When I was trying to watch the Cup Final and shouted to the players “Get in the box!”
I’m a little behind the times, and for that I apologise, but on the 5th of January Colin Bell, widely regarded as the greatest player to ever pull on the sky blue shirt for my team, Manchester City, passed away.
I’d meant to do a post about the time my wife and I met him, in memorable circumstances, a few years ago, but I got caught up in ‘stuff’ and haven’t written it yet. I will post that at a later date.
In the meanwhile, I’ve posted below a short tribute by 007 himself, Timothy Dalton, an avowed City and Colin Bell fan. It refers to the player’s beginnings and how this shy, most unassuming of men gained legendary status without really acknowledging that. There could be no more apt title for his autobiography: Reluctant Hero.
The tribute also shows him running through the streets of Manchester in a vain attempt to come back from the injury that prematurely called time on his career.
Please give it a watch.
I don’t go much to the Etihad these days, my match attendances take place much further down the football chain. But I nevertheless can’t help feeling sad today with the reminder that David Silva, after ten sterling years, plays his final Premier League game tomorrow for Manchester City.
Maybe the greatest ever to wear the sky blue shirt, he deserves a better send off than performing in a stadium devoid of fans due to this Coronavirus. But I’m sure he will return at some point to say a proper farewell.
“I would like to be remembered as a good guy, who enjoys football. I hope the people enjoyed my football as well. It’s simple.”
Enjoyed it we did. The Premier League will be a lot poorer for his absence.
I’d tried to prepare my son. You know, just in case.
I’d previously been to Wembley three times. The old Wembley once, this new Wembley twice. Three visits to the renowned, fabled stadium. And three times I’d seen my team get beat. I’d once proclaimed that I’d retired from Wembley. Who’d have thought that of a Manchester City fan, a few years ago? But then my boy came along.
“Even if we lose,” I’d told him, “you’ll get to experience Cup Final day. A match at Wembley. You will come back again.”
I needn’t have worried. For once everything went as planned. A crushing, 6-0 win and quite a memorable day. An historic domestic treble, although this was actually our fourth trophy of the season.
When the fourth goal went in, the man sat on the other side of my son hugged him, and then said to me, while beckoning towards his own young boy: “They don’t know how lucky they are, do they?”
I knew what he meant. The 90’s were a nightmare. Schooldays were insufferable.
“What do you think we’ll win this season?” James had asked me back in August.
Listen to him, I thought, the new City fan. Full of expectation.
There is a ‘knowing’ among we older fans. A wisdom built on pain. But on Saturday we could forget all that, that part of our DNA was lost in celebration.
And the music was great, too. Belting out adopted, and adapted, anthems by Mancunian bands such as Oasis, James and Joy Division. And that certain band from up the East Lancs: The Beatles.
Before the game I met up with some familiar faces from my past, camaraderies of work place and youth.
I never got to go to a City game with my Dad, but I know the stories. The ’56 Trautmann final. He and his friends reported missing, later found sleeping in an otherwise empty train in the Manchester sidings.
I was conscious I was making new memories for my lad. Life is all about passing on the baton. Saturday was a marker for him.
And then Monday night, a time to celebrate in our own backyard, my son and daughter decked out with replica kits and flags.
We went into Manchester to see the victory parade, as the Manchester City players milked the acclaim while showing off the four pieces of silverware that they’d won this season.
And to say goodbye to Vincent Kompany, our most successful captain and our leader, whose stature is just as great off the field. An adopted Mancunian from Belgium, he had married a local girl and wanted to give something back to the city that had given him so much in his eleven years here. He’d set up, with the mayor of Greater Manchester, a charity called Tackle4MCR, to help the city’s homeless, and all of the money from his testimonial year was going into that.
It was loud and jovial, (blue) Mancunians at their best, people gaining vantage points from bus shelter roofs and clinging halfway up lampposts, singing songs and cheering on their heroes.
In the middle of this lot, this throng 100,000 strong, my wife turned to me. “I need a wee.”
I suddenly imagined another use for one of those trophies.
I took my lad to watch Manchester City today. Talk about a lucky mascot: the last time I took him we won 7-2. Today’s result was a 6-1 win. I think I will hire him out.
Before the kick off both sets of players and supporters honoured the life of the Leicester owner tragically killed with four others in the recent helicopter crash. Some things transcend football.
Our new student has arrived.
We were expecting a girl who is of Luxembourg nationality. Turns out it’s a lad who was born in Luxembourg, is actually Belgian, lives in France and flew from Italy.
But he’s a City fan so all’s well.
So the football season is back. I spent a balmy Monday night at the Etihad, trying to peer through the residual smoke as the match began. Think they overdid the fireworks a little, but these days it’s all a show.
Outside queues were long and slow moving, as security was high with full body searches and sniffer dogs. I suppose that this is what we’ve come to in the current climate. Still, football as ever is an escape from what goes on outside of these stadiums. Ninety minutes of distraction; highs and lows; triumph and defeat. (Or a concilliating draw as this night turned out to be.)
Best of luck for the season, whoever you support. And if football’s not your thing, you’ve got fireworks. With a burger.
Remembering Munich, February 6th, 1958 R.I.P