The Starting Eleven – Bobby McDonald

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, left-back Bobby McDonald.

Bobby McDonald joined the Blues six months before the 1981 final and soon became hugely popular with City fans.  Together with Tommy Hutchison, he was new manager John Bond’s first signing.  The two men arrived for a combined fee of £320,000 with McDonald’s value an estimated £275,000.  

The former Coventry men, together with Bond’s third key-signing Gerry Gow, added a bit of footballing guile and experience to a side the manager felt needed on-the-pitch guidance.  Fifteen years later Bond gave his ultimate assessment on McDonald:  “I had a few doubts about him when I found out a bit more about him, but he still did a good job for us.  He had a streak in him which was a bit wayward, a bit naughty.  But he did a job and the fans loved him.  

“So we’d got a left back who was a real left back, we’d got a midfielder [Gow] who could tackle, win balls and make things happen, and we had a tremendous fellow [Hutchison] up front.  It seems a simple concept really.”     

The fans did love left-back McDonald a great deal, particularly for his exploits during the Cup run.  Most memorably in the quarter-final against Everton.  He played a part in City’s equalising goal at Goodison Park, then in the replay he scored twice in the space of three minutes.  The first coming after 65 minutes.  The match ended 3-1 with McDonald the undisputed Man Of The Match.  “He loved the glory, ” Bond later laughed.

When it came to the final McDonald – an ‘unexpected hero’ claimed the final’s match programme – made his presence felt immediately.  Garth Crooks certainly knew he was there as the City man pressured his every move.  At one point Crooks appealed for a penalty as McDonald cleverly interrupted his advance on to a pass from Ardiles.  It set the tone.  

Together with Paul Power, McDonald also kept England star Glenn Hoddle under control. 

Fate played its part of course and the final went to a replay.  When Ricky Villa made the replay 3-2 to Spurs, Bond made a switch as the Blues searched for an equaliser.  On came winger Dennis Tueart and off came left-back McDonald in the 79th minute.

After Wembley, McDonald was a consistent member of Bond’s defence, with his most-headline grabbing moment coming three games into the 1982-83 season.  In only the third minute against newly promoted Watford, goalkeeper Joe Corrigan suffered a dislocated shoulder.  These were the days before substitute ‘keepers.  McDonald:  “We didn’t have anyone named before the game for Joe’s job, and it was a shock to see Joe injured.  As soon as I was told to go in goal I accepted it, and it seemed the best decision at the time because Paul Power could take over from me at left-back.”

For the remaining 87 minutes McDonald performed superbly, making many fine saves.  In fact a Gerry Armstrong shot two minutes from time resulted in a save that any ‘keeper would have been delighted to make.  McDonald’s performance helped City win 1-0 and head the table after three straight victories.  

During the game the supporters chanted ‘Scotland’s Number One’.  McDonald:  “I appreciated the reaction from the supporters.”

At the end of that season the arrival of Billy McNeill, following relegation, brought a premature end to McDonald’s Maine Road career.  A well-publicised breach of club discipline during the 1983 pre-season led to the left-back being transferred to Oxford United that September.  The majority of supporters were disappointed to see the player go, but the manager wanted to ensure his total authority from the start.

McDonald helped his new club to the Third Division and Second Division titles in successive years, and later had spells at Leeds, Wolves and a host of non-League sides, including VS Rugby, Redditch United and Burton Albion.

In 2011, McDonald coaches in Scotland and is a youth coach with Aberdeen FC helping guide youngsters in the Glasgow area.

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

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