Maine Road brings up many different memories for many different people, but it is hard to get away from the emotions. As Shaun Wright-Phillips brilliantly puts it above, football matches at Manchester City&aposs former home were regularly breathless, exhilarating, and noisy.
The only sounds coming out of it now are from the children who play in the houses that now stand where the football stadium used to be, with the site in Moss Side demolished as the Blues moved north and east to the Etihad in 2003. It is impossible to silence 80 years of history though, and even as Pep Guardiola and the current squad take the club to new heights the feelings and emotions from Maine Road still live on even if certain aspects of it – good and bad – have now been lost in the modernisation of football.
It would be unheard of now to think of tens of thousands of fans standing across the length of the pitch, and it was strikingly uncommon even before seating became the norm in football stadiums. That made the Kippax all the more special though, a wall of sound and passion that ran from one goal to the other. Having grown up watching his dad play at Selhurst Park and Highbury, then going to Nottingham Forest as a young boy, Wright-Phillips was used to historic grounds but instantly fell in love with Maine Road.
“I don&apost know how they did it but however they sat everybody the noise and atmosphere was electrifying. It was like every time you came onto the pitch before the start of the game you had goosebumps from the amount of noise,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“No matter how tired you were, because of the fans you always managed to get out that extra shot or run or tackle. When you&aposre giving a team something and the fans are behind you it becomes a daunting place and when we were playing well it became like that but it was few and far in those days.
“I will always remember the game we were 3-0 down away to Spurs and Joey [Barton] gets sent off and the away fans were louder than everyone at White Hart Lane. That was a replication of how they were every week at Maine Road; it was a joy to play in that stadium.”
That wasn&apost always the case, especially as the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s started to take a downward spiral. Paul Power had gone from being shoved down to the front of the Kippax as a boy so he could see to leading City out of the tunnel facing the giant stand, and recalls being on the rough end of some treatment from the fans as the team struggled.
“When things were going well, you&aposd come out and I&aposd be leading the team out and as you&aposre coming out of the main stand you could see the Kippax opposite you and they&aposd all go up with their arms up in the air and it gave you a tremendous feeling right at the beginning of the game before you&aposve even started,” he said. “It was a big boost to everyone to come out in front of the Kippax.
“The Kippax were fantastic when things were going well but I had a couple of bad years, particularly the years we were struggling against relegation. When we played Luton [in 1983 when defeat saw City relegated], I came in for a bit of stick from the crowd but then the years we achieved anything – when we got promotion against Charlton and then the FA Cup Final in 1981 and I was voted Supporters Player of the Year so I had a mixed relationship with the Kippax Street.
“When things were going well, they were great. When things weren&apost going so well, they let you know – which they were entitled to do as playing customers.
“They had all the good times of the Bell, Lee, Summerbee era, they&aposd had some of the good times when we had the like of Mick Channon, Brian Kidd, Peter Barnes, Dennis Tueart, that team that got to the 1976 League Cup Final so they had experienced good times and just reacted the way you would expect somebody who had been disappointed about anything.”
City supporters reacted to what they saw as a big club falling into trouble, and while the drop to Division Two is well-publicised it should not be forgotten that for the majority of the 80 years it hosted football Maine Road was a proper stadium for a proper team. As well as being the place where City won league titles in the 1930s and 1960s, the ground was used for FA Cup semi-finals, a league cup final, England games as well as by United for a time both after the Second World War and in the 1956/57 season when Old Trafford did not meet UEFA requirements for their European Cup matches.
After the disappointing downturn in the 1980s, more problems followed in the next decade and City found themselves in the third tier of English football. Despite the tumble down the leagues, the club refused to accept their new position and their fan defiantly refused to give up on them.
Nicky Weaver was a teenage goalkeeper plucked from Mansfield Town when he was given the VIP treatment to join the club. Joining him and his family for lunch before he signed a contract under manager Frank Clark were City greats Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, and chairman at the time Franny Lee.
The first game of the season brought a different kind of royalty and a very different experience. Weaver, third-choice keeper so not part of the squad, watched in shock from the top of the Kippax as two men that he didn&apost recognise sauntered onto the pitch to a huge ovation.
“I was at the top of the Kippax watching from one of the boxes and Liam and Noel Gallagher came out before the game,” Weaver explained. “I just thought two blokes had walked out and the Kippax erupted.
“Liam walked up to the away end and stuck two fingers up, they were trying to get on the pitch and kill him and then he walked to the Kippax, got to the halfway line, sparkled a fag up and the Kippax just erupted.
“I&aposm thinking all he&aposs done is stuck two fingers up and lit a cigarette and the fans have gone wild!”
Just as Oasis were celebrated for the Manchester institution they were, so Maine Road is still lionised by anyone who grew up there falling in love with football. Kevin Parker, head of the official supporters club, can still vividly remember his first game there in 1970 – not least because the blue of City and tangerine of Blackpool stood out brilliantly for a boy used to watching football on a black-and-white television – and many more matches since then.
“I would struggle to think of a game between 2003 and 2008 at the Etihad whereas I can think long and hard and come up with loads of games at Maine Road,” he said. “I&aposve had a season ticket for 50 years this year so 30 years was at Maine Road and 20 at the Etihad but I can think of many many many more games that we played at Maine Road.
“Even though we didn&apost win anything from 1976 to when we left Maine Road, I can still think of lots of fantastic games of football – Brian Horton when we beat Spurs 5-3, losing to Spurs in the quarter-final of the FA Cup when we thought we would win it. The worst one I can remember is the Luton one. I was sat in the North Stand that day behind the goal where Raddy Antic scored.
“That is probably my worst memory at Maine Road whereas otherwise I think of it with lots of affection and maybe that is me being a little bit old but my fond memories of football itself with friends and family have all been at Maine Road. I&aposm quite a fan of the Etihad and it has been fantastic in terms of the trophies we&aposve won but Maine Road was definitely special.
“People looked at it as a famous stadium, the capacity was there to hold these big games, and even going to watch international games there was brilliant. I do often wonder what the atmosphere at Maine Road would have been like had it had that [Sergio] Aguero moment.
“Mark Hughes said he&aposd never heard noise ever in a football stadium as the roar when Aguero scored against QPR. It&aposs not a negative about the Etihad because it is about standing but you used to get that every week at Maine Road with people stood on the side and singing.
“Maine Road had this mystique about it. I think new football fans think about stadiums in a different way as a place to go maybe before a game and watch some TV and maybe go to Summerbee&aposs Bar and watch City Square Live.
Stunning pictures tell the 100-year story of Man City&aposs Maine Road home
“Maine Road wasn&apost about that, it was about going to the game, maybe stopping at a couple of pubs along the way, and then getting in and watching the football. There was no halfway house, it was just football, football, football.
“Maybe that&aposs why when we look at Maine Road all our memories are football memories whereas at the Etihad we look in a slightly different way with the things around it and what the club is doing. Maybe it&aposs just because I&aposm old!”