A letter to Bernard Halford (1941-2019)

Dear Bernard,

Or should I call you Mr Manchester City?

Where are you? Where will you sit now to watch City? Up there on a blue-tinted cloud or somewhere on the moon waving a blue flag ever so proud? Is there less of a queue at half-time for a pint? Who will listen to your stories?

Firstly, I envy your position within the club and I am proud that you were one of our own for so long. You deserved the crown of Life President at City. It was only the second one handed out. Gary Cook back then made a great speech about it all. I read it in the programme and the website. I bet your face was beaming with your familiar smile. You could have retired at that time, but no your cracked on!

The Blue Moon Rising video catapulted you to many who had not seen you in person. A few scenes in dusty relic rooms here and a few words there. Wasn’t much but we all knew who you were. Not quite Carlos Tevez or Adebayor and their riches, but you had something more. A genuine belief in your club – from an early age to an this early exit. For me it feels like a defeat against Halifax Town in the cup. You never were given the rounds of life’s cup competition that you deserved.

I think some will appreciate that you’ve been with us in the dark days and here in the days when polish was on the purchase orders. You’ve had budgets in red numbers and abusive shouts thrown your way. It can’t have been easy. Forgive those who did it.

I enjoyed seeing your lift the 2011 F.A. Cup. You know why? Because, anyone who sticks with us and City that long, deserves golden moments. You did it for us. You came from Chadderton, via Ardwick, and managed nearly 40 years between Moss Side and east Manchester’s Sportcity-Etihad Campus-CFA-Bradford. Okay, you had to work at Oldham first, but that’s not a bad thing, if it got you to your dream club. That boyhood dream to lift a cup was earned.

You’ve served our club so well. I always recall working with Rhun Owens, then secretary of Aberystwyth Town F.C. and getting a good understanding of all his day to day tasks. He worked tirelessly and for little reward. He took great pride and made sure many letter i’s had dots and t’s had the appropriate level of crossing.

Rhun Owens and yourself are alike. Long-serving, passionate and devoted agents to each club that you supported. You’d both visit the youth and reserve teams and carry the flag for the teams. Rhun Owens was often seen as Mr Aberystwyth Town and had a stand named in his honour. I hope that Manchester City find a little piece of home to apply your moniker. An advocate needs to be known. If ever someone gets the chance that you or Rhun has, they must take it and bleed the colours of the clubs that they follow. They, like you and Rhun, will be part of the lucky few. The things you have seen!

Your legacy includes shaping the official supporters’ clubs, the then Junior Blues, and many grassroot football projects regionally. You’re known at the Academy for more than just signing contracts and paperwork. The Football Association answered your calls all too often – as did Club Historian, Gary James, to which you’ve shared unparalleled tales and history. The Hall of Fame at City has your name for a reason.

Eddie Sparrow, who suffered a loss of his own recently, the poor soul, describes up there as ‘the stand with no name‘ – well by giving it that name, it has a name – and I guess now you’ll be there, with Eddie’s Linda. Loss is a terrible thing and I pass on my thoughts to all who lose someone special. My support is with you. Football has lost something today. I only hope that your example has created other ready to give their time and efforts, as you did. First, we’ll mourn and then we’ll celebrate. We’ll look for your familiar face, as always but you’ll be absent, or sat up on that very-very-very-top-tier with the likes of Nigel Carr, the eternal seasoncard holders of Let’s Not Forget Past Blues, some of my late family and many others. Keep cheering for us down here please. We need it.

The word irreplaceable springs to mind. My condolences to your family, loved ones, friends and all those associated with Manchester City. We’ve been lucky to be blessed by your loyalty and in that we have been really lucky to know you.

Yours in football, love and peace,

 

John Acton

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