Football / Fan's Eye View: Exiles on Maine Road: No 58 Manchester City
Now not many people know this, but that quotation from Dante's Inferno actually begins: 'This way to the sorrowful city. This way to eternal grief. This way to join the lost people.' But the lost people at Maine Road are the ones who don't come any more. The only record likely to be broken is the lowest crowd for a first-team match.
I went to one match this season (a cup tie against Reading) mainly because - having been one of the famous 8,015 supporters who broke the worst attendance record in 1965 - I wanted to be one of the faithful few again. But 9,280 turned up so I needn't have bothered.
After that low point in 1965 the fans took action. A poorly publicised meeting attracted several hundred supporters. A 'ginger group' was formed, and the then City chairman, Albert Alexander, responded to the pressure by sacking the manager and appointing Joe Mercer. With Malcolm Allison as coach, City won the League within two years, playing attacking football in a style that many think has never been bettered by any English team.
City's success - and fans chanting his name (approvingly) - seemed to bewilder the ageing Alexander. It certainly attracted boardroom rivals. Albert died, his son Eric succeeded him, and faced a battle for control, eventually baling out to a takeover bid from the double-glazing tycoon Joe Smith, who became 'President', saying that his aim was to remove the monopoly of control of the club. His first act was to install one P J Swales as chairman, supposedly to reconcile the factions on the board.
Peter Swales promised much. Too much, in that he linked his own future with his first managerial appointment, Ron Saunders (who lasted five months), and said his ambition was to see City as the No 1 club in the country. Last autumn, after 20 years, after one trophy, Swales stepped down as chairman.
Even that change came only after mass protests by fans at the way the club was being run. John Maddock, a Swales appointment, then announced City were about to appoint a new manager as successor to Peter Reid and the fans would be delighted. The new manager turned out to be Brian Horton; the headline 'Brian Who?' truly reflected what the fans thought. Horton got a loyal welcome, but the campaign to oust Swales took off.
Although Swales alleges death threats, the main stuff of the campaign was 'Swales-Free Zone' T-shirts, and cries for a boycott of matches. Official boycotts failed; what we got was a simple voting with the feet.
But when the former star Francis Lee announced his interest in a takeover bid, revival broke out. Before the QPR match, there was even a preacher to announce the second coming. 'Be patient]' cried the Reverend Jim Burns from the steps of the main entrance. The revivalist atmosphere passed to the pitch and City won 3-0.
Swales was not to be budged that easily. Why should he go? He and his partner had a majority of the shares in a business that, despite City's crazy transfer deals, they say makes a profit. But a football club is not like other businesses: it is ludicrous to reckon that the directors' primary duty is to the shareholders (themselves). It might work in the hideous normal world of capitalism but, in that world, if the goods are of poor quality, you buy somewhere else.
Football supporters can't do that. If the product we buy doesn't work one Saturday, we'll still buy another one the next week, and perhaps go half-way across the country to buy it. So long as it's Manchester City.
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Play-acting mystifies me. I was taught not to show pain
Phil Hughes dead: List of players who have tragically died on the cricket pitch
Nani transfer: No future for winger at Sporting Lisbon as club cannot afford his wages when loan deal with Manchester United runs out
This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Phillip Hughes death: UK company Masuri say Australian opener was wearing 'outdated helmet'
- 1 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’
£25000 - £50000 per annum + £50,000 OTE + Car, Mobile, Benefits: h2 Recruit Lt...
£23200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuing expansion, a ...