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:

A reminder that you can still watch my 1 hour plus talk on Manchester City crowds, support, chants and Maine Road here. It’s free to watch:

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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.

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On This Day – A FA Cup Manchester Derby (Story And Film)

On this day (24th January) in 1970 Manchester City and Manchester United met for the fourth of five meetings that season. This game was in the FA Cup and the following article tells the story of that game and includes highlights of the match.

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MCFC 20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE SEASON 1969-70

The League Matches

A 4-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day of the season gave many supporters hope that 1969-70 would see the Blues challenge for the League title, however 3 successive defeats followed and the Mercer-Allison side struggled to find consistency.  Nevertheless they did manage to reach 4th place – 9 points behind leaders Leeds – by 18th December, and defeat Manchester United 4-0 on 15/11.

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Complaints About MCFC Kits!

If you think that it’s only in recent years that fans have been upset when their club has tinkered with their colours then think again. Back in November 1969, shortly after City had worn red and black stripes for the first time, City and local media outlets were inundated with fans complaining about the new shirts. Here’s just a taste of the complaints. These letters (apologies for the poor scanning on my part) were right to talk of City’s traditional away colours as being maroon of course, but it’s interesting how now, 52 years later, many fans believe red and black stripes are City’s traditional away colours.

For the record City have worn maroon more than any other main colour (other than blue & white of course).

MCFC’s first European final: ECWC victory over Gornik Zabrze

Background

On 29th April 1970 Manchester City won the European Cup Winners’ Cup beating Gornik Zabrze from Poland 2-1 at the Prater Stadium in Vienna.  Here are a few comments and feelings from supporters, players, and others affected by the game. These were gathered as part of a project I organised to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the final. As we’ve now past the 51st anniversary they have become an even greater historical record.

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