City in the wilderness: Your tour stories
- 05 July 2013 13:57
- Posted by @NieldyMCFC
City's summer expeditions haven't always been as glamorous as the recent jaunts stateside and to the Far East.
With that, here are a selection of your accounts from the more "rough-and-tumble" side of watching the Blues' pre-season preparations from years gone by.
Castleton OSC branch secretary David Sigsworth recollects fondly on following the Blues’ week-long tour of Ireland as a teenager back in 1991.
“Highlights include; taking and missing a penalty against Tony Coton in the warm-up before the Cork game, signing autographs on the pitch in Limerick because the locals thought I was a player (honest!), getting sent-off for a dubious challenge in a City/Limerick XI v Italy ‘friendly’ match, and storming into the dressing room at half time in the Bohemians game to give a Guinness-fuelled team talk, only to be kicked out by Sam Ellis!”
Teenagers eh? Ian Bailey remembers receiving similar treatment from the crowd in Limerick:
“During the game we stood behind the City dugout. I had an official training top on. At half time kids ran on to the pitch for autographs and thought I was a player. I spent 15 minutes signing books, a plastered arm, anything they put in front of me!”
Stephen Loughnan recalls a close encounter of the Blue kind in a Scotland hotel in the mid-nineties:
“Me and a mate followed City to Scotland under Frank Clark’s reign. We stayed in Dumblane in the same hotel as the boys. Bizarre incidents include seeing Kinky (Georgi Kinkladze) in a towel and sharing a sauna with Nigel Clough!”
Simon Curtis from fantastic City blog Down The Kippax Steps shares a brilliantly detailed take on another odd summer trip for the Blues:
“Who could forget the Sittard Summer Tournament of August 1993? Sittard is a small provincial town in South Holland, very near to the Belgian border. It shares a province with Maastricht but neither the political intrigue nor belle époque architecture of the latter had reached this far into Limburg when we alighted from the Amsterdam train bleary eyed and slightly disoriented after a few warm-up runs in the country’s capital. Although the town was celebrating 750 years of existence in the summer of 1993, most of its buildings looked strictly post-war" explains Simon.
It was to this grey concrete background that the local mayor welcomed rivals PSV Eindhoven and the international prowess of Bobby Robson’s Sporting Lisbon and the one and only Manchester City to play Fortuna Sittard in the town’s commemorative tournament.
"Arriving on the Friday night, the early impressions would be the same held as we left two days later. There were two fans from Portugal, a hundred or so from Eindhoven (50 miles away), assorted pop-eyed locals and nearly two and a half thousand loud, proud and dishevelled Mancunians. Oh boy.
City arrived under Peter Reid’s tutelage, having lost in the mists of Halsteren (don’t ask) and won in an overgrown park in Apeldoorn against the beautifully named A.G.O.V.V. For us fans it was a first chance to see the sprightly muscles of Alfons Groenendijk flexing in midfield. For the people of Sittard, it was a chance to see (and hear) City’s travelling support up close. The main square, an unremarkable place decorated with small bars and shops, gradually filled up with Blues fans on the Friday afternoon and, by five o’clock every lamp-post and hotel window had a Union Jack or St George’s flag flying from it. The mood boisterous good humour in the mid Summer heat. The sound of giggling and the tinkle of breaking glass from clumsy elbows was everywhere.
The De Baandert ground’s facilities were sparse, but, attracted by the incongruously large amount of noise, the casual visitor would most certainly have headed for the tiny wooden clubhouse, The Little Stadium Café, some metres away from the low-slung stadium. Inside, it had been entirely taken over by City supporters. It looked like the place had been given one of those swift makeovers by a group of bored interior designers with only six hundred pounds worth of flags to use in the facelift. Banners hung from every position and the cheery atmosphere in the town centre had now given way to a raucous, spirited rendition of everything from Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants to Joe Mercer’s Aces. Bar staff were being brought in from elsewhere to keep pace with their excitable and thirsty English visitors.
The highpoint arrived as the windows began to steam up and the tournament brass band was called for by security staff to halt practising in the stadium car park and come over and accompany the City fans through their play-list.
In they came to join the sticky throng and parped a lusty melody to marry with our wobbly rendition of “We’ve Go That Terry Phelan”. If only someone had videoed the scene for posterity. One of those City moments.
By contrast to the lusty atmosphere in the clubhouse, the tournament started with a timid and error-strewn game between City and PSV, Gary Flitcroft’s equaliser just before half time catching a sizeable portion of the City support outside queuing for the magnificently chunky chips and mayonnaise. Real pieces of fried potato wider than Groenendijk’s biceps. For those still in the away end, Klas Ingesson had been dispossessed by Ricky Holden, whose cross Flitcroft met so firmly that Van Breukelen could only parry the ball back to the same player, who – apparently, I was with the chips mob- buried it unceremoniously. The match petered out into penalties which, thanks to an aberration from Pieter Hoekstra, ended successfully for the Blues.
There are a lot of bars on the main square of Sittard and most Blues woke up the next day wondering whether they were still under the influence as the Limburgs Dagblad informed readers that the day’s games would be Sporting v City and Sittard v. PSV, despite the fact that Sporting had lost their game the day before. “The tournament will be played under a league basis”, trumpeted the organisers, despite the fact that there would not be time to play the third game. Thus it was that City played and lost to Bobby Robson’s sprightly Sporting (Cadete pouncing on a monumental blunder from Terry Phelan). Even then the organisers were not finished with us and a penalty shoot-out was deemed necessary (despite City losing 1-0).
Confusion reigned as the sun beat down on South Holland. More chips and mayonnaise were ordered to help calm our racing minds.
PSV later beat the hosts 5-0 and were awarded the trophy on the grounds that they looked great in red and white stripes. It had been one of those weekends. The tournament made a loss owing to the sparse crowds (5,000 over two days and half of those from England) and Peter Reid still had the misfortune of losing some of his squad in Schiphol airport on the way home. It had been a confusing weekend and things would only get worse for Reid, as his time with City ran out after only thirteen days and four win-less games of the new season. Nevertheless we had tasted the delights of Sittard, a town we would never ever need to visit again.”