By Mark Benham, Fri 06 January 2012 09:55
I was frequently asked, “Why do I do it?” Since the days of running into school in my ridiculous short pants with my dinner money in a brown envelope generously provided by my mother, I have been asked the question and my answer has remained the same from those days; if you have to ask, you will never understand.
I try to explain the love affair that is Manchester City only to be met with the same vacant expression over and over again. Naively, I have thought explanations such as City being my local team or that I was born into a City supporting family would be enough for the non-believers to understand why we continue to be a part of the sheer torture that is a Manchester City fan. The reality is that others just don’t get it, but then again, neither do I.
It’s funny, the memories that stick out from your early days as a City fan. I remember walking to the car at four years old in the car park of a carpet shop with all the family, oblivious to the ongoing feud between Mum and Dad as to why Dad was here and not at the game. I was a bit young to understand football, until we got into the car and Dad switched on GMR and heard the result; City had just won 5-1 against some ‘local’ team. That split second confused look on Dad’s face followed by the ecstasy told me everything I needed to know about being a City fan.
From that point, it all went a little downhill.
The catalogue of memories soon jumps to a Wagon Wheel, the delightful chocolate and marshmallow treat. I remember the devastation that I just could not fit it in my mouth and resigned myself to Dad starting me off. Dad’s memory of the day was a little dissimilar; it was the first time he took me to Maine Road. On to the next, a phantom penalty given against Michael Frontzeck was the topic of the day in the classroom; it took months to recover from that, school kids can be cruel. Steve Lomas wasting time with the ball near the corner flag minutes before we were relegated on the same day United did the double; such warm and fond memories stick out.
When I'm asked for my favourite memories of my youth as a City fan, I tell them about walking down Claremont Road, the first moment we saw the roof of the new Kippax and the smell of the Parkside. There doesn’t tend to be much talk about what happened on the pitch. What I find bizarre, is that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those days define us.
Times have changed. Cruel school kids have been replaced by idiot work colleagues. I had the misfortune of discussing football with the postman at my Yorkshire-based Company’s head office recently. He spotted my City watch and felt necessary to inform me we had blown all chance of winning the title by losing to Chelsea. I smiled, deciding not speak a word of the profanity that soon filled the tip of my tongue. Then, after all the criticism I had been subjected to over the years I heard something so insulting it seemed to clear my mind of the last twenty years.
“Funny how you lot seem to be popping up everywhere these days.”
It wasn’t what he said; it was what he insinuated that filled me with a confused rage. In one ridiculous statement, he put me in the bracket of a plastic, a fan whose interest in the club was defined by that day in September 2008. I had too much to say, and could only manage a shake of the head before leaving the room almost dejected.
I don’t get asked “Why?” any more. Those days have gone. Other fans have forgotten or don’t care anymore about the turbulent history of Manchester City.
Every City fan needs to make sure that they do not forget. It’s what separates us.