Manchester’s 1920s Derby Day Rivals

Here’s an interesting clip from this day (9 September) in 1977 featuring two Manchester football fans. This was shown on the BBC north west regional news programme on the eve of the Manchester Derby and originally would’ve included a voiceover which, sadly, has not survived.

The BBC’s David Davies talks with Nellie Walker, a supporter of Manchester City since the mid 1920s and Charlie Swinchatt, who had supported Manchester United since that time too.

The derby the following day ended in a 3-1 City win with Brian Kidd netting a couple. You can view highlights here:

Finally

On this day (7 September) in 1949 – Despite announcing his retirement the previous season, ever-popular goalkeeper Frank Swift finally played his last match for Manchester City.  Appropriately, he kept a clean sheet as City drew with Everton on. Here for subscribers is a 1400 word profile of Swift…

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Happy 80th Alan Oakes (Interview Feature)

Happy 80th birthday Alan Oakes. Alan has made more appearances for Manchester City than any other player but more significantly he’s an absolute gent. Here to commemorate his birthday is an interview I did with Alan.

This interview occurred in February 2005 and we discussed his life and career. This appears here as it was originally published.

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.

WBA v MCFC: The Earliest Film

On this day (25th August) in 1934 West Bromwich Albion played Manchester City. Nothing particularly unusual about that I guess, but that match was filmed and this is now the earliest known surviving film of WBA v MCFC at the Hawthorns.

Here’s film of the game:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-football-season-opens

It’s a curious little film and it does show one of the goals (Albion’s not City’s) and so you will see Frank Swift making an attempt to save it. Notice at the start the way the two teams enter the field (more like the way teams entered the pitch following the arrival of Covid than what became typical in the 2010s).

WBA’s shirts are interesting with their extra white section on the front.

This game is from 25 August 1934 and ended 1-1 with Sam Barkas scoring for MCFC.

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Bidding War Between MCFC And Villa!

On this day (25 August) in 1981 Manchester City and Aston Villa were in a bidding war to sign Trevor Francis.

I know in recent years City have been criticised by some in the media for both high spending and for not spending more than they deem a player is worth (what a crazy world it is when a potential purchasing team is criticised for not wanting to spend what a selling club want when there are no other clubs interested in buying that player at that price!) but in 1981 the desire to sign Francis meant they were prepared to spend big if necessary.

A bidding war is always in the best interests of the selling club and occasionally a friendly word with a journalist or another club can create a bidding war even if there really isn’t much interest from a club. Thinking back I can’t remember Villa seriously going after Francis but this Daily Mirror report suggests they were interested.

It wasn’t long of course before City got their man.

Notice the brief mention of Peter Barnes at the bottom of that cutting? If you want to know more then obviously I recommend The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography (use tabs/menu to find out more).

Maine Road’s Name

On this day (25 August) in 1923 Manchester City’s Maine Road Stadium opened. In 2003 I wrote “Farewell To Maine Road” and at that time I revealed that the actual street Maine Road had originally been known as Dog Kennel Lane.  The name ‘Maine Road’ did not appear on maps until the 1870s.  At that time I questioned why the new name had been selected and how.  I outlined a few theories – one focused on Mancunian soldiers who, together with members of the prominent Lloyd family, had volunteered for war in America and could possibly have fought in Maine – but I admitted:  “all of this is pure conjecture, but it is known that Lloyd Street was named after the family, and it is clear the renaming of a road during this period was a very deliberate act and there must have been a reason.  It would be entertaining to discover where the original ‘Dog Kennel Lane’ got its name.”

I also claimed to have found the earliest reference to Maine Road in a newspaper – November 1904, the Manchester Guardian

Since that time, after much detailed research I have the answer to both the questions:  How did Maine Road get its name & Where did the name Dog Kennel Lane come from?  I have also tracked down earlier references to Maine Road in newsprint.

So, here’s the truth…

The Maine Road name was indirectly named after the US State of Maine but that this was, in itself, a compromise.  The road was almost to be called ‘Demesne Road’ (pronounced Demain) after a farm positioned slightly south of where the Maine Road Stadium would eventually be built.  The local authority did not want that, so in the end Maine Road was agreed.  It ultimately had more significance as the following newspaper article shows:

“Dog Kennel Lane took its name from the kennel where hounds were kept.  It stood on the right hand side at the bend about a thousand yards from Moss Lane, opposite to the road which tracked off to the left and led to Demesne Farm.  The common name of this lane is so ‘common’ and unattractive that when the Temperance Company bought the Trafford land they asked the local board to change the name to Demesne Road, and the subject was compromised by calling it Maine Road out of compliment to the Temperance principles of the petitioners.”

It’s important to explain this.  The Temperance movement had been growing since the 1850s and, as with so many other areas, Manchester played a lead role.  The idea of the movement was to discourage people from drinking alcohol.  After a series of campaigns of voluntary abstinence failed in the States the Temperance movement changed its approach.   

On 2nd June 1851 the State of Maine passed the first recognised prohibition law, and two years later the United Kingdom Alliance was founded in Manchester, calling itself a legitimate political party and pledging to badger Parliament to outlaw liquor in England.

The ‘Temperance Company’ mentioned in the article was actually part of the movement and had bought some land at the top of Dog Kennel Lane – this area is covered today by the buildings on the western side of Maine Road, close to the junction with Moss Lane East, and stretching to Princess Road.  They wanted to create a better standard of living and within that area they erected buildings in keeping with their approach to life, such as the Temperance Billiard Hall.  However, the ‘Dog Kennel Lane’ name was clearly an issue and so the selection of the name ‘Maine Road’ was made.  Maine, due to the State’s role in the Temperance movement, was a significant name.

So the name Maine Road does not refer to the American War of Independence but it does refer to the US State and the part that Maine played in the Temperance movement.

Initially, only the top section of the road was renamed but gradually as housing was developed southwards the new name replaced Dog Kennel Lane.  

My research has also managed to identify earlier information on the land that ultimately became City’s ground.  The land was owned by the Chadwick family, sometimes they were referred to as the Chaddock family.  In 1760 all of the Maine Road ground site, plus most of the area east of Dog Kennel Lane/Maine Road down to Demesne Farm and across to Heald Place was part of ‘Chadwick’s Tenement’ – described as 49.5 Lancashire acres of farm land.

The family were believed to have owned this land from around 1500 to the early 1800s.  By 1857 the land was owned by someone called Mr Broadie but within the following few years areas were sold off until by 1903 all that was left was a farm house, Moss Grove Farm, on the corner of Moss Lane East and Maine Road.  That was demolished shortly afterwards and by 1910 terraced housing covered the site.

The earliest media reference to Maine Road identified to date is 3rd January 1903 in the Manchester City News, but the road was marked on maps before this time.

Film of Maine Road’s Opening

On this day (25 August) in 1923 Manchester City’s Maine Road Stadium staged its first game. Here is film of that landmark day in Manchester’s sporting history…

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-million-spectators-welcome-return-of-football-1923-online

David White Double v Liverpool

On this day (21 August) a Wednesday night meeting with Liverpool ended in a 2-1 victory for Manchester City. You can see highlights of the game (and relive the days of night matches on the Kippax/at Maine Rd) including two David White goals here:

Swift Return

On this day (20 August) in 1949 Frank Swift was talked out of retirement following health problems with Manchester City ‘keeper Alec Thurlow.  Swift’s return match ended in a 3-3 draw at home to Aston Villa, watched by 43,196.  Here for subscribers is a profile of Alec Thurlow (Unfortunately, it’s a sad story!):

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