A match made in heaven

THE Mechanics Institute in Lurgan has become a Mecca for local Manchester City fans.

With its sky blue facade there couldn’t be a more appropriate location for a supporters’ club affiliated with the newly crowned Premier League champions.

There was no danger of City fans painting the town red on Sunday after the boys in blue won the title for the first time in 44 years, snatching the prize from under the noses of their neighbours and arch rivals Manchester United.

The ‘MAIL’ spoke to the honorary president of the Lurgan-branch of the Manchester City Supporters’ Club who witnessed first hand Sunday’s dramatic finale at the Etihad Stadium.

Lurgan man John Weatherall is a founder member of the club which became the first affiliated Manchester City Supporters’ Club in Ireland when it was set up in the Maple Leaf Bar in Gilford in 1976.

It later moved to Higgins’ Bar in Banbridge, then on to The Jockey Club in the same town.

Last year, with the majority of its members coming from Lurgan, the club relocated to the Mechanics’ Institute.

66-year-old John said: “I always had a love of Manchester City from the time you got football cards with wee sweetie cigarettes.

“The first time I went over to see them play was in 1967. There was a trip running from Ralph Hewitt’s to a City v United game. There was about 30 of us and I was the only City supporter on the bus. I got some stick all the way there, but I was able to give it out the whole way back because we won.”

The following season Manchester City won the English 1st Division League title. Until Sunday that had been their crowning glory.

John, who goes over to Manchester for three or four games a season, said: “I was following them when they last won the league and I was lucky enough to be there this time round.

“There were seven of us at the QPR game. When we booked the tickets for the game we were eight points behind in the league. We thought it would just be a good day out in Manchester rather than us winning the league.”

Of the history-making game he said: “At 1-0 I thought it was job done. When it got to 1-1 I was starting to get nervous. After they went 2-1 up I was watching through my fingers.

“They made an announcement in the ground asking fans to stay to the end.

“Being a true fan there was no way I could leave even though it had got to 90 minutes and we were getting beat. I thought we were going to be very disappointed.

“When Dzeko scored the place erupted and when Aguero scored it was even louder. We were dancing in the stadium for the next 20 minutes.

“On the way back into Manchester the traffic was at a standstill. Everyone was singing and waving scarves and flags. There were no United fans to be seen.

“The same thing must have happened in the Institute. According to Frazer Jack at around a quarter to five Paul Daniels must have come in and performed a magic trick because all the United fans vanished.”

John continued: “To have won it in ‘Fergie time’ makes it even more special.

“To win it the way we did was like having the whole season rolled into one game.

“I’ve been following City through good times and bad. I’ve seen them at their lowest so this makes it all the more sweet.”

John’s son (also John and also a City fan) celebrated his 35th birthday on Tuesday. His dad said City’s title win was the best birthday present his son could have wished for.

John added: “Hopefully now we’ll get a few kids starting to support City off the back of this and there’ll be a new generation of City fans.

“As for our club we’re always looking for new members. Our AGM will be in June when we’ll be accepting applications for new members.”

Anyone wishing to join the Lurgan branch of the Manchester City Supporters’ Club should contact either John, Ian Uprichard (Chairman), Stephen Woods (Treasurer) or Walter Mitchell (Secretary).