Monday 20 March 2023





Have I made you feel really old?

I don’t mean to offend. But the truth is there in black and white. It’s been 20 years since City left Maine Road for the City of Manchester stadium – leaving behind 80 years of memories.

So many fans have the privilege of knowing what watching football was like inside Maine Road. Hundreds of thousands stood on the terraced Kippax stand – I only got to go in the all-seater version.

I say only, but for me, that was special enough. There are so many fans who don’t know a thing about what Maine Road was like. A whole generation of Blues haven’t been able to experience what a match day was like in the heart of Moss Side. They hear the tales, the stories, the anecdotes – but they’ll never know the impact that place had on our lives.

When I recount anything to anybody about Maine Road, I make one thing clear. Of course I see it through hazy, rose-tinted glasses – because that’s where I fell in love with my football club. I rocked up there and it was the flaws that I found so endearing. None of the stands matched. The subs bench was plastic garden chairs. The score board rarely displayed the right scoreline. A plastic seagull called ‘Elvis’ hung from the Kippax. Eventually, scaffolding stands between both the North stand and the Kippax and the Kippax and Platt Lane were built – the infamous ‘Gene Kelly’ that left fans singing in the rain.


The reality and the history books will tell you that some of City’s darkest days played out at Maine Road. There’s no sugarcoating that. My first match at Maine Road was in 1996 (my first ever football match was at Goodison Park, a year before). City were on the slide. Morale was low. The shining lights for me during that time were Uwe Rosler and Georgi Kinkladze. Uwe – a tenacious German striker. Georgi – the twinkled toed Georgian midfield magician. I idolized them both.

I’ve been lucky enough to interview Uwe a few times. Once, I took him to the site of Maine Road and spoke to him at length about his time there. You could see reliving those memories visibly moved him. I interviewed him too at the Etihad stadium and he became incredibly emotional – he credited City fans with helping him through his traumatic cancer diagnosis and recovery. He even came to my friend’s charity evening at the Etihad – he donated his own time to help others. I always think it’s a delight when you meet your heroes and they turn out to be even more magical than you thought they could be.

More recently, I shared some photographs of old newspaper cuttings of Georgi Kinkladze on my socials to coincide with the 27 year anniversary of his magnificent goal against Southampton – which he liked, shared and commented on. The post was greeted with such an outpouring of love – a real reflection of his popularity and the adoration City fans have with him.

Going even further back (before my time, sadly), Maine Road was lit up by the likes of Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee and of course, Colin Bell. When I interviewed Colin, he was just a joy. So modest, so humble and quite shy. He spoke with such grace – here was a man who has a stand named after him at the Etihad stadium, such was his impact on the club. There’s a whole generation of Colins wandering around Manchester because of him. The older generation have a great affinity with him – I never tire of hearing the tales of the ‘King of the Kippax’. He spoke to me about how much he just loved football. He went everywhere with the ball at his feet. He could never grasp the magnitude of his legacy.

I was invited on a very special day at City recently – a tribute day to Colin Bell. It was the day of the Newcastle match. We had to be there for 7am – no mean feat having worked until 11pm the night before. From start to finish, it was mind-blowing. We had a tour of the changing rooms at the Etihad stadium and went pitch-side. We were taken over to the CFA and had an exclusive talk with Serena Gosling, Director of Retail and Licensing at City. She spoke to us all about the concept behind the Colin Bell-inspired 2022/23 home kit – apparently the shirt design process begins a good couple of years before release. Colin’s passing did leave the team unsure as to whether or not to proceed with the release, but ultimately, with the blessing of Colin’s family, it was decided to go ahead with it. A great decision as it’s been one of their most popular shirts ever. It’s no surprise.

The National Football Museum had two of their historians come over, along with some very special items. They brought three of Colin’s medals over, along with a mould of his foot – and his crown. We were given special gloves so we could all pick up his medals to look at them more closely – I was terrified of somehow breaking them! One of the historians told us all about the history behind his crown. A fan had given it to Colin in the 1970s after a game and he’d taken great pride in wearing it around his house, particularly his kitchen. His family had then passed it onto the National Football Museum after his passing. I was amazed at the condition it was in – it was pristine. His crown was a detail added to the City kit after he’d died; if you look in the back of your shirt, you’ll see Colin’s crown pride of place.

We were then taken back to the Etihad stadium to the ‘blue carpet’ to greet the manager and players as they arrived off the team bus ahead of the match. We then watched the game from a platinum box – not before my boyfriend, Adam, was one of a handful who’d been taken pitch-side to go on before kick-off. He was about to celebrate his 40th birthday, so it was a very welcome gesture. Sergio Gomez also took the time to visit our box, along with Marie Bell, Colin’s wife. It was an incredibly humbling and overwhelming day, an unforgettable experience.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of players who passed through Maine Road. But how do you even begin to explain the legacy of Maine Road to the generations of fans that haven’t been as lucky as we have to experience the place? Where do you start? It’s so important that we share our stories and keep the Maine Road flame burning bright.


Driving down to Maine Road now – you would never know there was ever a football stadium there. I went recently and I relieved my match day as much as I possibly could, but the reality obviously fell rather flat. I parked up at Graeme Street – the place where before every single home game we would leave our car.

‘Can I mind your car please?’ chirped an over-enthusiastic local lad. He looked about 10 years old. I promised him £1 after the match if my car was in one piece. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. He wasn’t stood there. It was just my mind playing tricks; so many weeks and years of the familiar, but this was 2023. There is no Maine Road. I sighed and carried on my walk.

Onto Claremont Road – I could see the Claremont pub, but I was always a Beehive girl. I headed to my favourite to order a pint. No beer being served – because the Beehive pub is now a nursery. A sign of the change to the area, even the Claremont pub looked like it had seen better days. Further down the Claremont Road – the little shop on the corner of Maine Road that sold the most fantastically quirky City t-shirts (who could forget the Uwe – Old Trafford one?) – that’s now a kebab shop.

I could imagine it all in my mind though as if it was a match day, like it was yesterday. The streets buzzing with fans heading to Maine Road, the roads packed with traffic. A sea of sky blue shirts. Flags and scarves. Young and old. Male and female. All heading in one direction. The buzz in the air. The excitement. Anticipation. I stopped, took a breath and turned the corner.

My heart dropped. The walk so far had been an ongoing battle between my head vs my heart. My heart reliving everything the Maine Road match day had to offer – my head reminding me those days were long gone. Never has the reminder been so stark as to when you turned that corner from Claremont Road onto Maine Road – to be greeted with a housing estate. There is no Kippax stand dominating the skyline. There’s no Main Stand, no Platt Lane. No North Stand. No club shop. Nothing. It's just row after row of identikit beige and red brick houses. Soulless. Silent. Bleak.

The Blue Moon chippy that used to sell the best chips and gravy – is now a mini market. I could still smell it though. I continued my walk; through the housing estate and discovered a long strip of grass. On the grass is a circle of concrete, not much bigger than your dinner plate. Inscribed on it are the words ‘in memory of Manchester City groundsman Stan Gibson, who loved and cherished the Maine Road pitch for 40 years’. Gibson’s Green. With a football. Turns out, the plaque was unveiled by club legends Mike Summerbee and Tony Book at a special ceremony held in the summer of 2014, to honour Stan and his four decades of loyal service.

There is nothing else. That is the only reminder that a football ground ever stood there. Some of the road names on the housing estate ring familiar: Bert Trautmann Close and Blue Moon Way. It’s all a bit depressing. It’s a beautiful day though: the bright City blue sky an ironic backdrop to my pilgrimage of nostalgia. But I’m left feeling empty. I’m not sure what they could’ve done at Maine Road for fans, but it feels like it’s worthy of so much more. The memories are evoked based only on my personal experiences. If you headed there having not been to Maine Road – you really wouldn’t have a clue.

I do go there quite often though. Sometimes I just sit there by the spot for a bit and contemplate. A sacred place for a special club.


This is why taking photographs and videos are so important. I was going through boxes of my old bits and bobs at my Mum’s house recently and stumbled upon a VHS video of the day I was a mascot at Maine Road. The date was 7th Match 1998. City played Oxford United at home. I’d bought an old VHS player from an electrical store in Bury for £20, I pressed play and wow, I was stood inside the reception area in the Main Stand at Maine Road. Then walking through the changing room. Then pitch-side, meeting players arriving for the match. Gerard Wiekens, Peter Beardsley and Martyn Margetson.

There’s a bit where my Dad is filming from the Main Stand and pans around the empty stadium. North, Gene Kelly, Kippax and Platt Lane all resplendent. This kind of footage is so rare – and so precious too. He filmed inside the tunnel, me leading the team out onto the pitch and me enjoying a kickabout on the pitch with then-captain, Kit Symons. There’s even footage during the game from our seats that day in a box in the Platt Lane stand. I was in bits watching it. All those memories came flooding back. It’s a memory that I used to be ashamed of too. I was an ugly duckling, I got bullied at school for my appearance and there it was on screen – all jam jar glasses, train track braces and awful hair. Now I see through those flaws and treasure it with all my heart.

It's all those little things that I always talk about when it comes to Maine Road. The ‘can I mind your car please’, the walk up to the ground, the Beehive/Claremont/Parkside pre-match, the club shop. Walking round to the Kippax having to go past the away fans heading into the North Stand. Remember the little shop that was inside the Kippax selling club merchandise? I always wanted the City crest radio that they sold in there. The chicken balti pies. Singing to each stand during the game, mainly just to amuse ourselves. Hearing Helen ringing her bell. Half time draw tickets. Coming out after the game and picking up a copy of the Pink, then walking to the Blue Moon chippy to get chips and gravy. The walk back to the car – only once in hundreds of times did the young lad stick around (or come back) for his £1.

I was recently interviewed by a Granada Reports journalist called Jam as part of a project about Maine Road he’s working on. He told me he grew up around the streets of Maine Road and used to sneak into games on match day. He also said he used to be one of those young, local boys who approached fans going to games to ask if he could mind their car. A pound back then to him used to be a huge deal. I sat back and realized – it was entirely plausible that he could’ve asked me back then to mind my car. Or my brother’s car. We spoke for hours and shared our mutual memories – once you get me started talking about Maine Road, it’s hard to shut me up!

The era that I watched City at Maine Road was potentially the worst football we’ve played in recent times. I wasn’t alive to witness the heroics of Colin Bell, Glyn Pardoe, Alan Oakes, Tommy Johnson or Mike Summerbee. I was a mid-1990s fan. Times were tough on the pitch for City. But there were real moments of magic. The 6-0 against Swindon Town was a rare highlight at the time. The second half of the 1998/99 season, when we fought our way into the play-offs. The second leg of the play-off semi final against Wigan Athletic, where we all ran on the pitch afterwards. 90 minutes away from a return to the-then Division One. A bit of yo-yoing, then the Kevin Keegan football arrived.

That final Derby Day at Maine Road was something really special. I remember we’d been knocked out of the League Cup a few days before, away to Wigan Athletic. We were all of the same mind – oh wonderful, and it’s only United at the weekend. Great preparation. I don’t think anybody gave us much of a hope that day. But the opener from Nicolas Anelka and a further two from Shaun ‘feed the Goat’ Goater sent Maine Road into pandemonium. The atmosphere was unbelievable – I don’t think many fans could process what had just happened. We were definitely the underdogs that day, as we always tended to be those days in the Manchester Derby those days. The 5-1 Maine Road massacre back in 1989 was another day that continues to live in fan folklore. Beating that lot is still just as special to me though, even to this day.

The final ever game at Maine Road of course ended in defeat. 11th May 2003. A spectacular occasion, not a dry eye in the house. Southampton’s Michael Svensson earning the ubiquitous honour of scoring the final ever goal at Maine Road – a lone goal enough to secure all three points for the visiting Saints. I cast a wry smile through the tears. Typical City seemed a quite fitting way to bow out and say farewell after 80 years of history. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I doubt many in the ground that day was.

We’ve been at the Etihad stadium for 20 years now. I guess it feels like home because it is. Sounds simple, but have we really made it our home? The club have made a considerable effort to turn it from the stadium made for the commonwealth and tried to hide as much of the grim, grey concrete as they can. Adding bars, a café and plenty of food and drink options outside helps to get fans down a bit earlier before kick off and City Square seems to attract plenty, although it’s not my cup of tea. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of the new bar in the South Stand. It seems to have gone down a treat too with fans in that part of the ground and we’ve started to get in the ground a bit earlier now to head there before kick-off. Safe to say, the football on the pitch has meant memories beyond our wildest dreams have been made in that stadium. Dreams have come true for the boys in blue – I don’t think a single soul from Maine Road could’ve thought it all possible for this football club.

But – Maine Road. Oh, Maine Road. A special place, always to be remembered and never to be forgotten. I really hope the club acknowledge the anniversary – never forget the past, no matter how bright the present and future are.


Emily Brobyn


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