Premier League Domination?

Recently it has been fashionable for some to talk of the Premier League being dominated by a single club or that the competition is no longer as entertaining as it was because the same old club(s) win the League. Well, this is absolute balderdash of course, but rather than simply say that I thought I’d look at the facts and the supporting evidence. So, if you’re someone who thinks football is more one sided today than it’s ever been, or someone who wants to challenge those who do, then please read on…

The idea that the League is a one club competition is usually stated in relation to Manchester City these days and recently, as City have increased their lead at the top, the view has been expressed over and over again by rivals and some journalists. Yet, the evidence shows otherwise. 

Firstly, at the time of writing Manchester City are 10 points clear of second placed Chelsea. However, if Liverpool win their game in hand then City will be only 8 points clear. I say only because 8 points is less than 3 victories difference and City still have to play both Chelsea and Liverpool, plus of course other potential rivals including Manchester United. 

I also say ‘only’ because we can all come up with seasons when one club has been eight points or more ahead and still lost the League – Manchester United fans will not need reminding about how far ahead they were in the 2011-12 title race as it entered its final weeks, only to see City snatch the title in dramatic fashion. 

Eight point leads are great to have but, at this point in a season, they do not mean you will be successful. Personally, I hope City are successful but no one seriously believes the title race is over and if they do then they really have not watched enough football!

Alongside the ridiculous view that the League is over there has been a frequently aired view that the League title is less competitive now than at any other time in history. Again, this is a ridiculous view that does not match with the evidence.

Much has been said by City’s rivals and others about how having one team dominating can be boring for English football. Whether that’s true or not is debateable but it’s worth pointing out that since City first won the Premier League in 2012 then five different clubs have won the competition (three of these being first time Premier League champions too!).

Five teams in a decade may not sound like much variety to some but it is better than the 2000s (1999-00 to 2008-09) when only three clubs won the League. Even worse between 1995 and 2004 either United or Arsenal won the title and their duopoly was only broken up when Chelsea became a force following their investment. Even then only those three teams won the League between 1994 and City’s first PL title in 2012! 

Had Chelsea not come along would United and Arsenal still be the only teams winning the League? The investment in both Chelsea and City has helped open up the League and, with a greater variety of clubs challenging, the League is now much more open. At the start of each season there are more teams perceived as potential title challengers than in the 2000s.

Did anyone say back when United and Arsenal had a duopoly at the top that the League was boring because it was the same old champions? I don’t remember leading journalists say that then so why now when the PL has had more variety of winners?

Even if City’s rivals or those critical of City’s success accept that United and Arsenal dominated the League back in the 2000s until the ‘new money’ of Chelsea and City came along they tend to suggest that previous decades had enjoyed more variety. Well some did but not all. The 1980s are perceived as an era when the League was varied yet only four clubs won the League during that decade (1979-80 to 1988-89). 

So the last decade has not been such a one-sided race after all and is better than the 1980s and 2000s for a start.

Those figures may surprise or shock some who believe City’s rivals or those who promote the view that City dominate the League like no other club ever has. However, I’m sure some will say ‘but it’s not just about League titles, it’s about trophy hauls too!’

Well, as a Manchester City fan I am proud of the success City have achieved during the last decade and I also recognise that they have not dominated in a way that other clubs have in previous periods. 

In terms of the most successful club of each era, well, Chelsea and City have clearly been the most successful during the 2010s (2009-10 to 2018-19). Their trophy hauls during this time are (excluding one-off competitions like the Community Shield or European Super Cup):

Chelsea: 10 major trophies (includes 3 major European trophies).

City: 10. 

Thinking of domination, it is worth highlighting that neither side has yet won as many trophies in a single decade as Manchester United did between 1989-90 and 1998-99 when they won 12 trophies. They also won ten trophies in the decade that followed. 

Again, I don’t remember negative coverage of United’s domination but somehow it seems fair to say Manchester City dominate today yet their trophy haul has not reached the heights of United yet, plus their trophy haul during the 2010s was the same as Chelsea’s anyway (and since then Chelsea have won another European Champions League of course!).

But what about earlier decades and domination? Well, the 1970s (all trophies won in 1969-70 and 1978-79) – an era generally regarded as one of great variety with several clubs challenging – Liverpool won three times as many trophies as their nearest rivals (Manchester City were actually joint-second most successful English club during that period!). 

Those who have claimed in recent seasons that having one team dominating is boring may want to think back to how they felt during previous decades. 

Each era has its own successful teams but these vary over the decades with no club being regarded as a dominant club throughout its entire history. We’ve all experienced fallow periods or times of struggle, though some may not want to remember that.

Today, no team dominates English football (who remembers all those voices earlier this season telling us how open the League would be or that Liverpool/Chelsea/City/United/Tottenham would be victorious? All of whom could still win the League this year of course!).

There are plenty of issues with English and European football but can we all please remember that football domination has happened in the past and that the situation today is not as one (or two) sided as it was in some past decades. 

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Merry Christmas

Wishing all my friends, followers, family and so on a happy Christmas. Let’s hope we all stay safe and enjoy the holiday period (and beyond). Best wishes to all. If you’re bored over the next few days (yeah, I know) then take a few moments at the end of each day to look at

Welcome to Gary James’ Football Archive

I’ve got quite a few articles coming up about MCFC at Christmas on each day that might be entertaining/of interest. Happy Christmas to all.

Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

I was present at the Etihad on Saturday night for the latest Soccer Aid fundraiser. It was my first experience of attending Soccer Aid, although I have watched it each year on television of course. It was also the first time it was staged at the Etihad after previously being held at Old Trafford, Wembley and Stamford Bridge.

It was a great event and it was wonderful to see some highly successful former Premier League players like Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Rooney on the same pitch as entertainers, musicians and reality stars. 

Inevitably the crowd was also mixed with many regular football attendees present together with others who came to perhaps their first match as they were fans of one of the celebrities, or maybe they simply wanted to support the charity appeal. It actually created a good atmosphere with certain stars getting great support. The Manchester rapper Aitch was certainly popular, as was singer YUNGBLUD, YouTuber Chunkz and singer Olly Murs.

YUNGBLUD

Due to chance I ended up in a great place to see the Rest of the World players as they arrived at the stadium and you could see the delight on the faces of many of the players as they arrived at the Etihad. Line of Duty’s Martin Compston seemed to be taking in every moment – as he did during the game.

Ore Oduba & Martin Compton

Obviously, the quality of football varied but it was great entertainment. I thought singer James Bay played well. Chelcee Grimes seemed to set up Lee Mack for significant attempts on three occasions – a couple of which Mack fluffed – and she did some of the work before Mack finally scored. The other goals were both scored by Love Island’s Kem Cetinay and the Rest of the World won 3-0.

There are videos and match reports out there so I won’t go through any of that but I do want to say that it was a somewhat surreal experience at times. Most will know that ITV did a Masked Singer like reveal for the Soccer Aid mascot. Before the second half started his head was removed to chants from the crowd of ‘Take it off’ and it turned out it was entertainer Stephen Mulhern. He then played a few minutes in costume (without costme head) and it did seem odd seeing footballers like Paul Scholes in the same team as a costumed sidekick to Ant & Dec. However the majority of children – and many adults – in the stadium loved the pantomime of it all and his name was chanted at times.

For me the whole night was about raising funds and providing some entertainment. It wasn’t meant to be a major clash between two of the world’s strongest footballing teams and, for those reasons, I think anything that adds to the entertainment value of those in the stadium is fine. 

When we watch these things we want to see if the former footballers have still got it; whether that reality star or the people who talk about the game really can play; whether the comedian is doing it for laughs and so on. 

At the end of the game the players did a lap of honour and by the end of it YUNGBLUD and Olly Murs had given away their shorts to fans. Earlier, during the match, there was a great moment when Aitch was substituted for Max Whitlock. Aitch took off his shirt and handed it to a boy in the stands. He then signed it for the lad and the boy was delighted. He put on the shirt and Aitch took his place on the bench. Within only a few minutes Mo Farrar had to come off through injury and they decided to send Aitch back on. He shouted across to the lad to give him back his shirt but fortunately another shirt appeared and Aitch could get on the pitch. It was one of those typical testimonial style moments.

Soccer Aid is of course a worthy charity and can be supported via donations here:

https://donate.socceraid.org.uk/?_ga=2.269079862.631569536.1630922634-761543484.1630922634

Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved. This was a nice, positive and well supported event. Important work too!

On a personal level I thought the Etihad stadium looked fantastic on the night and it certainly added to the occasion. Hopefully, Soccer Aid will return there next year. As well as the entertainers on the pitch there were also several ‘faces’ in the stands including, a few rows behind me, Shaun Ryder. It was great to see the event supported in this way.

MANCHESTER CITY REVEAL ANDY SCOTT AS SCULPTOR COMMISSIONED TO CREATE STATUES OF CLUB LEGENDS

I like this… it’s not just creating a standard statue it’s significantly better than that. If you’ve seen The Kelpies you’ll recognise that Andy Scott uses history to produce modern, impressive, artistic pieces. Anyway, here’s City’s press release (it’s not often that a major city’s leader talks about footballing statues either but Richard Leese does here – see below):

City has revealed that award-winning sculptor Andy Scott was the artist who won the commission to create permanent statues of Club legends Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. The appointment followed an exhaustive selection process that began in March 2020.

Born and raised in Glasgow and a graduate of the city’s School of Art, Scott is one of the most respected sculptors of his generation and is known for his large-scale figurative pieces, which he creates by blending traditional craftmanship with modern fabrication techniques. His portfolio of more than 80 contemporary projects can be found both in the UK and in many corners of the world.


Now creating from his studio in Philadelphia, USA, Andy works frequently in galvanised steel and counts The Kelpies and Beacon of Hope amongst some of his most celebrated work.


Uniquely, the Kompany and Silva projects have been conducted entirely remotely from Scott’s securing the commission in June 2020, through to creation, completion and transportation of the pieces, which arrived on schedule in Manchester from Philadelphia in August 2021.
The statues of Kompany and Silva are to be installed outside the Club’s Etihad Stadium ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Arsenal, with Aguero’s tribute to follow in 2022, after his departure from the club this summer.

The legacy project was announced by Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak following the departure in Summer 2019 of Vincent Kompany, the Club’s most successful captain in its 127-year history. The decision to honour the three players was based on their unparalleled contribution to the Club’s transformation over their combined thirty-one years at the club. Al Mubarak has since indicated that further work is being undertaken to ensure the legends of earlier eras are appropriately celebrated.

Speaking of his appointment to the project Andy Scott said:
“On hearing that I had secured the commission to bring Vincent, David and now Sergio to life in sculpture form, I was absolutely thrilled. It’s an unbelievable honour to work on something that will be visited by hundreds of thousands of fans as they remember and celebrate the achievements of their footballing heroes.
I have always been struck by how sportsmen and women move and perform, and in the case of football specifically, how they anticipate the ball, how they combine with their teammates, and sometimes simply how they stand.
Reflecting these elements was always going to be challenging, but it was particularly so during a global pandemic as we were only able to meet with Vincent and David virtually. But with their insights and extensive research of film and photographic footage, I have tried to capture their unique physical characteristics and their distinctive movements in a way which I hope does justice to both of these phenomenal footballers.
It’s been such a pleasure to work on this prestigious project and I can’t wait to finally get to meet the team in person as we set about the final installations at the Etihad Stadium this week.”


Manchester City’s Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak commented:
“We are delighted with our choice of Andy to bring this project to life.
His portfolio speaks to his expertise, and his contemporary approach, together with his chosen medium of industrial materials, made him the perfect fit to create artwork for Manchester City. Ultimately, Vincent and David do not need statues to enshrine their achievements at Manchester City over the past decade. They are already revered as icons of their generation. But what these artworks give us, and generations to come, is the opportunity to be reminded of, and savour, the truly magical moments created by both men.”

Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese said:
“City’s decision to commission the statues of their iconic players and the appointment of Andy Scott to deliver them, is such an exciting development for our city. The benefits of public art are well accepted and in addition to the cultural and aesthetic advantages that come with high quality artwork, it can also generate significant economic value for the city.

I have seen Andy’s work and I’m thrilled that Manchester’s landscape will be blessed with new artwork from someone of his standing and whilst naturally, these pieces will be of appeal first and foremost to Manchester City fans, it is clear that this calibre of artwork will be admired and respected by millions around the city and beyond.”


NEWS: City Reflections

I’m delighted to say that earlier this week I agreed to write a regular column for the new Manchester City Match Programme. If all goes to plan it should be included in today’s programme. There will be two pieces written by me…

One will be about 3 pages or so on a historical theme and the other will be a crowd puller style feature where I provide brief information comparing City’s volume of support with the day’s opponents (the stats may shock a few of City’s rivals as the season progresses!).

Today’s main feature (v Norwich) is on City’s Olympic gold medalists – obviously there have been a few gold winners for football connected with our club but today’s feature focuses on two men connected with City who won gold for other sports.

Hopefully fans will find it interesting.

I’m keen to hear from fans who buy the programme about what areas of history they’d like to read about. Obviously, I want to ensure there’s a connection to the present in some way, but I’m keen to cover topics that fans want to read or learn about.

Please either leave comments below or email me at gary@GJFootballArchive.com

Thanks.

Wembley 2021

At Wembley for Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur. I was uncertain whether it would be worth the faff but in the end I couldn’t stay away. I got my negative lateral flow test last night (about 7pm Manchester city centre).

Here’s hoping it’s a great final. My last ‘live’ game was last year’s League Cup Final, so I feel like a proper glory hunter who only shows interest when there’s a trophy at stake! Let’s hope it’s not another 12 months before we get chance to attend another MCFC game.

Disappointed They’ve demolished part of Wembley Way though!

The Kippax

The news that Manchester City will be installing rail seats at the Etihad this summer (2021) means that for the first time since 1994 the stadium will possess a section that is designed to allow people to stand. Whether officially they’ll be allowed to depends on the legislation in place at the time but, whichever way you look at it, this is good news for those who like to stand at football matches. 

It is now almost 27 years since we said goodbye to terracing in Manchester and for those of us old enough to remember those days at Maine Road there was one standing area which, above all else, represented the passion fans had for their club – The Kippax.

Unlike most other grounds City’s main terracing ran the full length of the pitch and wasn’t tucked away behind a goal. Because of its positioning the Kippax breathed life into every area of the stadium and was huge.  Originally, it held in excess of 35,000, but even in its final days it still gave the impression of power and passion.

The Kippax was originally known as the Popular Side, matching a similarly dominant feature of the Blues’ Hyde Road ground, when it opened in 1923. That first season it held an estimated 35,000 in a crowd of 76,166 – then a national record attendance for a club ground. In 1934 when 84,569 packed into the stadium City’s vast stand may well have held almost 40,000. Incidentally, that 84,569 became the new national record attendance for a club ground (a record that still stands as Wembley is a national stadium, not officially a club ground). You can read about that crowd and game here:

Incidentally, I know City fans get a lot of abuse these days from fans of certain other clubs about filling stadia etc. Well, if you need any ammunition that 84,569 record crowd is over 22,000 higher than Liverpool’s record crowd (61,905 – a figure which wouldn’t get anywhere near City’s top ten crowds!).

Throughout the period up to the mid-50s the Popular Side developed its reputation but it was when it was roofed in 1957 that it became the true heart of the club. Back then it was extended slightly, although legislative changes had reduced terracing capacities by this time. The club announced it would be known as The Kippax Street Stand and that is what it officially remained until 1994 although most of us knew it simply as The Kippax.  Its capacity by this time was about 32,000, reducing to 26,155 by the end of the 1970s.

The Kippax accommodated fans of every age and gender and, although it was a formidable place for opposition supporters, it was a welcoming stand for Manchester’s Blues. Young children would sit on the walls and railings, while older fans would find their own preferred viewing spot. Here’s a few snippets about the old stand:

  • Originally four vast tunnels (one in each corner and two built into the stand) and two significant stairways allowed fans to move onto the Popular Side.
  • A flag pole, positioned at the back of the terracing up to 1957, allowed a blue and white flag emblazoned with the words City FC to proudly fly. The flag was then re-positioned until it disappeared for good in the 1960s.
  • Chanters Corner, also known as The Sways, was the area where the more vocal members of City’s support gathered. Packed above a tunnel and next to the segregation fence, fans here often generated the main chants.
  • The 1960s saw The Kippax’s reputation grow. Fans sang their way through success after success as Joe Mercer’s Aces won the European Cup Winners’ Cup and every domestic trophy possible. The Kippax would begin every game with the chant “Bring on the Champions!” and then follow up with a song for every player as they warmed up.
  • The final capacity of The Kippax was 18,300 – making this the largest terraced area at a League ground on its final day (The Kop held its final game on the same day but had a smaller capacity).
  • The Kippax was used for the last time on 30 April 1994 for the visit of Chelsea.
  • The Blue Print flag was a popular presence on many match days from the late 1980s until 1994, making its last appearance at The Kippax’s final game. The flag had been reduced in size by then. But it still covered much of the terracing.  Blue Print was a City fanzine and they had paid for the flag.
  • Segregation was unnecessary for most of the stand’s existence, but by the end of the 1960s a rope would often be used to separate City and United fans on derby day. This was replaced by permanent barriers in the mid-70s which were increased over the years to keep home and away fans apart. Away fans were positioned at the Platt Lane end of the stand by this time.
  • It says much about the passion of the place that in the late 1970s the BBC came to film The Kippax chanting and in full flow.
  • In 1985 when City defeated Charlton 5-1 in a promotion decider on the final day of the season the Kippax was so packed that supporters remain convinced that its official capacity of 26,155 was significantly exceeded. Those of us on the terraces that day will never forget the shock we all experienced when the official crowd of 47,285 was announced – some 5,000 short of capacity!

The Kippax is no more, but those of us who experienced the stand will never forget its power, passion and presence. Its spirit lives on with thousands of Blues who stood there now bringing their own children and grandchildren to the Etihad who, if legislation allows, will soon be able to stand in a section specifically created for that purpose.

If you’re interested you can read how Maine Road got its name here:

While you’re here I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I am not employed by anyone and no one pays me to do research or interviews. I do not have sponsorship or advertising either. I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research. The intention is to develop the archive and to provide access to as much of my material as possible over the coming weeks, months & years. Subscribers can already access over 280 articles/posts including the entire Manchester A Football History book and audio interviews with former City bosses Malcolm Allison and John Bond.

It costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (see below). Thanks for the support, Gary.

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This has been a sample of the material on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com If you would like to read all the in-depth articles and listen to the audio interviews then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year). Each subscriber gets full access to the 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

There are plenty of other Maine Road related stories on my site. For details and links see:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-city/maine-road/

The Manchester City story on their ground development can be read here:

https://www.mancity.com/news/club/etihad-stadium-rail-seating