The League Cup: The First Major Trophy

Today (March 5 2022) Manchester City’s women’s team takes on Chelsea in the 11th final of the FA Women’s League Cup. This is a hugely important trophy to Manchester’s Blues and to commemorate today’s final, here’s a piece looking at the history of the competition from Manchester City’s view point. The League Cup, sponsored by Continental during the seasons Manchester City have won the competition and therefore known as the Continental Cup, was the first national competition won after the relaunch. As such it became highly significant.

City supporter David Sheel explains how the first final was viewed: “The club put on some coaches for us. It was night match – that doesn’t help. It was played at Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers’ ground. There were two coaches. The first was full of parents and young academy girls and a few supporters with the second just supporters. All free. We went – sadly a lot couldn’t go because it was a week night – and we played against Arsenal. A team full of established top players who had beat us 4-0 at City in the League. But, like semi final win over Chelsea at Hyde, there was just something about that night. Arsenal were all over us at times and did everything but score. Our defence was outstanding but we also had a few chances at the other end. Got to half-time nil-nil and you’re thinking ‘just one chance, please.’ I can remember the goal… Joey Johnston went down the line, whipped the ball in and Izzy Christiansen, the smallest player on the pitch, headed it in. There were four of us sat together – the coaches had arrived just before kick off so we’d had to leg it in and grab the first spaces you could find. The four of us jumped up but we were surrounded by Arsenal fans. They started giving us some abuse. The goal was in the 73rd minute and we hung on. 

“When the final whistle went I was as proud of that achievement as I was in 2011 when the men won the FA Cup. To me personally it was the same. I never ever felt I’d see the men win anything in my life and then the same was true with the women. I was so proud of the club. After that they did the trophy presentation and I picked up some of the tinsel that got fired out of the cannons when they did the presentation. All the players came over to the side afterwards. Jill Scott was showing me her medal. They shared it with the fans. They even let me put my hands on the trophy. We were all there together. A bit like the men and their success in 2011 I think this told the outside world that City were here to do business. Inside the club the ambition was there but until you win a major trophy the other clubs may not take you seriously.”

When I interviewed her in 2018-19 player Abbie McManus remembered: “That feeling of beating Arsenal, who have dominated women’s football for years and years. At the time we were perceived to be a bunch of nobodies that have just thrown a team together and everyone was saying you’re just throwing money at it. I didn’t actually play that game. I got sent off the game before so I missed it! But watching the game and the feeling of that win. Being the underdog. I don’t think that feeling will ever come back.”

Izzy Christiansen scored in the final and told me how she felt: “An amazing feeling to score in that game. There’s no other words to describe it. It was just probably one of the best days of my life, the fact that the ball hit the back of the net. The fact that it meant that we, as a team, and a club, got our first trophy. That kind of set us off on our journey really.  We had a taste of success at the start and that’s where we’ve stayed, wanting success.”

The Blues went on to win the Continental Cup in 2014, 2016 and 2019. City’s finals:

2014 City 1 Arsenal 0

Goalscorer: Christiansen (73)

Attendance: 3,697 (Adams Park, High Wycombe).

Referee Nigel Lugg (Surrey)

2016 City 1 Birmingham City 0 (aet)

Goalscorer: Bronze (105)

Attendance: 4,214  (Academy Stadium, Manchester). 

Referee Rebecca Welch (Durham)

2019 Arsenal 0 City 0 (City won 4-2 on penalties)

Attendance: 2,424  (Bramall Lane, Sheffield). 

Referee Lucy Oliver (Newcastle)

Let’s hope the Blues can add another piece of silverware today. Thanks to Dave Coop for the photo at the top of this page.

You can find out more about the history of City Women in my book Manchester City Women: An Oral History. Follow the link for details of how to buy:

Norwich Suffer

A flashback to a high scoring win for Manchester’s Blues on this day in 2013…

After the 2-1 last gasp defeat at Chelsea in their previous League game, manager Manuel Pellegrini took the decision to drop goalkeeper Joe Hart for this important match with Norwich. The decision brought much scrutiny City’s way but Hart’s replacement Pantilimon had little to do as the Blues thrashed Norwich 7-0.  The win lifted City to fourth in the League but more significantly demonstrated the fire power the Blues possessed and demonstrated to all that Pellegrini’s men were determined to mount a serious challenge for the title. Seven separate scorers – including an own goal – made this City’s largest top flight win since 1968. Afterwards Pellegrini was delighted that his side kept striving for more: “Normally a team 4-0 ahead finishes working.”

City had a 100% home record in the Premier League but away from home life was not so easy. At Sunderland in the next League game the Blues were unfortunate to lose 1-0. The BBC’s Sam Sheringham explained: “Referee Mike Dean’s leniency was on display once again in the build-up to the opening goal. The official opted not to penalise Bardsley when he appeared to bundle over Milner, allowing the full-back to race on to Brown’s long pass and curl a precise finish past Costel Pantilimon.”

The Blues were back down to eighth in what seemed likely to be a tight title race.

Match Stats:

2013-14

2 Nov   Norwich City (H)                        W 7-0 Silva, Nastasic, Negredo, Toure, Aguero, Dzeko & Johnson (OG)              47,066

10 Nov Sunderland (A)                         L 0-1                                        40,137

League Cup

30 Oct  Newcastle United (A)                 W 2-0 Negredo, Dzeko             33,846

MCFC Attendances Sequences

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

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Manchester City Women: The First Game After Relaunch

On this day (April 13) in 2014 Manchester City’s women’s team played its first competitive game after the relaunch. It was a FA Cup tie against Reading played at the Regional Athletics Arena. 

Here for subscribers is a section of Manchester City Women: An Ora History discussing that opening game:

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A Special relationship

As West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium today (27th February 2021) to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Premier League I thought I’d take a look at the special relationship between the fans of the two clubs.

Similarities

Both City and West Ham fans have a shared understanding of football history, status and achievements with supporters aware of their club’s traditions, rivalries and shared history. The two clubs’ roots are very much based around hardworking working class areas of their cities with the supporters of both the Hammers and the Blues coming traditionally from the working classes. In recent years an analysis of the original shareholders at the majority of Football League clubs identified that by 1900 City’s shareholders came mostly from the working class – a larger percentage than at any club other than West Ham who had a slightly higher percentage. This demonstrates that those who owned both City and West Ham were representative of the fans on the terraces and that these clubs were similarly organised and run. As a result of this both clubs were representative of their communities in ways in which their nearest local rivals were not at the time.

Both clubs have enjoyed stylish, attractive football over the years with a belief that the game should be an entertainment. The roots of this go back decades at both clubs with West Ham’s Ted Fenton and Ron Greenwood influencing men such as Malcolm Allison and John Bond who managed the Blues. 

Recently, City fans have been delighted to see Manuel Pellegrini and Pablo Zabaleta become Hammers following a line that includes other popular Blues such as Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley.

Attendances

The support both clubs have received has varied at times but what is abundantly clear is that they have remained the most loyal in the country regardless of League status. West Ham, like City, have never been the worst supported club in their division (both United and Arsenal have!) and West Ham’s attendances over the decades have been fairly consistent, never dipping below 16,000. Recent years have of course seen both City and West Ham eclipse previous record average attendances thanks to the larger capacity of their current homes.

Successes and Struggles

Although West Ham did not become a League side until 1919 (City joined the League as Ardwick in 1892), the Hammers didn’t waste much time in progressing, reaching Division One and their first FA Cup final in 1923. The 1960s was a glorious period for West Ham – as it was with City – winning their first European trophy, the ECWC, in 1965. City won the same trophy in 1970 meaning that the Hammers were the second English team to win a major UEFA trophy and City were the fourth (For those wondering – the Fairs Cup was not a UEFA tournament and its entry requirements were not based on performance at times).

Of course both teams have had periods of struggle, ensuring that when success is achieved the fans of both clubs do not take this for granted. The great Malcolm Allison, a former Hammer & Blue, once told me in an interview that it’s important to “celebrate each success as if it’s your first, because it could well be your last.” Although he was perceived as a boastful character at times his philosophy, gained through his experiences at West Ham as a player, is one both sets of fans seem to agree with.

Celebrating the title – 2014

We must not forget how gracious and sporting the majority of West Ham fans were in 2014 when City became champions of England, securing their first ever league and cup double. That day the Blues beat the Hammers 2-0 with goals from Nasri (39) and Kompany (49). Manuel Pellegrini’s City were applauded and congratulated extensively that day – something that hasn’t happened with the fans of some other clubs when City have won the title.

The “You’ll be back” Game

The biggest demonstration of the special relationship between the fans of the two clubs came in May 1987. City were relegated after a 2-0 defeat at West Ham.  At the end of the game City supporters and West Ham fans climbed over the fences and onto the pitch. Some thought that the two sets of supporters were about to confront each other, but the fans knew differently. The Hammers began chanting “You’ll be back” and both groups swapped scarves and souvenirs on the pitch. It was the kind of moment that should have been widely reported in the media but at the time focus tended to be on hooliganism and confrontation rather than the positives of football support. City had been relegated, but their supporters did not seek revenge.  The West Ham fans could have ridiculed, but they didn’t.  If only those condemning football fans at the time could have seen the two sets of loyal supporters genuinely appreciating and understanding each other.

The relationship between the fans of the two clubs is not something that is widely discussed or promoted but it is something that has endured. City fans have never forgotten the ‘You’ll be back’ game and in recent years, as others have unfairly mocked both sets of fans, the supporters of both the Blues and the Hammers seem to understand and respect each other. Inevitably, there will always be banter during a game but outside of the match the mutual recognition and respect always seems to win through.

To many West Ham are the City of the South – a proud football club with a great history and heritage, combined with a loyal and passionate fanbase.

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While you’re here why not check out the frank audio interview with former WHU player and MCFC boss John Bond? Taster clip here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/24/liverpool-1-mcfc-3-john-bonds-views-on-liverpools-reaction/

First MCFC Goal Using Goal Line Technology

On this day (18th January) in 2014 Edin Dzeko netted Manchester City’s 100th competitive goal of the 2013-14 season.  

The goal was City’s opener against Cardiff and was also the first Premier League goal to be awarded after the use of goal line technology.  The Blues became the fastest team in history to reach 100 goals.