Manchester City’s Women’s Team – The Relaunch

On this day (24 January) in 2014 Manchester City Ladies (founded in 1988) was relaunched as Manchester City Women. To mark this anniversary the following ‘long read’ article is an excerpt from Manchester City Women: An Oral History (my book published late in 2019 telling the story of the club).

You can buy copies of the book signed by me here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/

Here’s the excerpt from the book on the club’s relaunch in 2014:

Despite initially being formed as part of Manchester City’s corporate structure in 1988 the women’s team became its own entity affiliated to the parent club by the end of the 1990s. It had its own committees and structure but progression up the leagues had resulted in a need to re-establish closer ties. By the early 2010s it became clear a formal coming together was needed. This surprised some of the players and staff from the 1980s and 1990s, especially when articles appeared claiming the club had been established in 2002. Jane Morley: “It upset Lesley (Wright) that the full history had been ignored. There were stories that the club had been founded by a group of City fans and it came across that it was fairly insignificant. But that wasn’t true. These were women who wanted to play football. Some were City fans but Rita Howard wasn’t, Bev Harrop was a United season ticket holder – So was I. I went to United games with Bev.”

Louise Wakefield: “I felt a bit like we’d been forgot and I thought ‘is it just me?’ but apparently a few of us were feeling left out. We’d done everything for the club. You know, turned up, swollen ankles, and had to play, you know? We felt a bit left out with it.”

Michelle Middleton felt: “aggrieved that the media seemed to think that City had suddenly decided to have a women’s team and didn’t take the time to look into the history but I was happy that the club was still backing the women and were planning to make them as important a part of the club as the men.”

Michelle had played at the formation of the club, with Lesley arriving that same season. Lesley stayed until 2002, with Louise joining the club in 1996, but it wasn’t only players that had been involved before the 2002 date that felt aggrieved at times. Gary Moores: “The waters got muddied around this time and I think some people got a bit upset. I understood fully that what went on in the past is in the past and that it had nothing to do with the relaunched club. I know that upset a few people because some were still tying up the back end of Manchester City Ladies. Since the transfer of the club, I haven’t been to games because it took so much time out of my life. I reached the point where I felt ‘it’s in safe hands now’ and I felt that our part of the transition had been handled well and so I felt I could move away. Previously it had been like the guy spinning the plates… you couldn’t stop because the plates would come crashing down but once City were handed control someone else was able to spin the plates and I could move on.

“I didn’t pay much attention to those who suggested City were a new club because half of it was from people who had only just learned about women’s football because of the birth of the Super League. They were speaking about something that they didn’t actually know much about. They’d dipped into it occasionally. Also, there was the negativity because of the position of Doncaster Belles. That was a shame because we know what Doncaster Belles have done but then there’s these people who see the money that Manchester City as an overall club was supposed to have and then it’s suggested that City had used that money to buy their place but they hadn’t. It was built on the back of years of commitment by players and volunteers. That first season after there were about half a dozen players who had been with us for years. 

“I remember being on holiday about two years after the WSL place was given and there was a woman who was a big City Women fan there. We got chatting and I told her of my connection but she didn’t believe me. She got her laptop out and started to quiz me. ‘Okay, where did Krystal Johnson come from?’ I said ‘Manchester City Ladies’ and she said that she’d played for one of the Sheffield clubs not City but that was the season when there was the transition from winter to summer football and the club had no games. The players went off to play for other clubs to keep fit but even on City’s own website the previous club line gave the impression these had all arrived from other clubs. All of that added to this view that it was a new club. There were about six or seven players like this I think.”

Inevitably there were going to be issues to resolve as the transition took place. As with the period in 2002 when some long established players and committee members felt the club was being taken from them, some of the committee and players felt similar feelings. Transformations are always difficult but with the media choosing to promote the view that ‘new club’ City were in the process of obtaining a WSL place at the expense of Doncaster Belles, it was always going to be tough to satisfy all former players and committee members. The noise, particularly in the media, did not overshadow what was actually happening however. Many current and former players were delighted with the potential for a stronger relationship.  Rowena Foxwell: I think got a bit excited when City Ladies became more professional and then they changed the name to Women. I think because women’s football was on the telly more, and it was great that our Club was getting a professional team. We all thought ‘if we were 20 years younger, we could have played in that’.  So we got a bit giddy about it.”

Rowena had seen some of the incorrect details of the club’s birth and decided to be proactive: “I was clicking through and there was this piece on how City Ladies started in 2002 or whatever it was! So I emailed Vicky Kloss, the Head of Communication at City, and just said to her that I was part of the original team… still in touch with a lot of them… be great if we could get involved… do you know that some of the facts on there are wrong? I think the fact that we got angry about the fact that they’d got it wrong, just shows how passionate we were.”

Debbie Darbyshire:  Vicky Kloss wanted it right. Vicky’s good like that. She’s always keen to make sure things are right. She called [Gary James] in and started the process of getting it all right.”

Rowena’s email was passed on to City’s Damaris Treasure, then Head of Public Affairs. She was heavily involved with the relaunch and wanted to get the facts correct. She immediately contacted Rowena and pushed to ensure the history of the team was properly recorded and that those involved felt valued for what they had achieved. Rowena Foxwell: “Many of us were invited to the relaunch. We obviously rocked up to the Etihad. There were a few people that we hadn’t seen probably since we played. So you know that was nice, and it was nice that the City acknowledged us as the original team.”

Damaris Treasure: I started working with Don Dransfield on the then City Ladies when we announced the formalisation of the relationship with the Club in 2012. I was then part of the core team who bid for the WSL license, and  led the re-launch as City Women in 2014. The day of the re-launch as Manchester City Women will forever be a highlight for me. Thinking back on all that day and all the people in the room – the original City Ladies squad, the new City Women squad, more media than we thought possible, legends of the men’s game (Patrick Vieira, Claudio Reyna), City leadership – it’s actually quite incredible that all those people came together. But it’s also indicative of just how right that moment was and how ready people were to invest in it.”

Jane Boardman: “I think you know the club went some way to recognise that this was a relaunch and not a launch, which I think was very important. A number of us got invited to the relaunch event.  I think it’s important that the club continues to stay community-focused and I think that they do achieve that.”

Heidi Ward: “I think I was really pleased that the relaunch got the press coverage that it did, because it lifted the women’s game. I knew that City were going to put money in to it and they were going to make the facilities and whatever. They are now absolutely brilliant. They wanted to give women the same opportunity as men and that’s just absolutely amazing. To be fair, I didn’t think it would get to the level where it is now, so that’s incredible really. If you look at the players now, they all look like athletes. They are all similar shapes and sizes and they are all really fit and healthy. Look at Steph Houghton – her physique has  changed and she’s a complete athlete now.  And the skills and the level of football has just raised in the last few years as well.

“I’m used to watching men’s football and I’ve never wanted to compare it to men’s football because it felt like a different game. I think there was a bit of a gap and now, at the highest level, I don’t see that. There’s different skills and there’s different strengths, but what City have done has changed things. I think it’s amazing.”

Kate Themen was delighted that City were investing but was unhappy with the media focus on the fate of Doncaster Belles: “I thought the FA could have handled it much better.  I think that was a structural issue, because it was a shame that Doncaster had lost their place, but when the FA sets up a league structure, which is essentially a franchise structure then these things happen. It wasn’t City’s issue it was the FA’s for having a structure whereby it allowed teams to do that.”

Lesley Wright: “I remember Rowena Foxwell asking if we were going to the relaunch. It was very nice and it was great to be invited. I think most of us that went to the relaunch were City fans as well as players so it meant more in some ways. Manuel Pellegrini was there. I think it was good how it was done because it showed that City were taking it seriously. It was a major step forward. It wasn’t just about using the money that Sheikh Mansour provided. It was the same as with the men. They invested in the club. They took the core of the England women’s team and they’ve brought in others. The whole point of the WSL was to create a platform to develop English talent and so I’m pleased that City have focused on bringing in and developing English players. Along the way they’ve brought in people like Carli Lloyd to help of course, but they’re developing talent the right way. It costs a lot of money and it can be difficult to sustain that but, like the men, they know what they want and they’re developing the club to achieve that. Opening the Academy and creating that ground takes it to a different level again.”

Damaris: “It was a really interesting time when we re-launched City Women, because there were teams that had been doing great things for a long time, Arsenal being the most notably successful, but we had a strong sense, which is generally how we do things anyway, of doing things well and doing things right by the highest possible standards. So, in some ways we treated this as a blank slate. Also, the way that we generally work at City is that we are all responsible for both the men’s and the women’s teams. Everyone working on City Women at that time was working in Premier League football as well as with the WSL, so there was a great range of experience being shared between the teams.   

Neil Mather: “I was chuffed to bits as I still am and I still get a huge buzz going to watch them.  It was always my dream that there would be a women’s professional league and that they’d get the opportunities that the men got.”

Louise Wakefield: “I’m really pleased and I’m really pleased because of where we’ve come from, you know? I hope people understand that rags to riches story. The Arsenals have always had that structure but I think the rags to riches story that City have had over all those years is remarkable. The media should push that. There could be documentaries on it. I was about two seasons away from the change. I wasn’t far away at all. If it wasn’t for an incident I had at a turning point where I was starting to progress, I’d have been in that era. I’d have been in every progression from 1996, apart from the current first team. If you’ve got that money behind you and you’ve got that training and you go training every day… and you’re not playing on pitches that are up to here, you’re going to progress. If I was 17 playing now I’d have been a lot better player.”

Lindsay Savage was delighted when the relaunch occurred: “Brilliant, City is such a big club and it is great to see them challenging for everything.  They are really inspiring young girls to follow their dream and are fantastic role models.” 

Rita Howard: “I was happy with the relaunch…No, I was jealous. Definitely jealous that this has happened and that I have missed out because of time. But very happy for women now and for girls coming through. They’ve now got something to aspire to. It absolutely heartens me when I see girls coming here to my school who are already in teams and it’s a given that they are going to continue to play. When I first started teaching here I was like a frontrunner of the girls football. We might have a good five-a-side team but struggle beyond that. Since then we have had a team that won a tournament.”

The need for football lower down the pyramid to receive investment is there. Jane Morley, who is still involved in promoting the sport to young girls in the regions, hopes the wider public begin supporting community clubs financially: “It is important to remember that as great as it is what’s happened to City and the other clubs in the WSL for most women’s teams it is still as it has always been. You rent a grass pitch, a referee turns up, the opposition arrive and you play a game. The pitches vary, the conditions can be poor… it’s not changed. You can still find games that have no dressing rooms…. Changing in cars and so on. I still think the women’s game has to fit in with the men’s game. Playing at 2pm on a Sunday to fit in with men’s games in the morning.”

It will take some time for benefits at the highest level to trickle down the leagues but football as played in female competition is in a much better place now than it was only a few years ago. City remain determined to see football as football, without a differentiation. Damaris Treasure: “Bringing City Women in to Manchester City formally was only the beginning of City’s relationship with women’s football. I now work for City Football Group based in Australia, and the blueprint created in Manchester was replicated with our team in Melbourne (who have since gone on to win pretty much everything going). In the same way as Manchester, the women’s team are fully integrated with the men’s team, train at the same facilities, and have been credited with raising the bar for women’s football in Australia. We’ve got a girls academy at New York City FC, and long term we would love to see more women’s teams as part of CFG.  

You can buy my history of the Manchester City Women’s team here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/

If you’ve enjoyed this then why not check out the earliest footage of Manchester City Ladies:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/22/manchester-city-ladies-the-earliest-film/

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Video Talk on History of Football in Manchester

I didn’t realise this was available but here’s film of a talk plus Q&A I did about the early history of football in Manchester. It’s of interest to anyone keen on the origins of football or any of the Manchester clubs… Indeed the social history of Manchester. It lasts about 55 minutes and was part of the promotional work connected with my book ‘The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919’, published by Manchester University Press.

Here’s the recording:

If you are interested in the book then that can be bought direct from Manchester University Press or via usual retailers, such as Amazon:

You can find a list of my other books here:

City Voices Project: More MCFC Fans’ Views Needed

An update on the City Voices project… It’s been over a year since I announced the project which will capture and archive the memories, stories and views of MCFC fans but, due to COVID, I’ve not been able to interview many fans. I’m still keen to gather these stories, which will be archived at MCFC for future generations too! Read on for more information…

Following on from my successful project capturing the stories of the women who played for and the people involved with Manchester City’s women’s team throughout its 30+ years of existence, a similar project was launched more than a year ago to capture the stories of Manchester City’s fans.

I will be capturing the stories of the club’s fans over the next year and you can help contribute to this great project. I’m keen to hear from and interview fans to ensure their stories and experiences are captured and retained for ever.

If you would like to help the project and provide your stories then please complete the questionnaire below and send it to gary@GJFootballArchive.com as soon as you can. Unfortunately, due to time constraints at the moment I will not be able to reply to all emails. I will certainly be reading every questionnaire and those stories will be captured for posterity. 

In addition, I will be interviewing some fans during 2022. Hopefully, this will be via face-to-face interviews may follow. If you would like to be considered for interview then please complete the relevant section on the questionnaire.

Updates on the project will follow over the coming months, including details of how these stories will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of what it has been like to support Manchester City over the decades. 

One important point to note is that I am keen to hear from fans of all ages based in Manchester, the United Kingdom and around the world. The greater the number that respond the better the archive of fans stories will become.

Please help this project and ensure the memories, stories and lives of City fans are captured for posterity. Thanks to those who have already completed the questionnaire – some of you are still on my list for potential interviews (apologies for the delays – COVID has been a bit of an issue for us all of course!).

Here’s the questionnaire:

https://gjfootballarchive.files.wordpress.com/2021/02/city-voices-modelconsent.docx

Thanks,

Gary

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my friends, followers, family and so on a happy Christmas. Let’s hope we all stay safe and enjoy the holiday period (and beyond). Best wishes to all. If you’re bored over the next few days (yeah, I know) then take a few moments at the end of each day to look at

Welcome to Gary James’ Football Archive

I’ve got quite a few articles coming up about MCFC at Christmas on each day that might be entertaining/of interest. Happy Christmas to all.

#FABan – No Man Could Stop Us!

On Friday December 3 2021 I staged an event at Hebden Bridge Town Hall to mark the centenary of the FA Ban of women’s football being played on FA affiliated grounds. The ban, which also meant that those working for FA affiliated clubs could be punished if they were involved in coaching or organising women’s football teams, lasted until 1970. The event included a presentation on the history of women’s football and interviews with former players from Manchester Corinthians, Manchester City, Manchester United, Doncaster Belles and England. Here’s a few details about the night.

Firstly I’d like to thank Margaret Whitworth, Margaret Shepherd, Lesley Wright, Jane Morley, Gail Redston and Issy Pollard for their contribution to the night. I’d also like to thank Geoff Matthews and his company Cansquared for sponsoring the evening.

Over eighty people came to Hebden Bridge Town Hall for this important event. During the evening I walked through the history of the women’s game, highlighting the development of the sport during the period from 1880 to 1914 – a time which saw high profile games and clubs become established in a number of locations (including Manchester and Liverpool).

The presentation moved on to talk about the developments during World War One and the establishment of several prominent teams, including Dick, Kerr Ladies of course and Huddersfield Atalanta. I also explained the extent of the game by 1921. Some often talk about a few high profile games and they are important but, for me, it’s the extent to which the sport penetrates down the levels that is most important. At the talk I explained about events in Hebden Bridge and other places where women’s football was openly discussed or promoted in 1921.

I discussed the ridiculous reasons the FA claimed for banning women’s football – health and financial mismanagement – and how they could easily have been challenged or investigated properly if the FA had actually wanted to promote the sport.

During the evening I also gave examples of men who were punished for coaching women’s teams – including a groundsman from the 1950s! This for me is important as it demonstrates that the FA did punish people and did want to kill off female participation.

The presentation saw the story of women’s football brought into the 21st Century but the best part of the evening for me was without doubt the interviews with the former players who were our guests that night. These interviews were with Margaret Whitworth (Manchester Corinthians), Margaret Shepherd (Manchester Corinthians), Lesley Wright (Manchester Corinthians, Manchester City & more), Jane Morley (Manchester United, Redstar & more), Gail Redston (Manchester City, Oldham & more) and Issy Pollard (Bronte, Doncaster Belles & England).

In the audience were several other footballers including Stacey Copeland and others who played for Manchester City, Redstar and other teams from Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.

Hopefully, I’ll get to post some of the interviews from the night here one day, but in the meantime follow the links below to read other features on the Manchester Corinthians, Manchester City etc. Don’t forget there are also a limited number of copies of my Manchester City Women: An Oral History book available via my shop page here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/womens-football-2/page/2/

#FA Ban – Tonight’s Show

I’m really looking forward to tonight’s ‘No Man Could Stop Us!’ show at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. If you are coming then feel free to use the hashtag #FABan when mentioning it on social media. We have some excellent guests and I’ll be highlighting the history of women’s football from the nineteenth century through to the 1921 FA ban. I’ll then explain what happened to the sport over the following 50 years, until it was officially lifted in January 1970. We’ll be hearing from players who had lengthy careers with Manchester Corinthians, Manchester City, Manchester United, Redstar, Bronte, Doncaster Belles and England. It promises to be an excellent night.

Late next week I’ll post an article here on the evening’s events for those unable to make it. The evening has been sponsored by Geoff Matthews and his company Cansquared – thank you for all your support and enthusiasm.

No Man Could Stop Us!

On Friday 3 I’ll be talking about the FA ban on women playing on FA affiliated grounds. It will be the centenary of the ban on December 5 2021 and ill be talking with women who played during the ban in the 50s and 60s and others who played in the 70s onwards. Incredibly the FA ban wasn’t lifted until 1970 and even then the FA did nothing to promote female participation. Details of the talk below (follow the link):

Thanks to CanSquared for sponsoring the event and enabling us to do this for free.

Joe Mercer Book Launch Video 1993

Back in 1993 my biography of Joe Mercer was published for the first time. We staged a book launch in the centre of Manchester attended by various footballers and friends of the Mercers. Myself, Norah Mercer, Malcolm Allison, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee all spoke at the launch which was ably compered by broadcaster James H Reeve. Here’s a trailer the speeches for subscribers to the si

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Flashback to 1993: Radio Interview About Joe Mercer

Back in 1993 Jimmy Wagg interviewed me on GMR about my new book on Joe Mercer. While going through some material the other day I found the recording. The quality is not great (neither are my answers at times!) but here for the next few days you can hear the recording. From Friday 19th November this will only be available to subscribers to my site (so if you want to hear why I did the book and the answers I gave back then have a listen now). Here goes (again apologies for the quality of the recording):

While you’re here why not have a look at all the other articles, interviews, videos and material on this site. Subscribers get access to everything and this included the entire Manchester A Football History book & From Maine Men To Banana Citizens (my first book). There are also audio recordings of my interviews with John Bond, Malcolm Allison, George Graham etc. It costs £3 per month or £20 per year.

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Joe Mercer OBE

On Thursday a PFA plaque will be unveiled to honour a footballing legend. Joe Mercer was a hugely successful player with Everton, Arsenal and England and a trophy winning manager with Aston Villa and Manchester City. He also managed Sheffield United and Coventry City. He was acclaimed as a man who had put the fun back into English football during a spell as the England boss. He fully deserves this tribute and, if you can make it, please come along to the plaque unveiling. Back in 2004 I wrote the following piece for the Manchester City match programme which, for those Blues wondering why Joe was significant, may help to explain his importance to the club. Enjoy… it starts with the original introduction (and all references to Joe’s family etc, are from 2004 of course).

***

In Search of The Blues considers the life and career of a former City great who sadly is no longer with us, Joe Mercer OBE.  The reason we have decided to reflect on Joe’s life today is that last Monday (9th August 2004) marked the 90th anniversary of the birth of the former City & England manager.  Sadly Joe passed away on the same date in 1990 – his 76th birthday. Joe was City’s manager during the Club’s most successful period, and Gary James, author of “Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE”, provides a commentary on Joe’s lifetime of achievements.

Why is Joe Mercer so important to this Club?

Joe breathed new life into a club that was struggling to survive.  During the early sixties City had reached a critical level – one director actually suggested the Blues should merge with United! – and Joe’s appointment was one which had to succeed.  Joe brought in a highly enthusiastic Malcolm Allison as his number two and between them they transformed City from a struggling sleeping giant into League Champions, FA Cup winners, League Cup victors and European Cup Winners’ Cup winners. 

The Blues became renowned for their positive approach and swashbuckling style and Joe encouraged everyone to enjoy life at Maine Road.

Without Joe’s arrival in July 1965 it’s very difficult to see how City’s fortunes could be resurrected.

How did his partnership with Malcolm Allison work?

There have been many theories over the years of how the two men worked together.  Many people focus on their contrasting styles – Malcolm the flamboyant one; Joe the fatherly figure – but during the 1990s Malcolm answered a similar question by stating:  “we made it work because we told each other the truth, and we never really fell out.  We had a great relationship.  I enjoyed it all and I think, like Joe, those first five years were the best ever for me.  I think that fortune favours the brave, and I think that sometimes you have to be fortunate where you work and who you work with.  I was very lucky when Joe got the City job, and took me there.  And we started right from the grass roots, right from the bottom and took them to the top.  That is real achievement!”

How does Joe compare to football’s other great managers?

In 1990 Bobby Charlton said he was one of football’s most important figures and added:  “Joe was a great, great person and we don’t say that about many people.  They don’t produce people like him very often.  He was a true great, along with the likes of Bill Shankly.”

Joe’s period as City manager coincided with a number of famous managerial careers – Shankly (Liverpool), Busby (United), Revie (Leeds), Nicholson (Spurs), Stein (Celtic) – and so comparisons should be easy, however each Club was at a different phase in development and it would be foolish to directly compare.  However, it is clear however that during 1967-8 City swept aside the great sides created by his contemporaries and that the Mercer-Allison side won many admirers across the Country because of the style of play and positive attitude.  

In addition to Joe’s time at City he did have some success away from Maine Road and, of course, he managed England for a brief but entertaining spell.

Why did Joe Leave?

Initially, because of Joe’s health problems at Villa, he had anticipated being at City for only a few years.  Naturally, Malcolm was keen to manage the Club in his own right but that didn’t seem possible while Joe was still at the Club.  In 1971 Malcolm was given the role of Team Manager but Joe’s position was less clear.  Power struggles in the Boardroom and various other issues placed Joe and Malcolm in different camps and, when an offer from Coventry came in 1972, Joe felt it was time to move on.  

What was Joe’s managerial record away from Maine Road like?

His first League management role was at Sheffield United.  The Blades were struggling when he arrived mid season and were relegated (1956), however during the course of the next couple of seasons he developed a good cup-fighting side and was offered the Arsenal manager’s job at one point. 

In December 1958 he became the Aston Villa manager and again created a good cup fighting side and brought the Villa Park club the Second Division Championship in 1960.  He also guided them to success in the 1961 League Cup and took them to the final again in 1963.

Sadly, problems at Villa during 1964 caused Joe health problems.  He went to see a doctor and according to Joe some years later:  “He told me ‘It’s either polio or a stroke.’ And as I was leaving the room he called me back and said ‘What about the fee?’  I turned and said ‘well, I must be a bloody bad risk then!”

At the time Joe was also managing the England under-23s and had even been tipped as England manager (August 1962) – that proves how highly Joe was thought of as a manager prior to his phenomenal success at City.

After City, Joe won a manager of the month award at Coventry and took on the role as England caretaker manager during 1974 for 7 games.  His first game in charge saw Kevin Keegan and Stan Bowles – a former player under Mercer at City – both score in a victory over Wales.  Joe was offered the job on a permanent basis but turned it down for health reasons:  “I had the most terrible sciatica.  I was almost a cripple with it.  I was offered the job but I didn’t feel fit enough.  It was as simple as that.”

Why did he join City in the first place?

After his health problems at Villa Joe missed the daily involvement with the game.  He started to report on games for newspapers but reporting was a poor substitute for management.  In 1965 when the City approach came it was a major gamble for all concerned.  Joe was not really fit enough to take on the role immediately and the Club had to think carefully about the appointment.  Joe didn’t think about it for long.  He was desperate to get back into the game and was determined to take on the job.  He recognised the potential at the Club – a year earlier he had stressed he wanted only to take on a job at a progressive, positive club.

His family was not as enthusiastic at first but his wife Norah knew he had to take it on:  “I married a footballer.  I realised he had to go back – it would have killed him hot to.”

Who was his first signing at City?

Ralph Brand, a Scottish international who had scored 128 goals in 207 games for Rangers, was the first signing but it was not a success.  Joe’s second signing was considerably more successful however, that was Mike Summerbee.

What did Joe achieve as a player?

As a player he had enormous success.  With his first club Everton he won the League Championship in 1939 – who knows what else Everton and Joe would have won had war not intervened – while his time at Arsenal saw him win two further Championships (one as captain) and the FA Cup.  He also captained the Gunners to the 1952 final where they were reduced to ten men for a significant part of their defeat by a strong Newcastle side. 

In 1986 when Arsenal celebrated their centenary they introduced many significant and famous players from their history on to the pitch.  According to Arsenal author Keith Fisher Joe Mercer received the biggest ovation of them all.

Joe also had a great England career, and captained the international side during crucial wartime morale boosting internationals.

His popularity was so high he even appeared on magazine covers.  

How is Joe remembered outside of Manchester?

Joe is remembered as a truly great player at both Everton and Arsenal.  Both sides recognise that his contribution to their history is immense while at a national level Joe is remembered as one of the Football League’s 100 legends.  

As a manager, Joe’s record at Aston Villa is not perhaps viewed as positively as it should be, however his time at Coventry (1972-1974) is remembered fondly.  As is his period as England manager.

In 1976 he was awarded the OBE for services to football.

Which team did he support as a boy?

As a boy growing up in Ellesmere Port, Joe was an Evertonian.  However he also had a soft spot for Nottingham Forest and, in particular, Tranmere Rovers as his father, Joe Mercer Snr, had played League football for both sides.  Sadly, he passed away while Joe was still a young boy, but Joe always retained a strong feeling for Tranmere.  In later life he became a regular attendee at Prenton Park.

Did he achieve any notable milestones during his playing and managerial career?

At the age of 35 in 1950 he was presented with the Football Writers’ Player of the Year trophy and continued to play top class football until injury forced him to retire at 39.  Naturally, there were all his trophy successes as a player.

By managing City to the FA Cup in 1969 he became the first man to win both the FA Cup and the League as a player and as a manager.  The first man to surpass this achievement was Arsenal’s George Graham who had actually been brought to England by Joe when he was Aston Villa manager.

In 1970, Joe managed City to the League Cup and ECWC double – this is recognised as the first major English/European trophy double although Leeds did win the Fairs Cup and League Cup (but some leading sides still boycotted this competition at the time) in 1968.

Since Joe passed away have his family retained their love of the Blues?

Definitely, Joe’s 84 year old widow Norah is a regular attendee – she came to the Lazio game last week and is determined to be here today.  She loves the Club and is a very popular presence on match day.  She has also been to the stadium for various other activities including last season’s Hall of Fame dinner and the official opening of the Manchester City Experience in April.

Norah has been part of City life since her husband first accepted the City job.  She is also a keen member of the Merseyside CSA.

Finally, how did Joe view the game during his later life?  Did he still love it with the passion he had as a boy?

Joe tried to keep focus on the game rather than activity off it.  During the 1980s, towards the end of his life, he was asked his views on the problems of the ‘modern game’ and gave a comment which is as relevant today as it was then:

“Football is a great game.  It is all about goals, goalmouth incidents, and end-to-end attacking football.  There is nothing wrong with the game; plenty wrong with managers, players, directors, legislators, and the media.  Football has been very kind to me and I really mustn’t complain so can I leave you with this thought – The object of playing any game is for enjoyment.  If you have enjoyed it and done your best you have won no matter what the result!”