24 February 1973
FA Cup Round 5
Manchester City 2 – 2 Sunderland
I got everything I needed as an eight year old going to my first ever City match; hat, scarf, gloves, dad (Brian) and grandad (Eric) as we drove along Princess Parkway towards Moss Side the home of Manchester City.
We parked what seemed miles away near Alexander Park and we weaved our way down the side streets amongst the huge numbers of people. My hands were held in an iron grip with dad and one side and grandad on the other. We crossed over to Parkside Rd and I could see the floodlights of the stadium that I had not yet been too.
I chirped up that I needed to wee; “Cant you wait”, says dad. I wasn’t the only one and the grandad said, “I need to go too”. Dad said “oh well in for a penny then..”. Three of us let natures call down the aptly named Number 1 passage. Then the fence moved to one side and to our horror all three of us were staring at this poor bloke opening up his back yard to look after peoples bikes. “Oi begger off all of you” – [I think he said begger]. We laughed out loud in various stages of undress as we ran towards the ground. Dad said “don’t tell your mum” grandad said “don’t tell your gran either”. I felt so grown up.
We emerged from Parkside Rd then Lloyd St towards the bedlam of noise and people in front of Maine Road. Ticket touts shouted their prices like stoke brokers. Men with sandwich boards and loud voices warned us all of the evils of drink and the devil. I was frog marched to the ground and this bony hand emerged from behind the turnstile and snatched the ticket stub from my hand. I jumped up to see who this corpse like hand belonged to and was greeted by this poor frail cadaverous man in his 90’s with a bronchitic laugh that exposed his three crooked teeth stained a sickly shade of yellow by a 40 Woodbine a day habit.
“Grandad, will that man get to see the game?” – “I doubt it son, he’ll be lucky to make it through to half time, did you hear him cough”.
Inside, the air was full of foul language, the stench of cheap pipe tobacco and cigarette smoke. I felt even more grown up now. A programme for 5p, a dodgy pie (with mystery meat) and a V that was “centre of the sun” hot. We made our way to the seats. The oasis of green looked magnificent; the roar of the 54,478 crowd as the two teams took the field of play was deafening. The sky blue versus the red & white stripes looked fantastic against the huge billiard table playing surface.
City took the lead; Sunderland equalized then went ahead, a late equalizer by City and a late sending off. A four goal thriller, noisy crowd with quick remarks, indigestion and a burnt mouth; brilliant stuff and three more swear words to share with my mates at school next Monday. Even the likes of Doyle, Book, Corrigan, Bell, Lee, Marsh and Summerbee couldn’t beat second division Sunderland. Why? Because we were thwarted by two brilliant players; a winger who made our defence miserable all afternoon and a defender we couldn’t get past. Why couldn’t these two play for City; Dave Watson and Dennis Tueart.
I couldn’t wait for the next game. I still can’t.
Author: Phil Lines
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