The Starting Eleven – Tommy Hutchison

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final today (May 9) and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the last few days I have been posting these profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please take time to dig them out and read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the last of the eleven (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, goalscorer Tommy Hutchison.

33 year old Scottish international Tommy Hutchison became a cult hero for the Blues.  A dedicated, consistent and skilful professional, he was also superbly fit. 

Earlier he played for Alloa and Blackpool before signing for Coventry in 1972.  It was an inspired purchase by former City boss Joe Mercer, who had been a fan of the player’s for some time, shortly after he had left Maine Road.  Hutchison was later voted the greatest Coventry player of all time.

John Bond also recognised the player’s strengths, signing him for City eight years later:  “I said I’ll give you £400 a week, which wasn’t the best wage in the world.  His attitude was good and he signed without making a demand.”

Hutchison’s arrival helped City enormously.  Bond:  “There isn’t a City supporter anywhere who says anything but good about Tommy Hutchison.  He was absolutely tremendous, and became a real star.  He made everything happen.  He was a revelation.  I know people say this kind of thing a lot but he was a different class.  I always enjoyed having him in my side.”

Hutchison of course played his part throughout the Cup campaign.  In fact frustration had seen Everton’s Kevin Ratcliffe sent off for head-butting the City man in the 85th minute of the quarter-final.  In the subsequent replay Hutchison created two goals within the space of three minutes.

In the 29th minute of the Wembley final, Hutchison dived to head a centre by Ranson.  The diving header flew past Aleksic’s left hand from some distance out.  It was the 150th goal scored in Wembley F.A. Cup finals.

As the game progressed City looked certain winners, then ten minutes from full-time Spurs had a free-kick.  Ardiles tapped the ball to Hoddle, who curled it around City’s defensive wall.  Corrigan was certain he had the shot covered but Hutchison, who had dropped back behind the wall for the free kick, somehow got in the way.  The ball hit his shoulder and was diverted across goal for the Spurs equaliser.  

Goalkeeper Joe Corrigan walked to a disconsolate Hutchison, lifted him up, patted him on the back and tried to encourage him:  “My view was that we still had a few minutes left.  We’d been on top for most of the game.  We could still win.  I also knew that what had happened to him could have happened to any one of us.  So I just told him to “get up, get on with it.  It’s only 1-1 and we are still going to win!”  He was devastated to be fair, but we did almost win it in the dying minutes.”

That own goal guaranteed Hutchison a place in Wembley history as the first player to score for both sides in a FA Cup final – it even became a question in the Board game Trivial Pursuit – but it never changed how fans viewed him.  He remains one of the Club’s biggest heroes, even though his time at City was ultimately too short.  Hutchison was one of the biggest reasons why the Blues had reached Wembley, and the goal was simply an unfortunate incident, albeit a very important one.

A year after Wembley, Hutchison’s role as a stabilising force was over and he was transferred to Bulova (Hong Kong).  

At the age of 43 he received a special merit award from the PFA to mark being the oldest player in League football while appearing for Swansea.

In 2011, Hutchison heads up Bristol City’s Football In The Community Scheme.  It’s a role he has enjoyed for over a decade:  “The great thing is seeing some young kids, who I first met 8 years ago when they were trouble waiting to happen, change.  One even pulled a knife on me once.  It’s great to see that our work has really made a difference.”  

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

The Starting Eleven – Tommy Caton

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, centre-back Tommy Caton.

Together with Nicky Reid (aged 20), 18 year old Tommy Caton made history by forming the youngest pair of centre-backs ever seen in the FA Cup final when they played at Wembley in 1981.  Despite their age both had been playing first team football for a couple of seasons with Caton managing 12 first team appearances before his 17th birthday.  

Caton was actually the fourth ever youngest City player when he made his debut on the opening day of the 1979-80 season.  The media and most supporters thought pre-match that this was one of Malcolm Allison’s more off-the-wall selections.  In fact Allison had wanted to play the defender in the first team the previous season, but claimed he had been prevented from doing so by the school authorities because of Caton’s age.

All suggestions that the 16 year old’s debut was an Allison-gimmick were soon proved false.  Caton helped City keep a clean sheet and his assured performance proved he thoroughly deserved the chance.  The defender retained his place for the rest of the season and, together with Joe Corrigan, Caton was an ever-present in all competitions that season.

Shortly after his 17th birthday, Caton gave his view of his career to date:  “I came to City in March 1978, signing on associate schoolboy forms and then started a full time apprenticeship in July, this year.  It was a bit strange to say the least when I played in my first few games.  I think the biggest tests have been against Arsenal, at Highbury, facing Stapleton and Sunderland.  Plus the match against Forest when it was Woodcock and Birtles.”

He struggled with injury a little during 1980-81 – a chipped ankle bone caused him to miss a period of what became a crucial season – yet he recovered in time to play a major part in John Bond’s Wembley bound side.  

Although the Daily Mail described Caton as “City’s inspiring young defender” in their match report of the cup final replay, the positive aspects of his contribution were soon overlooked as Ricky Villa’s goal became the media’s defining incident.  On his way to goal the Spurs player passed the 18 year old Caton twice, as well as others, and the media proclaimed it as a truly great goal.  City Manager John Bond was not impressed:  “I bet if Keith Burkinshaw [Spurs] had been in my place he wouldn’t have said it was a good goal.  He seemed to beat six or seven people in the space of four yards or so.”

It is worth recalling that Caton had an unusual claim to fame by becoming the first man to be booked twice in one final – he was booked in both the first game and the replay.

In March 1982 he created another record when he became the youngest player ever to appear in 100 League games for any club.  He was also, by this point, regularly tipped to become a full England international, but City’s relegation in 1983 suggested Caton needed to move to progress his career. 

In November 1983 he was sold to Arsenal after rumours that he stood little chance of playing for England while playing for a northern Second Division side.  Worth noting though that the Blues desperately needed the £500,000 fee they received, and so he was encouraged to make that move.    

Caton’s move south was not the success everybody hoped.  After only 95 League and Cup appearances with the Gunners – a developing Tony Adams was challenging him – he became Oxford’s captain.  

Early in 1993 he was forced to announce his retirement after a serious foot injury while playing for Charlton required repeated surgery.  That April he died suddenly at the age of 30 of a heart-attack. 

Of all the players who appeared in the 1981 final, Caton was the one expected to have the greatest footballing career ahead of him.  Sadly, the potential was never really fulfilled.  Caton should however always be remembered as a highly talented defender who, by the age of 17 was easily able to outperform some of the game’s biggest names.

Caton had enormous talent and ability, but ultimately so little time. 

NOTE: Tommy Caton’s son Andy made 13 appearances for Swindon Town between 2004-2007 before damaging his skull in a car accident.  A spell at Bath and Weymouth (in 2009) followed.

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

The Starting Eleven -Steve Mackenzie

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, midfielder Steve Mackenzie

Malcolm Allison’s signing of Steve Mackenzie stunned the football world.  The 17 year old signed from Crystal Palace for an incredible £250,000 in July 1979.  The fee alone was huge – six months earlier the transfer record stood at £516,000 – but the fact that Mackenzie hadn’t even appeared in the League and was now the costliest teenager ever was astounding.

Inevitably, great pressure followed.  Mackenzie appeared in the opening 14 League games of 1979-80 but spent more time playing reserve football.  However, by the spring of 1981 Mackenzie was a permanent fixture in the side, delivering game after game.  Captain Paul Power said at the time:  “We look a different team when Steve is playing.  He has fought his way back and proved to the boss that we can’t afford to be without him.  He adds stability to our midfield.”

Mackenzie, as well as general play, contributed some significant goals such as the spectacular 25 yarder in the 4thround tie against Norwich, and the solitary goal in the February ’81 Manchester derby – “Mac The Knife” read the MEN headline. 

It was Mackenzie who rolled a free kick to Power – a move they had worked on in training – that brought the only goal of the semi-final.

In the 58th minute of the final with the Blues leading 1-0, Mackenzie came close to scoring.  John Bond remembered:  “Reeves and Mackenzie played this magnificent 1-2.  Mackenzie got behind the defence, went around the goalkeeper, went to slot the ball into the net and it hit the post and went wide.  They’d have been dead and buried!”

Three minutes after Spurs had taken an 8th minute lead in the replay, Mackenzie equalised with one of the greatest cup final goals of all time.  A Ranson free kick was met by a half clearance allowing Mackenzie to volley home from about 20 yards.  It was a tremendous goal and the type of effort that should have won the cup.  Paul Power:  “I still believe Steve Mackenzie’s strike was just as impressive as Villa’s second goal.  If that goal had been the match winner it’s possible that would have been voted the best goal of all time.”  Bond agreed:  “Steve Mackenzie’s volley was unbelievable!”

As we all know, Spurs went on to win the replay.  Mackenzie played in one further City game but was sold – to raise money for the purchase of Trevor Francis – for £600,000 to West Bromwich Albion the following August.  Considering his age and performances during 1981 it was a disappointing departure.  

Spells at Charlton and John Bond’s Shrewsbury followed.  Once his playing career came to an end Mackenzie pursued his interest in computers to gain a BA Hons degree in Interactive Multimedia Communication in 1998.  With a strong interest in teaching and learning Mackenzie gained further qualifications in teaching and e-learning.    

He also obtained the Advanced Level FA Football Coaching award and coached at West Brom’s Academy until 2000.  He also had an enjoyable two year stint in non-league management at Atherstone United.  

Since 2003 he has worked full time in Higher Education at De Montfort University primarily as a designer and developer of distance learning courses. 

In 2004 at the age of 42 he made one appearance – and scored – for Gresley Rovers.  Today he keeps in touch with the game, reporting for the Press Association, and takes a keen informal interest in football coaching and player development.

Looking back in 2011, Mackenzie’s strongest recollections from 1981 focus on his side’s endeavours: “pride in fighting so hard to win the cup, knowing if we had to lose we could not have done much more.”  The highlight remains, of course, his goal:  “the exhilaration of scoring a spectacular goal to get us back in the game – I think my beaming smile said it all.”

Janice Monk (former City Store), Glyn Pardoe and Steve Mackenzie at the launch of Manchester The City Years in 2012

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

The Starting Eleven – Ray Ranson

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, 1981’s number two Ray Ranson.

Despite being only twenty at the time of the 1981 FA Cup Final, England under-21 right back Ray Ranson had been a member of City’s first team for over two years.  After making a name with both the Merseyside and England schoolboy sides, Ranson signed as an apprentice for the Blues in July 1976.  Other sides, including Liverpool, Leeds and Arsenal, had shown interest in him, but once he arrived at Maine Road his love of the Blues developed at a pace.  The right back later admitted that he became ‘City daft’ from the moment he arrived.  

Ranson’s first team opportunity came when he was 18 following injury to Kenny Clements.  He made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 23 December 1978 and the following season, after several impressive performances both for club and at Under-21 level for England, he established himself as the Blues’ regular right-back.  This meant that he was already a very experienced defender, despite his age, when the 1981 final was staged.

The match programme for the 1981 final described him as a “player of high potential” and it is true that much was expected of him at Wembley.  In the 29th minute of the first game, Ranson didn’t disappoint as he played a huge part in ensuring the Blues took the lead.  An exciting exchange of passes between Dave Bennett and Kevin Reeves near the right corner led to a great centre by Ranson.  Tommy Hutchison dived spectacularly to head the opening goal.

Ultimately, the final went to a replay.  In the seventh minute Spurs took the lead.  Three minutes later it was Ranson’s free-kick that led to City’s equaliser.  His kick was met by a half clearance which allowed Steve Mackenzie to volley home from 20 yards – a goal that was worthy of winning any cup final.  Sadly, Spurs went on to win the final with a goal that has become one of the most repeated in television history and one that must pain Ranson every time he sees it.  During an amazing weaving run Ricky Villa seemed to pass a dozen players but he actually passed Tommy Caton twice, Ranson and then Joe Corrigan.  Ranson will forever be reminded of this.  It’s an absolute certainty that at some point on Cup Final day this year the right-back will be forced to relive the nightmare moment once again.      

After Wembley Ranson remained a City regular during a difficult period for the Blues.  Then in November 1984 the St. Helens’ born player moved to Birmingham City.  At the time it was reported he had fallen out with manager Billy McNeill.  The fee City received was a bargain £15,000 – desperately low for a FA Cup finalist who was still only 24.  At St. Andrew’s he won promotion alongside City in 1985.  

Ranson later played for Newcastle – under Kevin Keegan for a spell – and then returned to Maine Road initially on loan under Peter Reid in January 1993.  

A move to Reading came in the summer of 1993, but a serious Achilles injury in February 1994 prematurely ended his time there.  Ranson eventually became player-manager of Witton Albion, before becoming involved with the finance industry.

Shortly after City’s move to the new stadium, media reports suggested Ranson was interested in buying into the Blues, then similar stories appeared linking him with a potential takeover of Aston Villa.  Later in the decade stories suggested he had come close to taking over City, but ultimately he fronted a takeover of Coventry City.  Ray Ranson became chairman of the ‘other’ Sky Blues in December 2007 but stood down at the end of March this year (2011) taking on a football consultancy role saying:  “I am more than happy to assist the new Chairman and Board as well as the football management team to get our results back on track.”

Ranson’s City career saw him make a total of 234 (plus 2 as substitute) appearances but interestingly Ranson’s spell with the Blues in 1993 meant that he was the only member of City’s 1981 FA Cup final team to appear for the Blues in the Premier League.

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

Agüerooooooooooooooo!

Legend is an overused word by many within football. Personally, I’m a little more restrained than most and like to compare players from every era and to think about how a player will be viewed decades from now. So, it is not hyperbole when I describe Sergio Agüero as one of Manchester City’s – and football’s – greatest legends. He is without doubt the greatest goalscorer ever to grace City but he is also the greatest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history. He is an absolute legend!

So, the news that Sergio Agüero will be leaving Manchester City at the end of the 2020-21 season is highly disappointing (that’s an understatement!) to those of us who have watched his career in England since his arrival a decade ago. In the 1960s the great City manager Joe Mercer often described Francis Lee as the ‘final piece’ of his jigsaw – and it was Lee’s goals and arrival that helped to transform the 1967-68 season in to a title winning one – and Agüero should be described in a similar fashion. City had won the FA Cup in 2011 but it was Agüero’s arrival that ultimately led to the title in 2011-12. He was the final piece of that title winning jigsaw.

To understand why Francis Lee was called the final jigsaw piece you can read an in-depth of his career here:

Personally, I’m extremely upset that Sergio will be leaving City. As with Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, it will be a major loss. These guys became legends (as I indicated earlier I never use that term lightly!) at City and they thrilled and delighted us. As fans, we had a chance to formally say goodbye to Pablo & Vincent but, due to Covid, we haven’t yet been able to say farewell to David and maybe we won’t get a chance with Sergio (certainly not in a packed 54,000 stadium).

Hopefully an opportunity will come to say goodbye soon, but in the meantime here’s a profile of the man who became Manchester City’s greatest ever goalscorer. Back in 1997 I researched and wrote Manchester The Greatest City, an in-depth history of the Blues containing over half a million words. Sadly, the opportunity to update that and publish an epic history of the club is now unlikely due to changes in the publishing world, cost of production and more but if I did ever get the chance then a significant section would calmly, rationally and factually, explain the significance of Sergio to Manchester City’s development.

So many major stars have appeared for, coached and managed the Blues over the last thirteen years or so that their story really deserves to be told in-depth but, as I’m denied that opportunity these days, we’ll have to make do with features appearing on this website. Hopefully, these words will do justice to Sergio and, over the coming years, his colleagues.

Sergio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 2, 1988 and was given the nickname ‘Kun’ by his grandparents due to his likeness to an anime character. In 2008 he explained to the BBC: ‘Kun actually represents a Japanese cartoon character from my favourite series that I used to watch as a child. I coined the nickname Kun because of my resemblance to the character, who was actually named Kum Kum. My grandparents were the first ones who gave me the name. I think my nickname is different in comparison to most athletes and so I have grown to appreciate it because it’s unique. It’s not every day an athlete is nicknamed after a cartoon character!’

From the moment he could walk, or toddle, football meant everything to the young Sergio: ‘Football surrounds you in Argentina and so I began playing at a very young age. The truth is that I had always lived with the ball at my feet. As soon as class ended in Quilmes in Buenos Aires, my friends and I would start up a game. In Villa Itali, the neighbourhood where I was raised, there was also a pitch where we used to gather with the local kids and organise games. At any moment of the day we could have been playing, when the sun shined or when dark fell. I would spend hours and hours out there, sometimes even coming home late.’

At the age of 15 and 35 days Sergio, playing for Independiente, becoming the youngest player to appear in Argentina’s highest league (beating Maradona’s record). Looking back he explained in 2008: ‘There were some difficult times at first. I was a lot younger and smaller than most of the players, so I had to learn how to avoid and dodge aggressive tackles. At times, especially in the beginning, I think I became a target for malicious tackles and so referees were forced to look after or protect me, or at least pay closer attention to intentional rough hits. But eventually I learned to avoid these rough tackles and improved so that I was able to anticipate and dodge injuries.’

Sergio’s form from the moment he made his debut in 2003 through to 2006 was enough for the media to suggest the 17 year old should play for Argentina in the 2006 World Cup.

On April 29, 2006 the Irish Independent highlighted him as a face to watch and a few days later journalist Stuart Condie wrote: ‘At 15, Agüero became the youngest player in Argentina’s top league and this season has eight goals in 16 league matches for Independiente. Cesar Luis Menotti, Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach, said he has “something of Romario about him.” Romario helped Brazil win the 1994 championship in the United States.’

Condie quoted the then Argentinian coach Jose Pekerman who said: ‘Kun is playing out of his skin at the moment. There are many players who didn’t get to play at the World Cup until they were 24 or 25. I’m not saying that’s going to be the case with Agüero. I remain hopeful that he can still make it.’

Sadly, Sergio did not appear at the 2006 World Cup but he did make his international debut that year (September 3) against Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. A year later he netted his first international goal in a 2010 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia and was ultimately selected for the Argentinian World Cup squad of 2010. Sergio scored in his first finals game – he came on for Carlos Tevez in the 75th minute v South Korea and scored a minute later. Sergio, Sergio!

Often described as ‘the new Maradona’ around this time, Sergio had already won the World Junior Championships twice (2005 & 2007 – he won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in 2007) and an Olympic Gold Medal (2008 – Argentina won the men’s football tournament of course!). He had also joined Atlético Madrid, signing in May 2006.

When asked about why he had left Argentina and Independiente Sergio explained in 2007: ‘The reason I left Independiente is because I care for the club so much. If I hadn’t been sold for so much money there would not be an Independiente. Their debt problems were so bad they could have gone under. I couldn’t let that happen. I felt sorry for the fans and I understood their anger. But they realise now it was the only solution. It is a great feeling to know they have not forgotten me and chant my name – I will never forget them.’

It is clear that the club continues to mean a great deal for the player and that his comments, back in 2007, were sincere. His move did ensure the club could survive but it added to the focus he received. 

Inevitably, delivering so much at such an early age would have put Sergio under immense pressure at times. The comparisons with Maradona (Sergio married his daughter as well); the focus in Argentina and then playing in the Spanish League… all of this could have affected him, like the pressure has so many other young footballers, but Sergio always seemed to keep level headed. When asked in 2008 he commented that he did not feel pressure, adding ‘football comes to me so naturally it’s more like having fun than a job. For me, having a kickabout with my friends is as important as playing in the final of the World Cup.’

It’s worth remembering he was still only 20 when he made those comments. The pressure of life at a top Spanish club and playing for Argentina was intense, especially after he was described by the Atlético president Enrique Cerezo as ‘the most important player to arrive in Spain since Maradona.’ There was also the small matter of Sergio punching the ball into the net – according to those who supported clubs other than Atlético of course! He didn’t, but the goal was scored off his hands. Sergio explained in January 2007: ‘The goal I’m famous for here is the one I scored against Recreativo when the ball hit off my hands and ended in the net. People say it was another Hand Of God goal but if the referee doesn’t disallow it, I’m not going to complain! I didn’t mean to punch the ball past the keeper. I just threw myself at the cross and it went in, although it was definitely off my hands. It’s forgotten now and I’m just concentrating on helping Atletico climb the table.’

In 2008 there were a number of features on Sergio in the media suggesting an English club may try to sign him. They talked of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with journalist Glen Moore saying ‘He would cost €60m, but that could be cheap for a talented 20-year-old.’ The following year the Irish Independent described him as ‘a player all of Europe covets and one with the skill to unlock any defence.’ 

The Daily Star claimed that Alex Ferguson had Sergio on his wish list behind Dimitar Berbatov in July 2008 – it’s worth remembering that Berbatov eventually signed for United on transfer deadline day that year when the Reds were seemingly in a battle over transfers with City. It’s amazing to think of what might have happened if United hadn’t made such a determined attempt at getting Berbatov and City had signed him, not Robinho, that day. Would Sergio have ended up at Old Trafford? How different could Manchester’s football story have been over the following decade? 

Similarly, in July 2009 Jason Burt, writing for the Irish Independent, claimed that City were trying to lure John Terry away from Chelsea for £28m plus and if that went ahead then the London club might prepare a bid for Sergio. Fate, it seems, played its part in ensuring City’s early spending following the September 2008 takeover did not lead to a rival Premier League club capturing the Argentinian.

In February 2011 it was reported in the Telegraph that Harry Redknapp had tried to sign Sergio for Spurs – leading to Atlético extending his contract – and then on July 17 that year the same newspaper reported that Sergio’s then father-in-law, Maradona, had given his blessing to the player moving to City. Blues’ boss Roberto Mancini was quoted as saying: ‘Agüero is a player that can play for Manchester City because he is young and he is a good player like Carlos [Tevez]. He can score a lot of goals and can play with Mario, with Edin … it could be [that he joins us].’

On July 28 2011, after City chair Khaldoon Al Mubarak allegedly took the highly unusual step of getting directly involved in the transfer, Sergio officially joined City for a fee reported as £35m – an absolute bargain when you consider what he has achieved since BUT also a bargain compared to the amounts that other teams were alleged to have been prepared to spend to capture him at various times in the previous few years.  It’s worth remembering Liverpool had paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll in January of that year! I know which player I think offered the most value for money.

The great Argentinian former Spurs star Ossie Ardiles gave his view of Sergio at this time: ‘Agüero’s a wonderful player, only 23, and with a lot of potential. If you compare him with Tevez, I would say he is more of a proper striker, a traditional centre-forward. He is very skilful, strong, two-footed and he has the number one thing that all top frontmen have, and that is an ability to make scoring look very easy.’

Ossie was right and so were many others who recognised that Sergio was the signing City needed to push forward. There were some who, for their own personal reasons, wrote negatively about Sergio’s arrival (maybe they’d have written differently had he joined certain other clubs?), but overwhelmingly it was clear that Sergio was that ‘final jigsaw piece’. 

David Maddock, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly prophesised: ‘City are not just getting one of the most exciting strikers in the world… they are also, apparently, getting a talisman who can provide the impetus for them to take the final step into the elite… The signing ofAgüero promises a huge impact, as the crowds in Manchester last night suggested. By signing a similar player to Tevez, but one who is younger, quicker and with far more potential, City are upgrading.


‘The fact the Argentina striker has replaced Tevez in his country’s forward line and is rated more highly back home adds to that sense of moving onwards and upwards for the club’s supporters.’

Inevitably Sergio was quoted in most of the national newspapers over the days that followed with the Sun carrying several quotes, beginning with whether the weather in Manchester would cause Sergio problems: ‘Firstly I don’t like very hot weather so on that side of things I will be OK. I’m sure I am going to enjoy myself here and life will be fine.’ He added: “My style has always been to fight to the death for every ball, to give 100 per cent in every game, be concentrated to the maximum in everything I do. I think we are a team that in the future will be fighting every year to win trophies. And let’s hope that it is a quite a few major trophies.’ Well, Sergio, you certainly did challenge for trophies (quite a few) every year!

Sergio’s competitive City career began with a 59th minute substitute appearance against Swansea in the Premier League on August 15, 2011 (the first Premier League meeting with Swansea). Within nine minutes he’d scored his first goal (a tap in from a cross by Micah Richards) and in injury time he netted his second (a 30 yard strike). In addition, he also set up David Silva to score (he’d hooked the ball off the byline and passed it to Silva).

You can read about the game here:

Oliver Holt, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly reported how it felt to those of us in the stadium that day: ‘City fans should be entitled to think a forward ought to be a bit special. But to be at the Etihad Stadium last night and to witness the Manchester City debut of Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero felt like being in on something momentous. It felt like a landmark… Of all the superstar arrivals that have happened here in the blur of transfer activity that has taken place since Sheikh Mansour bought the club three years ago, Agüero’s feels as if it has the power to transform the side. There was an electricity about the place when he came on for Nigel de Jong after an hour. There was a feeling that something special was about to occur.’

And something special did occur. We all know about the Agüeroooooooo goal that brought City the Premier League title but the player has always been something more than that goal.

Over the near decade that has followed his arrival incredible success has come City’s way with Agüero usually playing a significant part in each glory. Surprisingly he’s never been awarded either the PFA footballer of the year or the Football Writers’ equivalent (lots of City fans have theories why!) but he has won a whole host of personal awards including the Premier League Golden Boot 2015; Manchester City Player of the Year 2012 & 2015 and the Football Supporters Federation Player of the Year 2014. 

Sergio also, of course, became City’s record goalscorer of all time. In fact he holds most of the Blues goalscoring records: Overall goalscorer 257 goals (next best Eric Brook 177); League goalscorer 181 goals (next best Tommy Johnson & Eric Brook 158) and Europe 43 goals (next best Raheem Sterling 21). He’s second in the list of FA Cup goalscorers for City on 20 goals, two behind Fred Tilson – but Tilson played 28 FA Cup games and Sergio has only played 20.

His League record is incredible: 181 goals in 232 (plus 39 as sub) appearances. That’s a ratio of 0.66789 goals per game, ignoring how many minutes he’s actually been on the pitch. Johnson’s City League record was 0.4817 goals per League game and Brook’s was 0.3511. If we consider all strikers to have made 100 or more appearances in the Premier League only Thierry Henry (ratio of 0.67829) and Harry Kane (0.67510) have a better ratio and neither man has played as many games. In January 2018 I did a profile of Sergio’s goalscoring for the Manchester City match programme and in that I calculated that his record was 0.682 goals per League game. Since then injury and less actual game time has made that figure reduce, otherwise he would still have had the best goals to game ratio in the Premier League. 

Of course, goals per game totally ignores how long the player was actually on the pitch and in the last year or so Sergio has often been brought on as substitute, sometimes at a stage where City have been content with a result or with too little game time for Sergio to make an impact. When analysis of goals per minute played City have rightly claimed him as ‘the competition’s most lethal goalscorer in terms of goals scored per minutes played.’

He is the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and holds the record for the most Premier League hat-tricks.

At present Sergio is the 16th highest appearance holder for City. As of March 30th he is ten games behind the club’s earliest legendary figure Billy Meredith and four ahead of Glyn Pardoe, Tommy Doyle’s granddad and a crucial member of the 1960s/early 1970s team.

No wonder the City chairman has said: ‘Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated. His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the Club and maybe even in those who simply love football.

‘In the meantime, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be commissioning an artist to create a statue of Sergio to live at the Etihad Stadium alongside the ones under construction for Vincent and David. And we look forward to the opportunity to bid Sergio a fitting farewell at the end of the season.’

Manchester City have had many great goalscoring figures over the years, including World Cup stars and international heroes but, in terms of records, emotion and trophies, Agüero’s record eclipses all that have gone before. Inevitably it is difficult to compare heroes from one era with another, but whenever comparisons are made between Agüero and the modern era’s greatest strikers the evidence is clear.  Sergio Agüero’s statistics speak for themselves with few Premier League legends able to compare to the record of City’s Argentinian star. For me Agüero is the best.

The next few weeks are going to be emotional for us all as we bid farewell to City’s – and one of the Premier League’s – greatest ever goalscorer. Sergio, we will miss you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this profile. As I said at the start it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to update my epic Manchester The Greatest City (last edition was Manchester The City Years published in 2012) and a profile of Sergio, alongside all the other legends, would be something I’d have sought to include. From now on material like that will make its way on to http://www.GJFootballArchive.com – some will be free to read for a period while other content will be only available to subscribers. Currently, there are almost 300 articles posted to this site including the entire Manchester A Football History and exclusive audio interviews with Trevor Sinclair, John Bond, George Graham and Malcolm Allison (it is my intention to publish some of my historic interviews alongside new content). Subscribers get full access to all of this.

Apart from occasional books, this is now my only writing outlet. My last article for a match programme was published before the first Covid lockdown and so if you want to read more content like the above or would like to access historic articles/interviews/recordings then please subscribe. It costs £20 a year (it works out about £1.67 a month) and you get full access throughout your subscription period. You can subscribe below. Thanks for reading. It is appreciated. Gary James, March 30 2021.

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This has been a sample of the content on this site. If you’d like to read more then please subscribe. Thanks

Peter Doherty – A Legend with Glentoran, Blackpool, City, Derby and Ireland

In 2019 I wrote this profile of Peter Doherty – a man who well into the 1970s was described as the greatest Manchester City player of all time. Of course, views change and other heroes have come and sadly gone since then, but it is clear that Doherty was the leading player of his generation.

Subscribers to my site can read the article below:

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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 my 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 250+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Talking City: Ian Bishop

On this day (25th March) in 1998 Manchester City cult hero Ian Bishop returned to the club. Here subscribers can read an interview I did with the former Bournemouth, West Ham and City player in 2015. 

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To read this and all the other content on this site 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 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

You can also read about the 1989-90 season and Ian’s first spell with the club on this earlier post:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/12/manchester-city-season-1989-90/

Denis Law Signs for Manchester City

On this day (15th March) in 1960 Huddersfield Town’s Denis Law signed for Manchester City for £55,000 – £10,000 more than the previous British transfer record fee.

Here for subscribers is an overview of that transfer plus footage from Law’s debut and other material.

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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 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Trevor Sinclair Interview

The first Manchester derby at Manchester City’s new stadium occurred on this date (14th March) in 2004. To mark this anniversary I’ve interviewed former City winger Trevor Sinclair. Trevor scored in that game, which the Blues won 4-1. Here he talks about being a City fan; signing for City; scoring the first competitive goal at the City Of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad); and the 4-1 derby. He also talks about the 3-1 victory over Manchester United in 2006 (again he scored); present day City and other memories. 

Here’s the audio from our chat (it lasts about 26 minutes so get yourself a brew and settle down to listen):

While you’re here I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I have been researching and writing about Manchester football for a long time (no wonder I’m going grey!) with my first book published in 1989. I am not employed by anyone and no one pays me to do research or interviews like the one posted here. I do not have sponsorship either. I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research.

From Wednesday, for subscribers I’ll be posting the entire hour long plus interview I did with Malcolm Allison about his first period at Manchester City. Here’s a brief clip from the interview (he’s talking about his relationship with Joe Mercer):

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 an audio interview with former City boss John Bond I performed in 1995. My interview with Allison will also be available from Wednesday.

If you’d like to support my research and writing while benefitting from accessing all the content on here then 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 (you get full access for as long as you subscribe).

If you enjoyed the interview posted here then please subscribe (see below) to access all the content and, over time, I’ll add other interviews too. Thanks for the support and interest in my work, Gary.

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Each subscriber gets full access to the 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming months.

If you would like to read about other Manchester derbies then check out this:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-derbies/