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The sights and sounds we're missing from Man City matchdays

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A midweek Premier League game against West Ham in mid-February certainly didn't feel particularly significant at the time.

But little did Manchester City fans know that that would be the last time they stepped foot in the Etihad Stadium to watch their beloved Blues in action for many months.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the game forced to take a three month hiatus before it returned behind closed doors in June.

For match-going fans of all clubs, watching games in empty stadiums on the sofa has been a big culture shift for many loyal Blues for whom a day out of the match was a big part of their life.

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And with pilots of larger crowds in sports venues postponed for now, it looks like we might be waiting even longer to get back through the turnstiles.

So what better time to remind ourselves of some the sights and sounds that we have been missing.

1) Seeing your mates

The match isn't just about a game of football, it's much more than that. It's a social occasion, and the highlight of the week.

For many, it's also where they meet up with friends and family. For me, it's my dad, who I've gone to the match with since the age of eight. And the guaranteed fortnightly meet-up was where we'd have a proper chat and catch up on each others' lives.

Others have groups of pals they met through football or who they only really see at games.

Lockdown and games behind closed doors have kept many of these friendship groups apart, and they'll relish the day they're allowed to hang out together at the match again.

Mary D's on Grey Mare Lane opposite the Etihad, a regular pre and post match haunt for Blues (Image: P L Chadwick/ geograph) 2) A pre-match pint

Everyone has their own routine, but for a lot of Blues, this almost always involves a pint before the game.

In town the likes of the Lower Turks Head, The Hare and Hounds, The Crown and Anchor and The Millstone in the Northern Quarter are all popular haunts.

Closer to the ground, Mary Ds, with its DJ working fans into a frenzy in its cavernous back room, and The Townley and Corner Shop, where fans huddle inside and out, all get packed to the rafters.

There always seems to be the smell of stale beer in the air. The rabble of conversation is only interrupted when everyone tries to grab a glance at a TV screen or listen in as someone reads out the starting line-up from their phone, when it's announced an hour before kick-off.

The exodus from the pub begins around half an hour before kick-off, but there are always some hardy drinkers still there at 2.55pm or 7.40pm trying to squeeze in one last pint.

Half and half scarves are the item hardcore fans love to hate (Image: PA) 3) Half and half scarves

The buzz and anticipation of the walk to the ground is now pretty much always pierced by someone complaining about half and half scarves.

Every game without fail, the sellers are on positioned on the pavements of Ashton New Road outside the ground holding up scarves, half sky blue and half the colour of whoever they happen to be playing with the date underneath.

Deriding them has almost become a tradition in itself. The moans always either consist of people saying 'who will buy that?' if it is a 'lesser' opponent, or getting irate at one being produced at all, when it's a rival such as United or Liverpool.

Read More Related Articles Read More Related Articles 4) Taking your seat

Beefed up security including metal detecting wands and bag searches mean you can now spend longer in the queue waiting to get in the ground.

But that makes it just that bit more satisfying when you finally reach the front, see the green light flash and hear that unmistakable buzzing noise as your card is accepted in the reader and you push your way through the turnstile.

The first time is magical but even regular match-goers never get bored of catching that first glint of green as you climb the stairs, the pitch comes into view, and you mutter 'excuse me' as you shuffle down the aisle and fold down your seat.

A fan pictured at City's clash with Spurs in 2016. There is no better feeling than taking your seat just before kick-off (Image: Manchester Evening News) 5) Tales of away days

After sitting down there are always handshakes and hellos from the people who sit around you.

Sometimes you may not even know their name, but you have known them for years and it is a unique bond, as you probably jumped on their back or randomly hugged them after a last minute winner on more than one occasion.

Conversation almost always turns to away games. 'Did you go last week?' one person will ask if the game has followed an away trip, with people regaling each other tales of how they got to Southampton, Swansea or Stoke, where they drank beforehand and any escapades that followed.

If there is an upcoming Euorpean away trip, there are normally tales of how people have managed to avoid sky high air fares by flying via Dublin or Amsterdam or how they are stopping off in some far flung destination as a way of getting to the game.

Scarves are held aloft during renditions of Blue Moon (Image: PA) 6) Right Here Right Now/Blue Moon

At big games the atmosphere in the ground, with Blues trying to drown out the away fans, already has you on tenterhooks.

But no matter the match, the first chimes of Right Here Right Now always get you in the mood. The Fatboy Slim song was first used during the Maine Road days and has stuck around.

Fans say it always gets them pumped as the players walk out of the tunnel and the announcer booms 'Please welcome our visitors and YOUR Manchester City.....' over the top of it.

As the captains toss the coin there is the first, but by no means last, chorus of Blue Moon which speeds up into fast clapping and a roar of 'Come on Ciiiiitttyy' from someone at the back of the stand as the game kicks off.

7) Funny chants

The rowdier bits of the ground never stop singing with Blue Moon, We're Not Really Here, Super City or the City version of Hey Jude all getting dozens of airings, along with some more cult favourites such as those paying homage to former striker Edin Dzeko.

But there are always one or two songs that prick your ears up and make you chuckle, whether it's 'you should have gone Christmas shopping' around festive games, gallows humour from away fans singing 'can we play you every week' whilst 4-0 down, or those in the South Stand singing 'you're not famous anymore' to what was the Kippax in the Maine Road days.

(Image: Manchester Evening News) 9) Chicken Balti Pies

All the usual match day fayre of burgers, chips and the like are available at the kiosks on the concourse.

But for some reason City fans have taken the Chicken Balti pie, a traditional pastry crust with a dollop of chicken curry inside, to their hearts over the years.

A book by City fan Steve Mingle reflecting on his 37 years watching the Blues released in 2011 was entitled "Lows, Highs and Balti Pies: Manchester City Ruined My Diet."

There was uproar when they temporarily disappeared from the menu several years ago and they always seem to run out the quickest.

There's often the tension of seeing just one or two in the heated glass cabinet behind the counter, as you stand at the back of the queue praying no one else asks for one and that it's got your name on, so you can devour it with a plastic fork.

10) Roll With It

Oasis are synonymous with City and although Wonderwall seems to be the players' favourite song, being blasted in the dressing room after memorable wins, it is another hit from the Burnage boys which has now taken on extra symbolism for many fans.

Roll With It is always played at the final whistle, and the fuzzy guitar riff and first drum beats of the 1995 song soundtrack the fist bumps and handshakes which precede everyone dashing for exits.

That's if they haven't gone already - early leavers being a bugbear for those who always stay to the end and then normally spend most of injury time grumbling about them.

As Liam Gallagher sings 'you gotta be who you be if you're coming with me', everyone pushes onto the stairwells or clambers over rows of seats so they can go and catch a packed tram, try to beat the traffic or simply to go and have that celebratory pint and look forward to doing it all again in two weeks' time.


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