Carry On The Glory

‘They’ll carry on the glory of the City, keeping City in first place…’ It was appropriate yesterday that a banner appeared at the front of the South Stand with the words ‘Blue & white they go together, we will carry on forever more’. I’m sure some will think this is an arrogant, modern day boast but most Manchester City fans will recognise that the words come from the 1972 club song ‘The Boys in Blue’. It’s an iconic piece of Mancunian history and another Manchester icon, Alex Williams MBE, presented the Premier League trophy. These things are important. As was the pitch invasion (more of that later). It’s also worth noting, though it was generally missed yesterday, that the victory over Chelsea and trophy presentation came on the anniversary of the club first being accepted into the League as Manchester City back in 1894. No history? See:

Football clubs are often criticised and I get that. People have talked about money spent or the activities of managers and players over the generations but the truth is that a football club is a community of people. It unites a large cross section of society in a way that many other leisure activities do not. From the richest to the most disadvantaged a football club can touch all of society, or at least it can try if it wants to. Manchester City has tried and wanted to for generations now. And that is why selecting Alex Williams to make the presentation, supported by Tom O’Dell (see ), was important.

Alex received racist abuse from rivals throughout his playing career and has spent decades working for Manchester. He is a wonderful man, a truly nice guy and someone who absolutely dedicated his life working for Mancunians and those who for whatever reason needed support in some way. He quietly goes about his business and, though he has a MBE, he deserves national recognition at the highest level. Tom O’Dell is a young man who turned his life around via that connection with City in the Community – an organisation established in 1986 by a club whose community work stretches back many decades before this. In fact the club has been doing community work – though it didn’t see it as ‘work’ just being a responsible Mancunian business – since the start.

Manchester City, and other clubs of course, have a long history and legacy. They are here through the generations as an important element of the life of their city and, most importantly, the people. I am aware of three people (I’m sure there are more) who have witnessed every one of the 9 League titles City have won – Geoffrey Rothband, Eddie Bickerdike and the father of Margaret Core. I’ve interviewed Geoffrey before but I’d love to interview the others about their experiences. That continuity in football is important but it often gets overlooked by those who like to criticise. Incidentally, if you know someone who has seen all nine title successes and can talk about them then please get in touch. It would be great to record their memories of 1937 for example.

Yesterday was a wonderful day and a great celebration. I’d heard stories of potential punishments if there was a pitch invasion (some are still waffling on about that) and so, even though I’ve always supported peaceful, celebratory pitch invasions, I posted a tweet suggesting we heed the club’s warning. In the end I’m glad people didn’t and the pitch invasion is a wonderful exhibition of how much winning this trophy still matters. Some claim City fans have no passion or don’t care. That we’ve been spoilt. We all know that’s absolute rubbish and that pitch invasion, along with the other celebrations proved there is still a beating heart within City’s fan base.

Here’s the start of that pitch invasion:

Malcolm Allison once said to me ‘celebrate every success as if it’s your first, because it could be your last’ and I think that’s a valid point. Most fans recognise that no football club dominates for ever (not in England anyway) and that success can be taken away at any point, so let’s make sure we always celebrate these moments as if they are our first.

There were so many positive moments yesterday and throughout the season that it’s impossible to pick out the best yet – and hopefully there’ll be a few more great moments in the weeks to come. Yesterday, I just loved seeing the players celebrate. It’s also telling just how many young fans were around the place or being interviewed by TV… It looks like City’s fanbase is going to continue to grow for some time. Maybe the stadium will need expanding again after the North Stand work is completed?

Oh, and finally, I loved capturing this moment. An excited Rico Lewis running away with the Premier League trophy:

A Title Decider? MCFC v Arsenal

Tonight Manchester City and Arsenal face each other in what some are suggesting is a title decider. Of course, regardless of who wins it definitely isn’t a title decider as there are games to play and points to be won and lost, but it is a significant match in the season. Way back in April 1937 the two clubs met in very similar circumstances. Back then Arsenal were top and Manchester City were second and their Maine Road meeting was also promoted as a potential title decider. So what happened next?

Here for subscribers is the story of that game…

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MCFC & LFC: Attendance Malarky

For some reason whenever Manchester City and Liverpool are due to meet at the Etihad there’s quite a lot of nonsense said about attendances so I thought I’d best get some analysis done and post it here. It’s always nice to post the facts not the fiction, so here goes (some of this may surprise those who only listen to the negativity about Etihad crowds and the positivity about Anfield attendances, not the facts).

The general criticism City get is often about ’empty seats’. No club can boast that every single season ticket holder or fan who has bought a ticket attends every game for which they’ve bought the ticket, so inevitably there are ’empty seats’ at most games for all clubs. Family tragedy, illness, emergency, work commitments, travel problems etc. all contribute to missing fans. As we don’t have a system whereby you have to get a note from a family member to pass on to the club’s manager (it seems some think you do need to get permission!) if you’re going to miss a game it is impossible to have an accurate record of who simply cannot be bothered to attend, rather than a specific reason that stops them attending.

Personally, I think it’s all nonsense and I’d much rather focus on tickets sold as that is something that can be compared. So, here are some facts based on attendances at Anfield and the Etihad since City’s new stadium was built in 2003:

Since 2003 City have attracted a higher average attendance than Liverpool in all but 5 seasons. Some will say ‘ah, but the Etihad’s capacity has been larger than Anfield for most of that time’ and that is true, but that’s only significant if Anfield is a sell out every game. So it’s also worth looking at those seasons to see if Liverpool attendances show a full stadium or not.

Well, Anfield was not full every game. In fact Liverpool’s lowest home League crowd of the season has been lower than City’s in every season except five since 2003. Add to that that City’s lowest PL crowd at the Etihad since 2003 is higher than three of Liverpool’s home PL attendances. The four lowest individual League crowds experienced at either Anfield or the Etihad since 2003 are:

34,663 Liverpool v Portsmouth, 17/3/04 (ended the season 4th)

35,064 Liverpool v Portsmouth, 14/12/04 (ended the season 5th & Champions League winners)

35,400 Liverpool v Bolton, 1/1/11 (ended the season 6th)

35,776 City v Fulham, 18/11/06 (ended the season 14th)

That 34,663 Liverpool crowd was some 10,699 below capacity. Had the crowd been 44,163 (still less than season’s highest of 44,374) that would have added another 500 to Liverpool’s average attendance that season.

Away allocations and segregation impact on whether a stadium is full of course, but we can assume that an away allocation is approximately 3,000 for Premier League games. As Anfield’s stated capacity in 2003 was 45,362 (it was reported as 45,522 by 2010), it is fair to assume that the actual maximum number of tickets available to Liverpool fans is about 42,100. So any crowd less than that figure is not a sell out (assuming zero away fans – of course there could be a full away allocation and spaces elsewhere but for the purpose of this let us give Liverpool the benefit of the doubt and assume there are zero away fans).

In 2003-04 there were 6 League games at Anfield that attracted less than 42,100. As we’ve already seen Liverpool’s average could have increased by 500 had their lowest crowd been closer to the season’s highest, so imagine what the increase would have been had all these games been full.

That pattern is repeated in other seasons. In 2004-05 the average crowd at City was less than Liverpool’s stated capacity, and that season Anfield again officially had over 10,000 empty seats for their lowest League crowd of the season. Had they filled Anfield every game then they’d have attracted a higher average than City, but they didn’t.

In 2010-11 there were 6 games attracting less than 42,100 at Anfield with the lowest again officially having over 10,000 empty seats.

Of course City have also had over 10,000 empty seats for some games, though not since 24/8/2008 when 36,635 watched City v West Ham at a time when there were rumours of players’ wages not being paid and even the existence of the club was in doubt.

Anfield last officially had over 10,000 empty seats for a Premier League game in 2011 for the visit of Bolton.

Over the last decade both clubs have tended to enjoy capacity crowds for every game, subject to away allocations and segregation, but that is definitely not true for either club prior to that. I find it ridiculous that City receive so much inaccurate reporting of crowds when actual official figures paint a different picture.

Some will try to make out that official figures are incorrect but of course these things are audited and, in any case, when rival fans criticise City they tend to imply its attendances in recent years that are inaccurate. Yet when comparing Liverpool and City’s crowds it is clear that City were attracting better crowds than Liverpool twenty years ago and that Liverpool’s lowest official crowds were lower than City’s.

Oh, it’s all a load of codswallop. Those who attend games know the truth and the facts and evidence paint a picture somewhat different to those ‘Emptyhad’ and ‘Anfield’s always been full’ jibes aimed at City fans.

A National Crowd Record Set in 1924

A record Manchester City have held for 99 years was set on this day (8 March) in 1924 – the record is the highest attendance on a club ground! Happy anniversary! The record set in 1924 saw 76,166 attend City v Cardiff. City had moved to their new Maine Road stadium in August 1923. The capacity of the venue was estimated at around 90,000 but was actually approximately 83,000 when the stadium opened (it was enlarged in 1931 and 1935).

In its first season the capacity was tested and, on this day (8 March) in 1924 the largest attendance for any footballing fixture (including three FA Cup Finals) in Manchester gathered to watch the Blues. This was also, at the time, the record crowd for any game played on an English club ground. It was beaten ten years later when 84,569 watched City v Stoke. You can read about the remarkable day in 1924 below:

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You can read about the attendance that brought this record (again by City at Maine Road) here:

A National Record – 84,569

Other record crowd articles can be seen here:

Welcome to Gary James’ Football Archive

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The League Cup: City Women

On this day (March 5) in 2022 Manchester City’s women’s team faced Chelsea in the 11th final of the FA Women’s League Cup at Wimbledon. This was Chelsea’s third appearance in a League Cup final and they had won the previous two editions. City, who had won the competition three times, contested their fifth League Cup final. It was the first time the women’s teams had met in a major cup final. Manchester’s Blues won the final 3-1 with goals from Weir (49 & 69) and White (58).

You can read the BBC material on this final here:

The League Cup is a hugely important trophy to Manchester’s Blues and to commemorate that success 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 first won the competition and therefore known as the Continental Cup, was the first national competition won after the relaunch of the women’s team. 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, 2019 and then 2022. 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)

2022 City 3 Arsenal 1

Goalscorers: Caroline Weir (49 & 69) and Ellen White (58).

Attendance: 8,004

Referee Lisa Benn

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:

Manchester City Stadium Developments

Manchester City have announced plans to develop the Etihad Stadium further, increading capacity to about 60,000 plus lots of other stuff. There’s a fan and community consultation as part of the plans too. The club have said: ‘Manchester City is delighted to unveil concepts for a best-in-class fan experience and year-round entertainment and leisure destination at the Etihad Stadium, with fans and the local community invited to share their feedback from today until Sunday 26 March.’

The announcement follows City’s announcement in December 2022 that feasibility studies were underway to explore concepts that could form part of ‘a future stadium development, consistent with the long-held vision to establish the Etihad Campus and the wider area as a globally relevant and competitive sport, leisure and entertainment destination.’

According to the plans released today: ‘several connected all-weather facilities, fully integrated into the stadium, are centred around an expanded North Stand with one larger, single upper tier above the existing lower tier, increasing stadium capacity to over 60,000.’

City Square will also be improved with: ‘a covered City Square fan zone, with a capacity of 3,000 and a wide variety of food and drink outlets, new club shop, museum and hotel, are all proposed in order to offer a broader range of dynamic matchday and non-matchday activities.’

It all sounds good and continues the investment in Manchester, community and facilities. If only all clubs could invest in their communities like this. More details:

68,614 Afternoon Attendance

On 21 February 1934 Manchester City defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 at Maine Road in a fifth round FA Cup replay.  A remarkable Wednesday afternoon crowd of 68,614 enjoyed the match.  Four days earlier Hillsborough’s record attendance of 72,841 had witnessed a 2-2 draw. Subscribers to this blog can read the story of that game, including photographs below:

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Manchester’s Female Football Fans-100 Years Ago

This week 100 years ago in Cumbria (as it’s now known) a local newspaper talked of the support both Manchester City & United received from women. This article suggested it was a new phenomenon but I’ve lots of evidence of female support at Manchester’s clubs goes back many decades before 1923. In fact City we’re issuing specially discounted season tickets to women from formation as MCFC in 1894.

Incidentally the Corinthians it mentions at the end of the piece is the famous male amateur team of the era, not the famous women’s team of the 40s to 80s.

The Day’s Highest Attendance

The 18th of February 1984 brought a crowd of 41,767 (the division’s second biggest crowd of the season) to the Second Division match between Manchester City and Newcastle United. This crowd was over 15,000 higher than the best in the top flight (Arsenal v Aston Villa attracted 26,640). City were third prior to the match, with Newcastle fourth. and here’s some background and highlights.

With three promotion places available City felt certain they could achieve an immediate return, however they did not account for the role Kevin Keegan would play in Newcastle’s fortunes.  Newcastle had been struggling to make an impact since relegation in 1978, but then Keegan returned as a player and the whole place seemed revitalised, indeed he had helped the Geordies achieve a 5-0 thrashing of City in October.  McNeill:  “There are few players that I have greater respect for than Keegan and this time, I’m referring only to his ability on the pitch, he was the heart and soul of Newcastle.  It’s a terrible thing to admit, but every time I read that Kevin had an injury I hoped it would keep him out of the Newcastle side for a game or two.  Usually it didn’t and I was glad in the end because I have such a high regard for him.  He was certainly the difference between City and Newcastle.  They had Keegan’s inspirational qualities and we didn’t.”

By 11 February City and Newcastle were level on points with the Blues in third place, and Newcastle fourth with a game in hand.  Above them lay Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday.  The four sides were termed the ‘Big Four’ by the media who regularly chose to feature games from the Second above those in the First.  As always Liverpool seemed destined to win the Championship and so much attention turned to the glamour clubs of the Second, especially Newcastle with the charismatic Keegan. 

On 18 February came the vital Maine Road clash between the ‘Jocks’ and the Geordies.  A win would put City six points ahead of Newcastle, yet defeat would put the two sides level with Keegan’s men also having a game in hand.  A crowd of 41,767 – City’s and the division’s second biggest crowd of the season – saw future Blues Peter Beardsley and Kevin Keegan netting fine goals to give the Geordies the initiative with Steve Kinsey scoring for the Blues.  Highlights:

City finished the season fourth and missed out on promotion.

Rock Bottom!

What a Valentine’s Day this was: Here’s a 1500 word article on a major turning point in the fortunes of Manchester City. I’ve called this ‘Rock Bottom!’ because that’s what we all felt that day but it did get worse! On this day (14 February) in 1998 City were defeated 1-0 by near neighbours Bury at Maine Road. It was a 2nd tier game and this defeat brought home the realisation that the Blues could be relegated to the third tier for the first time. There are lots of angles to the story and my article includes quotes from interviews I have performed with some of the key figures. John Wardle talks about the situation and there are also quotes from that weekend from David Makin and Frank Clark. City have moved on a lot since then but it’s important to remember that day and how we felt. Here’s the subscriber article:

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