Those We Have Lost: Maine Road, Manchester City
And still they keep coming! The next in our Those We Have Lost series comes from David Mayor, who had misgivings about Manchester City leaving Maine Road, but is happy that the spirit of his club remains intact, at least in its support. We are still very much looking out for submissions on this subject, by the way. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a complete base of tributes, written by fans, to grounds that we have lost? If you are interested, there is a list of the clubs that we have already covered here – drop us a line if you would like to add your club.
When Manchester City left Maine Road in 2003 it was a very different stadium to the one I had first stepped inside as a young child 17 years earlier. With a capacity of around 50,000, it was already starting to looking tired in 1986, but remained one of the largest in the country. The subsequent redevelopment of two sides over the next decade vastly reduced this to a medium-size, all-seater stadium, with its capacity nudged up to nearly 35,000 by the millennium after the addition of temporary stands in a couple of unsightly and empty corners. At this time it was a complete mismatch of four (or six, if we include the temporary structures) completely different looking stands from different eras. At a time when new stadia were (and still are) often criticised for being identikit in their appearance it may have been more celebrated. But the vast majority of people involved with the club, fans included, were strongly in favour of a move to the newly built and more aesthetically pleasing City of Manchester Stadium. I, on the other hand, was very much in a minority in my opposition to it. I loved Maine Road. As far as I was concerned, it was, along with our light blue shirts and my family and friends going to games, one of only three constant things in my time supporting the club.
What, though, was there to love about Maine Road though? Overwhelmingly, I loved it because it was ours, or to be more specific and selfish, I felt it was mine. It was northern, working class and felt a bit rough. It was everything that I romantically liked to associate myself with when I was younger. In the period since I’ve spoken to people who, as away fans, confirmed they didn’t like going there. The surrounding area could be uncomfortable at the best of times and for anyone intent on causing problems for visiting fans, the endless rows of terraced housing and back alleyways were beneficial. While I’m no advocate of trouble, I did like that it was a place that few would choose to visit if it wasn’t for the fact that a match was taking place. It was a lot of the things I felt that the City of Manchester Stadium wasn’t going to be and this worried me which lead to disagreements with other Blues who felt the move was vital for the progress of the club. I was questioned if I wanted to see the club become successful? Of course I did. I wanted it more than anything, but I worried we’d lose who we were if we moved. Would it still be ‘us’?
“More people can come to games now,” I was told. Why didn’t they want to come to Maine Road which we’d been struggling to fill five years earlier I asked? “Facilities will be better, they’re even going to extend the metrolink to the stadium.” I argued that we’d all still struggle to get a pint in the 15 minutes at half time and we’d never had a problem making our way to Maine Road. “You won’t have to use your ticket to get in, it’s an electronic card.” And? Amazing, that’s really going to increase my enjoyment of going to the game I’d flippantly respond. It felt like a betrayal of what I believed the club was by people who I’d thought would feel the same as I did. If they wanted the modern matchday experience in a shiny, brand-spanking, state-of-the-art stadium, wasn’t there another place they could go to just a couple of miles away? With others excitement about the move at its height and the emotion of the last game at Maine Road fresh in my mind I (poorly) expressed my concerns about the move on a popular City fans newsletter. The response was overwhelmingly negative towards me and my point of view and reluctantly I decided I had to let the issue, and Maine Road, go. It was being taken apart, COMS was already built, and me kicking up a fuss about it wasn’t helping anyone and certainly not myself.
Eight years on and I that doubt anyone could have predicted the series of events that have contributed to the position the club is in now, none of which would have happened if it wasn’t for this move. Had we stayed at Maine Road I’m certain myself, my Dad and other family and friends wouldn’t be enjoying going to City as much as we have done recently. At best we’d be comfortable mid-table in the Premiership, at worst we’d be, as we were when the move was first announced, knocking about in lower divisions. For all the romantic ideals I held, watching a successful City team at the City of Manchester Stadium is far more fulfilling than watching a struggling one at Maine Road. And, for what it’s worth, watching a struggling City team at our new home proved to be exactly the same as watching a struggling one at Maine Road.
As for the old ground, well, I’ve got plenty of memorabilia, photographs, books and videos about the place that I often look at when I visit my parent’s house. More importantly though, I’ve an encyclopedia of memories that will live with me forever. The combined smell of stale beer and smoke on the old Kippax, David White endlessly sprinting past opposition left-backs before firing a cross into an empty Platt Lane stand, Maurzio Gaudino’s headed winner against Liverpool in front of a half-rebuilt and seated Kippax, the pitch invasion against Birmingham to (prematurely) celebrate promotion back to the Premier League and so on. And even now, when in amongst the songs about Tevez, Mancini and De Jong I hear the strains of ‘We are City, we are City, super City from Maine Road’ drifting across the City of Manchester Stadium, I’m content in the knowledge that I watch my team amongst some others who cherish those memories as much as I do.
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