Maine Road 100 – Day 5

The fifth of my posts counting down to the centenary of Maine Road’s opening game. Today it’s about the Players’ Tunnel at Maine Road…

Before I start notice on the black and white image the pitchside stone post. Yesterday I mentioned the carved edge style and how originally there were two impressive stone posts, one either side of the tunnel entrance. I said that by 2003 these had been remodelled extensively to match the rest of the white perimeter wall but that one of them still showed an element of the styling used throughout the stadium at the time of construction.

Maine Road’s Tunnel post. Photo by Ed Garvey

Well on the black and white image you can see that same post (on the right of captain Jimmy McMullan) in its original form.

So, what’s my angle for today? Well, it’s the players’ tunnel itself. In this 1926 image you can see the tunnel as it looked when it was first built. Eagle eyed readers may notice that the tunnel looks a little different to how it did during the 1970s onwards. That wall above the tunnel was actually taken down and the front of the seating above the tunnel was brought forward into the tunnel during the 1960s. You can see that by looking at this image of chairman Albert Alexander and Joe Mercer who are actually sat in front of where the original tunnel wall was. The space they occupy would have been open air, floating above the tunnel only a few years earlier.

Albert Alexander & Joe Mercer in the Directors’ Box extension (Copyright Mirrorpix).

The 1926 photo of the tunnel appeared in my 1997 book Manchester The Greatest City and about a year after it was published I received a letter from Canada. It came from an elderly City supporter who had emigrated to Canada many years earlier. His daughter had returned to England for a visit in 1998 and she popped into a bookshop (I think it was the old Sportspages shop) thinking that if there was a book on Manchester City she would buy it for her dad. She saw my book and bought it.

When she returned to Canada she gave the book to her father and while reading it he was stunned to find himself as a small boy on this photo. He is pictured leaning on the wall close to his mother and father. It was a remarkable coincidence but what made it even more special is that this photo came from film of the game. I was able, with the support of the British Film Institute to get a VHS copy of the game and I sent it to Canada so that he could also see himself and his parents on film, moving around.

For me that story gave me an overwhelming feeling that researching and writing about history can add significantly to the wellbeing, interests or lives of others. Research matters. There was also a great feeling of coincidence – I could easily have chosen a different illustration; the daughter may not have bought my book; her father may have only glanced through the book and so on.

1926 City v Fulham, Maine Road. Jimmy McMullan with the ball.

If you’d like to read more on the history of Maine Road, take a look at Farewell To Maine Road, which can be downloaded from this page:

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