‘typical City’ but rather surprisingly, in fact, very surprisingly, they did not collapse. Instead, they went on to score two more and the final score was 5-1.

Little newly promoted City had humbled the most expensive team in the First Division and boy did we celebrate it. We did not know it but we had a very good reason to make the most of those celebrations because it would be thirteen years before we managed to beat them again!!

Another game that sticks in my memory but for very different reasons is the home game against Barnsley on 6th April 2002.

A little background first, my parents had split up in the 1970s and my Dad got remarried to a friend of his sisters who just happened to live in New Jersey, USA. Every year he would come over for Christmas and spend some time with us, his kids and grandkids. This particular year, he came over for his birthday as well. The plane ticket was a gift from his wife, and he did not need a hotel as he always stayed with my oldest brother. His birthday was on the 5th of April so I decided that I would take him to the City home game as a birthday present.

He was thrilled when I took him to Maine Road early so he could meet the City manager at that time, the one and only Kevin Keegan. Kevin was truly amazing such a genuinely nice man. When he learned my Dad was over from the States and had been a City fan all his life, he shook his hand and thanked him. He took him to one side and chatted for almost half an hour, posing for photos and signing Dad’s programme. He made my Dad feel so special and he never stopped talking about it, telling all his American friends about his ‘mate’ Kevin Keegan (Well he did have the photos to prove it)!

The ground was an all-seater by now and we sat in a corner of the Kippax, how weird that felt for me as I was more used to standing in there! I was married with two children by this time and could not get to the games like I used to - having kids of my own forced me to reassess my priorities, they had to come first! It was wonderful to be at a game with my Dad again and our beloved Blues did us proud, they went on to win 5-1 with a hat trick from Darren Huckerby and a brace from Jon Macken. It was a great day and we celebrated that night in the pub with my brothers, before Dad flew back to America the next day.

I was so so glad I gave us that happy memory because four weeks later on May 2nd 2002, my Dad had a fatal cardiac arrest and he was buried with the programme from that game, a photo of both of us with the great man himself and wearing his Supporters club badge. My Dad was a Blue to the end and I know he still watches our Blue Boys from ‘The Stand With No Name’ and I know too, that one day I will join him there to watch our Beloved City together again.