On This Day – The Story And Film of A Maine Road Manchester Derby

On this day (21st January) in 1967 the Blues played the Reds in the first Maine Road derby following City’s promotion in 1966. City had lost the Old Trafford derby 1-0 in September 1966 but had high hopes they could get something out of the return match.

The following article provides the background story to the Maine Road derby, a report, and film of the scenes around Maine Road that day (Mercer, Allison & Busby all appear; plus there’s film of fans outside the ground and then trying to climb into the Main Stand from the area behind the then still open Main Stand/Scoreboard End corner).

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Video Talk on History of Football in Manchester

I didn’t realise this was available but here’s film of a talk plus Q&A I did about the early history of football in Manchester. It’s of interest to anyone keen on the origins of football or any of the Manchester clubs… Indeed the social history of Manchester. It lasts about 55 minutes and was part of the promotional work connected with my book ‘The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919’, published by Manchester University Press.

Here’s the recording:

If you are interested in the book then that can be bought direct from Manchester University Press or via usual retailers, such as Amazon:

You can find a list of my other books here:

Where Were You?

On this day (January 20) in 1900 the attendance stats (see image) seen here were published in various newspapers. Of course, as a historian who researches these sorts of things it does not surprise me at all that Manchester City were the best supported club at this stage. However, I can understand why some may have been surprised back then. City had only just been promoted for the first time the previous season.

In the end Manchester’s Blues ended the season as the third best supported club with an average of 16,000 (League champions Aston Villa attracted 19,825 and 5th placed Newcastle 16,725). City ended the season 7th in the top division.

For those wondering Newton Heath (Manchester United) averaged 6,225 and were the 16th best supported club. Liverpool averaged 11,325 and were 5th best supported club.

The 2009-10 Manchester League Cup Semi-finals

On this day (19th January) in 2010 it was the first leg of the all-Manchester League Cup semi final… Back in 1991, together with Steve Cawley, I published The Pride Of Manchester (the history of the Manchester Derby). Ever since then there’s been a desire to update the book to include recent seasons. A few years ago Steve and I did start the process of updating the book but, sadly, we could not find a publisher prepared to produce the book. So, as we’re about to see another League Cup semi-final between City and United, I’ve decided to post here the text we wrote for the 2009-10 League Cup semi-finals. Both legs are covered in this piece which is available to anyone who subscribes to this site (£3 per month or £20 per year – about £1.67 per month – for that subscribers get full access to all posts published so far plus all new posts for the period of their subscription).

Here goes…

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‘False Number 9s’

Today I’m going to discuss an element of Manchester City’s 1950s period that bears significance to today. In essence a tactical innovation that the Blues – and star player Don Revie – became renowned for: The Revie Plan or, using modern day phraseology, the False 9.

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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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Memorial Cards: Sledging Rivals in 1912

It is believed the memorial card seen here was printed to mark Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Manchester City on December 28 1912. Cards like these were popular at most high profile games and in Manchester there was a significant industry behind football funeral cards.

They seem a bit macabre today in our half-half friendship version of professional football but back then cards were used to highlight games frequently. I’ve written and talked a lot on this over the years.

Here for subscribers I’d like to provide an overview of the industry, how it existed, what activities were carried out and provide a potted history of the funeral card business. This is about 3,500 words, so get yourself a brew and settle down to read…

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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)