A Year On – Criticism of MCFC Fans in the Media

In the build up to Manchester City’s League Cup final against Aston Villa last year (2020) I was somewhat deflated by the way in which some in the media were critical of City fans. There wasn’t any one thing in particular that prompted this but it was something that had been growing for some time. It was all connected with the general stereotyping of City fans and the language being used by some to write negatively about them. I decided to write a lengthy piece on how I felt about this and I published it on my Facebook and twitter accounts the day after the League Cup final (the final was on 1st March 2020).

Sadly, one year on and little has changed. Ah well! So for those who missed it last year here is the piece:

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On This Day – The Last Fans Wembley Trip?

A year ago today (1st March 2020) I like thousands of other Manchester City and Aston Villa supporters travelled to Wembley for the League Cup final. 82,145 were there that day and now it seems so unlikely that we’ll have anywhere near that figure at a game for some time.

It was the last time I attended a live game of football (I missed the Manchester Derby the week after) although none of us believed that at the time. I enjoyed Wembley that day – as I do every trip (well, at least I do beforehand. 2013 FAC final was not so great, nor one or two semi-finals in recent years!) – and I hope that one day we can all be there again for a major final.

The game itself saw City race to a 2-0 lead within thirty minutes with Rodri (20) and Aguero (30) netting. Villa pulled a goal back 4 minutes before half time and it was a tense match. City did enough to win the game 2-1 of course, becoming the last (and only) team in England to win a major competition in front of a crowd that season.

It’s been a strange year since then for us all and it’s been a difficult year for many of us. I hope that life can return to normal and that football crowds of this size and scale get a chance to gather once more. Here’s hoping.

A Special relationship

As West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium today (27th February 2021) to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Premier League I thought I’d take a look at the special relationship between the fans of the two clubs.

Similarities

Both City and West Ham fans have a shared understanding of football history, status and achievements with supporters aware of their club’s traditions, rivalries and shared history. The two clubs’ roots are very much based around hardworking working class areas of their cities with the supporters of both the Hammers and the Blues coming traditionally from the working classes. In recent years an analysis of the original shareholders at the majority of Football League clubs identified that by 1900 City’s shareholders came mostly from the working class – a larger percentage than at any club other than West Ham who had a slightly higher percentage. This demonstrates that those who owned both City and West Ham were representative of the fans on the terraces and that these clubs were similarly organised and run. As a result of this both clubs were representative of their communities in ways in which their nearest local rivals were not at the time.

Both clubs have enjoyed stylish, attractive football over the years with a belief that the game should be an entertainment. The roots of this go back decades at both clubs with West Ham’s Ted Fenton and Ron Greenwood influencing men such as Malcolm Allison and John Bond who managed the Blues. 

Recently, City fans have been delighted to see Manuel Pellegrini and Pablo Zabaleta become Hammers following a line that includes other popular Blues such as Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley.

Attendances

The support both clubs have received has varied at times but what is abundantly clear is that they have remained the most loyal in the country regardless of League status. West Ham, like City, have never been the worst supported club in their division (both United and Arsenal have!) and West Ham’s attendances over the decades have been fairly consistent, never dipping below 16,000. Recent years have of course seen both City and West Ham eclipse previous record average attendances thanks to the larger capacity of their current homes.

Successes and Struggles

Although West Ham did not become a League side until 1919 (City joined the League as Ardwick in 1892), the Hammers didn’t waste much time in progressing, reaching Division One and their first FA Cup final in 1923. The 1960s was a glorious period for West Ham – as it was with City – winning their first European trophy, the ECWC, in 1965. City won the same trophy in 1970 meaning that the Hammers were the second English team to win a major UEFA trophy and City were the fourth (For those wondering – the Fairs Cup was not a UEFA tournament and its entry requirements were not based on performance at times).

Of course both teams have had periods of struggle, ensuring that when success is achieved the fans of both clubs do not take this for granted. The great Malcolm Allison, a former Hammer & Blue, once told me in an interview that it’s important to “celebrate each success as if it’s your first, because it could well be your last.” Although he was perceived as a boastful character at times his philosophy, gained through his experiences at West Ham as a player, is one both sets of fans seem to agree with.

Celebrating the title – 2014

We must not forget how gracious and sporting the majority of West Ham fans were in 2014 when City became champions of England, securing their first ever league and cup double. That day the Blues beat the Hammers 2-0 with goals from Nasri (39) and Kompany (49). Manuel Pellegrini’s City were applauded and congratulated extensively that day – something that hasn’t happened with the fans of some other clubs when City have won the title.

The “You’ll be back” Game

The biggest demonstration of the special relationship between the fans of the two clubs came in May 1987. City were relegated after a 2-0 defeat at West Ham.  At the end of the game City supporters and West Ham fans climbed over the fences and onto the pitch. Some thought that the two sets of supporters were about to confront each other, but the fans knew differently. The Hammers began chanting “You’ll be back” and both groups swapped scarves and souvenirs on the pitch. It was the kind of moment that should have been widely reported in the media but at the time focus tended to be on hooliganism and confrontation rather than the positives of football support. City had been relegated, but their supporters did not seek revenge.  The West Ham fans could have ridiculed, but they didn’t.  If only those condemning football fans at the time could have seen the two sets of loyal supporters genuinely appreciating and understanding each other.

The relationship between the fans of the two clubs is not something that is widely discussed or promoted but it is something that has endured. City fans have never forgotten the ‘You’ll be back’ game and in recent years, as others have unfairly mocked both sets of fans, the supporters of both the Blues and the Hammers seem to understand and respect each other. Inevitably, there will always be banter during a game but outside of the match the mutual recognition and respect always seems to win through.

To many West Ham are the City of the South – a proud football club with a great history and heritage, combined with a loyal and passionate fanbase.

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If you would like to read more like this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 250+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

While you’re here why not check out the frank audio interview with former WHU player and MCFC boss John Bond? Taster clip here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/24/liverpool-1-mcfc-3-john-bonds-views-on-liverpools-reaction/

City Voices – Your Help Needed

My City Voices project was launched a couple of weeks ago. The project is looking to catalogue the stories and experiences of Manchester City fans through the decades. The aim is to capture as many different voices and experiences as possible to allow a detailed history of what being a Manchester City fan has been like throughout the years.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been a Blue for ninety years or nine; whether you come from the City Of Manchester or elsewhere – all views count and are of interest.

Over the three decades or so since I first started researching and writing about Manchester football I have been keen to record the experiences of fans. Back in the 1990s I recorded the stories of City supporters who could talk about the 1910s and attending games at Hyde Road. I know now that fans who can talk of specific moments at Hyde Road are no longer with us – time causes us to lose so many stories and voices. It is therefore vital we capture the stories of our family, friends and so on while we can.

If you would like to help this project then please see this page for details and the initial questionnaire: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/06/city-voices-project/

There will be a number of outputs from this project. It’s too early to say exactly what will be produced but I think most people know what usually follows when I embark on something like this.

Thanks to all those who have taken part so far. It is appreciated.

Manchester City’s Support: The Facts

Over the last few years there’s been a growing tendency by rival fans to mock the support of Manchester City. It’s an extremely odd thing to do, especially as for most of the period between 1981 and 2011 they talked of the loyalty of City fans. It seems, once the Blues started winning trophies again, rival supporters had to find something else to focus on. 

Recently, this myth about City’s support has been used by some in extremely strange ways, for example following the Blues 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Anfield (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/07/the-last-time-mcfc-scored-4-or-more-at-anfield/ ) some Liverpool fans (and even some journalists!) started to make the point that City’s recent form is down to the fact that ‘they’re used to playing in front of no fans’ with the suggestion being that if Anfield had had fans present then City wouldn’t have won. They go on and suggest that Liverpool would have gained more wins in general and that City would not be top of the League and that Liverpool would be. 

This is an extremely strange view, especially as the 2019-20 season (which included some games without fans of course) was the only time Liverpool have won the Premier League since its formation in 1992. In each of those seasons prior to LFC’s first Premier League title crowds were allowed at Anfield. During that same time City have won the League on four occasions. It’s a preposterous idea that ignores the facts.

So for this article I’ve decided to produce evidence of City support in recent decades along with a few comparisons with other leading sides. It makes interesting reading and may embarrass the supporters of certain clubs who constantly ridicule City’s fanbase, despite the evidence. The following in-depth piece can be accessed by subscribing to this blog below.

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If you would like to read this in-depth article and all the others on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 220+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

City Voices Project

Following on from the successful project capturing the stories of the women who played for and the people involved with Manchester City’s women’s team throughout its 30+ years of existence, a similar project has now been launched to capture the stories of Manchester City’s fans.

I will be capturing the stories of the club’s fans over the next few months and you can help contribute to this great project. I’m keen to hear from and interview fans to ensure their stories and experiences are captured and retained for ever.

If you would like to help the project and provide your stories then please complete the questionnaire below and send it to gary@GJFootballArchive.com as soon as you can. Unfortunately, due to time constraints at the moment I will not be able to reply to all emails. I will certainly be reading every questionnaire and those stories will be captured for posterity. 

In addition, I will be interviewing some fans over the coming months (sadly, this may have to be over a video service or telephone, although later in the year face-to-face interviews may follow). If you would like to be considered for interview then please complete the relevant section on the questionnaire.

Updates on the project will follow over the coming weeks and months, including details of how these stories will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of what it has been like to support Manchester City over the decades. 

One important point to note is that I am keen to hear from fans of all ages based in Manchester, the United Kingdom and around the world. The greater the number that respond the better the archive of fans stories will become.

Please help this project and ensure the memories, stories and lives of City fans are captured for posterity.

Here’s the questionnaire:

https://gjfootballarchive.files.wordpress.com/2021/02/city-voices-modelconsent.docx

Thanks,

Gary

Who Said City Couldn’t Play?

Over the years several Manchester City fans have asked me about an old City song that I’ve played at various talks and events I’ve staged. The song, ‘Who Said City Couldn’t Play’, was based on a popular tune of the period and was sung by fans in the 1930s, possibly even the 1920s.

Research has shown that it was sung extensively in 1934 during City’s FA Cup run and it survived into the post war period. Many older supporters, including my father, remember people singing it at games during the forties and fifties.

It is the earliest chant style City song that I’ve tracked down, though I do know that City fans did sing music hall song on the terraces from the 1890s onwards.

At the 1934 homecoming the brass band leading the procession played the tune over and over again, proving that this was a well known and popular City chant.

I think there must have been a couple of verses but sadly these haven’t survived. I also wonder who the people were who said that City couldn’t play? Was it rival fans or, more likely, a couple of journalists who had criticised the club in the 1920s or early 30s? Perhaps it was tied in with the 1925-26 season when the club reached Wembley but was also relegated in the same season.

Over a million people, according to several reports, were on the streets to welcome City back in 1934. It was an incredible celebration and ‘Who Said City Couldn’t Play?’ was central to those celebrations. It was sung by all ages and by men and women. It wasn’t simply a small group of fans.

Here’s a low quality recording I tracked down years ago of fans singing it in 1934. This is from a few-recordings I managed to uncover. It’s not the full song but should give fans an idea of what it was like. Enjoy! Maybe one day we’ll all be able to gather at a football match again and sing songs like this.

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Can You Help Find These MCFC Fans?

“It was the way in which the football supporters of Manchester United and Manchester City used to dress and treat the whole match as if it were a carnival”
– Iain S. P. Reid

A book is to be produced on Iain SP Reid’s photographs of City and United fans at Maine Road and Old Trafford. Paul Sorene (one of the people behind the book) has asked me to help track down anyone who appeared in these photos.

Images, like the one above of the hot dog sellers and fans on Maine Road, will be reproduced in the book with, where possible, the stories of those featured in the photos. Maybe, if circumstances allow, they’ll recreate some of the scenes within the book too.

So if you appeared in that photo or in any of the others Iain took during this period then please get in touch.

You can make contact with Paul Sorene and all involved at info@flashbak.com or through the Facebook page for Iain’s work at:

These photos were taken circa 1977. Iain believed that photography could improve lives. His work is full of joy. Sadly he died in 2000, leaving his fabulous archive of photographs filed away in boxes unseen until his family rediscovered them.

The book will be crowdfunded and we’ll all be able to spread the word but, most importantly at the moment, the people behind the book really want to hear from those Iain captured in his work. The pictures alone would make a fantastic book, but including the stories of those capture will make it a truly brilliant project.

I’m always passionate about the capturing and preservation of footballing images and stories. For me football simply isn’t about the players on the pitch but the thousands who dedicate significant time – and money – to supporting their club. If you’re a Blue or a Red who attended games around 1976-77 then take a look at Iain’s collection at https://www.facebook.com/IainSPReid and see if you’re there – or if there’s someone you recognise. The more people can do this the better. Thanks