Earlier this week we had a nice piece from Latics fan and former Spurs supporter Robin Burgess, aka rjb, on his conversion to the Latics and hopes for the future.
Following on from that article Vital Latics member Thorpyness was approached by the management because it was known he also had a story to tell and we wondered if he would give us his tale of he too became a Latics supporter, I am delighted to say he agreed to, so over to you your Thorpyness…
‘How to Become a Latics Supporter – The Long Way Round.’
I grew up a small boy in Manchester following the Blues; I lived there and was born into one of those families where you are conditioned from an early age. I had a picture on my bedroom wall of Dennis Tueart horizontal in mid air scoring the overhead kick winner in the 76 league cup final. To date this is the last major trophy City have won, though I suspect that might change in the not too distant future.
I spent time in the main stand and on the Kippax. My first game at Maine Rd was City Vs Derby on 11/11/1978. I then went on and off throughout the next few years, taken variously by my Granddad, and my step dad (who bless him was a Red). I was there when David Pleat was dancing on the pitch. Still not forgiven. One particular memory was of being let in a side door by the police, my Granddad was a retired inspector, and one of the bobby`s did his old boss a favour. We got to watch that game from the gantry in front of the executive boxes.
One time when my stepbrother was with us from down south we had to go to the Man U souvenir shop, because he couldn’t get United shirts in Cambridgeshire, those were the days. Anyway it was the day they signed Gordon Strachan and my sister and step siblings all got to be photographed with him, and then appear in Shoot magazine, I refused and hid in the shop, something which makes me proud to this day, even though I like the bloke.
I moved to Bamber Bridge in 1985, and watched Preston North end on and off, going odd times over the course of a few years. It was then that the pattern began to establish itself which would follow me throughout my life. Since I moved I followed City, but have supported my local team, when I say supported, I mean I’ve got my money out and turned up.
I got back into regular football watching Bamber Bridge play non league for about 3-4 years before work commitments meant it was difficult to keep up. Over the course of a close season, I drifted away and stopped going.
I can tell those that also haven’t been with Latics that long, that non league football is a world away from what we get at the DW today. The only bit that’s the same is covered by FIFA’s current insistence that the rules are identical wherever you play, World Cup final or Sunday on the marshes. 11 players, 1 ball, 3 officials. Plenty of things stand out as being markedly different though and I genuinely miss some of these.
Going to away games that were just played on a local park. Many a time we’d travel to away games on the first team bus, helping to subsidise their travel costs. It’s good when you can mix with the players in the bar afterwards, and as has been evidenced in my recent posts, it stops you booing them, you’re more inclined to have a constructive conversation over a pint, and I can tell you that no player I’ve ever talked to is happy when they play poorly, and to pre-empt comments, they were being paid. We even saw the envelopes change hands on occasion.
There was an FA Vase run, which took them to the semi-finals, with some great away trips. A game away from Wembley for my little village, but alas failure at the last hurdle. During the run I saw what was until Arsenal, the best comeback I’d seen live. Brigg town – away, 3-1 down at half time, thinking that if our boys played well in the second half, they could hopefully pull it round, and then absolutely battering their goal in the second half, shot after shot, but still the same score line with next to no time left, frustration starting to set in, and bang, 2 late goals. It ended 4-4 after extra time. Easy 3-1 win in the replay.
Another interesting aspect of the non league level is that you are able to abuse/distract the opposition Keeper and officials, you know they can hear you, because they are only yards away, keeper about 6 yards away if he’s lucky. The best though was getting admission, pie, programme, pint and change out of a tenner.
They were a good few footballing years, even if my supposed ‘main team’ were falling down the divisions. Be thankful Latics fans, you’re getting a bargain.
As work took me away from being able to keep this support up I drifted into a TV fan at best, though I did go out in my City shirt the night Kanchelskis utterly ripped them apart and was strangely in Preston pubs and clubs in a majority as I saw a few other City shirts and not many glory hunters were out that night.
Not long after this I also found a nice Wigan girl and we struck up a friendship, which if we could be bothered would now be a marriage. She had a brother who was when it suited him either a United or a Latics fan, torn between the glory hunting and his hometown club. We used to banter about the Wigan V City matches, and despite the signed poster of Mark Hughes in a United kit on his wall it was clear he was really a Latic and deserves the respect for supporting his local club.. Anyway several years pass, we buy a house in Wigan, and I get dragged back into watching regular football as a lift provider for my nephew that played for Garswood under 10’s.
So I have a season and a bit of under 10 boys, and quite enjoy it. Again no booing, you can’t when they are little kids. At this level, if they play badly and get beat they will sometimes leave the pitch genuinely upset, and you can see it on their faces as they’ve not yet learnt to be manly.
I did see a heroic performance from one lad, away game, not enough lads make it, so the team have no subs. He gets injured and is carried off in floods of tears. They have to play a man down, they lift their game and stick it out for a few minutes. He doesn’t want to let his mates down, so comes back on, runs it off and picks up a winner. Occasionally there is talk with my brother-in-law (as would be if we’d got married) that we should go to a game, I keep saying I’d be half tempted to go with him, but we never take the plunge. He always takes Latics on champ manager, I refuse to play that again because I can’t afford to get sucked in (I went there as a teenager).
Eventually my other half has a brainwave and decides that she wants to get her brother a half season ticket for Christmas, except he’s got nobody to go with. Will I go? I agree because football is football, I can do it for half a season to keep her happy and then that’s that done. Come Christmas Day, I know what`s coming, but his is a surprise, so much so that he had plans for Boxing Day and couldn’t get out of them. I took the nephew, who played on his DS for the second half!
I appraised Wigan from a neutral point of view on that day, they were trying to play nice football against a physical Blackburn. Next home game Everton, again a decent performance, but sucker punched by Tim Cahill doing what Tim Cahill does, arriving to meet a corner and scoring. A couple more games of not getting the results the performance deserved, then Liverpool where the performance was good based upon a top drawer workrate, we went away to Bolton, and walked back to Aspull in the biting cold wind. I was also talked into turning up for the Notts County defeat as well which was night-time wrapped up, cold football, it was a nice feeling walking up the steps and seeing the pitch under the lights as you take your seats, one which I realised I`d missed. Again Wigan were playing attractively, good in some areas and poor in others, an overall enjoyable experience, but the bug hadn’t bitten enough for it to hurt that they lost to a lower division side.
Then came the payoff games where you were rewarded for staying to the end, Hugo’s winner against Burnley, Steve Gohouri equalising against Hull, and the ultimate payoff, the Arsenal comeback, which I still have saved on my ‘video’ recorder and still puts a smile on my face. I am particularly pleased with the Arsenal result, because I spent the second half saying it wasn’t over because they kept creating chances, a goal back and a point was possible, they got that goal and you all know the rest.
Did we play a crappy 0-0 against Portsmouth as well, something`s are thankfully easy to forget. A strange visit to Eastlands was chucked in there as well, where I watched from the away end with mixed emotions. I saw the city stewards behave like clowns, deliberately inciting a couple of Wigan lads, when sensible behaviour would have kept the place calmer, and knew I was well on the way to conversion. Adam Johnson was a threat, but Wigan, prior to the sending off, contained well and looked worth a point, if not more. I wanted them to get that point.
Anyway, the season tickets got renewed, and here we are, I think the style of play and the future potential both played into that decision. I hope Roberto puts right the current issues and goes on to have a long and successful career as Latics manager. I have been involved in this board more so than any other football related one, and it’s fair to say somewhere along the way I’ve converted, so see you at the next home game (except the ones I miss cos I’m on holiday!)
Latics and Proud
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