Liverpool vs Manchester City 1996

Civil War – And the lines are drawn on the East Lancs Road

It’s a family affair for me. Most of my family members are proud Citizens. We have endured the lows and stood together enjoying the highs of being a Manchester City Fan. Being a blue is a part of my identity when meeting people it allows for conversation to flow. For most of my life being considered the noisy neighbors gave me kudos amongst other fans as I had northern grit and tenacity. We were an army of loyal fans who were there when we were struggling. There are exceptions to my Blue family.

My American-born cousin didn’t understand the rules when his family returned to the Sceptred Isle and he decided he should support Liverpool. We didn’t disown him as he was five. What it did was create a banter that has endured, and it set a precedent because when you invite people into your family’s sanctum, you never know who you invite. I married a Liverpool fan and have given birth to two of them. I also gave birth to two City fans so our house is split evenly.

First timer Blues and yet I came back for more

The first time I was taken to Maine Road was to see City take on Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final in 1981. We parked the car and gave a local lad some cash to mind it before meandering through the ginnels and alleyways to the ground. My newly-discovered heroes had a chance. I finally had a chance to see Dennis Tueart, Paul Power and Joe Corrigan impress me in the flesh. This was a side lead by John Bond who had delighted the crowds and had heralded a promising era at Maine road. It had all seemed hopeful in the league cup, but being drawn against Liverpool seemed like the end of the road before it was taken. Liverpool were virtually unstoppable at this point in history.

As a small person, I didn’t realise that the Kevin Reeves header was disallowed and I wasn’t the only one who was surprised when a free-kick took place and the scoreboard remained 0-0. I heard words that were to become commonplace as a fan. My Dad and his brother were speaking in tongues and aged 10 I was not allowed to use this language. City did well that night keeping Dalglish, Souness, and McDermott under control for 80 minutes. Kennedy’s 81st-minute winner gave Liverpool the victory, making the return leg almost impossible. City to win at Anfield? Nah.

Going to Anfield was exciting as my youthful hopes were high. We paid a small child to look after our car and headed for the ground. It only took 21 minutes for Dalglish to put the match out of our reach. Innocence was not lost on that day as Reeves’ goal was allowed this time. A 1-1 draw was not enough but we went home satisfied with our team’s performance. Hope springs eternal. The rogue Liverpool fan was happy as they went on to lift the Cup.

Enjoy being a typical City Fan or endure?

These experiences form a fan. When you can’t get the results you want at a ground, it should not impact different generations of players as their time at the club is limited. I have wondered why it took us 28 years to record a victory at Anfield. I guess you could say the atmosphere at the Kop adds a certain something. When a victory comes it tastes so good. On Boxing Day 1981 the Blue members of my family got an extra goody in their selection boxes in the form of a 1-3 win at Anfield. Things appeared to be ruling in favour of the Reds as Reeves header was disallowed for ariel atrocities. This time it was no déjà vu so when Thompson was caught napping Asa Hartford took control of the ball and scored. City took no chances when Dalglish took his free kick. All of City’s players were behind the ball when Kenny took his strike.

In the second half, Bruce Grobbelaar fluffed what should have been a catch and the impressive Steve Kinzie fired a shot on target. The hapless Thompson saved the shot and gave Liverpool temporary reprieve. Kevin Bond scored his first City goal giving them a 2-0 lead. In the 81st minute, Whelan gave the home side some short-lived hope until Reeves scored the final goal with a cheeky little back heel. This time the Kop was beaten and us Blues enjoyed the moment. It was the first taste of victory here since 1956 for us. We would not win at Anfield until 2003 when former Liverpool loan star, Nicholas Anelka, gave us the victory with a spectacular brace.

Why is it so damn hard to win here?

So when will we next win at Anfield? Questions to be answered. The modern Liverpool fan has been through a process of self-evaluation. They could lose. They were no longer the team guaranteed to win but they presented a problem for me. I made that problem worse in 1992 when my then boyfriend, who is still my number one, came out as a Liverpool fan. I was glad to find out he was a fan because his family was from Liverpool. It’s funny he took a few months to mention it. I was not so hesitant he knew he was sharing me with 11 other men. He came out as one during the FA Cup semi-final against Portsmouth. It was OK. It could have been worse, but let’s not go there.

He was very supportive on May 5 1996. I was at the end of a long pregnancy and we were at the end of a difficult season. To be honest, childbirth is less painful than being faced with relegation. My husband has never gloated so when we sat in the kitchen and listened to radio five live he was neutral. We needed to win. It never seemed likely with a Lomas own goal as a starter.

Ian Rush doubled the score and relegation loomed. Hope comes in the unlikeliest of places. With Rosler’s penalty and Kit Symons drawing us level, City should have fought to the end. I sat in the kitchen wondering why so many chances were not converted. It sounded like we gave it our best shot. We know the club sunk lower and lower and this Liverpool side were not the legends of yesteryear. Uwe’s granddad should have bombed the Kop too. You see, urban myths on the terrace are fun unless they influence the game. I heard a rumour was spread to the hapless manager Alan Ball. A fan said we needed a draw due to results elsewhere and instead of pressing for that winning goal it seems like the lads are running down the clock. From the footage I have seen it looks like the dugout got the maths wrong and realised it way too late. Oh boy, it got so much worse for City.

A new age is dawning

On the positive side, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, the second of my two City fans. I subsequently gave birth to two Liverpool fans leading to an evenly split family. The rogue cousin had some more allies to add to his own brood. Now the cousins were at war. It is a friendly war as the Liverpool fans have accepted that the team had a definite demise and now both teams are on the rise.

2014 was a big year for my family. You are all thinking trophies and you are not far wrong. We emigrated so tensions were higher than usual. It did feel good to make the trip to Wembley with my family and drink in “The Green Man” after we lifted the Capital One Cup. Emotions were running high and we had our eyes on a second bite at the Premier League title.

I guess the fact that Liverpool have never lifted that trophy makes it feel sweet. But I am still scarred from my first match. Liverpool had never lifted the League Cup until they beat us in the semi-final so when we met them in a battle of the top two on April 13th I became that typical City fan. I felt I willed Coutinho’s winner to go in. I understood the joy they felt. I think my magic worked on Gerrard, who was keen to be the difference between the sides. Scenes of him rousing his team are mildly amusing as we can watch him falling over again and again. Winner’s behaviour is never pretty when it is at the expense of others. Winner’s behaviour when you have family members to consider has to be honed in.

So, as I am writing this, we face another top of the table battle and after last season I know tears will flow. We all shed them at some point or another. As a parent I kept my feelings locked in. As a wife, I did not. It is too early in the season for it to have a definite impact. Looking back in May we might say the impending conflict was significant. The clashes that are good football are spoken about at home with more neutrality than I would do with any other fans. I think that all our families do that. As I tried to comfort my son after the Champions League Final, part of me felt bitter. But in all honesty, Liverpool did deserve to be there as they kept their nerve. Part of me wants to chant the other tropes and memes associated with the situation. Part of me is glad I have to be more reflective when it comes to looking at the fixtures between our two teams. There is always that part of me that says City ‘Til I Die’ and ‘We Fight Til the End.’

This is my personal ode to Colin Shindler and his similarly titled book. But I would never give that other team the satisfaction.