Emotional rollercoaster as City go for record-breaking 10/10 wins

As Manchester City go for a record-breaking 10th win on the spin against Watford this Saturday it heralds a three-day rollercoaster ride of emotions.

The man who took me to my first ever City game died on August 30th, 19 years ago, I married the love of my life on August 31st, 30 years ago and the most amazing moment of all occurred on September 1st, 26 years ago, with the birth of our son.

Admittedly, Sergio Aguero at 93:20 on May 13th, 2012, isn’t far behind the highs, but it has to be family first!

Family comes first but Sergio is right up there with his 93:20 winner against QPR back in 2012. Courtesy@MCFC

Family comes first but Sergio is right up there with his 93:20 winner against QPR back in 2012. Courtesy@MCFC

In this edition of Read But Never Red, I beg your indulgence as I look back on some memorable Manchester City moments shared with my hero and my mentor – Joseph Colin Walker – my Dad.

When asked who played the best after Arsenal had drawn 0-0 with Manchester City at Highbury in the early 1970s, the man replied with typical deadpan delivery: ‘The Metropolitan Police Band.’

No mention of Bell, Lee or Summerbee or the two titans of English football slugging it out on the muddy North London turf.

City legend Francis Lee was blown away by the Metropolitan Police Band!

City legend Francis Lee was blown away by the Metropolitan Police Band!

No, the half-time entertainment provided by a different set of uniformed players more adept with cornets, euphoniums, tubas and trombones, had caught the ear, if not the eye, of the man who was accompanied by a little boy, swathed in a thick black duffle coat to keep the chilly October elements at bay.

The lad, 9-years old and proudly wearing a Manchester City tracksuit top and sky blue, maroon & white bar scarf beneath the coat, had badgered his Dad to once again take him to see his favourite team.

It was a rare treat for the youngster who lived on the wrong side of the country when it came to watching his beloved City.

Buzzer was 'outplayed' at Highbury by a policeman's euphonium!

Buzzer was ‘outplayed’ at Highbury by a policeman’s euphonium!

His staple fortnightly football diet was served up locally at Blundell Park in Cleethorpes, by Grimsby Town – the only team who never play at home in English football.

The man with the dry wit and no particular passion for football was my Dad – Joseph Colin Walker – the kindest, most loving and caring of fathers a boy could ever want – the only drawback being he wasn’t bothered about the beautiful game.

Born in Barnard Castle in County Durham in 1932, if young Colin was to have been a footie fan he could have gone for Darlington or, more glamorously, either of the giants of the North East – Newcastle United or Sunderland.

From Joseph to Joe - Dad wrote to Joe Mercer and received a personally signed response from Gentleman Joe.

From Joseph to Joe – Dad wrote to Joe Mercer and received a personally signed response from Gentleman Joe.

Back in those days the attractions of steam engines and being a train driver held more of an allure for a young lad, especially since my Grandad ‘Big Joe’ worked on the railways.

It made it all the more perverse that 44-years on from his birth, my Dad took me to the 1976 League Cup Final at Wembley to see City take on none other than Newcastle United.

What a wonderful wonderful day it was.

Once again dressed from head-to-toe in sky blue and white, I found myself in the Newcastle end, accompanied by my Dad – an eminent journalist – along with his friends – two avid City fans, Keith Walton and Jack Abbott – a school headmaster and a local vicar, both from Lincolnshire.

We've won the cup, we've won the cup... City with the 1976 League Cup at Wembley

We’ve won the cup, we’ve won the cup… City with the 1976 League Cup at Wembley

Not quite your typical football-going quartet and one that the Geordie hordes couldn’t quite figure out. How or why we had tickets in the ‘away’ seats I will never know.

Nonetheless we were accepted into the Toon throng and despite City’s 2-1 victory after Dennis Tueart’s spectacular overhead kick winner, nothing untoward occurred. Maybe the elderly vicar’s black & white dog collar saved the day?

As a child, ‘holidays’ were normally restricted to a fun-day at the ironically named ‘Wonderland’ on the seafront at Cleethorpes. 

Dennis Tueart's winner at Wembley in 1976 went down a treat in the Newcastle end!

Dennis Tueart’s winner at Wembley in 1976 went down a treat in the Newcastle end!

Foreign destinations may as well have been a million miles away, so imagine the excitement when we had our first family vacation in 1970 – a week in the capital – London.

City were also due to play away at Crystal Palace that week, so the grand plan to take a then 7-year old Junior Blue to his first ever City game was hatched.

Once again we somehow contrived to be in with the opposition fans, but that didn’t stop me jumping up and cheering when Alan Oakes scored to give City a narrow 1-0 win.

The winner - Alan Oakes scored the only goal against Crystal Palace at my first ever City game in 1970.

The winner – Alan Oakes scored the only goal against Crystal Palace at my first ever City game in 1970. Courtesy@MCFC

A heavy set ‘Cocker-nee’ type ‘bruiser’ sitting immediately in front of us turned to face my Dad at the final whistle.

I ‘ope you’re takin’ im ‘ome to give ‘im a good fumpin’ said the intimidating Palace fan.

Not sure as to whether he was joking or serious, Dad ever the diplomat, replied: “Oh yes, he’ll get a good thrashing…” his voice bereft of any conviction.

Dad had written to City Manager, Joe Mercer, a few weeks before the match, explaining that it would be my first ever City game, asking if it would be possible to meet the players – an innocent, if not slightly naive, approach.

Gentleman Joe - City manager Joe Mercer signed a personal reply to my Dad's letter. Courtesy @MCFC

Gentleman Joe – City manager Joe Mercer signed a personal reply to my Dad’s letter. Courtesy @MCFC

We received a type written response, hand signed by Gentleman Joe, which went something like this:

‘Dear Mr Walker,

Many thanks for your letter about young David coming to see his first City game – hopefully the first of many.

Sadly I am unable to grant your request for him to meet the players after the match. Obviously we want David to see us win but, if it doesn’t go to plan, there might be some industrial language in the changing room – not suitable for a seven-year old boy.

Great to hear that David is a Blue and thank you for your letter.

Yours sincerely

Joe Mercer

Manager, Manchester City FC

It was quite something to get the letter with Joe’s signature. Sadly it’s now long gone, lost somewhere over the ensuing decades.

Wembley Joy - Peter Barnes set City on the way to a 2-1 League Cup Final win in 1976.

Wembley Joy – Peter Barnes set City on the way to a 2-1 League Cup Final win in 1976.

We didn’t have a car when I was a kid, so we always travelled by train to matches. Sadly, from Dad’s perspective, the Golden Age of Steam had passed, replaced by soulless diesel engines.

As well as Palace and Arsenal, the old man – I jokingly started calling him ‘Pa’ in later life – took me to various away games including Chelsea, West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Derby County, Leeds, Leicester,Sheffield Wednesday & Sheffield United, as well as a few trips to Maine Road.

Up the Mariners - As a youngster I saw a lot more of Grimsby Town than Manchester City.

Up the Mariners – As a youngster I saw a lot more of Grimsby Town than Manchester City.

At 14-years of age, my parents decided I was big enough and ugly enough to catch the train from Cleethorpes to Manchester Piccadilly – often changing at Sheffield – to attend City’s home games on my own.

It was the end of the line for my Dad as a reluctant football traveller.

Out of the seat moment - Big Dave Watson's bullet-like header had Dad up and cheering in 1977.

Out of the seat moment – Big Dave Watson’s bullet-like header had Dad up and cheering in 1977.

Obviously, he always wanted City to win and I remember him jumping out of his seat when Dave Watson’s bullet-like header gave City a last gasp 2-1 top of the table victory over Ipswich Town on April 2nd 1977.

It was Good Friday, it was also my birthday – it was a Great Friday.

I’ll be forever grateful for the time he sacrificed helping me follow City, but more than that, I owe him an eternal debt for being the best Dad ever.

Simply The Best - Dad always wanted City to win and my Mum, now 82, still does.

Simply The Best – Dad always wanted City to win and my Mum, now 82, still does.

He followed that up by being a smashing Grandad to little Jack – a beautiful relationship, cruelly and tragically ended just two days before Jack’s 7th birthday.

Jack is 26-years old this Tuesday and he’s been able to absorb all of City’s recent glories, with the prospect of many more titles and cup successes to come. I wonder what my old ‘Pa’ would’ve made of it all?

If his reaction to Big Dave Watson’s goal was anything to go by back in 1977, God knows what he’d have done when the Aguerrrooo Moment came along.

Aguerrrooooo - sadly my Dad wasn't here to see the Sergio Moment.

Aguerrrooooo – sadly my Dad wasn’t here to see the Sergio Moment.

While we were all going delirious in Sky Blue Heaven, he would more than likely have been lamenting there wasn’t even a hint of a brass band at the Etihad on that fateful day in May.

 

By David Walker

 

Dedicated to the memory of ‘The Best Dad in The Land & All The World.’

A mention in dispatches for another Father & Son combination, as 5-year old Mark Lawson attends his first ever City game on Saturday, all the way from Glasgow with his Dad, Brett – a Blue for more than a quarter-of-a-century. Enjoy the ride ‘wee’ man, it won’t always be smooth, but with City it will always be eventful.

 

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

24 Comments

  1. August 26, 2015  6:13 pm by Mark Reply

    Absolutely brilliant read David. Thanks for sharing such a great memory

    • August 26, 2015  8:25 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Mark - I wish I hadn't had to write it and that he was still here aged 83. Miss him every single day.

  2. August 26, 2015  8:51 pm by Glenn Kavanagh Reply

    Priceless memories David, A lovely read your Dad sounds like a real gent; I'm sure he's very proud of you...lovely picture of your father & mother I really like that classy looking coat he's wearing, they look really happy together. Keep the wheels turning Mr. ;-)

    • August 26, 2015  10:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      Cheers GK. So many people feel the same way about their Dads - all I know it was an honour and privilege to have this wonderful man as my father. My Mun & Dad were devoted - childhood sweethearts and blissfully happy for 39 years. They sure made a handsome couple. Thanks for your kind remarks.

  3. August 26, 2015  9:02 pm by Pete lynch Reply

    Beautiful, emotional, funny piece. My son was recently 26 and he too is enjoying life as a city fan these days!

    • August 26, 2015  10:44 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Pete. It was nice to remember those times again and capture them in a piece. We're fortunate that our Father & Son experiences are so fruitful and loving. If I can be half the father to Jack as my Dad was to me I'd be doing a good job.

  4. August 26, 2015  10:41 pm by Phill Gatenby Reply

    Reading this on what would have been my dad's 85th birthday....... great timing......though my dad had absolutely no interest in sport at all..... (Altrincham Grammar school and worked in his dad's grocers shop - first in Gorton then in Sale) when in school) it is my mum (Moss Side born and bred) and her side of the family that was City mad.
    Happy birthday dad X

    • August 26, 2015  10:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      Fate crosses our paths once again Phill. Take care fellow Blue.

  5. August 26, 2015  10:53 pm by Ian Barton Reply

    Excellent article, think most of us shared a very similar experience. At Wembley 2011 in final 6 of us in a row were blubbing like babies at the end. All our Dads had departed in recent years. All of them had given us a love for City. Nailed it Dave.

    • August 27, 2015  12:12 am by David Walker Reply

      Obviously blessed with wonderful and above all, wise fathers ;-) I enjoyed the indulgence of thinking of those heady days with my Dad. Thanks your Lordship.

  6. August 26, 2015  11:11 pm by muaddibble Reply

    my dad died a few months ago - lovely reading about your connection - damn this pollen

    • August 27, 2015  12:13 am by David Walker Reply

      Sorry for your loss. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  7. August 27, 2015  11:16 am by Richard Cooper Reply

    Excellent read David - poignant and amusing.
    I will briefly mention 2 of many Dad related City tales which are somewhat vague with the passage of time.
    My first game was when my father took me to Maine Road when I was about 7 or 8 which would be 1950; City versus Liverpool - I thought it was awesome and that started my passion for all things Sky Blue.
    As my birthday is near Christmas my present was the 3rd Round FA Cup tie home or away. One that sticks in my mind that relates to your geographical area was Grimsby away. Those were the pre Motorway days of course but I remember going past snowdrifts at Penistone and having lunch in a hotel in Cleethorpes where, coincidentally, the City team were. I think it was a draw and the team included Phil Woosnan and Dave Shallcross.
    I guess it would be easy to 'google' the facts but I would rather have the memories of those days as they are.
    One thing I do know is that were my father still alive he would be 'puffing' on his pipe hating the mega money transfers, huge salaries, WAGS and all the attendant hype of the modern game.

    • August 27, 2015  11:47 am by David Walker Reply

      Smashing comments Richard. I would bet the hotel was Darleys on the Grimsby Road - I could be wrong of course, but that was the 'plaice' back in the day. Mum & Dad had their wedding reception there in 1957 and apparaently my old Ma had her first lager & lime - underage I hasten to add - with Dad in the bar a few years beforehand. Disgraceful, I know!

      It'd be nice to catch up in person for a brief hello at the Etihad sometime. Thanks for commenting as usual.

      • August 27, 2015  2:18 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

        Hi
        Usually we meet chums in the Enjoy Cafe (the sports room annex) about 1330 -1345 and will be there this Saturday and most games.

        It would be good to meet you although I am sure we must have 'passed by' at some crowded, noisy away game concourse !

        • August 27, 2015  9:04 pm by David Walker Reply

          You have the 'advantage' - if you can call it that - of having seen my mug shot on RBNR website, whereas you sir could well be the Invisible Man. It's going to be pretty hectic this Saturday, but I'll be sure to try and meet up before the end of the year.

  8. August 27, 2015  12:35 pm by Peter Wilkinson Reply

    There'll be a few keyboards awash with tears this afternoon, not least my own, as I remember pestering my Dad for ages to take me to Maine Road. Eventually, in March 1962 when I was 7, he agreed to take me to see Spurs (who had won the double the year before), with the warning that it would be a good game but we wouldn't win. City being City, we won 6-2 with Peter Dobing scoring a hat trick and Jimmy Greaves pulling 2 goals back for Spurs. Of course, next season we got relegated but that was only to be expected, really.

    My Dad died about 6 months after yours, before his time but I suppose I had longer with him than you did with yours. At least he was able to go with me to my son's first City game at Maine Road, 34 years almost to the day after my first match. And while he would be puzzled by the mega salaries, etc, of the modern game I know he would be pleased that City were currently more successful than United - and amused that City had a swish new ground only a few hundred yards away from where United originally played.

    Interestingly, I've lived in Grimsby and Cleethorpes for the last 40 years, and I'm sure there used to be a blown up version of that Mariners team photo on the wall of the bar in the Imperial Hotel. And while I wouldn't argue about the Darleys, if Richard Cooper had a posh lunch on the seafront, the hotel could well have been the Kingsway.

    • August 27, 2015  9:01 pm by David Walker Reply

      Hi Peter - cracking comments and thanks for the insight into your MCFC life with your Dad.You'd be right about the posh nosh if it was on the seafront. I asked my old Ma today about Darleys and of course that was - is(?) on the corner of Suggetts Lane. I wouldn't have a clue as I haven't been back for many a year. If, as and when I do, I'd try to take in a match and would love to see The Mariners back in the Football League.

      Sorry your lost your Dad at what would have been too young but, that said, when is ever a good time to say goodbye to someone who you hold so very dear in your life. We were fortunate to have great Dads - some people don't. If ever you're at the Etihad or I go back home, I'll be sure to try and shake your hand and say hello.

  9. August 27, 2015  3:08 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Great memories Dave, very thoughtful about your father and your baptism into the ranks of the Blue Army.
    My own memories are not disimilar but it was Burnley and not Grimsby who my dad took me watch along with my brother and 2 cousins.
    Year on year since I was 16 I would trapse off to Manchester to watch City, which my dad couldn't get his head round as I was captain of the Burnley schools town team and playing for Burnley B team, often getting lift home from Willie Morgan after training in his white Jag.
    In January 1990, Burnley drew City in the FA Cup 3rd round, down 'Turf', an opportunity I couldn't miss and took my dad to see and experience the Blue Army in full throng. Although a dour game we had front row seats as Colin Hendry stabbed home the winner in front of the City fans that lived long in my dads memory - 'bloody stupid' those City fans, 'don't know why you bother' was his evaluation after the game.
    Watching the 'highlights' on the BBC that evening, there was me and my dad, side by side again, celebrating in full view of the camera's, once again united by the love of Football, me delirious and dad simply clapping politely.
    Cheers Dave, keep them coming.

    • August 27, 2015  9:09 pm by David Walker Reply

      Lovely tales Phil - I never knew you were a demon player in your time! On that topic I see Burnley have signed that shy, retiring Joey Barton for a season. For my sins I played for Cleethorpes Town and Grimsby Town Juniors, but a smashed knee cap put paid to any serious football back in the day. Thanks for the anecdotes fella - it's funny how you can meet the nicest people at the Etihad!

      Isn't about time the motley crew who sit with you start reading my meagre offerings? ;-)

  10. August 28, 2015  4:38 am by Simon Wilson Reply

    Lovely article once again. Lost my Dad September last. He was a rugby man at heart but was always there to listen to my various incoherent and incandescent rants about MCFC. He also was non-plused at the amount of money being thrown about in the Prem and maybe in sport in general. He felt Silva was magic (sorry) and Aguero world class but his admiration was for Edin. "He got you those goals ...." Anyway, thanks for letting me chime in; it is a privilege to be part of the City family!

    • August 28, 2015  10:44 pm by David Walker Reply

      That means you have a very tough and emotional first anniversary coming up Simon. I hope you and yours are managing to weather the storm. I fear they are plentiful, especially in the first few years, especially when you momentarily foregt he's gone and you think to yourself 'Oh I must tell Dad...' It's a cliche but time is a healer but of course you never ever forget - why would you want to? Heartfelt best wishes to you and your family and sincerely sorry for your loss.

  11. August 28, 2015  6:44 pm by Stephen Reply

    David, that was beautiful. Great great memories. I am a city fan due to my late mum. For some reason she bought a belfast lad a city kit for my 4th birthday to start 39 yrs of the rollercoaster. My old man even mentioned my loyalty to city in his speech at my wedding 17 yrs ago. Like you great my own parents were fantastic, who made me and hope we all can follow their wonderful example. Thanks for a great read as I imagine it was tough writing that. Take care

    • August 28, 2015  10:41 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Stephen. It was surprisingly pleasant to write, although tough at times when thinking how much I and my family miss him. I wrote and delivered the eulogy at his funeral - now THAT was a challenge. 120 people in the chapel and trying to ensure they laughed at all the funny bits at the right time!

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