'ONE MOMENT IN TIME'
Emily Brobyn's ‘One Moment In Time' is a nostalgic look back at events and occasions and City's past that will no doubt resurrect many impassioned memories for most City fans. Written from her personal point of view, she is hoping that by reliving these moments, whether they were good or bad will prove to be an enjoyable read for all.
As the finishing line was emerging in sight in the 2002/03 season, so was our farewell to Maine Road. I really didn't want to say goodbye and move to Eastlands- but I kept convincing myself that it would be beneficial all round. With a potential 46,000 capacity, it was a must for allowing more City fans to watch their beloved Blues. Plus the ground would be amongst the elite in the country, thus meaning it would be chosen for other sporting events and concerts.But the general feeling within Maine Road was one of sadness and dismay. There was no guarantee of an atmosphere within Eastlands, nobody who renewed their season ticket was sure of whereabouts they would actually be sat and where to park around the ground was a worry. I didn't like the idea that we would be split up from the people around us at Maine Road that we had got to know and developed banter with. Despite all this, City had to move with the times and up roots- for better or for worse.
I really didn't want the season to end. It seemed so long ago since plans had been published regarding moving to Eastlands and I think that many Blues thought it was merely a pipe dream, something that would never happen. Yet here it was upon us. The finale. The last ever 90 minutes of professional football at Maine Road.
I was so upset. Like every City fan I had so many memories of Maine Road; from my first ever match against Sheffield Wednesday to running on the pitch in consecutive seasons when Joe Royle was our manager. The mass fighting when Chelsea and Millwall came to town. The pain of enduring relegation and the pleasure of achieving promotion. The cherished memory of being a mascot and leading my team out in front of a capacity crowd and the even more cherished memory of beating United 3-1 with two goals from Goater.
My personal living memory of course was limited to the mid-nineties and onwards, but thousands of City fans would have their own unique memories of games before this. Other memories link up with match days of course, like the pre-match traditional pint in the Beehive, and this only added to the nostalgia.
May 11th 2003 arrived, and my cousin Sarah and I prepared for the emotional roller-coaster that was ahead of us. I put my hair in pigtails with bright blue streaks and glitter all over my face. Dressed in City's once-famous laser blue home shirt, I wrapped a huge City blue Union Jack around me and we began our final car journey to the ground.
The Beehive car park was full so I parked my car on a street and Sarah and I headed straight to the Beehive. The atmosphere was pensive, but people were determined to have fun and make the most of the historic day ahead. Fancy dress seemed a popular option and Maine Road memorabilia was being sold by vendors on every surrounding street corner. We stood in the sunshine outside the Beehive and I looked over at Bunty's off-license laughing to myself. The banter between the crowd outside the pub and the shop opposite had been so funny, typical of City fans, and now it would never happen again. We made our way to the ground and I savoured the moment, knowing it would never happen again.
I would love to be able to try and express what the atmosphere inside our ground was like that day. Only 34, 957 people will ever truly know that. I wouldn't do it justice even if I tried. It was so emotional and tears streamed down my face as both teams took to the pitch among a sky filled with blue and white tickertape and smoke.
In true City style, we lost. Michael Svensson for Southampton scored the only goal of the game- the last goal ever at Maine Road. The result was irrelevant, although a win would have been a perfect send-off. But in a way the defeat just made me laugh- City never play by the rules, they always ad-lib to the script. They are unique, and that's why we love them.
The only thing that the result did confirm however, was the one thing every City fan had been hoping for- that elusive place in the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play league. We hadn't finished top, but league standings meant that we was high enough in the pecking order to qualify for a place in Europe by default.
Post-match entertainment had been lined up by City chiefs, with the Doves and Badly Drawn Boy (apparently Oasis were unavailable) topping the bill. The players did a farewell lap around the pitch and the music blasted out, with the bands playing on a stage that had been assembled on the pitch.
Cannons loaded with more tickertape and confetti shot into the air and showered onto each and every fan. Even the travelling Southampton fans had stayed to enjoy the spectacle- and fireworks fizzed and exploded over the ground. By this time I was sobbing uncontrollably, and when the party came to an end I didn't want to leave. Hundreds of people joined me as I sat and glanced around the emptying stadium. It was all over far too quickly- the end of an era.
It was a time for reflection and I thought about what my favourite Maine Road memory was. I think I would have to say beating United 3-1 stood out for me. The atmosphere in the ground that day was only beaten for me by Wembley, and the result itself was amazing. I would miss the banter between the stands during a dull game, the bell lady, the strange plastic seagull on the Kippax, the ‘Mr Banks' announcements and the ‘Gene Kelly' eyesore stands. Yes the ground looked like a mismatched stadium built from a Meccano set, but the atmosphere and sense of community was really something to treasure. It had been emotional.
Many people used to say that gypsies had put a curse on Maine Road and that's why we had such bad luck. I think that's rubbish. Perhaps they did curse our ground, but City have always been unpredictable and that will never change. A change of stadium wouldn't change that, especially after hearing so many stories about the builders burying United shirts into the foundations of Eastlands. Trying to plant their own voodoo curse on City. Only time would tell whether it worked or not, as I bid farewell to what I saw as my own theatre of dreams.
I went to bed that night and, as I closed my bedroom curtains, I noticed the clear sky was littered with millions of stars. Glittery dots splashed against a black canvas. There alongside them was the moon, and that night I swear it was a pale shade of blue. Because you never do, do you?