Denis Law and United’s Relegation

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion on Denis Law and his backheeled goal for Manchester City v Manchester United at Old Trafford in April 1974. If you’re a Blue you tend to say it relegated United; if you’re a Red you tend to say ‘absolutely not! It made no difference.’ So, for this feature I decided to focus on the facts, emotion and mood of the era to paint an accurate picture of that day and the significance or not of that goal. Hopefully, Blues & Reds alike will gain a good understanding of it all. I include quotes from some of the interviews I’ve performed in the past. This article will be free to read until 27th September then it’s available to subscribers only. Here goes…

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The First Championship

Although those who claim Manchester City have no history may not like reminding of this fact but it is now over 85 years ago since the Blues first won the League title. Here for subscribers is an overview of that 1936-37 title winning season.

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Video of History Of Women’s Football Talk

If you’re interested in women’s football or in football in Trafford or Manchester then get your self a brew, settle down and enjoy this video of my talk before the big England-Northern Ireland match tonight. It’s part of my work on the #WEuro2022 Heritage Lottery funded project. Here goes:

This talk on the history of women’s football was staged at the National Football Museum on 1st July as part of my work on a consultancy basis with Trafford local archives. The talk lasts about 47 mins. Enjoy!

There will be a video of the panel discussion mentioned in this talk that will appear as a part 2 later. Maybe next week?

The Trafford Archive website I mention during my talk is available here:

https://exploringtraffordsheritage.omeka.net/exhibits/show/traffordwomensfootball

Joe Mercer OBE

On this day (13 July) in 1965 Joe Mercer became Manchester City manager. Until the successes of Pep Guardiola Joe remained City’s most successful boss. Back in 2004 I wrote the following piece for the Manchester City match programme which, for those Blues wondering who Joe was and why he 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!”

#WEuro2022

The Women’s Euros start tomorrow with the opening match at Old Trafford between England and Austria. There are lots of great activities planned to coincide with the Euros and I’d like to take the opportunity to talk a little about some of what’s occurred as part of the Trafford element of the Heritage Lottery Funded project. Even if you’re not particularly interested in Trafford it’d be worth having a look at this to get a feel for how the project has gone and how you may be able to help track down former players, teams & more.

I’ve been working on a temporary basis with Trafford to capture the stories of women, teams & more, while also staging a few events and researching the history of women’s football within Trafford. My time with the project will end soon but it has been a great experience. So far we’ve managed to interview women who have been playing football either for Trafford based clubs or women who are from Trafford who have played for teams outside the borough. There have also been interviews with women who played significant games in Trafford.

A website has been set up to tell the stories and so far we’ve posted a few of those covering teams, games & players. There are further stories to be posted over the coming weeks but take a look here at the ones posted so far:

https://exploringtraffordsheritage.omeka.net/exhibits/show/traffordwomensfootball

Audio interviews have been performed with a variety of former players of teams such as Sale United, Trafford Ladies, Manchester Corinthians, Manchester United, Manchester City, FC Redstar, England and the Merseyside club Leasowe Pacific who won the FA Cup in 1989 at Old Trafford.

We also held a session where young girls from Sale United met with former Corinthians, City & United players to talk about their careers and compare experiences.

Last Friday we staged a talk at the National Football Museum on the History of Women’s Football with particular emphasis on the experiences and landmark moments of Trafford & Manchester’s women footballers. Jan Lyons of Manchester Corinthians & Juventus and Lesley Wright of Manchester Corinthians & Manchester City participated in a panel discussion too with some great questions from the audience.

Photo by Rachel Adams for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Arts and Heritage programme

An exhibition, including objects such as a 1958 Manchester Corinthians shirt and boots signed by Steph Houghton, is currently being staged at the archives centre at Sale.

Displays around Old Trafford have also been set up with the national history of women’s football appearing alongside Trafford bespoke monoliths close to Hotel Football and the Old Trafford Stadium. If you’re at the game go and have a look.

Photo by Rachel Adams for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Arts and Heritage programme

There are also postboxes decorated with knitted women footballers that have been produced by the local knitting groups as part of the project. If you’re wandering around Trafford have a look for them.

On Wednesday I will be with the Trafford Archives staff at the fanzone at Old Trafford during the day where we will be distributing free postcards and a Trafford football history booklet. We’ll also be answering questions about the history of football in the region and I’ll be hoping to capture the memories of those who played for women’s teams in Trafford too. Come and say hello if you’re there during the day time.

Also, look out for the FSA free Euros guide. I’ve contributed material on Trafford’s history so please look out for that.

Finally, I’m still keen to capture the stories of women’s football in Trafford. If you are from Trafford, or played for a Trafford based club then get in touch and let’s ensure your story is captured for future generations.

Manchester City Fans

While searching through my articles earlier this week I spotted a piece I wrote in 2019-20 on Manchester City’s support. Back then I became somewhat frustrated with a series of articles criticising City’s support. There were a number of ridiculous comments by some and so I wrote a piece challenging some of these views.

I’m not certain all the points are still valid (though City fans have received some significant abuse since 2020 too!) but readers can be the judge of that. Anyway, here’s the article for those who missed it back then:

Talk – 1st July 2pm at National Football Museum

Join Dr Gary James for a free event at the National Football Museum celebrating the history of women’s football. The event kicks off with a first half during which Gary outlines the history of women’s football locally with stories of games played in Trafford in the 1890s; the sport’s growth in the early twentieth century; the 1921 FA ban and its local impact; the pioneering teams and individuals of the interwar and post war years; then the game’s rise and development throughout to the modern day. With particular emphasis on games and teams from Trafford and Manchester this promises to be an entertaining talk.

The second half sees former players from the pioneering Manchester Corinthians, Manchester City and the original Manchester United women’s teams will be interviewed about their careers. Their experiences and enthusiasm for the sport provide a valuable insight into over sixty years of football history. Trafford and Manchester have a proud history of women’s football and this event will explain how the women ensured the game developed despite a near fifty-year ban and other obstacles placed in their way.

Panelists are Jan Lyons, Lesley Wright & Jane Morley (see below for biographical details).

Although the talk is free tickets must be booked in advance via the following link:

Jan Lyons

Following the Aberfan disaster in 1966 in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed a charity match was set up at Jan’s school between the boys and the girls. Jan was by far the best player, outshining all others to win the ‘man of the match’ award.

Her parents saw a piece in a newspaper advertising trials for the Manchester Corinthians and Jan relished the opportunity. She was offered the chance to join the club in February 1968.Jan participated in all the Corinthians prominent games of the period, including the annual Stretford Pageant, which was perceived as a prominent exhibition of the sport. 

In 1970 Jan was a member of the Corinthians team which defeated crack Italian team Juventus in the final of the Reims tournament in France. This ultimately led to her joining Juventus in 1973. When she resigned from her work at a local bank, her manager was amazed that she was leaving a banking career to play football.

Some suggested to Jan that if she played in Italy opportunities to play for England would end but, with typical determination, Jan believed that playing in Italy, where there was a strong league structure in place, was a great opportunity.

Lesley Wright

Lesley Wright joined Manchester Corinthians in the early 1970s, participating in their tours and in league competition. She became a regular for the club and remained with them into the 1980s when a ground move led to the famous old club changing its name to Woodley Ladies.

Lesley continued to play for the club through to 1988-89 when she joined the newly established Manchester City. Playing in mostly a defensive role, she became an influential member of Manchester’s Blues as they competed in their first competitive season of 1989-90. She remained with the club into the 2000s. She has guested for other teams in the region, including Manchester United.

She has fulfilled a variety of coaching roles with Manchester City and also at Stockport County. 

In recent years she has taken up walking football and in 2022 is the manager of Droylsden’s women’s walking football team. She also became captain of the England Walking Football over 60s regional squad.

Jane Morley

Jane Morley joined the original Manchester United women’s team in the late 1970s, staying with them for six successful years. In 1985, together with other United players, she established FC Redstar and took the team into the North West Women’s Regional Football League where they achieved promotion in 1987 to the top division – at the time the highest league competition available. Playing in Stretford, FC Redstar impressed but player recruitment issues brought a premature end to the club in 1990.

Once her playing days were over Jane coached and managed at various levels with Manchester City Ladies for many years. Always keen to promote football to young girls Jane enjoyed developing an array of talent with the club. She also brought success to the club and managed the first team for a spell when they were based in Urmston, Trafford.

After leaving City Jane continued to develop opportunities for girls and young women within both Greater Manchester and in Cheshire. 

In 2022 she is secretary of Stockport County’s women’s team and has dedicated her adult life to promoting football for women and girls.

Dr Gary James is working for Trafford Archives on the Women’s Euros Heritage project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A Complete PDF Of My 1st Book To Download

Subscribers to my site can download a PDF of my entire first book. It was published back in 1989. Here are more details:

The book was published in April 1989 and I talk a little bit about it here:

The 200th Post – Joe Mercer

and here:

A Writing Flashback!

On This Day: Manchester’s First Major Trophy Success

On this day in 1904 (23 April) Manchester found its first major trophy success. The captain and goalscorer was the great Billy Meredith. Last year, following the purchase of the oldest surviving FA Cup by Sheikh Mansour (to loan to the National Football Museum) I helped Manchester City with the story of the cup and its significance to Manchester. They’ve produced a video telling the story and it can be viewed here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/manchesters-first-trophy-1904-fa-cup-documentary-63745781

For more on the significance of this FA Cup trophy check out the category 1903-04 in the drop down list below.

Glyn Pardoe

On this day (March 7) Manchester City defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the League Cup final. City’s goalscorer were both grandfathers of modern day player Tommy Doyle. They were Glyn Pardoe and Mike Doyle. Sadly both men have since passed away. I interviewed Glyn Pardoe (photo is of Glyn with Janice Monk and Steve Mackenzie at one of my book launches) a number of times over the years, including one of my first ever interviews back in the early 1990s (it was for my biography of Joe Mercer and Glyn was a wonderful, welcoming man). Back in January 2004 I interview Glyn for my then regular Manchester City match programme series In Search of the Blues. Here is that interview as it was written up for the programme:

Glyn Pardoe holds the record for the youngest player to make his debut with the Blues.  At the age of 15 years and 314 days he played in City’s 11th April 1962 meeting with Birmingham City.  He went on to play throughout City’s glorious late sixties period and made a total of 374 (plus 2 as substitute) appearances.

Gary James, author of Farewell To Maine Road, caught up with Glyn to discuss his playing career and his present day activities.

Let’s start with your role today, I’m sure many of our readers will have heard you on local radio this season.  Can you explain your role?

I work with Ian Cheeseman, Jimmy Wagg and the others at GMR to provide my views on what’s happening on the pitch.  Part of that is actually sat next to Ian summarising, and part of it is after the match when I am one of the guys talking to callers and generally talking about City.  It’s a great role and I love chatting to fans.  Ian and Jimmy are nice lads as well, and the great thing for me is that I enjoy it.  I love listening to supporters giving their views and I like to stress that the game is still all about opinions.  It doesn’t matter what else changes, football is a great game to talk about.

How did it all come about?

You have to go back to the eighties when I was still working for the Club.  Back then Ian Cheeseman was doing the Club videos of each game, while I was working with the Reserves and the Youth teams.  I was asked to give my opinions of each first team game for the Club videos, and so I’d work with the Reserves in the morning, then head off up to the old commentary gantry at Maine Road for the first team.  

Eventually that stopped of course, but then a few months ago I got a call from Ian.  Totally out of the blue really… I didn’t ever consider I could do the same thing on radio.  Ian asked if I could help for one game, so I did, then afterwards they kept asking me back.  

Did you find it difficult?

At first it was hard, although I don’t think any of that came across.  Unlike the old days of working on the video, I was not too familiar with every one of the first team squad, so it took some time to work out the characteristics of each player.  I also have a day job of course – it’s security reception work – so that had to be taken in to consideration.  Nevertheless, it has been a great experience and I do enjoy doing it.

Going back to your early career, making your debut at such an early age must have been a shock?

Well you’d think so, and I’m sure it was, but I did actually get to find out a few days before, so that helped.  If I’d have found out on the morning I don’t know how I’d have coped.  I don’t think I ever thought about my age.  I’m sure others did, but to me it was just a great opportunity.

Your debut came against Birmingham in 1962.  Do you remember much about the game?

Not really, except we lost 4-1 at home and I was up against a tough centre-half called Trevor Smith.  I wore the number nine shirt for that game – I later played in almost every position!  I don’t think I did a great deal, but I know I kept my place for the next 3 games.

These were not particularly good days as far as fans were concerned, but how did it feel to be a player during those first few years of your career?

The great side of the 1950s had disintegrated really.  We still had a few of the players in the side like Trautmann and Hayes, but the rest of the side was mainly youngsters finding their feet.  It was difficult because there was a general air of despondency.  We’d go to places like Blackburn and expect to win.  We’d take the lead, but end up losing 4-1 (1st May 1963) and I think that said it all.  We didn’t know how to win matches.  At the time I knew nothing else really, but when you do start to find success you suddenly realise how bleak the atmosphere inside the Club had been just a couple of seasons earlier.

Because you made your debut at such an early age did you think ‘this is it, I’ve made it’?

Not a chance!  They’d never have allowed me to think like that anyway.  I remember playing on the Saturday, and then walking up to the ground on the Monday and having to knock to be allowed in.  As far as everybody was concerned I was a Reserve – or even a youth player I suppose – not a first teamer.  You never actually ‘made it’ until you were a first team regular and even then you could never be complacent.  Even when we were winning all the trophies there was a very real fear that your contract would not be renewed.  I remember worrying each summer, thinking that I’d be forced to move on.  

In those days the Club had total control and as a player you were simply glad to be there.  We’ve gone to the other extreme now, but for me I don’t think I ever felt I’d made it.  Even when we were the most successful side in the Country.

How do you feel the mid-sixties transformation of the Club’s fortunes came about?

Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison came in.  That’s it really.  I remember when the Club was at its lowest and we had no hope, ambition, or direction and as a player you really worried about where we were heading and who the new guy might be.  I was still only about 18 and had no idea how it would all pan out of course.  Then Joe arrived, followed by Malcolm, and everything started to improve.  Training improved considerably and so you started to realise how football could be improved and enjoyed.

What were your first impressions of Mercer & Allison?

Joe was a very respectable figure.  We knew what he’d achieved as a player and he had a great approach.  He was quiet but very supportive.  A real calming influence.  Lovely.  

My first impression of Malcolm – remember I was still only a lad – was that he was very loud.  He liked to shout a lot!  Naturally, I got used to that, but at first it was a bit of a shock.  Malcolm was a terrific coach and we all learnt so much from him.  He was fantastic once you got to know him, and together they both turned us into a great side.

In the 1965-6 promotion season I only missed the opening game, so it was their arrival which made me a regular first teamer.  I’d had good runs before that of course, but once they arrived I hardly missed a match, and enjoyed the successes.

The 1970 League Cup Final saw you score the winning goal 12 minutes into extra-time – presumably a great moment?

Fantastic!  It’s always a great feeling when you score, but when you score in a cup final it’s tremendous.  A truly great memory.

Not too long after that you suffered with a serious leg injury sustained in the Manchester derby.  Did you realise how bad it was at the time?

I knew very little at the time.  It was the December 1970 game at Old Trafford and there was a collision between me and George Best.  Apparently I broke my leg and an artery was trapped, but I have no memory of what followed.  I’ve been told that I was within twenty minutes of losing my leg.  They had decided that removing my leg would save my life, but fortunately the operation they eventually did meant that my leg was saved as well.  I was in a daze for at least four or five hours and really have no idea of the worry my family and friends went through.  

You were only 24 when the injury occurred, and it was a long struggle back to fitness after that wasn’t it?

I missed the rest of that season, all the next, and didn’t play again in the first team until November 1972.  Even then my appearances were limited.  I managed 32 League appearances during 1973-4 and played in the League Cup Final with Wolves, but my career was really over.  

Even now I still haven’t got full movement back, but I do feel fortunate that I am still alive and I still have my leg.

Personally, considering your age at the time I feel the blow you suffered was equal if not greater than the tragedy suffered by Paul Lake and by Colin Bell.  Presumably you regard it as your worst moment?

I don’t like thinking about worst moments.  Football was all about enjoyment to me.  I feel very lucky to have been in such a successful side, and to play during a great period.  Not many people are given the opportunity in the first place, so it all has to be great.

Which players were you closest with during your career?

Alan Oakes is my cousin of course, so I’d been playing with him since I was very young.  The two of us, plus Mike Doyle and Colin Bell were known as the Big Four because we were always together.  We played golf a lot and so were always seen together, but the whole of the playing staff was close in those days.  We had a great team spirit.

After your playing days finished you continued to work with the Club.  Did you enjoy that period?

I worked with the youth sides, and winning the Youth Cup against United in 1986 was a great moment.  The lads had so much enthusiasm – Paul Moulden, Paul Lake, Steve Redmond, Andy Hinchcliffe, Ian Brightwell and the others.  That gave me great satisfaction but people forget that we came close to winning it again three years later.  Watford beat us in the final, but that side contained players like Neil Lennon, Ged Taggart and Ashley Ward.  To think that so many of the players from those two sides went on to play international football or make a name for themselves at other clubs makes you appreciate the quality we had at the time.  Those kids had ability, and it brought me and the others a lot of satisfaction.

Finally, how did the fans treat you during your time at the Club?

Always great.  They were very supportive – even when we were struggling at the start of my career.  They gave me fantastic treatment throughout my career, and I still enjoy meeting and talking with them today. 

Here’s film of that 1970 final:

A reminder that you can still watch my 1 hour plus talk on Manchester City crowds, support, chants and Maine Road here. It’s free to watch:

I’m keen to hear thoughts on the idea of doing other talks like this for subscribers to my site. If you’re interested then please get in touch and let me know what you’d like me to talk on. I have quite a few ideas I’m keen to do and am also open to suggestions. Thanks.

If you enjoy the talk then please subscribe to my site. 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 of any club). I am independent of any organisation and care passionately about the quality and accuracy of my work. 

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