IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – 1955 FAC Team (first published May 2005)

In 2005 , to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1955 FA Cup final between Manchester City and Newcastle I took a look at the players who appeared for City in that game. The article that follows was published in May 2005. The Blues lost the match 3-1, but it remained a significant anniversary in the history of the club.

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Bobby Kennedy (Interviewed in April 2005)

Defender Bobby Kennedy proved to be a popular player after joining the Blues in 1961.  He went on to make 251 (plus 3 as sub) appearances for City over a seven year period and was a key member of City’s mid sixties side.  In April 2005 Gary James caught up with him at the stadium.

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Mike Summerbee (interviewed in April 2005)

In April 2005 I interviewed Mike Summerbee. Here is that interview. Enjoy!

Mike Summerbee was the second player, after Ralph Brand to join Joe Mercer’s City in 1965.  Over the following decade he became a major star and played a significant role throughout the Mercer-Allison glory years.  Always the entertainer, Mike featured in the classic footballing wartime adventure film “Escape To Victory” and today assists the Club’s commercial activities.   In April 2005 Gary James caught up with him at the Manchester City Experience.

Let’s start with “Escape To Victory”.  How did you get involved in the filming of that movie?

It was Bobby Moore who got me involved.  We’d known each other since I was 16, and we both had a similar outlook.  The makers of the film had got several Ipswich Town players involved, plus Pele and of course Bobby.  They needed another familiar British player and Bobby suggested me.  He called me and said:  “How do you fancy being in a movie with Michael Caine?”  And that was it.  Within three weeks I was on my way to Budapest for filming.  I had no idea at the time that this would become one of those films still being shown and talked about twenty odd years later, but it has become a cult movie with websites dedicated to it.  It’s the sort of film that many other people would have wanted to be in.  I know for a fact that Rod Stewart wanted to be in it.

Why do you think the film is remembered so affectionately?

I don’t want to give too much away – everyone should come to our special showing and see the movie and hear my reasons then – but the film is like a Boys’ Own adventure.  It’s got drama, excitement, and is a traditional film.  It doesn’t rely on bad language, sex, or extreme violence, and it really does appeal to everyone.  Don’t forget it also contains some great actors – everyone remembers Stallone and Caine but look at the other cast members as well – and then there are some very well known footballers including Pele.  

I loved making the film and one of the great aspects for me was that when we came to the football scenes we were told to go out and play the game.  John Huston – a great director – wanted it to look as realistic as possible and so we played a real game.  Inevitably we had spells concentrating on tackling or shooting but much of the game came from real play.  Pele’s wonderful overhead kick goal was natural and was done only once.  We didn’t take ages setting up, re-shooting etc.  It was done for real and only in one take.  John Huston had cameras everywhere and tried to make sure everything that took place on the pitch was filmed from every angle.  That makes it so much more real.

You have a speaking part in the film, did you know about that before you accepted?

We were told to let the actors act and they were told to let the footballers play.  That way we all did what we were good at.  Then when it came to the dressing room scenes Michael Caine said to Huston that it didn’t feel right for only the actors to talk and he said that a couple of us should speak.  When it came to half time, I congratulated a couple of players on their play – that was natural not planned – and that stayed in, and then other lines were given to us.  It felt strange, but when you watch the film it makes much more sense to have us speaking.  I loved making the film and there are so many different aspects to talk about, but we’ll save that for the 5th May event.

Moving back to your playing career, we all know that you came from a footballing family, but did that mean it was something you had to do?

My dad played professionally and so from an early age it seemed natural to play.  All boys loved playing back then anyway, so there was nothing strange about that, but I suppose when you are young whatever your father does has a greater importance.  My brother was a better player than I, although he stopped playing when my Dad died, and we used to play whenever and wherever we could.  I’d get to school as early as possible – not for the lessons, I was a dunce! – but for the kickabout.  We’d have a tennis ball and play until we had to go in.  I also played cricket, athletics and other sports, but football was my best.

Your progression into professional football seems rapid – you were a key feature of the Swindon team in your teens – were there any setbacks?

I’d had a spell at Bristol City when I was 15, but I was so homesick I had to give up on it.  My mother worried about me and suggested I kept out of the game.  She knew about the problems and difficulties a footballer could have because of my father’s career, and then the opportunity came with Swindon and everything started going right for me.  I joined them at a time when they were ready to give youth a chance and I made my debut at 17.  

Was life relatively easy for you then?

The life of a footballer was not as glamorous or financially rewarding as it is today.  I loved playing and I loved the camaraderie of it all, but we all had to have other jobs to keep us going outside of the season.  I used to end up working for the Corporation cutting grass, painting, oddjobs, and digging graves!  It kept you in touch with the fans – both the living and the dead! – and I actually loved all of that time.  We didn’t have flash cars or anything then.  In fact Ernie Hunt and I had a tandem, and we used to cycle together on our tandem to the ground.  It was a great, fun time, and I have very fond memories of it all.

One of the significant angles is that Joe Mercer was interested in signing you from fairly early in your career, were you aware of his interest?

To some extent yes.  Joe had played with my father at Aldershot, and then Swindon played Joe’s Aston Villa in a testimonial game.  We won and I scored a couple, and Joe even played wing-half for Villa.  After that I was told he wanted to sign me for Villa and that he’d made a bid but nothing further happened.  I don’t know if it was problems at Villa or what but some time after that Joe moved on, and then in 1965 he got the City job.  I was in Torquay and I gave him a call – I thought it was time to make the move and chance my arm a little.  Joe said he’d be in touch.  Then serious interest came from City and I was off.  

Did City mean much to you as a boy?

Because of where I lived I’d travel to Birmingham to watch games and whenever City played Villa I used to enjoy seeing Bobby Johnstone, Ken Barnes, Bert Trautmann and the rest.  They were such a great and in many ways glamorous side to watch, and the pale blue shirt – a colour I still don’t believe we’ve managed to recreate properly – was so memorable.  No other side could match that colour and City were unique.  All of those great memories were in my head and I was desperate to play for City when Joe came here.  Although they were in Division Two when I arrived they were a major, major side with a great stadium.  I loved Swindon, but City were something else.

Everyone talks about the atmosphere around the place, how did you find it?

Joe lifted the spirits of everybody, that was clear, and Malcolm Allison was so ahead of his time and knew all about psychology.  He knew what players needed, and he always knew the best way of getting more out of me was by winding me up.  I think I was a consistent player, and at half time in one game we’d had a bit of a bad spell.  I’d played well, but one or two players had struggled and we all knew it, but in the dressing room Mal went up to the two players and told them they were doing well and that they just had to keep plugging away.  He was boosting their confidence I guess and they certainly were more confident in the second half.  When he came to me he said I was playing the worst game ever and that I was letting everybody down!  It wound me up so much I had a go back at him, and then when we got on the pitch I pushed and fought for everything to prove how wrong he was and I gave 120% – his trick had worked!

During your first year at City (1965-66) England manager Alf Ramsey came to watch you play, and eventually you became the first City man since Don Revie in 1956 to play for England.  Were you aware of the attention?

When Ramsey came to watch me the attention was good and, considering Alf concentrated on his ‘wingless wonders’, it was great for me a winger to be considered.  I’d been included in the squad from almost immediately after the World Cup win, then I made my England debut against Scotland at Hampden (February 1968) in front of about 150,000, alongside the likes of Moore & Charlton.  I was very nervous but they helped to calm me and at half time both Bobbys told me I was doing well, so that helped.  In the end every one of my England appearances came at centre-forward, so I guess the style of play limited my opportunities, but I loved playing for England.   

What was Alf Ramsey like as a manager?

He was definitely a ‘player’s manager’.  He handled us well, and I believe that he was, in the end, treated appallingly be the FA.  He treated us exceptionally well and he was a great man to play for – I don’t believe that England have ever managed to find a permanent manager who can match him.  He had the same sort of authority as Joe Mercer, but they were different characters.  Joe was wonderful with the media and the public, while Alf was primarily a players’ man.  There was one time, we’d lost 2-0 at Katowice (1973) and I’d been on the bench.  We were pretty down.  Alf knew how low we were but because we were playing in Moscow a couple of days later he told everybody to get to bed early, no drinking or anything.

We all sneaked into Bobby Moore’s room and had a few gins.  Sir Alf caught us and we thought he was going to have a go.  He said:  “I thought I’d told you not to drink!  But in the circumstances I’ll have a large gin and tonic please.”

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, City never seemed to fear any opposition, is that something that came from the players?

Obviously, Joe and Malcolm bred a certain atmosphere which boosted confidence.  Whenever we played United we’d get to Trafford at 12.30 simply to soak up the atmosphere and to be ready.  Mal would swagger to the Stretford End before the game to tell them how many we’d win by, and we’d go out there and match his score, although we used to encourage him to keep the expectation down a little!  For us it didn’t matter whether we played Shankly’s Liverpool, Busby’s United, or any other team because we knew we were more than a match for any of them.  Some of these teams possessed better individual players but, particularly at Old Trafford, we were always the better side.  We had a great team spirit.  People always talk about Lee, Bell and Summerbee like Charlton, Law and Best, but our side wasn’t about three players, it was about the whole team.  Oakes, Pardoe, Young…. You know all the players.  Unfortunately the 3 player line is a good one for the media to focus on, but for the players it was always about the team.  I always think it’s wrong to talk about Lee, Bell, & Summerbee.  We were part of a great, strong side and, although the 3 of us were well known, we needed that entire side to bring City success.

Finally, you’ve always been known as an entertainer, and always had a great rapport with fans and the media, presumably this is a very important aspect to your life?

As a player I used to meet the fans as often as possible – we all would.  We’d have lunch in the old Social Club all mixed together, we’d attend supporters & Junior Blues meetings; take part in the pantomime every year; and generally be out and about.  We also used to get on well with the media.  The journalists were always good honest judges back then – people like Frank McGhee and Richard Bott always talked truthfully about your performance.  If they said I’d had a bad game, I knew I had.  They weren’t out to knock you, or to build you up.  They spoke honestly and so I enjoyed talking with them.

For me football is entertainment and the game itself is sometimes less important than everything that surrounds it.  I don’t miss playing, but I do miss the camaraderie we had.  I miss the team spirit we had with City, England, and even during the filming of Escape To Victory.  It’s the same camaraderie fans feel on the terraces.  That’s why I enjoy my involvement with the Club today because it’s all about the fans, the City spirit, and the wonderful life that surrounds the game.

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Paul Moulden (interviewed in March 2005)

Paul Moulden joined the Blues from Bolton Lads Club as an apprentice in June 1984, and made his first team debut in a Full Members’ Cup game in November 1985 when he was 18.  Always popular with fans, Moulden scored 18 goals in 48 (plus 16 as sub) League games.  Gary James met up with him at his chip shop in Bolton to discuss his career in March 2005.

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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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Glyn Pardoe

On this day (March 7) Manchester City defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the League Cup final. City’s goalscorer were both grandfathers of modern day player Tommy Doyle. They were Glyn Pardoe and Mike Doyle. Sadly both men have since passed away. I interviewed Glyn Pardoe (photo is of Glyn with Janice Monk and Steve Mackenzie at one of my book launches) a number of times over the years, including one of my first ever interviews back in the early 1990s (it was for my biography of Joe Mercer and Glyn was a wonderful, welcoming man). Back in January 2004 I interview Glyn for my then regular Manchester City match programme series In Search of the Blues. Here is that interview as it was written up for the programme:

Glyn Pardoe holds the record for the youngest player to make his debut with the Blues.  At the age of 15 years and 314 days he played in City’s 11th April 1962 meeting with Birmingham City.  He went on to play throughout City’s glorious late sixties period and made a total of 374 (plus 2 as substitute) appearances.

Gary James, author of Farewell To Maine Road, caught up with Glyn to discuss his playing career and his present day activities.

Let’s start with your role today, I’m sure many of our readers will have heard you on local radio this season.  Can you explain your role?

I work with Ian Cheeseman, Jimmy Wagg and the others at GMR to provide my views on what’s happening on the pitch.  Part of that is actually sat next to Ian summarising, and part of it is after the match when I am one of the guys talking to callers and generally talking about City.  It’s a great role and I love chatting to fans.  Ian and Jimmy are nice lads as well, and the great thing for me is that I enjoy it.  I love listening to supporters giving their views and I like to stress that the game is still all about opinions.  It doesn’t matter what else changes, football is a great game to talk about.

How did it all come about?

You have to go back to the eighties when I was still working for the Club.  Back then Ian Cheeseman was doing the Club videos of each game, while I was working with the Reserves and the Youth teams.  I was asked to give my opinions of each first team game for the Club videos, and so I’d work with the Reserves in the morning, then head off up to the old commentary gantry at Maine Road for the first team.  

Eventually that stopped of course, but then a few months ago I got a call from Ian.  Totally out of the blue really… I didn’t ever consider I could do the same thing on radio.  Ian asked if I could help for one game, so I did, then afterwards they kept asking me back.  

Did you find it difficult?

At first it was hard, although I don’t think any of that came across.  Unlike the old days of working on the video, I was not too familiar with every one of the first team squad, so it took some time to work out the characteristics of each player.  I also have a day job of course – it’s security reception work – so that had to be taken in to consideration.  Nevertheless, it has been a great experience and I do enjoy doing it.

Going back to your early career, making your debut at such an early age must have been a shock?

Well you’d think so, and I’m sure it was, but I did actually get to find out a few days before, so that helped.  If I’d have found out on the morning I don’t know how I’d have coped.  I don’t think I ever thought about my age.  I’m sure others did, but to me it was just a great opportunity.

Your debut came against Birmingham in 1962.  Do you remember much about the game?

Not really, except we lost 4-1 at home and I was up against a tough centre-half called Trevor Smith.  I wore the number nine shirt for that game – I later played in almost every position!  I don’t think I did a great deal, but I know I kept my place for the next 3 games.

These were not particularly good days as far as fans were concerned, but how did it feel to be a player during those first few years of your career?

The great side of the 1950s had disintegrated really.  We still had a few of the players in the side like Trautmann and Hayes, but the rest of the side was mainly youngsters finding their feet.  It was difficult because there was a general air of despondency.  We’d go to places like Blackburn and expect to win.  We’d take the lead, but end up losing 4-1 (1st May 1963) and I think that said it all.  We didn’t know how to win matches.  At the time I knew nothing else really, but when you do start to find success you suddenly realise how bleak the atmosphere inside the Club had been just a couple of seasons earlier.

Because you made your debut at such an early age did you think ‘this is it, I’ve made it’?

Not a chance!  They’d never have allowed me to think like that anyway.  I remember playing on the Saturday, and then walking up to the ground on the Monday and having to knock to be allowed in.  As far as everybody was concerned I was a Reserve – or even a youth player I suppose – not a first teamer.  You never actually ‘made it’ until you were a first team regular and even then you could never be complacent.  Even when we were winning all the trophies there was a very real fear that your contract would not be renewed.  I remember worrying each summer, thinking that I’d be forced to move on.  

In those days the Club had total control and as a player you were simply glad to be there.  We’ve gone to the other extreme now, but for me I don’t think I ever felt I’d made it.  Even when we were the most successful side in the Country.

How do you feel the mid-sixties transformation of the Club’s fortunes came about?

Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison came in.  That’s it really.  I remember when the Club was at its lowest and we had no hope, ambition, or direction and as a player you really worried about where we were heading and who the new guy might be.  I was still only about 18 and had no idea how it would all pan out of course.  Then Joe arrived, followed by Malcolm, and everything started to improve.  Training improved considerably and so you started to realise how football could be improved and enjoyed.

What were your first impressions of Mercer & Allison?

Joe was a very respectable figure.  We knew what he’d achieved as a player and he had a great approach.  He was quiet but very supportive.  A real calming influence.  Lovely.  

My first impression of Malcolm – remember I was still only a lad – was that he was very loud.  He liked to shout a lot!  Naturally, I got used to that, but at first it was a bit of a shock.  Malcolm was a terrific coach and we all learnt so much from him.  He was fantastic once you got to know him, and together they both turned us into a great side.

In the 1965-6 promotion season I only missed the opening game, so it was their arrival which made me a regular first teamer.  I’d had good runs before that of course, but once they arrived I hardly missed a match, and enjoyed the successes.

The 1970 League Cup Final saw you score the winning goal 12 minutes into extra-time – presumably a great moment?

Fantastic!  It’s always a great feeling when you score, but when you score in a cup final it’s tremendous.  A truly great memory.

Not too long after that you suffered with a serious leg injury sustained in the Manchester derby.  Did you realise how bad it was at the time?

I knew very little at the time.  It was the December 1970 game at Old Trafford and there was a collision between me and George Best.  Apparently I broke my leg and an artery was trapped, but I have no memory of what followed.  I’ve been told that I was within twenty minutes of losing my leg.  They had decided that removing my leg would save my life, but fortunately the operation they eventually did meant that my leg was saved as well.  I was in a daze for at least four or five hours and really have no idea of the worry my family and friends went through.  

You were only 24 when the injury occurred, and it was a long struggle back to fitness after that wasn’t it?

I missed the rest of that season, all the next, and didn’t play again in the first team until November 1972.  Even then my appearances were limited.  I managed 32 League appearances during 1973-4 and played in the League Cup Final with Wolves, but my career was really over.  

Even now I still haven’t got full movement back, but I do feel fortunate that I am still alive and I still have my leg.

Personally, considering your age at the time I feel the blow you suffered was equal if not greater than the tragedy suffered by Paul Lake and by Colin Bell.  Presumably you regard it as your worst moment?

I don’t like thinking about worst moments.  Football was all about enjoyment to me.  I feel very lucky to have been in such a successful side, and to play during a great period.  Not many people are given the opportunity in the first place, so it all has to be great.

Which players were you closest with during your career?

Alan Oakes is my cousin of course, so I’d been playing with him since I was very young.  The two of us, plus Mike Doyle and Colin Bell were known as the Big Four because we were always together.  We played golf a lot and so were always seen together, but the whole of the playing staff was close in those days.  We had a great team spirit.

After your playing days finished you continued to work with the Club.  Did you enjoy that period?

I worked with the youth sides, and winning the Youth Cup against United in 1986 was a great moment.  The lads had so much enthusiasm – Paul Moulden, Paul Lake, Steve Redmond, Andy Hinchcliffe, Ian Brightwell and the others.  That gave me great satisfaction but people forget that we came close to winning it again three years later.  Watford beat us in the final, but that side contained players like Neil Lennon, Ged Taggart and Ashley Ward.  To think that so many of the players from those two sides went on to play international football or make a name for themselves at other clubs makes you appreciate the quality we had at the time.  Those kids had ability, and it brought me and the others a lot of satisfaction.

Finally, how did the fans treat you during your time at the Club?

Always great.  They were very supportive – even when we were struggling at the start of my career.  They gave me fantastic treatment throughout my career, and I still enjoy meeting and talking with them today. 

Here’s film of that 1970 final:

A reminder that you can still watch my 1 hour plus talk on Manchester City crowds, support, chants and Maine Road here. It’s free to watch:

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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On This Day: Colin Bell Was Born

On this day (26th February) in 1946 Colin Bell was born. Sadly Colin, recognised by most Manchester City fans as the greatest ever player for the club, passed away in January 2021.

The above photo comes from Peter Barnes’ collection and was taken at Champneys where City were staying prior to the League Cup final in 1976. It was, of course, Colin’s 30th birthday.

My thoughts and best wishes are with Colin’s family today.

I’ve interviewed Colin and written a lot about him over the years. A few posts are available (free to read) here for anyone who wants to learn more about Colin or remember some of his incredible achievements:

Colin Bell Interview/Tribute

1977-78 Colin Bell’s Contribution To The Central League Title

Colin Bell 1946-2021

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2020/12/29/manchester-city-hall-of-fame-colin-bells-significant-game/

IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Colin Bell MBE (interviewed in January 2005)

On this day… John Benson & Manchester City

Sixty years ago today (February 21 1962) John Benson made his Manchester City League debut. He had joined the Blues at the age of 15 in July 1958 and went on to make 52 League and Cup appearances before being transferred to Torquay in 1964.  Spells at Bournemouth, Exeter and Norwich followed, before John moved into coaching.  In 1980 he returned to Manchester as assistant to manager John Bond.  Here’s an interview I did with him during October 2004.

Sadly, John died on October 30 2010 at the age of 67.

Here for subscribers is the interview from 2004.

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Kaziu Deyna

Back in 2003 I wrote this profile of former Manchester City player and Polish World Cup star Kazimierz Deyna. Deyna was such an important and unusual signing at the time he joined City in November 1978 that I feel this article is still appropriate and of interest to subscribers to my blog today.

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Alan Oakes (interviewed February 2005)

In February 2005 I interviewed Alan Oakes about his life and career. here is that interview. Enjoy!

Alan Oakes joined the Blues at the age of 15 in 1958 and made his first team debut in November 1959 when he was 17 years and 2 months.  He stayed at Maine Road until July 1976 by which time he had made a staggering 564 League appearances.  In February 2005 he was inducted into City’s Hall of Fame, and author Gary James met up with him to discuss his career.

To begin with let’s talk about your childhood, did you come from a sporting background?

We were all very sporty and my father and others played local football – nothing professional – and as a boy I’d play cricket in the summer and football in the winter.  The usual sort of thing – coats as goalposts – and I loved playing.  I progressed into the Mid-Cheshire Boys side and then one day I got the shock of my life when City’s scout Albert Kavanagh knocked on the door and asked me to join the groundstaff.  He’d watched me play at Broughton, Salford, and seemed to like what he saw.  I was astounded and delighted at the same time.  This was a dream moment.

Coming from a Cheshire village like Winsford in the 50s to a big city like Manchester must have been a bit daunting, how did you and your family feel about the move?

It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.  Other teams showed interest but City meant so much to me.  I’d been to Maine Road a few times – I stood on the old Kippax before it had a roof – and loved the Club.  I wasn’t blinkered though because I also went to Maine Road to watch some of United’s first games in Europe.  Remember they used City’s ground because they didn’t have floodlights and a lot of Blues went to watch the European sides.

Clearly, you saw a wealth of talent during this period, but who were your heroes?

Ken Barnes was a brilliant player and by far the best in his position, and Bobby Johnstone had an amazing footballing brain.  They were great players to watch and later I was fortunate to play with Ken, but my boyhood hero was always Billy Wright from Wolves.  There was something special about Wolves.  They brought over several top European sides for friendlies – I guess they paved the way for the European Cup – and they won so many fans.  They were a great, entertaining side and Billy Wright was their star.  I was still a City fan, but I recognised the quality of Wright and Wolves.

Still only 17 you made your debut in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, how did you feel about your performance?

I felt okay, but I gave away a penalty!  Fortunately for me Bert Trautmann – the greatest ever keeper – was in nets and he saved the day.  As a member of the groundstaff I’d clean Bert’s boots and even that felt like a great honour, so you can imagine how grateful I felt when he saved the penalty.  The Chelsea game was a one off – I think Ken Barnes was injured – and so it was a few weeks before my chance came again.  I felt a lot of satisfaction that I was in the reckoning though.  When I arrived at City there were 55 professionals and about five teams to progress through to reach the first team.

How did you find the management and coaching staff in those days?

They were all ex-City players and so that was important.  Fred Tilson and Laurie Barnett had played in the 30s finals and coached us, and manager Les McDowall had been a good player in his day.  Clearly the coaching techniques they used were not a patch on Malcolm Allison, but they did what was right for the period.  They also treated me well and looked after me.  I found it difficult adjusting to life in a big city.  I lived in digs for a while, and then moved back home and travelled by train and, eventually, car.  

By 1963 you were a regular but City were entering a difficult period, did that come across to you?

We had a lot of quality in the side but seemed to be conceding too many goals.  We knew we were struggling but we always gave it our best.  After we were relegated in ’63 Derek Kevan and Jimmy Murray arrived.  We were doing really well, then Jimmy did his cartilage in – that was a major blow – and we tailed off.  We missed promotion (6th place) and we couldn’t get it going again until Joe and Malcolm arrived in ’65.  

Although you were still relatively young, you were one of the more experienced players, how did the arrival of Mercer & Allison go down?

It was a great lift of course, but I know we were wary of Malcolm at first.  He had all these ideas and it seemed so different to what we were used to, but within a week or so he’d won everybody over.  The transformation by the two men was so fast – before we’d completed our pre-season games we were convinced we would win promotion.  We couldn’t wait to get started.  The confidence flowed and then Malcolm tackled our fitness.  Of course we won promotion easily, and then held our own in 1966-7.  Don’t forget we had faced a couple of big tests in those first two seasons – We took a strong Everton side to 2 replays in the FA Cup while we were still in Division Two and narrowly lost to Revie’s Leeds the following year.  We lost 1-0 to Leeds with a Jack Charlton goal that should have been disallowed.  So we came away from those games confident we could face any side.  There was nothing for us to fear.

Of course, the Championship followed in ’68 and all the other successes of that great period, which one means most to you?

The Championship and European successes were both very important.  This is a difficult one really, but because I was there during the dark days, I think the most important one had to be the promotion in 1966.  My reason is that without that none of the rest would have followed.  Joe and Malcolm didn’t just get us promoted, they first stopped the rot.  We were going downhill fast and they stopped that, changed gear and pushed us forward quickly, and it wasn’t done with negative play.  A lot of teams pack the defence and try to ensure they don’t lose, we always went out to win and never contemplated holding out for a point.

Throughout your City career people commented that you were a quiet, unassuming, perhaps shy player, was that fair?

I think I was a good professional.  I used to simply get on with it.  I was dedicated and tried to give everything for the Club.  I believe I was a good, honest pro.  If I was asked to do an interview, I’d do it, but I never sought the headlines.  Media coverage was not as it is today, so it was easier in many ways, but I would do it when needed.  More than anything I wanted to make sure my role on the pitch spoke for me.  

By 1973 the Mercer-Allison partnership had ended and some of the other players started to move on, did you contemplate leaving?

Never.  You were worried that you’d be dropped or the next one out, but I never thought about choosing to leave.  Why would anyone want to leave the best club in the country?  I remember thinking that somebody would take my place and that I had to keep performing at the highest level.  In some ways I liked to push myself by thinking of all the people who could take my place, but I never, ever thought about leaving until after the League Cup final of 1976.

The team had changed significantly by 1976, and you were clearly one of the elder statesmen of the team, how did you find that period?

I enjoyed it all, and I remember playing a few games with Peter Barnes in front of me.  I loved that.  He was such a gifted player and it was great for me to play behind someone that exciting at that stage in my career and in his.  I know this came a couple of years after I’d moved on, but it irritated me when Peter Barnes was sold because I believe he could have helped City to real success.  He was the sort of player you built a team around.

While I’m thinking about this, I also believe Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee were sold far too early.  Francis had so much more left in him – he proved that at Derby – and so the break up of the Mercer-Allison team came too rapid.

In July 1976 you moved to Chester, why did you make the move?

I’d had a great season.  I’d played 39 League games and won the League Cup and so there was no pressure to leave, but I did think that I may have blocked some other gifted players coming through.  I was also aware that I’d be 34 when the new season starts and that I may not be up to it in the way I would normally expect.  Chester City were just up the road and for me it was a nice move.  I do remember thinking ‘what have I done?’ because I’d gone from a First Division palace to play at Third Division grounds, but the move was a good one.  Looking back though I was perhaps wrong to leave when I did.  My advice to any player now is to remain playing at the highest level for as long as you physically can.  Those days are precious and should not be cut short.  

I also missed Maine Road a lot when I left and I miss it even more now.  I regret the fact City have left that ground.

At Chester you moved into management, was this something you’d always wanted?

It was part of the attraction of joining Chester that I could become player-manager and I think in the six years I was there we had a great time.  Success is different for a team like Chester, it’s all about survival and so I had to do a lot of work in the transfer market.  I had another ex-City star, Cliff Sear, with me and we worked well together, and I loved every minute at Sealand Road.  Often I’d be trying to negotiate good transfer fees and working hard to sell a couple of players to keep us afloat, and so I got satisfaction from that when it all came right.  I still got a lot of satisfaction from playing as well, so it was a perfect role.

Ian Rush was one of your players.  Is it true he almost came to City?

Yes it is.  Whenever anybody with talent was due to leave Chester I would want them to move to a bigger, better club.  I still love City and so I wanted Rushie to go to Maine Road.  We were having a great cup run and Tony Book and Malcolm Allison came to watch him.  Rush scored twice and I met up with Tony and Malcolm afterwards.  Tony was keen to sign him but Malcolm didn’t rate him for some reason and it all collapsed.  He later went to Liverpool and the rest is history, but I wanted him to go to Maine Road and I wish that deal had occurred.  Of course, you never know how these things would have worked out.

Did you ever consider moving into a higher division as a manager?

Definitely – with City!  It must have been 1983 because I know Billy McNeill was given the job in the end, but I applied for the City job.  I desperately wanted the role because I loved the Club and because I believed I knew exactly what the Club needed.  I’d also served what I thought was a good apprenticeship – six years at Chester taught me a great deal about survival and transfer negotiations.  I knew City had financial problems and that someone with the right experience was needed – the last thing the Club could cope with was someone who needed to spend – and so I felt I was ideal for the role.  Don’t forget what I’d experienced as a player at Maine Road as well.  Most importantly, I understood the Club and all about Manchester football fans and their expectations and needs.   This remains the greatest club in my eyes.

I got an interview at Peter Swales’ house.  A few directors were there and I thought I gave a very good interview.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job.  I still wonder what might have happened.

Moving on to today, your son Michael has become a Premier League goalkeeper, is this something you’ve encouraged?

I didn’t push him but I did encourage him.  It’s a great game to be a part of and I love the fact he’s involved.  Joe Corrigan helped him a lot when he was young and so I’m grateful for that, and when he joined Aston Villa I was delighted.  Now he’s at Wolves and I do try to watch him but I find it very difficult.  I’m always in two minds as to whether I want the ball to be at his end of the field or not.  If Wolves are attacking I know he’s safe, but I also know he can’t demonstrate his abilities.  If Wolves are on the defensive I want him to have to make a great save but I’m also worried he’s going to be caught out.  I think he’s doing really well though.  

I once replaced Bert Trautmann in nets – it was against West Ham and he was sent off, so I deputised.  I can’t remember much about it now, but I don’t think Michael would have learnt much if he’d seen it!

Finally, you have made a total of 672 first team appearances for City (including 3 Charity Shield games), how did you feel when you first broke Bert Trautmann’s appearance record?

I was a little bit sad that I took the record off Bert because to me there was no finer ‘keeper and player for the Club, but obviously I felt pleased to have the record.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when the record’s beaten.  I know it will take a lot to beat but I hope somebody does it, and if the person who beats it has the same sort of career and enjoyment at City that I have had then he will have had a fantastic career.  This is a great club with terrific fans and I have enjoyed every minute of my time with the Club.