Wilson x Silva: Musical Football Hero

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Spanish footballer David Silva is a part of Manchester. Tony Wilson is ‘Mr Manchester’. What an ace city to be part of?! It’s got Shameless, it’s got Coronation Street and it’s got football and music by the bucketload. Some are born here. Some arrive here and fit right in.

I remember hearing the local tones of Anthony Wilson on Granada Reports news as a kid. In contrast to the home counties accents of England, used by the BBC, here was ITV’s regional voice with a proper twang. Known for his nightclub (Hacienda) and Factory Record, Anthony H. Wilson was deeply rooted in Manc culture. He still is, even after his early death, aged 57, in 2007.

Born in 1986, in Gran Canaria’s Arguineguín, a small fishing village, David Josué Jiménez Silva’s rise in football has been dramatic. His 5’ 7” (1.7m) stature has been iconic in the Premier League since his arrival at Manchester City in 2010. He leaves the club having won 4 league titles, 2 F.A. Cups, and 5 E.F.L. League Cups. There were also 3 Community Shields. During his time at City he has represented Spain and gained two UEFA European Championship trophies. All on the back of 2010’s FIFA World Cup crown. Bizarrely there has only been one Premier League Player of The Month award (September 2011). Many other individual awards have been picked up. David “El Mago” Silva is and has been Mr Manchester City.

“The best signing we [Manchester City] have made.” – Carlos Tevez, former Manchester City footballer, October 2011.

After finishing the delayed Champions League campaign, David Silva will leave the sky-blue base of Manchester for a new challenge. Seen as one of the best and exquisite midfielders around, he will leave buckets of memories for his adoring fans. His possession-retaining ball play, his rarity in losing the ball, his deft passes and his nimble runs along the Etihad Stadium turf will be missed.

Born in Pendleton (Salford), the man dubbed ‘Mr Manchester’ slotted into journalism, concert arrangement, and radio. His record label, Factory Records hugged Britpop and Mancunian music. His love of the city of Manchester can be seen throughout his colourful career. As an entrepreneur his Factory Records gave us Happy Mondays, A Certain Ratio, Joy Division and New Order. Madchester was born here in the late 1980s. Amongst the gloom yellow smiley faces and exciting vivid colour schemes gave pride back to the people of Manchester. He threw money at music and was a little careless in terms of making a profit. By the end of the 20th century both Factory Record and the Haçienda went bump. No money. No glory. His voice carried on and even down the road in Liverpool he was identified with. He didn’t like centralisation and clearly wanted more regionalism.

Xavi and Andrés Iniesta played alongside David Silva, and it can easily be argued that such dynamic playing styles will have influenced each another. Between the trio, how many future stars, current players and fans will have been inspired or motivated by them. The drool spilled from each twist and turn would probably fill Victoria Baths (Manchester) many times over.

“He pulls the strings on the pitch. A brilliant footballer with great movement, he can score, assist, a player who decides a game. He’s got so much to his game, that I would consider him one of the best ever.” – Andres Iniesta, footballer, Manchester Evening News, January 2020

Steve Coogan didn’t do too much of a bad impression in 24 Hour Party People. In fact, if anything, he elevated a charisma known to few of the younger generation and brought real warmth for Manc culture and the main man, Anthony Wilson. I’ve seen him star on World in Action and After Dark amongst other shows. What always truck me was his voice and his belief in what he said or did. When he started on Channel M it was exciting but never lasted beyond one episode due to his illness.

“I used to say ‘some people make money and some make history’, which is very funny until you find you can’t afford to keep yourself alive. I’ve never paid for private healthcare because I’m a socialist. Now I find you can get tummy tucks and cosmetic surgery on the NHS but not the drugs I need to stay alive. It is a scandal.” – Anthony H. Wilson, BBC News, 11/7/2007

In Spanish and Mancunian footballing history David Silva ranks at the highest orders. The boy from UD San Fernando (Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain) will leave Manchester as a man – a man who has touched the hearts and minds of many City fans. His son Mateo will be able to look back on his father’s time at City with pride. Not bad for a boy born into City’s culture without knowing it. At the end of the day David Silva has been an exemplary custodian of Manchester City. To think that he started his playing days as a goalkeeper before switching to a winger and then midfield dynamo or trequartista. It’s been a journey with City and it all started under Roberto Mancini. The rest they say is history. Tomorrow night’s game against Real Madrid could be his final, or it could be close to the last game. The UEFA Champions League final would be a fitting farewell, but not all fairy tale has a happy ending.

Manchester Town Hall’s flag flew at half-mast in August 2007 following Tony Wilson’s death. FAC 501 was the number on his catalogued coffin. Peter Saville, famed designer and artist, alongside Ben Kelly (an interior designer) designed the gravestone. The headstone is marked as Anthony H. Wilson, ‘Cultural Catalyst’. Since then Factory Records has been reborn in some shapes and forms, and HOME/First Street in Manchester has a new square, Tony Wilson Place. A fitting tribute for a true champion of Manchester.

“Mutability is the epitaph of worlds/ Change alone is changeless/ People drop out of the history of a life as of a land though their work or their influence remains.” – Mrs G Linneaus Banks’s 1876 novel The Manchester Man

THE URBANATHLETIC MEDALION

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Found in my documents, on the archives of my old computer, here’s some writing from July 14th in 2008:

GREENBLUE AND THE URBANATHLETIC MEDALION

The morning of Sunday July the 13th 2008 marked something rather different for me.  I woke up, had three Shreddies breakfast bars, a bowl of muesli and a banana.  I decided to skip having a bath or shower.  I affixed the bog standard shop’s own roll-on to my armpits.  I then walked my family’s dog Bailey around Highfield Country Park (Levenshulme) in glorious shimmering summer sunshine.  The bus journey into town and out towards Sportscity filled me with nerves.  Prior to today, I had only ever ran around chasing a football or on Aberystwyth Town reserve team runs with Richie Jones barking his orders at decibels only heard near commercial aeroplanes.

The full three months of training were about to come into fruition.  Had running like a Monty Python sketch artist up stairs in Plymouth’s Hoe before diving to the ground to do a transverse abdominal stretch on the grass made a difference?  Had cycling insane distances and mentally challenging hills improved my stamina?  Did laying off the real ale and whiskey make one iota of a difference?  Only today would tell all.

Watching The Gladiators since I was younger and occasionally catching great Olympians like Linford Christie and Sir Steve Redgrave on television should have been a big influence.  I should have done more sport back in my University days at Aberystwyth.  However, the Latin Superbia in proelia stuck to mind.  Having gotten sponsors that combined a total of over £700 between them, I had to do this as best possible for my chosen cause the Genesis Appeal.  I had chosen the Genesis Appeal for several reasons.  I like boobs.  One in ten women develop breast cancer (and even 1 in a 1000 men develop this too).  That’s shocking!  Imagine the days back at your secondary school, I went to Reddish Vale where we had around 1400 students at the time.  Just pin-balling figures around to say half the students were female to give us 700 and then dividing that by ten to give us 70 possible breast cancer sufferers.  Astoundingly large numbers.  Scary.  The other factors for choosing The Genesis Appeal included someone within the family undergoing treatment for breast cancer and my football club, MCFC (okay) choosing to nominate a cause I had up until then never heard of.  I perused the matchday programmes and visited their excellent website, www.genesisuk.org, to find they are a national charity based in my homeland of Mancunia.

Preparing for the run did not just involve physical preparations, but I had to bug people, kneecap them, and scrape for pennies towards my chosen charity.  The medium of Facebook proved easiest, setting up a group called the, “John Acton’s Urbanathlon Run In Aid Of The Genesis Appeal Charity” which could also have been named, “Oi, gimme cash for a bloody good cause, and I’ll do something stupid.”  Then there was the T-shirt… having emailed many custom-made t-shirt providers and got no response, I contacted a firm in Plymouth who took my order, then lost it, then re-took my order before eventually deciding a week before they could not find the order again.  I still await a refund.  So, off to the shops I go, I grasp the blue dye and apply liberally to a cheap polo shirt from a high street sports shop (the night before the run).

So, to the task in hand, the Original Source 2008 Urbanathlon in Sportscity, East Manchester… the warm-up was bloody hard work.  Diane Modahl launched the race, the first of its kind in Europe, and then on the day started us off.  And off I jogged.  Ouch, why do you always need a piddle after only a few minutes running?  The race started on the Regional Athletics Stadium, looped around the City of Manchester Stadium forecourts, over some concrete blocks, looped around beneath the F of The Fart (I mean B of The Bang), up the spiral staircases into the City of Manchester Stadium (I stopped enroute to use the men’s toilets), back out of the stadium and past the City Social café, over another wall, through a man-made lake of water, lemons and oranges, back out feet drenched before tumbling over a few logs, following the course below, alongside the canal, then up into Phillips Park, through towards the bridge, under the bridge, up a hill, over a pyramid of hay bails, down a dip, up a slope, over some trees, through stinging nettles, up a muddy embankment, down a hill, up a steep winding path, slid down a huge waterslide aided by Fireman Sam’s hosepipes (no pun intended), up a grassy slope, across more green fields, down a path, banking left, following the pathway alongside the river Medlock, through the river Medlock and up a steep bank of mud, following the river pathway yet again but on the opposing bank, back through the river, this time over more slippery pebbles, up onto the dry land in drenched trainers (will they ever wash clean?)…

…up a hill of hell, no car could ever climb this hill, it is far too steep and long, through more green pastures, descend some steps, crawl through the pipelines, grab some water where a lady informs me I’m halfway (is there no end to this hell?), a lad shouts to me, “well done Genesis Appeal, its horrible what happens in a Genocide.”  I slow my pace and inform him of what The Genesis Appeal is, I clamber through ropes aplenty in a horrible sapping rope course, waddle along the pathway, transcend a hill banking up towards Newton Heath, a silver car passes me by on the pathway with its hazard lights flashing to reflect my feelings, over an assault course (similar to that seen on parks), through some tyres one foot at a time, then run over the bridge, towards Ravensbury in Clayton, down a cobbled alley way, over a platter of car tyres, over the road back into Phillips Park.  Under the old bridge, onto the straights towards the finishing line which is now in sight…

over a sadistic climbing wall, I decide to leap two footed onto the cars just before the finish line before jogging over to glory, collecting my medal and goody bag before grabbing a drink and striding away in sheer agony.  Who’s idea was this?!  One milkshake later, a warm down and some water I decide to go and collect my time.  I was assaulted on the way by a Gazebo and promptly St. John’s ambulances called into action.  One superficial cut to the noggin cleaned up later and then a whiz round the Party In The Park before watching hundreds more cross the finish line. I had finished the 10k Urbanathlon in around an hour.  Not bad for a non-distance runner!

And even today my muscles twinge, my feet burn and my body demands energy.  If you sponsored me, thank you kindly.

John Acton,

www.justgiving.com/greenblue (open until September 2014  for sponsorship)

From my archives.

Radical Cowherd

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” – George Bernard Shaw

The radical city of Manchester has and continues to change eating habits for many people. Independent food co-op The Eighth Day (111 Oxford Road) has a shop and a café in central Manchester. It’s part of a growing vegetarianism within Greater Manchester. Everything from food festivals (e.g. Plant Powered Sunday), vegan fairs, beer festivals and club nights can be found within the city.

“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.” – Franz Kafk, German-speaking Bohemian novelist

William Cowherd died in Salford during 1816. He’d lived around that way for some time. Well done him. Salford, for those outside of Manchester, is a city that is west of Manchester. It is part of Greater Manchester, and when the news is positive, we Mancunians claim Salford as our own, but when it’s negative, Salford stands alone.

“As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” –  Pythagoras, ancient Ionian Greek philosopher

For example, Salford Lads Club (est. 1903), is famous for a photo of The Smiths nearby by photographer Stephen Wright. That’s positive and claimed by Manchester. Murder for example, well that happened in Salford and has nothing to do with Manchester. Salford/Manchester’s William Cowherd advocated vegetarianism and in 1847 his philosophy founded the Vegetarianism Society (in Altrincham, just south of Manchester).

“William Cowherd, the founder and minister of Christ Church, Salford, died 24th of March, 1816, aged 53 years. At his request is inscribed, ‘All feared, none loved, and few understood.’ ” – The words of William Cowherd’s tomb at Christ Churchyard, King Street, Salford.

Popular with his followers, Cowherd gave free medical services, a lending library without cost and soup (vegetarian, obviously). Having trained at Beverley College, Yorkshire,  Cowherd moved to Manchester in the late 18th Century.. Heavily-influenced by 18th Century Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, Cowherd went his own ways after jumping ship from the Church of England to the Swedenborgian church before he went solo.

“Eaters of flesh could you decry; Our food and sacred laws; Did you behold the lambkin die; And feel yourself the cause?” – Hymn against flesh eating

Reverend William Cowherd established the Bible Christian Church in 1809. Located on King Street, Salford, his church broke away from the Swedenborgian New Church. He and his congregation [known as Cowherdites] vowed not to eat meat or other intoxicants. Born in 1763, William Cowherd, headed from his native Carnforth (Lonsdale South of the Sands). A keen writer, Reverend William Cowherd’s work could be found from the New Jerusalem Journal to the catchily named Liturgy of the Lord’s New Church. Various works of his were printed locally at the Manchester Printing Society. Considering Cowherd, which is a strange name for a man who hated eating meat, was only around for 53 years, his church managed to reach America [Philadelphia Bible Christian Church] and push the cause of vegetarianism and form of temperance to a wider audience. Other temples opened around Manchester for the Bible Christian Church, with one on Every Street just down from what is now known as the Etihad Stadium.

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” – Albert Einstein

So, Cowherd convinced a group of congregates not to eat offal (stomach and intestine) etc. The poor were rarely able to invest in higher cuts of meat. These Cowherdites, his flock, went on and before you knew it meat was murder and the Vegetarian Society was born. At this time, vegetarianism was met with disdain. Nobody knew how the health effect would be. Few had studied it. Few had gone that way. Deaths within the Cowherdites were blamed on a lack of meat and two veg in their diets. Intellectuals throughout urbanisation and cities began to debate the ethics of killing and eating animals. Vegetarian restaurants in Victorian Manchester flourished.

“The thought of two thousand people crunching celery at the same time horrified me.” – George Bernard Shaw

Kippax, Red Devils & Dreams

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

The day before I was born (27th October 1982), Manchester City beat Wigan Athletic through two Paul Power goals. Three days later they beat Swansea City by two goals to one at Maine Road in the football league. Denis Tueart scored the first whilst Asa Hartford scored what would be the winning goal. Fast forward some years to 2020, to Dongguan city, China, during the sleepy stuffy hours of May the 4th… and a kind of nightmare.

I’ve been to many football games and the majority have been at Maine Road, The Etihad Stadium and one at Manchester City’s other home ground of the 21st century (Oakwell, Barnsley). There have been some great memories over the years but today I awoke from a surreal nightmare and felt I was back in 1996, really annoyed by City’s loss to Barnsley. The dream I recall, was an odd one. I was walking into the lower tier of the almost-new Kippax stand. Up some steps and into the beautiful atrium of the ground. The bright greens of the field, the darker Kippax blues and the sky blues of the stands, with much cheer and optimism. Alan Ball had been fired not long before and club legend Asa Hartford added Scottish steel to the rocky City’s manager hotseat.

barnsley home 1996 to 97 progI remember the game well for an exciting 21-year-old called Jeff Whitley stepped onto the field for his debut. “Officer” Dibble returned to goal in a game that saw my favourite player Uwe Rösler wasteful. Steve Lomas had put a chance on a plate for him, but I guess the advancing Barnsley goalkeeper had done his maths well in advance. City fell a goal behind due to some calamitous defending but restored the game through a Steve Lomas cross turned in by Nigel Clough (son of Brian). Bald left-back defender Frontzeck hugged the hell out of Clough as he pushed him away. Later on, young debutant Jeff Whitley gifted Barnsley the winning goal opportunity and Trinidad & Tobago striker Marcelle now had two goals. It was a mistake. We all make them. I’m certain Jeff Whitley came back a better player because of that moment.

I can recall rolling up my matchday programme and heading to The Clarence pub with my Dad, struggling to keep up with his pace and half-understanding his anger at the City team. I was a spotty thirteen-year-old kid with curly hair and no appeal to the opposite gender. Different times, different hair. The Kippax had been bouncing with atmosphere but at times it had been so quiet, silenced by the visiting team and their strength over a disjointed City squad. From my dream I had all that, and the Manchester United fans laughing at me in school the week after. Even the Stockport County fans in Reddish Vale School enjoyed a laugh at my expense. I don’t recall Clewsy the lone Blackpool fan having a dig at me though.

“City, well, quite simply in a state of turmoil.” – host Elton Welsby, Granada Goal Extra, September 7th, 1996

The 1996/97 season was a drab affair. As it was Asa Hartford would step aside as caretaker manager for Steve Coppell and then Frank Clark. Uwe Rösler would bag 17 goals that season and take the club’s golden boot. City would finish 14th and spend the following season wallowing in the Football League First Division once again as Barnsley gained promotion to the Premiership. Manchester City weren’t always that bad, sometimes they were worse, and sometimes not bad, and now they are amazing. Nor was the Kippax so quiet at times, despite the crap football.

Manchester City 1-2 Barnsley / Division One (New) / Saturday 07 September 1996. Attendance: 26464. CITY 1 Andy Dibble / 2 John Foster < 53’ Rae Ingram / 3 Michael Frontzeck < 75’ Gerry Creaney / 4  Steve Lomas / 5 Kit Symons / 6 Nigel Clough [Goal] / 7 Nicky Summerbee / 8 Jeff Whitley / 9 Paul Dickov < 75’ Martin Phillips / 10 Georgi Kinkladze / 11 Uwe Rosler  Barnsley Watson, Eadon, Appleby, Sheridan, Davis, de Zeeuw, Marcelle [GOALS 2], Redfearn, Wilkinson, Liddell, Thompson – subs Regis (81’), Bullock(unused), Bosancic (unused)

The new Kippax stand had been opened by club goalkeeping legend Bert Trautmann in October 1995. It would stand on the former ‘Popular side’ of the field opposite the Main Stand of Maine Road until 2003 when it faced demolition due to Manchester City’s relocation to the then City of Manchester Stadium. Back in 1956, the ‘Popular side’ became known as the ‘The Kippax’ at what many called ‘The Wembley of the North’. Money from the FA Cup final win (that same year), featuring Bert Trautmann, gave the ‘The Kippax’ a roof to shelter from the very Mancunian weather. This vocally active and huge terrace of noise was well-known in football for many, many years. Unlike other famous noisy football stands, this ran goal-end to goal-end, much like the players upon the pitch. The passionate Kippax stand gave name to the fanzine, King of the Kippax. The Kippax name came from Kippax Street behind the stand itself. Kippax though, is a parish village within Leeds and Yorkshire. It was called Chipesch back in Domesday Book of 1086 and later sometimes spelt as Kippeys, Kypask and Kypax. City’s stand could have been named after kippers. The word itself may relate to ash trees.

“One of my first memories was we played Twente in the UEFA Cup and when we scored, it was utter bedlam. Arms and legs going everywhere. I ‘d never experienced anything like it before.” – Sean Riley, Failsworth, Manchester Evening News

As kids we used to play football with tin cans, bottles (glass wasn’t unusual) and any other rags we could boot around. Think of the back of the old Kippax as a kind of nursery or kindergarten. Following standing areas being outlawed, so too were tin-can football stands. Instead new VIP areas and executive boxes found a home over areas once known for hide and seek and tiggy-it games. The new three-tier stand was full of seats and at one stage the highest football stand in England. Utd fans loved to sing about City being a massive team because of the highest floodlights in the land and then the highest stand.

“When we scored everyone would charge around but it felt like you always ended up back where you started. That’s how it felt to me anyway. Night games were just amazing. Those cup runs we had in the 70s, it was absolutely rocking. Unbelievable atmosphere.” – Brian Houghton, Droylsden, Manchester Evening News

As Manchester City moved to bigger things, the Kippax nickname carried over to the new stadium, with the East Stand sometimes being referred to as the Kippax. The familiar Kippax seat colours filled the now Etihad Stadium from day one of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The old and new Kippax stands at Maine Road witnessed Rugby League Championship play-off finals, League Cup finals, Charity Shield games, David Bowie, Queen, Oasis, The Rolling Stones, and even religious meetings.

“It was just an assault on the senses. It was always packed, everyone was always pushing and shoving. Some people didn’t even bother going to the toilet, they just went where they stood. But it was the atmosphere that drew you there, it really was incredible, unlike anything we have now.” – Kevin Parker, secretary of City’s official supporters club, Manchester Evening News

City were always the main tenants at Maine Road but a certain Manchester United called Maine Road home from 1945–1949. Old Trafford having been bombed by the Germans (and possibly Uwe Rösler’s granddad if you believe the t-shirt) made Man Utd homeless. So, City being City offered the use of Maine Road. During the 1947/48 season, the Reds set a record of 81,962 at a Football League game, against Arsenal. Probably fair to say, in the post war years, many fans would have gone and watched their rivals and City fans would happily have watched anyone at their home ground.  And then in 1956–1957, the ‘Heathens’ soon to be known as ‘Red Devils’, came knocking and played three out of four European games at Maine Road. City had floodlights. United didn’t.

City’s Hyde Road, Maine Road and Etihad Stadium were or are all in Mancunian districts. Old Trafford, on the edge of Salford Docks, may have a Manchester postcode is in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford. It isn’t in the City of Manchester or the City of Salford. However, Greater Manchester (formed 1st April 1974) mixed some of the ancient county boundaries of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and even Yorkshire (Saddleworth way) to give Mancunian flavour and togetherness. Maine Road, like Old Trafford had remained a reasonably easy place to access and football was the draw for red or blue for many years. Geography used to be the biggest debate between City and Utd fans, before City were founded in 2008.

Heathen chemistry? Matt Busby had experienced City as a player and would go on to manage United over successful years. Apparently, he hated his team being called the ‘Busby Babes’ and wasn’t too keen on ‘Heathens’ so he stole Salford rugby’s nickname (which was given to them by the French press in 1934: ‘Les Diables Rouges’). Even though Barnsley F.C. are known as ‘The Tykes’ or ‘The Colliers’, but for me ‘The Reds’ of Yorshire will always be known as the ‘Red Devils’ because of that 1997/97 game – and a few bad nights’ sleep at 7 Days Inn in China (owned by current Barnsley F.C. Chairman Chien Lee).

“Buster will be the first British £10 million pound player.” – Alan Ball, as Manchester City manager after signing Martin Phillips

I blame last night’s dreams on Martin “Buster” Phillips. Why? Because yesterday, with Murray’s F.C. we had a 6-a-side tournament on a rooftop field, with only 18 players. As the games went on, they slowed down dramatically. The 32°C heat plus 100% humidity and direct sunlight didn’t help. During a break Alex from Spain and Lucho from Argentina were asking what we called someone who couldn’t score in front of an open goal. I said, “in Manchester, we call them Buster Phillips.” Sorry. Dream well.

The Price of Competition?

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Everyone who follows football knows that transfer fees are getting out of hand – and transfer caps or salary restrictions would be detrimental to the game unless imposed globally. As one league implements caps, another league benefits. The best players will inevitably follow the cash, glamour and sponsorship deals. Veron was £28m in 2001, when he joined Man U. Rio Ferdinand cost £30m in 2002…. that was around the price of striker Robinho in 2008 (£32m). Judging by some paper talk. Anyone would think paying over the odds is new? Was De Bruyne worth £55m in 2015? Ex-City midfielder and Liverpool legend Steve McManaman put his writing seems as bad as Paul Merson’s comments now. Merson wrote “Manchester City paying so much money for Kevin De Bruyne is an absolute joke.” After all, De Bruyne was, “out of his depth at Chelsea”. City had bid for Eden Hazard in 2015 and refused to pay £32 million. What is that player’s valuation today?

West Brom’s owner has an 87%+ share and is estimated to have US$6.2bn. Arsenal’s majority owners are valued at US$22bn. The Glazers have a value of US$4bn. Everton’s Farhad has a wealth of US$2.3bn. Money is everywhere in a league that has TV rights/sponsorship deals in the billions. Barnsley, Aston Villa, Bristol City, Fulham, Derby County, WPR, Sunderland and Wolves all have billionnaire backers (in fact, Wolves have a richer backing than Manchester City!). Even Portsmouth have billionaire owners.

92 million Euros Cristiano Ronaldo was reportedly upset that Gareth Bale cost 6 million Euros more than him. Zinedine Zidane’s 75-million Euro transfer and Luis Figo’s transfer at 62-million Euros back in 2001 and 2000 respectedly aren’t small numbers. Many label players as world-class or not good enough. Surely, the result of their contracted time, is the time to judge if a transfer is good value. Joe Hart cost Manchester City £100,000 and a Gregg’s sausage roll. 266 appearances with 97 plus appearances out on loan and appearances for the national side have followed. Having battled for the number one jersey against Andreas Isaksson, Nicky Weaver, Shay Given, and Kasper Schmeichal he battled back, holding 29 clean sheets in 2011/12. He managed four Golden Glove awards in 5 seasons. Two league titles, the FA Cup and two Football League Cups added potency to his name. He was great value for a transfer fee. Vincent Kompany cost £6 million. Only 7 of City’s 24-man squad are valued below £20 million. Clubs have long been paying money for youth players, young players and future stars. It is nothing new.

In 1999, Thierry Henry cost Arsenal £11 million. Niclas Anelka joined Arsenal for £500,000 two years previous. Anelka would go on to be subject to transfer in the regions of £22 million (twice), £15 million, £13 million, £8 million, and €12 million. Since his youth days at Paris Saint-Germain, Anelka has amassed transfers in excess of £85 million. His total salary on top probably equated to that of a small nation. Nowadays some players transfer fees have exceded these collective figures. With shirt sales and commercial deals at an all time high, these disgusting figures are quite small when compared to revenue and income received as a result of that particular player coming in. Also, clubs and players are starting to form their own conscience and donate money to charity or foundations. Most banks and private companies do this to offset tax or develop their public image. Movie stars, another form of entertainment, do the same. Is football any different?

Does a successful team create an inferiority complex for some opposition teams? Possibly, yes. For years, Man U dominated the league and domestic front, whilst strengthening their name globally, sacrificing appearances in the prestigious FA Cup one season. They chased cups and money, and sometimes clubs didn’t believe they could beat the juggernaut of a club. Right now, Jose Mourinho, the most whimpering, whining, nit-picking, moaning, grousing, griping, groaning, fault-finding, complaining, carping, bemoaning, of managers is using every lamentable accusation and dissatisfaction possible aimed at City and Pep Guardiola is responding like it is water off a duck’s back. Some clubs spend almost £300 million on players, and complain it is not enough.

In Summer 2017, City invested heavily in fullbacks. Fullbacks Zabaleta, Kolorov, Clichy, and Sagna formed the 11-man exit of City’s senior squad last season. Around £57 million was raised from those players’ sales. 5 went for free. City paid out over £198.7 million on just 5 players. In the previous season City paid out £167.2 million on 8 players. Man U paid £160.7 million for 3 new players; up from £145.3 million the previous season, again for 3 players. There isn’t much in it, in terms of outlay. Arguably City’s 13 players [an average purchase of £28 million] to Utd’s captured £51 million per player. With little digging, almost every excuse falls apart.

It is really pleasing to see City investing deeply in community, global communities and charities and the future of Manchester. We are very propitious fans to see so much building for a long-term future. To be partnered with Girona FC, Melbourne City FC, New York City FC, Club Atlético Torque, and Yokohama F. Marinos – alongside a plethora of academies is a dream. Overseas, like so many clubs, hearty supporters’ clubs, and even teams like Manchester City F.C. (Sierra Leone) carry the flag of Manchester City. Maine Road F.C., long stood as a supporters’ team since 1955 have hugged City’s history. City, so often flogged as a club with no history, have a deep binding with English football history. The Revie Plan was a tactical system used in the 1950’s. It was used by Hungary to beat England at Wembley in 1953. We’re Not Really Here, is one of a handful of cult songs, even the catchy Yaya/Kolo version of 2Unlimited’s No Limit has been sung by rival fans – and isn’t unsual at darts tournaments. City have shot a long way since their inception by Rev. Arthur Connell and William Beastow as St. Mark’s (West Gorton). Not that the international scene is the only focus.

City as a club has maintained roots. The Connell Sixth Form College, fanzines such as King of the Kippax. There is a historical movie called Trautmann, and then there is the movie, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, which showcases how dire City were at one stage, yet the spirit shines on. Each football kit under Umbro had a piece of Manchester and a feel close to the heart of the City. The Academy Stadium is a short step from the Etihad Campus to the Etihad Stadium via footbridge. All are commercial, yet a clear vision from childhood football to juniors to that of a senior level is in place. The Manchester skyline is setback and every now and then a Lancaster bomber flies over the visable Pennines to the east. The successful Women’s team also have platforms to progress and a sizeable crowd is following them. The sites of the old Hyde Road and Maine Road grounds are a stone’s throw away.

Artist L.S. Lowry painted a piece called Going to the match, and was a keen City fan. Yes, we’ve had Curly Watts and other celebrity fans like Ricky Hatton and the Gallagher brothers. Real fans have become feature stars in Blue Moon Rising. This movie was updated the following season to show City’s first major trophy in a gap of 34 years. The sky-blue colour, mostly with white, sometimes with a dash of maroon or dark blue has been synonymous with Manchester City incessantly. Fans with yellow bananas, singing renditions of Blue Moon (after years of singing You’ll Never Walk Alone) have followed City home and away, loyally. For long periods City were known as everyone’s second favourite club. Typical City and doing things the hard way had made City loveable over the years. The club’s ability to be a soap opera and our fans’ die-hard approach, following in lower leagues and glory days makes up our DNA. Yes, there are new fans, but that is the wider world and how the internet and TV have changed things. Historically, City have yet to beat Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol Rovers, in over 4500 league games against many opponents. We know where we were, know where we are and are excited by the endless possibilities ahead.

Journalist Eric Todd, said of City fans in 1968, “like patience on a monument smiling at grief”; Joe Mercer was quoted as saying, “Like the players they deserve to have their perseverance rewarded”; BBC’s Mark Radcliffe in 2001, “when we are bad we’re just as bad as we always used to be, so that’s got to be good hasn’t it?”; journalist Paul Morley in 1998, “To support United is too easy. It’s convenience supporting.” Bands such as Doves, 10CC, Badly Drawn Boy, and photographers such as Kevin Cummins have used their materials to lighten up Manchester City. Comedians have shown along the way like Jason Manford, Chris “Frank Sidebottom” Sievey and Eddie Large. James Bond’s Timothy Dalton, John Henshaw, Alan Rickman, David Threlfall, Ian Cheeseman, Andrew Flintoff, Mary Anne-Hibbs, Natalie Pike, David Green, Marco Pierre White, Sir Howard Bernstein, Sir Richard Leese, money saving expert Martin Lewis and Princess Beatrice of York join fans that range as far as Arsenal F.C.’s CEO Ivan Gazidis (a former Mancunian school student). Beyond fame, a working class fanbase and supporters loyal for twenty five or more years remain. City have, in recent years, capped seasoncard sales at 36,000 seats and have sold-out. There is a waiting list. Even in the late 90s (City spent one season in the third tier of football), City gates averaged gates of 30,000. Gallows humour has always been present. Cult status has been awarded from benchwarmers Gláuber Berti to ever-presents Pablo Zabaleta and even visiting players like now Guangzhou Evergrande forward Alan. Being a City fan means you can have a laugh. Some comments may be tongue in cheek, or off the cuff – after all, winding up opposition fans is part of the parcel of being a City fan. Talking and drinking with them before or after a game, is also essential.

In 1881, St. Mark’s (West Gorton) lost 3-0 to Newtown Heath LYR. The Ashton Reporter noted it to be “a pleasant game”. The first recognised derby in Manchester. Derby games became central to Mancunian spirits, and in 1889, the first floodlit derby (at Belle Vue Athletic Ground) was held to support the Hyde Coal Mine disaster fund. In 2017, City and United sported the Manchester bee following a terrorist attack in the city that year. Each club came together, and it filled many with pride. After that, normal rivalry resumed, and why not? After all, attacks shouldn’t change out way of life. In the 1970s derby games added bite and controversy, legs were broken and cards dished out. United were reportedly relegated by Law’s backheel. Perhaps, when their fans invaded the field and caused the game to be called off, it was a factor? Who knows. It wasn’t as simple as Law’s backheel. It added, but it wasn’t the cause. City were underdogs for decades following this. From 1989’s 5-1 win over Ferguson’s side until 2002’s win at the last Maine Road derby, City hadn’t won a game against Utd. This is the period of time I grew up in. Every Red Arrogant Git made themselves known. Welcome to Manchester?

I worry that City are upsetting too many football fans. It is a shame really. There are 6 billion people on Earth and a reported 12 billion United fans. Maybe like other club supporters they feel threatened. Man U have more than double the value on Forbes, as City. More than 160 million Euros difference on Deloitte. They have board members on the Premier League and UEFA. If power is a worry for The World’s Greatest Football Team™ – then you have to worry. If you christen your ground, The Theatre of Dreams, you must live up to that, surely?

For the first time since April 1974, City enjoyed a monumental win at Old Trafford in February 2008. Since 2008, the derby games have been more level with Sir Alex Ferguson proclaiming the 09/10 derby at Old Trafford as “probably, the best derby of all time” but I would argue the 6-1 away win in 2011 or the two dominant wins under Guardiola as far better games. The blue line of City, since World War 2 has sat below Manchester Utd’s red line for far too long. Oddly City have scored far more goals than United, but lost a staggering 72 games to 51. Roll on derby day 176. History and the derby go hand in hand.

On October the 21st 2010, City allowed Lech Poznań a larger than usual away support. Their Grecque bounce soon became known as doing the Poznań. Just like that movement and style had been seen time and time before, and after, fads like transfers fees come and go, and shape the game. They keep the debate and pub arguments alive and kicking. I’ll never support Man Utd and I’d never expect their fans to back us, but this is the beautiful game, put aside your differences and agree to disagree, or agree that football and money are out of control – and it is not a new phase to the game! You’ve gotta roll with it…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye