x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wembley's red sea is starting to have more blue streaks of Man City

Trips to Wembley Stadium for Manchester City are like the iconic red London buses: you wait ages for one and then three come along at once.

Despite the recessionary times, on the evidence of yesterday, Manchester City still managed to dig deep to follow their team and enjoyed their day out, despite the loss to United. Anthony Devlin / PA Sport
Despite the recessionary times, on the evidence of yesterday, Manchester City still managed to dig deep to follow their team and enjoyed their day out, despite the loss to United. Anthony Devlin / PA Sport

Trips to Wembley Stadium for Manchester City are like the iconic red London buses: you wait ages for one and then three come along at once.

Yesterday's Community Shield match at the famous stadium was the third time since April the blue half of Manchester had converged on the capital city.

It must be starting to feel like a second home for them. Wembley Way certainly felt more like Mancunian Way in the bright summer sunshine yesterday.

Yet it was not so long ago that City's previously long-suffering fans must have been wondering if they would ever make the 200-mile journey south to Wembley again.

Indeed a certain generation may never have been to the national stadium before the FA Cup wins over Manchester United, in the semi-final in April, and Stoke City, in the final in May.

Prior to the win over United, City had not been to Wembley for 13 years. In that time, the Twin Towers have been replaced with an arch.

Peter Williamson has been fortunate to watch his beloved team at the old and the new Wembley. Yesterday was the 10th time the 55-year-old season-ticket holder had watched City at the home of English football and he was sporting the "lucky shirt" he wore for the wins over United and Stoke.

"It's got the name of my dad, Frankie W, and the year he died [2006] on the back," Williamson said. "My sons bought me this as I put my shirt in my dad's coffin when we buried him."

Williamson is entitled to a disabled ticket as he suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and epilepsy. His son's fiancee usually accompanies him to games but as she was on holiday in Wales at the weekend, Ann, his wife of 20 years was the helper he was allowed to bring as a condition of his ticket.

Ticket touts just outside Wembley Park underground station were not doing a particularly brisk trade for the curtain-raiser of the top-flight season, especially judging by the number of empty seats in the top tiers of the stadium.

Most fans had paid £35 (Dh 211) to watch the two rivals go head to head, so parting with the quoted £90, for what was essentially a glorified friendly, did not seem particularly good value. "How much you looking to pay? I can do it for less than 90," said one tout.

Yesterday certainly represented a more financially economical day for Lyndsey and James, a City-supporting couple from Bristol who were devouring their pre-match fish and chips just along the wall from Williamson.

"We paid £1,500 for four tickets for the [FA Cup] semi and final," Lydnsey said.

That, however, was a bargain compared to the £750 Ted Dignan, a United fan, said he paid for a seat at the European Champions League final with Barcelona in May.

"The ticket was £225 so I don't think £750 was too bad," Dignan said. "A friend of mine paid £800 for an £80 ticket."

Despite the recessionary times fans, on the evidence of yesterday, still managed to dig deep to follow their team.

Shaun, 42, was not going to miss the chance to bring his nine-year-old son, Bailey, to Wembley yesterday after being forced to miss the FA Cup matches because of work.

Bailey was wearing a City shirt with the name of David Silva, City's Spanish playmaker, on the back yet Shaun said his son "didn't want to get out of bed when I woke him up at 6.55am".

"I was gutted to miss those matches but I work one weekend on and one off so there was nothing I could do," Shaun said.

"I work on pylons and it's company policy that you are not supposed to have your phone with you when you are up a pylon but I kept it in my pocket as my missus and my mates were texting me updates."

Victory over United in the semi final, secured by a Yaya Toure goal, meant City fans were walking down Wembley Way yesterday with a spring in their step.

"When we came here in April we felt like the poor relations and didn't really want to show our faces," Lyndsey said. "Yet now we can walk with our heads held high."

The rivalry between the two Manchester clubs has intensified since the investment of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed transformed City and closed the gap between the two teams which used to represent a chasm.

"I wish a Royal Family would buy United like Sheikh Mansour did with City," Dignan, a 55-year-old season ticket holder at Old Trafford, said. "Someone needs to buy United off the Glazers but they want £1.5 billion and it's only people from Abu Dhabi or Qatar who have that kind of money."

Despite City reportedly vying with United for the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri, it is Liverpool, according to Dignan, who still stir the most emotions among United fans.

"We hate Liverpool," Dignan, who arrived at Wembley and was among a fleet of 12 coaches from Manchester. "We stopped at the service station and the banter with City fans there was good natured. Had it been Liverpool fans there, it could have got nasty."

The police in and around Wembley were certainly hoping the day passed out with incident yesterday.

"I've no idea how many [police officers] we have out today but we are praying things are nice and peaceful because we have lost a few officers to the riots in Tottenham," one officer said.

The last time the two sides met Mario Balotelli, City's incendiary striker, threatened to light the blue touch paper on the pitch by enthusiastically celebrating the 1-0 win at the final whistle.

He threatened to incur the wrath of his owns fans recently by complaining about life in Manchester.

"I like the guy," Shaun said. "He's a young guy and I'm sure I was doing worse than him at the age of 20. He's just got to knuckle down and I'm sure [Mancini] is the man to do that."

And as for the unsettled Carlos Tevez?

"I'd let him go," Williamson said. "We gave him extra time on holiday and now we have given him another four days. I'm a shop steward for a company who looks after disabled people and if one our staff did that you'd get rid of them."

kaffleck@thenational.ae


””Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Kevin Affleck on @Affers1178