I Just Wellied It!

On this day (February 3) in 1990 Manchester City and Manchester United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford. The derby became remembered as the ‘Wellied It!’ derby. Here is the story of that day with quotes from an interview I did with Ian Brightwell a few years ago. He explains how the ‘Wellied It!’ phrase came about and why he said it. Enjoy….

Howard Kendall’s City arrived at Old Trafford for the return derby match on February 3 1990. So much had changed since September when Mel Machin’s City had defeated Alex Ferguson’s United 5-1 and so the game was always going to be a difficult one to call. As the Blues were now supposedly a better side it is true to say most City fans eagerly awaited this particular match. Disappointingly, United only gave City 600 seats and 4,500 terrace tickets, although even that was considerably more than in the years that followed. The eventual attendance was only 40,274 in a stadium holding a minimum of 48,000, as many disenchanted United fans stayed away. 

Although there were noticeable gaps in the United sections, the paddock in front of the Main Stand appeared full of City supporters. They were later joined by Blues evacuated from the Stretford End and estimates from impartial observers suggested there were around 12,000 City fans in the 40,000 crowd. 

The match was the 100th meeting in the First Division and commenced with City tearing into the Reds as they had in September. The Blues were actually two points better off than United in the League and the difference in position prompted City fans to chant “Fergie in” to annoy the home contingent… Football humour, hey?

Squandering some early chances, City looked the more composed overall but when Clarke missed a sitter some fans still muttered about Everton rejects (it had been a thing ever since Howard Kendall’s arrival and transfer of several former Evertonians to Maine Road). It wasn’t just the Evertonians who should have given City the lead; Ian Brightwell was also guilty of a shocking miss when, with Leighton off his line, the youngster feebly lobbed the ball wide. Don’t worry, he made up for it!

Against the run of play it was actually United who took the lead when Clayton Blackmore was gifted a free header. Fortunately, within five minutes Mark Ward found Brightwell who, from fully 25 yards out, blasted a stunning shot past Leighton for the equaliser. Afterwards the delighted player explained exactly how he’d scored by succinctly telling the media: “I just wellied it!”  In May 2010 he remembered how the expression came about:  “We totally outplayed them, but Clayton Blackmore scored even though we’d had most of the chances.  I had a chance in the first half, but that’s a different story.  Once they went a goal ahead you’d normally think it’s going to be difficult, but we still had a lot of chances and I felt we’d still do it.  I remember that the ball was out on the right and Mark Ward sort of half-crossed it.  It came to me and I’ll never forget this – I heard Steve Redmond on the half way line shout:  “Bob…” I’d best not say his exact words, but let’s just say he wanted me to have a go in his strong scouse accent!  It was on my left foot, which isn’t my strongest, but I did what Reddo said.  It went in the top corner!

“I ran off and jumped about twenty feet in the air – or at least that’s how it looks on the photos.  I remember the noise because back then the away fans used to get about 10,000 tickets at Old Trafford and it was phenomenal.  

“When we came to do the post-match TV interview I was asked the usual stuff and then was asked about the goal.  So I told him what I just told you, being careful not to say what Reddo actually shouted!  Just as I was doing it, someone walked past and we had to do the interview again.  But then the same happened again.  So we had to do it a third time.  By this point I thought I had to say it in a different way – inexperience I guess.  I didn’t need to, but I ended up saying:  ‘the ball came out to me and I just wellied it!’  It’s true I did, but now it’s the phrase that people remember.  It summed it up nicely, but it wasn’t what I’d meant to say.”

The match should have brought a City victory, but everyone seemed satisfied with a point. You can watch highlights of the game here: 

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