The news that Manchester City will be installing rail seats at the Etihad this summer (2021) means that for the first time since 1994 the stadium will possess a section that is designed to allow people to stand. Whether officially they’ll be allowed to depends on the legislation in place at the time but, whichever way you look at it, this is good news for those who like to stand at football matches.
It is now almost 27 years since we said goodbye to terracing in Manchester and for those of us old enough to remember those days at Maine Road there was one standing area which, above all else, represented the passion fans had for their club – The Kippax.
Unlike most other grounds City’s main terracing ran the full length of the pitch and wasn’t tucked away behind a goal. Because of its positioning the Kippax breathed life into every area of the stadium and was huge. Originally, it held in excess of 35,000, but even in its final days it still gave the impression of power and passion.
The Kippax was originally known as the Popular Side, matching a similarly dominant feature of the Blues’ Hyde Road ground, when it opened in 1923. That first season it held an estimated 35,000 in a crowd of 76,166 – then a national record attendance for a club ground. In 1934 when 84,569 packed into the stadium City’s vast stand may well have held almost 40,000. Incidentally, that 84,569 became the new national record attendance for a club ground (a record that still stands as Wembley is a national stadium, not officially a club ground). You can read about that crowd and game here:
Incidentally, I know City fans get a lot of abuse these days from fans of certain other clubs about filling stadia etc. Well, if you need any ammunition that 84,569 record crowd is over 22,000 higher than Liverpool’s record crowd (61,905 – a figure which wouldn’t get anywhere near City’s top ten crowds!).
Throughout the period up to the mid-50s the Popular Side developed its reputation but it was when it was roofed in 1957 that it became the true heart of the club. Back then it was extended slightly, although legislative changes had reduced terracing capacities by this time. The club announced it would be known as The Kippax Street Stand and that is what it officially remained until 1994 although most of us knew it simply as The Kippax. Its capacity by this time was about 32,000, reducing to 26,155 by the end of the 1970s.
The Kippax accommodated fans of every age and gender and, although it was a formidable place for opposition supporters, it was a welcoming stand for Manchester’s Blues. Young children would sit on the walls and railings, while older fans would find their own preferred viewing spot. Here’s a few snippets about the old stand:
- Originally four vast tunnels (one in each corner and two built into the stand) and two significant stairways allowed fans to move onto the Popular Side.
- A flag pole, positioned at the back of the terracing up to 1957, allowed a blue and white flag emblazoned with the words City FC to proudly fly. The flag was then re-positioned until it disappeared for good in the 1960s.
- Chanters Corner, also known as The Sways, was the area where the more vocal members of City’s support gathered. Packed above a tunnel and next to the segregation fence, fans here often generated the main chants.
- The 1960s saw The Kippax’s reputation grow. Fans sang their way through success after success as Joe Mercer’s Aces won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and every domestic trophy possible. The Kippax would begin every game with the chant “Bring on the Champions!” and then follow up with a song for every player as they warmed up.
- The final capacity of The Kippax was 18,300 – making this the largest terraced area at a League ground on its final day (The Kop held its final game on the same day but had a smaller capacity).
- The Kippax was used for the last time on 30 April 1994 for the visit of Chelsea.
- The Blue Print flag was a popular presence on many match days from the late 1980s until 1994, making its last appearance at The Kippax’s final game. The flag had been reduced in size by then. But it still covered much of the terracing. Blue Print was a City fanzine and they had paid for the flag.
- Segregation was unnecessary for most of the stand’s existence, but by the end of the 1960s a rope would often be used to separate City and United fans on derby day. This was replaced by permanent barriers in the mid-70s which were increased over the years to keep home and away fans apart. Away fans were positioned at the Platt Lane end of the stand by this time.
- It says much about the passion of the place that in the late 1970s the BBC came to film The Kippax chanting and in full flow.
- In 1985 when City defeated Charlton 5-1 in a promotion decider on the final day of the season the Kippax was so packed that supporters remain convinced that its official capacity of 26,155 was significantly exceeded. Those of us on the terraces that day will never forget the shock we all experienced when the official crowd of 47,285 was announced – some 5,000 short of capacity!
The Kippax is no more, but those of us who experienced the stand will never forget its power, passion and presence. Its spirit lives on with thousands of Blues who stood there now bringing their own children and grandchildren to the Etihad who, if legislation allows, will soon be able to stand in a section specifically created for that purpose.
If you’re interested you can read how Maine Road got its name here:
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There are plenty of other Maine Road related stories on my site. For details and links see:
The Manchester City story on their ground development can be read here: