Published on December 10th, 2016 | by Daniel Cheeseman3
Ian Cheeseman | 2,000 City Games – A Personal Milestone
As I reach a personal landmark number of 2000 Manchester City first team competitive games attended, I’ve been reflecting on my story so far.
When you say it quickly, 2000 might not sound a lot, but if you do the maths, that’s over 40 years of attending EVERY City game, home and away. There are, of course, people who’ve attended more (my mate Charlie for one) and there are people who’ve been to fewer than me. I don’t claim to be better or worse than them. This is simply a personal milestone of which I’m very proud.
To reach this tally has taken determination, obsession, passion, good health, an understanding family and a lot of luck.
The obvious question you might ask is, “How do you know that Leicester City v Manchester City on 10th December 2016 is number 2000?” Well that’s a simple one, and perhaps gives an indication of my addictive personality!
I have, throughout my life, studiously kept records, which have spread through three notebooks. I’ve written down the details of every game I’ve ever attended; the date, venue, opposition and score. As I approached 2000 I checked, and double checked, to make sure that number was accurate, and it is.
The first match was on 15th April 1970 at Maine Road. It was City against Schalke 04 in the European Cup Winners Cup. I remember sitting in the Platt Lane End on a wooden bench, and feeling overwhelmed by the colours, smells, noise and excitement of that first experience. I was ten years old. My parents wouldn’t allow me to go earlier, so I’d had to settle for snatched black and white TV highlights and football books. My hero was Colin Bell. Those early visits to Maine Road were magical to me. My first away game was at Norwich City on 30th December 1972, a 1-1 draw.
By 1974, I was a season ticket holder, alongside my Dad, in the main stand, “H Centre”. The first “unexpected and painful” defeat I saw was against Carlisle United (in the First Division) in March 1975; Carlisle were relegated at the end of that season. It was a night match, I can still see it in my minds eye.
My first taste of glory was at Wembley in 1976 when Peter Barnes and Dennis Tueart scored the goals that won the League Cup against Newcastle. The following day I was in Albert Square wearing my Mum’s hand-knitted Blue and White scarf, which had round, metal individual picture badges of the Wembley team, pinned on each stripe. Someone tried to steal that scarf as I boarded the bus home, but they didn’t get it, I hung on for dear life and still have it to this day; in fact my son Daniel wore it at the 2011 FA Cup final.
I realised, quite early, that going to all these games was expensive and meant sometimes missing out on other things. One day, almost by accident, I got a lift on the “football special”. My train ticket was not valid on these chartered trains, but Howard Yeats, who organised them, and Charlie Hadfield (who became my lifelong friend) allowed me on. To justify my presence, I volunteered to be a steward, which helped with the cost of travelling. For years I sold pies, sausage rolls, soft drinks and chocolate on the Manchester City Supporters Club specials as I travelled to all the games.
Travelling back from Halifax on 5th January 1980, on a completely silent train, after a 1-0 FA Cup defeat was not pleasant, nor was returning from a 4-1 drubbing at Brighton in October 1981. Everyone got soaked and stripped down to their underwear, while drying their outer clothes on the train pipes and radiators on the journey home.
During one trip to Southampton, when we had a couple of directors on board, I was told that manager Mel Machin had been sacked, but that it was a secret until after the game. The story broke the following Monday or Tuesday. Can you imagine that happening in today’s social media world? There are many more stories I could tell you, but what I will say here, is that those were not always great “football” trips, however I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. When the football specials ended, Charlie and I continued our adventures by road.
One day in the 1980s, I remember getting a call from Geoff Durbin, part of the commercial department at the club, asking if I’d consider commentating (for free) on the club video. I did this for a few years. During my time sat up on the TV gantry, I described City’s famous 5-1 game against United and the big 10-1 win against Huddersfield Town. During one game I remember having to carry on talking while Paul Lake lay fighting for his life after swallowing his tongue. I had many co-commentators, including Mike Summerbee, Mike Doyle, Glyn Pardoe and a certain Fred Eyre, who was once banned briefly, when Luton boss David Pleat complained to City that Fred had described one of his players as a donkey. Fred has always said what he sees, and I also had the honour of sitting alongside the great Bobby Johnstone.
There was a spell when I was the pitch announcer at Maine Road, just before I became the BBC’s City commentator. I was so proud to wear the club badge and represent them out on the pitch on a match day, even if it wasn’t as a player. For many years I hosted the Junior Blues, including annual appearances in the JB Pantomime with the youngsters.
There have been moments of stress during these 2000 games, like my close friend from school, asking me to be his best man, and having to decline because City had a home game against Birmingham City. He eventually moved his wedding date to a summer Saturday, but he didn’t ask me the second time!
I’ve travelled to games feeling desperately ill, but still managed to get there. Ask Fred Eyre about our trip to Norwich City, it might have been the Delia Smith “Let’s be having you” game. I don’t know how I managed to drive there or do the commentary. I attended a City game shortly after my Mum passed away, which wasn’t easy; the game passed by in a blur. City has been the “soundtrack” to my life, from being relegated against Luton to the Aguero goal in 2012.
In 2001, I achieved my dream to become the City commentator on the Radio. As a boy I’d listened to Ian Frame and dreamt of being “the man who commentated on City games on the radio”.
I’ve commentated on City all over Europe, from the top of a double decker bus in Lokeren, to Cyprus, Russia and even Abu Dhabi. Being the BBC Radio Manchester City reporter has made my trips much more enjoyable. I love commentating on City games, and I hope that my passion and the experiences I had before I was a commentator help me bring the games to life for those who can’t attend. I’ve attended around 850 games as the City reporter, so the majority of the 2000 are still from my early days.
I guess I should pick out my favourite game so far. Well that’s very difficult; there have been so many. For pure quality, the recent 3-1 win against Barcelona was as good as any I’ve attended, and that game on the 13th May 2012 which brought that first elusive title win will, for me, never be beaten for pure emotion. I remember the atmosphere against Middlesbrough at Maine Road for the semi-final of the League Cup in 1976; Colin Bell’s emergence as a substitute against Newcastle after his long injury absence and various wins against United; the 5-1, the 6-1 and the FA Cup semi-final against them at Wembley in 2011.
Not every game has been, or is, great, but being there has always been part of what I am. Seeing the club rise from the 2-1 defeat at York City in December 1998 to the semi-finals of the Champions League has been spectacular. Even the lowest moments have been special, despite them often involving me holding my head in my hands. Losing 4-1 at Lincoln in the League Cup in 1996, and then losing 2-1 there two years later in the league were low points, as was losing 2-1 at home to Mansfield in the Auto Windscreens Shield. I was one of the 3007 who watched that miserable performance. You know what though? I’ve honestly enjoyed the adventures I’ve been a part of – good and bad – and those gloomy days, filled with black humour and typical City songs are what has made the club and their recent successes so special to me.
I’ve been lucky, very lucky. I’ve met all my heroes, I have always had a great relationship with the club that I’ve watched all my life. I hope to continue to enjoy many more years of doing what I love to do, either in the commentary box, or with the supporters in the stands.
To those who have sent me lovely messages down the years, and to all those I’ve met at Supporters Club meetings or bumped into on my travels, THANK YOU. It was, is, and will always be my pleasure to share my passion for the Blues.
Here’s to the next 2000!
– Ian Cheeseman