On This Day – Francis Lee

On this day (9 October) in 1967 Francis Lee finally signed for Manchester City from Bolton Wanderers. Heres a long profile of Lee I’ve written on him:

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Olympic Blues

Today I’m taking a look at links between City and Olympic gold winning medallists, in particular I’m focusing on City star Max Woosnam and Manuel Estiarte, a member of Pep’s staff.

This article is available to subscribers to my site. Subscribing costs £20 a year and subscribers have full access to everything posted on the site, including audio interviews with John Bond, Malcolm Allison, George Graham and others, plus the entire text of Manchester A Football History and a PDF of my first book From Maine Men to Banana Citizens. You can always try it out by subscribing £3 per month and cancel at any time. No matter whether you sign up for a year or a month at a time you get full access to everything for as long as you are a subscriber.

Anyway, here’s the article…

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The Sporting Broads: A Family’s Journey from Pedestrianism to Football

By the time professional football came to prominence as the leading working class sporting activity in the late nineteenth century the sport of pedestrianism was in decline. Pedestrians and trainers had to find alternative means of income and, for some, football provided a new focus for their skills, crafted through experience and passed on through familial and community links. This paper considers the life of Jimmy Broad, a competitor in pedestrian challenges, who went on to establish a career as a successful football trainer, and highlights how his career adapted. It also provides commentary on the training techniques utilized by Broad and goes on to outline the careers of his sons, one of whom also became a football trainer. The story of the Broads is of importance to those studying sport’s development during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and provides an understanding of one of the influential figures behind Manchester’s first footballing success. It adds to the research into athletic entrepreneurs which has seen the construction of individual biographies to aid understanding of sport’s development. 

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Johnny Williamson

Last week I heard the news that the former Manchester City player Johnny Williamson had died at the age of 92 (this photo shows Johnny, far right, with his two great friends Ken Barnes and Don Revie). Since then I’ve not really seen many tributes to Johnny, who has been a dedicated Blue attending Maine Road as a regular since the 1940s as well as being a striker. So, I’ve decided to put that right a little with this. Instead of writing the usual sort of tribute I’ve posted below an interview I did with Johnny about 18 years ago. His words tell his story much better than I can. Here goes…

Today I’m considering the life and career of a player from the 1950s: Johnny Williamson was a Manchester born City player during the period 1949 to 1956.  This was a golden age for football and, as was usually the case, when I met up with Johnny we had a very enjoyable chat. We met up at the original Manchester City museum, the Manchester City Experience.

Before we consider your playing career can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the Club today?  I know you’re still a regular attender.

Well I’m a member of the City Former Players’ Association which, to be honest, is probably the best ex-players association in the Country.  Everyone involved with the organisation puts in a lot of hard work and the Club really support us, so that’s good.  

I come to the game because I still love football and it’s a great way to meet up with your old team mates as well.

So who are the key men behind the Association?

Everyone plays a part, and I think it’d be unfair to single out too many.  The Association started a few years ago when Roy Clarke, Roy Little, Paddy Fagan, Peter Robinson – probably a few more – got it going, and then it grew and nowadays the main men are John Riley, Roy Cheetham, Franny Lee, Fred Eyre, and Ian Mellor, but as I say everyone plays a part so I don’t  want to single anyone out.  What I do want to say though is that it’s a great organisation.

Between the end of your playing career and your retirement, what other jobs did you have?

I worked for the Co-op for a while and then managed an off-licence in Ashton.  It was long hours of course and not always the best place to be, but it was a living and it kept me close to Manchester and to City.

Going right back to the start of your career then, can you tell me how you progressed?

I was born just up the road, and as a kid I’d been playing in Oldham.  Then I had to do my National Service in the Army – I know it’s difficult for people to follow these days but when you were that age your life went on hold for two years.  You had no choice.  It was something everyone had to do, and you went along with it.  

As I was about to come out of the Army I had a trial at Maine Road, then played at Droylsden for City’s A team, and then on the Monday I played for the Reserves.  It was a quick elevation.  I’d gone from nothing to playing at Old Trafford within a few days.  In those days the reserves played at United because their first team were using Maine Road, so we couldn’t play at our ground.  

In April 1950 you made your League debut against Arsenal, how did that feel?

Well first of all it was April Fool’s Day.  I get reminded about this every so often!  There was a fella only the other week reminding me.  It was no wonder we got beat.  But I will say that the first team had some really great players – and I mean great – so making your debut alongside some of these men was a honour.  Trautmann was playing of course, but the side also had Eric Westwood – a brilliant player at the time.   The Arsenal team was special as well.  I remember Denis Compton and his brother Leslie were playing.  Joe Mercer was missing for Arsenal that day, but what an exceptional player he was as well.

Do you think it was the golden age of football? 

I know it was a period when every side – and I mean every side – had great players.  You could go through the First Division sides and list the brilliant players each one possessed.  Tom Finney at Preston, Nat Lofthouse at Bolton, Joe Mercer at Arsenal, Stanley Matthews… I won’t go on, but I could.  There were so many and as a player, or as a fan, you’d pick up the fixture list of the newspaper and look to see when the teams would be coming.  You had to see these men in the flesh.  There was no television coverage of course, so your only chance of seeing the great players would be to go to the games, and when you did, you were never let down.

Don’t forget though that our side was a major draw at the time.  We had some brilliant players and whenever City went away the local fans would come out to see George Smith, Andy Black, and later Don Revie, Roy Paul, Ken Barnes and so on.  

As the side contained such quality it must have been hard for you to break into that team?

We all knew our place.  I knew the side had great forwards so I knew my chances would be limited.  The reserves also attracted great crowds in those days – which also demonstrates the strength and quality in the side – and I always hoped I’d get in to the first team, but just being around some of those men was tremendous.

What coaching influence did you have in the reserves?

Frank Swift was looking after the reserves and, again, being in the same room as someone like that was enough in some ways.  I think it was actually Swifty who changed me from being an inside-forward to being a centre-forward.  That helped my career, but Swifty was a great influence in that dressing room.  He had great humour and there are many stories of pranks played by him – and once in a while on him!

Coaching though didn’t really exist.  You were encouraged to play football naturally.  It’s one of those things that you’ve either got or you haven’t.  The two most important things to know are when to give and when to go.  That can’t be coached.  You need a footballer’s brain.

One of your key moments came with the development of the deep-lying centre-forward approach known as the Revie Plan.  Whose idea was that?

Well, it evolved really.  It was developed in the reserves but it wasn’t one of those ideas that can be pinpointed to one particularly day.  In the reserves it was working with me and Ken Barnes, but then it was tried in the first team with Don Revie and we got beat 5-0 at Preston.  Then they played Ken in the first team with Don and it clicked.  You see it needed the two players, and Ken was the difference.  Then there was no stopping it.

It’s hard to imagine now any new tactical plan revolutionising the game, but this one did.  How did the other teams adjust?

They couldn’t at first.  They had no idea how to counteract the plan.  It surprised everyone and some of the other teams just could not work it out.  Don’t forget though that the quality of the players had a lot to do with it.  Don and Ken were two exceptional players.  Everyone knew that.

What was Don Revie like as a man?

A great guy.  Me and my wife and Don and Elsie were very close.  We always went on holiday together and he was a good friend.  He’s had a bad press at times, but as a player he was brilliant…  as a manager he revitalised Leeds… and as a man he was great.  People used to go on about the ‘Revie Plan’ but he used to tell them it wasn’t ‘his’ it was the team’s.  In particularly he used to tell them how vital Ken was.  It wouldn’t have worked without Ken, and Don made sure they all knew that.

When I was in the reserves and Don was in the first team I was very happy.  I knew he was a great player and being reserve to Don was better than most men could ever dream of.  I still had the hunger to play, and still wanted to be in the first team, but I knew my chance would be limited while Don was there.

So what was the biggest moment of your career?

It’s difficult thinking about biggest moments, it’s so long ago, but coming into the side for Don when we played at Sheffield Wednesday in November 1954 was great.  Not only did I replace Don, but I also scored two goals and we won 4-2.  A very good memory that one.

What were the facilities for players like in those days?

It was a different world!  There was always a race on to get into the drying room first because the kit was so old and worn that it really was a case of first up best dressed.  The socks were enormous with the heel flapping around near your foot.  They’d been washed so many times  they’d lost their shape.  

We wore thick woolly jumpers – with holes in – for training and I’m certain some of this kit had been worn by the likes of Swifty and Doherty ten years earlier.  I’m not saying City were bad because every club was like this.  This was normal.

What was your worst moment at City?

It’s got to be leaving.  Nobody ever wanted to leave City.  I loved it here, but I had to move on, so I went to Blackburn.  I didn’t stay there long, and then came back to Manchester and played at Hyde United.  I was a Mancunian and a City fan.

Had you been a City fan since boyhood?

Definitely!  I used to get to Maine Road for three-quarter time – when they used to open the gates to let people out but every week hundreds more ran in – and loved watching the players I eventually shared a dressing room with as a reserve.  My Dad had actually been a player with United and I’ve got his Central League medal from 1921.  He always came to watch me play.

NOTE: John Williamson senior was with United between September 1919 and May 1921, making two League appearances both, coincidentally against Blackburn Rovers (the team his son was later to play for).

Finally, you have clearly loved your involvement with City what is the key memory from your time as a player?

Being at the Club when so many truly great players were there.  People often ask things like ‘who was better Swift or Trautmann?’ and I always say whichever you pick I’ll have the other because both men were better than the rest.  If either ‘keeper was playing today supporters would never go out on a Saturday night, they’d stay in to watch the highlights.  That’s how good these men were.  People watched football because they knew they would be entertained by natural players.  It was a great time to play, and it was a fantastic time to be a supporter.  I wouldn’t swap that period of football for any other.

The Keeper: Bert Trautmann

On Sunday (September 5, 2021) evening at 10pm BBC 2 will be showing ‘The Keeper’. I was a consultant to this film. If you’ve not seen it then you certainly should. Trautmann was an incredible man. It’s a dramatisation of a life not always factually exactly what happened but I hope it inspires everyone to find out more about a perceived enemy who became a hero. To mark this event here’s a chapter I wrote for my MCFC Hall of Fame book a few years back…

“Unfortunately, Bert is ill at the moment and cannot be here, however when he can make it we will ensure he receives this award.  On his behalf, I’d like to thank you for this wonderful award and recognition for a truly great City player.” Chairman John Wardle collecting the Hall of Fame award in January 2004)

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You can read about a significant moment from Trautmann’s City career here:

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

City’s record appearances

Now that Sergio Aguero has left Manchester City it seems an appropriate time to review where he fits in the all-time appearance list for the club.  City’s appearance holder is Alan Oakes and it may be some time before another player comes close to his total of 676 (plus 4 as substitute) appearances.

Here for subscribers is a feature on the top 25 appearance holders for Manchester City with some commentary on how the record has changed over the decades.

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Bidding War Between MCFC And Villa!

On this day (25 August) in 1981 Manchester City and Aston Villa were in a bidding war to sign Trevor Francis.

I know recently City have been criticised by some in the media for both high spending and for not spending more than they deem a player is worth (what a crazy world it is when a potential purchasing team is criticised for not wanting to spend what a selling club want when there are no other clubs interested in buying that player at that price!) but in 1981 the desire to sign Francis meant they were prepared to spend big if necessary.

A bidding war is always in the best interests of the selling club and occasionally a friendly word with a journalist or another club can create a bidding war even if there really isn’t much interest from a club. Thinking back I can’t remember Villa seriously going after Francis but this Daily Mirror report suggests they were interested.

It wasn’t long of course before City got their man.

Notice the brief mention of Peter Barnes at the bottom of that cutting? If you want to know more then obviously I recommend The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography (use tabs/menu to find out more).

MANCHESTER CITY REVEAL ANDY SCOTT AS SCULPTOR COMMISSIONED TO CREATE STATUES OF CLUB LEGENDS

I like this… it’s not just creating a standard statue it’s significantly better than that. If you’ve seen The Kelpies you’ll recognise that Andy Scott uses history to produce modern, impressive, artistic pieces. Anyway, here’s City’s press release (it’s not often that a major city’s leader talks about footballing statues either but Richard Leese does here – see below):

City has revealed that award-winning sculptor Andy Scott was the artist who won the commission to create permanent statues of Club legends Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. The appointment followed an exhaustive selection process that began in March 2020.

Born and raised in Glasgow and a graduate of the city’s School of Art, Scott is one of the most respected sculptors of his generation and is known for his large-scale figurative pieces, which he creates by blending traditional craftmanship with modern fabrication techniques. His portfolio of more than 80 contemporary projects can be found both in the UK and in many corners of the world.


Now creating from his studio in Philadelphia, USA, Andy works frequently in galvanised steel and counts The Kelpies and Beacon of Hope amongst some of his most celebrated work.


Uniquely, the Kompany and Silva projects have been conducted entirely remotely from Scott’s securing the commission in June 2020, through to creation, completion and transportation of the pieces, which arrived on schedule in Manchester from Philadelphia in August 2021.
The statues of Kompany and Silva are to be installed outside the Club’s Etihad Stadium ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Arsenal, with Aguero’s tribute to follow in 2022, after his departure from the club this summer.

The legacy project was announced by Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak following the departure in Summer 2019 of Vincent Kompany, the Club’s most successful captain in its 127-year history. The decision to honour the three players was based on their unparalleled contribution to the Club’s transformation over their combined thirty-one years at the club. Al Mubarak has since indicated that further work is being undertaken to ensure the legends of earlier eras are appropriately celebrated.

Speaking of his appointment to the project Andy Scott said:
“On hearing that I had secured the commission to bring Vincent, David and now Sergio to life in sculpture form, I was absolutely thrilled. It’s an unbelievable honour to work on something that will be visited by hundreds of thousands of fans as they remember and celebrate the achievements of their footballing heroes.
I have always been struck by how sportsmen and women move and perform, and in the case of football specifically, how they anticipate the ball, how they combine with their teammates, and sometimes simply how they stand.
Reflecting these elements was always going to be challenging, but it was particularly so during a global pandemic as we were only able to meet with Vincent and David virtually. But with their insights and extensive research of film and photographic footage, I have tried to capture their unique physical characteristics and their distinctive movements in a way which I hope does justice to both of these phenomenal footballers.
It’s been such a pleasure to work on this prestigious project and I can’t wait to finally get to meet the team in person as we set about the final installations at the Etihad Stadium this week.”


Manchester City’s Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak commented:
“We are delighted with our choice of Andy to bring this project to life.
His portfolio speaks to his expertise, and his contemporary approach, together with his chosen medium of industrial materials, made him the perfect fit to create artwork for Manchester City. Ultimately, Vincent and David do not need statues to enshrine their achievements at Manchester City over the past decade. They are already revered as icons of their generation. But what these artworks give us, and generations to come, is the opportunity to be reminded of, and savour, the truly magical moments created by both men.”

Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese said:
“City’s decision to commission the statues of their iconic players and the appointment of Andy Scott to deliver them, is such an exciting development for our city. The benefits of public art are well accepted and in addition to the cultural and aesthetic advantages that come with high quality artwork, it can also generate significant economic value for the city.

I have seen Andy’s work and I’m thrilled that Manchester’s landscape will be blessed with new artwork from someone of his standing and whilst naturally, these pieces will be of appeal first and foremost to Manchester City fans, it is clear that this calibre of artwork will be admired and respected by millions around the city and beyond.”


Ten Years Ago Today – Sergio Agüero’s Debut

On this day (August 15) in 2011 Sergio Agüero made his Manchester City debut after signing in the summer of 2011 from Atletico Madrid. Here’s an article on his debut for subscribers to this site. Enjoy!

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Subscriber Post – Manchester City’s Oldest

Recently, I covered the youngest, now it is the turn of the oldest. Today I’m taking a look at some of Manchester City’s landmark oldest record holders.

This post is available to subscribers of my site. If you would like to subscribe and read this and all my other content posted to this site (over 370 articles/sound recordings/interviews including the entire Manchester A Football History & From Maine Men To Banana Citizens books) then please use the button below. It costs £20 a year (that’s about £1.67 a month) and you have access to everything for as long as you are a subscriber (you can even subscribe for a month at a time at £3, access everything and then cancel your subscription if you like!).

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