12th February 2023.

With the weekly rail strikes putting paid to the train to Manchester (AGAIN !) and a gig back in Sheffield last Sunday evening, I found myself needing a safe parking space for a quick getaway after the City v Villa match (helpfully rearranged to 16:30).

I picked somewhere just off Oldham Road on the edge of Newton Heath (used to have a decent team in the 1880s), a brisk 25 minutes walk from the Etihad.

Bit of a pub desert between Newton Heath and the Etihad, with only Holt’s Bradford Inn to tempt you before you reach the craft Asahi at the ground*.

I presume this wasn’t the case, back in the days when this bit of Manchester was alive with textile works; must have been loads of pubs round here once.

The architectural highlight is the gas holder on Alan Turing Way,

the reviews for which tell you more about Manc humour than the gas holder itself;

There’s been a lot of dark humour about the Etihad this last fortnight, since City were charged with the offence of (checks note) investing in a football club and revitalising the east of the city.

On the basis this would be our last ever Premier League game* (and there is no other football, obviously) I bought my first programme in a year.

Having got to the ground 90 minutes before kick-off there’s nothing much to do apart from be astonished by the number of foreign tourists with bags stuffed full of kits and scarves, and “enjoy” the pre-match entertainment of a pre-Valentine “Mr & Mrs” quiz won by a couple from Doncaster.

And then see the welcome given to the team coach. Better than the one the scousers gave us in 2018.

Despite the sense of doom on the Blue Moon forum (more obsessed with arguments about cob v barm v bap), the atmosphere outside the ground was defiant, exemplified by Pete the Badge, City’s most famous supporter.

Quite an afternoon, the blazing sun over the Etihad as good as the welcome to the team.

Shame I had to leave 15 minutes early, but Matt had insisted James and I see hardcore heroes High-Vis at Yellow Arch and Matt has impeccable musical taste, even if my ears didn’t thank me on Monday morning.

*Though I sense most City fans would be happy seeing us play Altrincham, Curzon Ashton and FC United of Manchester next season.

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