Continuing the weekly series of ‘True Blue’ figures associated with the early years of Manchester City, here’s an article on Billy Meredith who was the captain and goalscorer for Manchester’s first major trophy success. You can find out why this man was such an important figure in Manchester City history below:
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‘The punishment was the largest ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period.’
‘The League met and representatives of each club voted in favour of the punishment meted out to us being enforced. And while their representatives were passing this pious resolution most of them had other representatives busy trying to persuade the “villains whose punishment had been so well deserved” to sign for them under conditions very much better in most cases than the ones we had been ruled by at Hyde Road.’
These quotes are connected with investigations into Manchester City over 100 years ago when the FA considered the Blues to be a ‘nouveau riche’ club despite incredible support etc. Back then certain clubs who were regarded as the aristocracy of football (that included Aston Villa and Everton back then) were somewhat dissatisfied that Manchester City had come from foundation as MCFC in 1894 to FA Cup winners and League runners up within a decade. Lots of investigations followed with some determined to kill off this challenger. This all sound familiar? Well 118 years ago the largest punishment ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period was imposed on the club.
Below for subscribers is a 4,500 word article written on the topic by me. This is an academic piece, focusing on the facts and was written for an academic publication, not something club specific. The article considers the investigation, the ban and its long terms impact on Manchester football, where Manchester City’s first golden era came to an end but Manchester United’s first golden era followed. A truly transformational period in Manchester’s football story and essential reading for anyone looking at precedents or wanting to understand how football in the city was shaped.
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We’re in the knock out stages of the World Cup and Manchester City players are contributing significantly to England’s progression at the moment. They are household names and are delivering on the biggest stage, but what about the first City player to appear for England? Who was it and when? Well, here’s the answer.
The first Manchester City player to appear for England was Herbert Burgess, who was reportedly born in Openshaw on 25 February 1883. Burgess was a left back but, according to articles at the time, was only 5ft 4.75 inches tall (weighing 11st 7lbs).
He made his first England appearance against Wales, and City teammate Billy Meredith, in February 1904 and did well in a game that ended 2-2 at Wrexham.
Prior to City Burgess had joined Football League side Glossop in March 1900 and, after three good years there, he moved to City on 30 July 1903. The fee City paid was £250. This was a period when Manchester’s Blues seemed to be cherry-picking the best Glossop had to offer and one report even suggested the nearby club was becoming a nursery club for City.
Burgess made three international appearances in 1904 with the Welsh game followed by a 3-1 victory over Ireland at Solitude, Belfast in March and a 1-0 win over Scotland at Parkhead, Glasgow on 9 April 1904. Only two weeks later Burgess helped City to FA Cup success (they became the first Manchester team to win a major trophy) and the Blues were also League runners up. These were great days for Burgess.
He made one further appearance for England – a 2-1 defeat at Hampden Park on 7 April 1906, played in front of 102,741 – and was furious that one of the Scotland goals was allowed to stand.
This period was a tough one for Burgess as the illegal payments scandal at City completely rocked his world. He was one of 17 players suspended by the FA (I can talk about this for days – it was so unfair and northern newspapers believed it was some sort of conspiracy by the southern based FA!).
Burgess was forced to leave City and, along with other star men, including Billy Meredith, he joined the then underdogs Manchester United and helped them achieve their first major success. He then moved to Denmark and played for Kristiania before joining Hungarian club MTK Budapest.
When his playing days came to an end he became Budapest’s manager and then managed Padova (1922-1926). He left Padova to become Milan’s manager in 1926 and after two years there he returned to Padova.
From 1930 to 1932 Burgess managed another Italian club, Roma. This photo is of Burgess (with cap on) as manager of AS Roma.
Burgess immediately etched his own name into the history of Roma, winning the first ever Rome derby in only his second game in charge. Roma won 1-0 win at Lazio’s Stadio della Rondinella. Burgess also guided Roma to success in the second derby, winning 3-1, the following May, this time at their all-wooden ground Campo Testaccio.
Burgess never lost a Rome derby during his time there as they drew their subsequent two derbies under him. His Roma team also pushed eventual champions Juventus all the way in the 1930-31 campaign, finishing just four points behind Juventus as runners-up.
Sadly, it’s been reported that Italy’s development under the dictatorship of Mussolino meant that English coaches were under pressure to leave and Burgess returned to Manchester, taking a job as a labourer on a housing estate on the outskirts of Manchester. He also became trainer to Ashton National.
He died in 1954.
In total at City he made 94 first team appearances and scored two goals. Had the illegal payments scandal not occurred he may well have been an England regular for several years. As it is his career is pretty impressive for a lad born in Openshaw in the 1880s – FA Cup & League winner; England international; manager of prominent clubs in Hungary and Italy.
People tend to think that it’s only in the modern era that Manchester City have achieved anything or that footballers have gone abroad to coach major clubs like Milan, Budapest and Roma, but the truth is that men like Burgess achieved so much over a century ago. We must take steps to remember them. Oh, and while I’m here it’s worth pointing out that City did have international players for years before Burgess but they didn’t play for England.
The earliest played to make an international appearance while on City’s books made an appearance for Wales in 1890 when the club was still Ardwick. Maybe I’ll write about him one day too?
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If you have enjoyed this piece and would like to support my writing while also accessing further great content, then why not subscribe? Those who subscribe on an annual basis get access to everything posted on this site since December 2020. Those subscribing on a monthly basis get access to everything posted since 1 October 2022. It’s £20 a year (subscribe above) or £3 per month (subscribe here). Why not try it for a month?
The links between the blue and the red half of Manchester are many, although there are some who will quickly deny the others mere existence. Fortunately, there are others who will embrace those historic, and often welcome links between the two bitter rivals, history being more important than the colour of a football shirt.
The links, as I said, are many, but if only three were to be listed, it is arguable that these would be, in no particular order, Sir Matt Busby, Billy Meredith and Denis Law for self-explanatory reasons. There is, however, one man who should nudge all three of those legendary figures out of the way, a man from the distant past, but one whose place in the history of both City and United is assured, but sadly, often forgotten. His name? John Ernest Mangnall.
Born in Bolton in January 1866, Mangnall also stakes a claim in the history of his local club, and that of near neighbours Burnley, a proud Lancastrian, but it is in Cottonopolis that he comes to the fore and more so during his time with Manchester United.
But for the meantime, let’s push Ernest Mangnall’s footballing credentials to the side [his given first name being lost in the mists of time] and look at the man from a much different sporting angle.
It might be said that football, a game that he played with the same enthusiasm that he carried forward into his managerial positions, was not even his first love, as he was more than a keen cyclist, being a member of various clubs, entering races and most notably cycling between John O’Groats and Lands End, at a time when bicycles were certainly not built for comfort.
Having cut his managerial teeth with Burnley, although he had helped steer Bolton along the way from the boardroom, as a director, he found is way to the dull, dreary surroundings of Clayton in 1903, with many possibly correct in thinking he was a glutton for punishment, as United were little more than a struggling side and had been rescued from what could easily have been oblivion by J.H. Davies. They had also recently changed their name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.
Appointed in place of James West, who had resigned as secretary, Mangnall embraced the role of the man not simply answered the mail and carried out other menial tasks, but took on the running of the club as a whole. Purchasing postage stamps of players made little difference.
Slowly Mangnall began to blend a team together and following a handful of near but not quite near enough finishes, he guided United out of the Second Division and into the top flight at the end of the 1905-06 season where, thanks to his now neighbours City finding themselves in a spot of bother, he ‘stole’ Burgess, Meredith, Bannister and Sandy Turnbull from his rivals and with the likes of Charlie Roberts and Dick Duckworth already at United, he had a more than capable team at his finger tips, creating a team that gave Manchester United their first domestic trophies with the League championship in 1908 and the FA Cup in 1909. The former was also won in 1911, plus success in the FA Charity Shield in 1908 and 1911.
Not only was he instrumental in building a strong United team on the field, he was more than involved in dragging the club away from its slum like home at Clayton and moving to pastures new at Old Trafford.
But all good things come to an end at some point or other and having perhaps achieved as much as he could at Old Trafford, Mangnall made the surprise move across town and joined neighbours City in August 1912. What the club and manager hoped to achieve failed to materialise, but as he had done with United, he played a major part in City’s move to Maine Road.
So, that is the career of Ernest Mangnall in a nutshell, but if you want to learn more about that man then his biography is available now from Empire Publications, 229 Ayres Road, Old Trafford, Manchester, M16 0NL UK Tel: 0161 872 3319 or 1 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1HW – telephone 0161 872 3319.
As something of a postscript.
I created ‘The Manchester United Graves Society’ a couple of years or so back, whereby I am trying to locate the burial places [or cremation details] of as many former players and officials as possible and to date have found over 500. One of the early finds was John Ernest Mangnall, who died at Lytham St Annes in January 1932, and is buried in the Lytham Park Cemetery.
Upon obtaining a photograph of his grave, I was saddened to find that the headstone was broken and the grave in general was in need of some TLC. So, enquiries were made with the cemetery as regards to any red tape that would cause problems in restoring the grave to its former glory and thankfully there were none. To be honest, they were more than delighted that someone wanted to carry out restoration work on the grave.
Funds were raised, a stone mason contacted and the work was carried out. Photos of before and after are shown here.
Should anyone want to visit the grave, it can be found at – A – 512 C/E. Go in the main gate and head up to your right.