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, captain Paul Power.
The scorer of the only goal in the semi-final victory over Bobby Robson’s treble-chasing Ipswich Town, Mancunian Paul Power was a wonderful choice as captain during the early eighties. He was given the responsibility in October 1979 but his first year came at a time of struggle for the Blues. However, the atmosphere improved considerably with the arrival of manager John Bond. Power later recalled: “By the time we reached Wembley in 1981 the captaincy was relatively easy. The other experienced players were able to marshal their areas of the pitch well, and the mix between inexperience and experience was good.”
Reaching the final – and it should be remembered the semi-final of the League Cup – was ultimately a great achievement for City but, inevitably, the replay defeat remains a painful memory: “I’m still very disappointed about the final result,” he admitted when I interviewed him in 2004. “But it was a major honour to be there and to captain the side.”
“Everybody knows the story of the own goal and of the replay, but I still believe that had the game been played to a conclusion on the Saturday then we’d have won. We were still going strong and were still confident. Some of the Spurs players were suffering with cramp and we definitely had the game under our control.”
In the years that followed Wembley City’s fortunes took a spectacular nosedive and in 1983 the Blues were relegated: “Looking back I realise that experiencing the bad times helps you appreciate the good times more, but back then I didn’t feel like that at all. A very, very low moment.”
Power could easily have moved on but he vowed to help City return to the top flight. Bargain basement signings were made due to the club’s poor financial state but, despite a gallant effort, the Blues missed out on promotion. Power, perhaps because he was a reminder of what City had been only a few years earlier, did receive some minor abuse at times: “I had a great relationship with supporters overall, but I guess for that one season we all felt the frustration. Funnily, twelve months later we won promotion and I was voted player of the year.”
In 1986 Power captained City to the Full Members Cup final against Chelsea. It was a fairly short-lived tournament, with the final watched by 68,000, and at the end of that season the 32 year old captain was transferred to Everton as cover for Pat Van Den Hauwe. He astounded almost everyone – including himself – when he went on to appear in all but two games as Everton won the League title: “I suppose in many ways it was like being dropped into City’s Championship team of 1968. Every member of the side was of the right quality and all I had to do was pass the ball on.”
Despite his modesty, Power thoroughly deserved his title medal, it was just a pity he was wearing Everton’s blue and not City’s. That season he also scored a memorable goal against his former side: “I kicked the ball and remember thinking ‘save it, save it’, but he didn’t and I scored! I felt awful. I couldn’t celebrate. I knew City were struggling and I couldn’t bear inflicting any pain. Awful!”
Power did ultimately return to City to take on a role with the Blues highly successful Academy. Worth recalling that when he was first spotted by City, Chief Scout Harry Godwin’s view was that the 13 year old Power needed development himself: “His left foot was a beauty, but there was nothing on the lad. No flesh, no height. Paul was the tiniest of tots, he made Ronnie Corbett look like a giant!”
After much effort on the young player’s part Godwin took a second look: “He’d grown, the stride had lengthened and the delicate left foot was still there. I’d seen all I needed to in the first half hour of the game.”
In 2011 Power now helps some of the Academy’s youngest and brightest prospects develop, but he will always be remembered fondly for his unwavering dedication to the Blue cause during the highs and lows of the early 1980s.
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