MCFC Record Profits

The Manchester City FC annual report is out. Record profits of £41.7m as the club continues to find trophy success and improve its financial position. That investment seems to be paying off a bit now, hey? You can read all the details here:

https://www.mancity.com/annualreport2022/ceos-message/

Raheem Sterling

I’m sad to see Raheem Sterling is leaving Manchester City but I do wish him well for the future of course. For the final MCFC match programme of the season I included a small piece on Sterling and his status/achievements at the Etihad within my regular feature. To mark his departure I’m posting what I said only a couple of months ago here. Enjoy!

Here’s the unedited original piece as it was written: I want to focus on one of our current players who has been establishing himself as one of our greatest goal scorers of all time. In recent weeks we have rightly remembered the goalscoring exploits of our legendary hero Sergio Agüero, especially that memorable day ten years ago. These achievements have to be celebrated and remembered but we should also look at our current goal scorers and recognise what they are achieving too. Legends like Agüero do not come along every day but in today’s squad we have players whose achievements are way ahead of the majority of other players who have preceded them. 

Although we may celebrate odd goals and moments, we don’t often celebrate the achievements of our players while they are playing, especially as we know we have a squad of talented players helping the club challenge for success. However, I think it’s worth pausing to recognise the achievements of Raheem Sterling during his time at City. Sterling is now the second highest scorer for City in the modern era.

For years our top ten goal scorers of all-time list was fairly static. In fact, before Agüero, the most recent player to enter our top ten goal scorers’ chart was Colin Bell, who had followed Francis Lee into the table around fifty years ago. Agüero, of course, is our number one goal scorer of all time now, followed by 1930s stars Eric Brook & Tommy Johnson, then Colin Bell. At the time of going to press Raheem Sterling is 11th in the list after scoring 131 City goals, only one behind Billy Gilliespie and Fred Tilson, our joint ninth highest goal scorers.

We really should celebrate the career statistics of Sterling. It’s an amazing achievement to have eclipsed ALL but the current top ten prior to today’s game. I’m sure some critics will say ‘ah, but how does his scoring ratio compare?’ Well, sadly, for the majority of players in City’s top ten we are unable to have accurate statistics on the number of minutes played to allow a direct comparison, but we do have goals per game ratio statistics. Sterling’s goals to game ratio is 0.388, which is better than Colin Bell’s ratio of 0.305 goals per game and Eric Brook’s 0.359. Not too shabby then, especially when you consider the nature of modern-day squad football meant that Sterling either came on as substitute or was substituted in over 150 of his 338 games too! 

Title Winning Goal From The Villa End

Watch this film taken from the away section at the Etihad last week of Manchester City’s third (and title winning) goal. The celebrations are great to see from this end:

Those celebrations hey? Genuine, powerful, raw… it matters!

Congratulations Manchester City!

Every time City win a trophy in dramatic fashion I always think ’ah, well we’ll never experience anything like that again. Next time it’ll feel different’ but then they go and do something like today. As time goes by we’ll start to think of this as an incredible way to win the title. For now its more of a ’phew!’

Congratulations City. Great achievement and it’s been an incredible season. To win the Premier League you have to be the best, most consistent team that season. Cup competitions are important and it’s great winning them but ultimately winning the League – especially one that we are often told is the greatest in the League – is the mark of a truly great team. Brilliant work City.

Let’s not forget it’s 4 titles in 5 seasons too!

Years ago the great City coach Malcolm Allison told me that ‘it’s important to celebrate each success as if it’s your first because it could be your last.’ Let’s keep celebrating Blues. Never take anything for granted.

‘Where do you want your statue?’

In November 2020 I was delighted to be one of the speakers at a blue plaque unveiling for former Manchester City boss Joe Mercer in his home town of Ellesmere Port. It set me off thinking about permanent tributes to footballers and so for this article I’m taking a look at the tributes already made and questioning what else could be developed.

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Manchester v Liverpool

This weekend marks the latest in the series of games between one of the Manchester clubs and a Liverpool team. Today (9 April 2022) relegation worried Everton face United and tomorrow League Champions and leaders City take on second placed Liverpool at the Etihad. Much will be made of the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry and it is true that the two cities have been rivals for over 150 years (it certainly predates the building of the Ship Canal!) BUT the football clubs have not always been rivals. In fact Utd and Liverpool have been close over the decades at times while the on-the-pitch rivalry between City and Liverpool was extremely strong in the late 60s and 70s.

The strength of the two conurbations’ footballing rivalries came during the late 1960s but intensified in the late 70s. Prior to this one-off seasons may have seen grudge matches or significant games between clubs from the cities but nothing more than that. In fact for many, many years Manchester United and Liverpool, for example, were extremely close. They once put forward a suggestion to the Football League that all home teams should wear red and away teams white – the rest of football soon got wise to the plan!

There was also the time when United and Liverpool ‘fixed’ a game of football. It’s a long story (amazingly United’s solicitor was part of the ‘neutral’ investigating committee!) and can be read here:

Match Fixing – Manchester United v Liverpool: A Long Read

The rivalry between the footballing clubs developed in the 60s and there were many significant games between all the clubs in the two cities with several prominent matches (there were significant grudge matches between Everton and City for example in the 60s and at one point Liverpool’s Bill Shankly told the media that City were Liverpool’s biggest rival!).

Back in 1995 I interviewed former Manchester City boss John Bond at his home. The interview lasted about two hours and here’s a brief snippet from that interview where Bond talks about beating Liverpool on Boxing Day 1981.

The Blues won 3-1 (Bond, Hartford & Reeves) then two days later (Bond says it’s the next day in this clip but it was 28th December) City defeated Wolves 2-1 at Maine Rd. John discusses a brilliant goal from Trevor Francis. City went top of the League after the Wolves victory.

Stick with the clip because it ends with Bond’s views on how Liverpool used to react to wins and defeats. I’d best not comment – have a listen:

I’ve covered one particularly bitter moment in the City-Liverpool rivalry from the 80s that concerns John Bond here:

40 Years Ago Today (Yes, 40!) – ‘Illegal Jumping’, Alf Grey and Manchester City (Sorry!)

I hope this weekend’s games between go well and it’d be great if one of Manchester’s Blues could score four goals as Fred Howard did on his debut against Liverpool – see:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/18/imagine-scoring-four-goals-for-mcfc-against-liverpool-on-your-debut/

and Frank Roberts did:

The ‘Flu Limits MCFC’s Selections But They Beat Liverpool 5-0 (Roberts 4 Goals)

Video of my online talk on history of MCFC Support/Match Day at Maine Road

Earlier today (Saturday March 5 at 3pm UK time) I did an online talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support and match day at Maine Road. It was a celebration of fans and a reminder of Maine Road. I’ve now posted below a free to view video of the talk for anyone to watch…

The online talk lasted over 1 hour and was recorded live, so you should able to access it anywhere.The talk covered the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

I had a couple of technical issues but you can watch it now here:

I’m keen to hear thoughts on the idea of doing other talks like this for subscribers to my site. If you’re interested then please get in touch and let me know what you’d like me to talk on. I have quite a few ideas I’m keen to do and am also open to suggestions. Thanks.

If you enjoy the talk then please subscribe to my site. I am a self employed historian and spend all my working week writing, researching and publishing my work. I am not an employee of any organisation (I know some think I’m employed by a football club but I’m not an employee of any club). I am independent of any organisation and care passionately about the quality and accuracy of my work.

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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:

San Francisco Blues

Recently I’ve been in San Francisco and was there when Manchester City played Spurs. I was invited to watch the game at Maggie McGarry’s with the San Francisco Blues. It was a great experience (we’ll ignore the result!) and here are a few thoughts and a bit of film from the day….

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to ALL the City fans who were there and who made us feel so welcome. It’s clearly a great supporters club and we really enjoyed our time there.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that MCFC has been a welcoming club over the decades and fans of the Blues have tended to be welcomed no matter where they are from or who they are. The San Francisco Blues are just as welcoming with wonderful hospitality too.

The branch contained several exiled Mancs, British and Irish members, as well as many, many US born City fans. This was great to see and I enjoyed listening to their stories of how they became City fans, or of how they came together to watch games at the bar. Two Mancs actually went to the same school (1 year apart) but didn’t know each other until they met in San Francisco through their City support. One was a history teacher in the States and asked me ’Was Billy Meredith guilty of the bribery charge?’ Hopefully, US children will now hear the rights and wrongs of FA investigations into perceived nouveau riche clubs, as City were called back in 1905 (I know!).

Some had travelled a couple of hours to get to the bar for the 930am kick off (California time of course!). from what I heard the same happens for earlier kick offs – some feat when you consider a regular 3pm UK kick off would be 7am local time. The landlord, who is also a Blue, opens the bar early for City games.

A few of the branch members had travelled to the Champions League final last year and others told me of their plans to get to the away games at Everton and Peterborough. The atmosphere on Manchester Derby Day is always special there – I think we’re all looking forward to next weekend. I’ll be in my regular seat by then of course but if you are a Blue in San Francisco get yourself down to Maggie McGarry’s.

I often get angry when rival fans or some in the media criticise football supporters for their loyalty, or when some state that ALL City fans are this or that when the truth is that we’re varied and have come to support City in lots of different ways. We live all over the world and show our dedication to the cause in ways that some don’t understand. Fans spend a considerable time, amount of money or put themselves out in lots of different ways to support their club.

I could go on but I’d just like to say thanks again to the San Francisco Blues. Their facebook page is here:

Here’s the scene at the bar when City equalised:

David Humphreys from the branch is heavily involved with a football club called San Francisco Vikings, formed in 1922. They focus on bringing kids through from age 3 onwards to adult leagues and to sponsor kids who can’t pay to play.

It may be some time before I’m in San Francisco again, but when I do make it I’ll aim to get back to the San Francisco Blues. Thanks again for making us so welcome.

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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