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

Boxing Day is a day that will forever be a reminder of the great Colin Bell and his return to the Manchester City first team after the devastating injury that came in the November 1975 Manchester Derby. Colin did return briefly at the end of the 1975-76 season but that was a comeback too early. To remember Colin and everything he achieved at Bury and City here’s an interview I did with him in January 2005. This was published in the City match programme back then and you can read Colin’s views on his career here as published at the time. Enjoy!

Colin Bell MBE joined the Blues from Bury in March 1966 and went on to become a major trophy winner with the Blues and a star with England.  Gary James met up with him at the end of January 2005

Let’s start with your early life, was football everything to you from an early age?

From the moment I was born I wanted to play.  Actually, everybody did in those days.  Football was all you ever wanted and I always had a ball with me, so I could play anywhere.  No one ever pushed me; it was something I just wanted to do.  My mother had played ladies football before I was born and so did others in the family, so there must have been a natural instinct for the game.  I used to go and watch Sunderland when I could, although it would take about 90 minutes and three buses to get to Roker Park.  As a boy my hero was Len Shackleton and then Charlie Hurley. 

At the age of 17 (1963) you joined Bury.  There were other potentially larger teams interested, so what made you choose Bury?

The move had to be right and I was quite a shy boy in many ways, so I needed to go somewhere where I felt at home.  Bury were a homely club and made me feel so welcome.  I’d had interest from a few clubs – Newcastle offered me a trial but I heard nothing afterwards!  Arsenal were another.  I damaged my back shortly before I went down to London from my home in the north-east and that made me a little uncomfortable.  Their manager Billy Wright watched the games we played and selected the ones to stay, and then said to those not selected “I hope you join other clubs that are not as good as Arsenal!”

Both Bury and Huddersfield wanted me to sign, so I was totally open with them and agreed I wouldn’t make my mind up until I returned back home and looked at it objectively.  The Huddersfield experience went well, but Bury was so much more homely.  While I was there I knew I’d sign for Bury, but I wouldn’t tell them.  They kept pushing me, and I wanted to say yes, but I felt it was more important to stick to the plan.  So when I went home I told both clubs of my decision.

Presumably, you never looked back and felt Bury was the right choice?

Definitely.  My instincts were right, however I did still feel homesick.  It really hit me for about six weeks or so and I know that if my family had suggested I go home I would have done.  I’d have packed it all in because I hated that homesick feeling.  I’d have got that wherever I went, and I’m glad I chose Bury because in the end I couldn’t have had a better start to my career.  It was a great period once I’d settled and I felt I was so lucky to be paid for playing.  

How ambitious were you then?  Did you set targets and aims?

I took each day as it came.  That’s true of all my career.  I never thought about moving from Bury.  It never crossed my mind, and I certainly didn’t think about playing for England.  I didn’t even know City were watching me until the official approach came.  In fact it got to transfer deadline day and suddenly I had both City and Blackpool interested in me and I had to make another choice.  This time it was stay at Bury, move to Second Division City, or move to First Division Blackpool.

So what made you pick City, was the Mercer-Allison involvement the deciding factor?

At the time I didn’t know enough about Mercer or Allison to base a decision on, so my decision was based more on league position.  City were heading for promotion, while Blackpool were beginning to struggle (they were eventually relegated in 1967), so I thought it would be best to join a club looking forward rather than one heading for struggle. 

Was City as homely as Bury?

That’s something that was truly special about City at the time because even though it was a much bigger club, it still had that homely feel.  We were all part of the same family.  First team players would pop into the laundry room and have a cup of tea with the ladies in there.  Sometimes we’d just love being at the ground.  I do think football’s lost a lot by having training grounds some distance from the home grounds.  We felt part of the Maine Road furniture.  It was my second home and most mornings we’d get in early to get into the gym for head tennis.  If ever you arrived at the ground and found you’d arrived too late to make up a head tennis team you’d skulk around and plan to get in even earlier the next day.

You mentioned that you were homesick at Bury, how long did it take you to settle at City?

I arrived in March 1966 and it took me the rest of that promotion season to settle.  Promotion helped because I was part of the celebrations from the start.  The goal I scored at Rotherham guaranteed promotion and afterwards I tasted champagne for the first time.  I couldn’t believe how quickly I was part of a winning side.  Something major I realised at this time was that at Bury we’d go to away matches with the aim of getting a draw – at best – but with City we went expecting to turn over every side.  After a couple of games I felt this same level of expectation and I think that’s why we became so successful.  Malcolm stressed our strengths and used to say that he didn’t care how many we concede so long as we win.  If ever we won 4-3 he’d never mention the three goals, he’d only mention the four.  That was a great way to play and it continued throughout those successful years.

Both Mercer & Allison and most of the other players have often commented on your high level of fitness and your stamina, was this something you were conscious of at the time?

I think in games I was just as tired as the rest but I think I had a quick recovery rate and I never ever wanted to give less than the best.  I was always determined.  At training I never really thought about my own fitness, but I do remember that when Malcolm had us all running hard I’d give a commentary as we were running.  I’d be going “Bell overtaking Booky on the inside” and so on and I think that may have been a bit off putting for some of the others.  

In 1967-68 City won the Championship by two points over Manchester United with a victory over Newcastle, do you remember much of that day?

It was a great end to end game.  I’d never previously won at Newcastle and I know that beforehand I felt quite uncomfortable.  The great thing about football during this period was that every team in the League was capable of beating you on their ground, so it didn’t matter whether you were playing the top or the bottom.  Also, no side ever gave up, so we knew that Newcastle, who were about tenth, wouldn’t sit back if we took the lead they’d be going for it… and they did!  We beat them 4-3 but it could have been 5-4 or 6-5 – we knew we’d score one more than them, but both sides kept attacking, kept playing.  At no time did they give up. 

Presumably the Old Trafford derby match (March 1968) remains another great memory for you?

We beat United 3-1 and that really set us up, but we’d lost a goal right at the start.  I equalised, George Heslop headed a goal, and then late on I was brought down by Francis Burns.  As I was being stretchered off Francis Lee scored the penalty.  I went to hospital, had my leg put in plaster and then joined the rest of the players at the Fletcher’s Arms in Denton for a celebratory drink! 

Before the match Malcolm had stressed the importance of the game.  He told us they were beatable and once he’d convinced us of that nothing was going to stop us.  I think that helped the other teams as well, because once we started to beat them at Old Trafford – and remember I played 9 League derbies at Old Trafford and only lost the first – they realised they could do the same.

Winning so many trophies – League, FA Cup, ECWC, League Cup – during such a short spell was incredible, but which success brought you most satisfaction?

Each trophy was important but I judge success by consistency and when we won the League in 1968 we proved over 42 games that we were the most consistent side.  I have to say I’m also very proud of winning the Central League in 1977-78 because I was fighting to regain fitness and also because the side was a very good one.  It was great to play with some very enthusiastic young players.

Of course, each success means a great deal.  Winning the ECWC was great, but the 1968 League success was all about consistency. Our journey back from Newcastle after the last game was very memorable.  Coming down the A1 was superb.  There was a convoy of blue and white all the way back.

Moving on to international football, how did it feel when you first discovered you were in the England squad?

When the letter came through the door I couldn’t believe it.  Again, as with my early days, I never thought about anything beyond the next City game.  I didn’t think about England, but when the letter arrived it was a major, major honour.  In fact every time the letter came – even after 40 odd appearances – I still had the same excitement and same buzz I’d always had.  It was the highest honour you could receive.

When I joined the squad I remember sitting in the dressing room and seeing all those players who had won the World Cup only a year earlier.  These men had achieved so much and to be sat in the same room and to see my name on the squad list next to theirs was a real highlight.  Of course when there were other City players in the squad that helped as well, but it’s also worth remembering that every top division side had players who were either in the international squad or on the fringes, so you knew that you’d achieved something major if you got into Alf Ramsey’s team.

You made your international debut in May 1968 against Sweden, and went to the 1970 World Cup finals.  How did you feel about the way your career had developed?

Immensely proud, and looking back it’s incredible how it all developed.  Having said that I do feel a little aggrieved that when some people talk of the 1970 quarterfinal against West Germany they talk of the substitution of Bobby Charlton as some sort of turning point.  I came on for him and I know that he was absolutely drained.  Like me he would try and deliver more, but his age and the heat worked against him.  I personally think I should have come on earlier and maybe we’d have kept the score at 2-1, or even increased it.  Once I came on we still had a lot of play but they’d got to 2-2 and then unfortunately they scored the winner in extra time.  Apparently Brazil were delighted because they were convinced we were the best side in the tournament – they’d beaten us in the group stage but knew they’d been in a real game.

You made 48 England appearances and replaced Bobby Moore as captain for one game in 1972, was this something you had always wanted?

I always believed that there should be eleven captains in a side.  By that I mean every player needed to be interested and offer advice. There’s no point hiding, waiting for someone else to make the decisions.  Every player needed support at times and everybody needs to give advice in my opinion.  Tony Book was City’s great captain and a wonderful leader, but if you watch any of those games you’ll see we all act as a captain should.  Actually they used to go on about how loud I was on the pitch and how quiet I was off it.  

The England captaincy came against Northern Ireland and it must have been a one-off because Moore remained captain for the next year or so.  I’m not certain why I got the nod, but it was a privilege and I do remember Sir Alf Ramsey asking me to take on the role.

Moving on to your injury in the 1975 Manchester derby, we now know how serious it was, but how did you feel at the time?

I knew it was very bad, and I know that the physio Freddie Griffiths worked hard to try and get things working for me.  He and his assistant Roy Bailey really went out of their way to help, but it was a long and difficult recovery.  The TV programme Nationwide did a feature on me and I received lots of letters and cards, which helped – the fans were terrific – but it was the blackest moment of my life.  I had violent pains in my leg if I sat a certain way, and thanks to my wife and family they managed to keep me sane.  When I started walking properly I was so glad.  At one point I didn’t think I would walk again, let alone play sport.  

I tried a comeback towards the end of 1975-6 but after the fourth game (V Arsenal) I broke down.  It was too soon, and for the following 20 months the battle to return dominated everything I did.  

Boxing Day 1977 V Newcastle was your memorable return.  I know how I and most Blues felt that day, but how did you feel?

There’s always been something about Newcastle.  That day I came on as substitute and I could not believe the atmosphere.  The whole ground – including the Newcastle fans – stood and applauded and chanted my name.  I was at the Halifax Supporters Club a month ago and I mentioned the game and almost every person in the room talked of the day and how emotional they got.  There were at least two dozen people in the room who said they were crying when I came on.  Grown men admitted it and I was deeply touched.  On the day you could feel that emotion.  I don’t believe I did anything of note in the game.  I was a passenger, but everyone tells me it was great seeing me there and for me it was and will always be my number one game, and my number one memory of playing football.

Finally, I guess that Newcastle game demonstrated how fans truly felt about you?

The fans have been marvellous throughout my life.  The last four years they’ve helped to get me honoured as one of the Football League’s 100 legends; the stand has been named after me; and now the MBE.  It’s been an amazing four years.  I don’t believe there’s any other player anywhere in football who has the same bond with the fans, and I don’t believe any club has fans as loyal as ours.  City fans like players who give 100% and so long as you do that, you will always get incredible support.  I loved my time as a player, and I am delighted my bond with the fans is as strong – possibly stronger – today than its ever been.

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If you’ve enjoyed this piece then why not subscribe and read the rest of the great material on here. At the same time you’ll be supporting my research and writing (I’m not employed by anyone and my research/writing is self-funded). It costs £3 per month (above) or £20 per year (here; access everything posted since December 2020). You’ll also get to read all content posted during your subscription. Thanks.

Stan Bowles

On this day (24 December) in 1948 the great maverick Mancunian footballer Stan Bowles was born. Here’s a profile of him…

Bowles joined City as an amateur on 27 July 1965, becoming an apprentice on 1 October 1965 and then professional on 29 December 1966.

Then in 1967 things really began to happen and Bowles’ first game was as a substitute in a League Cup tie at home to Leicester City. He scored two goals in the second half and the following Saturday he made his League debut another memorable one. He scored two again!

Lots of stories have circulated over the years about his time at City. Like Mario Balotelli many years later some are truthful; others are exaggerations and some are completely make up.

The stories go that Bowles once missed a flight to Amsterdam where City were to play against Ajax, and that Bowles’ interest in the horses led to Joe Mercer saying: ‘If Stan could pass a betting shop like he can pass a ball, he’d be a world beater.’ Suspensions and other issues led to Stan refusing to sign a new contract and he asked to leave. That in itself led to him being suspended for 14 days on the advice of the Football League.

Inevitably Bowles moved on, first to Bury (July 1970) and then to Crewe (September 1970).

A spell at Carlisle followed and then in September 1972 a bid of £110,000 took him to Loftus Road where he won five England caps as a QPR player.

Seven years later Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough bought him for £210,000 but sold him again less than a year later after further issues. Further spells were reported at Orient, Brentford, Hounslow and Epping.

In 2015 it was announced he was suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease, like his former boss Joe Mercer.

At City Bowles made a total of 20 first team appearances, scoring 4 goals, but he remains recognised as a hugely talented player.

There are articles on this site mentioning Bowles. Here’s a selection:

An Incident VAR Officials Would Have Loved!

On this day (22 November) in 1969 Manchester City and Arsenal drew 1-1 before a Highbury crowd of 42,923. The goals were scored by Ian Bowyer (City) and Terry Neill (penalty for Arsenal). However, there was major controversy when the referee appeared to book Arsenal’s much-loved Charlie George. Have a read of this article and see what you think. How would the modern day VAR world have coped with this?

You can read a 3,000 word interview I performed with Ian Bowyer here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2022/10/25/in-search-of-the-blues-ian-bowyer/

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:

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Frank Carrodus (interviewed September 2004)

Midfielder Frank Carrodus joined Manchester City in November 1969.  Over the course of the following five years Frank made a total of 37 appearances plus ten as substitute before joining Aston Villa in July 1974.  Gary James caught up with him at the City Social in September 2004 to discuss his career. Here for subscribers is that interview.

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City 3 Bilbao 0

On this day (1 October) in 1969 Manchester City’s first home tie in the ECWC ended 3-0 (6-3 on aggregate) as the Blues defeated Athletic Bilbao.  City scorers were Alan Oakes, Colin Bell and Ian Bowyer.  Attendance 49,665. You can read more (and watch a video) about the game here:

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Charles’ Investiture

I was recently asked by Tony Whiston on Twitter about a memory he had of Manchester City playing a game to mark the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince Of Wales in 1969. The answer to the query is:

The investiture was on 1st July I believe and on 18th of that month City played a Carnarvon select XI, drawing 1-1 before 3,000. Bell scored for City.

The City starting 11 was: Dowd, Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Booth, Oakes, Summerbee, Bell, Lee, Young & Coleman.

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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.

Manchester City’s First European Quarter-final

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, despite major success in England, reaching a European quarter-final was a bit of a rarity. So,I’ve decided to take a look back at Manchester City’s first ever European quarter-final, I’ve written this feature looking at the first time the Blues reached a UEFA organised tournament’s quarter-final. That was in 1969-70.

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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:

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