On This Day (5th January) in 1980 – Allison’s Nightmare at Halifax

Malcolm Allison’s multi-million pound Manchester City side were humbled 1-0 at Fourth Division Halifax Town in the FAC.

At Christmas 1979 big spending Manchester City were 12th in the League. Malcolm Allison was in charge of the most expensive British team ever assembled up to that point and 12th was disappointing but it wasn’t the end of the world. In those days a decent run in the League could easily lift a team (similar to the 2020-21 season in terms of the number of clubs capable of winning the League at Christmas). Sadly, City collapsed in the weeks that followed.  

A 1-1 draw at Stoke on Boxing Day was disappointing, but it wasn’t the end of the world.  Then a 4-1 defeat at First Division newcomers Brighton knocked confidence at an important time.  The next game was the third round F.A. Cup clash against Fourth Division Halifax Town at the Shay.

In his programme notes for the match Halifax Manager George Kirby predicted a shock:  “In today’s F.A. Cup 3rd round the only certainty is that there are going to be some surprises, especially with the wintry conditions underfoot.  I like to think that we are among one of the possible giant killers.  This is because we are playing against one of the certain to be ‘top teams’ of the 80s.  A 4th Div side at home to a 1st Div outfit with such stars as Joe Corrigan, Steve Daley, and Mike Robinson is a possible shock result.  It only needs an off day by a key player and Halifax are in the hunt.”

Kirby was determined to defeat football’s biggest spenders and even brought in an hypnotist, Romark (who had previously ‘cursed’ Allison while the City boss had been manager of Crystal Palace – a really interesting story which will be covered in my biography of Peter Barnes to be published in 2021), to get his players in the right frame of mind.  The game itself was played in horrendous conditions, with multi-million pound City struggling to achieve anything.  In the 75th minute it was all over as the ex-Birmingham City player Paul Hendrie converted a cross from former City schoolboy Andy Stafford to give Halifax a 1-0 victory.  It was the biggest result in Halifax history, and the most embarrassing City defeat of the Allison period.  Even today the name of Halifax and the sight of the Shay brings back nightmares for a large number of Blues.

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