We’re in the knock out stages of the World Cup and Manchester City players are contributing significantly to England’s progression at the moment. They are household names and are delivering on the biggest stage, but what about the first City player to appear for England? Who was it and when? Well, here’s the answer.
The first Manchester City player to appear for England was Herbert Burgess, who was reportedly born in Openshaw on 25 February 1883. Burgess was a left back but, according to articles at the time, was only 5ft 4.75 inches tall (weighing 11st 7lbs).
He made his first England appearance against Wales, and City teammate Billy Meredith, in February 1904 and did well in a game that ended 2-2 at Wrexham.
Prior to City Burgess had joined Football League side Glossop in March 1900 and, after three good years there, he moved to City on 30 July 1903. The fee City paid was £250. This was a period when Manchester’s Blues seemed to be cherry-picking the best Glossop had to offer and one report even suggested the nearby club was becoming a nursery club for City.
Burgess made three international appearances in 1904 with the Welsh game followed by a 3-1 victory over Ireland at Solitude, Belfast in March and a 1-0 win over Scotland at Parkhead, Glasgow on 9 April 1904. Only two weeks later Burgess helped City to FA Cup success (they became the first Manchester team to win a major trophy) and the Blues were also League runners up. These were great days for Burgess.
He made one further appearance for England – a 2-1 defeat at Hampden Park on 7 April 1906, played in front of 102,741 – and was furious that one of the Scotland goals was allowed to stand.
This period was a tough one for Burgess as the illegal payments scandal at City completely rocked his world. He was one of 17 players suspended by the FA (I can talk about this for days – it was so unfair and northern newspapers believed it was some sort of conspiracy by the southern based FA!).
Burgess was forced to leave City and, along with other star men, including Billy Meredith, he joined the then underdogs Manchester United and helped them achieve their first major success. He then moved to Denmark and played for Kristiania before joining Hungarian club MTK Budapest.
When his playing days came to an end he became Budapest’s manager and then managed Padova (1922-1926). He left Padova to become Milan’s manager in 1926 and after two years there he returned to Padova.
From 1930 to 1932 Burgess managed another Italian club, Roma. This photo is of Burgess (with cap on) as manager of AS Roma.
Burgess immediately etched his own name into the history of Roma, winning the first ever Rome derby in only his second game in charge. Roma won 1-0 win at Lazio’s Stadio della Rondinella. Burgess also guided Roma to success in the second derby, winning 3-1, the following May, this time at their all-wooden ground Campo Testaccio.
Burgess never lost a Rome derby during his time there as they drew their subsequent two derbies under him. His Roma team also pushed eventual champions Juventus all the way in the 1930-31 campaign, finishing just four points behind Juventus as runners-up.
Sadly, it’s been reported that Italy’s development under the dictatorship of Mussolino meant that English coaches were under pressure to leave and Burgess returned to Manchester, taking a job as a labourer on a housing estate on the outskirts of Manchester. He also became trainer to Ashton National.
He died in 1954.
In total at City he made 94 first team appearances and scored two goals. Had the illegal payments scandal not occurred he may well have been an England regular for several years. As it is his career is pretty impressive for a lad born in Openshaw in the 1880s – FA Cup & League winner; England international; manager of prominent clubs in Hungary and Italy.
People tend to think that it’s only in the modern era that Manchester City have achieved anything or that footballers have gone abroad to coach major clubs like Milan, Budapest and Roma, but the truth is that men like Burgess achieved so much over a century ago. We must take steps to remember them. Oh, and while I’m here it’s worth pointing out that City did have international players for years before Burgess but they didn’t play for England.
The earliest played to make an international appearance while on City’s books made an appearance for Wales in 1890 when the club was still Ardwick. Maybe I’ll write about him one day too?
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