Sucking Polos & Going Solo, at Maine Road

"Just a minute," said my Dad as he parked on the mean streets of Moss Side. And after handing over a chunk of change to a 10-year-old Mafia trainee on a bike, it was time to find Manchester City's fabled Maine Road ground. The walk was around a kilometre and the magic kicked in the moment I spotted floodlights poking through the terraced houses.Once on Maine Road itself, it was almost like a new realm opening up – this was my first time at a Proper Football Match.

However, the wind was taken out of my sails by what looked like a 90-year-old man wearing a sign saying The End Of The World Is Nigh. Even harder to negotiate were the steamy turds produced by several police horses but eventually I was at the turnstiles and in.

It's five to three so just time to buy a programme and visit a very pungent toilet block. Then it's a short walk up to The Kippax where we would stand for the next six or seven years until I started going with a schoolmate. Eventually, we made our home on the 18-yard line near the North Stand but for my initiation we stood near the away fans towards Platt Lane.

A glance at the programme showed a City side captained by Tony Book against a stellar West Ham side featuring Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds and the original Frank Lampard. On a quagmire pitch, debutant Jimmy Greaves broke his Hammers duck in the 10th minute and Franny Lee quickly equalised. Greaves got a second in the 36th minute and just before half-time Geoff Hurst made it 3-1. At some point my Dad would open up a pack of Polo mints which we'd suck two at a time. He said it was the only way to eat them and made me feel like we were the only people in the 28,353 crowd who knew this secret method.

Part of the language of football then was the A-J code on the back of the programme and Dad explained it related to the other ten First Division fixtures and the half-time scores would be pegged up on the wall opposite. Sometime around 4.05 the board was complete and we knew what the score was 20 minutes earlier at Highbury or Goodison!

By the 81st minute Dad had possibly nodded off and I somehow wandered unaccompanied behind the Platt Lane goal and along the front of the Main Stand. At precisely this point, my panicking pater realised I'd gone AWOL only to spot me directly opposite as the ball sailed into the City net. Joe Corrigan had lazily punted the ball upfield on the right side of his box and Ronnie Boyce instantly volleyed it in from 40 yards. Hard to know who was scrambling more: Corrigan or Dad! He rushed over to retrieve me just in time for Hurst to complete the scoring. We'd lost 5-1 and I was hooked. 

It's March 21, 1970, I'm seven years old and 17 days and I'm a football fan!

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