Guest Blog – James Ernest Mangnall, The Architect of Manchester Football by Iain McCartney

The links between the blue and the red half of Manchester are many, although there are some who will quickly deny the others mere existence. Fortunately, there are others who will embrace those historic, and often welcome links between the two bitter rivals, history being more important than the colour of a football shirt.

The links, as I said, are many, but if only three were to be listed, it is arguable that these would be, in no particular order, Sir Matt Busby, Billy Meredith and Denis Law for self-explanatory reasons. There is, however, one man who should nudge all three of those legendary figures out of the way, a man from the distant past, but one whose place in the history of both City and United is assured, but sadly, often forgotten. His name? John Ernest Mangnall.

Born in Bolton in January 1866, Mangnall also stakes a claim in the history of his local club, and that of near neighbours Burnley, a proud Lancastrian, but it is in Cottonopolis that he comes to the fore and more so during his time with Manchester United.

But for the meantime, let’s push Ernest Mangnall’s footballing credentials to the side [his given first name being lost in the mists of time] and look at the man from a much different sporting angle.

It might be said that football, a game that he played with the same enthusiasm that he carried forward into his managerial positions, was not even his first love, as he was more than a keen cyclist, being a member of various clubs, entering races and most notably cycling between John O’Groats and Lands End, at a time when bicycles were certainly not built for comfort.

Having cut his managerial teeth with Burnley, although he had helped steer Bolton along the way from the boardroom, as a director, he found is way to the dull, dreary surroundings of Clayton in 1903, with many possibly correct in thinking he was a glutton for punishment, as United were little more than a struggling side and had been rescued from what could easily have been oblivion by J.H. Davies. They had also recently changed their name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.

Appointed in place of James West, who had resigned as secretary, Mangnall embraced the role of the man not simply answered the mail and carried out other menial tasks, but took on the running of the club as a whole. Purchasing postage stamps of players made little difference.

Slowly Mangnall began to blend a team together and following a handful of near but not quite near enough finishes, he guided United out of the Second Division and into the top flight at the end of the 1905-06 season where, thanks to his now neighbours City finding themselves in a spot of bother, he ‘stole’ Burgess, Meredith, Bannister and Sandy Turnbull from his rivals and with the likes of Charlie Roberts and Dick Duckworth already at United, he had a more than capable team at his finger tips, creating a team that gave Manchester United their first domestic trophies with the League championship in 1908 and the FA Cup in 1909. The former was also won in 1911, plus success in the FA Charity Shield in 1908 and 1911.

Not only was he instrumental in building a strong United team on the field, he was more than involved in dragging the club away from its slum like home at Clayton and moving to pastures new at Old Trafford.

But all good things come to an end at some point or other and having perhaps achieved as much as he could at Old Trafford, Mangnall made the surprise move across town and joined neighbours City in August 1912. What the club and manager hoped to achieve failed to materialise, but as he had done with United, he played a major part in City’s move to Maine Road.

So, that is the career of Ernest Mangnall in a nutshell, but if you want to learn more about that man then his biography is available now from Empire Publications, 229 Ayres Road, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 0NL UK Tel: 0161 872 3319 or 1 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1HW – telephone 0161 872 3319.

As something of a postscript.

I created ‘The Manchester United Graves Society’ a couple of years or so back, whereby I am trying to locate the burial places [or cremation details] of as many former players and officials as possible and to date have found over 500. One of the early finds was John Ernest Mangnall, who died at Lytham St Annes in January 1932, and is buried in the Lytham Park Cemetery.

Upon obtaining a photograph of his grave, I was saddened to find that the headstone was broken and the grave in general was in need of some TLC. So, enquiries were made with the cemetery as regards to any red tape that would cause problems in restoring the grave to its former glory and thankfully there were none. To be honest, they were more than delighted that someone wanted to carry out restoration work on the grave.

Funds were raised, a stone mason contacted and the work was carried out. Photos of before and after are shown here.

Should anyone want to visit the grave, it can be found at – A – 512 C/E. Go in the main gate and head up to your right.

Charlie Williams – Morten Olesen Guest Blog

Here’s a guest blog written by Morten Olesen , who is a Danish Manchester City supporter. Morten has written about a famous Manchester City goalkeeper who went on to become a major coach. This piece is of interest to City fans; those interested in Danish sport and anyone who wants to learn more about early footballing coaches. Morten has written this blog to add context and detail to goalkeeper Charlie Williams’ life.


Manchester City has always had a tradition of having talented goalkeepers. The club’s first ever goalkeeper, Charles Albert Williams, set a high standard from the beginning – and to that extent became a pioneer in both Manchester, Denmark and Brazil, at a time when the game of football was still in its childhood

Charles Albert Williams was born in Welling, Kent just outside London, on 19 November 1873. Incidentally, only a few miles from where Arsenal struck their first fold. Back then a small football club struggling to find a foothold in a growing football sport. It would later become crucial to Williams’ career. We will return to that. Hang on. This is going to be a long story.

The early years

From the time Charlie Williams was a kid, he knew he wanted to be a goalkeeper. So already at the age of 16 he left Welling to try his hand at the game. It took over two years for goalkeeper positions at small clubs such as Phoenix in Yorkshire, Clarence in Belfast before returning to Welling, where the small club Erith welcomed the returning son. Returning home turned out to be the best career choice that the then still just 18-year-old Williams could make. For he was quickly noticed by Erith’s neighbouring club, which was very ambitious, and which today goes by the name “Arsenal”.

However, the club was then called Royal Arsenal and was based in south London. Arsenal players came mainly from the nearby arms factory, Woolwich. Despite the fact that the club at the time was still of amateur status, they were London’s leading football team. It should be noted here that the football game in London in the early 1890s was virtually unknown. This is strongly illustrated by the fact that the big city did not have a single team represented in the nationwide 1st division. The epicentre of the football game was at that time north of England’s capital.

But as I said, Royal Arsenal were ambitious. As early as 1891, the club became professional, although they did not play in any division. The London Football Association took that choice badly and froze Royal Arsenal out. Arsenal were thus excluded from participating in the regional London amateur league, and they therefore had to settle for friendly matches and qualification for the F.A Cup.

The 18-year-old Charlie Williams was one of the first to get a contract with Royal Arsenal. From 1891-1893 he took part in their struggle to establish themselves as a professional football club.

In 1893 the club’s name was changed to Woolwich Arsenal. The name change came in connection with the formation of a limited company to be able to buy the home ground, the then Manor Ground in Plumstead. This move paid off, because in the same year Woolwich Arsenal were included in the newly created and nationwide 2nd division. A huge achievement for the club, which could now see a future. However, the relegation to the 2nd division was the beginning of the end for Charlie Williams’ time at Arsenal.

Arrival at the “new” Manchester City

However, Charlie Williams started out as Woolwich’s first goalkeeper in the club’s debut season as a league club. On September 2, 1893, Williams played in Arsenal’s historic first league game. Unfortunately, it turned into a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle. It heralded difficult times for the young professional club – and not least Williams. The season ended with an honourable 9th place out of 15 teams, but Arsenal’s management saw Williams as one of the team’s weak links. It is described that the goalkeeper’s often “unorthodox style” brought him in troubles and it cost Arsenal a couple of big defeats along the way. Williams was put up for sale in the spring of 1894.

The buyer was Manchester City, who had just been founded by the bankrupt Ardwick F.C, who had finished third in the very 2nd division in which Arsenal had become 9th.

Ardwick had had major financial problems throughout the season and had reportedly played several matches with just 10 men! In the final season, Ardwick was declared bankrupt, and out of the ashes of Ardwick, the idea of ​​a Manchester City was conceived.

One man who became crucial to Manchester City’s creation that year was Joshua Parlby (b. 1855). He worked hard to make Manchester City a reality. Parlby could see that football was becoming more and more popular. He therefore believed that a club that called itself “Manchester City” would reach far wider in the region than simply naming itself after the “suburb” in which one has an address.

Hyde Road Hotel (notice the Oldham v City advert and the turnstiles down the entry).

Parlby succeeded in having Manchester City founded on 16 April 1894 through an assembly at the Hyde Road Hotel (pictured above). More importantly, Parlby was successful in getting Manchester City re-elected to the 2nd division via Ardwick’s license, so Manchester City could line up in the league in 1894/95, and not just be relegated to an uninteresting regional league.

Parlby was busy. He should manage to gather a team up for the start of the season on 1 September. This is where our main character, Charlie Williams, comes into the picture again. Along with almost 10 other debutants, 20-year-old Williams lined up for Manchester City’s very first league game, which was unfortunately lost 2-4 in Bury. Manager Parlby, however, could quickly breathe a sigh of relief as City subsequently picked up 5 points in the next three games (2 points for victory at the time). The new City was competitive.

But that it was a new team with large fluctuations can be clearly read in the results from the season. They show a great instability: For example, City won 11-3 over Lincoln (Still club record for most goals in the same match) but there was also a 0-8 defeat to Burton Wanderers. Williams appeared in 23 of the season’s 30 games. Despite City conceding a large number of goals (72), the management of Manchester City must have been happy with their goalkeeper – allegedly because City scored many goals at the other end (82). The mantra has clearly been that as long as more goals are scored than the opponents – then it will work!

Charlie Williams was to guard the goal for the light blues for 8 seasons. He was listed for 232 games, keeping him solid in the top 100 of players with the most games for Manchester City. Williams’ greatest achievement with City is undoubtedly that he was part of the team that won the 2nd division in 1899, thereby securing Manchester City a place in England’s top division – incidentally as the first Manchester based team eve

First goalkeeper to score in open play

On a personal level, Williams City’s career is best remembered for becoming the first goalkeeper in history to score in open play. This occurred on 14 April 1900 in a 1st division match at Roker Park against Sunderland. The event is described in Gary James’ book Manchester: The City Years:

The match was played at Roker Park in a strong windy weather. City defender Bert Read, who always kept an extra eye on Williams because it was often difficult to predict what the unorthodox goalkeeper could come up with, had a perfect view of how the goal was scored. He often told this version of Williams ‘goal: “I put the ball back in Williams’ hands and he kicked it far – to the middle of the pitch. The ball hit the ground and bounced – and bounced – and for each bounce it seemed to gain more and more speed. The two Sunderland defenders, Porteous and Gow, were totally surprised, got in each other’s way, and the ball now sailed against Doig, Sunderland’s famous Scottish national team goalkeeper, Ned Doig, who seemed to be in control. “But: a sudden gust of wind did that Doig only got his fingertips on it – and the ball went into the net”.

There must have been a strong wind that day. The balls back then were really heavy. Despite Williams’ sensational goal City lost 3-1, which was not surprising. Sunderland was one of the great teams of that time (4 championships between 1892 and 1902)

Williams was at the peak of his career in those years, and he was an important part of City’s team. It was only because of his unorthodox style that he never got elected to the national team.

In 1902 Charlie Williams’ career at City ended, when the blues somewhat surprisingly moved out of the 1st division in a last place. City got off to a bad start in the 1901/02 season, with just 3 wins and 1 draw in the first 15 games of the season. Manager Sam Ormerod therefore decided to bring in a new goalkeeper, Jack Hillman from Burnley. Williams’ last match for City was a 0-3 defeat on 4 January 1902 – to the club he had celebrated his personal triumph of scoring against – Sunderland.

Ned Doig, Sunderland’s goalkeeper

He went back to London, where the now almost 30-year-old Williams had short careers at Tottenham, Norwich and Brentford respectively. However, his career had undoubtedly culminated. The three mentioned clubs all played in the regional “Southern League First Division” which can best be described as the level just below the 2nd Division. In 1907, Williams stopped his career – but he was not yet finished with football. Far from it!

Denmark’s first national coach

In Denmark, as in England, the football game was on the rise. The game became more and more popular. In the early 1900s, no country in the world took the game of football more seriously than Denmark. Dansk Boldspil Union – DBU – (The Danish F.A ) was inspired by British football, which they wanted to emulate in both style and expression. Therefore, English teams often visited Copenhagen to play exhibition matches against selected Danish (read Copenhagen) teams. At that time, football in Denmark was centred on Copenhagen. The big clubs were K.B, Frem, B. 93 and AB.

International matches did not yet exist. But in 1903, something happened on that front. Again, with eyes on the British Isles. DBU hired the Scottish David Mitchell to coach a selected Danish team in the weeks leading up to a couple of exhibition matches (so-called “Staevnekampe”) against the then big football team, Scottish Queens Park – and Southampton. However, it was still a committee in the DBU that selected the players for the matches. Not a definite coach.

Three years later, in 1906, Denmark was invited to the unofficial anniversary Olympics in Athens. the so-called “intermediate games” specially arranged to save the Olympics, after two scandalously games in 1900 and 1904. The DBU reluctantly sent a team assembled by the players themselves. They all came from B. 93, K.B, Frem and A.B.

Denmark won a parody of an Olympic tournament, which mostly consisted of small Greek club teams, in the otherwise registered national team from France, England, Germany, Holland and Austria, among others, never showed up! In the final against Athens, it was 9-0 to the Danes at the break. The Greeks never came out to the 2nd half … A farce

Despite the DBU’s reluctance to take part in the 1906 Games, the victory must still have given some blood on its teeth to play national matches. For now, the DBU was betting on having to take part in the official London Olympics in 1908. And this is where our main character, Charlie Williams, comes into the picture again. For DBU was in close dialogue with the English Football Association for help in hiring a decided coach who was to prepare Denmark for the Olympics. and the team’s first official internationals. And of course, it should still be with British inspiration. DBU got recommended Charlie Williams.

Denmark’s Olympic team in 1906

Denmark’s national team thus became the mere 35 – year – old Williams’ first coaching job – and even though it sounds like a bad decision these days, it turned out to be ingenious.

The then magazine “Sportsbladet” wrote about the employment:

“The union has probably been lucky in the election of Mr. Williams, he takes care of the players with great interest and with much care, and has an excellent understanding of what football is about. Mr. Williams undoubtedly has a lot of experience and accurate knowledge of the game of football both in theory and practice. There is a lot to learn for our players if they follow his advice and instructions”.

the writer above is John Gandil, one of the Danish football stars of the time (from B. 93) so he must have known what he was talking about.

Williams joined Denmark in August 1908, where he trained a squad of 26 Danish players four times a week at B. 93’s training ground, located where the danish national stadium, “Parken” is today. Twice a week it was match training – and the remaining two training sessions were exclusively running training – something that at that time was completely unheard of in Danish football circles. To that Williams himself said – again to “Sportsbladet”:

“Here is excellent material for a good team, but the players greatly miss training and do not really seem to understand the significance of this; they would rather just practice kicking towards the goal and neglecting the training in sprints. This view is extremely unfortunate, because when you have the skill in ball handling that is the case with the Danish players, they must first and foremost place emphasis on getting the body in shape and achieving the necessary speed”

The 35-year-old Englishman clearly enjoyed his life in Denmark. The training conditions were good, and the player material as promised. However, it turned into a bit of linguistic confusion. A story reads:

“When I first came here and asked for lunch, the lady did not understand at all why I was trying to make a pantomime with an imaginary knife and fork. The lady now seemed to be aware of what I meant, she disappeared, but came back a little later, not with lunch, but with a box of cigarettes “

A touched Williams

The Danish national football team’s participation in the Olympics in Williams’ hometown, London, was a resounding success, and has gone down in Danish football history. Williams became the man who led Denmark when they played their very first official football international match on October 19, 1908 at White City Stadium – (built in 1907 for the Olympics – demolished in 1985)

Denmark’s Olympic national team in 1908 probably photographed v. B. 93 ‘facility. Charlie Williams is in the middle row as number 3 from the left

Denmark played a French B national team and won 9-0 (nine) In the next match, which was actually a semi-final, France “A” waited – which on paper should be better than France B. But they obviously were not. The Danes won by historic 17-1 (seventeen-one). Sophus “Krølben” Nielsen (Frem) in particular immortalized himself in that match – He scored 10 goals.

It was a result that for 83 years was the world record for a victory in an official international match. In 2001, American Samoa lost 31-0 to Australia.

Despite the impressive results, it was still the final that made Charlie Williams most proud – even though Denmark went on to lose 2-0 to the home team from England. The Danes fought heroically throughout the match and the red / whites were the best team throughout the second half. When Williams’ 8,000 compatriots in attendance clapped Denmark off the field after the final, our first national coach was very moved.

Stayed in Denmark, apparently

After the successful Olympics, Charlie Williams reportedly stayed in Denmark for 2-3 years. He still took on some tasks for the national team, and then he was regularly responsible for the training of B. 93, where the club won the then KBU tournament in 1908 and 1909. (Championship of Copenhagen)

Most importantly, he still built a bridge between Danish and English football. He definitely used his network to get English clubs to Copenhagen. He often refereed when the English teams played in Copenhagen, which they often did. Thus, also when Manchester City was on a summer trip in the city in 1910. Here the blues played two matches on “Granen” at Frederiksberg, Copenhagen (Granen was the forerunner of the danish national stadium. FC Copenhagen distributes today an annual memorial trophy named “Granen”)

Farewell to Denmark – and Europe

In 1911, Williams went to France to coach Olympique Lillois, a predecessor of Lille OSC. However, the coaching job in France was extremely short-lived, as he was soon to meet Oscar Cox on a visit to London.

Oscar Cox (born 1880) was of an affluent immigrant English / Brazilian family, interested in sports – and very enterprising. He had become acquainted with the game of football while studying in Lausanne, Switzerland. He had become so fascinated by the game that when he returned to Brazil, he became a pioneer in spreading it. Football at the time was NOTHING in Brazil. Hard to imagine today where football in Brazil is cultivated as a religion.

Cox took strategic action. He organized the first football match ever in Brazil – in Rio De Janeiro. He then moved on to Sao Paolo, where he, along with another great pioneer of Brazilian football, Charles Miller, planned football matches

Most of all, however, Cox is probably today most connected to the fact that he was a co-founder of the football club still known today. Fluminense.

In 1911, almost 10 years after its founding, Fluminense was looking for their first coach. The choice had fallen on the now almost 40-year-old Charlie Williams, who was persuaded to take the job for a salary of £ 18 a month (well over £ 2000 in 2021 money) two return trips to England, as well as free board and lodging. An excessively high salary compared to the salary limits that were legal at the time. But Cox did not care. He wanted Williams to take Fluminense forward at any cost.

Williams arrived with the ship Oropesa in Rio on March 16, 1911 and was presented as Fluminense’s first manager. He had to both coach and take out teams. Until now, it had been a board that had been responsible for team selection – but now all responsibility rested with the former Manchester City goalkeeper /Danish national coach. Williams was described at the presentation as “The man who knows all the secrets and means of the violent sport”. In its own way, it tells a lot about the game of football in the early 1900s – as well as Williams’ methods as a coach.

But the methods worked. Williams led Fluminense to the Rio Championship (Campeonato Carioca) in his first season with 6 wins out of 6 possible – and a score of 21-1!

In the following season, things went less well. Fluminense had to settle for a 5th place – but of course the pioneer Williams still had to write history: He became the first victorious manager in the first Rio derby, Fluminense v Flamengo in everyday speech called the Fla-Flu derby. A local showdown that would eventually become huge.

Flamengo was founded in 1911 by breakaways from Fluminense. The breakaways were dissatisfied with the state of affairs in “Flu”, and went to Flamengo, where they set up a football department. The basis for a rivalry was created. Today, Fla-Flu is one of the world’s most visited football matches, which has had spectators up to almost 200,000!

For the first one, which Williams was in charge of, however, there were only 800. It was not, as today, held at the famous stadium Maracana, but at the much smaller Estádio das Laranjeiras. Incidentally, Brazil also played their first “international match” here. That was in 1914 – against something as exotic as Exeter City. Brazil won 2-0.

Brazil v Exeter, 1914

Estádio das Laranjeiras still exists today – and is owned by Fluminense.

From “Midas Touch” to obsolete

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Charlie Williams was called up for military service, and thus had to return to Europe. I have unfortunately not been able to figure out what Williams was doing for the next 10 years.

However, it is certain that in 1924 he was back in Brazil, now just over 50 years old. Here he again took over the manager role at Fluminense. Once again, he led “Flu” to a Rio championship – right at the snout of rivals from Flamengo. Williams stayed at Fluminense until 1926, when he switched to another Rio club, America FC. And of course, he won them the Rio Championship! 

There has been a kind of “Midas Touch” over Williams. He was therefore a coveted gentleman in Rio’s football circles. In 1929, he was hired as a coach at Botafogo, and this was perhaps where the beginning to the end of Williams’ career was set in motion. Williams coached the team according to his methods that had brought so much success.

But when Botafogo hired Hungarian Nicola Ladany (b. 1889) as a kind of sports director, things began to turn sour. Ladany insisted that Botafogo should experiment with mental training, something Williams refused. That was probably why Williams was demoted to assistant coach, while Botafogo’s star player, Nilo Braga (b. 1903) took over as head coach. Botafogo won the championship and Williams had to watch from his assistant role.

Williams left Botafogo in 1930 for what was to be his last job in football: The old rivals from Flamengo wanted Williams to take over. Surely in the hope that the Englishman could get the club back at the top of the league.

Flamengo had had some lean years.. Ok they had won the Rio championship in 1927, but subsequently it had gone sluggishly with several mid tables finishes. Williams, however, could not correct the mediocrity. The following year – in 1931 – Williams led Flamengo to just a 6th place. It was reportedly here that he must have decided that his time as a coach was over.

Maybe time was running out from him? Williams could only see to it that the club that had demoted him, Botafogo, dominated the Rio football scene with their new and modern training methods, which he had rejected to implement. At the same time, the plans for a professional Brazilian league were also so advanced that Williams might have had a hard time to see himself, as part of it? We do not know. In 1931 Charlie Williams stopped a more than 40-year career in the service of the football game.

He shaped the football game and stimulated it to progress and success – in London, Manchester, Denmark and Rio. In addition to being an excellent goalkeeper, coach and innovator, he was a great pioneer of the game of football, which all of us who love football today should be remembered with great respect. 

Despite the adversity he experienced at the end of his career, he must have enjoyed life far away from his hometown, Welling. For he remained in Rio De Janeiro for the rest of his life. Charlie Williams died in the Brazilian capital on July 29, 1952, aged 78. He is buried in the city on Cemiterio dos Ingleses Gamboa (English Cemetery).

Unfortunately, no descendants have been found who can shed more light on an absolutely fantastic life. Some believe to know that he had a son who was a football referee in Brazil, but it has turned into nothing but speculation and guesses. But now I have tried, perhaps as the only one ever, to shed light on Charlie Williams’ life. It was a pleasure to discover this fantastic life of. Mr. Williams 

Collecting Shirts – Mark McCarthy Guest Blog

Here’s a guest blog written by Mark McCarthy, who collects match worn Manchester City shirts. Mark has recently brought out a book on his collection (see below) and has written this blog to explain how his collection and interest started.

A visit to my Grandfather’s house on a Sunday evening was something I always looked forward to as a child, but on this particular afternoon in December 1983 it was to change the course of my then 9 year old life forever. He would always have a story to tell but that afternoon’s tale was by far the best yet as he informed me that my cousin (Mick McCarthy) would be joining Manchester City.

I knew nothing about football at this stage  nor did I follow a team or OWN A FOOTBALL SHIRT but I was simply hooked. As the years ticked by it was always my goal or dream really to own a shirt from Mick’s time at City. That dream became a reality when I finally sourced a shirt of his from a dealer who was selling up his City collection.

It was only ever my intention to own just the one shirt, at the time of writing this my City match worn shirt collection now stands at 410 original match worn or issued shirts dating back to the 1926 FA Cup Final, where I have George Hicks’ shirt from the final v Bolton, by far the oldest in the collection.

There was simply something about receiving Mick’s shirt that day which kicked off my passion for collecting City match shirts. The smell and feel of the shirt, coupled with me simply being lost in time reminiscing about the dressing rooms that shirt had been in or battles that took place while being worn during the two seasons it was used by City from 1985 to 1987. It is of course very different these days with the players having so many shirts a season. I recall Mick telling me once that the shirts were virtually counted on and off the players’ backs. A similar story to the one the great Mike Summerbee told me that if shirts were torn back in the day the players would have to get them repaired themselves before the next game. This was still the case in 1996 when Georgi Kinkladze’s shirt was torn and simply sewn up for the next fixture

When you eventually find or trace a shirt from of a player whose poster would don your bedroom wall as a kid kind of keeps the kindred child spirit alive  in the collector. Players from days gone by are far more approachable and will always have time for the fans of the clubs they played for.  

Now City weren’t exactly setting the world alight in 1983 and after declaring myself a blue I immediately received some serious abuse from school mates who just couldn’t get the heads round why I’d chosen Manchester City, and equally wouldn’t believe I had a relative that had played for the club. 

I was totally obsessed with City which virtually took over my life. Unfortunately there was hardly any, in fact NO media coverage of City at this time, and even more so as we were in the old Second Division so I’d often have to get the latest news by scrolling through teletext or by ringing the City ClubCall line.

One day I returned home from school to find that the TV and video were missing from my bedroom as my Mum had sold them off to pay for the massive phone bill that I’d run up! 

I first got my chance to see City play live in November 1985 as were due at Luton Town, which is only half hour from our home in Milton Keynes. Manchester to me in those days was just a place I dreamt of going and Maine Road seemed a world away. After many months of badgering my parents to take me and with no chance of a fixture change in those days they finally gave in. My Mum kitted me out from head to toe in blue and white City colours and I couldn’t have been prouder on my way to watch the Blues. 

The walk to the ground felt amazing and we entered the first turnstile we saw. Off came the coat to reveal my pride but after a few minutes and constant dirty looks, we realised something wasn’t right and we appeared to be on show. As the chants of ‘City….City’ went up from the opposite end of the ground it dawned on us that we were in the wrong end of the ground and needed to moved quickly. 

This was 1985 and was certainly an experience for a then ten year old. The stewards promptly threw us out and my dad was seething as we headed back to the van to go home, I was distraught but he finally saw sense and we headed back to the ground where he had to pay again at the right turnstile and again I was hooked. The atmosphere in that tiny away end was electric and I couldn’t help but watch the many characters I was surrounded by. Everyone seemed to know each other and I wanted a part of it. 

For the record we lost 2-1 – Typical City !! 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of collecting for me is the groundwork that goes into finding a shirt or the buzz of the unearthing a shirt. Always look for a shirt in the least expected places you’d think of finding one as you just never know who may have collected a shirt along the way or how. If you don’t ask then you don’t get is the number one rule.   

I’m sure I speak for all collectors when I say that opening a random online message that start’s with the words “I have this shirt if you are interested in it.” Then the shirt turning out to be one of the most difficult shirts to find is a buzz only a collector will understand. I was contacted recently with that exact message asking did I think the shirt was genuine. It turned out to be Mick McCarthy’s issued long sleeve chequered style away shirt from the 1986-87 season which was used just seven times in that campaign, not by Mick though as he refused to wear long sleeved shirts.

The shirt had been given to a young City fan by his next door neighbour who used to work in the Maine Road laundry  room!  Always believe the shirts are out there as 9 out of 10 times they are.   

A question I’m often asked, as I’m sure all collectors are, is what’s the favourite shirt in my collection. This is a difficult question considering the numbers to choose from but at the moment it would be a 1967/68 Colin Bell Umbro home shirt worn by arguably City’s greatest ever player, during a title winning season. One that runs it close is a more modern day shirt but equally as great a player in David Silva,  from City’s fixture v Watford on 21st September 2019, during City’s 125 anniversary celebration. 

The shirt was a gift from City as a thank you for displaying 11 shirts from the collection in a mock up dressing room at City Square before the match as part of the 125  anniversary celebrations. I was asked to drop off the shirts at reception for the City Square team to display but duly explained that although I was more than happy to bring the shirts…. I  wouldn’t be leaving their side.  

My lad and I spent a fantastic couple of hours meeting & chatting to fellow Blues while giving them a bit a history behind each of the 11 shirts I’d brought to display (at the same time also keeping a very close eye on the kids with burgers and drinks in hand approaching  them!). 

I was asked if we’d like our seats upgraded to the legends lounge as a thank you but of course declined as I had a much better idea in mind, cheekily asking for a shirt of the greatest City player I’ve seen play live in my time watching the Blues. Although the City Square match day manager, a lovely lady, said she’d ask but said it would be very unlikely…. but if you don’t ask then you don’t get as they say. 

Once the display was finished and the shirts were safely packed we sat back and enjoyed a stunning 8-0 City win, captained by Silva who would just happen to open the scoring in under the first minute of the match. I’d completely forgotten I’d even asked ‘that’ shirt question as we made our way back to Piccadilly for the train journey home after the game. I was interrupted by a phone call half way there from the lady at City Square to inform me my request had been granted and could I make my way back to collect the shirt which was waiting at the City@Home office for me……….. I’m pretty sure it was the quickest walk I’d ever made to collect said shirt, fresh from Merlin’s back and still completely wet through…. First thing I did was…….Yes you’ve guessed it…….Sniff the shirt!   

As far as the future is concerned for my collection I certainly don’t see any signs of it slowing down as yet. I have a target in mind for a number of shirts to reach……….. Well a man does need a hobby!

You can buy Mark’s book direct from the publisher here:

Guest Blog – Steve Bolton: The Pioneering Manchester Ladies Part Two

Today’s guest blog follows on from last week’s guest blog in which Steve Bolton talked of the Manchester Ladies (who also went under the name Wythenshawe Ladies, City of Manchester Ladies, Manchester City Ladies the 1940s & 1950s) and their early years. Today is part two of Steve’s research into this pioneering women’s club (part one can be viewed here: ).

Over the last few years much has been written about pioneering women’s football teams and Steve’s research is certainly adding to that. I’m sure anyone reading this already knows about my book on Manchester City Women (available here: ) and about the other articles on this blog discussing other leading women’s clubs, including the Manchester Corinthians (see: ). 

If you played for a women’s team in the Manchester region during the 1940s to 1960s then please get in touch. I’m writing a detailed history of women and football in Manchester and your information may help both mine and Steve Bolton’s research. 

If you played an active part in developing women’s football prior to the FA ban then please get in touch by emailing or follow me on twitter: @garyjameswriter or 

Guest Blog – Steve Bolton: The Pioneering Manchester Ladies Part One

Over the last few years much has been written about pioneering women’s football teams and I’m delighted to say that Manchester has had several of these over the years. I’m sure anyone reading this knows about my book on Manchester City Women (available here: ) and about the other articles on this blog discussing other clubs, including the Manchester Corinthians (see: ).

Thanks to the Manchester Corinthians the story of pioneering Mancunian female footballers has received some decent coverage in recent years but it would be wrong to think that the women who played for Corinthians were the first women who played football in our region. There are games staged in Manchester going back to the 1880s of course. However, following the 1921 ban (which saw the FA ban women’s football games from FA affiliated pitches) opportunities were restricted significantly.

In Preston the famous Dick Kerr Ladies have been heralded for their efforts and in the 1950s & 1960s Manchester Corinthians found global fame for their exploits, but football tends to overlook many other clubs and in 1940s Manchester, before the Corinthians became established there was another female football club that promoted the sport, charity work and female prowess.

For today’s guest blog researcher Steve Bolton provides the first part of his research into the stories, facts and evidence of this Manchester team:

Part two will be published soon.

If you played for a women’s team in the Manchester region during the 1940s to 1960s then please get in touch. I’m writing a detailed history of women and football in Manchester and your information may help both mine and Steve Bolton’s research.

If you played an active part in developing women’s football prior to the FA ban then please get in touch by emailing or follow me on twitter: @garyjameswriter or 

Guest Blog – Mark Metcalf Writing About Bert Whalley

Mark Metcalf has been working with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on a number of ‘blue plaque’ initiatives in recent years. One, which should be unveiled in August this year, is for a major figure in both Stalybridge Celtic’s and Manchester United’s history. That man, Bert Whalley, is perhaps not too well known amongst football fans today but his influence on the Manchester United of the 1950s was immense. 

I’ve asked Mark if he would write this guest blog in the hope that it helps United fans, and football in general, to remember Bert and his contribution. On a personal level, I have to declare an interest. Bert Whalley was a friend of my grandfather, Fred. Fred was a United fan who travelled to most of United’s cup finals up to the 1980s and he’d known Bert through footballing connections when he was a young man. Bert’s death as a result of the Munich Air Crash inevitably affected Fred, as it did many people in 1958 (if you would like to learn more about the air crash and how it affected Manchester at the time please read the in-depth piece I posted here: ).

Here’s Mark Metcalf’s piece on Bert Whalley…

Bert Whalley information for PFA plaque unveiling at Stalybridge Celtic in the summer of 2021, provisional date is Saturday 7 August 2021 and followed by a special tribute match 

Bert Whalley: 1912- 1958

Born in Ashton-Under-Lyne on 6 August 1912, Herbert (Bert) Whalley played as a central defender for Stalybridge Celtic in the Cheshire League during the second half of the 1933/34 season. Following which he moved in May 1934 to Second Division Manchester United where he remained as a player and coach until his tragic death at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Stalybridge Celtic (SC)

After three SC reserve games, Whalley made his first team debut for the club on Saturday 16 December 1933 in the Cheshire County League home fixture at Bower Fold against strugglers Sandwich Ramblers. He replaced at centre half Bliss, who had injured his ankle, in 3-0 victory. ‘Looker-On’ in the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter (ALR) felt that despite ‘the conditions not being the best on which to judge his true merits, he gave a really polished display, exhibiting some delightfully tricky footwork.’ 

The new man had originally played for Ferguson-Pailin, where he worked, in the Manchester Amateur Alliance League. He had also recently signed for Third Division North side Stockport County, whose reserves also played in the Cheshire League. This move had been blocked by new rules that an amateur, as Whalley was, signed to one club in the CL could not be signed by another club in the same league. County were forced to withdraw Whalley’s signing on forms. 

Whalley remained in the SC first team for the match at Bower Fold  on 23 December 1933 and Prescot Cables were beaten 3-1. According to the ALR he played ‘impressively’ in a deserved victory. 

Playing away to Mossley, SC grabbed a point with a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw. There was praise for Whalley in the ALR. “He is not as skilful with his head as his feet, but he tackles well and never gets flurried.”

League champions Macclesfield were heavily beaten 6-3 when Stalybridge Celtic visited them on New Year’s Day 1934. The ALR commented: ‘to a man, the team.. was excellent ..each played his part splendidly… Whalley again deputised for Bliss at centre-half with credit.’ (Monday 1st January)

The victorious team had though been beaten two days earlier, 2-1 at Northwich Victoria. Whalley was expected to drop out of the side as Bliss’s ankle injury was now sufficiently recovered but late in the week he contracted tonsilitis and was confined to bed. As such ‘Whalley appeared for the fourth successive game at centre-half, and again gave a promising display, supplying his forwards with clever passes.’   Prince in the home goal produced a series of great saves that included a penalty stop from Prior. 

On Saturday 6 January, Whalley’s side beat Congleton Town 3-1 at home and he had a fine game, especially in the first half, being ‘conspicuous with pretty and effective work which was much appreciated by the spectators.’ (ALR) Prior scored twice from the penalty spot.

The following Saturday, Whalley, although reported as not well, was at Bower Fold to play in a 3-2 victory against Witton Albion. In a lengthy match report his name did not appear once.

However, Stalybridge Celtic then suffered a shock defeat 4-3 at home to amateur side ICI (Alkali) in the first round of the Cheshire Senior Cup. Whalley’s place at centre-half was taken by Bliss. ICI of the Manchester League were more used to playing the Celtic reserves.

When SC beat Winsford 5-2 away on 10 February 1934, Whalley was back at centre half and came in for praise as, ‘resourceful.. tackling determinedly when he and he and his partners, Suttie and Kellard, spent much time helping Mountney and Thornley.’(ALR)  (the full-backs) Staffs Sentinel reporter noted ‘Parkin and Whalley were dangerous on the rare occasions when Celtic attacked, but Robinson made two wonderful saves.’

A month later on 10 March 1934,  Celtic were beaten 3-0 at Runcorn but Whalley was noted by the paper in a brief report as ‘relieving the pressure’ in the first period. The following weekend Whalley was part of the Celtic XI that fell behind at home to Nantwich only to later dominate their opponents to win 10-3. 

In mid-April, Chester Reserves beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 and according to the Liverpool Echo reporter ‘Whalley’s generalship was the feature of the Celtic’s team work.’ His side of Travis, Thornley, Mountney, Suttie, Whalley, Kellard, Prior, Scullion, Parkin, Hornby, Murphy was beaten 4-2 in the penultimate game of the season away to Crewe Alexandra reserves. 

The following weekend saw a heavy 6-3 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers with Mayers at centre-half struggling to contain the Rovers centre-forward Spencer who notched three. Midway through the second period, Suttie took over at centre-half.

Against Chester at home, the half-backs were reported as ‘delightfully skilful, both in attack and defence’ and the visitors left beaten 2-0.

There was a crowd of over 3,000 to witness a 3-3 draw at Hyde United, who recovered to grab a point after falling two goals behind. Whalley was praised for his efforts. 

At home to Nantwich, SC fell behind to a side they had beaten 16-2 the previous season at Bower Field. A shock though was not on the cards as Whalley’s side soon equalised and went on to win 10-3 with Hornby grabbing three and Allen, leading the attack for the first time, scoring four.

It was reported that ‘Whalley gave a magnificent display. Celtic’s centre-half plays the third back game to perfection, while in attack he exerts a commanding and forceful influence.’ 

Away to Prescot Cables, Whalley’s team drew 2-2 and he ‘never allowed Harris, Prescot’s centre-forward any scope, while his passes were so perfect that Prescot were continually chasing the shadow.’ Playing before a crowd close to 2,000, Prescot grabbed a point with two late efforts.

Hyde deservedly beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 on the last day of March 1934. On a hard ground at Bower Fold they dealt more easily with a bouncing ball than their opponents. A late Whalley header might have reduced the arrears but it was a day to forget for the home side who ended the day in seventh place in the Cheshire County League.

Stalybridge drew 1-1 at home to Mossley on Good Friday with the home goal coming after a good run by Whalley saw the centre half then find Prior who crossed for Murphy to turn the ball into the net from close range. 

On Tuesday 16 April 1934, Stalybridge Celtic played their last home league match of the 1933-34 season and drew 1-1 with Wigan Athletic. It was probably a game the home side should have won in a match where the ALR felt ‘Whalley was inclined to over-dribble at times but when he discarded this policy he was at his best.’ 

Stalybridge were beaten 4-3 at home to Macclesfield in the Cheshire League Challenge Cup. The winner in extra-time, which because of the emerging darkness had been cut to five minutes each way by the referee, Mr Sergeant, came at the very end of the additional time that had been played and following which the official dashed off to the dressing room as he sounded the whistle. With many home fans believing there was still a minute or so remaining this incensed a fair number who made a rush after Mr Sergeant. The arrival of police officers prevented any serious disturbance. The defeat came despite Celtic having led 3-1 at one point. Whalley played in a half back line-up that included Suttie to his right and Kellard to his left. 

There was better fortune in the Ashton Challenge Cup as Celtic beat Hurst 3-2 in a midweek semi-final fixture with the winner coming on 86 minutes. The winning side’s strength was the half-back line with ‘Whalley putting an effective check on Halliday.’ (ALR)

A 3-1 defeat at Buxton was reported as being the result of the away forwards missing a number of chances whilst the ALR contended that ‘Celtic’s half-back line was their best department.’ 

Hyde United had overcome Ashton National away to reach the Ashton Challenge Cup Final against Stalybridge Celtic that was played on National’s ground. 

Prior to the final, Celtic, winning 2-1 at the interval, were beaten 4-2 at Crewe Alexandra. There was, again, praise for the half-back line up ‘which has been one of the strongest and most consistent departments in the team since Whalley was brought into the side.’

The Ashton Challenge Cup kicked off at 6.45 on Friday 11 May. Hyde had won the trophy in the previous three seasons and started the match as slight favourites. 

The crowd was a large one but they saw a poor game in which Hyde just squeezed home by two goals to one with Keers at outside left, who had earlier scored the equalising goal, netting the winner on the 84th minute. Whilst Whalley was good in defence he was rarely able to get forward to shine in attack. When the Hyde captain, Dennis Izon, was presented with the cup, there were large cheers and scenes of great enthusiasm amongst the Hyde players and their supporters. 

The Reporter of May 12, 1934 that ‘Whalley, who had played as an amateur for most of the season… before signing as a professional for Celtic several weeks ago… signed professional forms for Manchester United on Monday,’ which would be 7 May. 

Whalley, aged 20, 5’ 10” tall and weighing 11st 7llbs, had joined Celtic at the start of the 1933-34 season but after only playing a few reserve games he left to join Ferguson Pailin’s team, where he was employed. 

When he returned to Celtic reserves he was then also signed for Stockport County as an amateur. This resulted in the Cheshire League passing a resolution barring any player from the league playing with the reserves in another League. Whalley was allowed to remain at Celtic and his break came when Bliss, Celtic’s centre-half, was injured and when the reserve player stepped up a level he was an immediate success. 

Whalley was reported as being a keen cricketer, playing for the Trafalgar square first XI in the Glossop and District League. 

Also leaving Bower Field was Ronald Hornby, who had joined Celtic in November 1933. The clever inside-left had made 34 consecutive appearances for the club and scored 13 goals. Hornby joined Burnley.

It was to be eighteen months before Bert Whalley made his first team debut for his new club. 

He was selected by manager Scott Duncan for the Old Trafford side’s Second Division fixture  against Doncaster Rovers at home on 30 November 1934. The match ended in a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 23,569.

Bert Whalley’s Manchester United debut side was Langford, Griffiths, Porter, Whalley, Voce, McKay, Cape, Mutch, Bamford, Rowley and Manley 

In a playing career cut short by WWII, during which played for United and Bolton Wanderers in unofficial wartime competitions, and injury, Whalley went on to make 32 League and 6 FA Cup appearances for Manchester United.  His final game for Manchester United was at home to Blackburn Rovers in Division One on 19 April 1947. This resulted in a 4-0 victory before a 46,196 crowd. With Old Trafford out of use due to war damage this game was played at Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time. Whalley was by now the longest serving professional at Old Trafford and in 1946-47 he led the reserves to the Central League championship. The Manchester Evening News of 18 March 1947 said of him; “The experience of Bert Whalley is a real asset to Manchester United…. signed from Stalybridge Celtic in 1934. His transfer cost nothing, but he has turned out as an invaluable utility player – as pivot, wing-half and even full-back.”

His final first team game side was Jack Crompton, Johnny Carey, John Aston senior, Jack Warner, Whalley, Henry Cockburn, Jimmy Delaney, Johnny Morris, Jimmy Hanlon, Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley 

Later in 1947, Whalley, who according to Jimmy Murphy, manager Matt Busby’s assistant, always described himself as “just an honest trier”, was coaching some schoolboys at Stockport County when a miskicked ball hit him in the eye. The player did not complain until on the way to a reserve match at Newcastle United, he confessed that he was having trouble with his vision. 

On visiting a Tyneside hospital, he refused to be kept in and returned to Manchester for treatment. On Christmas Eve 1947, Whalley was as depressed as anyone as he faced losing his sight in one eye and the end of his football career. It was then that Matt Busby showed one of the reasons why he was a great manager by demonstrating loyalty. Busby, who had become manager at United in 1945, told Whalley that when left hospital he had just the job. In August 1948, Whalley replaced Arthur Gale as the man in charge of Manchester United’s ‘A’ side, the third team at the club. 

Manchester United had ended the 1946-47 season as runners-up in Division One but nevertheless Matt Busby took seriously the comment of Jimmy Murphy, who had managed the successful Central League side that season, when he told him there was not one reserve who could strengthen the first team. Busby replied: “in that case we will have to find our own youngsters.” 

That remark led, after a time, to great players such as Duncan Edwards, Dennis Violet, Bobby Charlton and later George Best. Getting these players was no fluke and in addition to Murphy the two key men were Joe Armstrong, the Manchester United chief scout, who was a shrewd judge of a schoolboy, and Bert Whalley, one of the best coaches in England. Armstrong oversaw a small group of scouts that covered Britain and Ireland and when a youngster came to Old Trafford consideration as a member of the ground staff, he was assessed by Whalley and Murphy, who ultimately had the final say.

With Murphy, by now assistant manager to Busby, occupied with the Wales national team at the time, Bert Whalley, by now the chief coach, accompanied the first team to Belgrade for European tie with Partizan Belgrade in February 1958. On the return flight he, along with many players he’d worked with over the years. was tragically killed at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Bert Whalley’s funeral was held on Thursday 13 February 1958. Thousands lined the route to Dukinfield Crematorium for what was the longest funeral procession for many years in Ashton and surrounding areas. Crowds of people gathered at factory entrances, having been given time away from their work benches. Shop assistants lined the pavements and school children looked on. 

The cortege of 50 cars stopped briefly a few yards from the Trafalgar Square Methodist Church where Bert worked voluntarily for many years at the youth club. James Scullion, who originally signed the player for SC, was amongst those at the crematorium. Jimmy Murphy was present as was Sandy Busby, representing his father Matt, plus Henry Cockburn and John Aston senior. Stalybridge Celtic were represented by J Turner, R Peace and ex-manager Ernest Ollershaw.  There were floral tributes from a number of football clubs including Manchester City, who had lost of one their own at Munich in Frank Swift. 

Family members listed at the funeral include

Mrs W Whalley

Mr and Mrs R Whalley

Mr and Mrs D Whalley 

John Doherty – a member of the Manchester United side that won the title in 1955/56 described Bert: “What a lovely man. It was a pleasure to have known Bert and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single soul say a wrong word about him…. it was clear that he had been a useful performer in his time, a stylish central defender who was comfortable on the ball and invariably had time to move it on without panicking. 

“He was not big for a centre-half, standing perhaps two inches under 6ft, and certainly he didn’t go around kicking people, but he carried authority because he had a certain presence about him…

“The hierarchy when I arrived was Matt Busby at the top, with Jimmy Murphy and Bert doing most of the coaching and sharing an office until Bert died at Munich.

“He was terrific to all the young players, always ready with a kind work to lift our spirits. A Methodist lay-preacher, he was a quiet man, in contrast to Jimmy, who was more fire-and-brimstone in his approach, likely to singe the hair on the back of the neck. 

“Bert offered a buffer zone where we could recover our equilibrium after feeling the Murphy wrath, although he was nobody’s fool and people couldn’t take advantage of his good nature…looking back, I loved them both.” 

Taken from The Insider’s Guide to Manchester United: Candid Profiles of every Red Devil form Rowley to Rooney by John Doherty with Ivan Ponting. Bert Whalley is listed at number 1 in this book. 

Further details on the plaque unveiling can be obtained from Mark Metcalf, who is responsible for the project on behalf of the PFA as well as two further projects in 2021 that will see plaques unveiled to Joe Mercer and Stan Cullis in Ellesmere Port:

Thanks Mark for writing this. It is important men like Bert Whalley are remembered. I am also delighted that Joe Mercer will be having a plaque unveiled to him in Ellesmere Port later this year. This is great news. If you’ve not read my pieces on meeting Mercer take a look at:

Guest Blog – Noel Bayley: To Be Retained

For my first guest blog I’m delighted to say that a writer I’ve admired for years has agreed to contribute. Noel Bayley, the editor of the Manchester City fanzine Bert Trautmann’s Helmet, tells us about the role Covid has played in him sharing the stories of his match tickets. Noel writes…

High up on a shelf in the spare room there is a shoe box. To be honest it’s a trainers’ box but that doesn’t sound quite right. Although, if I’m being pedantic, it’s a blue and white adidas Samba trainers’ box (reduced to £42.49) that has been there for the 17 years I’ve lived in this house. It came with me from the last house so it’s probably more like 20 years old. Maybe older.

The trainers are long gone (lifespan six to 12 months in my hands… or on my feet since we’re being pedantic!) but the very thing that you’re supposed to throw away – the box – lives on. Inside are match tickets. I just throw them in there whenever I get one. But since I haven’t had one for a while (Aston Villa at Wembley on 1 March last year, since you asked) the box should have just sat there quietly doing nothing throughout lockdown.

But then I had an idea. Who hasn’t during lockdown? I’d get them all out, put them in order and, scan them. I’d had an idea to put them on my FaceBook page but as I had a City fanzine FB page, that was the obvious place to put them.  So I started doing that at the start of the season. It started off slowly and picked up momentum. Nostalgia’s big business on the internet… “Remember when…” And what might have been a meaningless game to you might have great meaning for someone else. Many of us measure out births, deaths and marriages in football matches; the ticket is the proof positive of the day when all the other details have melted away.

I’m not a ticket collector, you understand. Collectors eschew shoeboxes in favour of A4 folders with transparent pockets and dividers, all neatly arranged. Many years ago at Maine Road, a ticket collector turned up at ‘Fanzine Corner’ happy to show anyone who was even mildly interested his fantastic collection of tickets, going back years – as neat as a new pin. 

He was proudly showing someone a ticket from a pre-season friendly in Italy in 1992. “I’ve got that one too,” I told him, “only I went to the match.” That was an understatement. My mate and I had spent a week hitch-hiking to Italy only to find that this very match against Cremonese on a mountain top in the Dolomites had kicked off half an hour early. We got to see an hour of the game anyway! My mate died in the intervening years, but I still have some great memories and a tiny slip of a ticket to mark the highwater mark (literally!) of our great adventure almost three decades ago.

And that’s the thing about tickets and programmes and much of the – mainly paper – ephemera that people collect: it tells a story, and if it’s going to tell a story it might as well be your story! Not that I’m a ticket collector, you understand.  

There were several hundred tickets in the box. Easily enough for one every day of a nine/ten-month season, I thought naively. As I painstakingly scanned them I realised that there were some dates when I was spoilt for choice (Boxing Day, for example, and early January when the FA Cup Third Round kicks in) and some days when there were none at all. Not that City hadn’t played, but I’ve had a season ticket for 40 years and for many years all-ticket games were something of a rarity; pay on the gate, no questions asked. Now, of course, every game is all-ticket.  

I roped my mate Josh in for a few more – not that he’s a collector either; more of a curator – but there are still gaps. Even so, most days I can put a match ticket on FB with a story to go under it. Remember when indeed! Derby matches, important matches and games that had memorable incidents like last-gasp goals are the most popular ones I have found: Ian Brightwell’s Derby Day equaliser, York away, Blackpool away in the Cup in 1988…

The author Hunter Davies said: ““There is the serious collector, who goes out of their way and actively searches for items. Then there is the accumulator, a much more passive beast. He or she accumulates by never knowingly throwing things away.”

Davies is, without question, a serious collector. I’m more of an “accumulator.” I’m certainly not a ticket collector. No way, not me. They can be found on trains. 

Which reminds me: I’ll have to tell you about the model train collection I’ve accumulated over the years when I’ve got more time…

To see Noel’s, err um, collection (not that he’s a collector!) have a look at It’s updated every day and provides a great ephemeral record of a football goer’s life. Every ticket tells a story.

Watch this space for other guest blogs soon.