Much has changed for Manchester City in recent years but @SteTudor123 takes us on a journey back to Maine Road and the club's roots...
The Etihad Stadium has seen sustained success in modern times
It is a stadium synonymous with Manchester City’s domestic dominance
But Maine Road will always be the club’s spiritual home
The latest Premier League Odds has Manchester City down as firm favourites to win the league this season, an unsurprising upshot of Pep Guardiola’s Blues securing four titles in the last five seasons.
It is a domination of English football that has taken place at the Etihad Stadium, otherwise known as the City of Manchester Stadium, that was erected for the Commonwealth Games, held in 2002.
Soon after, the Cityzens moved in and soon after that their fortunes were transformed seismically by a takeover that furnished them with enormous wealth and potential. A good many trophies followed.
It is somewhat inevitable therefore that this modern edifice, plonked like a spaceship in the middle of Beswick has become synonymous with the very best of Manchester City, housing trophy-lifts from club legends like Vincent Kompany and staging the brilliance of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
By extension and by comparison, the club’s former home Maine Road is viewed in an altogether different light, it being slightly down-at-heel and largely associated with periods of plight.
After all, a swathe of fans who attend the Etihad now went to Maine Road in their youth, and they would head to games excited and usually leave disappointed. In City’s last eight years at the ground, they endured three relegations.
‘Fans would come up to me, close to tears, saying they didn’t want to leave.’— Daniel Taylor (@DTathletic) July 17, 2022
The Etihad, home of Man City, is turning 20.
So much has changed - but don’t forget Maine Road’s part in City’s history either. I had a tour of both places. #MCFC 👕 https://t.co/Lh1HUyY7JH
In a much broader context however, this amounts to nothing more than recency bias and that’s because the overall truth is that this unique and distinct ground, constructed in 1923 amidst a latticework of Moss Side housing, and sadly torn down eighty years later, gave the game memories like few others ever have.
It is 1934 and City are playing a Stoke side complete with the great Stanley Matthews in a FA Cup clash.
The Blues would go on to win the cup that year, adding to their trophy-haul two years later with a league title courtesy of a vintage team illuminated by sporting behemoths, including Matt Busby, Sam Cowan and a keeper in Frank Swift whose hands were so large they were compared to frying pans.
An astonishing 84,569 turned up that afternoon as Stoke were defeated 1-0, a record attendance for a club side that lasted for 82 years until a thousand more saw Spurs play Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
A few years later, City’s big rivals Manchester United shared Maine Road, following bomb damage inflicted on Old Trafford during the war, and a few years later still, along came the most magnificent City side of them all, an exuberant, title-winning collective headed by the club’s famed triumvirate of Bell, Lee and Summerbee.
Despite stylishly plying his trade in midfield, only three players in the club’s history have ever out-scored the peerless Colin Bell.
City weren’t exactly bad in the Seventies either, challenging Liverpool for the league, and these celebrated players, and special teams exhibited their brilliance always in front of enormous crowds, high numbers that persisted even when seating was introduced in the Fifties.
That’s because down one side of Maine Road stood the mighty Kippax, the longest single terrace in English football. The Kippax was a legendary place, vast and tribal. In there a multitude of stories were born.
Aerial view of Maine Road before the Kippax and Scoreboard end had a roof, it’s easy to see how away fans got confused on those side streets. 👕 pic.twitter.com/dSs95yO0MH— Wozza (@wozza64mcfc) July 25, 2022
Across stood the main stand, with its curved white roof, and next to that, behind one goal, was the cantilevered North Stand, beautiful in a fashion.
Outside were a maze of ginnels, and a faint hint of smog on an autumn day, and the bellows of men selling the Football Pinks. All around were sights and sounds that were so intrinsically Manchester.
The football odds have City down as favourites this term while the Etihad has become synonymous with success.
But the very best of Manchester City is now a bunch of flats standing in Moss Side. It was once a home to football, the likes of which it was a privilege to see.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*