Wednesday 5 January 2022


I remember years ago when I used to go on holiday with my Mum, Dad and brother, Simon. Simon and I would always try and get the new City shirt to wear for the plane. Adorned in Brother and Umbro or Kappa, we’d be ready to jet off to faraway shores wearing our colours with pride.

‘Awwwwww, you support Manchester City?’ The sympathetic voices would say, accompanied by a gratuitous, if not entirely patronising head tilt.

‘Well yes, yes we do,’ we’d reply, sticking our chests out like strutting poultry before a journey to the abattoir.

‘Didn’t know there was two clubs in Manchester,’ they retorted. The head tilt would continue, swiftly followed by a smirk, before they’d walk away.

This used to be a familiar occurrence wherever we went. Loveable old little City. The club people used to pity. The yo-yo club with a managerial merry-go-round that spun faster than any ride on Blackpool pier. Manchester City: with their ground deep in Moss Side, with the scoreboard that didn’t work and white plastic garden chairs for our subs bench. City – the butt of all jokes. City- the laughing stock of football.

Fast forward a couple of decades and Manchester City are now apparently the root of all evil. A side that have dominated English football for the past decade; sweeping up regular silverware by playing the beautiful game the very way that definition intended. A club that signs some of the best players in football, managed by a Catalan with a distinctly delightful football philosophy. So, what’s the problem?

Whenever I hear that somebody has a problem with City, I immediately associate it with jealousy. I’ve had so many discussions with fans of other clubs where I’ve said they all wish their club would’ve had the takeover we did. They all wish their club was as well run as ours is. They all wish they could be watching the calibre of players that we’ve been fortunate enough to watch over the past decade. There’s a lot of resentment out there.

Pardon the pun, but City are now a well-oiled machine. Success is never guaranteed in football: but the seeds were sown, the roots have grown and the club now consistently win silverware every season. You tell me a football fan that doesn’t want that for their club and I’ll show you a liar. So here are the biggest myths associated with City and just how I really feel about them.

‘Empty seats at home’

You can tie this in with ‘you’ve only had fans since 2008.’

We’re still the butt of everybody’s jokes, but now it’s because we allegedly struggle to fill our stadium. The Etihad stadium is regularly referred to as ‘the Emptihad’ – fans seem to think we have issues filling it. City had a regular core support at Maine Road of 28,000 fans: these fans are working class people who just love football. The football revolution that happened post-takeover at City has undoubtedly attracted more fans to the club, but the make-up of bums on seats is still in the main by local, ordinary folk.

What people, staggeringly, fail to realise is that most normal folk have a balance to address in their lives. Money has never been tighter and City are regularly still in all four competitions by February (a rare exception this season, having bowed out of the Carabao Cup earlier than usual). Following a successful football club doesn’t come cheap and fans have had to make sacrifices to stay committed to the cause. Champion League group stage games always attract more ‘irregular’ fans, which dilutes the atmosphere even further.

Some might say these are excuses – I’d like to refer to them as facts. There’s an argument to say we extended the South Stand a bit too soon, anticipating higher crowds. But we do still attract regular attendances of 52,000+. Post-Covid, City gave fans the option to defer their season tickets for a year in case they were concerned about health issues attending games or other matters. I know many blues that decided to take that up. I also know friends who have been put off by the club moving to digital tickets.

Overall, the vast majority of City fans I know were itching to get back to football after the pandemic. It’s a very testing experience watching your club solely through a television screen – it’s just not what the game is all about. It’s a bit soulless; there’s a disconnect, but I will happily admit that still having football in our lives during Covid certainly helped with my mental health.

The empty seat facts are that City’s ‘success’ is more recent to that of longer-established clubs in the Premier League ‘top four’. The club have only been conducting pre-season global tours for the past decade or so. The hardcore support is local: most fans have been there, done it, bought most of the shirts along the way. I’m proud of that though. I welcome and know fans worldwide who are avid City fans, but the make up in the numbers tells you most are local. There is no disrespect with truth. From Maine Road to the Etihad and now the next generation are going to matches too.

As annoying as the empty seat jibes are – take it as a compliment. It means they haven’t got much else they can find fault in, so they generalise a loyal fan base with mythical nonsenses. If it sounds pathetic - it’s because it really is.

‘You should grow a conscious’

This is one of my favourites. When the takeover at City happened back in August 2008, most blues didn’t have a clue what was going on. I remember watching the news unfold live on Sky Sports on transfer deadline day bewildered: what was going on? The club has been sold? Who to? Most people knew of the huge problems with the ownership under Thaksin Shinawatra, but nobody could’ve seen what happened coming. Suddenly, the tabloids were awash with headlines like ‘FANTASY FOOTBALL.’ Fans turned up at the Etihad wearing Arab headwear to watch a player that had boarded a private jet on deadline day thinking he was heading to Chelsea only to be met by Mark Hughes and told he was signing for City. Confusion was all around – but clarity wasn’t far away.

Success didn’t happen overnight - it came after years of meticulous planning and heavy investment. But the most common diatribe that is forced upon City fans is when people criticise us for supporting our club, whilst trying to hold against us the actions of the country that our owner is from.

‘It’s barbaric.’

‘It’s inhumane.’

‘How can you be so spineless, why can’t you grow a backbone?’

Let’s make one thing crystal clear. I signed up to support my inflatable banana-waving, none of the stands match in our ground, mostly awful at kicking a ball about football club because I just inexplicably fell head over heels in love with them. My first game, at Goodison Park, was love at first sight. I never looked back. Call me crazy, but I loved how perfectly imperfect we were: it was almost a reflection of me. A bit of an ugly duckling. The imperfections were endearing to me. Manchester City and I are kindred spirits. We had a manager who lasted 32 days in the job. The chairman sold toilet rolls. We were getting beat by Bury at home. That’s my football club. That’s what it was all about – turning up every week wondering what joys we were going to be subjected to this 90 minute round. Invariably, just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it did.

Then we went on a tour of Division Two, then right to the brink – and back again. Some of those days – then the Keegan era and the football we played back then – those away days, were the best days of my life. Before children and commitments: when disposable income meant never ever missing a single game. The stories we could tell. The people we met, the friends we have kept.

But what it all revolved around was football. 11 men kicking the ball around in a sky blue shirt. Football. The ties that bind us together – Manchester City Football Club. A sense of belonging, that feeling of home and familiarity. Sharing it with mates – creating memories you’ll struggle to remember but never forget.

When the takeover happened – did people genuinely think we were supposed to walk away from everything we’d ever known? Players come and go. Owners come and go. The only two constants are the club and the fans. We support the club no matter what. MCFC OK. A recognised broadcaster berated me once for having the audacity to have enjoyed myself supporting my club and their successes over the past 10 years. I was on national radio – they’d phoned me to speak about the European Super League saga and, initially, I was obviously appalled. City fans had been blindsided by it all and we were all struggling to process the news.

‘But you’ve enjoyed it all, haven’t you?’ He said, dryly. ‘You celebrated; you’ve enjoyed every moment.’

What exactly do you expect me to do? Hold my hands up because my club have come into a bit of money and say no thanks, you’re alright, that’s it, I’m throwing the towel in? Seriously? This club has provided me with some of the worse and best times of my life.  Whether it’s under Francis Lee, David Bernstein or Sheikh Mansour – I’m supporting them. For me, it’s really not that deep. It’s football. It’s 11 men kicking a ball of air around a football pitch. The team that scores the most goals, wins. The club with the most points at the end of the season, lift a trophy. The fans celebrate. Don’t guilt trip me for celebrating and enjoying the ride – heaven knows, I’ve paid my dues.

I said I fell in love with this football club and I meant it. When you love somebody, it’s unconditional. It’s for better, for worse, in sickness and in health. As far as I’m concerned, I was there for them at their worst, so am I not allowed to celebrate them at their best because certain elements of the media disapprove of our ownership? Do you seriously expect that from loyal fans? Have you seen that from other clubs? Do they berate those fans as much as us? This isn’t me wallowing in self-pity – make no mistake – this is me attempting to make said people realise just how ridiculous their stance is. Let people enjoy themselves free from an illogical cloud of judgement.

‘The owners will get bored of their project’

We’re currently 13 years post takeover. There cannot be a shred of doubt left as to the dedication to the ‘project’ at City from the owners.

Some owners drain money from their football club. Other owners simply lie stagnant and refuse to re-invest the colossal sums they make.

Our owners have gone beyond transforming the football club. They’ve transformed the entire area surrounding it. They’ve invested heavily into East Manchester – it wasn’t required, but they did it nonetheless. They’ve built homes, built a college; the investment has a knock-on effect and benefits local businesses. Surely that’s to be commended, not condemned? They’ve built a state-of-the-art training facility, complete with offices, hotel facilities and invested further in both the academy and women’s teams. It’s a carefully-planned, meticulous process that has been years in the making to get to this point.

City in the Community have recently celebrated their 35 year anniversary of engaging in youth projects and outreach programmes throughout Manchester. They do tireless, dedicated work and they deserved significant recognition. I particularly want to give credit to the ‘Kids Fanzone’ that they put on before each home game.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, because you’re in the pub pre-match, the Kids Fanzone is an interactive and fun-fuelled experience that is held on one of the indoor pitches at the CFA. The club do one-on-one sessions, five-a-side kickabouts, football zorbing, arts and crafts, target practice, goalkeeper sessions, fussball tables and much, much more to involve the younger generation at City and encourage them to come to games. My two children, aged seven and four, absolutely love it. The most incredible part is that the club do this for free.

Cynics may see this as a marketing tool for City to entice children to come to games – I view it as it’s something that no other football club do for their younger fans. It’s an ingenious idea to make going to the football a full day out for our children. After all, they’re the ones who we will all the passing the blue baton onto eventually. One day, they will want to be in town downing their pints before heading to the Etihad, but for now, while they’re young enough, it’s a match day experience for them like no other out there. Most of the staff there too volunteer their time to participate simply because they love it. I’m incredibly grateful to every one of them (if you haven’t been yet and you have young children, you can get up to six tickets free with you season ticket). I know that City in the Community were there before the takeover, but the owners value it and recognise it as part of the beating heartbeat of the club.

Bored? I think there’s plenty more to come.

‘City are that insignificant that nobody cares about them’

So, why are you talking about us then? Hypocrite.

‘You’re just Wigan Athletic with money’

Well, we finished 15 points above Wigan a few months before the takeover happened. They may have beaten us in the FA Cup Final and knocked us out in the quarter finals in 2014, before beating us in the 5th round 1-0 with a solo goal from Will Grigg is on fire, but let’s look at that as the Latics winning the battles but not the wars.

Wow, those games were grim weren’t they.

But it’s safe to say, for the vast majority of the time, we’ve mostly been better than Wigan Athletic. Money or no money. It’s straw clutching at its finest. Next.

‘City are the problem with modern football’

Fingers firmly being pointed in the wrong direction.

When did it become acceptable for all clubs not only to release three football kits a year, but charge an exorbitant amount to fans for the privilege? Further to this, then release an even more expensive ‘player worn’ kit. Modern football is Sky, Champions League, VAR, half and half scarves, Go-Pro-ing at the game, vloggers, grown adults making signs begging players to give them their shirts after the game. Modern football isn’t City-specific – it’s football-specific; so it’s wrong to try and leave all of the above solely at our door.

Sometimes the problem is modern football as a whole – and is there really any going back from that, is there?

‘City aren’t and never will be a big club’

This is one that even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer peddled out ahead of the recent Derby at Old Trafford.

‘United will always be bigger than City.’ The headline screamed across the tabloid’s back page.

Bigger? What does that even mean? Do you get an open top bus parade for claiming that your club is ‘bigger’ than the rest? Does size equal trophies?

Does anybody really care? Once upon a time, Nottingham Forest, Everton and Aston Villa were ‘big clubs.’ What definition are you going by? Success in Europe? Is that all it really boils down to? Sounds like a manhood-swinging competition to me. When all else fails and the trophies dry up, let’s just claim to be a ‘bigger’ club. That more people ‘care’ about us. Does anybody really care about the ‘big club’ label, is it really that important and relevant to anything or just does it help you sleep better at night when your team is floundering and struggling to keep up with the rest?

In recent years, the ‘top four’ has been dismantled and become a thing of the past. This should be welcomed: football had become too predictable and stale. It should never be a closed office: we saw the rightful reaction to the European Super League. We should want the Leicesters, the Citys, the West Hams to be up there too. It freshens it up, it should be encouraged. Every team should have a chance to challenge the so-called ‘elite’ – it usually takes a takeover to do it, but clubs have been spending money long before the Premier League’s nouveux riche.

People are too quick to point fingers at Leicester, City and now probably and eventually, Newcastle because of their takeovers. Jack Walker at Blackburn – the money from his steel business meant that Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League title. That wouldn’t have happened without his cash injection. Chelsea and Roman Abramovich – United being floated on the Stock Exchange – it all comes down to spending to accumulate – although we are currently witnesses to the fact that spending money doesn’t always guarantee you success.

The ‘big club’ humble brag is what my old psychology teacher would tell me is a crutch for the weak. Because it is. Add it to the list of insults you use because you’re living off past glories and struggling to keep up in the present.

‘City are ruining football’

Did City invent the art of spending money? Did City turn football into a business? It would be argued that the birth of the Premier League and the Champions League aided that. Sky constantly changing fixtures and altering kick off times that regularly make it near on impossible to make the last train home is nothing short of a disgrace. But we’ve all just grown to accept it as the norm now, haven’t we?

12:30pm kick offs, 5:30pm kick offs and now Amazon Prime with their ingenious 8:15pm kick off times. Sky happily admitted that they knew fans would probably revolt at first, but would eventually get used to it. The football times that change on a whim too, when fans have already spent their hard-earned money booking trains and, in some cases, hotels in advance because that’s when these things are always cheaper.

It’s a very similar argument to modern day football, so I won’t repeat myself, but if you think City are ruining football when they’ve brought some of the most attractive football you’ll have ever been privileged to watch to the Premier League, it tends to sound like sour grapes on your part.

Just sit back, watch and appreciate. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

‘You’ve got no history’

This was the line used at me a few years ago outside the Etihad by ‘DT’ from ‘Arsenal Fan TV’ fame. I’d say it was bellowed repeatedly at me with pointed, gesticulating fingers rather than just used, but you get the idea. It’s a popular one too – I think fans like to use it to make themselves feel better about their own team’s shortcomings.

What even defines history though, solely winning silverware? I argued to him that it’s so much more than that and he wasn’t having any of it.

I’ve reached a point in my life when I’m just too old in the tooth to tolerate nonsense. I just say it how it is these days. I’ve learnt that pandering to people doesn’t work. You get sick of hearing the same nonsense. How can a club founded in 1880 as St Mark’s, Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887 and, finally became Manchester City Football Club in 1894, have no history? City have 114 years of history before the takeover happened. City had won trophies before the takeover happened. It’s yet another tiring, false narrative that is inaccurate and insulting to the club legends that City rightly hold in such high regard.

Try telling the late Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee, Glyn Pardoe, Mike Doyle, Paul Dickov, Shaun Goater, Nicky Weaver, Kevin Horlock to name a mere few that the club has no history.

But make sure if you’re daft enough to tell the people who played a part in creating the history, that it’s to their face and not online. The coward’s way of insulting people.

Oh, you don’t fancy doing that? Didn’t think so.

All of the above and so much more used to really wind me up no end. People use these myths as a stick to beat City fans with – enough is enough. Ultimately, we are just loyal, passionate fans like any other club has. Don’t begrudge us enjoying any good times we may have supporting our team when we’ve been dedicated to the cause through so many dark days in the past.

I never ever thought I’d live to see the day my team lifted a trophy. I thought winning the Division Two Play Off final while United won the treble, including the Champions League, was as good as it would get. I didn’t think that I’d ever feel that adrenaline rush from Paul Dickov’s goal and when Nicky Weaver saved the last penalty back in 1999 ever again. We had a lot of good times and played some great football under Kevin Keegan and they were brilliant moments…


When I take a step back and reflect on just how fortunate we’ve been…it’s mind blowing when you think about it. The sheer amount of times we’ve been to Wembley alone; to know that area so well and be so familiar with it because City have been that often, that is something I still never take for granted. Any trophy means so much. In fact, trophies or no trophies, strip it all down and it’s just City that mean the world. Because underneath it all, it is still our club. Sometimes you have to look a little harder: past the glossy exterior, the dozens of sponsorships, the ‘City Football Group’ brand that includes several other clubs dotted around the globe in our network that no City fan I’m familiar with truly cares about.

But it’s there. I see it in City in the Community. I see it in a few faces that have worked at the club from Maine Road and are still there now (they’ll probably be too embarrassed for me to acknowledge them by name, but they know who they are). I see it in the way the club values the young fans by putting on a free Kids Fanzone before the home games for children to engage and enjoy. They’re the next generation – they’re the ones who will still be flying the flag when we’re all worm fodder.

I see it in Dave and Sue, who have worked tirelessly and thanklessly for years making the best football fanzine out there. They have dedicated years of their lives having their matchdays disrupted by selling fanzines before and after the games, home and away, in all manner of weather conditions to bring you the real voices of the fans. We all know how the media are now: it relies on clickbait to engage supporters. Fanzines are more important than ever. They are one of the only outlets nowadays that bring you real, raw, honest and unsanitised opinion and dialogue from fans. Dave and Sue are devoted to their cause – City wouldn’t be the same without them.

I see it in the fans. The faces you recognise on away days, but don’t always know the names. The regular stalwarts. The characters. Pete the Badge. Helen the Bell (god rest her soul). Jackie. Every fan that shares this love, this passion, this dedication. The ones who have suffered, but now reap the rewards of endless loyalty. The club wouldn’t be the same without them.

Cynics will say it’s far from a fairy tale – a Middle Eastern man helping to payroll these trophies they say – but to us fans, it’s been the ride of our lives. None of us signed up to a life like this. We didn’t have a crystal ball that said if we endured enough, we’d enjoy everything else. How were we supposed to know? Why the hell should we just walk away? It’s time to cut loyal fans some much-needed slack and recognise them for being just that – loyal fans. Stop picking holes in people’s support, stop telling other fans how they should feel and how they should behave – let people live their lives the way they see fit and they only way they know how to.

That way is turning up for kick off come rain or shine, come Francis Lee or Sheikh Mansour, come Lee Bradbury or Sergio Aguero, come Division Two or the Premier League champions. Because if we’ve learnt anything throughout this pandemic, isn’t it that football without fans really is nothing? The show did go on, but it lost its soul. Its sparkle. Its key ingredient.

Fans make football what it really is. They’re the life and soul of any club. Some of us were here long before the good times came to town. Some of us fell in love with this football club way back when – flaws and all - so try and remember that when you’re judging us for being here now. Been there, seen it, done it, lived it, breathed it – got plenty of t-shirts. Good times, bad times, awful times, amazing times. No other football club in the world has been on the journey that we have as fans. The ups, the downs, the twists and the turns.

They call it character building – it makes you humble; it keeps you grounded.

You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.


Emily Brobyn



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