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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A Manchester Derby Record Crowd

On this day (20 September) in 1947 a crowd of approximately 78,000 witnessed the first post-war Manchester derby.  A tense match ended goalless before the derby’s record crowd on a club ground. This attendance remained the highest for a Manchester derby until the 2011 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium. The return fixture, also played at Maine Road, was watched by 71,690. Subscribers can read the story of the 1947 game (background, match report, statistics etc.) below:

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On This Day: A European Cup First for Manchester City

On this day (18 September) in 1968 Manchester City’s first European Cup fixture against Fenerbahce ended goalless at Maine Road.  You can read about that game here:

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On This Day in 1976: Juventus

On this day (15 September) in 1976 Manchester City defeated Italian giants Juventus 1-0 at Maine Road in the UEFA Cup.  A crowd of 36,955 watched Brian Kidd net the only goal. You can read about the game and watch highlights here:

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Stan Gibson Obituary (former MCFC groundsman)

Born on this day (10th September) in 1925, Stan Gibson was one of the unsung heroes of Manchester football.  He was City’s groundsman for forty years and created a playing surface worthy of the club’s stature, particularly during the sixties and seventies when the pitch was possibly in its best ever state.  

Stan worked as a stoker during the war for the Navy.  Always a keen sportsman – he was a Naval boxing champion and had football trials with Burnley – but by his 30s was becoming well known as a groundsman.  He arrived at Maine Road from Chorlton Cricket Club in 1959 after a recommendation by City ‘keeper Steve Fleet, and in the years that followed he worked hard to create a perfect pitch.  

By the time of City’s promotion in 1966 Stan had made the surface one the club could be proud of.  Both Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison were keen to use Stan’s expertise to develop the pitch further, and thereby increase City’s chance of success.  Working with Allison, Stan made the pitch the biggest  – and many would say the best – in the League.  

Both Mercer and Allison recognised his contribution to City’s success.  It’s a little known fact that Stan was trusted with the job of looking after the FA Cup following City’s homecoming in 1969.  He chose to put the prized possession in the safest place he could think of, and the trophy spent its first night in Manchester locked in his toilet!

Stan loved City – he was even on the club’s books for a while in his youth – and felt the pitch was his own.  He could never relax during a match though:  “I watch the pitch rather than the game!  I shouldn’t really, because I get very upset if I see a divot, especially if it is the opposing side who have churned it up.”

Inevitably, the pop concerts in the 80s and 90s brought him a few headaches, but he welcomed other innovations, such as the undersoil heating implemented in 1979.

Stan was always an important influence and others often sought his views.  At one stage Rod Stewart tried to lure him away to tend his own turf, while Ken Bates was desperate for him to join Chelsea.  Stan would have none of it:  “I know I’m biased, but to me there’s nowhere better than Maine Road, and there’s nothing nicer than someone coming up to me on a Saturday and saying how great the pitch looks.  Makes all the toil worthwhile.”

His love for the club and Maine Road was never in doubt, and was perfectly summed up in 1994:  “City is my life.  That pitch out there is my baby.  I can’t keep away from it, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.”

He leaves his Australian-based son Stuart and his daughter Janice – another popular face around Maine Road.

Stan passed away on Christmas Eve 2001 and this written by me as an obituary for him at the time. It was first published shortly after his death.

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Maine Road’s Name

On this day (25 August) in 1923 Manchester City’s Maine Road Stadium opened. In 2003 I wrote “Farewell To Maine Road” and at that time I revealed that the actual street Maine Road had originally been known as Dog Kennel Lane.  The name ‘Maine Road’ did not appear on maps until the 1870s.  At that time I questioned why the new name had been selected and how.  I outlined a few theories – one focused on Mancunian soldiers who, together with members of the prominent Lloyd family, had volunteered for war in America and could possibly have fought in Maine – but I admitted:  “all of this is pure conjecture, but it is known that Lloyd Street was named after the family, and it is clear the renaming of a road during this period was a very deliberate act and there must have been a reason.  It would be entertaining to discover where the original ‘Dog Kennel Lane’ got its name.”

I also claimed to have found the earliest reference to Maine Road in a newspaper – November 1904, the Manchester Guardian

Since that time, after much detailed research I have the answer to both the questions:  How did Maine Road get its name & Where did the name Dog Kennel Lane come from?  I have also tracked down earlier references to Maine Road in newsprint.

So, here’s the truth…

The Maine Road name was indirectly named after the US State of Maine but that this was, in itself, a compromise.  The road was almost to be called ‘Demesne Road’ (pronounced Demain) after a farm positioned slightly south of where the Maine Road Stadium would eventually be built.  The local authority did not want that, so in the end Maine Road was agreed.  It ultimately had more significance as the following newspaper article shows:

“Dog Kennel Lane took its name from the kennel where hounds were kept.  It stood on the right hand side at the bend about a thousand yards from Moss Lane, opposite to the road which tracked off to the left and led to Demesne Farm.  The common name of this lane is so ‘common’ and unattractive that when the Temperance Company bought the Trafford land they asked the local board to change the name to Demesne Road, and the subject was compromised by calling it Maine Road out of compliment to the Temperance principles of the petitioners.”

It’s important to explain this.  The Temperance movement had been growing since the 1850s and, as with so many other areas, Manchester played a lead role.  The idea of the movement was to discourage people from drinking alcohol.  After a series of campaigns of voluntary abstinence failed in the States the Temperance movement changed its approach.   

On 2nd June 1851 the State of Maine passed the first recognised prohibition law, and two years later the United Kingdom Alliance was founded in Manchester, calling itself a legitimate political party and pledging to badger Parliament to outlaw liquor in England.

The ‘Temperance Company’ mentioned in the article was actually part of the movement and had bought some land at the top of Dog Kennel Lane – this area is covered today by the buildings on the western side of Maine Road, close to the junction with Moss Lane East, and stretching to Princess Road.  They wanted to create a better standard of living and within that area they erected buildings in keeping with their approach to life, such as the Temperance Billiard Hall.  However, the ‘Dog Kennel Lane’ name was clearly an issue and so the selection of the name ‘Maine Road’ was made.  Maine, due to the State’s role in the Temperance movement, was a significant name.

So the name Maine Road does not refer to the American War of Independence but it does refer to the US State and the part that Maine played in the Temperance movement.

Initially, only the top section of the road was renamed but gradually as housing was developed southwards the new name replaced Dog Kennel Lane.  

My research has also managed to identify earlier information on the land that ultimately became City’s ground.  The land was owned by the Chadwick family, sometimes they were referred to as the Chaddock family.  In 1760 all of the Maine Road ground site, plus most of the area east of Dog Kennel Lane/Maine Road down to Demesne Farm and across to Heald Place was part of ‘Chadwick’s Tenement’ – described as 49.5 Lancashire acres of farm land.

The family were believed to have owned this land from around 1500 to the early 1800s.  By 1857 the land was owned by someone called Mr Broadie but within the following few years areas were sold off until by 1903 all that was left was a farm house, Moss Grove Farm, on the corner of Moss Lane East and Maine Road.  That was demolished shortly afterwards and by 1910 terraced housing covered the site.

The earliest media reference to Maine Road identified to date is 3rd January 1903 in the Manchester City News, but the road was marked on maps before this time.

Film of Maine Road’s Opening

On this day (25 August) in 1923 Manchester City’s Maine Road Stadium staged its first game. Here is film of that landmark day in Manchester’s sporting history…

David White Double v Liverpool

On this day (21 August) a Wednesday night meeting with Liverpool ended in a 2-1 victory for Manchester City. You can see highlights of the game (and relive the days of night matches on the Kippax/at Maine Rd) including two David White goals here:

GOLDEN GOALS – 1934 Eric Brook V Stoke City

It has virtually slipped out of living memory but this goal is possibly the greatest ever scored at Maine Road.  It is also the goal that was viewed by the largest paying audience of all time at the old stadium.

The goalscorer Eric Brook remains one of City’s biggest stars and he was idolised by thousands of Mancunians throughout his career.  This goal was obviously popular with Maine Road regulars at the time but it has to be stressed that it was also highly significant in the Blues’ quest to re-establish themselves as a major force.

The idea of this ‘GOLDEN GOALS’ feature is to remember a significant or spectacular Manchester City goal from yesteryear.  My hope is that supporters who were not around back then will learn more about these goals while those who were here will hopefully be reminded of them.  If you would like to nominate a goal for possible use in a future feature then please comment at the end of this piece or email me with details of game, goal scorer and date.

This article, covering Brook’s goal is available for subscribers to the website below. It costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 per month) and you get full access to all articles posted, including PDFs of the out of print Manchester A Football History and my first ever book about Manchester City. There are also audio interviews & more. Do a few searches on past content to see what’s available.      

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GOLDEN GOALS – 1996 Georgiou Kinkladze Goal V Southampton

One of the best goals of Maine Road’s final couple of decades saw the brilliant Georgiou Kinkladze at his best.  Kinkladze was a major star – some would say Manchester City’s biggest during the mid 1990s – and livened up many dull days for City fans.  This goal was obviously popular with Maine Road regulars but, thanks to television and the game’s appearance on Match of the Day, many neutrals recognised the quality of this Golden Goal.

The idea of this ‘GOLDEN GOALS’ feature is to remember a significant or spectacular Manchester City goal from yesteryear.  My hope is that supporters who were not around back then will learn more about these goals while those who were here will hopefully be reminded of them.  If you would like to nominate a goal for possible use in a future feature then please comment at the end of this piece or email me with details of game, goal scorer and date.

This article, covering Kinkladze’s goal is available for subscribers to the website below. It costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 per month) and you get full access to all articles posted, including PDFs of the out of print Manchester A Football History and my first ever book about Manchester City. There are also audio interviews & more. Do a few searches on past content to see what’s available.     


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