Manchester City versus Chelsea – The story so far…

Tomorrow (5 January 2023) Manchester City play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and so I thought I’d post a few connections, historical moments and memorable game details here. So here goes…

All-time Record (all first team competitions)

City wins 62, Chelsea wins 71, 39 drawn.

League – 154 played, 53 City wins, 62 Chelsea wins, 39 drawn.

FA Cup – Played 7 (there’ll be another this coming weekend!), 4 City wins, 3 Chelsea wins

League Cup – Played 4, 3 City wins, 1 Chelsea win.

Champions League – Played 1, 1 Chelsea win. You can read about that one here:

ECWC – Played 2, 2 Chelsea wins.

Full Members Cup – Played 2, 2 Chelsea wins.

Community Shield – Played 2, 2 City wins.

Game One

The first match between the sides was on 7 December 1907 in Division One.  Chelsea had been promoted the previous season, and the match ended 2-2 before a 40,000 crowd at Stamford Bridge.

Debuts

City debutants in this fixture include Rodney Marsh, whose first game was the 1-0 victory over Chelsea on 18 March 1972.  Local hero Tommy Booth netted the winner in front of 53,322.

Marsh was a high profile and expensive signing back in 1972. He was signed shortly before the transfer deadline back then. Another major signing who made his league debut v Chelsea was Robinho who joined the Blues on transfer deadline day back in 2008, marking his league debut v Chelsea with a goal that September.

On 14 November 1959 in a 1-1 draw, Alan Oakes made the first of an incredible 665 (plus 3 as substitute) appearances for the Blues – sadly he gave away a last minute penalty, but Bert Trautmann saved it!  You can read more on that game here:

A little over 30 years later Howard Kendall signing Niall Quinn marked his debut with a goal in another 1-1 draw.

Others to have made their debuts include Tosin Adarabioya, Aleix Garcia & David Faupala (scored on his debut). Those players all made their debuts in the FA Cup game on 21 February 2016. 

Television

The first City-Chelsea game to be shown on BBC TV was on 1 October 1955 at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea beat City 2-1. The commentator was Kenneth Wolstenholme. 

The first meeting of the sides to be shown on the BBC’s Match of the Day was 1 October 1966, when Tommy Docherty’s Chelsea beat City 4-1.  Chelsea’s scorers were Tambling, Baldwin, Kirkup and Osgood, while the dependable Neil Young netted for City.

The first live match was on Friday 4 May 1984 with a 7.15pm kick-off, again on BBC.  This Division Two match ended in a 2-0 victory for 2nd placed Chelsea, and the result ended City’s dreams of an immediate return to the top flight.  Chelsea clinched the title that season on goal difference from Sheffield Wednesday and the live game became noteworthy as it was the first Second Division match shown live on television.  Interestingly, the BBC recruited Bobby Charlton as their City ‘expert’ for this game.

Connections

Kevin De Bruyne (made three League appearances for Chelsea), Willy Caballero, Frank Lampard, Scott Sinclair, George Weah, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nicolas Anelka, Wayne Bridge, Danny Granville, David Rocastle, Gordon Davies, Clive Allen, Clive Wilson, Terry Phelan, and Colin Viljoen are some of the players to have appeared for both clubs.  Further back amateur Max Woosnam had appeared for first Chelsea then City.  He was City’s captain for a while, and was given the honour of captaining the Blues in their first match at Maine Road.  A good all-round sportsman, Woosnam was a Wimbledon doubles champion, and Olympic gold medallist.  He also captained England.

Highest Attendances

The top five attendances for this fixture are:

85,621 – FA Cup semi final, 14 April 2013, City 2 Chelsea 1 

81,775 – 2019 League Cup final, 0-0 City won 4-3 on penalties

72,724 – 2018 Community Shield, City 2 Chelsea 0

68,000 – The highest crowd for this fixture at the old Wembley; the 1986 Full Members’ Cup Final.  

64,396 – 26 March 1948 meeting at Stamford Bridge; a 2-2- draw.

The top five attendances for City V Chelsea at the Etihad are: 54,486 on 23 November 2019; 54,457 on 3 December 2016; 54,452 on 10 February 2019; 54,331 on 16 August 2015 and 54,328 on 4 March 2018. A reduction in capacity at the Etihad means that games from 2021 onwards cannot better these figures.

The highest attendance for City V Chelsea at Maine Road was 53,322 on 18th March 1972. 

Wembley ‘86

The only game between the two sides at the old Wembley Stadium was the inaugural Full Members’ Cup Final in 1986.  Despite taking the lead in the eighth minute, City were losing 5-1 with only five minutes left.  A Mark Lillis inspired fightback followed and he helped City achieve a 5-4 scoreline, before time ran out.  It was a thrilling match and it also helped David Speedie enter the record books.  His hat-trick was the first in a senior domestic final at Wembley since Stan Mortensen in 1953.

You can read about that one here:

Kippax First and Last

City’s first & last games in front of the Kippax Stand were both against Chelsea. The first came on 5 September 1957. City won that game 5-2 (goals from Colin Barlow 2, Fionan ‘Paddy’ Fagan 2 and Billy McAdams), attendance 27,943. The second was on 20 April 1994 – a 2-2 draw (City goals from Uwe Rosler and Paul Walsh), attendance 33,594.

Did You Know?

The two Second Division matches between the sides in 1927-8 were watched by a total of 104,643.  That season City, despite being a Second Division club, had the highest average attendance of all the clubs in the Football League.

Well I Never!

The last match of the 1993-4 season was the last played in front of the old Kippax Stand.  At the time, the Kippax was the largest capacity terraced stand in the country, and Chelsea supporters (dressed as Blues Brothers) laid a wreath in front of the famous old stand.  It was a gesture much appreciated by City fans.  The game ended 2-2 and afterwards supporters hacked off pieces of the old terracing.  Even the old “Colin Bell Bar” Sign was seen being taken towards the city centre after the match!

Feature Match

My feature match is noteworthy as it was played at a time when the Blues were suffering heavy fixture congestion, and squad rotation was still something for the future.

The match is the first leg of the 1970-1 ECWC semi-final.  City were cup holders, while Chelsea had qualified after beating Leeds in the FA Cup Final replay at Old Trafford played on the same night as City’s ECWC final in April 1970.

Malcolm Allison was banned from all football activity by the FA, leaving Joe Mercer in total control.  Joe always believed the strongest team possible should play.  He didn’t hold with the view that players should be saved for the important matches and, although his belief that every team should always field their strongest side was fair and just, in 1971 it was to cost the Blues dearly.  During a relatively meaningless 4 League fixtures over the Easter period injuries piled up.  By the time of the ECWC game Summerbee, Pardoe, Oakes, Heslop, Bell, and Doyle – all crucial players – were on the injury list, causing Joe to play a team of inexperience in the most crucial match of the season.  Shortly before kick off at Stamford Bridge he solemnly told the press his team and then said:  “And may God bless this ship and all who sail in her.”

Despite their naivety, Mercer’s Minors put in a good performance.  Goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, who played the game with his left eye half-closed through injury, was in exceptional form.  Dave Sexton’s Chelsea surged forward in the opening minutes, but Corrigan kept them at bay.  Gradually, the confidence of City’s inexperienced side increased, and at half-time they entered the dressing room still level.

Sadly, a minute into the second half Tony Towers was unable to intercept a cross from Chelsea’s Keith Weller to David Webb, and a mistake by Tommy Booth allowed Derek Smethurst to score for the home side.  It was the only mistake City made all night, and the game ended 1-0.  Joe was proud of his players, and looked forward to the return.

Sadly, others (Booth and Corrigan) were missing for the second match – played only 48 hours after a gruelling 2-2 draw against Liverpool.  Again Chelsea won 1-0, this time the replacement ‘keeper, Ron Healey, turned an inswinging free kick from Weller into his own net.

City’s dream of becoming the first side to retain the trophy ended – a feat no club ever managed to do – while Chelsea went on to beat Real Madrid in the final.

The 1970-1 season had also seen a ferocious boardroom battle tear the club apart, and for the first time had caused friction between Mercer and Allison.  A year later the partnership ended for good.

Stats:  ECWC Semi-Final first leg 14 April 1971

Chelsea 1 City 0

Scorers – Chelsea: Smethurst

City: Corrigan, Book, Connor, Towers, Booth, Donachie, Johnson, Hill, Lee, Young, Mann

Attendance: 45,955 

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City Make History With Foreign Player Rule?

On this day (23 December) in 1995 there was a great deal of speculation that Manchester City would be the first team to field four ‘foreign players’ which wound PFA chief Gordon Taylor up considerably. There had been a rule in place limiting the number of foreign players to three but this had been challenged by English clubs, following the historic Bosman judgement in the European Court of Justice.

Basically, before Bosman challenged the restrictive trade practices UEFA insisted that a maximum of three foreign players could appear for clubs. The Bosman judgement was immediately considered by Premier League clubs who felt it meant they could play as many players from the European Union as they wanted (though the maximum of 3 from outside the EU was still a limit).

The Premier League, supported by the FA, said the ruling meant that City and other clubs could play as many EU players as they wanted. At Maine Road Alan Ball had brought Danish under-21 international Ronnie Ekelund on loan and together with Eike Immel, Uwe Rosler and Georgi Kinkladze it was suggested he would play against Chelsea on 23 December 1995.

In the end Ekelund came on as substitute for Rosler, so 4 ‘foreign players’ had appeared that day but only 3 at any one time (though there’s a whole other discussion to be had about players from other United Kingdom countries and Ireland and whether they should count as that day the Republic of Ireland’s Niall Quinn played, as did Gerry Creaney from Scotland and Welsh international Kit Symons!).

As for the game… City lost 1-0 to Chelsea!

Ekelund had a brief up and down career at City, making only 6 (plus 3 as sub) appearances and he was soon off to Barcelona, while the change to the ‘foreign player’ rule was to have a massive impact on the development of football in England, paving the way for the multitude of talented players at City today.

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Oakes’ First

On this day (14 November) in 1959 Manchester City’s record appearance holder Alan Oakes made the first of 564 League appearances.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea with the away team missing a penalty. Jack Dyson returned to the City team after two years out with a damaged leg. Here’s a contemporary match report from the game:

There are lots of other features on my website about Alan Oakes, why not have a read while you’re here?

https://gjfootballarchive.com/tag/alan-oakes/

Chelsea Vanquished

On this day (16 October) in 2004 eventual champions Chelsea were defeated 1-0 by Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad).  City were the only side to beat the champions during 2004-5 and managed to draw the return fixture 0-0. You can read more on the October game below:

By the time Chelsea arrived in Manchester on 16th October the Blues were 12th on 8 points, while the visitors were second, behind Arsenal, on 20 points.  Chelsea were also one of only two sides unbeaten in the League and were, without doubt, favourites to win this match.  Keegan optimistically told fans pre-match:  “It is still 11 against 11 on the day and we are more than capable of beating the top sides.”  

The manager’s views proved correct as City defeated the eventual champions 1-0 with an 11th minute penalty from Nicolas Anelka.  It was the first time Jose Mourinho had suffered a defeat at Chelsea and was only the second time his side had conceded a goal during 2004-05.  It was also City’s first home victory over the London club in the Premier League.  Sadly, Jihai Sun suffered cruciate ligament damage and was to miss the rest of the season.

The Jihai Sun injury was not the only one affecting Keegan’s side during the first half of the season and, as the Blues had one of the smallest squads in the Premier League, the manager found himself with few players to choose from at times.  

Woo Gordon Davies

On this day (10 October) in 1985 Chelsea forward Gordon Davies joined Manchester City (the team he supported; his hero was Colin Bell). Davies made 3 Welsh international appearances while at City. There was a chant connected with him which was, err, well, typical 1980s. It was based on the ‘Woo Gary Davies, woo Gary Davies, woo Gary Davies on the ra-di-o’ jingle used by Radio One DJ Gary Davies (of course). The chant (I’m sure you can guess) went ‘Woo Gordon Davies, woo Gordon Davies, woo Gordon Davies in the ar-e-a’ (meaning penalty area of course!). Those were the days, hey?

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All Star Games

This week the new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has been roundly criticised by former footballers, managers and the media for suggesting that the Premier League introduces an ‘All-Star’ game. His suggestion was based on similar games in the States and he hinted that a North v South All-Star game could raise money for the football pyramid. He suggested that English football could learn a lot from America and came up with other ideas too. His views were presented across the media in a way that implied ‘here’s an American coming over here to tell us how to run our sport that’s done okay for the last 150 years.’ However, had he framed his All-Star game along the lines of English tradition rather than along the lines of American pizzazz then he may have been listened to.

As a historian it irks me when people talk of a new idea, or bringing something different, when the truth is that these things have existed for decades – or even centuries! It frustrates me even more when ideas are then criticised with people commenting along the lines of ‘you can’t do that here. You and your American ways. We’d never do that’ and so on when we have actually done that – and done it well too!

Personally, I’m not in favour of representative All-Star games as a regular fixture. We have Soccer Aid and that’s well-established and a great piece of entertainment, but representative League games are something else. There isn’t really room in the football calendar and so I’d worry about that but, as a historian, I know that these types of games have existed in English football since the 1890s and I also know they were immensely popular at times. 

Had Boehly done a bit of football research or talked to a football historian they may well have helped him present the same sort of idea in a more sensible, traditional manner. Likewise, had Jamie Carragher or any of the others criticising him done some research or consultation with a historian they may also have been able to talk about how these things existed in the past. 

So what am I going on about? I’m talking about the original ‘All-Star’ games that existed in English football – The Football League representative teams. These were established in 1891 to raise money for the Football League to carry out its duties – in effect similar aims to Boehly’s. The first representative game was the League against the Alliance League – so not a geographical All-Star match but certainly along similar lines. That was played on 20 April 1891 at Sheffield and the Football League side contained six Scottish players and one Welshman, plus English players. 

The year after the Football League played the Scottish League for the first in a long series of games between the leagues. Four Scottish players played for the League against Scotland.

Another game was played that year that is even more closely aligned with what Boehly has suggested – The Midlands v The North. There have been other representative games, such as the North v the South, some organised by the League some by other bodies such as the FA. A North v South representative game had been in existence from 1880. There’s lots more history to discuss, including the role of some of these type of fixtures in the selection of the English national team, but suffice to say these types of games have been in existence for a long time. Here’s a report of North v South from 1891:

So, again, had Boehly been aware of the history his suggestion could easily have been framed in a different manner. I wonder how people would have reacted had he said something like: ‘I’ve been studying English football and am fascinated by the representative and inter-league games that saw footballers from multiple clubs with varying nationalities play together. These began in the 1890s and were immensely popular with fans, raising money for the management of the game and helping ease the burden on less fortunate clubs. I’d like to bring back that tradition and believe they’d be popular again. Imagine De Bruyne playing alongside Salah and Ronaldo?’ 

From the 1890s these representative League fixtures grew in frequency and, as well as the Scottish League, other leagues were added. The Irish League became a regular opponent and there were games against the Southern League, the Army, Glasgow and the national leagues of Belgium, Italy and the Republic of Ireland (as well as the Irish Football League). There were combined Wales & Ireland teams, British league opponents and a Rest of the World game. The Football League representative team played their Italian equivalents on no less than 13 occasions.

There were also representative games between regions, including a series of Third Division North v Third Division South in the 1950s, though these were separate divisions of the League so more like inter-League games, nevertheless they are another precedent.

Over the decades these inter-league games faded, mainly due to fixture congestion, but one-offs appeared such as against a World XI to mark the centenary of the League in 1988. 

So there are historical precedents within English league football. Personally, I’d still worry about fixture congestion if something like this was re-introduced but I have to say that the criticism of the idea really should have been framed differently. Criticise the idea because of fixture congestion or worries about players, but don’t criticise it as a ‘coming over here telling us to introduce something American into our game’ when it’s actually an English concept that goes back to the early days of League football in our country. 

The great German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann often talked of his pride of playing for the Football League in one of these representative games in 1960. He had been prevented from playing for his national team due to football politics of the era but appearing for the Football League in what would now be termed an ‘All-Star’ game was a major honour. By the way, the game was described as ‘a star-studded’ match, so similar wording to Boehly too! No doubt there are many players today who would feel the same as Trautmann did if they don’t ordinarily get the chance to play for a national team in a high profile match.

Another German Jurgen Klopp, the manager of Liverpool, was dismissive of Boehly’s idea and seemed to suggest that players from rival teams like United, Liverpool and Everton couldn’t play in the same team, which is odd considering they can and do play in international matches together when they are supposed to be representing their country. Here’s what Klopp said:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/football/62900364

I don’t agree with Boehly’s ideas but dismissing them, in the manner some have is wrong too. His idea is not a new one, it was a part and parcel of league football for over a century. I also can’t help feeling that a modern generation of fans may actually enjoy seeing the best of the Premier League against the best of the Italian/Spanish/German Leagues if these fixtures occurred. Maybe some would prefer to see representative League teams instead of international games? If Boehly had suggested that he’d be condemned further but they’ve happened in the past.

Here’s film of a 1905 inter-league game played at Manchester City’s Hyde Road ground in 1905:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-england-v-ireland-at-manchester-1905-1905-online

As a final word I’d like to say that if you’re a football director, official, manager, player or a member of the media please consult a football historian if you have an idea or want to criticised an idea. Most things in football are not new. We pretend they are to gain headlines or to present ourselves as forward thinking, or as guardians of the game. The truth is that knowing and understanding football history, whether that be our own clubs or the game in general, allows us to make informed decisions and comments. Most football historians are keen to help so please call on this resource and let’s have sensible discussion or let’s make informed suggestions of how to improve the sport we love.

Happy 80th Alan Oakes (Interview Feature)

Happy 80th birthday Alan Oakes. Alan has made more appearances for Manchester City than any other player but more significantly he’s an absolute gent. Here to commemorate his birthday is an interview I did with Alan.

This interview occurred in February 2005 and we discussed his life and career. This appears here as it was originally published.

Alan Oakes joined the Blues at the age of 15 in 1958 and made his first team debut in November 1959 when he was 17 years and 2 months.  He stayed at Maine Road until July 1976 by which time he had made a staggering 564 League appearances.  In February 2005 he was inducted into City’s Hall of Fame, and author Gary James met up with him to discuss his career.

To begin with let’s talk about your childhood, did you come from a sporting background?

We were all very sporty and my father and others played local football – nothing professional – and as a boy I’d play cricket in the summer and football in the winter.  The usual sort of thing – coats as goalposts – and I loved playing.  I progressed into the Mid-Cheshire Boys side and then one day I got the shock of my life when City’s scout Albert Kavanagh knocked on the door and asked me to join the groundstaff.  He’d watched me play at Broughton, Salford, and seemed to like what he saw.  I was astounded and delighted at the same time.  This was a dream moment.

Coming from a Cheshire village like Winsford in the 50s to a big city like Manchester must have been a bit daunting, how did you and your family feel about the move?

It was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.  Other teams showed interest but City meant so much to me.  I’d been to Maine Road a few times – I stood on the old Kippax before it had a roof – and loved the Club.  I wasn’t blinkered though because I also went to Maine Road to watch some of United’s first games in Europe.  Remember they used City’s ground because they didn’t have floodlights and a lot of Blues went to watch the European sides.

Clearly, you saw a wealth of talent during this period, but who were your heroes?

Ken Barnes was a brilliant player and by far the best in his position, and Bobby Johnstone had an amazing footballing brain.  They were great players to watch and later I was fortunate to play with Ken, but my boyhood hero was always Billy Wright from Wolves.  There was something special about Wolves.  They brought over several top European sides for friendlies – I guess they paved the way for the European Cup – and they won so many fans.  They were a great, entertaining side and Billy Wright was their star.  I was still a City fan, but I recognised the quality of Wright and Wolves.

Still only 17 you made your debut in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, how did you feel about your performance?

I felt okay, but I gave away a penalty!  Fortunately for me Bert Trautmann – the greatest ever keeper – was in nets and he saved the day.  As a member of the groundstaff I’d clean Bert’s boots and even that felt like a great honour, so you can imagine how grateful I felt when he saved the penalty.  The Chelsea game was a one off – I think Ken Barnes was injured – and so it was a few weeks before my chance came again.  I felt a lot of satisfaction that I was in the reckoning though.  When I arrived at City there were 55 professionals and about five teams to progress through to reach the first team.

How did you find the management and coaching staff in those days?

They were all ex-City players and so that was important.  Fred Tilson and Laurie Barnett had played in the 30s finals and coached us, and manager Les McDowall had been a good player in his day.  Clearly the coaching techniques they used were not a patch on Malcolm Allison, but they did what was right for the period.  They also treated me well and looked after me.  I found it difficult adjusting to life in a big city.  I lived in digs for a while, and then moved back home and travelled by train and, eventually, car.  

By 1963 you were a regular but City were entering a difficult period, did that come across to you?

We had a lot of quality in the side but seemed to be conceding too many goals.  We knew we were struggling but we always gave it our best.  After we were relegated in ’63 Derek Kevan and Jimmy Murray arrived.  We were doing really well, then Jimmy did his cartilage in – that was a major blow – and we tailed off.  We missed promotion (6th place) and we couldn’t get it going again until Joe and Malcolm arrived in ’65.  

Although you were still relatively young, you were one of the more experienced players, how did the arrival of Mercer & Allison go down?

It was a great lift of course, but I know we were wary of Malcolm at first.  He had all these ideas and it seemed so different to what we were used to, but within a week or so he’d won everybody over.  The transformation by the two men was so fast – before we’d completed our pre-season games we were convinced we would win promotion.  We couldn’t wait to get started.  The confidence flowed and then Malcolm tackled our fitness.  Of course we won promotion easily, and then held our own in 1966-7.  Don’t forget we had faced a couple of big tests in those first two seasons – We took a strong Everton side to 2 replays in the FA Cup while we were still in Division Two and narrowly lost to Revie’s Leeds the following year.  We lost 1-0 to Leeds with a Jack Charlton goal that should have been disallowed.  So we came away from those games confident we could face any side.  There was nothing for us to fear.

Of course, the Championship followed in ’68 and all the other successes of that great period, which one means most to you?

The Championship and European successes were both very important.  This is a difficult one really, but because I was there during the dark days, I think the most important one had to be the promotion in 1966.  My reason is that without that none of the rest would have followed.  Joe and Malcolm didn’t just get us promoted, they first stopped the rot.  We were going downhill fast and they stopped that, changed gear and pushed us forward quickly, and it wasn’t done with negative play.  A lot of teams pack the defence and try to ensure they don’t lose, we always went out to win and never contemplated holding out for a point.

Throughout your City career people commented that you were a quiet, unassuming, perhaps shy player, was that fair?

I think I was a good professional.  I used to simply get on with it.  I was dedicated and tried to give everything for the Club.  I believe I was a good, honest pro.  If I was asked to do an interview, I’d do it, but I never sought the headlines.  Media coverage was not as it is today, so it was easier in many ways, but I would do it when needed.  More than anything I wanted to make sure my role on the pitch spoke for me.  

By 1973 the Mercer-Allison partnership had ended and some of the other players started to move on, did you contemplate leaving?

Never.  You were worried that you’d be dropped or the next one out, but I never thought about choosing to leave.  Why would anyone want to leave the best club in the country?  I remember thinking that somebody would take my place and that I had to keep performing at the highest level.  In some ways I liked to push myself by thinking of all the people who could take my place, but I never, ever thought about leaving until after the League Cup final of 1976.

The team had changed significantly by 1976, and you were clearly one of the elder statesmen of the team, how did you find that period?

I enjoyed it all, and I remember playing a few games with Peter Barnes in front of me.  I loved that.  He was such a gifted player and it was great for me to play behind someone that exciting at that stage in my career and in his.  I know this came a couple of years after I’d moved on, but it irritated me when Peter Barnes was sold because I believe he could have helped City to real success.  He was the sort of player you built a team around.

While I’m thinking about this, I also believe Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee were sold far too early.  Francis had so much more left in him – he proved that at Derby – and so the break up of the Mercer-Allison team came too rapid.

In July 1976 you moved to Chester, why did you make the move?

I’d had a great season.  I’d played 39 League games and won the League Cup and so there was no pressure to leave, but I did think that I may have blocked some other gifted players coming through.  I was also aware that I’d be 34 when the new season starts and that I may not be up to it in the way I would normally expect.  Chester City were just up the road and for me it was a nice move.  I do remember thinking ‘what have I done?’ because I’d gone from a First Division palace to play at Third Division grounds, but the move was a good one.  Looking back though I was perhaps wrong to leave when I did.  My advice to any player now is to remain playing at the highest level for as long as you physically can.  Those days are precious and should not be cut short.  

I also missed Maine Road a lot when I left and I miss it even more now.  I regret the fact City have left that ground.

At Chester you moved into management, was this something you’d always wanted?

It was part of the attraction of joining Chester that I could become player-manager and I think in the six years I was there we had a great time.  Success is different for a team like Chester, it’s all about survival and so I had to do a lot of work in the transfer market.  I had another ex-City star, Cliff Sear, with me and we worked well together, and I loved every minute at Sealand Road.  Often I’d be trying to negotiate good transfer fees and working hard to sell a couple of players to keep us afloat, and so I got satisfaction from that when it all came right.  I still got a lot of satisfaction from playing as well, so it was a perfect role.

Ian Rush was one of your players.  Is it true he almost came to City?

Yes it is.  Whenever anybody with talent was due to leave Chester I would want them to move to a bigger, better club.  I still love City and so I wanted Rushie to go to Maine Road.  We were having a great cup run and Tony Book and Malcolm Allison came to watch him.  Rush scored twice and I met up with Tony and Malcolm afterwards.  Tony was keen to sign him but Malcolm didn’t rate him for some reason and it all collapsed.  He later went to Liverpool and the rest is history, but I wanted him to go to Maine Road and I wish that deal had occurred.  Of course, you never know how these things would have worked out.

Did you ever consider moving into a higher division as a manager?

Definitely – with City!  It must have been 1983 because I know Billy McNeill was given the job in the end, but I applied for the City job.  I desperately wanted the role because I loved the Club and because I believed I knew exactly what the Club needed.  I’d also served what I thought was a good apprenticeship – six years at Chester taught me a great deal about survival and transfer negotiations.  I knew City had financial problems and that someone with the right experience was needed – the last thing the Club could cope with was someone who needed to spend – and so I felt I was ideal for the role.  Don’t forget what I’d experienced as a player at Maine Road as well.  Most importantly, I understood the Club and all about Manchester football fans and their expectations and needs.   This remains the greatest club in my eyes.

I got an interview at Peter Swales’ house.  A few directors were there and I thought I gave a very good interview.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job.  I still wonder what might have happened.

Moving on to today, your son Michael has become a Premier League goalkeeper, is this something you’ve encouraged?

I didn’t push him but I did encourage him.  It’s a great game to be a part of and I love the fact he’s involved.  Joe Corrigan helped him a lot when he was young and so I’m grateful for that, and when he joined Aston Villa I was delighted.  Now he’s at Wolves and I do try to watch him but I find it very difficult.  I’m always in two minds as to whether I want the ball to be at his end of the field or not.  If Wolves are attacking I know he’s safe, but I also know he can’t demonstrate his abilities.  If Wolves are on the defensive I want him to have to make a great save but I’m also worried he’s going to be caught out.  I think he’s doing really well though.  

I once replaced Bert Trautmann in nets – it was against West Ham and he was sent off, so I deputised.  I can’t remember much about it now, but I don’t think Michael would have learnt much if he’d seen it!

Finally, you have made a total of 672 first team appearances for City (including 3 Charity Shield games), how did you feel when you first broke Bert Trautmann’s appearance record?

I was a little bit sad that I took the record off Bert because to me there was no finer ‘keeper and player for the Club, but obviously I felt pleased to have the record.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when the record’s beaten.  I know it will take a lot to beat but I hope somebody does it, and if the person who beats it has the same sort of career and enjoyment at City that I have had then he will have had a fantastic career.  This is a great club with terrific fans and I have enjoyed every minute of my time with the Club.

Aguero’s 200th (& 201st)

Today (5 August) in 2018 Sergio Aguero scored his 200th and 201st goals for Manchester City as they defeated Chelsea 2-0 in the Community Shield. You can watch the goals here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/match-highlights/2018/august/chelsea-v-man-city-community-shield-extended-match-highlights

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:

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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