We hear so much about the Premier League era and how the game has changed, so for today’s feature I’ve decided to take a look at the early 1990s and the birth of the Premier League. It’s almost thirty years since the structure of league football changed forever and during that time some clubs have benefitted from the new structure and others have found life difficult. City have experienced both extremes of course.
The narrative that we often hear about the Blues’ journey over the last thirty years is that they’ve gone from a struggling club to a hugely successful one and, while it is true City are highly successful today and that the Blues entered their lowest ever point in the late 1990s, it is wrong to assume that the position the club found itself in by 1999 was typical of the club’s full history.
So, here for subscribers, I’m taking a look back at the early 1990s and remind ourselves where the Blues were; who their rivals were; and the state of football at that time:
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On April 12 1894 a meeting was held to formally establish Manchester City AFC.
Dates and the story around the establishment of the club often get incorrectly recorded, so here for subscribers is the story of the demise of Ardwick and establishment of Manchester City with all the key dates…
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Newton Heath: William DOUGLAS, John McCARTNEY, Fred ERENTZ, Harry STONES, James McNAUGHT, William STEWART, John CLARKIN, Robert DONALDSON, James DOW, Richard SMITH, James PETERS. Manager: Alf Albut
Manchester City: Charlie WILLIAMS, John WALKER, David ROBSON, Harry SMITH, Robert JONES, John McBRIDE, Billy MEREDITH, Pat FINNERHAN, Sandy ROWAN, William McREDDlE, James SHARPLES. Manager: Joshua Parlby
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Manchester City: George HUTCHINSON, Harry SMITH, John WALKER, George MANN, Joseph NASH, Fred DYER, Billy MEREDITH, Pat FINNERHAN, Sandy ROWAN, James SHARPLES, Bob MILARVIE. Manager: Joshua Parlby
Newton Heath: William DOUGLAS, John McCARTNEY, Fred ERENTZ, George PERRINS, James McNAUGHT, William DAVIDSON, John CLARKIN, Robert DONALDSON, James DOW, Richard SMITH, James PETERS. Manager: Alf Albut
Both sides had joined the Football League in 1892 when Ardwick (Manchester City) entered the newly formed Second Division and Newton Heath (Manchester United) joined the enlarged First Division. At the end of this first season Newton Heath finished bottom of the First Division and Ardwick in fifth place in Division Two. Newton Heath survived in the top ﬂight by succeeding in the Test matches that were used to decide promotion and relegation in the early years of the League. The 1893-94 season saw Ardwick finish 13th out of 15 teams in the Second Division, whereas Newton Heath were again bottom of the First Division. This time the Heathens were unsuccessful in the Test matches and were relegated, joining Ardwick in Division Two. During the close season Ardwick had been reformed as Manchester City and were determined to make an impact. A number of new players had been signed by City secretary Joshua Parlby, including William ‘Billy’ Meredith. The derby was to be Meredith’s home debut. Prior to the derby, City had won only four games out of eleven in the League, although they had scored thirty goals including four in their previous game – a 5-4 defeat at Newcastle United! Newton Heath had lost only once in the League at Burton, and so entered the match as very much the team in form.
BEFORE THE GAME
P W D L F A Pts
NH 7 3 3 1 17 11 9
CITY 11 4 1 6 30 30 9
This was the first ever League match between the Manchester clubs. It proved to be an exciting game of end to end attacking football leading to a conclusive victory for Newton Heath. Smith, Newton’s inside left was in irresistible form and set up derby history by scoring most goals in a single match. City were well beaten on the day, finding the Heathens’ defence and McNaught in particular, difficult to break down. Some consolation came from the goalscoring home debut of the legendary Billy Meredith, who was to give both clubs such wonderful service. For goal hero Smith this match marked the high point of a splendid first season for the club. His record four goals were part of 17 strikes in 29 games. During this season and the next, he remained a consistent marksman for the Heathens, but thereafter, lost form and his team place, before leaving the club in 1900. “The Umpire” sports newspaper of the day described the build-up to the first ever League derby and recorded the first derby goal as follows: “This League match was looked upon as the local Derby in Association football, and in spite of the dull and threatening weather the much-improved ground at Hyde Road presented an animated spectacle. When play started the weather was still dull, but the crowd rolled in fast, until probably over 10,000 were present. The City played towards the hotel end, and the sun coming out strongly was much against them early on. The excitement was intense as Meredith raced away and centred finely but the defence was equal to it and sternly repelled. At the other end the home side were not equally fortunate, as after Hutchinson had placed a beauty over the bar, Smith headed past him and opened the scoring for Newton after thirteen minutes play”.“The Umpire” then summarised the first ever League derby in the following terms: ”Although some allowance must be made on account of Smith (Harry) being hurt, it must be admitted that on the day the winners were the better team. Their combination was excellent and hardly a fault could be found with any of the players. Douglas made amends for his somewhat poor form of the previous week and, judging by the cheers with which he was greeted, he is still a great favourite on the Ardwick ground. All the backs played finely, but the highly finished display of McNaught is deserving of special mention. Dow played about his best game so far this season, one good feature being his unselfishness. Donaldson played as hard as ever, although he is not quite so unselfish as he might be. On the City side Hutchinson had little chance with any of the goals scored against him, albeit he gave one the appearance of being far from safe. Walker however, played very finely, but Dyer was by no means brilliant at half, in which position Mann was about the most conspicuous. The winning half-backs were clearly too good for the opposing forwards, but the play of the young Welsh player, Meredith and Finnerhan, was far superior to that of any other”.
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