The Pride of Manchester?

As we build up to the Manchester derby this weekend the usual questions of who represents Manchester best crops up, as does the ‘you’re not from Manchester’ argument. People also talk about Manchester history and so on, so I thought I’d write a few thoughts here to hopefully help anyone with their Manchester geography, history etc. Some fans will love this; some may hate it, but either way it’s all factual. Here goes….

On the question of history: The earliest recorded game for Manchester United (as Newton Heath) is in November 1880 (against Bolton Wanderer’s 2nd team) while the earliest recorded game for Manchester City (as St Mark’s West Gorton) was one week earlier than United’s game. Much is made of the 1878 formation date but that’s a bit of a red herring. There is no evidence of football participation by the Heathens until November 1880. From 1878 Newton Heath did play cricket and perform athletics. Similarly, St Mark’s are known to have played cricket from the 1860s but this does not mean the club should trace its history of football activity to 1867 (or any other date prior to 1880). I go into a lot more detail on all of this in The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919 but subscribers can also read the evidence & more via the following link:

Of course City was the first of the two clubs to take on the Manchester name, doing so in 1894. That year Newton Heath also tried to reform as Manchester but were prevented from doing so as there was already a Manchester FC in existence (the rugby club). Again you can read the evidence and facts in the Emergence of Footballing Cultures:

Also on the question of history… Manchester City were the first to find national success when they won the Second Division title in 1899 (also becoming the first Manchester side to earn promotion). City were also the first Manchester team to win a major trophy when they won the FA Cup in 1904. United were the first team to win the League with their first national success coming in 1908. United were the first to win a European trophy, winning the European Cup at Wembley in 1968, while City’s first European trophy (the European Cup Winners’ Cup) came in 1970 at Vienna. Both successes of course predate the first UEFA-tournament successes of Liverpool, Barcelona, Arsenal, Chelsea, Juventus and so many other perceived European giants (note: The Fairs Cup was not a UEFA tournament).

On representing the city of Manchester the point is often made, usually by City fans, that United ‘don’t come from Manchester’, so here’s a bit about geography: It is true that Old Trafford is not in the city of Manchester and that it’s in the borough of Trafford (not Salford as some say). United have been based there since 1910. Of course Trafford is within Greater Manchester, just as Bolton, Wigan, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside and the city of Salford are. Prior to 1910 United played in Clayton and Newton Heath. At the time of their formation Newton Heath was not a part of Manchester. It was added to the city in 1890.

Similarly, West Gorton, where Manchester City was first founded as St Mark’s (West Gorton) was not part of the city of Manchester until 1890. Neither club was based in the city of Manchester at time of formation. City’s roots included various moves and name changes, with them settling in Ardwick in 1887. Ardwick had been incorporated into Manchester in 1838, meaning that from 1887 the Blues were based within the city of Manchester. The club moved to Maine Road in 1923 and their current home in 2003, both of which were within the city of Manchester by the time of the club’s move. Whichever way you look at it City have been based in the city of Manchester since 1887 while Newton Heath/United were based in the city of Manchester from 1890 to 1910. So for those who would like the maths that’s 135 years v 20 years.

In terms of first blood in the Manchester derby… Newton Heath beat Ardwick in the first derby in a first team competition that still counts today. That was the FA Cup in 1890-91 and you can read about that here:

Ultimately, all of these are merely bragging rights for particular views but I thought I’d post the facts because, all too often the facts get misreported and myths profligate.

Royal Reactions (part two)

On 17th of this month I posted the first part of a two part feature on the royal family and Manchester City. Now, as promised, here’s the second part focusing on visits to Manchester City by the UK monarchs over the decades plus a few other snippets. Enjoy this free to read article…

Before I start with part two here’s a link to the first part of the feature:

Over the years Manchester City has proved to be a very popular club for visits by significant members of the British Royal family and of other nations’ royalty.  Whether this has anything to do with the club’s success, the stadium’s importance, or the role of Manchester in terms of industry and commercial activity is unclear (probably a bit of all of that!). There have been two major royal visits to Maine Road and there has been a significant visit to the club’s former ground at Hyde Road (though some people incorrectly think there have been two!). In addition, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh plus other senior royals visited the City of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad) twice for the Commonwealth Games. Prince Philip was creating history by becoming the first senior member of the Royal family to visit two of City’s venues. 

The first Royal visit to Maine Road was on 20 October 1934 when the Duke of York (future King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father) watched City’s 1-0 defeat by Derby County.  Prior to the match the Duke was introduced to both sides and then he took his seat at the front of the Directors’ Box. The previous year he had witnessed City’s FA Cup final defeat to Everton at Wembley.

The next major Royal visit came on Thursday 7 May 1964 when Prince Philip witnessed a City-United derby match. The game had been organised by the Variety Club of Great Britain as a charity fund raiser for underprivileged children, and it had been hoped a capacity crowd of over sixty thousand would be present, however appalling weather limited the attendance to approximately 36,000. Philip, as with the Duke of York thirty years earlier, sat in the Directors’ Box, although this time, according to newspaper reports the box had been decked out with flowers and was christened the Royal Box for the evening.

The game ended with Philip presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Cup to United’s captain Denis Law on the pitch in the pouring rain. Thousands of children, according to local reports, swarmed on to the pitch, as the Duke became drenched. Interestingly, Philip’s visit to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 also saw him suffer with the rain. Perhaps he remembered his 1964 visit as he waited for the 2002 Games to end!

City’s current stadium has welcomed a variety of international royal guests, including the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, who attended City v Liverpool in March 2017, while Maine Road saw several visits by middle eastern princes and others over the years. 

The most significant Royal visit of all to a City venue has to be the 1920 appearance of King George V at Hyde Road. This was the first visit to a provincial ground by a reigning monarch and as such is of immense importance. A month or so earlier the King had gone to watch a FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Leicester.

Subscribers can read more on that visit here:

It has been suggested that twenty years earlier, however, Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), attended Hyde Road. This is a myth – please don’t believe it! I’m always keen on finding evidence and the author who propagated this story actually mistook City director Joshua Parlby for the future King on a photograph! 

I’ve performed extensive research on this so-called visit and have revealed in earlier books (most notably Farewell To Maine Road in 2003) that the visit did not occur. As with all myths I try to work backwards to understand how these things take hold and why some become convinced (don’t get me started on the myth about Anna Connell!). I find it helps to get to the source because that way it becomes clear why someone who hasn’t performed detailed research becomes convinced. So, here’s the story of how some authors have incorrectly claimed a royal visit in 1900…

Back in 1930 City’s first true history, Manchester City Football Club Souvenir History by Fred Johnson, stated: ‘The Hyde Road ground was honoured with the presence of His Majesty the King on March 27th 1900 when Liverpool were opposed.’ This is clearly a typographical error as the incident it refers to is the visit of King George on 27 March 1920 (Liverpool were the visitors). 

This explains the birth of the error but a photograph has also been produced by one author ‘showing’ the King at Hyde Road. It shows nothing of the sort and the photo (below) is clearly a red herring. It is Hyde Road (the stand in the background is the Stone Yard Stand) but the two gentlemen wearing top hats have been claimed to be leading royals with the one closest to the camera supposedly future King Edward. However, he is not. I’ve compared these photos to others in my collection and published in the early 1900s. These images are actually from the visit of future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in September 1900.

Balfour was the only significant visitor that day and his head actually appears on the image (between the ladies and the top-hatted men). One of the women is described as Balfour’s daughter on another photo from this day. The top-hatted gent at the back is City director W. Richmond (director between 1896 and 1902), while the other top-hatted man looks an awful lot like Joshua Parlby (the club’s former manager and a director in 1900). 

Regardless of this myth, it is amazing that three successive monarchs had attended City’s grounds, albeit in George VI’s case he was still Duke of York when he attended Maine Road in 1934.   

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King George V at Hyde Road

In March 1920 King George V – the present King’s great-grandfather – visited Hyde Road to watch City V Liverpool. This was the first time a reigning monarch had attended a match outside of London and as such this was a major honour for the Blues. Here for subscribers is the story of that day….

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MCFC 20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE – SEASON 1920-21

The Matches

By the time the 1920s commenced City were regarded as one of football’s major clubs.  So much so that in March 1920 King George V chose to attend Hyde Road for City’s 2-1 defeat of Liverpool.  The Blues finished that campaign in 7th place but it was the 1920-21 season which proved City deserved to be regarded as a major force on the pitch.

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Manchester City Chants

Chanting at football games is rarely documented correctly with many myths, rumours and stories developing over the years. This feature is designed to give a potted overview of the development of singing at City.

I explained about some of the chants in this talk recently:

Now, for subscribers is an 1800 word article on the history and development of chants at Manchester City:

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Hyde Road’s Last City Victory!

On this day (April 2) in 1923 Manchester City won a first team game at Hyde Road for the last time. They defeated Sunderland 1-0 with a goal from Horace Barnes after about thirty minutes. The above is a report of that goal (I love the way these things used to be described – ‘the linesmen drew the attention of the referee…’).

It was a controversial game which angered City’s Hyde Road fans, as this section of the report shows:

Also worth bearing in mind that this was the 3rd game in four days – what would today’s managers make of that! Even in the 1980s I remember games being played on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday.

In the other games City had lost 2-0 at Sunderland (March 30) and beaten Chelsea 3-0 (March 31)at Hyde Road.

The gate receipts at Sunderland on Good Friday we’re said to be quite substantial from a 35,000 crowd. So substantial that the Roger Park offices were broken into that night BUT, fortunately for Sunderland, the takings had already been taken from the ground (presumably by staff not fans!).

After this last win at Hyde Rd two further top flight games were played there – a 1-1 with Nottingham Forest and a 0-0 with Newcastle United. Neither of which attracted particularly significant crowds and there was no great ‘Farewell To Hyde Road’ commemoration (if I’d have been around I’d have tried to write a book on the old place). Maybe fans felt the move still wouldn’t happen as Maine Road was some way off completion?

Interesting note:  Maine Road’s last victory was against Sunderland on 21/4/2003 and again there were two further home games to come after it!

An Incredible Crowd and Day in 1921

Gary James considers a time when Burnley and City battled for the League

Today I’m taking a look back to 101 years ago today when, believe it or not, both City and Burnley were major rivals for the League title. People often assume today’s giants have always been the game’s powers but the evidence shows otherwise. Burnley, like City, have a history of success and, again like City, first appeared in the European Cup in the 1960s.

1920-21 seems – it is – an awful long time ago but it’s a crucial season in the development of both Burnley and City. It is one of those seasons that we really should remember for a variety of reasons, not least because it speeded up City’s desire to move stadium because of the huge crowds that wanted to see the Blues play.

Here for subscribers is a 1600 word piece on an extraordinary time in 1920-21:

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Video of my online talk on history of MCFC Support/Match Day at Maine Road

Earlier today (Saturday March 5 at 3pm UK time) I did an online talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support and match day at Maine Road. It was a celebration of fans and a reminder of Maine Road. I’ve now posted below a free to view video of the talk for anyone to watch…

The online talk lasted over 1 hour and was recorded live, so you should able to access it anywhere.The talk covered the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

I had a couple of technical issues but you can watch it now here:

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

If you enjoy the talk then please subscribe to my site. I am a self employed historian and spend all my working week writing, researching and publishing my work. I am not an employee of any organisation (I know some think I’m employed by a football club but I’m not an employee of any club). I am independent of any organisation and care passionately about the quality and accuracy of my work.

A limited amount of content will always be free for anyone to read but those subscribing will have access to everything on this site for as long as they subscribe. For subscribers I guarantee to post a minimum of 4 articles alongside adding material from my archives each month (in practice it’s been much more than this!). To subscribe costs £3 a month or £20 a year (a reminder that the 2010 edition of Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 when published and is now out of print but available to subscribers as a downloadable pdf as part of their subscription.).

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Last Chance to Book: Free Online Talk on History of MCFC Support/Match Day at Maine Road

Tomorrow (Saturday March 5 at 3pm UK time) I will be doing an online talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support and match day at Maine Road. It will be a celebration of fans and a reminder of Maine Road. If you want to watch/listen you’ll need to register by noon tomorrow (UK time; Saturday 5th March 2022). Details of how to do that are below…

The talk will last about 1 hour and will be online, so you should able to access it anywhere. It will cover the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

This presentation and talk is based on my popular 2019 talk at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester (if you attended that you will already have seen it!). I go into detail about the history of City’s support and celebrate some of the unique aspects of over 125 years of Manchester City FC.

This is a free event but there are a limited number of tickets. These must be ordered in advance. There is a limited capacity and no one will be able to join the event without first registering. If you want to participate. Book here:

Free Online Talk on History of MCFC Support

On Saturday March 5 at 3pm (UK time) I will be doing a talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support. If you want to watch/listen you’ll need to register. Details of how to do that below…

The talk will last about 1 hour and will be online, so you should able to access it anywhere. It will cover the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

This presentation and talk is based on my popular 2019 talk at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester (if you attended that you will already have seen it!). I go into detail about the history of City’s support and celebrate some of the unique aspects of over 125 years of Manchester City FC.

This is a free event but there are a limited number of tickets. These must be ordered in advance. There is a limited capacity so please book early if you want to participate. Book here: