Dodgy Curses, dodgier signings and a ground that was designed by four blind architects – it can only be Maine Road.
100 years ago today, City’s famous old ground saw its first-ever match as Sheffield United arrived and were beaten 2-1. A new era for Manchester City had begun and the blues were about to make their new ground a fortress.
Our amazing stadium held some great moments. Record attendances, FA Cup semi-finals and England matches were held at the ground in Moss Side. However, over the 80 years City resided in South Manchester, the fans saw some good times, some great times and, quite frankly, some ludicrous moments that gave the blues the title of Typical City.
And one of those moments happened before the ground was built.
The Famous Gypsy Curse
City first started their plans to move from Hyde Road in 1922. The Main Stand has been damaged by fire and there was no further room for expansion. While two sites in Belle Vue had been earmarked as possible venues, the hierarchy made the unpopular decision to move to Moss Side.
It was during construction that a group of travellers arrived and took up residence on the site. The City officials, upset that the construction of their brand spanking new ground, arrived and ordered the travellers to leave. The group said they would be moving on once they had sold their wares, but the officials were insistent and forced the issue. before they left, the travellers had one final message: No good will come to those who dwell here. City were relegated three years later, winning just eight of their 21 home matches.
The curse was apparently lifted on 28th December 1988 and City were 7th in Division Three, having won five of their 12 home matches. By the end of the season, City were third, reached the play-off final and beat Gillingham in that remarkable match at Wembley.
A Record Attendance – Not Bad For A Team Without History
Opposing fans do enjoy trying to get a rise out of City fans, claiming they have no history, Of course, the 88,569 fans that turned up to watch City beat Stoke 1-0 in 1934 didn’t get the memo from the future. It’s still the highest attendance for a match other than an FA Cup Final.
Maine Road saw some of the most loyal fans in the country. The hardcore group stayed with the blues throughout the dark times, averaging over 30,000 in attendance during our year-long stay in Division Three.
The Four Differing Roofs
Maine Road was one of the oddest grounds in the football league and it was often said that four blind architects had designed the ground. The North Stand was an elegant, single tier grey roof that stretched out upwards, curving from the Main Stand to meet with the corner of the Kippax.
That roof was pointed, triangular and didn’t connect with any other part of the ground. The corners that stood between the North Stand and Platt Lane were left uncovered. The Platt Lane was a simple design, nothing like any other roofs in the ground, while the Main Stand was white with arches at the front. And, of course, when the Kippax was torn down and turned into an all-seater stand, there was never any chance of that matching any other part of the ground either.
The ground itself had the terracing on the side, as opposed to behind the goal, which was more traditional at football grounds across the country and let’s not mention those stupidly high floodlights that I could see from my school in Beswick!
City fans are well known for their humour and it was during the boomerang years that this became evident. After a glorious era of the 60s and 70s, the blues fell into decline and faced relegation battles almost every season.
1980’s Moss Side was not a pleasant place, with gang warfare in the streets a common occurrence. It was only ever considered safe when City played at home due to the high police presence and, with goals becoming scarce as relegation loomed, City fans joked that they should turn the stands around as there were more shots outside the ground than in it.
If you went to Maine Road, a sense of humour was vital. Typical City emerged in the 80s and became the only side that could grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. We had to laugh as Wycombe Wanderers walked away from the ground with three points in April 1999.
We stood in astonishment in 1983 as the blues needed to avoid defeat at home to Luton Town, only to concede four minutes from time. We laughed as City goalkeeper Paul Cooper scored with a diving header in a home match against Barnsley. Why was it funny? He managed to score for the visitors. A long shot bounced off the post, hit the diving head of Cooper and into the goal.
We watched in amazement as City came from 2-0 down to Liverpool and equalise, then hold the ball in the corner thinking they were safe. Two season later, Jamie Pollock’s own goal against QPR all but condemned City to Division Three.
And, of course, City are the only team to win the league championship then get relegated the following season.
Only Manchester City could do that!
We Gave Some Teams A Beating Too
It wasn’t all bad at Maine Road. We had some brilliant times despite the gloom. The glory years of the 60s and 70s saw the blues win the league, FA Cup, European Cup Winners Cup, and two League Cups.
We also enjoyed some glorious matches that are etched into the memory.
How we laughed when we thumped United 5-1 in 1989. The Stretford Rangers had splashed millions on new players in an effort to win the league. City had just been promoted, but had won one match and lost four. In addition, City had a few key players out injured while United fielded British record for a defender (2.3m) Gary Pallister, Paul Ince (£1m) and Danny Wallace (£1.2m). Wallace had scored both goals for Southampton at Maine Road a month earlier.
City’s 10-1 thrashing of Huddersfield in 1987 saw three hat-tricks by Tony Adcock, Paul Stewart and David White and the blues also won promotion back to the First Division in 1985 by hammering Charlton 5-1 on the final day of the season.
In 1995, the blues, managed by Brian Horton (Luton captain in 1983 no less), produced an amazing display to beat a star-studded Spurs side 5-2.
There have been many, so many other matches that could be featured here, but this article would end up being a book.
Today, Maine Road is now a housing estate. The iconic landmark disappeared twenty years ago, and the only indication that the ground existed is the marking of the centre spot inside the estate.
The ground may be gone, but the fans are still here.
We may never win at home and never win away. We may have lost last week and we lost today.
We may enjoy the glory now of winning everything under the sun.
But we’ll always be City, super City, from Maine Road.