Manchester City Win The League

On this day (May 11) in 1968 Manchester City defeated Newcastle United and won the League title. Here’s the build up to that game; the story of the match itself and quotes from those involved.  Enjoy!

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Manchester City Chants

Chanting at football games is rarely documented correctly with many myths, rumours and stories developing over the years. This feature is designed to give a potted overview of the development of singing at City.

I explained about some of the chants in this talk recently:

Now, for subscribers is an 1800 word article on the history and development of chants at Manchester City:

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IN SEARCH OF THE BLUES – Mike Summerbee (interviewed in April 2005)

In April 2005 I interviewed Mike Summerbee. Here is that interview. Enjoy!

Mike Summerbee was the second player, after Ralph Brand to join Joe Mercer’s City in 1965.  Over the following decade he became a major star and played a significant role throughout the Mercer-Allison glory years.  Always the entertainer, Mike featured in the classic footballing wartime adventure film “Escape To Victory” and today assists the Club’s commercial activities.   In April 2005 Gary James caught up with him at the Manchester City Experience.

Let’s start with “Escape To Victory”.  How did you get involved in the filming of that movie?

It was Bobby Moore who got me involved.  We’d known each other since I was 16, and we both had a similar outlook.  The makers of the film had got several Ipswich Town players involved, plus Pele and of course Bobby.  They needed another familiar British player and Bobby suggested me.  He called me and said:  “How do you fancy being in a movie with Michael Caine?”  And that was it.  Within three weeks I was on my way to Budapest for filming.  I had no idea at the time that this would become one of those films still being shown and talked about twenty odd years later, but it has become a cult movie with websites dedicated to it.  It’s the sort of film that many other people would have wanted to be in.  I know for a fact that Rod Stewart wanted to be in it.

Why do you think the film is remembered so affectionately?

I don’t want to give too much away – everyone should come to our special showing and see the movie and hear my reasons then – but the film is like a Boys’ Own adventure.  It’s got drama, excitement, and is a traditional film.  It doesn’t rely on bad language, sex, or extreme violence, and it really does appeal to everyone.  Don’t forget it also contains some great actors – everyone remembers Stallone and Caine but look at the other cast members as well – and then there are some very well known footballers including Pele.  

I loved making the film and one of the great aspects for me was that when we came to the football scenes we were told to go out and play the game.  John Huston – a great director – wanted it to look as realistic as possible and so we played a real game.  Inevitably we had spells concentrating on tackling or shooting but much of the game came from real play.  Pele’s wonderful overhead kick goal was natural and was done only once.  We didn’t take ages setting up, re-shooting etc.  It was done for real and only in one take.  John Huston had cameras everywhere and tried to make sure everything that took place on the pitch was filmed from every angle.  That makes it so much more real.

You have a speaking part in the film, did you know about that before you accepted?

We were told to let the actors act and they were told to let the footballers play.  That way we all did what we were good at.  Then when it came to the dressing room scenes Michael Caine said to Huston that it didn’t feel right for only the actors to talk and he said that a couple of us should speak.  When it came to half time, I congratulated a couple of players on their play – that was natural not planned – and that stayed in, and then other lines were given to us.  It felt strange, but when you watch the film it makes much more sense to have us speaking.  I loved making the film and there are so many different aspects to talk about, but we’ll save that for the 5th May event.

Moving back to your playing career, we all know that you came from a footballing family, but did that mean it was something you had to do?

My dad played professionally and so from an early age it seemed natural to play.  All boys loved playing back then anyway, so there was nothing strange about that, but I suppose when you are young whatever your father does has a greater importance.  My brother was a better player than I, although he stopped playing when my Dad died, and we used to play whenever and wherever we could.  I’d get to school as early as possible – not for the lessons, I was a dunce! – but for the kickabout.  We’d have a tennis ball and play until we had to go in.  I also played cricket, athletics and other sports, but football was my best.

Your progression into professional football seems rapid – you were a key feature of the Swindon team in your teens – were there any setbacks?

I’d had a spell at Bristol City when I was 15, but I was so homesick I had to give up on it.  My mother worried about me and suggested I kept out of the game.  She knew about the problems and difficulties a footballer could have because of my father’s career, and then the opportunity came with Swindon and everything started going right for me.  I joined them at a time when they were ready to give youth a chance and I made my debut at 17.  

Was life relatively easy for you then?

The life of a footballer was not as glamorous or financially rewarding as it is today.  I loved playing and I loved the camaraderie of it all, but we all had to have other jobs to keep us going outside of the season.  I used to end up working for the Corporation cutting grass, painting, oddjobs, and digging graves!  It kept you in touch with the fans – both the living and the dead! – and I actually loved all of that time.  We didn’t have flash cars or anything then.  In fact Ernie Hunt and I had a tandem, and we used to cycle together on our tandem to the ground.  It was a great, fun time, and I have very fond memories of it all.

One of the significant angles is that Joe Mercer was interested in signing you from fairly early in your career, were you aware of his interest?

To some extent yes.  Joe had played with my father at Aldershot, and then Swindon played Joe’s Aston Villa in a testimonial game.  We won and I scored a couple, and Joe even played wing-half for Villa.  After that I was told he wanted to sign me for Villa and that he’d made a bid but nothing further happened.  I don’t know if it was problems at Villa or what but some time after that Joe moved on, and then in 1965 he got the City job.  I was in Torquay and I gave him a call – I thought it was time to make the move and chance my arm a little.  Joe said he’d be in touch.  Then serious interest came from City and I was off.  

Did City mean much to you as a boy?

Because of where I lived I’d travel to Birmingham to watch games and whenever City played Villa I used to enjoy seeing Bobby Johnstone, Ken Barnes, Bert Trautmann and the rest.  They were such a great and in many ways glamorous side to watch, and the pale blue shirt – a colour I still don’t believe we’ve managed to recreate properly – was so memorable.  No other side could match that colour and City were unique.  All of those great memories were in my head and I was desperate to play for City when Joe came here.  Although they were in Division Two when I arrived they were a major, major side with a great stadium.  I loved Swindon, but City were something else.

Everyone talks about the atmosphere around the place, how did you find it?

Joe lifted the spirits of everybody, that was clear, and Malcolm Allison was so ahead of his time and knew all about psychology.  He knew what players needed, and he always knew the best way of getting more out of me was by winding me up.  I think I was a consistent player, and at half time in one game we’d had a bit of a bad spell.  I’d played well, but one or two players had struggled and we all knew it, but in the dressing room Mal went up to the two players and told them they were doing well and that they just had to keep plugging away.  He was boosting their confidence I guess and they certainly were more confident in the second half.  When he came to me he said I was playing the worst game ever and that I was letting everybody down!  It wound me up so much I had a go back at him, and then when we got on the pitch I pushed and fought for everything to prove how wrong he was and I gave 120% – his trick had worked!

During your first year at City (1965-66) England manager Alf Ramsey came to watch you play, and eventually you became the first City man since Don Revie in 1956 to play for England.  Were you aware of the attention?

When Ramsey came to watch me the attention was good and, considering Alf concentrated on his ‘wingless wonders’, it was great for me a winger to be considered.  I’d been included in the squad from almost immediately after the World Cup win, then I made my England debut against Scotland at Hampden (February 1968) in front of about 150,000, alongside the likes of Moore & Charlton.  I was very nervous but they helped to calm me and at half time both Bobbys told me I was doing well, so that helped.  In the end every one of my England appearances came at centre-forward, so I guess the style of play limited my opportunities, but I loved playing for England.   

What was Alf Ramsey like as a manager?

He was definitely a ‘player’s manager’.  He handled us well, and I believe that he was, in the end, treated appallingly be the FA.  He treated us exceptionally well and he was a great man to play for – I don’t believe that England have ever managed to find a permanent manager who can match him.  He had the same sort of authority as Joe Mercer, but they were different characters.  Joe was wonderful with the media and the public, while Alf was primarily a players’ man.  There was one time, we’d lost 2-0 at Katowice (1973) and I’d been on the bench.  We were pretty down.  Alf knew how low we were but because we were playing in Moscow a couple of days later he told everybody to get to bed early, no drinking or anything.

We all sneaked into Bobby Moore’s room and had a few gins.  Sir Alf caught us and we thought he was going to have a go.  He said:  “I thought I’d told you not to drink!  But in the circumstances I’ll have a large gin and tonic please.”

Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, City never seemed to fear any opposition, is that something that came from the players?

Obviously, Joe and Malcolm bred a certain atmosphere which boosted confidence.  Whenever we played United we’d get to Trafford at 12.30 simply to soak up the atmosphere and to be ready.  Mal would swagger to the Stretford End before the game to tell them how many we’d win by, and we’d go out there and match his score, although we used to encourage him to keep the expectation down a little!  For us it didn’t matter whether we played Shankly’s Liverpool, Busby’s United, or any other team because we knew we were more than a match for any of them.  Some of these teams possessed better individual players but, particularly at Old Trafford, we were always the better side.  We had a great team spirit.  People always talk about Lee, Bell and Summerbee like Charlton, Law and Best, but our side wasn’t about three players, it was about the whole team.  Oakes, Pardoe, Young…. You know all the players.  Unfortunately the 3 player line is a good one for the media to focus on, but for the players it was always about the team.  I always think it’s wrong to talk about Lee, Bell, & Summerbee.  We were part of a great, strong side and, although the 3 of us were well known, we needed that entire side to bring City success.

Finally, you’ve always been known as an entertainer, and always had a great rapport with fans and the media, presumably this is a very important aspect to your life?

As a player I used to meet the fans as often as possible – we all would.  We’d have lunch in the old Social Club all mixed together, we’d attend supporters & Junior Blues meetings; take part in the pantomime every year; and generally be out and about.  We also used to get on well with the media.  The journalists were always good honest judges back then – people like Frank McGhee and Richard Bott always talked truthfully about your performance.  If they said I’d had a bad game, I knew I had.  They weren’t out to knock you, or to build you up.  They spoke honestly and so I enjoyed talking with them.

For me football is entertainment and the game itself is sometimes less important than everything that surrounds it.  I don’t miss playing, but I do miss the camaraderie we had.  I miss the team spirit we had with City, England, and even during the filming of Escape To Victory.  It’s the same camaraderie fans feel on the terraces.  That’s why I enjoy my involvement with the Club today because it’s all about the fans, the City spirit, and the wonderful life that surrounds the game.

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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On This Day in 1977: Colin Bell’s Emotional Return

City 4 Newcastle United 0

Division One

26th December 1977

City Team: Corrigan, Clements, Donachie, Booth, Watson, Power (Bell), Barnes, Owen, Kidd, Hartford, Tueart

Attendance: 45,811

This match has entered Manchester folklore as one of those games you just had to experience to fully appreciate.  All of those present that night from players, to fans, club officials to newspaper reporters, talk of this night as one of football’s most emotional nights.

The story of Colin Bell and his injury had become one of football’s most discussed issues.  The teatime BBC television news show Nationwide had profiled Colin’s tragic story and as a result the player received thousands of good luck messages from neutrals and ordinary non-footballing members of the public.  They had been touched by his long, hard training schedules; his lonely runs through the streets of Moss Side and Rusholme; and by his absolute determination to return to full fitness.  To them Colin’s story was incredible, to City and England supporters it was a deeply disappointing and tragic story.  

Colin’s gruelling training regime ensured he forced his way into manager Tony Book’s thinking by December 1977, and on Boxing Day he was named as substitute for the visit of Newcastle.  Anticipation was high as supporters believed this would be the day they would see their hero return to action.  

Chairman Peter Swales rated Colin highly and shortly before his death in 1996 the former Chairman explained:  “The supporters loved him.  You can never kid supporters.  They know great players.  It’s no good a manager saying, ‘this is the best player we’ve ever had’.  The supporters will know after a few weeks whether he really is the best.  Bell was the best.  No question.”

On the night itself Tony Book had planned to send Colin on as substitute for the final twenty minutes, but an injury to Paul Power meant the manager had to take decisive action.  The supporters didn’t realise, but as the players were making their way into the dressing room for the interval, it was decided that Colin would play the second half.  During the interval fans started to speculate as to when they would see their hero, with the majority believing he would come on for the final flourish, but then as the players came back out on to the pitch it was clear that Paul Power was missing and that Colin was coming on.  

The stadium erupted and the fans on the Kippax terracing began to chant his name.  It was a truly marvellous sight and the tremendous feeling of anticipation and excitement had never been felt midway through a match for any player before.  It was the most amazing individual moment witnessed at the old ground.  Dennis Tueart, a player on that day, remembers:  “He came on at half time, and it was like World War Three.  I’ve never known a noise like it in all my life!  The crowd gave him a standing ovation and he hadn’t even touched the ball.  I’ve never seen a guy work as hard to get back.  The hours and hours he put in.  The pain he went through…  it was a phenomenal amount of work and he definitely deserved that ovation.”

For the player himself the day remained one of the most significant memories of his life when I interviewed him in 2005.  “As I came down the tunnel I could hear a whisper go right round the ground.  I knew that reception was for me alone.  I was never an emotional player but that afternoon I got a big lump in my throat.  I’ve been lucky to win cups and medals and play internationals, but of all my great football memories, that is the one that sticks in my mind.”

“The City crowd and I had this mutual respect really, and that standing ovation from over 40,000 people brought a lump to my throat for the only time in my career.”

The substitution totally transformed the atmosphere and the result.  The game had been goalless, but the Blues tore into Newcastle as if they were playing in the most important game of all time.  Dennis Tueart played superbly and scored a hat-trick, with Brian Kidd also scoring, to make it a convincing 4-0 win for the Blues.  At one point Colin had a header which just sneaked over the bar, but the fairytale goal on his return did not arrive.

When I interviewed him years later a modest Colin felt he didn’t contribute a great deal:  “I don’t think I touched the ball.  It was ten men versus eleven, but the atmosphere got to our team and we ran away with it.”

“Ballet on Ice” – December 9 1967

It’s not often Manchester United supporters turn their backs on the Reds to support neighbours City, but that’s exactly what occurred in December 1967 following a thrilling Blue performance against Tottenham.  United supporter Bobby Greenroyd watched the game on Match of the Day and wrote to Maine Road afterwards:  “I am a regular Manchester United fan, but after Saturday’s game your next home gate will be increased by one.”  High praise, particularly as United themselves were on the verge of European Cup glory.

Why and how did this happen and which leading MCFC figure sneaked out to buy a bag of chips while the club celebrated its 1968 League title success? Here for subscribers is an article that explains all….

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Collecting Shirts – Mark McCarthy Guest Blog

Here’s a guest blog written by Mark McCarthy, who collects match worn Manchester City shirts. Mark has recently brought out a book on his collection (see below) and has written this blog to explain how his collection and interest started.

A visit to my Grandfather’s house on a Sunday evening was something I always looked forward to as a child, but on this particular afternoon in December 1983 it was to change the course of my then 9 year old life forever. He would always have a story to tell but that afternoon’s tale was by far the best yet as he informed me that my cousin (Mick McCarthy) would be joining Manchester City.

I knew nothing about football at this stage  nor did I follow a team or OWN A FOOTBALL SHIRT but I was simply hooked. As the years ticked by it was always my goal or dream really to own a shirt from Mick’s time at City. That dream became a reality when I finally sourced a shirt of his from a dealer who was selling up his City collection.

It was only ever my intention to own just the one shirt, at the time of writing this my City match worn shirt collection now stands at 410 original match worn or issued shirts dating back to the 1926 FA Cup Final, where I have George Hicks’ shirt from the final v Bolton, by far the oldest in the collection.

There was simply something about receiving Mick’s shirt that day which kicked off my passion for collecting City match shirts. The smell and feel of the shirt, coupled with me simply being lost in time reminiscing about the dressing rooms that shirt had been in or battles that took place while being worn during the two seasons it was used by City from 1985 to 1987. It is of course very different these days with the players having so many shirts a season. I recall Mick telling me once that the shirts were virtually counted on and off the players’ backs. A similar story to the one the great Mike Summerbee told me that if shirts were torn back in the day the players would have to get them repaired themselves before the next game. This was still the case in 1996 when Georgi Kinkladze’s shirt was torn and simply sewn up for the next fixture

When you eventually find or trace a shirt from of a player whose poster would don your bedroom wall as a kid kind of keeps the kindred child spirit alive  in the collector. Players from days gone by are far more approachable and will always have time for the fans of the clubs they played for.  

Now City weren’t exactly setting the world alight in 1983 and after declaring myself a blue I immediately received some serious abuse from school mates who just couldn’t get the heads round why I’d chosen Manchester City, and equally wouldn’t believe I had a relative that had played for the club. 

I was totally obsessed with City which virtually took over my life. Unfortunately there was hardly any, in fact NO media coverage of City at this time, and even more so as we were in the old Second Division so I’d often have to get the latest news by scrolling through teletext or by ringing the City ClubCall line.

One day I returned home from school to find that the TV and video were missing from my bedroom as my Mum had sold them off to pay for the massive phone bill that I’d run up! 

I first got my chance to see City play live in November 1985 as were due at Luton Town, which is only half hour from our home in Milton Keynes. Manchester to me in those days was just a place I dreamt of going and Maine Road seemed a world away. After many months of badgering my parents to take me and with no chance of a fixture change in those days they finally gave in. My Mum kitted me out from head to toe in blue and white City colours and I couldn’t have been prouder on my way to watch the Blues. 

The walk to the ground felt amazing and we entered the first turnstile we saw. Off came the coat to reveal my pride but after a few minutes and constant dirty looks, we realised something wasn’t right and we appeared to be on show. As the chants of ‘City….City’ went up from the opposite end of the ground it dawned on us that we were in the wrong end of the ground and needed to moved quickly. 

This was 1985 and was certainly an experience for a then ten year old. The stewards promptly threw us out and my dad was seething as we headed back to the van to go home, I was distraught but he finally saw sense and we headed back to the ground where he had to pay again at the right turnstile and again I was hooked. The atmosphere in that tiny away end was electric and I couldn’t help but watch the many characters I was surrounded by. Everyone seemed to know each other and I wanted a part of it. 

For the record we lost 2-1 – Typical City !! 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of collecting for me is the groundwork that goes into finding a shirt or the buzz of the unearthing a shirt. Always look for a shirt in the least expected places you’d think of finding one as you just never know who may have collected a shirt along the way or how. If you don’t ask then you don’t get is the number one rule.   

I’m sure I speak for all collectors when I say that opening a random online message that start’s with the words “I have this shirt if you are interested in it.” Then the shirt turning out to be one of the most difficult shirts to find is a buzz only a collector will understand. I was contacted recently with that exact message asking did I think the shirt was genuine. It turned out to be Mick McCarthy’s issued long sleeve chequered style away shirt from the 1986-87 season which was used just seven times in that campaign, not by Mick though as he refused to wear long sleeved shirts.

The shirt had been given to a young City fan by his next door neighbour who used to work in the Maine Road laundry  room!  Always believe the shirts are out there as 9 out of 10 times they are.   

A question I’m often asked, as I’m sure all collectors are, is what’s the favourite shirt in my collection. This is a difficult question considering the numbers to choose from but at the moment it would be a 1967/68 Colin Bell Umbro home shirt worn by arguably City’s greatest ever player, during a title winning season. One that runs it close is a more modern day shirt but equally as great a player in David Silva,  from City’s fixture v Watford on 21st September 2019, during City’s 125 anniversary celebration. 

The shirt was a gift from City as a thank you for displaying 11 shirts from the collection in a mock up dressing room at City Square before the match as part of the 125  anniversary celebrations. I was asked to drop off the shirts at reception for the City Square team to display but duly explained that although I was more than happy to bring the shirts…. I  wouldn’t be leaving their side.  

My lad and I spent a fantastic couple of hours meeting & chatting to fellow Blues while giving them a bit a history behind each of the 11 shirts I’d brought to display (at the same time also keeping a very close eye on the kids with burgers and drinks in hand approaching  them!). 

I was asked if we’d like our seats upgraded to the legends lounge as a thank you but of course declined as I had a much better idea in mind, cheekily asking for a shirt of the greatest City player I’ve seen play live in my time watching the Blues. Although the City Square match day manager, a lovely lady, said she’d ask but said it would be very unlikely…. but if you don’t ask then you don’t get as they say. 

Once the display was finished and the shirts were safely packed we sat back and enjoyed a stunning 8-0 City win, captained by Silva who would just happen to open the scoring in under the first minute of the match. I’d completely forgotten I’d even asked ‘that’ shirt question as we made our way back to Piccadilly for the train journey home after the game. I was interrupted by a phone call half way there from the lady at City Square to inform me my request had been granted and could I make my way back to collect the shirt which was waiting at the City@Home office for me……….. I’m pretty sure it was the quickest walk I’d ever made to collect said shirt, fresh from Merlin’s back and still completely wet through…. First thing I did was…….Yes you’ve guessed it…….Sniff the shirt!   

As far as the future is concerned for my collection I certainly don’t see any signs of it slowing down as yet. I have a target in mind for a number of shirts to reach……….. Well a man does need a hobby!

You can buy Mark’s book direct from the publisher here:

https://www.conkereditions.co.uk/shop/

City’s record appearances

Now that Sergio Aguero has left Manchester City it seems an appropriate time to review where he fits in the all-time appearance list for the club.  City’s appearance holder is Alan Oakes and it may be some time before another player comes close to his total of 676 (plus 4 as substitute) appearances.

Here for subscribers is a feature on the top 25 appearance holders for Manchester City with some commentary on how the record has changed over the decades.

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The 1970 ECWC Semi-Final

Tonight (May 4, 2021) Manchester City will play the second leg of their Champions League semi final with PSG. It’s not the first European semi final the Blues have played of course, but for those thinking City’s European heritage began after the 2008 takeover here’s the story of City’s first European semi-final. This came way back in 1970!

In 1969-70 City, managed by Joe Mercer, played their first European semi-final. The second leg was was to be the best and most important European victory ever at Maine Road.

Here for subscribers is the story of both the first and second legs of that first European semi-final for the Blues.

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Decisive Derbies MUFC v MCFC 27 March 1968

Score United 1 City 3, Attendance 63,004 Old Trafford

Rather than settling a relegation issue, this match was perceived more as a title decider.  Prior to the match United were 2 points clear of the Blues at the top of the table, and were favourites for the League title, but the City of Mercer & Allison wanted to challenge United’s stranglehold on local football.  If the Blues were to make a name for themselves they had to beat the Reds.  It was as simple as that. Here for subscribers is the story of that game…

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