Mens Team

City DNA #88: Are you watching Macclesfield?

In a future City DNA, we will examine what has been called ‘gallows humour’ – the ability to turn a dire situation into something that makes people smile.

There are numerous examples of moments where City fans have taken the wind out of opposition chants, but perhaps none better than the final day of the 1997/98 season.

Joe Royle’s City travelled to Stoke’s Britannia Stadium more in hope than anything else.

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Both City and Stoke needed to win and hope that Port Vale lost away to Huddersfield or Portsmouth lose at Bradford City – though crucially, neither of the sides Vale or Pompey faced had anything to play for.

Yet, if both Vale and Pompey lost and the clash at the Britannia ended in a draw, that would be enough to save both City and Stoke.

There were numerous permutations.

As always, City fans travelled in their thousands – 6,000 officially but probably closer to 10,000 given the number of ejections from home areas and those who managed to sit on their hands throughout the game.

The game itself gave hope for the future if nothing else, with City clearly up for the battle and taking a 1-0 lead in at the break thanks to Shaun Goater’s lob.

Paul Dickov doubled the lead after half-time before Peter Thorne pulled one back for the Potters.

But Lee Bradbury and a second for Goater gave City a 4-1 lead with 71 minutes played – but by that point, news had filtered in that both Port Vale and Portsmouth were winning their away games 3-0 and relegation to the third tier became inevitable for both sets of supporters.

The capacity crowd absorbed what had been a worst case scenario before kick-off, though it’s fair to say that City fans had certainly accepted their fate in advance.

After all, we had been there before when we’d needed favours from other clubs and ended with nothing.

Thorne scored again on 87 and Kevin Horlock added a fifth to make the score 5-2 in front of the masses of City fans in the Sharp Stand and it was around about then the live TV coverage picked up the first strains of “Are you watching Macclesfield?”

If it started with a few dozens voices it soon caught on with the majority of City fans echoing it around the Britannia Stadium within a minute or so.

Fate accepted, and an adventure awaiting in the third tier because for one season only, Manchester City would be playing in Division Two theatres around the country.

It was surreal, but typical of how City fans could turn a negative into something of a positive as well as putting smiles on the faces of a lot of people and caused the commentator to chuckle as the game drew to a close.

It was self-depreciating humour of the highest calibre and no doubt Macclesfield Town – and another 22 teams with big paydays on the horizon – were indeed watching that day.

What happened when City and Macc actually met we’ll save for another day…