The 100th Post – Why, What and When?

Thanks for reading this my 100th article/post on gjfootballarchive.com. I wanted to take the opportunity of this 100th post in 3 days to thank everyone interested in my work and to explain why I’m doing this; what the archive consists of and how often it will be added to.

First – why? For some time people have been asking me when I’d be doing my own blog and over the years I’ve always been pleased with the responses to my guest appearances on podcasts, vlogs and blogs. The feedback has been excellent but I’ve always had so much more to say. I care passionately about ensuring football’s history is properly researched & recorded and feel there’s always a place for detailed, quality research.

The idea of creating this blog and archive came because I wanted to create new content, based on the research I’ve performed over the decades, while also setting up an archive of my past work. Much of my writing is now out of print and it matters enormously to me that books like Manchester A Football History should be available (subscribers will be able to access the full 2010 edition of that book soon).

I am a self employed historian and spend all my working week writing, researching and publishing my work. I am not an employee of any organisation (I know some think I’m employed by a football club but I’m not an employee nor am I an official club historian of any club). I am independent of any organisation and care passionately about the quality and accuracy of my work. As so much of this is out of print I am keen to create this archive for my work and add to it as time goes by.

Next – what? So what is my football archive? It is a place where already after less than three days 99 posts/articles/features have been posted. These include new material, interviews, profiles, past articles, book sections and more. Some of this material was written some time ago or is based on interviews performed many years ago (including interviews with players who have since died). Most of the material posted so far is connected with Manchester City but there are articles of interest to Manchester United and other teams, including England. Further articles on Manchester’s clubs will follow.

Some articles are free to download but most of the material is available to subscribers only. As mentioned earlier, my research and writing is something I strive hard to ensure is of quality. No one employs me to research or write (I lost my only regular income when physical match programmes stopped being produced last season) but my commitment to those who read my work is that I will always seek to maintain the highest standards. I am eternally grateful to those who purchase my books or subscribe to my work.

To see what articles have already been published go to the search page (using the links under the banner at the top of this page) and either search on a key word or have a look at the categories listed there.

Next – when? There are already 99 posts/articles live and this will increase significantly over the coming weeks. By the middle of February every chapter (that’s over 30) of the 2010 edition of Manchester A Football History (PDFs of the actual pages including illustrations) will be available to subscribers. Over time my biography of Joe Mercer and other books, such as Farewell To Maine Road, will also be available in this archive. I’m keen to hear from subscribers which books, articles, interviews they’d like access to here. I want this to develop into a community of readers whose views absolutely matter.

A limited amount of content will always be free for anyone to read but those subscribing will have access to everything on this site for as long as they subscribe. For subscribers I will post a minimum of 4 new articles alongside adding material from my archives each month. To subscribe costs £3 a month or £20 a year (the 2010 edition of Manchester A Football History which will be posted a section/chapter a day for subscribers from Saturday 9th January 2021 cost £24.95 when published and is now out of print).

If you’re uncertain whether to subscribe or not then why not subscribe for a month at £3 and see if you’re getting value for money. The £20 annual subscription works out about £1.67 a month for a guaranteed 4 new articles per month and access to everything else posted in the archive.

Thanks for reading this. If you’d like to subscribe then please do so below. I really appreciate the support and I promise I’ll continue to add content that informs, entertains and has been researched to the highest standards.

Happy new year (surely it can’t be as bad as the last?). Best wishes, Gary

£3 per month or £20 per year for full access to all posts and the archive.

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Manchester United Ticket Prices

The admission price to sit in K Stand for the FA Cup tie with Queen’s Park Rangers on 29 January 1977 was £1.20 for an adult ticket.

The Reds won the tie with Lou Macari scoring the only goal.  Attendance 57,422

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Two shillings and sixpence (12½p in today’s money) would be enough to buy a ticket for the European Cup quarter-final with Red Star Belgrade at Old Trafford in January 1958.  The true value of the ticket today, considering average earnings and inflation, would be approximately £6.

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A ticket to stand at the 1983 League Cup final against Liverpool could be bought for £4. 

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£2.60 would buy a terracing ticket for the Old Trafford derby of March 1986.  The game ended in a 2-2 draw before 51,274.  In February 1990 £3.50 bought a similar ticket for the 1-1 drawn Manchester derby watched by 40,274.

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It would cost £8 to watch United’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea on 17 April 1993 in the uncovered West Stand lower tier.  A similar fixture in October 1963 between the sides at Stamford Bridge would cost six shillings to sit under cover.  The 1963 game ended in a 1-1 draw before 45,351, while the 1993 match saw the Reds win 3-0 four games from the end of their 1992-93 Premier League winning season.

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A junior Stretford End ticket for United’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool in Division One on 19 October 1985 cost £1.20, while an adult ticket for the same game (in the United Road Paddock) cost £2.60.  Eight years earlier an adult ticket for a similar position at the Scoreboard End cost a bargain 80p.  

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A seat ticket to watch Chelsea V United at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 30 September 1964 cost seven shillings and sixpence.  It would have been well worth it as United won 2-0 with goals from Best and Law.  The attendance was 60,769.

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When United faced Everton in the fourth round of the League Cup in 1993 Reds fans had to pay £11 to sit in Goodison’s Park End.  A crowd of 34,052 saw Giggs and Hughes score as United progressed to the fifth round.  That season United reached the final.

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It would have cost £1.50 to stand in the East Enclosure when Gordon Hill netted twice against Derby County in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in 1976.

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A League Cup quarter final ticket for United V Everton in December 1976 cost 80p to stand in the Paddock at Old Trafford.  Attendance 57,738.  To stand in the Paddock in 1959 would have cost 3s 6d (17½p).  

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An FA Cup final seat ticket for the 14th row at either end of Wembley Stadium in 1979 cost £8.  United faced Arsenal in a memorable final.  21 years earlier three shillings and sixpence brought a terracing ticket for the West Stand as United faced Bolton in the final.

Manchester City Hall of Fame: Joe Corrigan’s significant game

City 2 Tottenham 3

FA Cup Final Replay

14th May 1981

City Team: Corrigan, Ranson, McDonald (Tueart), Reid, Power, Caton, Bennett, Gow, Mackenzie, Hutchison, Reeves

Attendance: 92,500

For Joe Corrigan these two matches may not have brought him a winner’s medal but they did raise his profile nationally and bring him the accolade of ‘man of the final’.  An enormous television audience worldwide witnessed this the 100th FA Cup final and the story of City’s season captured a great deal of attention.  The Blues had commenced the season with Malcolm Allison as manager but results, performances, and a general air of doom and gloom made the first few months extremely difficult.  Then John Bond arrived in October and the atmosphere transformed totally as City progressed to the League Cup semi-finals and the 100th FA Cup final.

City were in control for most of the initial match at Wembley.  Tommy Hutchison had put City into the lead in the 29th minute and the Blues looked unstoppable.  Danger did come from Spurs at times but Joe played magnificently and blocked any danger.  Unfortunately, ten minutes from the end disaster struck.  Tottenham were awarded a free kick twenty yards out.  Osvaldo Ardiles tapped the ball to Glenn Hoddle, who curled it around the wall.  Joe knew he had the shot covered but Hutchison somehow got in the way.  The ball hit his shoulder and was diverted passed Joe and into the net for Tottenham’s equaliser.  Joe:  “I’m sure Hoddle’s free-kick was going wide until Tommy got in the way and deflected it past me.”

Immediately after the equalising goal Joe, clearly disconsolate himself, walked over to the devastated Hutchison, helped him to his feet, and muttered a few words as he patted him on the back.  Clearly at a time when blame would have been easy to apportion the City ‘keeper thought more about the feelings of his team mate than the incident itself.  That says a great deal about Joe’s humanity.

The game went into extra time and with the score at 1-1 after 120 minutes, a replay was scheduled for the following Thursday.  Joe and most of the City side received considerable praise in the media with the Daily Mail stating:  “For what they are worth to the bewildered Tommy Hutchison, the defiant Joe Corrigan, the prodigious Nicky Reid and the inspiring John Bond, my sympathies are with City.  At least they gave their all for 90 minutes and then dredged up a little extra for the additional half-hour.  With the exception of Graham Roberts, Tottenham’s approach was a disgrace.”

All neutrals seemed to share those views and City felt aggrieved.  Personally Joe would have preferred to see the game settled on the Saturday:  “For me the FA Cup Final is all about the Saturday.  The players are all hyped up, the fans are all hyped up, the television is all hyped up.  The Cup Final is meant to be all about who is best on the day.  I’ve no doubt that on the Saturday we were the better team.  The second game did not feel like an FA Cup final.”

Despite Joe’s views, the second game has become recognised as a classic.  It ended 3-2 to Spurs, but contained a couple of superb goals.  The most famous one is Ricky Villa’s 75th minute Tottenham winner, but City fans will always remember Steve Mackenzie’s twenty yard volley as a classic goal.

For Joe the second game put him under more pressure than the first and he certainly performed heroically.  In the years since the final the story of Ricky Villa’s goal has grown and grown yet on the day itself it was the performance of City’s brilliant ‘keeper which won the acclaim.  His profile was raised once again, but undoubtedly Joe would have much preferred to see City win the Cup rather than receive the glory himself.

Manchester City Hall of Fame: Colin Bell’s significant game

City 4 Newcastle United 0

Division One

26th December 1977

City Team: Corrigan, Clements, Donachie, Booth, Watson, Power (Bell), Barnes, Owen, Kidd, Hartford, Tueart

Attendance: 45,811

This match has entered Manchester folklore as one of those games you just had to experience to fully appreciate.  All of those present that night from players, to fans, club officials to newspaper reporters, talk of this night as one of football’s most emotional nights.

The story of Colin Bell and his injury had become one of football’s most discussed issues.  The teatime BBC television news show Nationwide had profiled Colin’s tragic story and as a result the player received thousands of good luck messages from neutrals and ordinary non-footballing members of the public.  They had been touched by his long, hard training schedules; his lonely runs through the streets of Moss Side and Rusholme; and by his absolute determination to return to full fitness.  To them Colin’s story was incredible, to City and England supporters it was a deeply disappointing and tragic story.  

Colin’s gruelling training regime ensured he forced his way into manager Tony Book’s thinking by December 1977, and on Boxing Day he was named as substitute for the visit of Newcastle.  Anticipation was high as supporters believed this would be the day they would see their hero return to action.  

Chairman Peter Swales rated Colin highly and shortly before his death in 1996 the former Chairman explained:  “The supporters loved him.  You can never kid supporters.  They know great players.  It’s no good a manager saying, ‘this is the best player we’ve ever had’.  The supporters will know after a few weeks whether he really is the best.  Bell was the best.  No question.”

On the night itself Tony Book had planned to send Colin on as substitute for the final twenty minutes, but an injury to Paul Power meant the manager had to take decisive action.  The supporters didn’t realise, but as the players were making their way into the dressing room for the interval, it was decided that Colin would play the second half.  During the interval fans started to speculate as to when they would see their hero, with the majority believing he would come on for the final flourish, but then as the players came back out on to the pitch it was clear that Paul Power was missing and that Colin was coming on.  

The stadium erupted and the fans on the Kippax terracing began to chant his name.  It was a truly marvellous sight and the tremendous feeling of anticipation and excitement had never been felt midway through a match for any player before.  It was the most amazing individual moment witnessed at the old ground.  Dennis Tueart, a player on that day, remembers:  “He came on at half time, and it was like World War Three.  I’ve never known a noise like it in all my life!  The crowd gave him a standing ovation and he hadn’t even touched the ball.  I’ve never seen a guy work as hard to get back.  The hours and hours he put in.  The pain he went through…  it was a phenomenal amount of work and he definitely deserved that ovation.”

For the player himself the day remains one of the most significant memories of his life:  “As I came down the tunnel I could hear a whisper go right round the ground.  I knew that reception was for me alone.  I was never an emotional player but that afternoon I got a big lump in my throat.  I’ve been lucky to win cups and medals and play internationals, but of all my great football memories, that is the one that sticks in my mind.”

“The City crowd and I had this mutual respect really, and that standing ovation from over 40,000 people brought a lump to my throat for the only time in my career.”

The substitution totally transformed the atmosphere and the result.  The game had been goalless, but the Blues tore into Newcastle as if they were playing in the most important game of all time.  Dennis Tueart played superbly and scored a hat-trick, with Brian Kidd also scoring, to make it a convincing 4-0 win for the Blues.  At one point Colin had a header which just sneaked over the bar, but the fairytale goal on his return did not arrive.

A modest Colin feels he didn’t contribute a great deal:  “I don’t think I touched the ball.  It was ten men versus eleven, but the atmosphere got to our team and we ran away with it.”

MANCHESTER CITY – HALL OF FAME: Joe Corrigan

“In comparison with some players, I’ve not won that many awards at Manchester City.  Not as many as some of the great players, but I do think that this is one of the best.  I’m absolutely delighted.  Thank you” Joe Corrigan collecting the Hall of Fame award in January 

Joe Corrigan’s City career is an inspirational story for any young goalkeeper.  He achieved great success with the Blues and became a regular member of the England squad.  However, there were also significant setbacks along the way which he overcame through determination and desire to prove himself.  A very popular figure, Joe was idolised by the Maine Road faithful.

Early Life

Manchester-born Joe went to Sale Grammar School and enjoyed participating in sporting activities, however the school curriculum put more emphasis on Rugby than football and Joe’s opportunities to develop as a footballer were limited.  However he did excel as a second row forward for the school rugby team.  This must have helped improve his general co-ordination and ball handling skills, even if the ball was a different shape.

After school he became an apprentice at AEI and played for their football team, sometimes as a centre-half.  A colleague was particularly impressed with his general aptitude for the game and suggested he should have a trial at Maine Road.  One thing led to another and a trial was organised for him.  Joe:  “City signed me that night, after my first trial.  It was the sort of situation you would never have today.”

It was manager Joe Mercer who signed Joe as an amateur in September 1966.  Joe remembers fondly this period of his goalkeeping career and of the roles played by Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in setting the right environment:  “There was such a great atmosphere and the best thing about Malcolm Allison was that he treated every player the same.  It didn’t matter if you were in the first team, or the B team.  I was only a kid but I could tell Malcolm was a great coach.  He was more like another player than management.  Joe used to be the front man – the ambassador.  He was the manager and we all knew it.  Together the pair worked perfectly.”

First Team Debut

On 25th January 1967 Joe turned professional.  A little over eight months later, an injury to regular ‘keeper Harry Dowd, coupled with new signing Ken Mulhearn being cup tied, allowed Joe to make his first team debut in the 3rd Round League Cup tie against Blackpool on 11th October 1967.  Clearly, his elevation to the first team a month before his 19th birthday was a major test and, for City, a major gamble but the Blues had no real choice.  The game itself ended in a 1-1 draw with some reports suggesting a more experienced ‘keeper would have saved the Blackpool goal, however Joe retained his place for the replay a week later and City defeated the Seasiders 2-0.  

At this stage of his career it was inevitable that Joe’s spell as number one was a temporary one and for the fourth round League Cup tie a fit Harry Dowd returned to action, while Ken Mulhearn had established himself as the first choice for League games (he had signed for the Blues in September 1967). 

Mercer & Allison had found it difficult determining which ‘keeper – Mulhearn or Dowd – was their number one.  Injuries, inconsistencies and nerves all seemed to play their part in limiting each player’s spell.  Mulhearn made most appearances during the 1967-8 League Championship winning season, while Dowd seemed to be the preferred choice during 1968-9.  Joe was really the third choice and this made it difficult for the young ‘keeper to be given first team experience.  Joe was determined to learn and had a spell away from Manchester.  Joe:  “I had three months on loan at Shrewsbury under Harry Gregg, the ex-United ‘keeper.  Even though I only played reserve games, I learned so much.  Harry was tremendous, a man who knows what keeping is all about and who was one of the all-time greats himself.  Up until then, my career had been at a stalemate.  Within a couple of months of coming back, I made my full League debut.”  

Rapid Progress

Joe’s full League debut in a 2-1 defeat at City’s bogey team Ipswich Town on 11th March 1969.  He made three further appearances that season – 1-0 defeats at mid table Nottingham Forest and eventual Champions Leeds United, and then a 1-0 victory over Liverpool on the last day of the season – although City’s fortunes varied, it’s fair to say the ‘keeper played well.  This was Joe’s first clean sheet in the League:  “Those games gave me the chance to really show what I can do.  Luckily, I did okay and the next season, with a lot of pushing from Malcolm, I was City’s first choice.”

Joe’s progress was relatively rapid, especially when full consideration is given to the fact that Ken Mulhearn had been bought by Mercer & Allison to be the first choice.  Joe was still only 20 when the 1969-70 season began and the Blues were proving to be the most successful side in the Country.  It is very unusual for any side at the height of its power to make such a young ‘keeper their number one choice, especially when that side already possessed two established medal-winning ‘keepers.

The opening game of the 1969-70 season saw the Blues beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-1 and Malcolm Allison started to tell the media and anyone else who cared to listen that Joe would be “as great as Swift”.  Most thought this was typical Allison hyperbole but over the years Joe would find himself rated in the same bracket as Swift and Trautmann.  He would also go on to become one of the Club’s longest servants.

On 15th November 1969 Joe played in his first Manchester Derby match.  It was a thrilling 4-0 victory for the Blues and was summed up by the Manchester United reporter David Meek as the most one-sided Derby of all time.  That wasn’t exactly true, but for Joe it was a significant match, watched by over 63,000 at Maine Road, and the first of his 26 derbies – no other City player has matched that total.  

Roy of the Rovers

1969-70 was a rather mixed season in the League with the Blues finishing a disappointing tenth.  However, in knock-out competitions City ruled, reaching two finals – the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.  Joe’s progression was moving at a pace no one could have predicted and he played a significant part as City won both trophies:  “Both finals were tremendous thrills.  Real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff.  The League Cup win over West Bromwich Albion especially.  Here I was, three years after playing Sunday football and school rugby, at Wembley.”

Those successes were followed by a call-up to the England u-23 squad to play the USSR and Joe appeared to be on the verge of a truly great career.  Then Joe played exceptionally well during the first leg of the 1971 ECWC semi-final with Chelsea.  It seemed nothing could go wrong, then disaster struck when he was injured and replaced for the second leg of the ECWC tie.  The Blues lost – Joe’s replacement, Ron Healey, was credited with an own goal – and City’s chance of success was over.  

Joe continued to be the preferred number one for the next couple of seasons, however criticism was starting to be directed at him.  Mistakes made him an easy target for supporters who were expected more and, at one point, it was reported that Joe dreaded the thought of playing at Maine Road.  There were even suggestions he was thinking about giving up on the game.  He certainly did not get an easy ride and nobody seemed to think about his great contribution during City’s great 1969-70 season.  Joe:  “It’s a part of football that will never go away.  I have no bitterness about it.  In fact, I think I was lucky because the press were a little kinder back then.  They would lay off a bit.  I would hate to go through the same thing now.  My view was that I was paid to do a job to the best of my ability.  At times that wasn’t good enough to get into the first team and I accepted that.  It’s alright moaning in the press or whatever, but you can’t hide – especially in goal!”

Scottish under-23 international ‘keeper Keith MacRae was signed in October 1973 for £100,000 and Joe’s time as first-choice seemed over, especially as MacRae was two years younger than Joe and deemed a much better prospect.  Joe:  “I went on the transfer list in response to that signing.  After all it equalled the record for a goalkeeper at the time.”

However, Joe’s chance was to come again just as it looked likely he would have to leave Maine Road to resurrect his career.  Joe:  “One thing that was a big help happened in 1973-74 when I broke my jaw and had it wired up for three weeks.  I lost about a stone in that time and felt really fit when I came back.  That played a big part in keeping me down to 14-14.5 stone – my ideal playing weight.” 

Back on Form

A spell over Christmas 1974 didn’t really show Joe at his best, but the following March MacRae was injured and had to leave the field in a match with Leicester.  With no goalkeeping substitutes in those days, Mike Doyle went in nets, but for the following match Joe’s opportunity to shine came again.  The player was determined that if this was his City swansong he would give it his best shot:  “You have these situations in football and have to battle away.  If you give up, you not only lose the club you are at, you carry a reputation as a quitter.  I was determined to at least go down fighting.”

Joe played the final ten games of the 1974-75 season and, although results were mixed, both fans and the media were impressed with his form.  The following season opened with him as City’s first choice and in February 1976 he played in City’s great League Cup final success over Newcastle:  “I thought this was the start of another great team at City.  Dave Watson proved what a commanding centre-half he was that season.  As a keeper it made such a difference playing behind two great centre-halves like Dave and Mike Doyle at Wembley.  I remember the feeling of disbelief after I saw Dennis Tueart’s incredible winner.  Twelve months earlier I had been told I was useless.  Here I was – a Wembley winner!  It just shows what you can do if you’re prepared to work at it.”

The amazing turnaround in Joe’s career was the talk of football for a while and City fans fully appreciated the efforts their ‘keeper had made to re-establish himself.  Supporters voted him their player of the year in 1976 – an amazing accolade considering the achievements of the other truly great players in the squad that season – and at long last the likeable ‘keeper had established himself as one of City’s best stars.  Further supporter player of the year awards followed in 1978 and 1980 but the biggest honour of the seventies had to be Joe’s selection for England only a few months after the 1976 League Cup final.

England were playing in the US as part of a Bicentennial tournament and Joe’s opportunity came on 28th May in New York when he came on as substitute at half time for Jimmy Rimmer:  “At half-time of the Italy game Les Cocker, the trainer, told me to get stripped and come on as sub.  We were 2-0 down at the time and, while I’m not saying I had anything to do with it, we won 3-2!”

Joe went on to make a total of nine appearances for England but neutrals recognise that in any other era his tally would have been much higher and he would have been given more opportunity.  England at this time possessed several fine ‘keepers – Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton, and Phil Parkes – and manager Ron Greenwood tended to share the number one position between Clemence and Shilton, with Joe the third choice.  Clemence was the more experienced of the three and was also playing regularly in Europe with Liverpool, as was Joe with City, while Shilton had been more used to relegation dog fights with Stoke at the time of Joe’s debut.  His last appearance for England came on 9th June 1982 when he was 33 years old.

Wembley ‘81

In 1981 Joe made another appearance in a Wembley Cup Final.  City lost the 100th FA Cup final in a replay to Tottenham, but Joe had received tremendous praise for his performance in both matches.  The Blues had also been very unlucky to lose the League Cup semi-final with Liverpool that same season.

Less than two years after Wembley, Joe left City.  He had become City’s elder statesman and a much respected figure but the Blues had started to struggle financially.  Expensive and largely unsuccessful transfers – City were the first side to buy three £1m plus players – during the late seventies and early eighties impacted City’s ability to develop, and when the struggles came senior players had to be sacrificed.  Defeats against Southampton in the League Cup during November 1982 and Brighton in the FA Cup the following January meant the Blues were out of contention for any trophy.  Manager John Bond left and his deputy John Benson was left in charge.  Joe:  “I knew I was on my way.  With the Club’s financial position City couldn’t afford to keep the higher paid players.  It was very sad to leave.”

Joe was transferred for a surprisingly low £30,000 to Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League in March 1983 after making an overall total of 592 League, cup and European appearances – second only to record holder Alan Oakes.  He later returned to England with Brighton, and went on loan to Norwich and Stoke.  

During the 1990s he became a highly sought after goalkeeping coach.  In 2004, after spending several years at Anfield working for a variety of managers, Ian Rush asked Joe to become goalkeeping coach at Chester City.

Joe will be remembered for a very long time as true Blue hero.  He is typical of the type of determined, hard-working players the fans love to watch, and his consistency during the late 70s and early 80s helped the Blues enormously as they strove to find success both at home and in Europe.  As with Trautmann and Swift before him, many games were won – or salvaged – simply because of the ‘keeper’s committed performances.  

Henry Boyd

The first player to pass the twenty goals a season mark for the Heathens in the League, Scotsman Henry Boyd arrived at Bank Street in January 1897.  Previously he had developed a decent reputation at West Bromwich Albion and Royal Arsenal.

He made his Newton Heath debut on 6th February 1897 against Loughborough Town a memorable one as he scored one of the Heathens goals in a 6-0 victory.  He ended his first season with five goals from ten appearances but it was the following season when he really made his mark.

Boyd’s hat-tricks in the opening two games of the 1897-98 season set the standard, and he ended the campaign with 22 goals from 30 games (he was an ever-present) overshadowing hero Joe Cassidy who had netted 14.

Despite the positives behind the scenes there were a few issues with the Club’s new goalscoring star.  He missed training at the start of 1898-99 and was suspended for a week as a result.  The story goes that he was so appalled at the suspension that he went missing with the Club only learning of his whereabouts when he sent officials a telegram from Glasgow.  Further suspensions followed and he was placed on the transfer list.

In August 1899 he became a Falkirk player.  His last season at Bank Street had seen him make 12 appearances and score five goals.  His last goal came in the 2-0 defeat of Small Heath on 25th February 1899.

Leading Newton Heath League Scorer in: 1897-1898 – 22 goals, 30 appearances 

William Sharpe

William Sharpe’s first Alliance League goal came in Newton Heath’s 3-1 defeat of Grimsby Town on 18th October 1890 but this was not a particularly great season for strikers.  Sharpe netted six goals that season and ended up leading goalscorer.

The following season he only managed 3 Alliance fixtures and wasn’t really seen much in a footballing context again until he appeared for Oldham County in 1896.  He had a spell at Oldham Athletic in 1901. 

Leading Newton Heath League Scorer in: 1890-1891 – 6 goals, 20 appearances (Alliance League)

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Mike Summerbee (interviewed in April 2005)

Mike Summerbee was the second player, after Ralph Brand to join Joe Mercer’s City in 1965.  Over the following decade he became a major star and played a significant role throughout the Mercer-Allison glory years.  Always the entertainer, Mike featured in the classic footballing wartime adventure film “Escape To Victory” and today assists the Club’s commercial activities.   In April 2005 Gary James caught up with him at the Manchester City Experience.

Let’s start with “Escape To Victory”.  How did you get involved in the filming of that movie?

It was Bobby Moore who got me involved.  We’d known each other since I was 16, and we both had a similar outlook.  The makers of the film had got several Ipswich Town players involved, plus Pele and of course Bobby.  They needed another familiar British player and Bobby suggested me.  He called me and said:  “How do you fancy being in a movie with Michael Caine?”  And that was it.  Within three weeks I was on my way to Budapest for filming.  I had no idea at the time that this would become one of those films still being shown and talked about twenty odd years later, but it has become a cult movie with websites dedicated to it.  It’s the sort of film that many other people would have wanted to be in.  I know for a fact that Rod Stewart wanted to be in it.

Why do you think the film is remembered so affectionately?

I don’t want to give too much away – everyone should come to our special showing and see the movie and hear my reasons then – but the film is like a Boys’ Own adventure.  It’s got drama, excitement, and is a traditional film.  It doesn’t rely on bad language, sex, or extreme violence, and it really does appeal to everyone.  Don’t forget it also contains some great actors – everyone remembers Stallone and Caine but look at the other cast members as well – and then there are some very well known footballers including Pele.  

I loved making the film and one of the great aspects for me was that when we came to the football scenes we were told to go out and play the game.  John Huston – a great director – wanted it to look as realistic as possible and so we played a real game.  Inevitably we had spells concentrating on tackling or shooting but much of the game came from real play.  Pele’s wonderful overhead kick goal was natural and was done only once.  We didn’t take ages setting up, re-shooting etc.  It was done for real and only in one take.  John Huston had cameras everywhere and tried to make sure everything that took place on the pitch was filmed from every angle.  That makes it so much more real.

You have a speaking part in the film, did you know about that before you accepted?

We were told to let the actors act and they were told to let the footballers play.  That way we all did what we were good at.  Then when it came to the dressing room scenes Michael Caine said to Huston that it didn’t feel right for only the actors to talk and he said that a couple of us should speak.  When it came to half time, I congratulated a couple of players on their play – that was natural not planned – and that stayed in, and then other lines were given to us.  It felt strange, but when you watch the film it makes much more sense to have us speaking.  I loved making the film and there are so many different aspects to talk about, but we’ll save that for the 5th May event.

Moving back to your playing career, we all know that you came from a footballing family, but did that mean it was something you had to do?

My dad played professionally and so from an early age it seemed natural to play.  All boys loved playing back then anyway, so there was nothing strange about that, but I suppose when you are young whatever your father does has a greater importance.  My brother was a better player than I, although he stopped playing when my Dad died, and we used to play whenever and wherever we could.  I’d get to school as early as possible – not for the lessons, I was a dunce! – but for the kickabout.  We’d have a tennis ball and play until we had to go in.  I also played cricket, athletics and other sports, but football was my best.

Your progression into professional football seems rapid – you were a key feature of the Swindon team in your teens – were there any setbacks?

I’d had a spell at Bristol City when I was 15, but I was so homesick I had to give up on it.  My mother worried about me and suggested I kept out of the game.  She knew about the problems and difficulties a footballer could have because of my father’s career, and then the opportunity came with Swindon and everything started going right for me.  I joined them at a time when they were ready to give youth a chance and I made my debut at 17.  

Was life relatively easy for you then?

The life of a footballer was not as glamorous or financially rewarding as it is today.  I loved playing and I loved the camaraderie of it all, but we all had to have other jobs to keep us going outside of the season.  I used to end up working for the Corporation cutting grass, painting, oddjobs, and digging graves!  It kept you in touch with the fans – both the living and the dead! – and I actually loved all of that time.  We didn’t have flash cars or anything then.  In fact Ernie Hunt and I had a tandem, and we used to cycle together on our tandem to the ground.  It was a great, fun time, and I have very fond memories of it all.

One of the significant angles is that Joe Mercer was interested in signing you from fairly early in your career, were you aware of his interest?

To some extent yes.  Joe had played with my father at Aldershot, and then Swindon played Joe’s Aston Villa in a testimonial game.  We won and I scored a couple, and Joe even played wing-half for Villa.  After that I was told he wanted to sign me for Villa and that he’d made a bid but nothing further happened.  I don’t know if it was problems at Villa or what but some time after that Joe moved on, and then in 1965 he got the City job.  I was in Torquay and I gave him a call – I thought it was time to make the move and chance my arm a little.  Joe said he’d be in touch.  Then serious interest came from City and I was off.  

Did City mean much to you as a boy?

Because of where I lived I’d travel to Birmingham to watch games and whenever City played Villa I used to enjoy seeing Bobby Johnstone, Ken Barnes, Bert Trautmann and the rest.  They were such a great and in many ways glamorous side to watch, and the pale blue shirt – a colour I still don’t believe we’ve managed to recreate properly – was so memorable.  No other side could match that colour and City were unique.  All of those great memories were in my head and I was desperate to play for City when Joe came here.  Although they were in Division Two when I arrived they were a major, major side with a great stadium.  I loved Swindon, but City were something else.

Everyone talks about the atmosphere around the place, how did you find it?

Joe lifted the spirits of everybody, that was clear, and Malcolm Allison was so ahead of his time and knew all about psychology.  He knew what players needed, and he always knew the best way of getting more out of me was by winding me up.  I think I was a consistent player, and at half time in one game we’d had a bit of a bad spell.  I’d played well, but one or two players had struggled and we all knew it, but in the dressing room Mal went up to the two players and told them they were doing well and that they just had to keep plugging away.  He was boosting their confidence I guess and they certainly were more confident in the second half.  When he came to me he said I was playing the worst game ever and that I was letting everybody down!  It wound me up so much I had a go back at him, and then when we got on the pitch I pushed and fought for everything to prove how wrong he was and I gave 120% – his trick had worked!

During your first year at City (1965-66) England manager Alf Ramsey came to watch you play, and eventually you became the first City man since Don Revie in 1956 to play for England.  Were you aware of the attention?

When Ramsey came to watch me the attention was good and, considering Alf concentrated on his ‘wingless wonders’, it was great for me a winger to be considered.  I’d been included in the squad from almost immediately after the World Cup win, then I made my England debut against Scotland at Hampden (February 1968) in front of about 150,000, alongside the likes of Moore & Charlton.  I was very nervous but they helped to calm me and at half time both Bobbys told me I was doing well, so that helped.  In the end every one of my England appearances came at centre-forward, so I guess the style of play limited my opportunities, but I loved playing for England.   

What was Alf Ramsey like as a manager?

He was definitely a ‘player’s manager’.  He handled us well, and I believe that he was, in the end, treated appallingly be the FA.  He treated us exceptionally well and he was a great man to play for – I don’t believe that England have ever managed to find a permanent manager who can match him.  He had the same sort of authority as Joe Mercer, but they were different characters.  Joe was wonderful with the media and the public, while Alf was primarily a players’ man.  There was one time, we’d lost 2-0 at Katowice (1973) and I’d been on the bench.  We were pretty down.  Alf knew how low we were but because we were playing in Moscow a couple of days later he told everybody to get to bed early, no drinking or anything.

We all sneaked into Bobby Moore’s room and had a few gins.  Sir Alf caught us and we thought he was going to have a go.  He said:  “I thought I’d told you not to drink!  But in the circumstances I’ll have a large gin and tonic please.”

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, City never seemed to fear any opposition, is that something that came from the players?

Obviously, Joe and Malcolm bred a certain atmosphere which boosted confidence.  Whenever we played United we’d get to Trafford at 12.30 simply to soak up the atmosphere and to be ready.  Mal would swagger to the Stretford End before the game to tell them how many we’d win by, and we’d go out there and match his score, although we used to encourage him to keep the expectation down a little!  For us it didn’t matter whether we played Shankly’s Liverpool, Busby’s United, or any other team because we knew we were more than a match for any of them.  Some of these teams possessed better individual players but, particularly at Old Trafford, we were always the better side.  We had a great team spirit.  People always talk about Lee, Bell and Summerbee like Charlton, Law and Best, but our side wasn’t about three players, it was about the whole team.  Oakes, Pardoe, Young…. You know all the players.  Unfortunately the 3 player line is a good one for the media to focus on, but for the players it was always about the team.  I always think it’s wrong to talk about Lee, Bell, & Summerbee.  We were part of a great, strong side and, although the 3 of us were well known, we needed that entire side to bring City success.

Finally, you’ve always been known as an entertainer, and always had a great rapport with fans and the media, presumably this is a very important aspect to your life?

As a player I used to meet the fans as often as possible – we all would.  We’d have lunch in the old Social Club all mixed together, we’d attend supporters & Junior Blues meetings; take part in the pantomime every year; and generally be out and about.  We also used to get on well with the media.  The journalists were always good honest judges back then – people like Frank McGhee and Richard Bott always talked truthfully about your performance.  If they said I’d had a bad game, I knew I had.  They weren’t out to knock you, or to build you up.  They spoke honestly and so I enjoyed talking with them.

For me football is entertainment and the game itself is sometimes less important than everything that surrounds it.  I don’t miss playing, but I do miss the camaraderie we had.  I miss the team spirit we had with City, England, and even during the filming of Escape To Victory.  It’s the same camaraderie fans feel on the terraces.  That’s why I enjoy my involvement with the Club today because it’s all about the fans, the City spirit, and the wonderful life that surrounds the game.

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Alan Oakes (interviewed February 2005)

Alan Oakes joined the Blues at the age of 15 in 1958 and made his first team debut in November 1959 when he was 17 years and 2 months.  He stayed at Maine Road until July 1976 by which time he had made a staggering 564 League appearances.  In February 2005 he was inducted into City’s Hall of Fame, and author Gary James met up with him to discuss his career.

To begin with let’s talk about your childhood, did you come from a sporting background?

We were all very sporty and my father and others played local football – nothing professional – and as a boy I’d play cricket in the summer and football in the winter.  The usual sort of thing – coats as goalposts – and I loved playing.  I progressed into the Mid-Cheshire Boys side and then one day I got the shock of my life when City’s scout Albert Kavanagh knocked on the door and asked me to join the groundstaff.  He’d watched me play at Broughton, Salford, and seemed to like what he saw.  I was astounded and delighted at the same time.  This was a dream moment.

Coming from a Cheshire village like Winsford in the 50s to a big city like Manchester must have been a bit daunting, how did you and your family feel about the move?

It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.  Other teams showed interest but City meant so much to me.  I’d been to Maine Road a few times – I stood on the old Kippax before it had a roof – and loved the Club.  I wasn’t blinkered though because I also went to Maine Road to watch some of United’s first games in Europe.  Remember they used City’s ground because they didn’t have floodlights and a lot of Blues went to watch the European sides.

Clearly, you saw a wealth of talent during this period, but who were your heroes?

Ken Barnes was a brilliant player and by far the best in his position, and Bobby Johnstone had an amazing footballing brain.  They were great players to watch and later I was fortunate to play with Ken, but my boyhood hero was always Billy Wright from Wolves.  There was something special about Wolves.  They brought over several top European sides for friendlies – I guess they paved the way for the European Cup – and they won so many fans.  They were a great, entertaining side and Billy Wright was their star.  I was still a City fan, but I recognised the quality of Wright and Wolves.

Still only 17 you made your debut in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, how did you feel about your performance?

I felt okay, but I gave away a penalty!  Fortunately for me Bert Trautmann – the greatest ever keeper – was in nets and he saved the day.  As a member of the groundstaff I’d clean Bert’s boots and even that felt like a great honour, so you can imagine how grateful I felt when he saved the penalty.  The Chelsea game was a one off – I think Ken Barnes was injured – and so it was a few weeks before my chance came again.  I felt a lot of satisfaction that I was in the reckoning though.  When I arrived at City there were 55 professionals and about five teams to progress through to reach the first team.

How did you find the management and coaching staff in those days?

They were all ex-City players and so that was important.  Fred Tilson and Laurie Barnett had played in the 30s finals and coached us, and manager Les McDowall had been a good player in his day.  Clearly the coaching techniques they used were not a patch on Malcolm Allison, but they did what was right for the period.  They also treated me well and looked after me.  I found it difficult adjusting to life in a big city.  I lived in digs for a while, and then moved back home and travelled by train and, eventually, car.  

By 1963 you were a regular but City were entering a difficult period, did that come across to you?

We had a lot of quality in the side but seemed to be conceding too many goals.  We knew we were struggling but we always gave it our best.  After we were relegated in ’63 Derek Kevan and Jimmy Murray arrived.  We were doing really well, then Jimmy did his cartilage in – that was a major blow – and we tailed off.  We missed promotion (6th place) and we couldn’t get it going again until Joe and Malcolm arrived in ’65.  

Although you were still relatively young, you were one of the more experienced players, how did the arrival of Mercer & Allison go down?

It was a great lift of course, but I know we were wary of Malcolm at first.  He had all these ideas and it seemed so different to what we were used to, but within a week or so he’d won everybody over.  The transformation by the two men was so fast – before we’d completed our pre-season games we were convinced we would win promotion.  We couldn’t wait to get started.  The confidence flowed and then Malcolm tackled our fitness.  Of course we won promotion easily, and then held our own in 1966-7.  Don’t forget we had faced a couple of big tests in those first two seasons – We took a strong Everton side to 2 replays in the FA Cup while we were still in Division Two and narrowly lost to Revie’s Leeds the following year.  We lost 1-0 to Leeds with a Jack Charlton goal that should have been disallowed.  So we came away from those games confident we could face any side.  There was nothing for us to fear.

Of course, the Championship followed in ’68 and all the other successes of that great period, which one means most to you?

The Championship and European successes were both very important.  This is a difficult one really, but because I was there during the dark days, I think the most important one had to be the promotion in 1966.  My reason is that without that none of the rest would have followed.  Joe and Malcolm didn’t just get us promoted, they first stopped the rot.  We were going downhill fast and they stopped that, changed gear and pushed us forward quickly, and it wasn’t done with negative play.  A lot of teams pack the defence and try to ensure they don’t lose, we always went out to win and never contemplated holding out for a point.

Throughout your City career people commented that you were a quiet, unassuming, perhaps shy player, was that fair?

I think I was a good professional.  I used to simply get on with it.  I was dedicated and tried to give everything for the Club.  I believe I was a good, honest pro.  If I was asked to do an interview, I’d do it, but I never sought the headlines.  Media coverage was not as it is today, so it was easier in many ways, but I would do it when needed.  More than anything I wanted to make sure my role on the pitch spoke for me.  

By 1973 the Mercer-Allison partnership had ended and some of the other players started to move on, did you contemplate leaving?

Never.  You were worried that you’d be dropped or the next one out, but I never thought about choosing to leave.  Why would anyone want to leave the best club in the country?  I remember thinking that somebody would take my place and that I had to keep performing at the highest level.  In some ways I liked to push myself by thinking of all the people who could take my place, but I never, ever thought about leaving until after the League Cup final of 1976.

The team had changed significantly by 1976, and you were clearly one of the elder statesmen of the team, how did you find that period?

I enjoyed it all, and I remember playing a few games with Peter Barnes in front of me.  I loved that.  He was such a gifted player and it was great for me to play behind someone that exciting at that stage in my career and in his.  I know this came a couple of years after I’d moved on, but it irritated me when Peter Barnes was sold because I believe he could have helped City to real success.  He was the sort of player you built a team around.

While I’m thinking about this, I also believe Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee were sold far too early.  Francis had so much more left in him – he proved that at Derby – and so the break up of the Mercer-Allison team came too rapid.

In July 1976 you moved to Chester, why did you make the move?

I’d had a great season.  I’d played 39 League games and won the League Cup and so there was no pressure to leave, but I did think that I may have blocked some other gifted players coming through.  I was also aware that I’d be 34 when the new season starts and that I may not be up to it in the way I would normally expect.  Chester City were just up the road and for me it was a nice move.  I do remember thinking ‘what have I done?’ because I’d gone from a First Division palace to play at Third Division grounds, but the move was a good one.  Looking back though I was perhaps wrong to leave when I did.  My advice to any player now is to remain playing at the highest level for as long as you physically can.  Those days are precious and should not be cut short.  

I also missed Maine Road a lot when I left and I miss it even more now.  I regret the fact City have left that ground.

At Chester you moved into management, was this something you’d always wanted?

It was part of the attraction of joining Chester that I could become player-manager and I think in the six years I was there we had a great time.  Success is different for a team like Chester, it’s all about survival and so I had to do a lot of work in the transfer market.  I had another ex-City star, Cliff Sear, with me and we worked well together, and I loved every minute at Sealand Road.  Often I’d be trying to negotiate good transfer fees and working hard to sell a couple of players to keep us afloat, and so I got satisfaction from that when it all came right.  I still got a lot of satisfaction from playing as well, so it was a perfect role.

Ian Rush was one of your players.  Is it true he almost came to City?

Yes it is.  Whenever anybody with talent was due to leave Chester I would want them to move to a bigger, better club.  I still love City and so I wanted Rushie to go to Maine Road.  We were having a great cup run and Tony Book and Malcolm Allison came to watch him.  Rush scored twice and I met up with Tony and Malcolm afterwards.  Tony was keen to sign him but Malcolm didn’t rate him for some reason and it all collapsed.  He later went to Liverpool and the rest is history, but I wanted him to go to Maine Road and I wish that deal had occurred.  Of course, you never know how these things would have worked out.

Did you ever consider moving into a higher division as a manager?

Definitely – with City!  It must have been 1983 because I know Billy McNeill was given the job in the end, but I applied for the City job.  I desperately wanted the role because I loved the Club and because I believed I knew exactly what the Club needed.  I’d also served what I thought was a good apprenticeship – six years at Chester taught me a great deal about survival and transfer negotiations.  I knew City had financial problems and that someone with the right experience was needed – the last thing the Club could cope with was someone who needed to spend – and so I felt I was ideal for the role.  Don’t forget what I’d experienced as a player at Maine Road as well.  Most importantly, I understood the Club and all about Manchester football fans and their expectations and needs.   This remains the greatest club in my eyes.

I got an interview at Peter Swales’ house.  A few directors were there and I thought I gave a very good interview.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job.  I still wonder what might have happened.

Moving on to today, your son Michael has become a Premier League goalkeeper, is this something you’ve encouraged?

I didn’t push him but I did encourage him.  It’s a great game to be a part of and I love the fact he’s involved.  Joe Corrigan helped him a lot when he was young and so I’m grateful for that, and when he joined Aston Villa I was delighted.  Now he’s at Wolves and I do try to watch him but I find it very difficult.  I’m always in two minds as to whether I want the ball to be at his end of the field or not.  If Wolves are attacking I know he’s safe, but I also know he can’t demonstrate his abilities.  If Wolves are on the defensive I want him to have to make a great save but I’m also worried he’s going to be caught out.  I think he’s doing really well though.  

I once replaced Bert Trautmann in nets – it was against West Ham and he was sent off, so I deputised.  I can’t remember much about it now, but I don’t think Michael would have learnt much if he’d seen it!

Finally, you have made a total of 672 first team appearances for City (including 3 Charity Shield games), how did you feel when you first broke Bert Trautmann’s appearance record?

I was a little bit sad that I took the record off Bert because to me there was no finer ‘keeper and player for the Club, but obviously I felt pleased to have the record.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when the record’s beaten.  I know it will take a lot to beat but I hope somebody does it, and if the person who beats it has the same sort of career and enjoyment at City that I have had then he will have had a fantastic career.  This is a great club with terrific fans and I have enjoyed every minute of my time with the Club.

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

Colin Bell MBE joined the Blues from Bury in March 1966 and went on to become a major trophy winner with the Blues and a star with England.  Gary James met up with him at the end of January 2005

Let’s start with your early life, was football everything to you from an early age?

From the moment I was born I wanted to play.  Actually, everybody did in those days.  Football was all you ever wanted and I always had a ball with me, so I could play anywhere.  No one ever pushed me; it was something I just wanted to do.  My mother had played ladies football before I was born and so did others in the family, so there must have been a natural instinct for the game.  I used to go and watch Sunderland when I could, although it would take about 90 minutes and three buses to get to Roker Park.  As a boy my hero was Len Shackleton and then Charlie Hurley. 

At the age of 17 (1963) you joined Bury.  There were other potentially larger teams interested, so what made you choose Bury?

The move had to be right and I was quite a shy boy in many ways, so I needed to go somewhere where I felt at home.  Bury were a homely club and made me feel so welcome.  I’d had interest from a few clubs – Newcastle offered me a trial but I heard nothing afterwards!  Arsenal were another.  I damaged my back shortly before I went down to London from my home in the north-east and that made me a little uncomfortable.  Their manager Billy Wright watched the games we played and selected the ones to stay, and then said to those not selected “I hope you join other clubs that are not as good as Arsenal!”

Both Bury and Huddersfield wanted me to sign, so I was totally open with them and agreed I wouldn’t make my mind up until I returned back home and looked at it objectively.  The Huddersfield experience went well, but Bury was so much more homely.  While I was there I knew I’d sign for Bury, but I wouldn’t tell them.  They kept pushing me, and I wanted to say yes, but I felt it was more important to stick to the plan.  So when I went home I told both clubs of my decision.

Presumably, you never looked back and felt Bury was the right choice?

Definitely.  My instincts were right, however I did still feel homesick.  It really hit me for about six weeks or so and I know that if my family had suggested I go home I would have done.  I’d have packed it all in because I hated that homesick feeling.  I’d have got that wherever I went, and I’m glad I chose Bury because in the end I couldn’t have had a better start to my career.  It was a great period once I’d settled and I felt I was so lucky to be paid for playing.  

How ambitious were you then?  Did you set targets and aims?

I took each day as it came.  That’s true of all my career.  I never thought about moving from Bury.  It never crossed my mind, and I certainly didn’t think about playing for England.  I didn’t even know City were watching me until the official approach came.  In fact it got to transfer deadline day and suddenly I had both City and Blackpool interested in me and I had to make another choice.  This time it was stay at Bury, move to Second Division City, or move to First Division Blackpool.

So what made you pick City, was the Mercer-Allison involvement the deciding factor?

At the time I didn’t know enough about Mercer or Allison to base a decision on, so my decision was based more on league position.  City were heading for promotion, while Blackpool were beginning to struggle (they were eventually relegated in 1967), so I thought it would be best to join a club looking forward rather than one heading for struggle. 

Was City as homely as Bury?

That’s something that was truly special about City at the time because even though it was a much bigger club, it still had that homely feel.  We were all part of the same family.  First team players would pop into the laundry room and have a cup of tea with the ladies in there.  Sometimes we’d just love being at the ground.  I do think football’s lost a lot by having training grounds some distance from the home grounds.  We felt part of the Maine Road furniture.  It was my second home and most mornings we’d get in early to get into the gym for head tennis.  If ever you arrived at the ground and found you’d arrived too late to make up a head tennis team you’d skulk around and plan to get in even earlier the next day.

You mentioned that you were homesick at Bury, how long did it take you to settle at City?

I arrived in March 1966 and it took me the rest of that promotion season to settle.  Promotion helped because I was part of the celebrations from the start.  The goal I scored at Rotherham guaranteed promotion and afterwards I tasted champagne for the first time.  I couldn’t believe how quickly I was part of a winning side.  Something major I realised at this time was that at Bury we’d go to away matches with the aim of getting a draw – at best – but with City we went expecting to turn over every side.  After a couple of games I felt this same level of expectation and I think that’s why we became so successful.  Malcolm stressed our strengths and used to say that he didn’t care how many we concede so long as we win.  If ever we won 4-3 he’d never mention the three goals, he’d only mention the four.  That was a great way to play and it continued throughout those successful years.

Both Mercer & Allison and most of the other players have often commented on your high level of fitness and your stamina, was this something you were conscious of at the time?

I think in games I was just as tired as the rest but I think I had a quick recovery rate and I never ever wanted to give less than the best.  I was always determined.  At training I never really thought about my own fitness, but I do remember that when Malcolm had us all running hard I’d give a commentary as we were running.  I’d be going “Bell overtaking Booky on the inside” and so on and I think that may have been a bit off putting for some of the others.  

In 1967-68 City won the Championship by two points over Manchester United with a victory over Newcastle, do you remember much of that day?

It was a great end to end game.  I’d never previously won at Newcastle and I know that beforehand I felt quite uncomfortable.  The great thing about football during this period was that every team in the League was capable of beating you on their ground, so it didn’t matter whether you were playing the top or the bottom.  Also, no side ever gave up, so we knew that Newcastle, who were about tenth, wouldn’t sit back if we took the lead they’d be going for it… and they did!  We beat them 4-3 but it could have been 5-4 or 6-5 – we knew we’d score one more than them, but both sides kept attacking, kept playing.  At no time did they give up. 

Presumably the Old Trafford derby match (March 1968) remains another great memory for you?

We beat United 3-1 and that really set us up, but we’d lost a goal right at the start.  I equalised, George Heslop headed a goal, and then late on I was brought down by Francis Burns.  As I was being stretchered off Francis Lee scored the penalty.  I went to hospital, had my leg put in plaster and then joined the rest of the players at the Fletcher’s Arms in Denton for a celebratory drink! 

Before the match Malcolm had stressed the importance of the game.  He told us they were beatable and once he’d convinced us of that nothing was going to stop us.  I think that helped the other teams as well, because once we started to beat them at Old Trafford – and remember I played 9 League derbies at Old Trafford and only lost the first – they realised they could do the same.

Winning so many trophies – League, FA Cup, ECWC, League Cup – during such a short spell was incredible, but which success brought you most satisfaction?

Each trophy was important but I judge success by consistency and when we won the League in 1968 we proved over 42 games that we were the most consistent side.  I have to say I’m also very proud of winning the Central League in 1977-78 because I was fighting to regain fitness and also because the side was a very good one.  It was great to play with some very enthusiastic young players.

Of course, each success means a great deal.  Winning the ECWC was great, but the 1968 League success was all about consistency. Our journey back from Newcastle after the last game was very memorable.  Coming down the A1 was superb.  There was a convoy of blue and white all the way back.

Moving on to international football, how did it feel when you first discovered you were in the England squad?

When the letter came through the door I couldn’t believe it.  Again, as with my early days, I never thought about anything beyond the next City game.  I didn’t think about England, but when the letter arrived it was a major, major honour.  In fact every time the letter came – even after 40 odd appearances – I still had the same excitement and same buzz I’d always had.  It was the highest honour you could receive.

When I joined the squad I remember sitting in the dressing room and seeing all those players who had won the World Cup only a year earlier.  These men had achieved so much and to be sat in the same room and to see my name on the squad list next to theirs was a real highlight.  Of course when there were other City players in the squad that helped as well, but it’s also worth remembering that every top division side had players who were either in the international squad or on the fringes, so you knew that you’d achieved something major if you got into Alf Ramsey’s team.

You made your international debut in May 1968 against Sweden, and went to the 1970 World Cup finals.  How did you feel about the way your career had developed?

Immensely proud, and looking back it’s incredible how it all developed.  Having said that I do feel a little aggrieved that when some people talk of the 1970 quarterfinal against West Germany they talk of the substitution of Bobby Charlton as some sort of turning point.  I came on for him and I know that he was absolutely drained.  Like me he would try and deliver more, but his age and the heat worked against him.  I personally think I should have come on earlier and maybe we’d have kept the score at 2-1, or even increased it.  Once I came on we still had a lot of play but they’d got to 2-2 and then unfortunately they scored the winner in extra time.  Apparently Brazil were delighted because they were convinced we were the best side in the tournament – they’d beaten us in the group stage but knew they’d been in a real game.

You made 48 England appearances and replaced Bobby Moore as captain for one game in 1972, was this something you had always wanted?

I always believed that there should be eleven captains in a side.  By that I mean every player needed to be interested and offer advice. There’s no point hiding, waiting for someone else to make the decisions.  Every player needed support at times and everybody needs to give advice in my opinion.  Tony Book was City’s great captain and a wonderful leader, but if you watch any of those games you’ll see we all act as a captain should.  Actually they used to go on about how loud I was on the pitch and how quiet I was off it.  

The England captaincy came against Northern Ireland and it must have been a one-off because Moore remained captain for the next year or so.  I’m not certain why I got the nod, but it was a privilege and I do remember Sir Alf Ramsey asking me to take on the role.

Moving on to your injury in the 1975 Manchester derby, we now know how serious it was, but how did you feel at the time?

I knew it was very bad, and I know that the physio Freddie Griffiths worked hard to try and get things working for me.  He and his assistant Roy Bailey really went out of their way to help, but it was a long and difficult recovery.  The TV programme Nationwide did a feature on me and I received lots of letters and cards, which helped – the fans were terrific – but it was the blackest moment of my life.  I had violent pains in my leg if I sat a certain way, and thanks to my wife and family they managed to keep me sane.  When I started walking properly I was so glad.  At one point I didn’t think I would walk again, let alone play sport.  

I tried a comeback towards the end of 1975-6 but after the fourth game (V Arsenal) I broke down.  It was too soon, and for the following 20 months the battle to return dominated everything I did.  

Boxing Day 1977 V Newcastle was your memorable return.  I know how I and most Blues felt that day, but how did you feel?

There’s always been something about Newcastle.  That day I came on as substitute and I could not believe the atmosphere.  The whole ground – including the Newcastle fans – stood and applauded and chanted my name.  I was at the Halifax Supporters Club a month ago and I mentioned the game and almost every person in the room talked of the day and how emotional they got.  There were at least two dozen people in the room who said they were crying when I came on.  Grown men admitted it and I was deeply touched.  On the day you could feel that emotion.  I don’t believe I did anything of note in the game.  I was a passenger, but everyone tells me it was great seeing me there and for me it was and will always be my number one game, and my number one memory of playing football.

Finally, I guess that Newcastle game demonstrated how fans truly felt about you?

The fans have been marvellous throughout my life.  The last four years they’ve helped to get me honoured as one of the Football League’s 100 legends; the stand has been named after me; and now the MBE.  It’s been an amazing four years.  I don’t believe there’s any other player anywhere in football who has the same bond with the fans, and I don’t believe any club has fans as loyal as ours.  City fans like players who give 100% and so long as you do that, you will always get incredible support.  I loved my time as a player, and I am delighted my bond with the fans is as strong – possibly stronger – today than its ever been.