IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Ian Bowyer

Back in 2010 one of my interviews with Ian Bowyer was published. Bowyer won European trophies at both Manchester City and Nottingham Forest. The interview ended with Bowyer talking about modern day football (this was 2010 before City rediscovered their trophy winning ways) and he commented: ‘Can I add that I really want to see City re-establish themselves as a successful side? I know what this Club can achieve and I hope success – real success – comes soon.’  Subscribers can now read this 3,000 word article here as it was first published:

Subscribe to get access – Annual

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. £20 per year (access to everything posted since Dec 2020) or £3 per month (see below).

Subscribe to get access – Monthly

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. £20 per year (see above) or £3 per month here. The monthly subscription provides access to everything posted since 1st October and the subscription can be cancelled any time. Why not sign up for a month and see how it goes?

Allison’s Red and Black

On this day in 1968 Manchester City wore Red & Black stripes for the first time. Malcolm Allison had suggested adopting AC Milan’s colours and City first wore them for their meeting at Everton on October 5th 1968. Sadly, City were defeated 2-0 at Goodison and the colour change wasn’t popular with fans at first. However, due to a colour clash with Leicester, the new colours were worn in the 1969 FA Cup final. The club won that trophy and the kit soon entered City folklore as an important kit.

City chose to wear the new style for all the successful major finals that followed during Joe Mercer & Malcolm Allison’s time, including the club’s first European trophy in 1970.  At one point Allison suggested making red and black the first choice kit.

There were however plenty of complaints about City adopting the colours. Take a look at an earlier post I made on those complaints here:

On This Day: A European Cup First for Manchester City

On this day (18 September) in 1968 Manchester City’s first European Cup fixture against Fenerbahce ended goalless at Maine Road.  You can read about that game here:

Subscribe to get access

This article is available to subscribers. It costs £20 a year (£1.67 per month) to subscribe and for that you get full access to all the articles, interviews and books already published on this site.

Happy 80th Alan Oakes (Interview Feature)

Happy 80th birthday Alan Oakes. Alan has made more appearances for Manchester City than any other player but more significantly he’s an absolute gent. Here to commemorate his birthday is an interview I did with Alan.

This interview occurred in February 2005 and we discussed his life and career. This appears here as it was originally published.

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.

Semi-Final Memories

A few years back I caught up with the goalscorers – Tommy Booth (1969) and Paul Power (1981) – of the last couple of FA Cup semi finals involving Manchester City prior to their 2011 FA Cup triumph v Stoke. Here, for subscribers, is a piece I wrote based on that interview with Booth and Power.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It costs £20 a year or £3 per month if paying a month at a time. Whichever method you choose you get full access to everything on this site.

Showing Your Colours

In January this year the Newcastle Chronicle published a story that intrigued me. It talked of the history of fans wearing football scarves and suggested that a Newcastle fan in 1932 was the first to be photographed wearing a football scarf. The article explained that previously it had been claimed that an Arsenal supporter at a 1934 FA Cup tie had been the first filmed/photographed wearing a traditional bar scarf.  This set me off looking into the history of football scarves and of fans showing their colours.

So, here for subscribers to my site is a 1400 word article on showing your colours, focusing on the stories associated with Manchester City…

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It only costs £20 a year and throughout your membership you get full access to everything published on the site, including the entire Manchester A Football History book and my first book From Maine Men To Banana Citizens to download. You can also sign up a month at a time for £3 per month. My commitment is to publish at least 4 new lengthy articles per month but in practice I’ve posted a lot more than that. Why not sign up for a month and give it a try?

The 1969 FA Cup Final

On April 26 1969 Manchester City defeated Leicester City in the FA Cup final. It is worth pausing to consider how the Blues compared to football’s other successful sides in the competition at this point.  City’s four FA Cup successes placed them behind Aston Villa (7), Blackburn Rovers (6), Newcastle United (6), Tottenham Hotspur (5), The Wanderers (5) and West Bromwich Albion (5).  Bolton, Sheffield United and Wolves had, like City, each won four FA Cups, while Manchester United had only won three, Liverpool one and Chelsea had not yet won the trophy.  In fact Chelsea had only won one major trophy (the League Championship) at this point in their history.  

Here for subscribers is a long read on that final and the events surrounding it:

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

MCFC 20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE SEASON 1968-69

The League Matches

As League champions, the Blues were expected to coast through the 1968-9 season, particularly as the Charity Shield match against Cup winners West Bromwich Albion ended in a comfortable 6-1 City victory.  Unfortunately life is rarely that easy and only one of the first nine games ended in victory – a 3-2 win over Wolves.  The Blues simply could not get into the rhythm they had enjoyed the previous season.  One of the reasons for this was that they had embarked on a rather disastrous tour of America during the summer which, amongst other problems resulted in an injury to captain Tony Book  He was kept out of action until January.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

Malcolm Allison

Manchester City at Sporting tonight… The great coach Malcolm Allison was a major trophy winner at both clubs, so here’s a feature on Allison’s Manchester City career with particular emphasis on his boasts, and City’s first European days for the Blues.

This article is available to subscribers to this site. If you’re not a subscriber, do a few searches on here and see what content is already on my site. This includes audio interviews with John Bond and others, plus the entire contents of two of my books.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

One-nil in your semi-final

From World War Two up to and including 2011 Manchester City won every FA Cup semi-final they played with a 1-0 scoreline.  That’s five games.  In 2013 I caught up with two of the goalscorers – Tommy Booth (1969) and Paul Power (1981) – to discuss their memories of those games. Here for subscribers is what they said:

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this and all the other content when you subscribe today. £20 a year works out about £1.67 a month and you get access to the 360+ articles posted here, including exclusive audio interviews and other archive material.