The Starting Eleven – Gerry Gow

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, midfielder Gerry Gow.

Gerry Gow arrived at Maine Road in October 1980 as John Bond’s third signing in two days.  The others were Tommy Hutchison and Bobby McDonald.  Shortly before his death in the mid-90s City chairman Peter Swales remained convinced that those signings were of immense significance to the Blues:  “probably the three best players we’ve ever had as a group.”  He added:  “If Gerry Gow had been injured – which he could’ve been – we would probably have gone down that season.”

Although it wasn’t publicised at the time, according to Bond his chairman took a major gamble on Gow:  “There was no way in the world he would have been able to sustain a medical examination because he would have failed it!  I had a chat with Swales and he asked me what I wanted to do and I said that I still wanted to sign him.  So he let me pay £175,000 and we just had to take a chance… but what a chance.  He was a revelation.”

Gow was only 28 but with his wild hair and handlebar moustache he gave the impression of a very experienced combatant.  Most opponents would have feared him.  According to Bond he had an immediate impact:  “Gerry Gow stopped everything happening for the opposition, and that rubbed off on the rest of the players.  Gow’s tenacity rubbed off on Ray Ranson, Tommy Caton and Nicky Reid and the others.”      

The midfielder did also contribute a few goals, including the second in the 6-0 thrashing of Bond’s former side Norwich in the fourth round and an equaliser at Goodison in the quarter-final.  Worthy contributions, but it was in the final that Gow was at his tenacious best.  Early in the first half he made both Ardiles and Hoddle feel his presence – the Daily Mail described him as “Manchester’s lunging hit-man Gow” while the Observer said “Gow was to employ his talents as a bone-cruncher on Hoddle.”

City fans loved Gow’s commitment, although the Daily Mail felt “The lionising of Gerry Gow may tell us much that is wrong with English football.”  What it actually told everyone was that the midfielder was loved for his determined approach and, whereas some players may have frozen on the big stage, Gow seemed more committed than ever.  He was viewed as the most effective member of the side by many neutrals and it is a fact that he helped ensure Spurs’ midfield were largely ineffectual.

Sadly, Gow did also play a part in Tottenham’s equaliser.  John Bond did not blame the player, but he did feel there was some irony in the fact that Gow and Hutchison, who actually scored the equalising own goal, had been two of the driving forces in City’s transformation:  “Gerry Gow was the one who caused the free kick because he was on the half way line with the ball, and was robbed of the ball.  He chased the player right back to the edge of the penalty area and then he fouled him.   He used to get upset when somebody beat him.  He gave a foul away and Hoddle shot at goal.”

The replay ended in defeat.  “Gow had given so much in the first game that he must have been drained for the second match,” was the honest assessment of goalkeeper Joe Corrigan.  “He still did well, though.”

After Wembley, Gow suffered with cartilage problems and in January 1982 he moved on to Rotherham.  A spell at John Bond’s Burnley followed in 1983, and later he became manager of Yeovil and then Weymouth.  More recently he has worked as a publican, and in the engineering trade in Dorset.

Today, he remains a hero at both City and at his previous club Bristol City.  In April, without his trade mark wild hair, he was given the best reception of the night by Bristol City fans at a function honouring some of the club’s biggest stars.  No doubt something similar would occur at Eastlands.

Gow only appeared in 36 City games but it was enough to ensure he achieved cult status.    

NOTE: Sadly, Gerry Gow died on October 10 2016.

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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