Mens Team

City DNA #94: Stray Dogs

City DNA #94: Stray Dogs
Our 125-year celebratory series continues as we discover different strands of City DNA...

There was a time, particularly during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when games were interrupted due to a pitch invasion.

If you’re thinking of Birmingham City or Tottenham matches, think again – these were individual protests of the four-legged variety – yep, matches stopped because a dog had entered the field of play.

How did it happen? Well, it was easier than you might think.

At that time, turnstiles were waist height devices you pushed hard against when the operator allowed you access and they would turn clockwise and you’d be inside Maine Road.

These turnstiles were all around Maine Road and there were perhaps 50 of them (approximately) around the stadium.

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Your average dog, of course, could walk freely beneath the turnstile and straight into the ground, with the Kippax being the easiest route to the pitch with its large access tunnels situated along the terracing.

The small wall surrounding the pitch was only about three feet high and dotted with access gates to the pitch here and there.

So, easy access into the ground and easy access to the pitch – enter the dogs – literally.

And as some turnstiles stayed open for about 15 minutes after kick-off for latecomers, any four-legged interlopers could head straight into the action – and often did.

It might seem hard to imagine that just 30 years ago or so, dogs ran freely on the streets of England, but strays were a common part of daily life.

Moss Side had its fair share of stray dogs and there were at least four who infiltrated Maine Road during that era.

On one occasion in 1979, the match was stopped and City’s popular Yugoslavian defender Dragoslav Stepanovic (‘Steppy’), chased a hapless hound around for a few seconds with no chance of catching it – much to the amusement of the 30,000 or so crowd that day who roared “Sign him up, sign him up sign him up!”

And while most dogs were quickly apprehended, one in particular – pictured  below - not only evaded capture for several minutes, but went to Joe Corrrigan’s goalpost, took a sniff and… well, let’s just say watered the grass!

Cheek!

It was the ultimate act of defiance and, mission completed, the troublesome hound was on his way back out of the ground.

Apart from police dogs on official duty, a few years back there was one dog allowed in the ground – support dog Dougie and his owner Lynn Ratcliffe – and Dougie shot to fame when he joined in a Poznan during one game and became a minor celebrity as a result.

Dougie retired a few years back but was happy to help predict matches at the 2016 World Cup for mancity.com.

And there was once an official club dog – Nell – who sadly perished in a disastrous Main Stand fire at Hyde Road in 1920.

Birds, cats and foxes have all been occasional visitors to City matches over the years, but Moss Side’s stray dogs took some beating as they enjoyed their moment in the sun.

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