The Bredbury Blues began as a handful of Manchester City fans in 1999 – it has since grown in to the Premier League champions’ largest supporters club.
Ian ‘Arnie’ Arnfield began running coaches to and from local matches in 1993 and now organises tickets and travel for a 600-strong following.
But the stress and tribulations that come with the burden of organising a supporters club is not for the faint hearted.
“In January 1999 I decided I would form a branch and it turned out not to be the cleverest decision,” he told MM.
“We had a meeting in April to form the branch, then six weeks later was our biggest game in history.
“In 1999 we had a play-off final and there was 41,000 City fans going there, and we’ll never get 41,000 tickets for another game.
“I always joke that I had a better night when United won the European Cup than when we beat Gillingham because that was the night I got the tickets for everyone – the pressure was so immense it was unbelievable.
“I had people phoning me up from Carnforth to Penzance for tickets and I’d not been doing it for long.
“I was off work with stress – and I was stressed – because I’d totally gone, after another weekend I’d have been dead.”
Arnie has been following City for 50 years and, with the club’s recent success, what began as a small project has snowballed into a huge undertaking.
“The bandwagon really started rolling a few years ago when Sheik Mansour came in and the membership has really grown, but we’ve always had more than 300 members here after the first couple of years, so it’s grown beyond belief,” he added.
“It’s always been a family club – men, women and children – and a lot of policeman go with us. We even had a vicar for a while but he moved away.”
City’s long-awaited silverware and European football has been ample reward for the branch founder’s hard work.
His joy and relief at the 2011 FA Cup triumph was bettered only by City’s dramatic title-winning victory over QPR in May.
“That was a great day for me against Stoke [the 2011 FA Cup final] because we broke the holy grail, we got a trophy,” Arnie said.
“It was an emotional day for me to have brought all these people, and there’s quite a few that would have jacked it in if it wasn’t for me badgering them.
“We finally delivered what I said we might do, although it was pie in the sky when I said it in the past.
“Against QPR I remember sitting there thinking ‘all this and we’re going to blow it and lose to them, of all people’.
“I was absolutely devastated and if God had come to me after 90 minutes and said ‘do you want to live or die?’ I’d have said ‘I’ll die’.
“I just can’t put into words how down I was and if you look at the clips on YouTube and see the City fans when they’re losing and the United fans when they’ve lost, there’s no question who it meant more to.
“I’d waited all my life for it. I remember telling all my kids that they’d cheated, because I waited 50 years for it.”
There is plenty of demand from aspiring members as the club continues to grow, but Arnie is regretful that it’s reaching maximum capacity.
However, his focus remains entirely on the Blues as he proudly demonstrated last season.
“Last year I was 50 and one of my more affluent members offered to take me to Las Vegas and pay for it – I turned it down because I would have missed Wolves away,” said the diehard fan.
“Las Vegas is still there but I’ve been to every game when Manchester City has won the league.”
Picture courtesy of bredburyblues.com