Bill Taylor

On this day (30 November) in 1981 former Manchester City, Oldham & England coach Bill Taylor died at the age of 42. Taylor was a tremendous coach who joined City from Fulham in 1976 and also coached England. At the time goalkeeper Joe Corrigan commented:  “His coaching methods were an inspiration to so many players and he helped tremendously to improve many of them.  He was always a bright and breezy character and he had a terrific sense of humour.  I can never repay the debt I owe him for the help he gave me both with City and England.” 

A Shock Transfer From Spurs

Today (5 November) marks the anniversary of a shock transfer of an England international from Tottenham to Manchester City only a few days before an England game. The player even travelled on the Tottenham coach to Manchester as the two teams were about to play each other. You can read the story and match reports here:

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“Stanley’s Match” – England 8 Scotland 0 16th October 1943

“When I heard the team I said two prayers.  One of thanks to the Scots for leaving me out, and one on behalf of Adam Little who had taken my place.  I knew then we’d do well to get away with less than five goals against.”  So said Bill Shankly referring to the selection of the England team to face Scotland at Maine Road in October 1943. You can read the story of this incredible game here:

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All Star Games

This week the new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has been roundly criticised by former footballers, managers and the media for suggesting that the Premier League introduces an ‘All-Star’ game. His suggestion was based on similar games in the States and he hinted that a North v South All-Star game could raise money for the football pyramid. He suggested that English football could learn a lot from America and came up with other ideas too. His views were presented across the media in a way that implied ‘here’s an American coming over here to tell us how to run our sport that’s done okay for the last 150 years.’ However, had he framed his All-Star game along the lines of English tradition rather than along the lines of American pizzazz then he may have been listened to.

As a historian it irks me when people talk of a new idea, or bringing something different, when the truth is that these things have existed for decades – or even centuries! It frustrates me even more when ideas are then criticised with people commenting along the lines of ‘you can’t do that here. You and your American ways. We’d never do that’ and so on when we have actually done that – and done it well too!

Personally, I’m not in favour of representative All-Star games as a regular fixture. We have Soccer Aid and that’s well-established and a great piece of entertainment, but representative League games are something else. There isn’t really room in the football calendar and so I’d worry about that but, as a historian, I know that these types of games have existed in English football since the 1890s and I also know they were immensely popular at times. 

Had Boehly done a bit of football research or talked to a football historian they may well have helped him present the same sort of idea in a more sensible, traditional manner. Likewise, had Jamie Carragher or any of the others criticising him done some research or consultation with a historian they may also have been able to talk about how these things existed in the past. 

So what am I going on about? I’m talking about the original ‘All-Star’ games that existed in English football – The Football League representative teams. These were established in 1891 to raise money for the Football League to carry out its duties – in effect similar aims to Boehly’s. The first representative game was the League against the Alliance League – so not a geographical All-Star match but certainly along similar lines. That was played on 20 April 1891 at Sheffield and the Football League side contained six Scottish players and one Welshman, plus English players. 

The year after the Football League played the Scottish League for the first in a long series of games between the leagues. Four Scottish players played for the League against Scotland.

Another game was played that year that is even more closely aligned with what Boehly has suggested – The Midlands v The North. There have been other representative games, such as the North v the South, some organised by the League some by other bodies such as the FA. A North v South representative game had been in existence from 1880. There’s lots more history to discuss, including the role of some of these type of fixtures in the selection of the English national team, but suffice to say these types of games have been in existence for a long time. Here’s a report of North v South from 1891:

So, again, had Boehly been aware of the history his suggestion could easily have been framed in a different manner. I wonder how people would have reacted had he said something like: ‘I’ve been studying English football and am fascinated by the representative and inter-league games that saw footballers from multiple clubs with varying nationalities play together. These began in the 1890s and were immensely popular with fans, raising money for the management of the game and helping ease the burden on less fortunate clubs. I’d like to bring back that tradition and believe they’d be popular again. Imagine De Bruyne playing alongside Salah and Ronaldo?’ 

From the 1890s these representative League fixtures grew in frequency and, as well as the Scottish League, other leagues were added. The Irish League became a regular opponent and there were games against the Southern League, the Army, Glasgow and the national leagues of Belgium, Italy and the Republic of Ireland (as well as the Irish Football League). There were combined Wales & Ireland teams, British league opponents and a Rest of the World game. The Football League representative team played their Italian equivalents on no less than 13 occasions.

There were also representative games between regions, including a series of Third Division North v Third Division South in the 1950s, though these were separate divisions of the League so more like inter-League games, nevertheless they are another precedent.

Over the decades these inter-league games faded, mainly due to fixture congestion, but one-offs appeared such as against a World XI to mark the centenary of the League in 1988. 

So there are historical precedents within English league football. Personally, I’d still worry about fixture congestion if something like this was re-introduced but I have to say that the criticism of the idea really should have been framed differently. Criticise the idea because of fixture congestion or worries about players, but don’t criticise it as a ‘coming over here telling us to introduce something American into our game’ when it’s actually an English concept that goes back to the early days of League football in our country. 

The great German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann often talked of his pride of playing for the Football League in one of these representative games in 1960. He had been prevented from playing for his national team due to football politics of the era but appearing for the Football League in what would now be termed an ‘All-Star’ game was a major honour. By the way, the game was described as ‘a star-studded’ match, so similar wording to Boehly too! No doubt there are many players today who would feel the same as Trautmann did if they don’t ordinarily get the chance to play for a national team in a high profile match.

Another German Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool, was dismissive of Boehly’s idea and seemed to suggest that players from rival teams like United, Liverpool and Everton couldn’t play in the same team, which is odd considering they can and do play in international matches together when they are supposed to be representing their country. Here’s what Klopp said:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/football/62900364

I don’t agree with Boehly’s ideas but dismissing them, in the manner some have is wrong too. His idea is not a new one, it was a part and parcel of league football for over a century. I also can’t help feeling that a modern generation of fans may actually enjoy seeing the best of the Premier League against the best of the Italian/Spanish/German Leagues if these fixtures occurred. Maybe some would prefer to see representative League teams instead of international games? If Boehly had suggested that he’d be condemned further but they’ve happened in the past.

Here’s film of a 1905 inter-league game played at Manchester City’s Hyde Road ground in 1905:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-england-v-ireland-at-manchester-1905-1905-online

As a final word I’d like to say that if you’re a football director, official, manager, player or a member of the media please consult a football historian if you have an idea or want to criticised an idea. Most things in football are not new. We pretend they are to gain headlines or to present ourselves as forward thinking, or as guardians of the game. The truth is that knowing and understanding football history, whether that be our own clubs or the game in general, allows us to make informed decisions and comments. Most football historians are keen to help so please call on this resource and let’s have sensible discussion or let’s make informed suggestions of how to improve the sport we love.

David James

On this day (1 August) in 1970 former Manchester City and England goalkeeper David James was born in Welwyn. Here for subscribers is a profile of James:

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Norah Mercer: 11th March 1920 – 12th March 2013

On this day (11th March) in 1920 Norah Mercer was born and on 12th March 2013 she passed away. Here is an obituary I wrote for her in 2013:

A short while ago (this was written on 13 March 2013) I heard the news that Norah Mercer, the widow of former England captain and manager Joe Mercer, had died this morning.  She was 93 yesterday.  

I first met Norah in 1988 when I was researching for a book on the Manchester derby.  Joe had agreed to write an introduction to the book and I was invited to the Mercer home to talk with Joe.  Unfortunately, on the day the car my father and I were supposed to be travelling in had a few problems and we ended up using a white transit van to get to their home.

As we arrived at the end of their street we started to worry.  We were about to park a transit van outside the house of the greatest Manchester City manager of all time.  Not only that but we were about 45 minutes early.  We couldn’t pull up outside Joe Mercer’s house 45 minutes early and in a transit van!  We decided to park near the junction of the neighbouring road – where we could see the Mercer house – and wait in the van.

At the appropriate time we climbed out of the van, walked up the Mercer road and knocked on their door.  Joe came out with a big beaming smile and simply said “come in”, then Norah appeared from the kitchen wagging her finger at us and saying “you’ve been hiding in that van for 45 minutes!  No need for that you should have pulled up outside.”  From that moment on Norah made us feel welcome and in the 25 years since has been a wonderful friend.

Throughout her life Norah supported Joe wonderfully.  Today people often talk of footballers’ wives – often for the wrong reasons! – but back when Norah and Joe first became a couple it was unknown for a wife to become known by supporters.  However, Norah’s support for her husband was such they she played a marvellous part in every period of his career from the moment her father helped Joe get to Goodison Park in the early days of his career; through the highs and lows of an amazing playing career with Everton, Arsenal and England; on to managerial ups and downs at Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Coventry City and that great spell as England boss; and on to retirement, illness and so on.  Joe passed away on his 76th birthday in 1990 but Norah continued to show interest in football becoming a regular at Manchester City and a frequent visitor to Joe’s other clubs.

When Joe passed away in 1990 I asked Norah if I could write a biography of her husband.  Her response was typical: “Only if it’s not too much trouble for you.”  Too much trouble?  After what Joe had given football, and in particular my team Manchester City, I felt we all owed him something, but typical of Norah she wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking on too much, or doing it for the wrong reasons.

With Norah’s support – and also great assistance from her son David – I wrote the biography over the following three years but, most significantly, I also spent many days at Norah’s listening to her views on football and life, questioning her on odd snippets of information, marvelling at her photo collection, and generally enjoying every minute.  Typically my visits would include Norah insisting I had something to eat – I really didn’t want to intrude too much but soon realised that Norah was always such a welcoming figure.  She was also keen to meet my own family and my girlfriend (my wife since 1992) was as welcome as I was and became someone else looked after by Norah.  

On one occasion when I was researching Joe’s Aston Villa material Norah insisted I have a beer.  When she brought the drink in she nodded to my girlfriend and then gave me the tankard – Joe’s League Cup winning tankard from his days at Villa!  I was petrified that I was going to damage it.

Norah was born in Liverpool in 1920 and was the daughter of a popular grocer, Albert Dyson, on The Wirral.  Albert was a passionate Evertonian and had various contacts at the club.  As Albert’s business was based in Ellesmere Port inevitably he came into contact with a young Everton player called Joe Mercer.  Joe and another player were invited to the Dyson home for tea one day. The other player couldn’t come but Norah did meet Joe for the first time:  “Old cheeky face Mercer came!  At the time I was 11 and Joe was 17 and he treated me like a sister.”  Around six years later a relationship began to develop between the two of them and Norah became an intergral part of Joe’s life.

In March 1941 Joe and Norah became engaged and on 3rd September that year they married with Everton’s TG Jones the best man.  Norah explained to me fifty years later that the honeymoon was cut short by a day so that Joe could play for Everton:  “We left early Saturday and he played Saturday afternoon.  So that’s how our marriage started… with football!  And that’s how it went on.”

Norah was knowledgeable about football herself.  In fact some of Joe’s teammates teased him that Norah knew more about the game than he did!  She played her part in all the big moments of his career:  “Playing for Everton meant a great deal to us all because we were all Evertonians, but I suppose the greatest moment in his pre-war career came when he was selected to play for England.  He was at our house when it came through on the radio – no one ‘phoned you then to tell you you’d been selected.  

“He was delighted.  We all were.  It was such a honour to play for England.  It made us all so proud.  When he played at Hampden in one of his first internationals Joe’s mum came with me and my father to watch him.  That meant everything and Joe was named the Man of the Match (England won 2-1).” 

The couple were, of course, separated for significant periods during the war years.  It was a difficult time for all, but once the war was over it also looked as if Joe’s footballing career had come to an end.  Joe became a grocer like his father-in-law, but he often admitted it was a poor substitute for playing football.  Then a chance came to join Arsenal and arrangements were made for Joe to train on the Wirral and travel to Highbury for games.  Whenever possible Norah would travel, together with their young son David, to London for games.  She was, of course, present at all the landmark moments of Joe’s career with the Gunners:  “I went as often as possible, and of course we had David by then.  If I didn’t go to games I’d be waiting for him up here after the game.  He used to catch the 5.30pm from Euston and arrive back to The Wirral around 10.30.  We lived near the line then and I used to look out for the train.  Of course, Joe often fell asleep and would end up at the end of the line!  Once he said to a guard ‘why didn’t you wake me?’ and the guard said ‘because of what you did to my team today!’  Arsenal must have beaten his team.” 

Once Joe’s playing career ended he moved into management with Sheffield United, Aston Villa and then Manchester City.  As football management required a much closer presence the family moved whenever Joe’s career took a different course.  Norah, for her part, tried to ensure everything ran smoothly for Joe and David.  She also played her part as a welcoming aspect at each of the clubs.  In 2003 she told me: “I used to come to all the games of course, and both before and after the match would be with the wives of the directors, visiting officials, and even the referee’s wife in the Ladies Room.  We were all told who the referee’s wife was and we tried to make her feel welcome, although for some ladies it all depended on how well her husband had refereed the match!”

Norah supported Joe fully throughout his managerial career, especially during some difficult periods at Aston Villa and the final days at Manchester City. Norah, talking to me in 2003:  “He didn’t want to leave City but felt he had no choice.  He obviously wanted Malcolm to succeed and he did not blame him, but the new directors could have sorted it out properly.  Once the takeover had happened and the new directors came on board (1970-72) the club had changed.  It wasn’t really until Franny returned to the club (1993/4 season) that efforts were made to invite me and others back.  Of course Joe had passed away by then, but I was delighted to be asked to games.  That invite has carried on ever since and it is great to feel part of the club again.” 

Joe passed away in 1990 after suffering with Alzheimer’s.  Norah did all she could during that period to ensure Joe was comfortable and she insisted on looking after him, even during some very difficult days.

Norah continued to attend games at City from 1994 through to the present day.  She also came to the ground for other activities and functions over the years, including the unveiling of the Mercer mosaics in 2005.  That day she was accompanied by her son David, but sadly, a little over two years later he passed away after a struggle with cancer. Life must have been difficult once more for Norah.  

Away from football Norah tried to play a part in her local community.  For many, many years she worked in charity shops on The Wirral.  In fact, when I went to see her once when she was in her late 70s she told me that earlier that week a man had stolen a handbag from someone inside the shop and that Norah had chased after him.  Only losing him when he jumped on a waiting train at the railway station:  “if that train hadn’t been there I’d have caught him!”

On another occasion when she was approaching ninety she told me of her upset at being “made redundant!”  The charity had decided to stop using volunteers and had employed younger permanent staff instead.  I’m pretty certain that few permanent staff would have had the same level of dedication and determination that Norah had.

I once asked her about her family’s interest in football:  “It’s changed so much since Joe and I first met.  Throughout his career I supported him all the way.  To Joe football was the most important thing.  The people… the money… the grounds even change, but Joe used to say that the game itself doesn’t need to change.  Football is a great game and that’s what mattered to Joe.  I often joke that football was everything to Joe.    When he met me it was football then me.  When our son David was born it was football, David, then me.  When our granddaughter Susan was born it was football, Susan, David, then me!  Football was always number one and we all knew that.  Football was Joe’s life.

By 2009-10 I had become a little frustrated that the Mercer name was not often remembered outside of the clubs Joe had been involved with and so I decided to update and revise my biography of Joe, but first I asked Norah’s permission.  Just like twenty years earlier she said “Are you sure?  Will anybody be interested?  Don’t do it unless you feel it’s worthwhile.”  “Joe Mercer: Football With A Smile” came out in April 2010 and I made sure that the book explained Norah’s continued presence and interest in football – to me it’s a shared story.  It was the least she deserved.

In September 2009 I included an interview with Norah in the Manchester City match programme.  In that piece I asked her about present day City and ended the piece with a simple question: Looking to the future, who would you like to win the League?

Her response:  “After City you mean?  Well, the top four would have to be City, Everton, Arsenal and Liverpool, but apart from City as champions I’d best not say which order.”  In 2012 she got her wish and, most significantly, she was there when City defeated QPR to lift the title for the first time since Joe’s side had in 1968.

My thoughts are with her granddaughter Susan and the rest of her family.

Gary James

12th March 2013

On This Day: Colin Bell Was Born

On this day (26th February) in 1946 Colin Bell was born. Sadly Colin, recognised by most Manchester City fans as the greatest ever player for the club, passed away in January 2021.

The above photo comes from Peter Barnes’ collection and was taken at Champneys where City were staying prior to the League Cup final in 1976. It was, of course, Colin’s 30th birthday.

My thoughts and best wishes are with Colin’s family today.

I’ve interviewed Colin and written a lot about him over the years. A few posts are available (free to read) here for anyone who wants to learn more about Colin or remember some of his incredible achievements:

Colin Bell Interview/Tribute

1977-78 Colin Bell’s Contribution To The Central League Title

Colin Bell 1946-2021

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2020/12/29/manchester-city-hall-of-fame-colin-bells-significant-game/

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Colin Bell MBE (interviewed in January 2005)

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Available Here!

Tonight Peter & I will be talking about my new book on Peter’s life and career. At Reddish MCFC Supporters Club. If you can’t make it you can still order the book here:

United Kingdom

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – UNITED KINGDOM

Order today for £16.95 (incl UK Postage and Packaging).

£16.95

This 372 page, colour paperback book is £16.95 (including UK postage).

You do not need to have a PayPal account to order – use the ‘Pay with PayPal’ button above and it will give you the option to pay by credit/debit card without creating a PayPal account. UK postage included; outside UK contact me for additional postage costs.

Here are the contents pages:

This is the life story of Peter Barnes who, at the age of 18, scored the opening goal in the 1976 League Cup final. Playing for the team he supported, Manchester City, Peter was idolised by fans and was awarded the 1976 PFA Young Player of the Year award. The following year he made his England debut and was described by one journalist as the ‘saviour of English football.’

These were the days when Manchester City won the League Cup; were runners up in the League (missing the title by a point); and were challenging in Europe but then Malcolm Allison returned as coach and within months Peter, and a whole host of international stars, were on their way out. Peter was sold for a record amount. City’s fortunes suffered while Peter carved out a new career at West Bromwich Albion (where he played for Ron Atkinson).

Another record breaking transfer to Leeds United followed, before spells at Real Betis, Coventry City, Manchester United (playing for both Ron Atkinson and his replacement Alex Ferguson) and Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Written by acclaimed author Dr Gary James, this book covers the highs and lows of Peter’s life with stories about his time playing for some of the game’s biggest clubs and most famous managers. It also discusses Peter’s ongoing involvement with the sport and the significance of his family.

Oh, and if you’re wondering where the cover came from… it’s based on the packaging and advertising for the cult toy from the late 1970s The Peter Barnes Football Trainer.

If you run a book shop and would like to know more about the book please email: accounts@manchesterfootball.org

If you’re a media company interested in interviewing Peter or Gary about the book then please contact author Gary James: gary@GJFootballArchive.com

The ISBN is 978-1-9168852-0-2 and stocks are now available for book shops.

You can listen to Peter in conversation with myself about the book here:

Thanks,

Gary James

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography Update

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography is currently being printed and is anticipated to be available from July 1st 2021. If you haven’t managed to order it yet you can do so now and, if ordered before July 1st, your copy will be signed by Peter and myself and posted before it appears in the shops.

This 372 page, colour paperback book is £16.95 (including UK postage).

United Kingdom

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – UNITED KINGDOM

Order today for £16.95 (incl UK Postage and Packaging).

£16.95

The ONLY way to guarantee your copy is from this site by using the order button above or those for non-UK below. You do not need to have a PayPal account to order – use the ‘Pay with PayPal’ button above and it will give you the option to pay by credit/debit card without creating a PayPal account.

Copies ordered by July 1st will be despatched BEFORE the book appears in any shops. Certain online retailers are advertising the book but, so far, none of these have actually ordered a supply. You can get yours before they do by ordering below (non UK see further down this page):

Here are the contents pages:

This long awaited authorised biography, written by Gary James with the memories and stories of Peter’s career throughout, tells the story of Peter’s life from his childhood in Manchester and Wrexham through to the modern day. With particular focus on his footballing career with Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United, Real Betis, Coventry City, Manchester United, Tampa Bay Rowdies and, of course, England.

Those living in the European Union can now order the book for £28 including postage to an address within the EU and those in the USA for £40 including postage to the States. If you’re in Malaysia it’s £35. Sadly, we have no control over those additional postage costs (we have used the Royal Mail international standard rate).

Outside the UK, EU, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and USA please contact for confirmation of postage costs.

Here’s the order button:

European Union

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – EUROPEAN UNION

Order today for £28 (incl postage and packaging within the EU).

£28.00

United States of America

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – USA

Order today for £40 (incl postage and packaging to the United States).

£40.00

Malaysia

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – MALAYSIA

Order today for £35 (incl postage and packaging to Malaysia).

£35.00

Australia and New Zealand

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Order today for £38.95 (incl postage and packaging to Australia or New Zealand).

£38.95

If you run a book shop and would like to know more about the book please email: accounts@manchesterfootball.org

The ISBN is 978-1-9168852-0-2 and stocks should be available for book shops after it has been distributed to all subscribers and others who have ordered it here. This is anticipated to be in early July 2021.

You can listen to Peter in conversation with myself about the book here:

Thanks,

Gary James

SUBSCRIBER LIST CLOSED: Peter Barnes Biography

The opportunity to subscribe to The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography has now passed. However, you can still order the book before publication and your copy will be signed by both Peter and myself.

This is the only way to guarantee your copy of book.

Publication is anticipated to be June 30 and copies will be despatched in July BEFORE the book appears in any shops. Certain online retailers are advertising the book but, so far, none of these have actually ordered a supply. You can get yours before they do by ordering below (non UK see further down this page):

United Kingdom

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Subscriber Offer UNITED KINGDOM

Order today for £16.95 (incl UK Postage and Packaging).

£16.95

The ONLY way to guarantee your copy is from this site by using the order button above or those for non-UK below.

This long awaited authorised biography, written by Gary James with the memories and stories of Peter’s career throughout, tells the story of Peter’s life from his childhood in Manchester and Wrexham through to the modern day. With particular focus on his footballing career with Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United, Real Betis, Coventry City, Manchester United, Tampa Bay Rowdies and, of course, England.

There are quotes from people connected with Peter throughout his career plus archive material too.

Pre-publication you can order the 360+ page, colour paperback book for £16.95 (including UK postage). Those living in the European Union can now order the book for £28 including postage to an address within the EU and those in the USA for £40 including postage to the States. If you’re in Malaysia it’s £35. Sadly, we have no control over those additional postage costs (we have used the Royal Mail international standard rate).

Outside the UK, EU, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and USA please contact for confirmation of postage costs.

Here’s the order button:

European Union

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Subscriber Offer EUROPEAN UNION

Order today for £28 (incl postage and packaging within the EU).

£28.00

United States of America

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Subscriber Offer USA

Order today for £40 (incl postage and packaging to the United States).

£40.00

Malaysia

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Subscriber Offer MALAYSIA

Order today for £35 (incl postage and packaging to Malaysia).

£35.00

Australia and New Zealand

The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography – Subscriber Offer AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Order today for £38.95 (incl postage and packaging to Australia or New Zealand).

£38.95

If you run a book shop and would like to know more about the book please email: accounts@manchesterfootball.org

The ISBN is 978-1-9168852-0-2 and stocks should be available for book shops after it has been distributed to all subscribers and others who have ordered it here. This is anticipated to be in early July 2021.

You can listen to Peter in conversation with myself about the book here:

Thanks,

Gary James