An Audio Interview About Manchester’s Early Football History

I did several interviews about Manchester’s early football history a few years back. Most of these seemed to revolve around the story of Hulme Athenaeum. This is one of those interviews which I hope subscribers will be interested in. Sadly, I cannot recognise which radio station I did this interview for, nor can I find the exact date I did it (I’m guessing it was about 2015).

I hope subscribers enjoy it. If you do I’ll post more like this over the coming months. I’ve lots of interviews (of me and by me interviewing fans, players, managers etc.) which I’d like subscribers to listen to – if they enjoy them of course!

Anyway, here goes…

Subscribe to get access

If you would like to listen to this interview or would like to read the in-depth articles on this site then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 200+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

A Writing Flashback!

Recently, I’ve been sorting through some of the items my mum has kept over the years and I rediscovered my old Brother typewriter. My mum died during 2020 and it has been extremely tough at times for my dad and the family in general. I know a lot of people have experienced great sadness over the last year and my thoughts are with everyone who has suffered a tragedy during this time. It’s been a tough year. 

I thought I’d got rid of the typewriter many, many years ago and so seeing it brought back many memories. It reminded me of some of my earliest writing on football and so I thought I’d share on my blog the story of this typewriter. 

I bought this typewriter with the royalties from my first book – I can’t remember exactly how much it cost but I know I just about earned enough to pay for it. My first book was ‘From Maine Men To Banana Citizens’ (a pictorial history of Manchester City) which was published in April 1989. I’d handwritten that book! Fortunately, as it was a pictorial history there actually wasn’t much writing – just captions really.

As I’d handwritten the captions and posted them to the publisher there were times when they misread my writing. I had written the captions in capitals mainly, but my writing in whatever style is awful (at primary school my headteacher – an obsessed MUFC fan – used to tell me my writing was like a ‘drunken spider walking across the page’). Words like ‘the’ would occasionally read as ‘one’ to those unfamiliar with my poor writing. 

In From Maine Men to Banana Citizens some of my writing was misread and wasn’t picked up in the review process and so I know there are a few ‘one’s where ‘the’s should be (if you’ve got the book see if you can spot any!).

Once the book was published and I spotted these I knew I needed to get a typewriter. Once I’d received my royalties I bought my electric Brother typewriter. I bought a Brother typewriter because they were Manchester City’s sponsors at the time and I wanted my money to go to a company that supported people I approved of (and some think sponsorship doesn’t influence).

I was still living at my parents back then and I used the typewriter to write my sections of my second book The Pride of Manchester (co-written with Steve Cawley). This book told the story of the Manchester derby and we could every friendly and competitive game from 1880 through to publication in 1991. As the book was really a game by game story of the derby I would type a page or so at a time and the typewriter meant it wasn’t too laborious – the laborious aspect was the in-depth research. 

The book was published in 1991 by which time I was already researching and writing my third book – Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. I soon realised that due to the volume of writing each chapter needed and the amount of times I’d changed the flow/tone of each chapter that using a typewriter was proving to be time consuming. I decided that I needed to buy something different. My Pride Of Manchester co-author Steve owned an Amstrad PCW and this seemed to offer more flexibility.

I then used the royalties from my second book to buy an Amstrad PCW like Steve’s. It cost me about the same amount my typewriter had cost and my royalties had once again been spent – I soon realised that it was nigh on impossible to make money from writing about football!

The Amstrad PCW did make my writing life easier (until of course I could afford a PC – from the combined royalties of my Joe Mercer book AND my fourth book, Manchester The Greatest City, published in 1997!) although I had a problem with a damaged Amstrad disk which meant I lost the entire first chapter of the Mercer book. I’d been crafting it for weeks trying to get it right and then my own stupidity meant the disk became damaged. I couldn’t bear to start again – and I hadn’t backed it up (first major lesson!) – and so I wrote the rest of the book before I came back to chapter one. When I did write the new chapter one I knew (and still know) that it is not as good as the one I lost.

When I moved out of my parents’ house I took my Amstrad PCW as I was still writing the Mercer book but I must have left behind the Brother typewriter. I don’t remember ever seeing it after that until I rediscovered it the other week, almost 30 years after I last used it.

When Covid allows I’ll take the Brother typewriter to a charity shop and, hopefully, it will find a new life for itself. It served its purpose back in 1989-91 but maybe there’s still a bit of life left in it.

Who knows how many Amstrads, PCs, Apple products and so on I’ve been through since I bought my brother. Most are long gone, but somehow the Brother survived.

City Voices Project

Following on from the 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 has now been launched to capture the stories of Manchester City’s fans.

I will be capturing the stories of the club’s fans over the next few months 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 over the coming months (sadly, this may have to be over a video service or telephone, although later in the year 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 weeks and 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.

Here’s the questionnaire:

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

Thanks,

Gary

The 200th Post – Joe Mercer

I’ve posted 199 separate articles to this website so far and so, for my 200th post, I felt it was about time I paid tribute to the former Manchester City and England manager Joe Mercer for his influence on my writing.

Joe, as most reading this will be aware, was the most successful City manager of all time prior to the recent successes of Pep Guardiola. He remains the only City manager to bring a major European trophy to the club (though hopefully that will change soon!).

When I began writing my first book in 1987 my co-author told me he had been helped during his research into Nottingham Forest by Joe (Joe’s father played for Forest) and he felt that, if the book progressed as planned, Joe would possibly agree to write the foreword to our book. Sadly my co-author Keith Mellor died during the research phase of the book and the entire project looked in jeopardy.

After a while, Keith’s wife contacted me to urge me to continue with the book and she also gave me Joe Mercer’s address, suggesting I should write to him about the book.

I wrote to Joe and told him about the book Keith and I had been compiling (it was a pictorial history of City) and asked if Joe would be interested. I received a phone call from Norah, Joe’s wife, and she invited me over to meet Joe.

At that time I was about 19 and did not have a car and so I asked Norah if I could bring my dad – a passionate City fan.  She of course said yes and we made arrangements.

Unfortunately, on the day of our visit, my dad’s car broke down and, knowing we could not let the Mercers down, we quickly arranged to borrow the only vehicle available to us – a white battered and bruised transit-style van.  We drove to the Wirral and arrived at the Mercers’ street about 45 minutes early, so we parked up around the corner about 100 yards from their home.  We had decided that we could not pull up outside a former England manager’s house in a white works van, and we believed we were hidden.

When we were due to arrive, we climbed out of the van, walked the 100 yards or so and knocked on the door.  Immediately Joe, with that huge great grin of his, was in front of us.  His Cheshire smile welcomed us in.  He did not ask our names, he just asked us in.  Within seconds Norah popped out of the kitchen and said:  ‘You’ve been very naughty, haven’t you?  You’ve been hiding in that van for the last 45 minutes!’  We all laughed and, as we were guided into their house, my dad and I explained about the breakdown and so on.  Joe, being Joe, asked if he could do anything.  Could he arrange a lift for us, or help get the car repaired.  It was immediately clear to me that Joe Mercer was a wonderful man and his wife Norah was a terrific woman.

Can you imagine if we’d have said yes to Joe helping us? What would our neighbours back in Manchester say if we’d have turned up with Joe Mercer in the hope the footballing legend could get dad’s car fixed?

We spent a good couple of hours with Joe and Norah that day and Joe even offered to let us stay to watch the football on television.  We had to return to Manchester, but it had been a wonderful afternoon.

The highlight in many ways was Joe taking us in to a room where he kept his scrapbooks and memorabilia. The ball from the 1950 FAC final was there and he brought it over to show us. It was an incredible experience and Joe was so interested in my book plans. He agreed to write the foreword – an incredible gesture – and his words in my first ever book remain by far the best part of that publication.

I saw Joe several times after that, with perhaps my fondest meeting coming the day after Arsenal had defeated Liverpool in 1989 to win the League title.  The former Arsenal man was particularly lively that day and spent some time talking about the Gunners, George Graham, and even his own time training at Anfield. It was superb and I remember Norah telling us: ‘George has been on the ‘phone.’ It felt like we were part of something special and when Norah talked of George she just assumed we’d know straight away it was the Arsenal manager and not another George from down the road.

It’s worth pointing out here that George Graham had been brought to England by Joe when he was the Aston Villa manager and so that 1989 Arsenal title success meant a great deal to Joe. A success for his former club and by a former pupil of his. Of course, the fact Joe was a proud Evertonian helped too! I was delighted for Joe and, while at this time in my football supporting life I would ordinarily have preferred Liverpool to have beaten Arsenal that all changed that weekend. The joy and excitement the Mercers demonstrated for Arsenal was clear and I realised just how much the Gunners meant to Joe.

After the delays and various other issues, my first book came out in April 1989 (why we didn’t wait until June I don’t know!) and the trip in May to the Mercers had been to give Joe a couple of copies. They offered to pay – I couldn’t believe it.

Foreword to From Maine Men To Banana Citizens (Published April 1989)

By that time I had already started work on my second book and I also knew that I wanted to write something specifically about Joe. I reasoned with myself that Joe’s book would wait until after my second book The Pride of Manchester was complete. The Pride of Manchester was a history of the Manchester derby co-written with Steve Cawley. Steve & I were quite fortunate in that, thanks to the connection with Joe, we also managed to ask Matt Busby to write a foreword too. To have the two men who were, by some way, at that time the two most successful managers of the Manchester clubs write our foreword and introduction was incredible. We were eternally grateful.

Foreword to The Pride Of Manchester (published September 1991)

The Pride of Manchester was due out in August 1990 and then I planned to get working on a book on Joe Mercer’s years at Manchester City. Unfortunately, technical issues meant that the Pride of Manchester was to be delayed by a few months and, as the new football season would mean at least one derby match would be played before the book came out, we decided to delay it a full year and include the 1990-91 season. That would also mean my Joe Mercer idea would have to wait.

Sadly, the last time I last saw Joe was on 31 May 1990 when I went through the wording of his contribution to The Pride Of Manchester.  Joe had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for sometime and by this stage it had clearly developed significantly. I realised that day that Norah must have been under tremendous pressure, yet somehow she got on with looking after Joe.  It must have been extremely difficult for her but, as she had proved throughout her life with Joe, Joe’s happiness was vitally important to her.

On Thursday 9 August 1990 the suffering ended.  Joe was celebrating his seventy-sixth birthday with his family.  He relaxed in his armchair after an enjoyable day and then passed away peacefully.

Over the months and years that followed I continued to visit Norah as often as I could. My idea of writing a book on his time at City still floated around in my head but I was disappointed that I hadn’t managed to publish it before his death. The delay to The Pride Of Manchester really upset me but I knew that it couldn’t have been helped.

When the time was right I visited Norah and mentioned the book idea. Norah, being as wonderful as ever, said: ‘Only do it if you want to. Don’t do it for me or for Joe. Don’t go to all that trouble unless you want to for you.’ She was pleased that I wanted to do it but genuinely did not want me to go to any trouble. I told her it would be a honour and she told me she would help however she could.

Over the next couple of years I spent a lot of time at Norah’s. Often Joe & Norah’s son David would arrive – another wonderful member of the family – and he used to laugh about ‘the old fella’ while Norah would tell me wonderful stories of how she met ‘Cheeky face Mercer!’

It was a wonderful period and Norah used to always bring out the sandwiches or a bowl of Scouse for me and my girlfriend. One day I arrived at her house and she insisted on pouring me a beer. As she brought it in she whispered to my girlfriend ‘watch his reaction’ and then she handed me a silver tankard. I looked at it and it was the 1961 League Cup Final tankard Joe had been given for guiding Villa to success. Inside was my beer! I tried to persuade her to put the beer into a regular glass but she insisted. It was the first (and so far only) time I have drunk from a major footballing award.

Early into my research for the book I realised that a book simply on Joe’s time at City wouldn’t do him justice. No matter how significant that period was for City or in my life as a fan, it was still only a small fraction of what he had achieved in his life. I soon decided that if I was to write a book on Joe it had to be his full biography. My publisher Julian Baskcomb – always keen on creating quality books – encouraged me to write the full story no matter how many words.

In the end the book was published in December 1993 and contained approximately 110,000 words (almost double the standard biography size at that time) and hundred of photographs from every stage of Joe’s life. A few weeks before it was published I gave David Mercer a full copy of the text to read. I’d agreed with him and Norah that they’d see the text shortly before it was published and, if there was anything significant, I’d change it.

David phoned me within 24 hours of receiving the text and had read every word. He phoned me and told me that I had captured his father perfectly. He became somewhat emotional when we discussed the book and, for the first time ever, I felt my writing mattered. I knew that I’d been fortunate in being able to write about a truly wonderful and marvellous man, and that the support of Norah & David had made this a great experience for me.

All these years on Joe Mercer, OBE: Football With A Smile remains the book I am most proud of; the book I enjoyed writing the most; and the book that I always want to aspire to with my new material. I remain ever grateful to Joe, Norah, David and the family for allowing me the opportunity to first meet Joe and then to write the book. I updated it in 2010, adding material from various parts of his life.

The updated book is still available – see:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/

I continued to meet Norah over the years. David would usually pop in while I was there and we’d chat about ordinary things. Occasionally, Norah would say things like: ‘I told Jimmy about the book last week’ and I’d be thinking ‘Jimmy?’ then she’d say something else and it’d be obvious it was Jimmy Hill. Once during my research I arrived at her house and she told me ‘I phoned George and told him he must talk to you about Joe. Here’s his number.’ I was handed a piece of paper with Norah’s writing on reading: ‘George Graham’ and then his direct office number at Highbury. I contacted George and he set up an interview for me in his office.

The week before we launched Joe’s biography I was sat at home one evening when my telephone rang. I answered it. The voice on the other end said: ‘Hello Gary? It’s Bobby Charlton here. I’m sorry I can’t come to the launch. I’ll be in Kuala Lumpur then. I called Norah to tell her but she told me I must call you to apologise, so I’m really sorry I can’t make it. Is that okay?’

Me: ‘Er, yes. Thanks for letting me know.’

I came off the ‘phone and couldn’t get it out of my head that Norah had ‘told’ Bobby Charlton to call me and apologise. Even more impressive is the fact that he did! Norah was brilliant but if she told you to do something you did it, no matter who you were!

Around the time of City’s move to their current stadium I became involved in a few projects at the club on a freelance basis. One was setting up the initial museum and another was the erection of the Mercer mosaics on Joe Mercer Way. I won’t go into all the discussions and stories connected with that here, but one of the areas that I contributed to was the selection of the images for mosaic artist Mark Kennedy to recreate as mosaics. I spoke with Norah about the options and showed her a few I’d shortlisted that I’d used in the book.

We agreed that one had to show Joe lifting a trophy at City – the League Championship was chosen – and the other ended up a view of Joe from the back looking out towards the Kippax from the Maine Road tunnel. Although I loved that photo (it came from Norah’s collection and became a major image in my book) I wasn’t certain Norah would like a back view of Joe. I was wrong. As soon as she saw it she said ‘That’s it! That’s Joe! Look at his bandy legs! There’s no mistaking those legs.’

When we did the reveal Norah and David came of course and Norah thanked Mark Kennedy for capturing Joe so superbly, although she did say to him ‘That one with the trophy is okay; but this one with his bandy legs… that’s Joe!’

Mark Kennedy, Norah & David Mercer with ‘bandy legs’ Mercer mosaic
When everybody else had gone, Norah asked me if she could see the mosaic from a distance, as the fans would on match day walking down Joe Mercer Way

Sadly, in the years that followed first David and then Norah have died. Both were wonderful people who supported my work and trusted me to tell Joe’s story. They demonstrated what a wonderful family they were and – to me this is extremely significant – their warmth matched Joe’s. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that throughout Joe’s time at City and for the following decades City were often described as ‘the friendliest club’. Joe set the tone and direction for the club. He was a great ambassador for Manchester City (and the other clubs he was involved with).

Joe helped establish the Manchester City that many City fans fell in love with.

Fancy Reading More Like This?

If you would like to read everything else on this site then please subscribe. I’m not employed by anyone and do not take advertising on this site, so every subscription directly helps my research and writing. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Why not sign up for a month, see what’s here and then cancel if you don’t think it’s appropriate for you? Each subscriber gets full access to the 200+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks. The entire Manchester A Football History is being posted by the end of February 2021, so subscribers will get all of that too!

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Glyn Pardoe

I’ve interviewed the former Manchester City star 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. 

Manchester City’s Women’s Team – The Relaunch

Seven years ago today (24 January 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/

Subscribe to get access

This was a sample of the content available on GJFootballArchive.com. If you would like to view everything on this site then please subscribe below. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 180+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Football Focus, Colin Bell and the 1904 FA Cup’s Significance

There was an absolutely brilliant, emotional tribute to Colin Bell on the BBC’s Football Focus yesterday by ‘James Bond’ actor and MCFC fan Timothy Dalton. Everyone should watch it. It really was a nice piece.

Plus I was surprised to see myself later in the programme talking about Manchester City and the recent purchase of the FA Cup they won in 1904. The reason I was surprised is that I filmed the piece for MCFC and didn’t think the BBC would bother showing me and would just focus on the trophy itself.

I was delighted it appeared because it was so important the story of the significance of that trophy to Manchester is fully known. It was the point when Manchester became a Footballing City.

The BBC Iplayer has the episode available for the next 6 days. Watch it while you can:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000r753/football-focus-09012021

Manchester’s First Major Trophy Success – The Video

Following the purchase of the oldest surviving FA Cup by Sheikh Mansour 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.

The ‘English Cup’ Has Been Saved

I’m delighted that today it can be revealed that Sheikh Mansour has bought the oldest surviving FA Cup, ensuring it will stay in England – and importantly Manchester. This is absolutely brilliant news as there had been fears the trophy would leave the city and the country when it was put up for auction by its previous owner.

This trophy is the first major trophy won by either of today’s Manchester giants. When Manchester City won this in 1904 it set the tone for everything that has followed and helped transform Manchester from a rugby playing city to a football one.

The homecoming was remarkable and meant that, for the first time ever, football mattered to the wider population of the city.

I could go on but Earlier I posted articles on the significance of this trophy and Manchester’s first success on this website for subscribers. Take a look at:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/08/manchesters-first-great-season/

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/07/fa-cup-success-football-infrastructure-and-the-establishment-of-manchesters-footballing-identity/

Manchester City have posted their story here:

https://www.mancity.com/news/mens/fa-cup-1904-his-highness-sheikh-mansour-bin-zayed-63745630