Congratulations Champions City!

Today (May 11 2021) on the anniversary of Manchester City’s 1968 title triumph the Blues have become Premier League champions again. City have won the League after nearest rivals Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester City.

It is the Blues seventh League title with their first coming in 1937. Congratulations to Pep, the squad and everyone associated with Manchester City.

It has been an astonishing season with City already winning the League Cup this season, plus they’ve reached the Champions League final where they will face Chelsea. They also appeared in the FA Cup semi-final this season but sadly lost to Chelsea. This means that City have won six major trophies in three seasons and still have chance of another, the Champions League, of course. 

City’s trophy success today means that domestically counting the League, FA Cup and League Cup only United, Liverpool and Arsenal have won more English major trophies. Similarly, only United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have won more League titles than Manchester’s Blues.

It has been an odd season with Covid and no fans in the stadium (though some clubs, including those on Merseyside, were allowed a limited number of fans in earlier this season), but the football City have played has been breathtaking. Apart from a difficult opening period and a few odd results recently as Pep has rotated his team, City have delivered week after week (or should that be weekend after midweek after weekend after midweek – it’s been a busy season!). They thoroughly deserve the title. Well done!

City have now won the following major honours:

European Cup Winners’ Cup (1)

1970

League/Premier League (7)

1937, 1968, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019 & 2021

(runners up: 1904, 1921, 1977, 2013, 2015 & 2020)

FA Cup (6)

1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011 & 2019 

(runners up: 1926, 1933, 1955, 1981 & 2013)

League Cup (8)

1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021

(runners up: 1974)

In 2019 the Blues became the first English men’s team to win a domestic treble. This season City have achieved a domestic double of the League Cup and the League (a feat they also achieved in 2014 & 2018). Back in 1970 they achieved a European and domestic cup double when they won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

City’s trophy haul makes them the fifth most successful English club of all time based on major domestic and European trophies won (United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are ahead of the Blues). In addition only Liverpool and Blackburn have a greater span between their first English trophy and their most recent. See:

Don’t forget you still have time to subscribe to my forthcoming biography of Peter Barnes. Order before May 20th and you’ll get your name (or someone else’s if you’re buying this as a gift) plus your book will be signed by me and Peter Barnes. For details see:

Peter Barnes Biography – UPDATE

Thanks to all those who have subscribed to Peter Barnes: The Authorised Biography (especially 250 Scandinavian Manchester City fans who have ordered the book!) It really is appreciated.

Emails have started to go to all subscribers to confirm details for the book (these should all be sent by May 20th). There is still time to order the book and get your name printed in it for anyone who hasn’t managed that yet.

Subscribers will receive signed copies (signed by both Peter Barnes and myself) of the book posted out before it appears in any shop AND will get their names printed in the special subscriber section of the book. 

This is the only way to guarantee your copy of the book. All subscriber orders must be made by May 20th.

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 350+ page, colour paperback book for £16.95 (including UK postage) and have your name printed in it (or if being bought as a gift the name of another person). 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.

The ONLY way to order your copy and get your name printed in the book is from this site by using the order button below.

The book is expected to be published in June 2021 and all this subscriber offer will be available until May 15, 2021 (orders received after that date cannot be guaranteed to have names printed in the book, so order as early as possible).

Here’s the order button (before publication those who have subscribed to the book will be emailed to ask which name is to be printed in the book, so please make sure you include an email address, in addition to postage details, when asked at time of ordering):

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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. This is anticipated to be by the end of June 2021.

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

Thanks,

Gary James

69,463 watch MCFC and Burnley in Division Two

On this day (May 10) in 1947 a solitary goal from Alec Herd against Burnley was enough to give Manchester City promotion.  The attendance for this Second Division game was recorded by the media at the time as 67,672 but official records reviewed almost sixty years later showed that City actually recorded the attendance as 69,463.

Typically, the attendance figures City used to give the media for League games through to the 1960s tended to exclude season tickets. So the Blues’ management would give the figure of tickets or pay on the gate admission for the game but exclude season ticket holders. Back in 1946-47 City had around 1,800 season ticket holders and almost every League attendance back then is understated by that amount.

FA Cup games were the actual attendances as these were always sold game by game.

As this practice of excluding all season ticket holders continued for many, many decades at Maine Road attendance figures for League games are usually understated (they were often understated in the 1970s & 1980s as well but for different reasons and back then Peter Swales, Bernard Halford and the others involved in calculating attendances would deny any discrepancy despite many fans, fanzines and others challenging them often).

For comparison purposes it’s worth looking at the attendances of the Division One champions in 1947 to see how the Blues compared. This attendance against Burnley was almost 17,000 higher than Division One champions Liverpool’s highest crowd that season (52,512 v Wolves in December) and the Merseyside Reds nearest home game to City’s Burnley match was watched by 48,800 and that was Liverpool v Manchester United (May 3). Liverpool did average 45,732 that season, whereas City averaged 39,283 but they were a Second Division club.

The City-Burnley crowd was the Second Division’s record at the time and it was higher than every First Division crowd since the 1937-38 season (The Second Division record is now held by Tottenham v Southampton which had 70,302 in 1949-50).

Film of City v Burnley does exist but it’s in a most unlikely place. It was actually filmed as part of a Mancunian Films drama called Cup Tie Honeymoon. The company was run by a Manchester City fan who made this film, which starred Sandy Powell and Pat Phoenix (under her original name of Pilkington). A football game is crucial to the plot and scenes were filmed at Maine Road and interspersed with real action from the City-Burnley game to add credibility.

Myself and Will McTaggart have shown these scenes in our Boys In Blue film shows which have been staged at the Dancehouse and Cornerhouse in Manchester over the last decade. Maybe I’ll explain more about the film and those talks another day.

Subscribe to get access

You can access all of the content on this site, including the in-depth articles, audio recordings/interviews and entire content of my Manchester A Football History book by subscribing. It costs £20 a year (about £1.67 a month) and you have full access throughout your subscription. You can also give it a try by signing up for £3 a month (again full access throughout your membership). Thanks Gary.

Don’t forget you can order Peter Barnes’ biography now (before May 20th) and get your name printed in it (and a copy signed by both Peter and myself). Details here:

The Starting Eleven – Tommy Hutchison

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final today (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 last few days I have been posting these profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please take time to dig them out and read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the last of the eleven (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, goalscorer Tommy Hutchison.

33 year old Scottish international Tommy Hutchison became a cult hero for the Blues.  A dedicated, consistent and skilful professional, he was also superbly fit. 

Earlier he played for Alloa and Blackpool before signing for Coventry in 1972.  It was an inspired purchase by former City boss Joe Mercer, who had been a fan of the player’s for some time, shortly after he had left Maine Road.  Hutchison was later voted the greatest Coventry player of all time.

John Bond also recognised the player’s strengths, signing him for City eight years later:  “I said I’ll give you £400 a week, which wasn’t the best wage in the world.  His attitude was good and he signed without making a demand.”

Hutchison’s arrival helped City enormously.  Bond:  “There isn’t a City supporter anywhere who says anything but good about Tommy Hutchison.  He was absolutely tremendous, and became a real star.  He made everything happen.  He was a revelation.  I know people say this kind of thing a lot but he was a different class.  I always enjoyed having him in my side.”

Hutchison of course played his part throughout the Cup campaign.  In fact frustration had seen Everton’s Kevin Ratcliffe sent off for head-butting the City man in the 85th minute of the quarter-final.  In the subsequent replay Hutchison created two goals within the space of three minutes.

In the 29th minute of the Wembley final, Hutchison dived to head a centre by Ranson.  The diving header flew past Aleksic’s left hand from some distance out.  It was the 150th goal scored in Wembley F.A. Cup finals.

As the game progressed City looked certain winners, then ten minutes from full-time Spurs had a free-kick.  Ardiles tapped the ball to Hoddle, who curled it around City’s defensive wall.  Corrigan was certain he had the shot covered but Hutchison, who had dropped back behind the wall for the free kick, somehow got in the way.  The ball hit his shoulder and was diverted across goal for the Spurs equaliser.  

Goalkeeper Joe Corrigan walked to a disconsolate Hutchison, lifted him up, patted him on the back and tried to encourage him:  “My view was that we still had a few minutes left.  We’d been on top for most of the game.  We could still win.  I also knew that what had happened to him could have happened to any one of us.  So I just told him to “get up, get on with it.  It’s only 1-1 and we are still going to win!”  He was devastated to be fair, but we did almost win it in the dying minutes.”

That own goal guaranteed Hutchison a place in Wembley history as the first player to score for both sides in a FA Cup final – it even became a question in the Board game Trivial Pursuit – but it never changed how fans viewed him.  He remains one of the Club’s biggest heroes, even though his time at City was ultimately too short.  Hutchison was one of the biggest reasons why the Blues had reached Wembley, and the goal was simply an unfortunate incident, albeit a very important one.

A year after Wembley, Hutchison’s role as a stabilising force was over and he was transferred to Bulova (Hong Kong).  

At the age of 43 he received a special merit award from the PFA to mark being the oldest player in League football while appearing for Swansea.

In 2011, Hutchison heads up Bristol City’s Football In The Community Scheme.  It’s a role he has enjoyed for over a decade:  “The great thing is seeing some young kids, who I first met 8 years ago when they were trouble waiting to happen, change.  One even pulled a knife on me once.  It’s great to see that our work has really made a difference.”  

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:

The Starting Eleven – Tommy Caton

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, centre-back Tommy Caton.

Together with Nicky Reid (aged 20), 18 year old Tommy Caton made history by forming the youngest pair of centre-backs ever seen in the FA Cup final when they played at Wembley in 1981.  Despite their age both had been playing first team football for a couple of seasons with Caton managing 12 first team appearances before his 17th birthday.  

Caton was actually the fourth ever youngest City player when he made his debut on the opening day of the 1979-80 season.  The media and most supporters thought pre-match that this was one of Malcolm Allison’s more off-the-wall selections.  In fact Allison had wanted to play the defender in the first team the previous season, but claimed he had been prevented from doing so by the school authorities because of Caton’s age.

All suggestions that the 16 year old’s debut was an Allison-gimmick were soon proved false.  Caton helped City keep a clean sheet and his assured performance proved he thoroughly deserved the chance.  The defender retained his place for the rest of the season and, together with Joe Corrigan, Caton was an ever-present in all competitions that season.

Shortly after his 17th birthday, Caton gave his view of his career to date:  “I came to City in March 1978, signing on associate schoolboy forms and then started a full time apprenticeship in July, this year.  It was a bit strange to say the least when I played in my first few games.  I think the biggest tests have been against Arsenal, at Highbury, facing Stapleton and Sunderland.  Plus the match against Forest when it was Woodcock and Birtles.”

He struggled with injury a little during 1980-81 – a chipped ankle bone caused him to miss a period of what became a crucial season – yet he recovered in time to play a major part in John Bond’s Wembley bound side.  

Although the Daily Mail described Caton as “City’s inspiring young defender” in their match report of the cup final replay, the positive aspects of his contribution were soon overlooked as Ricky Villa’s goal became the media’s defining incident.  On his way to goal the Spurs player passed the 18 year old Caton twice, as well as others, and the media proclaimed it as a truly great goal.  City Manager John Bond was not impressed:  “I bet if Keith Burkinshaw [Spurs] had been in my place he wouldn’t have said it was a good goal.  He seemed to beat six or seven people in the space of four yards or so.”

It is worth recalling that Caton had an unusual claim to fame by becoming the first man to be booked twice in one final – he was booked in both the first game and the replay.

In March 1982 he created another record when he became the youngest player ever to appear in 100 League games for any club.  He was also, by this point, regularly tipped to become a full England international, but City’s relegation in 1983 suggested Caton needed to move to progress his career. 

In November 1983 he was sold to Arsenal after rumours that he stood little chance of playing for England while playing for a northern Second Division side.  Worth noting though that the Blues desperately needed the £500,000 fee they received, and so he was encouraged to make that move.    

Caton’s move south was not the success everybody hoped.  After only 95 League and Cup appearances with the Gunners – a developing Tony Adams was challenging him – he became Oxford’s captain.  

Early in 1993 he was forced to announce his retirement after a serious foot injury while playing for Charlton required repeated surgery.  That April he died suddenly at the age of 30 of a heart-attack. 

Of all the players who appeared in the 1981 final, Caton was the one expected to have the greatest footballing career ahead of him.  Sadly, the potential was never really fulfilled.  Caton should however always be remembered as a highly talented defender who, by the age of 17 was easily able to outperform some of the game’s biggest names.

Caton had enormous talent and ability, but ultimately so little time. 

NOTE: Tommy Caton’s son Andy made 13 appearances for Swindon Town between 2004-2007 before damaging his skull in a car accident.  A spell at Bath and Weymouth (in 2009) followed.

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:

The Starting Eleven -Steve Mackenzie

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 Steve Mackenzie

Malcolm Allison’s signing of Steve Mackenzie stunned the football world.  The 17 year old signed from Crystal Palace for an incredible £250,000 in July 1979.  The fee alone was huge – six months earlier the transfer record stood at £516,000 – but the fact that Mackenzie hadn’t even appeared in the League and was now the costliest teenager ever was astounding.

Inevitably, great pressure followed.  Mackenzie appeared in the opening 14 League games of 1979-80 but spent more time playing reserve football.  However, by the spring of 1981 Mackenzie was a permanent fixture in the side, delivering game after game.  Captain Paul Power said at the time:  “We look a different team when Steve is playing.  He has fought his way back and proved to the boss that we can’t afford to be without him.  He adds stability to our midfield.”

Mackenzie, as well as general play, contributed some significant goals such as the spectacular 25 yarder in the 4thround tie against Norwich, and the solitary goal in the February ’81 Manchester derby – “Mac The Knife” read the MEN headline. 

It was Mackenzie who rolled a free kick to Power – a move they had worked on in training – that brought the only goal of the semi-final.

In the 58th minute of the final with the Blues leading 1-0, Mackenzie came close to scoring.  John Bond remembered:  “Reeves and Mackenzie played this magnificent 1-2.  Mackenzie got behind the defence, went around the goalkeeper, went to slot the ball into the net and it hit the post and went wide.  They’d have been dead and buried!”

Three minutes after Spurs had taken an 8th minute lead in the replay, Mackenzie equalised with one of the greatest cup final goals of all time.  A Ranson free kick was met by a half clearance allowing Mackenzie to volley home from about 20 yards.  It was a tremendous goal and the type of effort that should have won the cup.  Paul Power:  “I still believe Steve Mackenzie’s strike was just as impressive as Villa’s second goal.  If that goal had been the match winner it’s possible that would have been voted the best goal of all time.”  Bond agreed:  “Steve Mackenzie’s volley was unbelievable!”

As we all know, Spurs went on to win the replay.  Mackenzie played in one further City game but was sold – to raise money for the purchase of Trevor Francis – for £600,000 to West Bromwich Albion the following August.  Considering his age and performances during 1981 it was a disappointing departure.  

Spells at Charlton and John Bond’s Shrewsbury followed.  Once his playing career came to an end Mackenzie pursued his interest in computers to gain a BA Hons degree in Interactive Multimedia Communication in 1998.  With a strong interest in teaching and learning Mackenzie gained further qualifications in teaching and e-learning.    

He also obtained the Advanced Level FA Football Coaching award and coached at West Brom’s Academy until 2000.  He also had an enjoyable two year stint in non-league management at Atherstone United.  

Since 2003 he has worked full time in Higher Education at De Montfort University primarily as a designer and developer of distance learning courses. 

In 2004 at the age of 42 he made one appearance – and scored – for Gresley Rovers.  Today he keeps in touch with the game, reporting for the Press Association, and takes a keen informal interest in football coaching and player development.

Looking back in 2011, Mackenzie’s strongest recollections from 1981 focus on his side’s endeavours: “pride in fighting so hard to win the cup, knowing if we had to lose we could not have done much more.”  The highlight remains, of course, his goal:  “the exhilaration of scoring a spectacular goal to get us back in the game – I think my beaming smile said it all.”

Janice Monk (former City Store), Glyn Pardoe and Steve Mackenzie at the launch of Manchester The City Years in 2012

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:

The Starting Eleven – Ray Ranson

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, 1981’s number two Ray Ranson.

Despite being only twenty at the time of the 1981 FA Cup Final, England under-21 right back Ray Ranson had been a member of City’s first team for over two years.  After making a name with both the Merseyside and England schoolboy sides, Ranson signed as an apprentice for the Blues in July 1976.  Other sides, including Liverpool, Leeds and Arsenal, had shown interest in him, but once he arrived at Maine Road his love of the Blues developed at a pace.  The right back later admitted that he became ‘City daft’ from the moment he arrived.  

Ranson’s first team opportunity came when he was 18 following injury to Kenny Clements.  He made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 23 December 1978 and the following season, after several impressive performances both for club and at Under-21 level for England, he established himself as the Blues’ regular right-back.  This meant that he was already a very experienced defender, despite his age, when the 1981 final was staged.

The match programme for the 1981 final described him as a “player of high potential” and it is true that much was expected of him at Wembley.  In the 29th minute of the first game, Ranson didn’t disappoint as he played a huge part in ensuring the Blues took the lead.  An exciting exchange of passes between Dave Bennett and Kevin Reeves near the right corner led to a great centre by Ranson.  Tommy Hutchison dived spectacularly to head the opening goal.

Ultimately, the final went to a replay.  In the seventh minute Spurs took the lead.  Three minutes later it was Ranson’s free-kick that led to City’s equaliser.  His kick was met by a half clearance which allowed Steve Mackenzie to volley home from 20 yards – a goal that was worthy of winning any cup final.  Sadly, Spurs went on to win the final with a goal that has become one of the most repeated in television history and one that must pain Ranson every time he sees it.  During an amazing weaving run Ricky Villa seemed to pass a dozen players but he actually passed Tommy Caton twice, Ranson and then Joe Corrigan.  Ranson will forever be reminded of this.  It’s an absolute certainty that at some point on Cup Final day this year the right-back will be forced to relive the nightmare moment once again.      

After Wembley Ranson remained a City regular during a difficult period for the Blues.  Then in November 1984 the St. Helens’ born player moved to Birmingham City.  At the time it was reported he had fallen out with manager Billy McNeill.  The fee City received was a bargain £15,000 – desperately low for a FA Cup finalist who was still only 24.  At St. Andrew’s he won promotion alongside City in 1985.  

Ranson later played for Newcastle – under Kevin Keegan for a spell – and then returned to Maine Road initially on loan under Peter Reid in January 1993.  

A move to Reading came in the summer of 1993, but a serious Achilles injury in February 1994 prematurely ended his time there.  Ranson eventually became player-manager of Witton Albion, before becoming involved with the finance industry.

Shortly after City’s move to the new stadium, media reports suggested Ranson was interested in buying into the Blues, then similar stories appeared linking him with a potential takeover of Aston Villa.  Later in the decade stories suggested he had come close to taking over City, but ultimately he fronted a takeover of Coventry City.  Ray Ranson became chairman of the ‘other’ Sky Blues in December 2007 but stood down at the end of March this year (2011) taking on a football consultancy role saying:  “I am more than happy to assist the new Chairman and Board as well as the football management team to get our results back on track.”

Ranson’s City career saw him make a total of 234 (plus 2 as substitute) appearances but interestingly Ranson’s spell with the Blues in 1993 meant that he was the only member of City’s 1981 FA Cup final team to appear for the Blues in the Premier League.

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:

The Starting Eleven – Paul Power

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.

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:

Congratulations Manchester City

Last night Manchester City reached the final of the Champions League for the first time in their history. Manchester has now become only the second non-capital city to have had two teams reach a European Cup final. Manchester was of course the first British city to have two teams competing in the European Cup in the same season (1968-69).

Last night was a remarkable night and other records were established:

  • City broke the record for longest winning run by an English club in European Cup history (7)
  • They became the first English side to win 11 games in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign (they are one off equalling Real Madrid’s record of 12 games)

This Champions League win is an important step in the club’s journey and to celebrate I’m going to make my special 1 hour audio recording commemorating an earlier important step in this journey free to listen to until May 12th.

This audio recording was made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final victory over Manchester United at Wembley (April 16 2011). To me that game was a crucial step towards the success that came over the ten years that followed, just like last night’s feels like a major step in the club’s development.

The audio recording looks at the years between the 1976 League Cup success and the FA Cup glory of 2011. The 2011 semi-final was a crucial step in City’s journey since the 2008 takeover and I felt it was vital to do a special marking this.

So what’s in this special recording? Well, I’ve included exclusive material from interviews and recordings I’ve done over the years with Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Roberto Mancini, Peter Barnes and Peter Swales.  Why Swales? Well, have a listen and you’ll hear why. Basically though I’m trying to set the tone for why the 2011 FA Cup semi final victory was so significant.

On Mancini… I include a few words from him recorded in 2011 and at one point he talks about the view that was then being expressed that City were ‘trying’ to buy success (now they say City ‘have’ bought success!). His words are a reminder that City have been having that particular criticism thrown at them for over a decade! Oh well, I wonder how long those criticisms were laid at other clubs who had seen major investment which propelled them forward?

Anyway, get yourself a brew and be prepared to be transported back in time. Here’s the recording:

If you enjoy the recording then please let me know, comment or subscribe to the site. If it’s of interest then, over the coming months and years, I’ll produce others like this highlighting key points in Manchester City – and Manchester’s – footballing history. It costs £20 a year to subscribe (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (you can always try it for a month). It’s worth bearing in mind that the 2010 Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 and all subscribers will be able to access all of that for as long as they are a subscriber (plus all the other stuff of course). You can subscribe below.

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Parallels – MUFC 2021 and MCFC 1993?

Some people say that history repeats. I’m not so certain about that but I do think we can learn a lot from history about modern society and how things develop. Actions are often similar decades apart and, unless we learn from what’s gone before, we do often make similar mistakes or not consider how things could turn out. Parallels should be looked for and considered.

This weekend (May 2 2021) has seen the postponement of the Manchester United – Liverpool Premier League game due to concerns over the safety of players and staff. Whether it should have been or whether there had been any potential for players to be injured is debateable but postponed it was.

United fans had been protesting on the forecourt outside Old Trafford a few hours before the match and some managed to find their way into the stadium. Footage of some smashing a door down and others seemingly walking straight into the stadium at a door manned by stewards have circulated, causing various conflicting views as to how fans managed to get into a stadium that should be impenetrable (if a few hundred fans can get in to a closed and secure stadium what does this say about the general security of the venue?).

The fans that made it in to the stadium found their way on to the pitch and television broadcast the scenes. Eventually the stadium was cleared, although Sky TV told us of a second group of fans who had got into the stadium through the second tier. Ultimately, all fans were cleared but the game was postponed. Fans were also positioned outside the Lowry Hotel where the United team were and television told us that there were concerns as to whether the team would be able to safely travel to Old Trafford. 

Similar views were expressed about Liverpool (don’t get me started on the safety of teams arriving at Anfield!).

Whether any player was in actual danger or not didn’t seem to matter. This was the view being expressed by those paid to describe the scene.

So, what should we make of all this? Well, we have been told that the protests were against the owners of Manchester United, the Glazer family, and the birth of the European Super League. The Super League plan has been halted (I’m sure it will keep coming back as the birth of the Premier League did) but the Glazers still own United.

I opened this post by saying how parallels should be looked for and considered and, as a historian, I cannot help but compare what’s happened this weekend with events at Manchester City in 1993. Back then the Blues were run by chairman Peter Swales.

Swales had mismanaged the club for two decades and had taken a hugely profitable and successful club, piled it with debt and seen it lose pace with some of its traditional rivals. Fans had been angry about his chairmanship for years and had demonstrated regularly. Swales Out was often the most popular chant at Maine Road and the pre and post-match demonstrations were an everyday part of life as a City supporter. Fans loved City but hated Swales.

Inevitably, when City were successful the Swales Out protests were not as visible as they were at times of failure – and this has been true at United. There have been many, many United fans who have constantly highlighted the faults of the club’s ownership and they have campaigned, but the wider fan base has been quiet when the successes have occurred. This was true at City (though successes were less frequent at City during Swales’ chairmanship).

Frustrations at Manchester City continued, even when the club had relatively successful seasons. For example, the Blues finished fifth two years running in 1991 & 1992 – poor by 1970s standards but better than the 80s – but fans still wanted Swales out. Part of the reason lay in his support for the proposed Premier League, which began in 1992-93 but had been discussed for several years before that (it was initially planned as a complete breakaway from the Football League by the biggest clubs who were determined to reduce the money they passed down to the rest of football – hmm, parallels here that often get forgotten!).

The Premier League was anticipated to make the rich richer and clubs that had lost their way, like City because of Swales and his supporting directors who had placed the club in enormous debt (for the time) which meant they struggled to compete for the best, were going to make up the numbers to some extent.

The first season of the Premier League went okay for Manchester City. They finished ninth which was a little disappointing but in itself was not the main concern. That was still Swales’ chairmanship and the general mood was poor. Fans had had enough. 

City’s chance of glory that season faded in a FA Cup quarter final with Tottenham and fans’ frustrations at their chairman and directors spilled out. It was a day when Swales’ new stand was opened – the Umbro Stand – and this was small-time compared to the club’s history and heritage. The stand it had replaced held over 9,000 seated. The new stand was basically two rows of executive boxes with about 4,500 seats in front. The ordinary fan felt that with that stand and the birth of the Premier League they were no longer relevant. Hospitality, money and TV deals seemed to matter most to club owners. 

The frustrations that had been bubbling for years (and we must NEVER underestimate the efforts City fans made demonstrating against their directors and for how many years they did this) bubbled on to the pitch. Live television captured the scenes as City fans invaded the pitch and the FA Cup quarter final was halted.

The media criticised the couple of hundred fans who made it on to the pitch. They didn’t ask why they’d done it, they just assumed City fans were unhappy at losing a FA Cup game. Had they bothered to ask fans – I was there and knew the situation and have over the years discussed this extensively with people who were on the pitch – they would have realised that they climbed on to the pitch out of frustration. Frustration at the way football was developing and frustration at Peter Swales and his supporting directors. 

Fans were right to be frustrated and history has shown that their predictions (covered extensively in City fanzines at the time) about the way football was developing to create an elite and more money for certain clubs was right.

I interviewed Peter Swales about two years after that pitch invasion and he told me that he should have listened to the fans and resigned that night. I agree – things would have been different for him and for City. Maybe in a few years the Glazers will say the same about this weekend?

That 1992-93 season saw Manchester United win the top flight for the first time in 26 years and United’s success brought added pressure to those in charge at Maine Road. The frustration of seeing your nearest rival achieve something that you’ve not done for years (City had been the last Manchester team to win the League prior to 1992-93 as they’d won it in 1967-68) gave fans further ammunition. Fans could point out to Swales that he became chairman of a club that had been hugely successful (four major trophies in the previous 5 seasons before his chairmanship) and profitable (previous chairman Eric Alexander was proud of the profitability of the Blues in the years before Swales). They could also ask ‘where did the money go’, ‘Why were we mismanaged?’ etc.

That event in City’s history is similar to some extent to what’s happened at United. Years of frustration at the owners/directors; the recognition that a rich club had been placed in significant debt; the proposed birth of a new league; the resurrection of a neighbour who seems destined to have a bright future just at a time when your directors don’t seem able or willing to compete etc. 

The proposed change of structure to football, where greed of club owners seemed more important than what the fans wanted, was the catalyst to the demonstrations at United this weekend.

Please don’t be fooled into thinking this is a demonstration against the European Super League – that’s the catalyst but United fan dissatisfaction runs much deeper than that. As with City’s 1993 FAC quarter final defeat and the birth of the Premier League that season, these are catalysts that bring the wider fan base on board (and often the media attention), but they are not solely the cause. 

In 1993 the media claimed City fans were unhappy because they’d lost the FAC tie. Well, yes, but they’d lost plenty of other FAC ties over the years and never invaded the pitch. That tie became the visible outpouring of dissatisfaction, just like the European Super League has created a situation which has allowed United fans to bring more visibility to their longstanding protests against the club’s owners. 

So where do we go from here? Well, there’s one major change since 1993 and that is that the majority of media coverage seems to have sympathy with fans this time. But those working in the media should ensure they go and talk to the fans who were actually on the Old Trafford pitch and ask them why they were there. That would help frame the discussions about what it all actually meant. Some media coverages has said in rather simple terms that United fans were campaigning against the European Super League – no, it’s part of a long standing dissatisfaction with the club’s owners, but I’m not a fan who went on the pitch (that’s my interpretation but best way to find out is to ask those who were in Old Trafford).  

In 1993 the media didn’t ask City fans why and they made assumptions which painted football fans extremely negatively. Instead of showing them as people who cared about how their club was developing they were presented as hooligans.

If we’re thinking about parallels then it’s worth considering what happened next in 1993 so that United fans can shape things differently or prepare for the worst! Back in 93 the momentum at Maine Road continued but, as with the widespread protest of the 1980s at City, nothing could change while the majority shareholders supported Swales. Put simply, if you own the club no amount of fan pressure can force you to sell. You only sell when you want to.

Swales felt the protests would die down (he explained all of this to me in an interview) but this time, as protests continued in 1993-94, former player Francis Lee decided to mount a takeover. That was eventually what forced Swales to stand down.

Sadly, for City the damage was done though and financially Lee’s City couldn’t compete with clubs who were able to spend freely like Blackburn (a major benefactor at the time) and those who were already benefitting financially from Premier League success. City ended up dropping to their worst ever position in the late 1990s and were financially adrift of many of their traditional rivals. Only the takeovers of 2007 and 2008 could help the club regain its position as a serious trophy challenger.

If we consider the City situation as an example, then it seems that the best chance United fans have got to change the ownership of the club is if someone like Gary Neville came in to front a major takeover of the club. Even then, as with City, it may well be that the damage done to the Reds and the debt placed on the club limits its future.

It does make you wonder what would have happened had Alex Ferguson, who had spoken out against the Glazers before the takeover, opposed the Glazers when they took over his club. Had Ferguson stood down back then maybe the protests against the Glazers would have been immense?

Football owners have never been properly policed and there are examples throughout the English league system of clubs whose futures were jeopardised by owners who have gambled on future success by borrowing to fund purchases, or who have sold club assets or placed a club in debt for their own personal gain. Change in football’s governance is needed. Simply changing owners is not the answer because football is a business and any owner wants his/her business to be profitable for him/her and shareholders.

Fans views, whether in the 1980s or 1990s campaigning against the Premier League and football chairmen, or in the 2020s campaigning against the Super League and football owners need to be listened to. Understand us and work with us – you might help make football an even greater spectacle.

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