On this day (7th October) in 1997 Steve Coppell became Manchester City’s manager. Here’s the story of that period with quotes from exclusive interviews I have performed with Coppell’s assistant Phil Neal.
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Today (May 11 2021) on the anniversary of Manchester City’s 1968 title triumph the Blues have become Premier League champions again. City have won the League after nearest rivals Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester City.
It is the Blues seventh League title with their first coming in 1937. Congratulations to Pep, the squad and everyone associated with Manchester City.
It has been an astonishing season with City already winning the League Cup this season, plus they’ve reached the Champions League final where they will face Chelsea. They also appeared in the FA Cup semi-final this season but sadly lost to Chelsea. This means that City have won six major trophies in three seasons and still have chance of another, the Champions League, of course.
City’s trophy success today means that domestically counting the League, FA Cup and League Cup only United, Liverpool and Arsenal have won more English major trophies. Similarly, only United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have won more League titles than Manchester’s Blues.
It has been an odd season with Covid and no fans in the stadium (though some clubs, including those on Merseyside, were allowed a limited number of fans in earlier this season), but the football City have played has been breathtaking. Apart from a difficult opening period and a few odd results recently as Pep has rotated his team, City have delivered week after week (or should that be weekend after midweek after weekend after midweek – it’s been a busy season!). They thoroughly deserve the title. Well done!
City have now won the following major honours:
European Cup Winners’ Cup (1)
League/Premier League (7)
1937, 1968, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019 & 2021
(runners up: 1904, 1921, 1977, 2013, 2015 & 2020)
FA Cup (6)
1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011 & 2019
(runners up: 1926, 1933, 1955, 1981 & 2013)
League Cup (8)
1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021
(runners up: 1974)
In 2019 the Blues became the first English men’s team to win a domestic treble. This season City have achieved a domestic double of the League Cup and the League (a feat they also achieved in 2014 & 2018). Back in 1970 they achieved a European and domestic cup double when they won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
City’s trophy haul makes them the fifth most successful English club of all time based on major domestic and European trophies won (United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are ahead of the Blues). In addition only Liverpool and Blackburn have a greater span between their first English trophy and their most recent. See:
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Some people say that history repeats. I’m not so certain about that but I do think we can learn a lot from history about modern society and how things develop. Actions are often similar decades apart and, unless we learn from what’s gone before, we do often make similar mistakes or not consider how things could turn out. Parallels should be looked for and considered.
This weekend (May 2 2021) has seen the postponement of the Manchester United – Liverpool Premier League game due to concerns over the safety of players and staff. Whether it should have been or whether there had been any potential for players to be injured is debateable but postponed it was.
United fans had been protesting on the forecourt outside Old Trafford a few hours before the match and some managed to find their way into the stadium. Footage of some smashing a door down and others seemingly walking straight into the stadium at a door manned by stewards have circulated, causing various conflicting views as to how fans managed to get into a stadium that should be impenetrable (if a few hundred fans can get in to a closed and secure stadium what does this say about the general security of the venue?).
The fans that made it in to the stadium found their way on to the pitch and television broadcast the scenes. Eventually the stadium was cleared, although Sky TV told us of a second group of fans who had got into the stadium through the second tier. Ultimately, all fans were cleared but the game was postponed. Fans were also positioned outside the Lowry Hotel where the United team were and television told us that there were concerns as to whether the team would be able to safely travel to Old Trafford.
Similar views were expressed about Liverpool (don’t get me started on the safety of teams arriving at Anfield!).
Whether any player was in actual danger or not didn’t seem to matter. This was the view being expressed by those paid to describe the scene.
So, what should we make of all this? Well, we have been told that the protests were against the owners of Manchester United, the Glazer family, and the birth of the European Super League. The Super League plan has been halted (I’m sure it will keep coming back as the birth of the Premier League did) but the Glazers still own United.
I opened this post by saying how parallels should be looked for and considered and, as a historian, I cannot help but compare what’s happened this weekend with events at Manchester City in 1993. Back then the Blues were run by chairman Peter Swales.
Swales had mismanaged the club for two decades and had taken a hugely profitable and successful club, piled it with debt and seen it lose pace with some of its traditional rivals. Fans had been angry about his chairmanship for years and had demonstrated regularly. Swales Out was often the most popular chant at Maine Road and the pre and post-match demonstrations were an everyday part of life as a City supporter. Fans loved City but hated Swales.
Inevitably, when City were successful the Swales Out protests were not as visible as they were at times of failure – and this has been true at United. There have been many, many United fans who have constantly highlighted the faults of the club’s ownership and they have campaigned, but the wider fan base has been quiet when the successes have occurred. This was true at City (though successes were less frequent at City during Swales’ chairmanship).
Frustrations at Manchester City continued, even when the club had relatively successful seasons. For example, the Blues finished fifth two years running in 1991 & 1992 – poor by 1970s standards but better than the 80s – but fans still wanted Swales out. Part of the reason lay in his support for the proposed Premier League, which began in 1992-93 but had been discussed for several years before that (it was initially planned as a complete breakaway from the Football League by the biggest clubs who were determined to reduce the money they passed down to the rest of football – hmm, parallels here that often get forgotten!).
The Premier League was anticipated to make the rich richer and clubs that had lost their way, like City because of Swales and his supporting directors who had placed the club in enormous debt (for the time) which meant they struggled to compete for the best, were going to make up the numbers to some extent.
The first season of the Premier League went okay for Manchester City. They finished ninth which was a little disappointing but in itself was not the main concern. That was still Swales’ chairmanship and the general mood was poor. Fans had had enough.
City’s chance of glory that season faded in a FA Cup quarter final with Tottenham and fans’ frustrations at their chairman and directors spilled out. It was a day when Swales’ new stand was opened – the Umbro Stand – and this was small-time compared to the club’s history and heritage. The stand it had replaced held over 9,000 seated. The new stand was basically two rows of executive boxes with about 4,500 seats in front. The ordinary fan felt that with that stand and the birth of the Premier League they were no longer relevant. Hospitality, money and TV deals seemed to matter most to club owners.
The frustrations that had been bubbling for years (and we must NEVER underestimate the efforts City fans made demonstrating against their directors and for how many years they did this) bubbled on to the pitch. Live television captured the scenes as City fans invaded the pitch and the FA Cup quarter final was halted.
The media criticised the couple of hundred fans who made it on to the pitch. They didn’t ask why they’d done it, they just assumed City fans were unhappy at losing a FA Cup game. Had they bothered to ask fans – I was there and knew the situation and have over the years discussed this extensively with people who were on the pitch – they would have realised that they climbed on to the pitch out of frustration. Frustration at the way football was developing and frustration at Peter Swales and his supporting directors.
Fans were right to be frustrated and history has shown that their predictions (covered extensively in City fanzines at the time) about the way football was developing to create an elite and more money for certain clubs was right.
I interviewed Peter Swales about two years after that pitch invasion and he told me that he should have listened to the fans and resigned that night. I agree – things would have been different for him and for City. Maybe in a few years the Glazers will say the same about this weekend?
That 1992-93 season saw Manchester United win the top flight for the first time in 26 years and United’s success brought added pressure to those in charge at Maine Road. The frustration of seeing your nearest rival achieve something that you’ve not done for years (City had been the last Manchester team to win the League prior to 1992-93 as they’d won it in 1967-68) gave fans further ammunition. Fans could point out to Swales that he became chairman of a club that had been hugely successful (four major trophies in the previous 5 seasons before his chairmanship) and profitable (previous chairman Eric Alexander was proud of the profitability of the Blues in the years before Swales). They could also ask ‘where did the money go’, ‘Why were we mismanaged?’ etc.
That event in City’s history is similar to some extent to what’s happened at United. Years of frustration at the owners/directors; the recognition that a rich club had been placed in significant debt; the proposed birth of a new league; the resurrection of a neighbour who seems destined to have a bright future just at a time when your directors don’t seem able or willing to compete etc.
The proposed change of structure to football, where greed of club owners seemed more important than what the fans wanted, was the catalyst to the demonstrations at United this weekend.
Please don’t be fooled into thinking this is a demonstration against the European Super League – that’s the catalyst but United fan dissatisfaction runs much deeper than that. As with City’s 1993 FAC quarter final defeat and the birth of the Premier League that season, these are catalysts that bring the wider fan base on board (and often the media attention), but they are not solely the cause.
In 1993 the media claimed City fans were unhappy because they’d lost the FAC tie. Well, yes, but they’d lost plenty of other FAC ties over the years and never invaded the pitch. That tie became the visible outpouring of dissatisfaction, just like the European Super League has created a situation which has allowed United fans to bring more visibility to their longstanding protests against the club’s owners.
So where do we go from here? Well, there’s one major change since 1993 and that is that the majority of media coverage seems to have sympathy with fans this time. But those working in the media should ensure they go and talk to the fans who were actually on the Old Trafford pitch and ask them why they were there. That would help frame the discussions about what it all actually meant. Some media coverages has said in rather simple terms that United fans were campaigning against the European Super League – no, it’s part of a long standing dissatisfaction with the club’s owners, but I’m not a fan who went on the pitch (that’s my interpretation but best way to find out is to ask those who were in Old Trafford).
In 1993 the media didn’t ask City fans why and they made assumptions which painted football fans extremely negatively. Instead of showing them as people who cared about how their club was developing they were presented as hooligans.
If we’re thinking about parallels then it’s worth considering what happened next in 1993 so that United fans can shape things differently or prepare for the worst! Back in 93 the momentum at Maine Road continued but, as with the widespread protest of the 1980s at City, nothing could change while the majority shareholders supported Swales. Put simply, if you own the club no amount of fan pressure can force you to sell. You only sell when you want to.
Swales felt the protests would die down (he explained all of this to me in an interview) but this time, as protests continued in 1993-94, former player Francis Lee decided to mount a takeover. That was eventually what forced Swales to stand down.
Sadly, for City the damage was done though and financially Lee’s City couldn’t compete with clubs who were able to spend freely like Blackburn (a major benefactor at the time) and those who were already benefitting financially from Premier League success. City ended up dropping to their worst ever position in the late 1990s and were financially adrift of many of their traditional rivals. Only the takeovers of 2007 and 2008 could help the club regain its position as a serious trophy challenger.
If we consider the City situation as an example, then it seems that the best chance United fans have got to change the ownership of the club is if someone like Gary Neville came in to front a major takeover of the club. Even then, as with City, it may well be that the damage done to the Reds and the debt placed on the club limits its future.
It does make you wonder what would have happened had Alex Ferguson, who had spoken out against the Glazers before the takeover, opposed the Glazers when they took over his club. Had Ferguson stood down back then maybe the protests against the Glazers would have been immense?
Football owners have never been properly policed and there are examples throughout the English league system of clubs whose futures were jeopardised by owners who have gambled on future success by borrowing to fund purchases, or who have sold club assets or placed a club in debt for their own personal gain. Change in football’s governance is needed. Simply changing owners is not the answer because football is a business and any owner wants his/her business to be profitable for him/her and shareholders.
Fans views, whether in the 1980s or 1990s campaigning against the Premier League and football chairmen, or in the 2020s campaigning against the Super League and football owners need to be listened to. Understand us and work with us – you might help make football an even greater spectacle.
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On this day (March 31) in 1971 holders Manchester City were forced to play a European Cup Winners’ Cup game at a neutral ground. These were the days before penalty shoot outs decided ties. For subscribers to my site, here’s the story of that game:
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On this day (March 25) in 1939 Old Trafford attracted its highest ever attendance when 76,962 packed Manchester United’s ground to see Wolves defeat Grimsby 5-0 in the FA Cup semi-final.
At the time this was the third highest attendance ever attracted in Manchester (behind 84,569 MCFC v Stoke, 1934 & 79,491 MCFC v Arsenal, 1935; fourth highest was 76,166 MCFC v Cardiff, 1924) and today it is the eighth highest.
You can view film of the semi-final here. Well worth watching to see Old Trafford at that time. The Old Trafford scenes begin after about 48 seconds:
There were lots of crowd safety issues at this game – these were the days when fans were packed in without the authorities really considering the potential for disaster or injury (which happened frequently).
Incidentally, Dorsett (seen below after a collision) was related to two of Manchester City’s early heroes Joe and George Dorsett.
You can read about the 84,569 record attendance set in 1934 for Manchester here:
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To mark today’s (20th March 2021) FA Cup meeting between Manchester City and Everton here are a few historical facts, memories and video highlights of games between the clubs.
The December 1989 meeting between the two sides was memorable because of events off the field rather than on it. The match ended goalless but the attention the game received from the national media was incredible, and it was all because 20th placed City had appointed the former Evertonian Howard Kendall as manager.
Earlier that season Peter Swales had dismissed the rather quiet, unassuming Mel Machin despite him guiding City to promotion and a memorable 5-1 victory over United. He publicly approached Joe Royle, who turned the club down, and then turned to Kendall.
Almost immediately the ex-Evertonian stamped his authority on the side and quickly brought in Peter Reid and Alan Harper to make their debuts at Goodison. Disappointingly, the highly popular Ian Bishop was named as a substitute. Kendall: “It was not a popular move. I walked out at 2.55pm to hear my supporters chanting, ‘There’s only one Ian Bishop’. Nice welcome that was. The Bishop situation developed into a saga, the like of which I have never experienced in football before.”
It wasn’t long before the long-haired Bishop was sold to West Ham. Earlier in his career Kendall had transferred him out of Everton.
Kendall’s new look City managed to keep ninth placed Everton at bay in a rather dour televised match to earn only their second point in six games. City ended the season in 14th place while Everton finished 6th.
The first League game between the two sides was a 2-1 Everton win on 23rd December 1899 in Division One. The match was played at Hyde Road with Billy Meredith scoring for the newly promoted City, while Jimmy Settle and R Gray netted for the Toffees. City ended their first season in the top division in 7th place while Everton finished 11th.
The first meeting of the two clubs to be televised on BBC’s Match Of The Day was the 1-1 draw on 23rd August 1969. Film here:
The first ‘live’ televised meeting was the famous Howard Kendall match played on 17th December 1989 (see above). The game was shown on ITV.
When Everton appeared in their first FA Cup final it was played at Fallowfield, Manchester. The 1893 final against Wolves was the first, other than the 1886 replay, to be played outside London. Wolves won the match 1-0 and a row of houses in Wolverhampton were given the name Fallowfield Terrace in celebration.
The Fallowfield site now forms part of Manchester University’s student campus.
Well I Never!
City fans demonstrated against the transfer of their hero, Tommy Johnson, to Everton in March 1930 for £6,000. At City Johnson entered the record books by scoring most goals in a season – he netted an incredible 38 in 39 League games during the 1928-9 season. He was a popular player and lived amongst the fans in Gorton. He was often seen drinking draught Bass at The Plough on Hyde Road, and was something of a trend-setter in the area. As soon as he was spotted wearing a wide brimmed trilby hat it quickly became the fashion all young men wanted to follow!
His greatest individual game for City must have been the 6-2 defeat of reigning champions Everton in September 1928, when he scored five goals. Eric Brook scored the other while Dunn and Weldon netted for the Toffees.
In the 1960s Tommy was a regular attender at Maine Road where he and Billy ‘Dixie’ Dean would watch Joe Mercer’s City side. On 28thJanuary 1973 Tommy died at Monsall hospital aged 71.
Everton beat City 9-1 on 3rd September 1906 to record their record victory and City’s record defeat. This was only City’s second match following the findings of the FA investigation into illegal payments which resulted in the suspension of 17 players, the manager Tom Maley, the chairman, and two other directors. The entire summer had been spent finding a new manager and new players – any would do – to fill the void. City’s consolation goal was scored by debutant A.Fisher. The great Sandy Young had netted 4 of Everton’s 9 that day.
Two days before this game, the Blues had been defeated 4-1 by Arsenal in an incredible match that saw City leave the field with only six men. The rest were mainly suffering from heat exhaustion – it was 90 degrees in the shade!
The Young Royle
When Joe Royle made his debut in January 1966 against Blackpool he became the youngest player to appear for Everton in the League. He was 16 years and 282 days. His first game against City was the on 29th April the following year – only his 6th League appearance.
Obviously I’m biased but I’d urge everyone reading this article to also read:
The first Premier League meeting between these sides ends in a comfortable City win before 20,242 at Goodison Park. Two goals from Sheron and one from David White gave the Blues a 3-0 lead before an own goal from Brightwell made it 3-1 on Halloween.
1993 – Last Day
On the last day of the season Everton win 5-2 in a frustrating match for City fans. Goalscorers for Everton included future Blues Beagrie (2 goals) and Beardsley. White and Curle (penalty) scored for the home side.
1993 – Rideout Goal
The first away match of the season ends in a 1-0 City defeat. Rideout scored for the Toffeemen on 17th August before 26,025.
1994 – Double Double
Two goals each from Rosler and Walsh give City a 4-0 home win on 27th August. The Maine Road sell out crowd of 19,867 is City’s 3rdlowest crowd in the Premiership. The Kippax Stand was in construction and the capacity was severely restricted as a result.
1996 – Former Blue Scores
Former City hero Andy Hinchcliffe scores a 47th minute penalty to ensure a 2-0 Everton win in February 1996.
2000 – Five Stars
Wanchope (14), Howey (23), Goater (42), Dickov (54), and Naysmith (own goal in 67th minute) give City a thrilling 5-0 victory over Everton at Maine Road in December.
2002 – Anelka hat-trick?
City fans celebrate an Anelka hat-trick but his 14th minute opener is later ruled an own goal, scored by Everton’s Radzinski. In addition, Wright-Phillips is controversially sent off in the 28th minute but this is later downgraded to a yellow card. Despite the controversy and confusion City win the match 3-1 on 31st August.
2003 – New Year’s Day
Over 300 million fans watch this 2-2 draw on Chinese television. Everton took the lead in the 6th minute, City made it 2-1 in the 82ndbefore Everton equalised 2 minutes into injury time on January 1st.
2004 – Keegan’s Disappointment
On the season’s final day, City beat Everton 5-1 with goals from Wanchope (16 & 30), Anelka (41), Sibierski (89) & Wright-Phillips (90). The victory caused the two sides to swap League places. The Blues ended the campaign on 41 points, eight more than relegated Leicester, Leeds and Wolves. A decent enough margin in the end, but that did not change the way most felt about the season.
Prior to that final match Keegan explained truthfully how he felt: “We are just about at the end of the most disappointing season of my managerial career. I haven’t enjoyed it and I am sure the same goes for everyone connected with Manchester City.”
2005 – Early Morning Blues
Everton, so often a bogey team during the previous decade or so, were defeated 2-0 on 2nd October. This was the first Sunday morning kick off in the Premier League and the match commenced at 11.15 with some fans making a point of the early start by wearing pyjamas. It was also Stephen Ireland’s first full Premiership game. Before the match he admitted to being “very nervous” and post-match he commented that the rest of the team had supported him: “That helped me ease my nerves and settle in as one of them.”
2006 – Richards the Hero
One player, who would help City win the FA Cup and Premier League a few years later, was beginning to be seen as one of the club’s most positive assets this season – Micah Richards. He performed to a consistent standard and, on 30th September, he actually netted an equaliser for the club in the dying seconds against Everton to ensure an away point. The 18 year old Richards made his first full international appearance a few weeks later when he played for England against Holland on 15th November. Henry Winter, writing for the Telegraph, claimed: “England may well have discovered Gary Neville’s long term successor.” By this stage in his career Richards had only made 23 Premier League starts.
At Everton Richards’ goal was very important but City’s dominance during the final minutes of the match should have seen the Blues snatch a winner according to goalkeeper Nicky Weaver: “The last five minutes we absolutely battered them and every time the ball went in the box we looked as though we were going to score. Then when [Samaras] hit the post, you’re thinking ‘is it not going to be our day?’ But we kept going and deep, deep into injury time, we got something out of the game.”
Everton’s captain Phil Neville admitted: “It feels like a defeat… we should have got the second goal and killed off the game.”
2011 – Super Mario
In September City defeated Everton 2-0 with goals from substitute Mario Balotelli and James Milner. It was an important victory over a team that continued to be a bit of a bogey side in recent seasons, and ensured the Blues were now back on equal points with Ferguson’s Manchester United, who had drawn 1-1 at Stoke despite leading at half time.
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Gary James is a Honorary Research Fellow at De Montfort University. He has written extensively on football, with his current research focusing on female participation and involvement in the sport. Since the 1990s, he has gathered oral testimony from females directors, administrative staff, ‘tea-ladies’, supporters, players, players’ wives, managers’ wives, media personnel, broadcasters, athletes and others with an interest in the game.
In 2021 Gary’s biography of former England international Peter Barnes will be published.
From Maine Men To Banana Citizens (1989), Temple Press
The Pride of Manchester (with Steve Cawley, 1991), ACL & Polar
Manchester: The Greatest City (1997 & 2002), Polar Publishing
Farewell To Maine Road (2003), Polar Publishing
Manchester City Hall Of Fame (2005), Hamlyn
Manchester City The Complete Record (2006), Breedon Books
Manchester City: 125 Years Of Football (2006 & 2007), At Heart Publications
Manchester: A Football History (2008 & 2010), James Ward
The Big Book Of City (2009), James Ward
The Big Book of United (2011), James Ward
Manchester: The City Years (2012), James Ward
Manchester City Folklore (2018), Conker Editions
The Emergence of Footballing Cultures: Manchester 1840-1919 (2019 & 2020), Manchester University Press
Manchester City Women: An Oral History (2019), James Ward
Atkinson For England (with Mark Brown, 2001), Empire
Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE (1993 & 1994), ACL & Polar
Joe Mercer, OBE: Football With A Smile (2010), James Ward