Sing When You're Winning: famous football fans reveal their allegiances
"£5.63 for a pack of fags. Rip-off.”
Damon Gough, better known as Badly Drawn Boy, is clearly not happy. The Horse and Jockey in Manchester’s Chorlton Green has a somewhat ‘temperamental’ cigarette machine that is enjoying one of its more unpredictable days, so Gough has had to trudge around the corner to replenish his supply of Marlboros.
On his return, he’s clearly piqued,
but then as a Manchester City supporter he’s on first-name terms with both disappointment and frustration.
A Blue man and boy, Gough appeared set for a football career when he attended trials at – shock horror – Manchester United in the late-'80s, but his heart was never really in it.
“I hated it because I had no mates around and it was very militarised there,” he laughs. “But I was 18 at that point and my love affair with playing had waned a bit by then anyway.”
His romance with City began some years earlier. “My mum’s side of the family were Irish immigrants and she grew up in Manchester and lived in Rusholme,” he says as a waft of smoke trails off into the air.
“I lived in Bolton as a kid but I always remember there being a distinct, different feel to Manchester. I always had a romantic notion of the city as I was growing up.
"IT'S INHERENT THAT YOU HATE MAN UNITED"
“I think I became a City fan based on those nostalgic memories of going to my gran’s near Maine Road as a kid. My mum’s always been a City fan and growing up in Bolton, it’s inherent that you hate Man United anyway.
“I hate saying that and I’d always root for them in Europe but City always felt like the underdog, plus the memories of my childhood attached me to what City are
all about. They’ve always represented the real Manchester.”
Like City, Gough has established himself as a well-loved, if arguably under-achieving, Northern institution.
His Mercury Prize-winning debut The Hour of Bewilderbeast was followed by the soundtrack for the film version of Nick Hornby’s About A Boy, Have You Fed The Fish? and his latest set, One Plus One Is One, released in July last year. And just as his music belies his love for the past, so does his love for City.
“I can remember the ’70s football more vividly than I can the ’80s or ’90s,” says
the Boy, who’s now 35.
“You’re more impressionable at that age and players like Peter Barnes and Asa Hartford were two of my favourites. Dennis Tueart’s overhead kick in 1976 and Steve Mackenzie’s volley in the 1981 FA Cup final are great early memories, too.”
With his trademark woolly hat, jacket and jeans, Gough cuts an unmistakeable figure on matchdays at City, but says most of the banter is friendly and supportive.
"IT'S NOT EASY WHEN YOU'RE RECOGNISABLE"
“People usually say, ‘Well done, mate’. They seem to be supporting me for supporting City,” he says, sipping his Kronenbourg.
“I think they realise it’s not easy to turn up and be part of a crowd when you’re recognisable and most people are very respectful of that. They give me a little wave or want to shake my hand.”
Like most fans, Gough has mixed feelings about City’s switch from Maine Road to the City of Manchester Stadium.
“The first time I went to the new place it was like watching TV, we had such
a great view,” he notes. But it’s still the memories of the old ground that conjure up the most emotion.
“The great thing about the British game of old was you’d have a ground smack in the middle of terraced houses,” he chuckles. “You still can’t beat passing old dears in doorways, washing their doorsteps as you make your way to the game, though.”
When City waved goodbye with their last-ever game at Maine Road against Southampton in May 2003, Gough took his place in the North Stand. The sun shone brightly but City (being City) lost 1-0.
Not surprisingly then, it’s the crowd banter that Gough remembers most fondly from that day.
“The chanting between the North Stand and the Kippax was hilarious,” he smiles.
“There was no one else to slag off so the North Stand started singing ‘Who the f**kin’ hell are you?’ at the Kippax. I find that kind of thing really funny – observing stuff like that is part of the whole experience. It’s as important as the match itself.”
"I FELT LIKE AN IMPOSTOR"
At the final whistle, with the final curtain set to fall on Maine Road, Gough made his way to the centre circle to play a couple of numbers in the closing ceremony.
“It was bloody terrifying,” he admits. “I’ve never felt quite as scared as I did on that long walk to the centre circle.
"I felt like an impostor in many ways, because by the nature of my job I’m not around all season and
I hadn’t been going as many years as some of the people who were saying goodbye to the stadium.
"I thought, why am I in the centre of the pitch playing songs nobody is going to be interested in? It was cool, though, and
I couldn’t turn down the chance to be involved.
“I gave a shout to all four stands before I began and got a little cheer each time. Then I gave a shout to the Southampton fans and when they cheered I just said ‘Do one’.
"As soon as I said it
I thought I’d get in trouble for it but the amount of people who have quoted that line is amazing and I don’t regret it. I can always say I was there on the last day.”
For now though, the future looks bright, passionate and entertaining – provided Stuart Pearce is given the manager’s job.
“The penalty he scored against Spain in 1996 and his reaction afterwards after missing against Germany in 1990 was one of the best moments in football ever,” says Gough.
“And his touchline antics have been better than some games at City. On that alone he’d get my vote.”
He’ll spare a thought for Kevin Keegan though. “Maybe he didn’t achieve enough as a manager but I still have a soft spot for him because he was a hero as a kid. He was my idol back then – I remember crying when he fell off the bike in Superstars.”
From the July 2005 issue of FourFourTwo.
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