The second in a series of posts from friends and football fans sharing their fond memories of some of the grounds featured in our Lost Destination series of prints.
Journalist (and fellow Manc) Will Dean remembers his first ever trip to Maine Road.
“It was the noise on the steps that got me. We’d walked through Moss Side, me wearing a new Umbro City jacket which drowned me - like a seven-year-old Arsene Wenger in his padded touchline sleeping bag coat - and thought it nice, rather than threatening, that a bunch of local teenagers had generously offered to keep an eye on my uncle’s Ford Granada for just 50p.
The swell outside Charles Swain’s Main Stand, with its weird, semi-tubular roof was quite exciting too - with men selling an array of badges pinned onto scarves (I still have the badge of City’s old crest my uncle bought me) - and a swell of people crushing around the entrance to the tiny club shop. It was thrilling, overwhelming. Exactly the kind of thing I would have dreamed of the night before if the excitement of going to my first match hadn’t kept me up all night.
But it was the noise on the steps. Clinging on to my Uncle David’s arm we squeezed into the crush of people rushing to make the kick off. As chants from inside the stadium erupted - CI-TY, CI-TY, CI-TY - and trickled down into the stairs going up towards the terraces (well, seats) of the Main Stand there was an electric frisson.
(Though, in retrospect, this was an early season game against lowly local rivals Oldham, so the Cup Final atmosphere may well have been accentuated by my inexperience as a supporter.)
As for the game, it’s all a bit of a blur. But a blur that hooked me enough to keep watching through the apocalyptically grim late nineties through to the success of the modern age. The game ended 3-3, with goals for my hero David White, Dutch clogger Michel Vonk and the mighty Niall Quinn. There was also one of the stand’s two great hulking pillars blocking my view of the goal, and men swearing, loudly, in public.
I can’t remember much else of the game beyond recent signing Keith Curle being on the cover of the programme (actually, checking online, I’ve completely misremembered that, it was Rick Holden). Then when I got back to my uncle’s, where my mum was waiting – everyone laughed as I enthusiastically told them that I’d seen David White “in the flesh”. Which, to me, still doesn’t seem that strange a phrase to use now, particularly as a recent interview in the Mail revealed that the post-football White is almost nothing but flesh.
That season City finished in a respectable ninth – above Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton, but still sacked manager Peter Reid early into the 93/94 season, beginning a spiral of haplessness which culminated in a season in Division Two five years later. But as City fell down and got back up, Maine Road stood still. Full every other week in the Division 2 doldrums and just as full for its final season in 2002/03 when Premier League City waved goodbye to a ground that had been home for 80 years in the only way they could – by losing 1-0. A year later, it was gone."
Will Dean (journalist and City fan)
- See more at: http://www.wearedorothy.com/boredroom/will-dean-the-guardian-remembers-maine-road-and-the-noise#sthash.qUtOFxd9.dpuf