Climbing the Golden Stairs

I’ve always liked this cartoon since finding it during research back in 1989. It represents a game played on Boxing Day between Manchester City and Newton Heath (who later reformed as Manchester United in 1902). Manchester’s Blues won the match 4-0 and the cartoon was captioned ‘Climbing the Golden Stairs’. That caption referred to a promotion challenge.

At the season’s end City were promoted as Second Division champions, becoming the first Manchester side ever to gain promotion and the first to win a national competition of course. Newton Heath finished fourth in the Second Division while near neighbours Glossop were promoted in second place behind City.

Search the archive to read more about 1898-99 and about some classic derby matches too.

‘The “Missus” gets her wages’ – Christmas Day 1904

Here’s an interesting snippet from an article I found while researching something else. It was published in the Umpire newspaper on Christmas Day 1904. John Bentley, more commonly known as JJ Bentley, was a Manchester United & Bolton manager who also wrote for a variety of newspapers. He was often perceived as a knowledgeable football man and his views influenced many. If ‘JJ’ said something it was usually accepted as fact. So, when in 1904 there had been criticism of the money working class men were spending on football he spoke out.

As you can see by this brief cutting Bentley used his column to claim that the wives of working class men benefited by their husbands going to football because it meant he didn’t go and spend his money in the pub! Consequently, she got her housekeeping! What a ridiculous argument!

Can you imagine the justifiable furore today if Gary Lineker or similar said something like this? There are so many aspects to this simple piece that could be explored but perhaps I’ll save that for another day. It is also worth noting that many women did attend football matches themselves back then too.

Ah well! Happy Christmas.

On This Day: Christmas at Manchester City

Had your Christmas dinner yet? If not then spare a thought for those days when professional football in England would take place on Christmas Day. In the modern era the thought of playing League football on Christmas Day is totally unacceptable, but in years gone by games were played on consecutive days over Christmas, including Christmas Day, and these were often the best attended matches of the winter.  

The last Christmas Day game featuring Manchester City took place in 1957 when the Blues were defeated 2-1 at Burnley.  The City team for that landmark game was:  Trautmann, Leivers, Little, Barnes, Ewing, Warhurst, Barlow, Kirkman, Johnstone, Hayes, and Fagan.  Fionan Fagan was the last City player to score on Christmas Day

The following day City defeated Burnley 4-1 at Maine Road in front of a crowd of 47,285.  The only change to the line up was Ron Phoenix, who replaced Bobby Johnstone. 

The First Noel

The first League game ever played by City on Christmas Day was at Christmas 1896 against Newton Heath (present day Manchester United).  The game was played at Bank Street, Clayton (roughly across the road from the Etihad, the site of the BMX centre behind the present Velodrome) and was attended by 18,000 – a figure described by the Athletic News as being huge for Newton Heath:  “The crowd was an enormous one and I never saw so many lads at a football match.  They were really the cause of the encroaching in the first half, for they were continually creeping under the rails, and as a natural consequence their elders were bound to follow if they were to get a glimpse of the game.”  

Fans streamed on to the pitch on several occasions and the game was almost abandoned at half time:  “Mr. J. Parlby, one of the League Management Committee, told the crowd point blank that if they did not keep beyond the touchline, the game could not proceed, and the Newton Heath Club would have to suffer the consequences.”

Parlby, was actually a City director, and his words may have been influenced by the fact Newton Heath were the better side that day!  The game ended 2-1 to the Heathens.

The two sides met on two further occasions on Christmas Day, the last (1902) ended 1-1 at Clayton before 40,000 with Billy Meredith scoring for the Blues.

Highest Christmas Crowd

City tended to be away from home on Christmas Day, but the best Maine Road crowd on the 25th was 56,750 in 1930 when City faced Arsenal.  The following day a mere 17,624 attended the return game at Highbury.

The previous year a crowd reported as 70,000 watched Aston Villa beat City 2-1 on Boxing Day at Maine Road.  This is the highest Christmas crowd at a City League game.

Christmas Thriller

Perhaps the most entertaining – if disappointing – game ever played by the Blues on Christmas Day was the 6-5 defeat by Bury at Gigg Lane in 1925.  

Debuts

The following players made their Manchester City League debuts on Christmas Day:

1946 – Peter Robinson (V. Plymouth Argyle)

1933 – Frank Swift (V. Derby County)

1902 – Johnny Mahon (V. Manchester United)

1909 – George Wynn (V. Bradford Park Avenue)

Review of Barnes Biography

For those still wondering whether my biography of Peter Barnes is worth getting, here’s a fairly typical review that appeared last month. Enjoy! Also thanks to Ian Farrell for reviewing this in When Saturday Comes. Ta!

On This Day in 1913 – MCFC v MUFC

A ticket that may interest a few MCFC & MUFC collectors. This is for the Lancashire Cup semi final replay between City and United played at Hyde Road on this day (November 24) in 1913.  Both the initial semi final and the replay were played at Hyde Road with the first game ending in a 1-1 drawn before approximately 8,000. The replay was watched by 12,000 and ended in a United 2-0 win.

November 1920 and A Controversial Offer by MUFC

Back in November 1920 Manchester City’s main stand at Hyde Road was destroyed by fire. City asked United if they could move to Old Trafford but their terms were prohibitive according to the media of the day. This report was typical of the reaction. You can read the full story in Manchester A Football History which subscribers to GJFootballArchive.com get as part of their subscription. For more details see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/09/manchester-a-football-history-part-one/

Historic Name That Ground – Week 21 Answer

On Monday I asked if you could name this ground. I said: ‘I know it’s a tough one BUT… there’s a reason I’ve chosen this week to post this image plus eagle-eyed visitors to this site may notice that I have actually used part of this image before in connection with another story. So where is it?’ The answer is…

Manchester City’s old Hyde Road ground. So did you work out why I’ve posted the image this week and what the previous story I’d used part of this image for was in connection with? Well this equivalent week in 1920 saw the stand featured being built. This is the only known surviving photo of Hyde Road’s temporary Main Stand built in the week following the Hyde Road fire.

The Main Stand was destroyed on the night of the November 6 by fire and, after attempts to move to United’s Old Trafford failed as a result of United demanding an exorbitant rent. For the full story of this see this chapter of Manchester A Football History (available with the rest of the book as a download for subscribers):

Manchester A Football History part 13

City didn’t think the rent was fair (neither did the media – again see that chapter of Manchester A Football History) and so they decided to soldier on at Hyde Road. A new stand – the one seen from the back here – was constructed using wood.

So, what about the previous story part of the image was used for? That was a piece about Billy Meredith returning to City in July 1921. Meredith is the player on the far right and this photo was taken to show him back at Manchester City.

Watch out for another Historic Name That Ground on Monday.

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The First ‘Manchester Derbies’

Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time with the first fixture occurring on this sate (12th November 1881). To mark this anniversary here’s a free article on the first two derby matches. Both were friendlies of course!

The First Time

Back in 1881-82 the two teams that would eventually become Manchester City and Manchester United met for the first time. This was only a year after the first reported games played by the clubs, then known as St Mark’s (MCFC) and Newton Heath (MUFC). The first St Mark’s game to make it into print was against Macclesfield Baptists on 12th November 1880 while Newton Heath’s earliest known game came seven days later against Bolton Wanderers’ 2nd team.

On the anniversary weekend of St. Mark’s first reported game, 12th November 1881, Newton Heath and West Gorton (St Mark’s) met for the first time.  The game, played at North Road, Newton Heath, attracted an attendance of around 3,000 (according to details recorded many years later – I’m dubious about the number but we have nothing contemporary that’s accurate so we’ll go with that).  

The ‘Heathens’, who went on to become Manchester United in 1902, defeated West Gorton (St. Mark’s) 3-0 in what was described as a ‘pleasant game’.  I wonder what the reporter would make of 21st Century derby matches!  Two goals were scored in the first half, one being an own goal by one of West Gorton’s ‘backs’.  It is not reported who scored the goal, all the ‘Ashton Reporter’ match report says is that the player was “attempting to stop a shot by E. Thomas”.  

One of the significant aspects of the way this game was reported which has created some confusion over the years concerns the St. Mark’s name.  It was recorded as West Gorton (St. Mark’s) as opposed to St.Mark’s (West Gorton) and that change has caused some to suggest that the church were unhappy in some way with the club.  There was a suggestion that the club was attracting players from outside of the parish and that was an issue, but none of this now appears to be correct.  The church appeared to be happy with the way the side was developing and, if anything, the selection of Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground actually meant the team were playing fairly close to the St. Mark’s rectory.  The move potentially increased the opportunity for spreading the church’s work and that may be why the person sending in the match reports to the local newspaper changed the emphasis.

The Return Match

The return match took place at the Kirkmanshulme Cricket ground (West Gorton’s home) on 4th March 1882. On the image above this is the cricket ground to the right of Tank Row (and left of Belle Vue Zoo).  

West Gorton (St Mark’s) gained revenge for the 3-0 defeat in their first encounter, as they overturned Newton Heath 2-1. The Gortonians had managed to take the lead, via Charles Beastow, as early as the eighth minute, and then had to hold off the Heathens who had been awarded a couple of consecutive corners.  The second actually lead to West Gorton’s second goal.  James Collinge obtained possession in front of the West Gorton goal then proceeded to run the full length of the pitch, before sending the ball flying between the Heathens’ posts amid loud cheering.  

The score remained 2-0 until late in the game when, according to reports, the Heathens baffled the home ‘keeper Edward Kitchen by performing several good passes before the ball entered the goal.  Exactly how baffled Kitchen was we don’t know, but we do know that this game was well attended.

Years later the attendance that day was reported as ‘around 5,000’, although it would be unfair and ridiculous to suggest that this was the actual attendance.  It seems incredible that around a sixth of Gorton’s population would have been able to attend a game which, at that point, was not regarded as a ‘derby’ or an important fixture whatsoever.  Nevertheless. it does provide an indication that football in West Gorton was becoming popular.

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