Noel Gallagher - The Observer - 6th August 2000
As Manchester City return to the Premiership, Noel Gallagher recalls his first game and revels in the cigarettes and alcohol lifestyle of his early heroes
The first game my dad ever took me to was City v Newcastle United at Maine Road in 1971. That was it; City became my team. United were in the Second Division then and we were the top team in Manchester for about 10 years. But over the years, when City have been struggling and United have become the best team in Europe, Ive sometimes wondered why my dad brought me to Maine Road rather than Old Trafford. The reason is basically a family one my dad hated his brothers. They were all Irish people who came over here and decided to support United. My dad chose City instead, just to piss them off. No other reason than that Liam and I should by rights have been United fans.
My dad used to take us into the Kippax Stand and sit us up on this narrow brick wall at the back, where wed lean against this big sheet of corrugated asbestos, and then he'd piss off to the bar with all the other dads. I remember in that first game we absolutely murdered Newcastle 5-1. But the only goal I saw because if City got anywhere over the halfway line it got a bit chaotic and we were too small to see over the crowd was Malcolm Macdonalds.
The Kippax was basically a big shed. It was very dark there was no lighting and a really huge roof coming down low, so it was like looking at a television screen.
In the Seventies everyone used to wear scarves and have Rod Stewart haircuts. You could still drink in grounds so there was always fighting especially if away supporters who were mixed in among City fans because there was no segregation then celebrated a goal. Nowadays in football grounds fans tend not to sing a lot. But in the Seventies it was deafening in the Kippax. It was like the sound coming out of a speaker. We sang Lily The Pink, one about Colin Bell called Colin The King and all the naive old ones like Tommy Booth Walks on Water. It was only in the Eighties that songs began getting witty and complicated and having swearing in them.
When we were at primary school my dad took us mainly to night games, because on a Saturday hed be in the bookies betting on the horses, as Irish fellas do. Wednesday night games were even better than Saturday afternoon games. The pitch seemed greener and it was usually an exciting game like an FA Cup match. We began going regularly on Saturday afternoons when we went to secondary school and met other City fans, and my mum could trust us to go out on our own. I went religiously every other Saturday between the ages of 12 and 21. The first season we were in the Second Division, after we lost to Luton, we went to every single game, home and away. Wed just left school and signed on and there was fuck all else to do. We used to get train specials it was 2 to anywhere in the country on Saturday afternoons to places like Oxford, Barnsley and Ipswich, which took about six months to get to and from.
Players in the Seventies were guys who went to the pub before the game, smoked cigarettes and liked to bet on the horses, whereas players now are just programmed robots. You see Alan Shearer and just think youre the most boring person in the world. We used to watch people like Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh real characters and Colin Bell, Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee. The late Seventies, early Eighties team, with people like Peter Barnes, was really good. But the best City player Ive ever seen was Georgi Kinkladze. A mate of mine who worked at Maine Road rang me up when we signed him and said: Ive just been to watch him; hes playing a different sport. I said: Heard it all before, mate. But he was right. We went to Kinkys first game and came away thinking well, were either going to go and win the European Cup now or well be in the Fourth Division in five years which we nearly were. You see, all City fans are arsed about is the pitch looking good on a Saturday and turning up to see the one player whos better than anyone at Man Utd. For three or four years, it didnt matter that we werent in the same league or that United were winning everything and qualifying for Europe because we had the best player in Manchester, bar Roy Keane. Kinky was amazing. It was widely accepted that we had the best player in the country. Plus he looked good in the kit. In the end he had to go because he was frustrated. Why did he score all those great goals, where he took on eight players? Because he had no City player to pass to. They were all shit. What, Peter Beagrie?
Weve had quite a few bad players: Steve Daley would admit himself he was never worth a million pounds. But that was Malcolm Allisons school of buying players. How much do you want for him? Five hundred thousand. Well Ill give you a million. Clive Allen and Niall Quinn were both good, even though everyone said they were past it. Weve had some good managers, like Peter Reid we even finished above United one season under him, which is unheard of and Billy McNeill, who got us promotion the first time we went down. Every time a new manager arrives, I always say: Hes going to be the one, the one to help us win a bit of meaningful silverware, but they never are so Im not going to say that about Joe Royle. City fans have this thing that as long as you look good in the kit or sat in the dugout, then it doesnt matter what youre like. Howard Kendall didnt look cool and neither did Brian Horton, whereas Malcolm Allison did. He turned up at Monday morning training in a white Rolls-Royce with a bottle of champagne and some actress in the back of the car. Thats football management.
The thing that fucks me off about players now is that they come off the pitch and say well we worked hard. Did you? Bricklayers work hard and they dont get paid 50 grand a week. Its no wonder that all these kids go round smashing up town centres when all the England players go on about is getting stuck in, standing your ground, working hard and being aggressive. Whereas the French players like ballet, man! Their supporters cause no trouble because the idols they look up to are artists. Not fucking get stuck in lads, they dont like it up em, foreigners. Fuck off. Theyre playing a different sport.
David Beckham is the best player England have got by a country mile. Its quite amazing what he can do with a football. I do feel sorry for him, but it comes with the territory. Hes a great player. Beckham and Scholes are all England have got. George Best was dead right when he said recently United were better than England. Roy Keane, Jaap Stam and Ryan Giggs would walk into the England team; even Denis Irwin might.
I say all that as a City fan. In the Eighties I used to hate Man Utd with a passion. But as you get older, you mellow. I hated Mark Hughes and Eric Cantona, but Paul Scholes? Hes like Ashley off Coronation Street.
Its great that City are back in the Premiership. Theres lots of games in London so Ill go a lot, plus itll be the first time the end of an Oasis world tour has coincided with the start, rather than the end, of a season. And I cant wait for the derbies; theyre pure, unadulterated hatred, like when Celtic play Rangers.
Well be top of the league some time in the first six weeks, for a week; Ill put 50 grand on that now with anybody. Therell be City fans on TV saying its the European Cup for us now, cock. Piss off. The middle 15-20 games will take care of themselves. Its the last six games that will decide if we stay up. We have to play four of the top six: United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Relegation is going to be between eight teams again, and we have to beat those other seven twice to stand a chance.
We could get into Europe this season or get relegated without scoring a goal. Thats why I support City. -OSM
Oasis headline the Reading and Leeds festivals (25 and 28 August, ticket details: 020-8963 0940) and also play the Glasgow Green Festival on 26 August