Iain S.P. Reid’s pictures of Manchester United and Manchester City football fans from the 70s were gathering dust. Then brother Doug recognised their worth and lifted the lid on a time when outrageous flair on the pitch was matched by outrageous flares in the trousers on the terraces.
Working as an amateur photographer, Iain S.P. Reid focused on fans outside City’s Maine Road and United’s Old Trafford on match day’s almost 50 years ago.
His work lay gathering dust in cardboard boxes until, that is, his brother Doug dug them out for a fresh airing in a glowing tribute to the work of his sibling.
The Cool Cats of Manchester City, also known under the more unconventional spelling Kool Kats, versus Manchester United’s Red Devils.
Male fashion was in the middle of a major makeover. Wide bellbottom flared trousers flapped like sails around the ankles, concealing either stacked heels, cowboy boots or the original Doc Martens, or “bovver boots” as they were called, in a legacy of the skinhead craze that had rivalled the Mods and Rockers. The swinging 60s had entered the equally swinging 70s.
Iain S.P. Reid was there to record it, and now brother Doug Reid is making sure it reaches a whole new audience, raising funds for Melanoma UK in the process.
Iain died in 2000, leaving his fabulous archive of hundreds of photographs filed away in boxes, undisturbed for decades.
Born in Edinburgh in 1948, Iain studied art to degree level, first in Sunderland and then Manchester, where, studying for his Masters, he first discovered photography and Leica cameras.
Manchester match days were the inspiration for his most revealing work, captured in the 1976 and 77 seasons, that resonated with fans and in turn has become a historical reference to the trends of fashions of the time, earning for Iain awards and Arts Council recognition.
Iain was creating an archive to be treasured and described it at the time as a record of how fans treated the whole match as a “carnival”.
“Despite all press reports, there was very little violence,” he said, “and the fans I found most helpful in assisting with the project.
“They were always aware of the angle I was taking with the work. I carried around copies of the photos I was going to be using to show them I was not exploiting them by misrepresenting them in anyway”.
Names of the managerial greats of the day were heralded in graffiti around the grounds. Tony Book, captain of City under legendary Joe Mercer when they won the First Division in 1968 was in the hot seat as manager, while Old Trafford had Tommy Docherty at the helm. European Cup winner Sir Matt Busby was the hardest of acts to follow, but Docherty gave it a go, with FA Cup success.
The rivalry was intense, not helped when United were relegated, propelled on their way by a 1-0 derby day defeat against City in the penultimate game of the 1973-74 season, Denis Law, once an icon of United, scoring for City with a back heel. The goal did not actually send them down, but it is remembered for doing the damage.
Back in the First Division one year later and local bragging rights were again up for grabs. Iain was there to begin his pictorial record and, despite all the stories from the time of crowd violence and hooliganism, his pictures show only good humour, fans enjoying a smoke and a smile on the way to matches, then lounging on or behind the metal barriers, sometimes tuning into transistor radios for team updates or scores elsewhere.
Iain’s work took him back to Scotland soon after this project finished, at first working as a steward on an oil platform and then, from 1983 until his death, as a social worker, assisting the homeless in their battles against drug or alcohol addiction.
He died in 2000, after contracting melanoma. His photographic work had been left largely untouched, until Doug came across it after his death and digitalised a few shots. He posted them online, prompting fresh interest.
“I only saw them after he died and was amazed by them,” said Doug.
“I just thought these cannot stay in boxes.”
Doug is full of praise for his brother who he describes as a loving, caring person.
“I think that comes through on the pictures, the way people warm to him,” he said.
“He had an intense love of photography, but he struggled with his eyes. The only lenses he could really use were Leica ones because of their definition and depth.”
Doug now lives in Australia, and talks fondly of Iain and his photography.
“Knowing people were enjoying his photos would make him happy as well.”
If you enjoyed that, you may also like Football Fans 1991, where photographer Richard Davis focuses on United and City supporters as England’s Italia 90 heroics kickstarted a ‘hedonistic’ new order as watching football become fashionable.