They’ve been a part of football history since the beginning and we often take them for granted but over the years the goals – nets, posts and crossbar – have changed. For this subscriber feature I decided to try to understand what Manchester City’s current goals are constructed of and provide a bit of background on the development of them.
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Legend is an overused word by many within football. Personally, I’m a little more restrained than most and like to compare players from every era and to think about how a player will be viewed decades from now. So, it is not hyperbole when I describe Sergio Agüero as one of Manchester City’s – and football’s – greatest legends. He is without doubt the greatest goalscorer ever to grace City but he is also the greatest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history. He is an absolute legend!
So, the news that Sergio Agüero will be leaving Manchester City at the end of the 2020-21 season is highly disappointing (that’s an understatement!) to those of us who have watched his career in England since his arrival a decade ago. In the 1960s the great City manager Joe Mercer often described Francis Lee as the ‘final piece’ of his jigsaw – and it was Lee’s goals and arrival that helped to transform the 1967-68 season in to a title winning one – and Agüero should be described in a similar fashion. City had won the FA Cup in 2011 but it was Agüero’s arrival that ultimately led to the title in 2011-12. He was the final piece of that title winning jigsaw.
To understand why Francis Lee was called the final jigsaw piece you can read an in-depth of his career here:
Personally, I’m extremely upset that Sergio will be leaving City. As with Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, it will be a major loss. These guys became legends (as I indicated earlier I never use that term lightly!) at City and they thrilled and delighted us. As fans, we had a chance to formally say goodbye to Pablo & Vincent but, due to Covid, we haven’t yet been able to say farewell to David and maybe we won’t get a chance with Sergio (certainly not in a packed 54,000 stadium).
Hopefully an opportunity will come to say goodbye soon, but in the meantime here’s a profile of the man who became Manchester City’s greatest ever goalscorer. Back in 1997 I researched and wrote Manchester The Greatest City, an in-depth history of the Blues containing over half a million words. Sadly, the opportunity to update that and publish an epic history of the club is now unlikely due to changes in the publishing world, cost of production and more but if I did ever get the chance then a significant section would calmly, rationally and factually, explain the significance of Sergio to Manchester City’s development.
So many major stars have appeared for, coached and managed the Blues over the last thirteen years or so that their story really deserves to be told in-depth but, as I’m denied that opportunity these days, we’ll have to make do with features appearing on this website. Hopefully, these words will do justice to Sergio and, over the coming years, his colleagues.
Sergio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 2, 1988 and was given the nickname ‘Kun’ by his grandparents due to his likeness to an anime character. In 2008 he explained to the BBC: ‘Kun actually represents a Japanese cartoon character from my favourite series that I used to watch as a child. I coined the nickname Kun because of my resemblance to the character, who was actually named Kum Kum. My grandparents were the first ones who gave me the name. I think my nickname is different in comparison to most athletes and so I have grown to appreciate it because it’s unique. It’s not every day an athlete is nicknamed after a cartoon character!’
From the moment he could walk, or toddle, football meant everything to the young Sergio: ‘Football surrounds you in Argentina and so I began playing at a very young age. The truth is that I had always lived with the ball at my feet. As soon as class ended in Quilmes in Buenos Aires, my friends and I would start up a game. In Villa Itali, the neighbourhood where I was raised, there was also a pitch where we used to gather with the local kids and organise games. At any moment of the day we could have been playing, when the sun shined or when dark fell. I would spend hours and hours out there, sometimes even coming home late.’
At the age of 15 and 35 days Sergio, playing for Independiente, becoming the youngest player to appear in Argentina’s highest league (beating Maradona’s record). Looking back he explained in 2008: ‘There were some difficult times at first. I was a lot younger and smaller than most of the players, so I had to learn how to avoid and dodge aggressive tackles. At times, especially in the beginning, I think I became a target for malicious tackles and so referees were forced to look after or protect me, or at least pay closer attention to intentional rough hits. But eventually I learned to avoid these rough tackles and improved so that I was able to anticipate and dodge injuries.’
Sergio’s form from the moment he made his debut in 2003 through to 2006 was enough for the media to suggest the 17 year old should play for Argentina in the 2006 World Cup.
On April 29, 2006 the Irish Independent highlighted him as a face to watch and a few days later journalist Stuart Condie wrote: ‘At 15, Agüero became the youngest player in Argentina’s top league and this season has eight goals in 16 league matches for Independiente. Cesar Luis Menotti, Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach, said he has “something of Romario about him.” Romario helped Brazil win the 1994 championship in the United States.’
Condie quoted the then Argentinian coach Jose Pekerman who said: ‘Kun is playing out of his skin at the moment. There are many players who didn’t get to play at the World Cup until they were 24 or 25. I’m not saying that’s going to be the case with Agüero. I remain hopeful that he can still make it.’
Sadly, Sergio did not appear at the 2006 World Cup but he did make his international debut that year (September 3) against Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. A year later he netted his first international goal in a 2010 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia and was ultimately selected for the Argentinian World Cup squad of 2010. Sergio scored in his first finals game – he came on for Carlos Tevez in the 75th minute v South Korea and scored a minute later. Sergio, Sergio!
Often described as ‘the new Maradona’ around this time, Sergio had already won the World Junior Championships twice (2005 & 2007 – he won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in 2007) and an Olympic Gold Medal (2008 – Argentina won the men’s football tournament of course!). He had also joined Atlético Madrid, signing in May 2006.
When asked about why he had left Argentina and Independiente Sergio explained in 2007: ‘The reason I left Independiente is because I care for the club so much. If I hadn’t been sold for so much money there would not be an Independiente. Their debt problems were so bad they could have gone under. I couldn’t let that happen. I felt sorry for the fans and I understood their anger. But they realise now it was the only solution. It is a great feeling to know they have not forgotten me and chant my name – I will never forget them.’
It is clear that the club continues to mean a great deal for the player and that his comments, back in 2007, were sincere. His move did ensure the club could survive but it added to the focus he received.
Inevitably, delivering so much at such an early age would have put Sergio under immense pressure at times. The comparisons with Maradona (Sergio married his daughter as well); the focus in Argentina and then playing in the Spanish League… all of this could have affected him, like the pressure has so many other young footballers, but Sergio always seemed to keep level headed. When asked in 2008 he commented that he did not feel pressure, adding ‘football comes to me so naturally it’s more like having fun than a job. For me, having a kickabout with my friends is as important as playing in the final of the World Cup.’
It’s worth remembering he was still only 20 when he made those comments. The pressure of life at a top Spanish club and playing for Argentina was intense, especially after he was described by the Atlético president Enrique Cerezo as ‘the most important player to arrive in Spain since Maradona.’ There was also the small matter of Sergio punching the ball into the net – according to those who supported clubs other than Atlético of course! He didn’t, but the goal was scored off his hands. Sergio explained in January 2007: ‘The goal I’m famous for here is the one I scored against Recreativo when the ball hit off my hands and ended in the net. People say it was another Hand Of God goal but if the referee doesn’t disallow it, I’m not going to complain! I didn’t mean to punch the ball past the keeper. I just threw myself at the cross and it went in, although it was definitely off my hands. It’s forgotten now and I’m just concentrating on helping Atletico climb the table.’
In 2008 there were a number of features on Sergio in the media suggesting an English club may try to sign him. They talked of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with journalist Glen Moore saying ‘He would cost €60m, but that could be cheap for a talented 20-year-old.’ The following year the Irish Independent described him as ‘a player all of Europe covets and one with the skill to unlock any defence.’
The Daily Star claimed that Alex Ferguson had Sergio on his wish list behind Dimitar Berbatov in July 2008 – it’s worth remembering that Berbatov eventually signed for United on transfer deadline day that year when the Reds were seemingly in a battle over transfers with City. It’s amazing to think of what might have happened if United hadn’t made such a determined attempt at getting Berbatov and City had signed him, not Robinho, that day. Would Sergio have ended up at Old Trafford? How different could Manchester’s football story have been over the following decade?
Similarly, in July 2009 Jason Burt, writing for the Irish Independent, claimed that City were trying to lure John Terry away from Chelsea for £28m plus and if that went ahead then the London club might prepare a bid for Sergio. Fate, it seems, played its part in ensuring City’s early spending following the September 2008 takeover did not lead to a rival Premier League club capturing the Argentinian.
In February 2011 it was reported in the Telegraph that Harry Redknapp had tried to sign Sergio for Spurs – leading to Atlético extending his contract – and then on July 17 that year the same newspaper reported that Sergio’s then father-in-law, Maradona, had given his blessing to the player moving to City. Blues’ boss Roberto Mancini was quoted as saying: ‘Agüero is a player that can play for Manchester City because he is young and he is a good player like Carlos [Tevez]. He can score a lot of goals and can play with Mario, with Edin … it could be [that he joins us].’
On July 28 2011, after City chair Khaldoon Al Mubarak allegedly took the highly unusual step of getting directly involved in the transfer, Sergio officially joined City for a fee reported as £35m – an absolute bargain when you consider what he has achieved since BUT also a bargain compared to the amounts that other teams were alleged to have been prepared to spend to capture him at various times in the previous few years. It’s worth remembering Liverpool had paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll in January of that year! I know which player I think offered the most value for money.
The great Argentinian former Spurs star Ossie Ardiles gave his view of Sergio at this time: ‘Agüero’s a wonderful player, only 23, and with a lot of potential. If you compare him with Tevez, I would say he is more of a proper striker, a traditional centre-forward. He is very skilful, strong, two-footed and he has the number one thing that all top frontmen have, and that is an ability to make scoring look very easy.’
Ossie was right and so were many others who recognised that Sergio was the signing City needed to push forward. There were some who, for their own personal reasons, wrote negatively about Sergio’s arrival (maybe they’d have written differently had he joined certain other clubs?), but overwhelmingly it was clear that Sergio was that ‘final jigsaw piece’.
David Maddock, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly prophesised: ‘City are not just getting one of the most exciting strikers in the world… they are also, apparently, getting a talisman who can provide the impetus for them to take the final step into the elite… The signing ofAgüero promises a huge impact, as the crowds in Manchester last night suggested. By signing a similar player to Tevez, but one who is younger, quicker and with far more potential, City are upgrading.
‘The fact the Argentina striker has replaced Tevez in his country’s forward line and is rated more highly back home adds to that sense of moving onwards and upwards for the club’s supporters.’
Inevitably Sergio was quoted in most of the national newspapers over the days that followed with the Sun carrying several quotes, beginning with whether the weather in Manchester would cause Sergio problems: ‘Firstly I don’t like very hot weather so on that side of things I will be OK. I’m sure I am going to enjoy myself here and life will be fine.’ He added: “My style has always been to fight to the death for every ball, to give 100 per cent in every game, be concentrated to the maximum in everything I do. I think we are a team that in the future will be fighting every year to win trophies. And let’s hope that it is a quite a few major trophies.’ Well, Sergio, you certainly did challenge for trophies (quite a few) every year!
Sergio’s competitive City career began with a 59th minute substitute appearance against Swansea in the Premier League on August 15, 2011 (the first Premier League meeting with Swansea). Within nine minutes he’d scored his first goal (a tap in from a cross by Micah Richards) and in injury time he netted his second (a 30 yard strike). In addition, he also set up David Silva to score (he’d hooked the ball off the byline and passed it to Silva).
You can read about the game here:
Oliver Holt, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly reported how it felt to those of us in the stadium that day: ‘City fans should be entitled to think a forward ought to be a bit special. But to be at the Etihad Stadium last night and to witness the Manchester City debut of Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero felt like being in on something momentous. It felt like a landmark… Of all the superstar arrivals that have happened here in the blur of transfer activity that has taken place since Sheikh Mansour bought the club three years ago, Agüero’s feels as if it has the power to transform the side. There was an electricity about the place when he came on for Nigel de Jong after an hour. There was a feeling that something special was about to occur.’
And something special did occur. We all know about the Agüeroooooooo goal that brought City the Premier League title but the player has always been something more than that goal.
Over the near decade that has followed his arrival incredible success has come City’s way with Agüero usually playing a significant part in each glory. Surprisingly he’s never been awarded either the PFA footballer of the year or the Football Writers’ equivalent (lots of City fans have theories why!) but he has won a whole host of personal awards including the Premier League Golden Boot 2015; Manchester City Player of the Year 2012 & 2015 and the Football Supporters Federation Player of the Year 2014.
Sergio also, of course, became City’s record goalscorer of all time. In fact he holds most of the Blues goalscoring records: Overall goalscorer 257 goals (next best Eric Brook 177); League goalscorer 181 goals (next best Tommy Johnson & Eric Brook 158) and Europe 43 goals (next best Raheem Sterling 21). He’s second in the list of FA Cup goalscorers for City on 20 goals, two behind Fred Tilson – but Tilson played 28 FA Cup games and Sergio has only played 20.
His League record is incredible: 181 goals in 232 (plus 39 as sub) appearances. That’s a ratio of 0.66789 goals per game, ignoring how many minutes he’s actually been on the pitch. Johnson’s City League record was 0.4817 goals per League game and Brook’s was 0.3511. If we consider all strikers to have made 100 or more appearances in the Premier League only Thierry Henry (ratio of 0.67829) and Harry Kane (0.67510) have a better ratio and neither man has played as many games. In January 2018 I did a profile of Sergio’s goalscoring for the Manchester City match programme and in that I calculated that his record was 0.682 goals per League game. Since then injury and less actual game time has made that figure reduce, otherwise he would still have had the best goals to game ratio in the Premier League.
Of course, goals per game totally ignores how long the player was actually on the pitch and in the last year or so Sergio has often been brought on as substitute, sometimes at a stage where City have been content with a result or with too little game time for Sergio to make an impact. When analysis of goals per minute played City have rightly claimed him as ‘the competition’s most lethal goalscorer in terms of goals scored per minutes played.’
He is the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and holds the record for the most Premier League hat-tricks.
At present Sergio is the 16th highest appearance holder for City. As of March 30th he is ten games behind the club’s earliest legendary figure Billy Meredith and four ahead of Glyn Pardoe, Tommy Doyle’s granddad and a crucial member of the 1960s/early 1970s team.
No wonder the City chairman has said: ‘Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated. His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the Club and maybe even in those who simply love football.
‘In the meantime, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be commissioning an artist to create a statue of Sergio to live at the Etihad Stadium alongside the ones under construction for Vincent and David. And we look forward to the opportunity to bid Sergio a fitting farewell at the end of the season.’
Manchester City have had many great goalscoring figures over the years, including World Cup stars and international heroes but, in terms of records, emotion and trophies, Agüero’s record eclipses all that have gone before. Inevitably it is difficult to compare heroes from one era with another, but whenever comparisons are made between Agüero and the modern era’s greatest strikers the evidence is clear. Sergio Agüero’s statistics speak for themselves with few Premier League legends able to compare to the record of City’s Argentinian star. For me Agüero is the best.
The next few weeks are going to be emotional for us all as we bid farewell to City’s – and one of the Premier League’s – greatest ever goalscorer. Sergio, we will miss you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this profile. As I said at the start it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to update my epic Manchester The Greatest City (last edition was Manchester The City Years published in 2012) and a profile of Sergio, alongside all the other legends, would be something I’d have sought to include. From now on material like that will make its way on to http://www.GJFootballArchive.com – some will be free to read for a period while other content will be only available to subscribers. Currently, there are almost 300 articles posted to this site including the entire Manchester A Football History and exclusive audio interviews with Trevor Sinclair, John Bond, George Graham and Malcolm Allison (it is my intention to publish some of my historic interviews alongside new content). Subscribers get full access to all of this.
Apart from occasional books, this is now my only writing outlet. My last article for a match programme was published before the first Covid lockdown and so if you want to read more content like the above or would like to access historic articles/interviews/recordings then please subscribe. It costs £20 a year (it works out about £1.67 a month) and you get full access throughout your subscription period. You can subscribe below. Thanks for reading. It is appreciated. Gary James, March 30 2021.
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To mark today’s (20th March 2021) FA Cup meeting between Manchester City and Everton here are a few historical facts, memories and video highlights of games between the clubs.
The December 1989 meeting between the two sides was memorable because of events off the field rather than on it. The match ended goalless but the attention the game received from the national media was incredible, and it was all because 20th placed City had appointed the former Evertonian Howard Kendall as manager.
Earlier that season Peter Swales had dismissed the rather quiet, unassuming Mel Machin despite him guiding City to promotion and a memorable 5-1 victory over United. He publicly approached Joe Royle, who turned the club down, and then turned to Kendall.
Almost immediately the ex-Evertonian stamped his authority on the side and quickly brought in Peter Reid and Alan Harper to make their debuts at Goodison. Disappointingly, the highly popular Ian Bishop was named as a substitute. Kendall: “It was not a popular move. I walked out at 2.55pm to hear my supporters chanting, ‘There’s only one Ian Bishop’. Nice welcome that was. The Bishop situation developed into a saga, the like of which I have never experienced in football before.”
It wasn’t long before the long-haired Bishop was sold to West Ham. Earlier in his career Kendall had transferred him out of Everton.
Kendall’s new look City managed to keep ninth placed Everton at bay in a rather dour televised match to earn only their second point in six games. City ended the season in 14th place while Everton finished 6th.
The first League game between the two sides was a 2-1 Everton win on 23rd December 1899 in Division One. The match was played at Hyde Road with Billy Meredith scoring for the newly promoted City, while Jimmy Settle and R Gray netted for the Toffees. City ended their first season in the top division in 7th place while Everton finished 11th.
The first meeting of the two clubs to be televised on BBC’s Match Of The Day was the 1-1 draw on 23rd August 1969. Film here:
The first ‘live’ televised meeting was the famous Howard Kendall match played on 17th December 1989 (see above). The game was shown on ITV.
When Everton appeared in their first FA Cup final it was played at Fallowfield, Manchester. The 1893 final against Wolves was the first, other than the 1886 replay, to be played outside London. Wolves won the match 1-0 and a row of houses in Wolverhampton were given the name Fallowfield Terrace in celebration.
The Fallowfield site now forms part of Manchester University’s student campus.
Well I Never!
City fans demonstrated against the transfer of their hero, Tommy Johnson, to Everton in March 1930 for £6,000. At City Johnson entered the record books by scoring most goals in a season – he netted an incredible 38 in 39 League games during the 1928-9 season. He was a popular player and lived amongst the fans in Gorton. He was often seen drinking draught Bass at The Plough on Hyde Road, and was something of a trend-setter in the area. As soon as he was spotted wearing a wide brimmed trilby hat it quickly became the fashion all young men wanted to follow!
His greatest individual game for City must have been the 6-2 defeat of reigning champions Everton in September 1928, when he scored five goals. Eric Brook scored the other while Dunn and Weldon netted for the Toffees.
In the 1960s Tommy was a regular attender at Maine Road where he and Billy ‘Dixie’ Dean would watch Joe Mercer’s City side. On 28thJanuary 1973 Tommy died at Monsall hospital aged 71.
Everton beat City 9-1 on 3rd September 1906 to record their record victory and City’s record defeat. This was only City’s second match following the findings of the FA investigation into illegal payments which resulted in the suspension of 17 players, the manager Tom Maley, the chairman, and two other directors. The entire summer had been spent finding a new manager and new players – any would do – to fill the void. City’s consolation goal was scored by debutant A.Fisher. The great Sandy Young had netted 4 of Everton’s 9 that day.
Two days before this game, the Blues had been defeated 4-1 by Arsenal in an incredible match that saw City leave the field with only six men. The rest were mainly suffering from heat exhaustion – it was 90 degrees in the shade!
The Young Royle
When Joe Royle made his debut in January 1966 against Blackpool he became the youngest player to appear for Everton in the League. He was 16 years and 282 days. His first game against City was the on 29th April the following year – only his 6th League appearance.
Obviously I’m biased but I’d urge everyone reading this article to also read:
The first Premier League meeting between these sides ends in a comfortable City win before 20,242 at Goodison Park. Two goals from Sheron and one from David White gave the Blues a 3-0 lead before an own goal from Brightwell made it 3-1 on Halloween.
1993 – Last Day
On the last day of the season Everton win 5-2 in a frustrating match for City fans. Goalscorers for Everton included future Blues Beagrie (2 goals) and Beardsley. White and Curle (penalty) scored for the home side.
1993 – Rideout Goal
The first away match of the season ends in a 1-0 City defeat. Rideout scored for the Toffeemen on 17th August before 26,025.
1994 – Double Double
Two goals each from Rosler and Walsh give City a 4-0 home win on 27th August. The Maine Road sell out crowd of 19,867 is City’s 3rdlowest crowd in the Premiership. The Kippax Stand was in construction and the capacity was severely restricted as a result.
1996 – Former Blue Scores
Former City hero Andy Hinchcliffe scores a 47th minute penalty to ensure a 2-0 Everton win in February 1996.
2000 – Five Stars
Wanchope (14), Howey (23), Goater (42), Dickov (54), and Naysmith (own goal in 67th minute) give City a thrilling 5-0 victory over Everton at Maine Road in December.
2002 – Anelka hat-trick?
City fans celebrate an Anelka hat-trick but his 14th minute opener is later ruled an own goal, scored by Everton’s Radzinski. In addition, Wright-Phillips is controversially sent off in the 28th minute but this is later downgraded to a yellow card. Despite the controversy and confusion City win the match 3-1 on 31st August.
2003 – New Year’s Day
Over 300 million fans watch this 2-2 draw on Chinese television. Everton took the lead in the 6th minute, City made it 2-1 in the 82ndbefore Everton equalised 2 minutes into injury time on January 1st.
2004 – Keegan’s Disappointment
On the season’s final day, City beat Everton 5-1 with goals from Wanchope (16 & 30), Anelka (41), Sibierski (89) & Wright-Phillips (90). The victory caused the two sides to swap League places. The Blues ended the campaign on 41 points, eight more than relegated Leicester, Leeds and Wolves. A decent enough margin in the end, but that did not change the way most felt about the season.
Prior to that final match Keegan explained truthfully how he felt: “We are just about at the end of the most disappointing season of my managerial career. I haven’t enjoyed it and I am sure the same goes for everyone connected with Manchester City.”
2005 – Early Morning Blues
Everton, so often a bogey team during the previous decade or so, were defeated 2-0 on 2nd October. This was the first Sunday morning kick off in the Premier League and the match commenced at 11.15 with some fans making a point of the early start by wearing pyjamas. It was also Stephen Ireland’s first full Premiership game. Before the match he admitted to being “very nervous” and post-match he commented that the rest of the team had supported him: “That helped me ease my nerves and settle in as one of them.”
2006 – Richards the Hero
One player, who would help City win the FA Cup and Premier League a few years later, was beginning to be seen as one of the club’s most positive assets this season – Micah Richards. He performed to a consistent standard and, on 30th September, he actually netted an equaliser for the club in the dying seconds against Everton to ensure an away point. The 18 year old Richards made his first full international appearance a few weeks later when he played for England against Holland on 15th November. Henry Winter, writing for the Telegraph, claimed: “England may well have discovered Gary Neville’s long term successor.” By this stage in his career Richards had only made 23 Premier League starts.
At Everton Richards’ goal was very important but City’s dominance during the final minutes of the match should have seen the Blues snatch a winner according to goalkeeper Nicky Weaver: “The last five minutes we absolutely battered them and every time the ball went in the box we looked as though we were going to score. Then when [Samaras] hit the post, you’re thinking ‘is it not going to be our day?’ But we kept going and deep, deep into injury time, we got something out of the game.”
Everton’s captain Phil Neville admitted: “It feels like a defeat… we should have got the second goal and killed off the game.”
2011 – Super Mario
In September City defeated Everton 2-0 with goals from substitute Mario Balotelli and James Milner. It was an important victory over a team that continued to be a bit of a bogey side in recent seasons, and ensured the Blues were now back on equal points with Ferguson’s Manchester United, who had drawn 1-1 at Stoke despite leading at half time.
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In the build up to Manchester City’s League Cup final against Aston Villa last year (2020) I was somewhat deflated by the way in which some in the media were critical of City fans. There wasn’t any one thing in particular that prompted this but it was something that had been growing for some time. It was all connected with the general stereotyping of City fans and the language being used by some to write negatively about them. I decided to write a lengthy piece on how I felt about this and I published it on my Facebook and twitter accounts the day after the League Cup final (the final was on 1st March 2020).
Sadly, one year on and little has changed. Ah well! So for those who missed it last year here is the piece:
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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.
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.
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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For my first guest blog I’m delighted to say that a writer I’ve admired for years has agreed to contribute. Noel Bayley, the editor of the Manchester City fanzine Bert Trautmann’s Helmet, tells us about the role Covid has played in him sharing the stories of his match tickets. Noel writes…
High up on a shelf in the spare room there is a shoe box. To be honest it’s a trainers’ box but that doesn’t sound quite right. Although, if I’m being pedantic, it’s a blue and white adidas Samba trainers’ box (reduced to £42.49) that has been there for the 17 years I’ve lived in this house. It came with me from the last house so it’s probably more like 20 years old. Maybe older.
The trainers are long gone (lifespan six to 12 months in my hands… or on my feet since we’re being pedantic!) but the very thing that you’re supposed to throw away – the box – lives on. Inside are match tickets. I just throw them in there whenever I get one. But since I haven’t had one for a while (Aston Villa at Wembley on 1 March last year, since you asked) the box should have just sat there quietly doing nothing throughout lockdown.
But then I had an idea. Who hasn’t during lockdown? I’d get them all out, put them in order and, scan them. I’d had an idea to put them on my FaceBook page but as I had a City fanzine FB page, that was the obvious place to put them. So I started doing that at the start of the season. It started off slowly and picked up momentum. Nostalgia’s big business on the internet… “Remember when…” And what might have been a meaningless game to you might have great meaning for someone else. Many of us measure out births, deaths and marriages in football matches; the ticket is the proof positive of the day when all the other details have melted away.
I’m not a ticket collector, you understand. Collectors eschew shoeboxes in favour of A4 folders with transparent pockets and dividers, all neatly arranged. Many years ago at Maine Road, a ticket collector turned up at ‘Fanzine Corner’ happy to show anyone who was even mildly interested his fantastic collection of tickets, going back years – as neat as a new pin.
He was proudly showing someone a ticket from a pre-season friendly in Italy in 1992. “I’ve got that one too,” I told him, “only I went to the match.” That was an understatement. My mate and I had spent a week hitch-hiking to Italy only to find that this very match against Cremonese on a mountain top in the Dolomites had kicked off half an hour early. We got to see an hour of the game anyway! My mate died in the intervening years, but I still have some great memories and a tiny slip of a ticket to mark the highwater mark (literally!) of our great adventure almost three decades ago.
And that’s the thing about tickets and programmes and much of the – mainly paper – ephemera that people collect: it tells a story, and if it’s going to tell a story it might as well be your story! Not that I’m a ticket collector, you understand.
There were several hundred tickets in the box. Easily enough for one every day of a nine/ten-month season, I thought naively. As I painstakingly scanned them I realised that there were some dates when I was spoilt for choice (Boxing Day, for example, and early January when the FA Cup Third Round kicks in) and some days when there were none at all. Not that City hadn’t played, but I’ve had a season ticket for 40 years and for many years all-ticket games were something of a rarity; pay on the gate, no questions asked. Now, of course, every game is all-ticket.
I roped my mate Josh in for a few more – not that he’s a collector either; more of a curator – but there are still gaps. Even so, most days I can put a match ticket on FB with a story to go under it. Remember when indeed! Derby matches, important matches and games that had memorable incidents like last-gasp goals are the most popular ones I have found: Ian Brightwell’s Derby Day equaliser, York away, Blackpool away in the Cup in 1988…
The author Hunter Davies said: ““There is the serious collector, who goes out of their way and actively searches for items. Then there is the accumulator, a much more passive beast. He or she accumulates by never knowingly throwing things away.”
Davies is, without question, a serious collector. I’m more of an “accumulator.” I’m certainly not a ticket collector. No way, not me. They can be found on trains.
Which reminds me: I’ll have to tell you about the model train collection I’ve accumulated over the years when I’ve got more time…
To see Noel’s, err um, collection (not that he’s a collector!) have a look at https://www.facebook.com/leonyelyab It’s updated every day and provides a great ephemeral record of a football goer’s life. Every ticket tells a story.
Over the last few years there’s been a growing tendency by rival fans to mock the support of Manchester City. It’s an extremely odd thing to do, especially as for most of the period between 1981 and 2011 they talked of the loyalty of City fans. It seems, once the Blues started winning trophies again, rival supporters had to find something else to focus on.
Recently, this myth about City’s support has been used by some in extremely strange ways, for example following the Blues 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Anfield (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/07/the-last-time-mcfc-scored-4-or-more-at-anfield/ ) some Liverpool fans (and even some journalists!) started to make the point that City’s recent form is down to the fact that ‘they’re used to playing in front of no fans’ with the suggestion being that if Anfield had had fans present then City wouldn’t have won. They go on and suggest that Liverpool would have gained more wins in general and that City would not be top of the League and that Liverpool would be.
This is an extremely strange view, especially as the 2019-20 season (which included some games without fans of course) was the only time Liverpool have won the Premier League since its formation in 1992. In each of those seasons prior to LFC’s first Premier League title crowds were allowed at Anfield. During that same time City have won the League on four occasions. It’s a preposterous idea that ignores the facts.
So for this article I’ve decided to produce evidence of City support in recent decades along with a few comparisons with other leading sides. It makes interesting reading and may embarrass the supporters of certain clubs who constantly ridicule City’s fanbase, despite the evidence. The following in-depth piece can be accessed by subscribing to this blog below.
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Manchester City’s victory over Swansea last night in the FA Cup (3-1 on 10th February 2021) caused a number of fans, media outlets and statisticians to question the record set by City in 2017. Between August 26 and December 3, 2017 Pep’s Blues managed a 20 game winning run that included a League Cup penalty shootout win over Wolves in in October 2017.
In 2017 the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – the body that is the ultimate rule maker and sits above FIFA – stated that wins via penalty shootouts count in sequence records, hence City establishing the record at 20 consecutive wins. Some statisticians argue this point but IFAB are the rule makers while statisticians, fans, the media and historians are merely observers. We may have views but ultimately IFAB are the ones who set the rules regardless of whether we like them or not.
So where does this leave last night’s record? Well, to solve all future debates and arguments it’s fairly simple to me. Last night’s win means that City currently hold two records that no one can quibble with. These are:
Most Consecutive Wins (including penalty shootouts): 20, 2017.
Most Consecutive Wins (excluding penalty shootouts): 15, 2021.
Over the coming weeks hopefully the record established last night will increase and, who knows, it may even overtake the 2017 record but, for common-sense sake, it’s clear to me that regarding it as two records resolves the issue.
One point worth making though concerns Pep’s 200th win. This was regarded as last night’s game by many of the same organisations who do not count the 2017 record due to the penalty shootout. Well, we can’t have it both ways. If 2017 does not count at all because of the penalty shootout then Pep hasn’t yet reached 200 wins – that’s a nonsense of course. I’d love to see what happens when someone from the media, a rival club or a statistician tells him that his single game wins via shoot-outs don’t count. Anyone who thinks differently should have a chat with Pep and tell him what they think.
Incidentally, back in 2017 when City’s penalty shootout win v Wolves was counted as a win by IFAB there had also been a few precedents, for example concerning a consecutive away record Arsenal had (see https://www.arsenal.com/news/features/consecutive-away-wins for the details) and Sir Alex Ferguson’s own win records. These predated City’s 20 game record and remained classified as records. These are clearly precedents that were widely reported at the time.
There are anomalies – people widely point to two-legged ties that are ‘won’ on penalties or extra-time – and whenever people raise these they really should speak with IFAB and seek a definitive decision. Ultimately, as I said earlier, statisticians, media and fans are observers not rule makers.
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It’s Swansea v Manchester City tonight in the FA Cup and so I thought I’d put together a few historical facts and stats about games between the two clubs.
Game One: The first competitive meeting between the two teams came in Division Two on 25 September 1926. The Blues had been relegated the previous May and the historic first meeting with Swansea Town (Swansea was not a city at this point) ended in a 3-1 City victory at Maine Road, before 24,314 fans. George Hicks, Tommy Johnson & Frank Roberts netted for the Blues.
The return game also ended in a 3-1 win on 12 February 1927. Hicks and Johnson both scored again, with Johnson netting twice. A Swansea crowd of 20,345 watched on.
The first top flight game between the sides didn’t come until 21 November 1981 (following Swansea’s promotion) and saw two each from Kevin Reeves and Dennis Tueart (the first a penalty 4 minutes before half time) help City to a 4-0 win. Here’s film of that game – see if you can spot the fan carrying two pints (presumably of Greenall’s or Grunhalle!) back to his seat (the days when we were allowed to drink in our seats or on the Kippax – well, not quite all of us. I was just 14 at the time!):
The first Premier League meeting came on 15 August 2011 – another 4-0 City win. This time Dzeko, Aguero (2) and David Silva each scored at the Etihad before 46,802. Film of that game here:
Incredibly the first FA Cup meeting didn’t come until 16 March 2019 and this saw City win 3-2 at Swansea (OG from Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Bernardo Silva & Sergio Aguero). City had been losing 2-0 (a penalty from Matt Grimes in 20th minute and Bersant Celina netted the other in 29th minute) up until Silva’s 69th minute goal. The action from this game can be viewed here:
Prior to tonight’s game of course: In terms of all time record the two teams have met on 36 occasions:
Played 36; City won 25; Drawn 4; Swansea won 7.
Breakdown by competition is:
League P34; City won 23; Drawn 4; Swansea won 7
FAC P1; City won 1; Drawn 0; Swansea won 0
League Cup P1; City won 1; Drawn 0; Swansea won 0.
The highest scoring game between the teams came in August 1927 when City beat Swansea Town 7-4 in Division Two. 34,316 watched a hat trick from Tommy Johnson and other goals from Peter Bell, Charlie Broadhurst, George Hicks and Frank Roberts.
Here’s hoping tonight’s game brings as much entertainment as that one did.
While you’re here, it’s worth taking a look at something else already posted on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com. It’s a profile of Tommy Hutchison who was a cult hero at MCFC and also spent time with Swansea City:
After today’s (7th February 2021) 4-1 victory over reigning Champions Liverpool by League leaders Manchester City it’s worth highlighting a few of the records and the significance of today’s win in City’s history. It was the Blues’ greatest win at Anfield for over 80 years.
In 1937 the Blues managed a 5-0 victory on Good Friday (and three days later won 5-1 at Maine Road). That season the Blues went on to win the League – hopefully this is a good omen for this season.
As the above advert shows, it cost 3 shillings for a return train fare to Anfield that day (sadly no fans were allowed today).
Here’s how the MCFC match programme remembered the victory:
Here are the League results and table following that historic win at Anfield. It’s interesting to see which clubs are no longer members of football’s top division and which of today’s giants are missing.
Here are a few snippets from a Liverpool based newspaper telling the story of that day:
The Blues have struggled to win at Anfield over the last 40 years (I don’t need to go through the stats, City fans get bombarded with them every time there’s a game at Anfield! You can check all results here if you really want to: https://bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk/History/Matches/Opponent.aspx?id=15 ) and so today’s resounding victory over Liverpool is significant. Of course, it is only one result and anything is possible this season.
Here’s a few stats:
Sterling became the third player to score 100 or more goals under Guardiola, after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (211) and City’s Sergio Aguero (120).
Of all players to score at least 10 goals within the top five European leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) this season, only Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland (20 years 2021 days) is younger than Phil Foden (20 years 255 days).
Since netting his first goal of the season on 15 December, Ilkay Gundogan has scored at least three more Premier League goals than any other player (nine).
At 20 years and 255 days Phil Foden is the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game at Anfield.
Oleksandr Zinchenko made his 50th Premier League appearance today.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 80+ years for City’s next 4 goal plus win at Anfield!
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