True blue Vera – The memories live on…

Just a month shy of her 105th birthday, the wonderful lady would’ve marvelled at the sight of the fledgling superstar – 85 years her junior – smashing home Manchester City’s fourth goal at Anfield last Sunday.

Phil Foden unleashes an unstoppable shot to score City’s fourth goal at Anfield – Vera would have loved it!

Vera Cohen would’ve been thrilled as Phil Foden cut inside from the right wing, shredding the last remnants of Liverpool’s ragged and demoralised defence, before unleashing an unstoppable strike past Alisson – cold feet and all – to seal the historic 4-1 humbling of the champions.

Vera, at an astonishing 104 years and 11 months ‘young’ and a season ticket holder for nigh on nine decades, had witnessed the bulk of City’s ‘history’ – the history we’re not supposed to have, if you believe the club’s detractors – but she missed Foden’s spectacular goal.

On an occasion which will live long in the memory of every City supporter, one special fan was missing. Vera had passed away 24 hours earlier.

That’s for you Vera. Phil Foden celebrates his goal as City demolished Liverpool at Anfield.

The sheer exuberance of City’s triumph was tinged with grief and sorrow that Vera had died – quite literally out of the blue – just 15 minutes after saying she was feeling unwell on the Saturday lunchtime.

Tears of sadness at her death turned to tears of joy, as City recorded a long awaited and extremely rare win on the red half of Merseyside. Vera wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

In speaking with her family this week, I learned that this truly remarkable lady possessed a myriad of personal qualities; resilience, loyalty, commitment, positivity, love of family, life and all things Manchester City. She wouldn’t have wanted her departure to cast a shadow over such a momentous victory.

True Blue – Vera Cohen, City Super-fan extraordinaire.

Vera was the epitome of a ‘true blue’. With four children; Jennifer, Erica, Shelley and Danny, seven grandchildren and 16 great grandkids, she would joke that one of her greatest achievements was having 25 family members support City, with just two opting for United – and who could argue?

She and her younger sister, Olga Halon, now 99-years of age, achieved national and international fame in 2018, when City went with an ‘experienced line up’ for the match day mascots against Fulham. The dynamic duo, accompanied by City skipper David Silva and Fernandinho, led the team out onto the Etihad turf.

City superstars – El Mago and El Vera.

Vera was chuffed to have a cheeky kiss from El Mago, but even more so when Merlin scored in the 3-0 win. In her post match interview Vera said; “I told David he was one of my favourite players, which was true, and he gave me a kiss. I asked him to score a goal for me – and he did – so that was lovely.

“Later on I saw Pep Guardiola and I said ‘thank you very much for all you’ve done for this team.’ There’s something about him that brings the best out of these players. He’s fantastic. I hope he stays forever.”

Vera’s younger sister, Olga accompanied by Fernandinho, when the sisters led City out at the Etihad.

Up until last Saturday, it was Vera who seemed like she’d been with City forever. Born on March 7th 1916 in Didsbury, Manchester – the place she lived her entire life – she was the fifth of seven children born to Elie and Farida Betesh, Syrian Jewish immigrants, who moved from Aleppo at the turn of the 20th century.

She started attending games in 1932 with her brother Ivan, standing on the Popular Side – later renamed the Kippax – at Maine Road. Vera would pay her match day admission – an old six pence piece – before buying her first ever season ticket during World War Two. She renewed it every year up until this season, when City didn’t issue season cards, due to the Covid19 pandemic.

Vera and husband Joe were ‘Up for The Cup’ with City in the 1950s.

Not only did she love football, Vera herself was a mad keen sportswoman. She was ‘Games Captain’ at Withington Girls School. Cricket was another passion and she was a season ticket holder at what she called ‘the proper Old Trafford’ – the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club – up until she turned 95. She loved watching Freddie Flintoff and Jimmy Anderson bowl for her native county, as well as for England.

It was another ball game – tennis – which brought Vera and her future husband, Joe, together, playing at the country club (now the Manchester Bridge Club on Palatine Road, Withington) in the 1930s. They married on New Year’s Day, 1940 just before Joe went off to serve in North Africa during the 2nd World War. Vera contributed to the war effort, working at the Hans Renold Swiss Munition Factory. She was proud to ‘play her part’ in helping defeat the evils of the Nazis and Imperial Japan.

Vivacious Vera in her younger days.

She held Winston Churchill in high esteem, describing him as, “…a deeply inspiring man who galvanized the nation.” Vera’s future family would be enthralled by her wartime recollections. It was a family which began in 1946 when Vera and Joe first became parents.

Three years later Vera had no qualms when her beloved City signed a 26-year old goalkeeper – a former German paratrooper who had been awarded the Iron Cross during the war. The signing of a certain Bert Trautmann sparked huge protests with 20,000 people attending a demonstration against the move. Always one to seek the best in people, Vera loved to watch Trautmann thwart opposition forwards in a career spanning 545 City appearances.

His performance – playing on with a broken neck – in City’s FA Cup Final win over Birmingham City in 1956, became legendary. She always spoke fondly of, ‘a fantastic goalkeeper’, but also of Bert’s role in breaking down post-war prejudices.

The legendary Bert Trautmann played on with a broken neck in City’s 1956 FA Cup Final victory.

Vera, like everybody living in Manchester in the late 1950s, could not fail but be ‘deeply affected’ by the Munich Air Disaster on February 6th 1958. Her grandson, David Goldsmith, said: “Grandma always said that no matter any rivalry in sport, nothing should ever come above the preciousness of life.”

How poignant it was that Vera herself should pass away on the 63rd anniversary of the tragedy.

She always observed a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of the plane crash in which 23 people died, including many of Manchester United’s legendary ‘Busby Babes’, as well as former City goalkeeper, Frank Swift, then working as a sports journalist. Big Frank played for City for 16 years from 1933 up until his retirement in 1949, making way for a certain German called Bert. When asked which was the better keeper, Vera never made a judgement call, describing both as ‘great’.

Vera and Olga would have joined in the minute long applause when the Etihad crowd honoured Bert Trautmann’s death in 2013.

Unlike the countless tens of thousands of fans who claim to have been among a crowd of just 8,015 – City’s lowest ever attendance when losing 2-1 to Swindon Town on January 16th, 1965 – Vera and her son Danny WERE THERE!

It was yet another City badge of honour. Never ever let it be said that Vera Cohen was a glory hunter.

City Royalty – The King Colin Bell greets Vera watched over by City great, Tony Book

She was hardcore, as was demonstrated when she Olga, Danny and a family friend went to see City play at Blackburn Rovers in a 5th round FA Cup tie in February 1969. Terrible traffic congestion meant they only arrived at half time, but there was never any question of heading back to Didsbury. Vera was adamant: “We’re going to watch the boys, and that’s that!”

It was the season City would go onto win the FA Cup, beating Leicester City 1-0 at Wembley. Under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison they’d been crowned Champions of England in 1968 and Vera had loved every minute. In 1970 City would pick up the League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup.  They were heady times, with Vera and Olga ever present at Maine Road.

No fair weather fans – Vera and Olga would be at the Etihad come wind, rain or shine.

But times changed. The1980s and 1990s saw the phrase ‘Typical City’ coined, as the Boys In Blue contrived, more often than not, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Vera’s grandson David, recalled the days when City suffered several relegations and the ignominy of third tier football.

He said: “I’ll never forget one game when City were losing in injury time (an all too common occurrence in those days) and I wanted to leave early. Grandma looked at me and said, ‘We don’t leave until the final whistle is blown. We’re not these fair weather fans who come and go. We stay to the end.’ It summed up her unswerving support.”

Vera with her three surviving children – Erica, Danny and Shelley.

When she lost her daughter, Jennifer, to cancer in 2001, Vera’s verve for life and indomitable spirit helped her through the darkest of days. Rather than succumb to her grief, she sought something positive. At the age of 85, she embarked on marathon baking sessions, raising more than £23,000 for The Christie – the leading cancer care, research and education centre, based in Manchester.

In her twilight years – of which there were many – Vera reaped so much reward in the joy of her growing family and the amazing success of her other love, City!

Cheers – the champagne flowed in Vera’s ‘twilight’ years as she became a centenarian and City were the Premier League’s one and only all conquering Centurions.

After Sergio Aguero’s 93:20 last gasp, title winner against QPR, she professed to nearly having a heart attack – no joking matter when you’re 96 years old. The champagne corks popped as Vera celebrated with her own big blue family. Sergio – rather like David Silva – was one of her City favourites, hence the family’s beautiful Labrador Retriever is called Kuno.

Kuno is the Labrador Retriever so loved by Vera and her family.

She also had a soft spot for the man who skippered City to four Premier League titles, so you can imagine her delight when Vincent Kompany turned up on her doorstep in May 2017. It was part of a City initiative, ‘Nothing Without You’, where players paid surprise visits to deserving fans. Vera and Olga served tea and cakes while chatting with City’s Captain Marvel about their families and the place they all called home – Manchester. With Olga, son Danny, son-in-law Roger and numerous grandkids and great grandchildren by her side in the Colin Bell Stand, Vera would live to see City’s skipper lift the Premier League trophy on two more occasions, in 2018 and 2019.

Three’s Kompany – Vera and Olga played host to City’s Captain Marvel.

As Guardiola’s men continue their winning, record-breaking ways in 2021, City are odds on favourites to win the Premier League again, for what would be the third time in the past four seasons.

Vera stated she wanted Pep to stay at City forever, but there is an adage which reads: ‘Nothing lasts forever. Forever is a lie. All we have is what’s between hello and goodbye.’

If you apply it to Vera’s first ‘hello’ and last ‘goodbye’ you’ll find a life so rich in both thought and deed sandwiched in-between. The City Family is so much the poorer for her passing, but so thankful she was with us for so long.

RIP Vera you will be missed.

By David Walker (with thanks to Danny Cohen and David Goldsmith for their invaluable contributions)

On a personal note, I knew Vera for the last four years of her life. We sat on the same row on CB Level 2 at the Etihad. I had to pass her as I made my way to my seat. She always had a twinkle in her eye as she pretended to trip me with her walking stick – it was a nailed on yellow card every time. I used to joke with her about her 20 zillion City loyalty points – she’d been a fan for so long. I’ll admit to shedding a few tears when I heard news of her passing. It was a joy to share some gloriously rich, warm and sunny days throughout Pep’s reign and, when we do eventually return to the Etihad, it will be tinged with sadness at Vera’s absence.

Sleep well sweet lovely lady.

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

30 Comments

  1. February 12, 2021  1:05 pm by jp Reply

    As a scouser, great read this!!
    Well done, and god bless Vera!! x

    • February 12, 2021  1:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      That's most magnanimous. Thank you. Your respect and kind words are much appreciated.

  2. February 12, 2021  1:14 pm by Andrew Bissell Reply

    Beautiful article David about a wonderful lady. God bless you Vera

    • February 12, 2021  1:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      She was so lovely. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. February 12, 2021  1:22 pm by David Goldsmith Reply

    Such a lovely tribute. Thank you David for the kind and thoughtful words. With deep gratitude, Vera’s grandson, David

    • February 12, 2021  1:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      That means a lot and I hope it eases the pain of Vera's passing just a bit. Empathy, sympathy and deepest condolences to you, Danny, Olga and all your family and friends. Vera was a smasher and she will be greatly missed.

    • February 12, 2021  1:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thank you. She was worth every character and piece of punctuation.

  4. February 12, 2021  1:42 pm by Tom Reply

    What a lovely and interesting article, about a wonderful lady!

  5. February 12, 2021  2:34 pm by danny cohen Reply

    I would like to send a special thanks to David Walker for a fantastic article which is so overwhelming..
    I would also like to add that I am so honoured to see the way people are paying the most wonderful tributes to my mother Vera Cohen.
    She would be humbled by the outpouring of love and affection for her and I only hope she is reading them all very high in the sky in her own new home. She has touched football fans all around the world and I hope we all follow this direction and affection to other supporters and players of other teams all around the world.

    • February 12, 2021  2:39 pm by David Walker Reply

      Beautiful sentiments Danny. It was a privilege to write about your Mum and my thanks to you and David in helping me try and do justice to such a wonderful lady.

  6. February 12, 2021  3:07 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Brilliantly written David and what a fantastic tribute to a wonderful lady. Please if possible pass my condolences on to Vera's family. She will be watching her beloved blues from the stand in the sky RIP lovely lady.

    • February 12, 2021  3:13 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Doug. Vera's family have shared the blog so they will no doubt see your comment and condolences. Gratitude.

  7. February 12, 2021  3:17 pm by Andrew Bradley Reply

    Great tribute to a life long super supporter. Thanks for sharing!

    • February 12, 2021  3:24 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. February 12, 2021  5:31 pm by Barbara Cansino Kaufman Reply

    I have so loved and appreciated every word and picture of our darling V from here in Winnipeg, Canada (where it is 30 below today) Vera was my beloved aunt, and we still chatted on the phone every couple of weeks—about football and cooking, of course.

    • February 12, 2021  5:51 pm by David Walker Reply

      Vera was a smashing lady, I'm just sorry I am writing about her in such sad circumstances.

  9. February 12, 2021  7:52 pm by Rob Reply

    What a fabulous tribute to what we all now know was a lovely and very special lady

  10. February 13, 2021  5:23 am by Phil Hamnett Reply

    What a fantastic article to a wonderful supporter. The memories of Vera should be retained in the City museum for ever.

    • February 14, 2021  3:26 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks. Yes, Vera was an absolute treasure.

  11. February 13, 2021  9:53 am by Nivia Pimentel Reply

    I had the blessing of meeting her, only once, about 12 years ago. She made a huge impression on me, hard to describe. There was a very special vibe/energy in her. No wonder, after reading this compelling article, I see a bit of the wide array of experiences she went through, into which she put her spark, and grew bigger in love and wisdom.
    My best wishes to her soul, and her loved ones. Especially Danny.

  12. February 14, 2021  8:25 pm by Paul Keys Reply

    City really are a family and the loss of one of our own is always a sad occasion. Vera certainly warranted a special mention and your beautifully written Epitaph has i'm sure brought a tear to many a true blue's eyes. R.I.P. Vera CTiD and beyond I'm sure.

    • February 15, 2021  2:48 pm by David Walker Reply

      Gratitude fella. I just felt compelled to write something.

  13. February 15, 2021  5:45 pm by Ian Barton Reply

    That’s your best yet David, brings a tear to the eye. RIP Vera a City legend xx💙

    • February 16, 2021  5:58 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks fella. There were tears when we heard the news. It won't be the same when we get back to the Etihad, I had grown used to trying to evade Vera's walking stick. Not once was it referred to VAR - disgraceful! :-)

  14. February 16, 2021  11:02 am by Caz Burns Reply

    A fitting tribute to a wonderful lady. I was fascinated to read about Vera and her rich history. Sincere condolences to all of her family, the world is a poorer place now that Vera has gone, Olga will feel the loss of her dear sister particularly.. We should treasure the memories and information about Vera because she and her contemporaries gave so much that we could enjoy the freedoms we have today. Pep and the boys owe it to Vera and our much missed Colin The King to return the PL trophy back to us in May .RIP Vera xxx

    • February 16, 2021  6:00 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thank you. Pep won't allow any complacency to creep in so let's hope we keep on winning and the title is back at the Etihad asap.

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