Historic Name That Ground – Today’s Answer

Earlier today I asked ‘Can you name the ground featured in the image above?’ Well, the answer is…

Manchester City’s Maine Rd stadium being built in 1922. This end was the Scoreboard End/later North Stand original terracing being constructed, looking towards Maine Road itself. Note the church in the top right corner – that was replaced by the MCFC Social club and shop in 1966.

Starting Monday for the next few weeks I’ll be posting one image of a football ground taken in the past each week. Some will be easy (believe it or not there are some grounds that have not changed much in all those decades!), others not so. You’ll be able to post your view in comments at the bottom of each page.

The following Friday I’ll post the answer.

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99 Dreams

Here for subscribers is a flashback piece to the 1998-99 season and, in particular, the games with Wigan Athletic which included the last competitive match at Springfield Park. Enjoy!

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Allison for England

As it had still been possible for either Manchester City or Manchester United to win the League on the final day of the 1967-68 season, the Championship trophy was left at the home of the reigning champions United.

City won the League at Newcastle while United lost 2-1 to struggling Sunderland.

You can read about that final day of the season here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/05/11/manchester-city-win-the-league/

At United the Championship trophy vanished at some point during that day.  The Daily Express reporter Alan Thompson set off on a mission to track it down.  He started questioning the Old Trafford staff:  “Secretary Les Olive was under the impression that a League official had taken it earlier in the week, Matt Busby was not at all sure what had happened to it, and for a minute or two it was lost until a member of the female staff admitted that it had been locked up ‘in the vault’.  You are at liberty to allow full rein to your imaginations in concluding exactly where the ‘vault’ is at Old Trafford.  But the centre of the boardroom table, where the League Championship Cup has stood proudly for the last 12 months was occupied by five shillings worth of flowers.  Sit down the City fan who says symbolic.”

City still needed the trophy to be presented (Joe Mercer had offered to walk all the way from the Newcastle game to Old Trafford to collect it if he had to!) and so a friendly against Bury was hastily arranged for the Tuesday (May 14 1968) following the Newcastle game to enable the Championship trophy to be presented. 

If the destination of the title was not obvious during the season, the trophy would be presented at the League’s annual dinner but as City would be on tour in America, the League agreed to present it at Maine Road.  The presentation took place before the Bury game with Tony Book and the rest of the players going on a lap of honour before Mercer was handed the trophy to lift above his head.  The crowd roared with delight and then witnessed a 4-2 victory.

Bury’s two goals were scored by Bobby Owen who, two months later signed for the Blues.

The game was noteworthy for it also included an appearance by Malcolm Allison.  For much of the game he’d sat, wearing his familiar red tracksuit then, with about ten minutes left he substituted George Heslop and entered the field himself wearing the number 8 shirt.  This caused a little confusion as Colin Bell remained on the pitch with the same number but nobody complained, after all it was a night to enjoy especially when Allison threw himself into the game.  He forced a great save from Neil Ramsbottom, the Bury ‘keeper, and had a goal disallowed.  The City supporters chanted ‘Allison for England’, and even called for Mercer to take to the field. 

European Semi Finals

Tonight Manchester City take on Paris Saint Germain in the 2nd leg of the Champions League semi-final. The Blues won the first leg 2-1 and are hopeful of reaching their first Champions League final. It would not of course be their first two-legged semi-final win in Europe – that came way back in 1970. 

You can read about that 1970 ECWC semi-final here:

Manchester United were the first of the region’s sides to compete in European competition and they reached a European Cup semi-final in 1956-57. They’d played their earlier rounds at Maine Road, where they’d attracted significant attendances (including their current record home European crowd) but they moved the semi-final to Old Trafford. Here for subscribers is the story of that campaign:

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The 1970 ECWC Semi-Final

Tonight (May 4, 2021) Manchester City will play the second leg of their Champions League semi final with PSG. It’s not the first European semi final the Blues have played of course, but for those thinking City’s European heritage began after the 2008 takeover here’s the story of City’s first European semi-final. This came way back in 1970!

In 1969-70 City, managed by Joe Mercer, played their first European semi-final. The second leg was was to be the best and most important European victory ever at Maine Road.

Here for subscribers is the story of both the first and second legs of that first European semi-final for the Blues.

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Maine Road’s last MCFC victory

During 2002-03 the focus for many Manchester City fans was Maine Road’s final season, especially the final month or so of the season. 

With every game at the stadium a sell-out – only the size of the away support varied – supporters were desperate for the final season to see the old venue at its best.  They also wanted a few memorable results in those final weeks.  

Ultimately, the best Maine Road match of the final weeks came on April 21 2003 when a goal from Robbie Fowler and two from Marc-Vivien Foe brought a 3-0 win over Sunderland.  The game became significant as it was to be the last City victory at the old stadium and Foe’s 80th minute goal was the last scored there by a City man. 

Pre-match Sunderland presented the Blues with a rose bowl commemorating their final visit to the stadium.  Significantly, the time span between their first appearance at Maine Road and their last was greater than any other visiting club. Co-incidentally City’s last victory at Hyde Road was also against Sunderland in April. You can read about that game here:

21/4/2003 MCFC 3 Sunderland 0, Attendance 34,357

The Kippax

The news that Manchester City will be installing rail seats at the Etihad this summer (2021) means that for the first time since 1994 the stadium will possess a section that is designed to allow people to stand. Whether officially they’ll be allowed to depends on the legislation in place at the time but, whichever way you look at it, this is good news for those who like to stand at football matches. 

It is now almost 27 years since we said goodbye to terracing in Manchester and for those of us old enough to remember those days at Maine Road there was one standing area which, above all else, represented the passion fans had for their club – The Kippax.

Unlike most other grounds City’s main terracing ran the full length of the pitch and wasn’t tucked away behind a goal. Because of its positioning the Kippax breathed life into every area of the stadium and was huge.  Originally, it held in excess of 35,000, but even in its final days it still gave the impression of power and passion.

The Kippax was originally known as the Popular Side, matching a similarly dominant feature of the Blues’ Hyde Road ground, when it opened in 1923. That first season it held an estimated 35,000 in a crowd of 76,166 – then a national record attendance for a club ground. In 1934 when 84,569 packed into the stadium City’s vast stand may well have held almost 40,000. Incidentally, that 84,569 became the new national record attendance for a club ground (a record that still stands as Wembley is a national stadium, not officially a club ground). You can read about that crowd and game here:

Incidentally, I know City fans get a lot of abuse these days from fans of certain other clubs about filling stadia etc. Well, if you need any ammunition that 84,569 record crowd is over 22,000 higher than Liverpool’s record crowd (61,905 – a figure which wouldn’t get anywhere near City’s top ten crowds!).

Throughout the period up to the mid-50s the Popular Side developed its reputation but it was when it was roofed in 1957 that it became the true heart of the club. Back then it was extended slightly, although legislative changes had reduced terracing capacities by this time. The club announced it would be known as The Kippax Street Stand and that is what it officially remained until 1994 although most of us knew it simply as The Kippax.  Its capacity by this time was about 32,000, reducing to 26,155 by the end of the 1970s.

The Kippax accommodated fans of every age and gender and, although it was a formidable place for opposition supporters, it was a welcoming stand for Manchester’s Blues. Young children would sit on the walls and railings, while older fans would find their own preferred viewing spot. Here’s a few snippets about the old stand:

  • Originally four vast tunnels (one in each corner and two built into the stand) and two significant stairways allowed fans to move onto the Popular Side.
  • A flag pole, positioned at the back of the terracing up to 1957, allowed a blue and white flag emblazoned with the words City FC to proudly fly. The flag was then re-positioned until it disappeared for good in the 1960s.
  • Chanters Corner, also known as The Sways, was the area where the more vocal members of City’s support gathered. Packed above a tunnel and next to the segregation fence, fans here often generated the main chants.
  • The 1960s saw The Kippax’s reputation grow. Fans sang their way through success after success as Joe Mercer’s Aces won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and every domestic trophy possible. The Kippax would begin every game with the chant “Bring on the Champions!” and then follow up with a song for every player as they warmed up.
  • The final capacity of The Kippax was 18,300 – making this the largest terraced area at a League ground on its final day (The Kop held its final game on the same day but had a smaller capacity).
  • The Kippax was used for the last time on 30 April 1994 for the visit of Chelsea.
  • The Blue Print flag was a popular presence on many match days from the late 1980s until 1994, making its last appearance at The Kippax’s final game. The flag had been reduced in size by then. But it still covered much of the terracing.  Blue Print was a City fanzine and they had paid for the flag.
  • Segregation was unnecessary for most of the stand’s existence, but by the end of the 1960s a rope would often be used to separate City and United fans on derby day. This was replaced by permanent barriers in the mid-70s which were increased over the years to keep home and away fans apart. Away fans were positioned at the Platt Lane end of the stand by this time.
  • It says much about the passion of the place that in the late 1970s the BBC came to film The Kippax chanting and in full flow.
  • In 1985 when City defeated Charlton 5-1 in a promotion decider on the final day of the season the Kippax was so packed that supporters remain convinced that its official capacity of 26,155 was significantly exceeded. Those of us on the terraces that day will never forget the shock we all experienced when the official crowd of 47,285 was announced – some 5,000 short of capacity!

The Kippax is no more, but those of us who experienced the stand will never forget its power, passion and presence. Its spirit lives on with thousands of Blues who stood there now bringing their own children and grandchildren to the Etihad who, if legislation allows, will soon be able to stand in a section specifically created for that purpose.

If you’re interested you can read how Maine Road got its name here:

While you’re here I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I am not employed by anyone and no one pays me to do research or interviews. I do not have sponsorship or advertising either. I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research. The intention is to develop the archive and to provide access to as much of my material as possible over the coming weeks, months & years. Subscribers can already access over 280 articles/posts including the entire Manchester A Football History book and audio interviews with former City bosses Malcolm Allison and John Bond.

It costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (see below). Thanks for the support, Gary.

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This has been a sample of the material on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com If you would like to read all the in-depth articles and listen to the audio interviews then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year). Each subscriber gets full access to the 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

There are plenty of other Maine Road related stories on my site. For details and links see:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-city/maine-road/

The Manchester City story on their ground development can be read here:

https://www.mancity.com/news/club/etihad-stadium-rail-seating

Decisive Derbies MCFC v MUFC 13 March 1974

Score 0-0, Attendance 51,331 Maine Road

The Old Trafford derby of 1974 is usually quoted as a decisive derby, however the Maine Road match was viewed at the time as being vital to United’s survival.  In fact in the programme Red manager Tommy Docherty claimed:  “Tonight’s game is one which decides our fate.  City’s League Cup defeat is a big anti-climax for them and could help our fight for First Division survival.” Here for subscribers to this site is the story of that game – a highly controversial one that was almost abandoned due to player indiscipline!

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If you would like to read this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

A National Crowd Record Set in 1924

Manchester City had moved to their new Maine Road stadium in August 1923. The capacity of the venue was estimated at around 90,000 but was actually around about 83,000 when the stadium opened (it was enlarged in 1931 and 1935). The move had been anticipated for almost 25 years as the club’s old 40,000 capacity ground at Hyde Road was always viewed as being too small and cramped.

In the new stadium’s first season a decent FA Cup run allowed Maine Road to prove its value as the Blues sought to reach Wembley for the first time (Wembley had been built by the same people as Maine Road, but the London stadium had been criticised extensively at this time for poor crowd management and other issues).

The quarter-final tie was to be played at home to First Division high flyers Cardiff City.  The prospect of the match excited everyone.  Cardiff “The Pride Of Wales” against Billy Meredith “The Footballing Prince Of Wales” was how one journalist described it – Meredith was 49 and had returned to City’s first team (meaning he was the only man to play home games at Hyde Road, Bank Street, Old Trafford and Maine Road).

The prospect of Meredith taking City to Wembley excited Manchester, while thousands of Welsh supporters were also eager to see the game. This was a game that was expected to test the capacity of the new venue – the Cardiff fans paid rail fare of 21s 2d day return.  Some had travelled through the night, with a long wait at Shrewsbury, while others had stayed at Manchester’s best hotels.  According to one report a few Cardiff supporters had booked rooms at the Midland, the Queen’s, and at least fifty rooms at the Grand Hotel.

Many of these Welsh fans arrived at Maine Road and started queuing a full five hours before kick-off.  By 12.30 the club decided to open the turnstiles thirty minutes earlier than normal to avoid crowd control problems later.  There were also around 150 policemen in the ground, persuading supporters to move from the most congested areas of the popular side (later known as the Kippax).  

One report concentrated on the size of the crowd and the prospect of whether capacity would be reached.  It stated that early indications suggested that the crowd would be huge, but that Maine Road would not be full.  It’s reporter also witnessed an activity that many people say occurred at many grounds, but few can prove:  “Room was made for the foolish late-comers, and in a little while the congestion was so great that boys were extricated from the mass and rolled over the heads of the spectators in order that they might find sanctuary inside the concrete wall.”

The official attendance was in fact 76,166, with receipts of £4,909, proving the value of City’s new stadium.  This was an English national record for any game on a club ground (and for any game played outside of Glasgow and London) and was beaten in 1934 when City once again enjoyed a record breaking crowd at Maine Road. This means that City have held this record since 1924!

The game ended goalless – despite City’s superstitious wearing of scarlet (yes – scarlet!) as at Brighton in an earlier round – with Meredith unable to keep up with the speed of the game at times.  Even so, he was still one of the better players on the pitch and his tactical awareness was much needed.

City won the replay but were defeated in the semi final. Two years later they did however become the first of the Manchester sides to play at Wembley Stadium.

You can read about the attendance that brought this record (again by City at Maine Road) here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/?p=2029

Other record crowd articles can be seen here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/?s=record+crowd

Subscribe to get access

This has been a sample of the material on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com If you would like to read all the in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 260+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

A National Record – 84,569

“I think Brook played in every position for the Club – he certainly went in nets once – and was a very good player.  When the goal went in it was marvellous.  Nirvana.  On the final whistle I didn’t need to use my feet to leave I was wedged in a solid wall of human flesh and swept through the exit gate like a surfboarder.” Supporter Denis Houlston talking in 2003 about Eric Brook’s goal in the 1934 FA Cup tie with Stoke which was watched by 84,569.

It has virtually slipped out of living memory but in 1934 the largest footballing crowd ever assembled on a club ground witnessed a game that still, almost 90 years later, remains etched in the record books.  84,569 paid to watch City face Stoke in the FA Cup quarter-final at Maine Road in March 1934 – a crowd that surpassed Manchester’s previous best (also a national record at the time) by around 8,000 (set in 1924 when Cardiff faced City in another FA Cup quarter-final). Here for subscribers is a long read on the day when 84,569 gathered for a football match in Manchester:

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If you would like to read this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 260+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

The story of City’s game against Sheffield Wednesday (Hillsborough’s record crowd) can be read here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/17/hillsboroughs-record-crowd-swfc-v-mcfc/

City’s record League crowd can be read here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/23/manchester-citys-record-league-crowd/