Scandals, Investigations… We’ve Been Here Before!

‘The punishment was the largest ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period.’

‘The League met and representatives of each club voted in favour of the punishment meted out to us being enforced. And while their representatives were passing this pious resolution most of them had other representatives busy trying to persuade the “villains whose punishment had been so well deserved” to sign for them under conditions very much better in most cases than the ones we had been ruled by at Hyde Road.’

These quotes are connected with investigations into Manchester City over 100 years ago when the FA considered the Blues to be a ‘nouveau riche’ club despite incredible support etc. Back then certain clubs who were regarded as the aristocracy of football (that included Aston Villa and Everton back then) were somewhat dissatisfied that Manchester City had come from foundation as MCFC in 1894 to FA Cup winners and League runners up within a decade. Lots of investigations followed with some determined to kill off this challenger. This all sound familiar? Well 118 years ago the largest punishment ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period was imposed on the club.

Below for subscribers is a 4,500 word article written on the topic by me. This is an academic piece, focusing on the facts and was written for an academic publication, not something club specific. The article considers the investigation, the ban and its long terms impact on Manchester football, where Manchester City’s first golden era came to an end but Manchester United’s first golden era followed. A truly transformational period in Manchester’s football story and essential reading for anyone looking at precedents or wanting to understand how football in the city was shaped.

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True Blues – John Allison

Continuing the series of ‘True Blue’ figures associated with the early years of Manchester City, here’s an article on John Allison who was a key figure with Ardwick AFC, Manchester City, Salford Harriers and also at Celtic. You can find out why this man was such an important figure in Manchester City history below:

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Pre-match Activities

In recent years many night games played across football have seen light shows. Manchester City have established a few of these at the Etihad Stadium too. The spectacle has proved popular, particularly with young supporters who are perhaps experiencing a night match for the first time. For today’s subscriber piece I have written a 2000 word article on the history of pre-match entertainment at Manchester City. There are mentions of the St Joseph’s Industrial School and Beswick Prize Bands, various DJs, athletic challenges, Norman Wisdom, Frank Sidebottom & more. Enjoy:

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FA Cup: Manchester City v Arsenal

It’s Manchester City v Arsenal on Friday. The first FA Cup tie between these clubs came in 1904 and was part of Manchester’s first major trophy winning campaign. The two sides met at Arsenal in the second round of the competition. Back then City were a top flight team while Woolwich Arsenal were in the Second Division and some reports talked of the Gunners being envious of Manchester City and their status (how often do modern interpretations of a club’s status forget the game’s full history hey?). Arsenal had defeated Fulham 1-0 in the previous round. 

The Blues defeated the Gunners 2-0 with goals from Sandy Turnbull and Frank Booth, prompting the Manchester Evening News to print a cartoon of Billy Meredith leapfrogging over the Gunners while Tom Maley, dressed in kilt, watches. 

Outside-left Frank Booth, one of the scorers, had joined City in April 1902 making his first appearance for the Club in a friendly with Celtic on 1 September 1902.  That friendly appearance brought a little bad luck to the player as fairly early on in the match he accidentally collided with Celtic’s Right-back Hugh Watson causing him to leave the field for twenty minutes or so.  When he returned however he seemed more determined than ever to prove what he was capable of and, when a chance came his way, he scored what was described as a “very fine” goal to give City a 1-0 victory.

Throughout Booth’s career prior to the Arsenal game he had been rather unlucky with injuries and, at times, must have seriously considered concentrating on a life outside of the sport.  He was a hatter by trade, coming from the local hatting areas surrounding the towns of Hyde and Denton, and had only completed his apprenticeship in 1903.  Nevertheless a career in football had to be more appealing than life in one of the large hatting factories of east Manchester.

Here’s a brief cutting mentioning the game. Note also the difficulties being experienced by Second Division Manchester United (again, how often do modern day commentators on the game’s history forget the full history?).

After the tie with Arsenal at Plumstead, George Robey, a very famous Music Hall comedian with a love of football, took the City team to visit the capital’s top Music Halls.  Such light relief was needed in the City camp as the realisation was now dawning that the Blues might seriously be contenders for the League and Cup double that at this point in history had only been achieved by Preston (1889) and Aston Villa (1897). 

For a side (indeed a city) whose only national success so far had been to win the Second Division, this must have felt like an impossible dream but, as the season progressed it became increasingly possible.

You can read about what happened next here:

The next FA Cup meeting between the teams didn’t come until 1932 when they met in at the semi-final stage.

You can read all about that here:

Since 1932 the sides have met in the competition on 17/2/1971 at Maine Road (a 2-1 Arsenal win); the 2017 semi-final (2-1 aet for Arsenal); and again in the 2020 semi played on 18 July 2020 (a 2-0 Arsenal win).

A City FA Cup win over Arsenal is long overdue!

Manchester’s First Major Trophy Success

It’s the return of the FA Cup tonight with Manchester United facing Everton. It’s always worth reminding ourselves of the significance of the FA Cup to Manchester and the story of Manchester’s first major trophy success. The captain and goalscorer of the first triumph by Manchester in 1904 was the great Billy Meredith. In 2021 following the purchase of the oldest surviving FA Cup by Sheikh Mansour (to loan to the National Football Museum) I helped Manchester City with the story of the cup and its significance to Manchester. They’ve produced a video telling the story and it can be viewed here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/manchesters-first-trophy-1904-fa-cup-documentary-63745781

For more on the significance of this FA Cup trophy check out the category 1903-04 in the drop down list below.

City’s First England International who managed Milan and Roma!

We’re in the knock out stages of the World Cup and Manchester City players are contributing significantly to England’s progression at the moment. They are household names and are delivering on the biggest stage, but what about the first City player to appear for England? Who was it and when? Well, here’s the answer.

The first Manchester City player to appear for England was Herbert Burgess, who was reportedly born in Openshaw on 25 February 1883. Burgess was a left back but, according to articles at the time, was only 5ft 4.75 inches tall (weighing 11st 7lbs).

He made his first England appearance against Wales, and City teammate Billy Meredith, in February 1904 and did well in a game that ended 2-2 at Wrexham.

Prior to City Burgess had joined Football League side Glossop in March 1900 and, after three good years there, he moved to City on 30 July 1903. The fee City paid was £250. This was a period when Manchester’s Blues seemed to be cherry-picking the best Glossop had to offer and one report even suggested the nearby club was becoming a nursery club for City.

Burgess made three international appearances in 1904 with the Welsh game followed by a 3-1 victory over Ireland at Solitude, Belfast in March and a 1-0 win over Scotland at Parkhead, Glasgow on 9 April 1904. Only two weeks later Burgess helped City to FA Cup success (they became the first Manchester team to win a major trophy) and the Blues were also League runners up. These were great days for Burgess.

He made one further appearance for England – a 2-1 defeat at Hampden Park on 7 April 1906, played in front of 102,741 – and was furious that one of the Scotland goals was allowed to stand.

This period was a tough one for Burgess as the illegal payments scandal at City completely rocked his world. He was one of 17 players suspended by the FA (I can talk about this for days – it was so unfair and northern newspapers believed it was some sort of conspiracy by the southern based FA!).

Burgess was forced to leave City and, along with other star men, including Billy Meredith, he joined the then underdogs Manchester United and helped them achieve their first major success. He then moved to Denmark and played for Kristiania before joining Hungarian club MTK Budapest.

When his playing days came to an end he became Budapest’s manager and then managed Padova (1922-1926). He left Padova to become Milan’s manager in 1926 and after two years there he returned to Padova.

From 1930 to 1932 Burgess managed another Italian club, Roma. This photo is of Burgess (with cap on) as manager of AS Roma.

Burgess immediately etched his own name into the history of Roma, winning the first ever Rome derby in only his second game in charge. Roma won 1-0 win at Lazio’s Stadio della Rondinella. Burgess also guided Roma to success in the second derby, winning 3-1, the following May, this time at their all-wooden ground Campo Testaccio.

Burgess never lost a Rome derby during his time there as they drew their subsequent two derbies under him. His Roma team also pushed eventual champions Juventus all the way in the 1930-31 campaign, finishing just four points behind Juventus as runners-up.

Sadly, it’s been reported that Italy’s development under the dictatorship of Mussolino meant that English coaches were under pressure to leave and Burgess returned to Manchester, taking a job as a labourer on a housing estate on the outskirts of Manchester. He also became trainer to Ashton National.

He died in 1954.

In total at City he made 94 first team appearances and scored two goals. Had the illegal payments scandal not occurred he may well have been an England regular for several years. As it is his career is pretty impressive for a lad born in Openshaw in the 1880s – FA Cup & League winner; England international; manager of prominent clubs in Hungary and Italy.

People tend to think that it’s only in the modern era that Manchester City have achieved anything or that footballers have gone abroad to coach major clubs like Milan, Budapest and Roma, but the truth is that men like Burgess achieved so much over a century ago. We must take steps to remember them. Oh, and while I’m here it’s worth pointing out that City did have international players for years before Burgess but they didn’t play for England.

The earliest played to make an international appearance while on City’s books made an appearance for Wales in 1890 when the club was still Ardwick. Maybe I’ll write about him one day too?

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Subscribe to get access

If you have enjoyed this piece and would like to support my writing while also accessing further great content, then why not subscribe? Those who subscribe on an annual basis get access to everything posted on this site since December 2020. Those subscribing on a monthly basis get access to everything posted since 1 October 2022. It’s £20 a year (subscribe above) or £3 per month (subscribe here). Why not try it for a month?

On This Day: Manchester’s First Major Trophy Success

On this day in 1904 (23 April) Manchester found its first major trophy success. The captain and goalscorer was the great Billy Meredith. Last year, following the purchase of the oldest surviving FA Cup by Sheikh Mansour (to loan to the National Football Museum) I helped Manchester City with the story of the cup and its significance to Manchester. They’ve produced a video telling the story and it can be viewed here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/manchesters-first-trophy-1904-fa-cup-documentary-63745781

For more on the significance of this FA Cup trophy check out the category 1903-04 in the drop down list below.

20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE – 1903-04

The Matches

Under shrewd Scottish secretary-manager Tom Maley the Blues had been Champions of Division Two the previosu season.  Most managers would have settled for a season of consolidation, not Maley.  He was more interested in turning City into a highly successful, attacking team and spent the summer recruiting players of the right calibre and attitude.  One such player was George Livingstone who must be unique in that, during a career spanning 3 decades, he appeared for both Manchester clubs and bothe Celtic and Rangers.  He also played for Liverpool, but never quite made it to Everton to complete the treble.

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MCFC Attendances Sequences

Lots of people talk incorrectly of Manchester City’s support and so for today’s subscriber feature I’ve decided to focus on the growth in City’s average attendance from the club’s first season in the League through to recent years, alongside other crowd related statistics. Hopefully, this will help to answer any questions raised on the loyalty of City’s support (but somehow I doubt it!).

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Here’s the article for subscribers…

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Who Decides the Big Six?

Today I’m taking a look at the so-called current Premier League Big Six and the significance of football history. It frustrates me when people assume that any group of clubs have been the biggest throughout football history and so I’ve decided to post this article.

It considers the claims of the so-called Big Six and has some findings that may surprise fans of some of those Big Six clubs. 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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