41 Years Ago Today: Trevor Francis Debut

I feel old today as 41 Years ago today (September 5, 1981) I attended my first away game. That day my parents told me we were going to Stoke v Manchester City. The reason why? It was to be the debut of new City striker Trevor Francis. This was perceived as a huge transfer at the time (don’t be fooled into thinking major transfers have only come in recent years!) and part of manager John Bond’s plan to challenge for the League title – and for a while it looked as if they would!

Here for subscribers is a piece on that day and what followed with quotes from interviews I’ve performed with Trevor Francis and Peter Swales who tell the story of that time. There are also contemporary match reports too:

Subscribe to get access

Read this and all other content when you subscribe today. It costs £20 per year and for that you get the full downloads of Manchester A Football History and From Maine Men To Banana Citizens plus access to all other posts, interviews etc. Or try it for £3 per month (cancel anytime) and access everything for as long as you subscribe.

Manchester City Fans

While searching through my articles earlier this week I spotted a piece I wrote in 2019-20 on Manchester City’s support. Back then I became somewhat frustrated with a series of articles criticising City’s support. There were a number of ridiculous comments by some and so I wrote a piece challenging some of these views.

I’m not certain all the points are still valid (though City fans have received some significant abuse since 2020 too!) but readers can be the judge of that. Anyway, here’s the article for those who missed it back then:

Showing Your Colours

In January this year the Newcastle Chronicle published a story that intrigued me. It talked of the history of fans wearing football scarves and suggested that a Newcastle fan in 1932 was the first to be photographed wearing a football scarf. The article explained that previously it had been claimed that an Arsenal supporter at a 1934 FA Cup tie had been the first filmed/photographed wearing a traditional bar scarf.  This set me off looking into the history of football scarves and of fans showing their colours.

So, here for subscribers to my site is a 1400 word article on showing your colours, focusing on the stories associated with Manchester City…

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It only costs £20 a year and throughout your membership you get full access to everything published on the site, including the entire Manchester A Football History book and my first book From Maine Men To Banana Citizens to download. You can also sign up a month at a time for £3 per month. My commitment is to publish at least 4 new lengthy articles per month but in practice I’ve posted a lot more than that. Why not sign up for a month and give it a try?

69,463 watch MCFC and Burnley in Division Two

On this day (May 10) in 1947 a solitary goal from Alec Herd against Burnley was enough to give Manchester City promotion.  The attendance for this Second Division game was recorded by the media at the time as 67,672 but official records reviewed almost sixty years later showed that City actually recorded the attendance as 69,463.

Typically, the attendance figures City used to give the media for League games through to the 1960s tended to exclude season tickets. So the Blues’ management would give the figure of tickets or pay on the gate admission for the game but exclude season ticket holders. Back in 1946-47 City had around 1,800 season ticket holders and almost every League attendance back then is understated by that amount.

FA Cup games were the actual attendances as these were always sold game by game.

As this practice of excluding all season ticket holders continued for many, many decades at Maine Road attendance figures for League games are usually understated (they were often understated in the 1970s & 1980s as well but for different reasons and back then Peter Swales, Bernard Halford and the others involved in calculating attendances would deny any discrepancy despite many fans, fanzines and others challenging them often).

For comparison purposes it’s worth looking at the attendances of the Division One champions in 1947 to see how the Blues compared. This attendance against Burnley was almost 17,000 higher than Division One champions Liverpool’s highest crowd that season (52,512 v Wolves in December) and the Merseyside Reds nearest home game to City’s Burnley match was watched by 48,800 and that was Liverpool v Manchester United (May 3). Liverpool did average 45,732 that season, whereas City averaged 39,283 but they were a Second Division club.

The City-Burnley crowd was the Second Division’s record at the time and it was higher than every First Division crowd since the 1937-38 season (The Second Division record is now held by Tottenham v Southampton which had 70,302 in 1949-50).

Film of City v Burnley does exist but it’s in a most unlikely place. It was actually filmed as part of a Mancunian Films drama called Cup Tie Honeymoon. The company was run by a Manchester City fan who made this film, which starred Sandy Powell and Pat Phoenix (under her original name of Pilkington). A football game is crucial to the plot and scenes were filmed at Maine Road and interspersed with real action from the City-Burnley game to add credibility.

Myself and Will McTaggart have shown these scenes in our Boys In Blue film shows which have been staged at the Dancehouse and Cornerhouse in Manchester over the last decade. Maybe I’ll explain more about the film and those talks another day.

Subscribe to get access

You can access all of the content on this site, including the in-depth articles, audio recordings/interviews and entire content of my Manchester A Football History book by subscribing. It costs £20 a year (about £1.67 a month) and you have full access throughout your subscription. You can also give it a try by signing up for £3 a month (again full access throughout your membership). Thanks Gary.

Don’t forget you can order Peter Barnes’ biography now (before May 20th) and get your name printed in it (and a copy signed by both Peter and myself). Details here:

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:

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content and everything on the site when you subscribe today.

A Million on the Streets of Manchester

On this day (May 1st) in 1934 Manchester City, who had won the FA Cup for the second time in their history, took part in an incredible home coming parade.

Deservedly Manchester took time out to celebrate and what seemed like the whole of Manchester lined the city’s streets.  The authoritative Pathe News claimed there were over a million on the streets.  The film company was not known for exaggeration and if that figure is accurate – and their footage suggests it is – then this remains the largest homecoming in Mancunian football history (It was claimed in 1999 that 700,000 people had welcomed Manchester United’s treble winning team through the streets).  

Various speeches were made into a microphone set up on the Town Hall steps (the BBC were broadcasting this live on radio), and the players and officials were given a civic reception. Mancunians enjoyed the success and wanted more.  

In Albert Square Mancunians sang their celebratory songs including “Who Said City Couldn’t Play” – the earliest known recording of a City specific song:

Who Said City Couldn’t Play,

City Couldn’t Play, City Couldn’t Play,

Who Said City Couldn’t Play,

City Couldn’t Play football?

You can hear a recording of the song and read more about it here:

Who Said City Couldn’t Play?

The 1933-4 League programme still had two games left for the Blues.  On 2nd May – the day after the parade – City suffered a 3-2 defeat at Liverpool, and then on 5th May City demolished Wolves 4-0 at Maine Road. Before the game City staff, assisted by a couple of police officers, carried the trophy around the ground on some kind of wooden board.  The fans were delighted.

During a week of FA Cup celebrations an illuminated bus journeyed around the city covered in City’s colours.  On the front above the bus number, ‘City 2 1’, was the Manchester coat of arms.  On the side the message ‘Welcome to the victors’ proudly illuminated next to a picture of the FA Cup and a drawing of Sam Cowan.  

You can see film of this illuminated ‘Victory Bus’, preserved by the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University, here (the bus can be seen after 5 mins 38 seconds but other scenes connected with the homecoming can be viewed after about 3 minutes):

https://www.nwfa.mmu.ac.uk/viewVideo.php?token=2495agw5666w7h114804aP5nxZYm4638b49Hq2dw

You can view Pathe’s coverage of the homecoming here (the commentary is a bit cringeworthy but listen out for comment about a million people on the streets; the scenes certainly suggest there was too):

This has been a taster of the material on this site. Subscribers have access to over 500 articles and posts, with many more scheduled over the coming weeks. Posted already for subscribers are exclusive audio interviews I have performed with Malcolm Allison, John Bond and George Graham (more to follow); the entire Manchester A Football History book (now out of print) and various other long read articles. It costs £20 a year (that’s about £1.67 a month) or £3 per month if you want to sign up a month at a time. Whichever subscription is taken out subscribers get full access to everything posted for as long as they are subscribers. You can subscriber here:

Subscribe to get access

Subscriptions cost £20 a year or £3 a month

Video of my online talk on history of MCFC Support/Match Day at Maine Road

Earlier today (Saturday March 5 at 3pm UK time) I did an online talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support and match day at Maine Road. It was a celebration of fans and a reminder of Maine Road. I’ve now posted below a free to view video of the talk for anyone to watch…

The online talk lasted over 1 hour and was recorded live, so you should able to access it anywhere.The talk covered the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

I had a couple of technical issues but you can watch it now here:

I’m keen to hear thoughts on the idea of doing other talks like this for subscribers to my site. If you’re interested then please get in touch and let me know what you’d like me to talk on. I have quite a few ideas I’m keen to do and am also open to suggestions. Thanks.

If you enjoy the talk then please subscribe to my site. I am a self employed historian and spend all my working week writing, researching and publishing my work. I am not an employee of any organisation (I know some think I’m employed by a football club but I’m not an employee of any club). I am independent of any organisation and care passionately about the quality and accuracy of my work.

A limited amount of content will always be free for anyone to read but those subscribing will have access to everything on this site for as long as they subscribe. For subscribers I guarantee to post a minimum of 4 articles alongside adding material from my archives each month (in practice it’s been much more than this!). To subscribe costs £3 a month or £20 a year (a reminder that the 2010 edition of Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 when published and is now out of print but available to subscribers as a downloadable pdf as part of their subscription.).

If you’re uncertain whether to subscribe or not then why not subscribe for a month at £3 and see if you’re getting value for money. The £20 annual subscription works out about £1.67 a month for a guaranteed 4 new articles per month and access to everything else posted in the archive.

You can subscribe here:

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

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:

Last Chance to Book: Free Online Talk on History of MCFC Support/Match Day at Maine Road

Tomorrow (Saturday March 5 at 3pm UK time) I will be doing an online talk/presentation on the history of Manchester City’s support and match day at Maine Road. It will be a celebration of fans and a reminder of Maine Road. If you want to watch/listen you’ll need to register by noon tomorrow (UK time; Saturday 5th March 2022). Details of how to do that are below…

The talk will last about 1 hour and will be online, so you should able to access it anywhere. It will cover the history of Manchester City’s support with particular reference to:

•Match day ritual at Maine Road

•The Viking Call

•The ‘Boys Stand’

•Record crowds

•Songs & chants

•Fancy dress, bananas & bells

•Fanzines

•The Supporters Club

This presentation and talk is based on my popular 2019 talk at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester (if you attended that you will already have seen it!). I go into detail about the history of City’s support and celebrate some of the unique aspects of over 125 years of Manchester City FC.

This is a free event but there are a limited number of tickets. These must be ordered in advance. There is a limited capacity and no one will be able to join the event without first registering. If you want to participate. Book here:

San Francisco Blues

Recently I’ve been in San Francisco and was there when Manchester City played Spurs. I was invited to watch the game at Maggie McGarry’s with the San Francisco Blues. It was a great experience (we’ll ignore the result!) and here are a few thoughts and a bit of film from the day….

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to ALL the City fans who were there and who made us feel so welcome. It’s clearly a great supporters club and we really enjoyed our time there.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that MCFC has been a welcoming club over the decades and fans of the Blues have tended to be welcomed no matter where they are from or who they are. The San Francisco Blues are just as welcoming with wonderful hospitality too.

The branch contained several exiled Mancs, British and Irish members, as well as many, many US born City fans. This was great to see and I enjoyed listening to their stories of how they became City fans, or of how they came together to watch games at the bar. Two Mancs actually went to the same school (1 year apart) but didn’t know each other until they met in San Francisco through their City support. One was a history teacher in the States and asked me ’Was Billy Meredith guilty of the bribery charge?’ Hopefully, US children will now hear the rights and wrongs of FA investigations into perceived nouveau riche clubs, as City were called back in 1905 (I know!).

Some had travelled a couple of hours to get to the bar for the 930am kick off (California time of course!). from what I heard the same happens for earlier kick offs – some feat when you consider a regular 3pm UK kick off would be 7am local time. The landlord, who is also a Blue, opens the bar early for City games.

A few of the branch members had travelled to the Champions League final last year and others told me of their plans to get to the away games at Everton and Peterborough. The atmosphere on Manchester Derby Day is always special there – I think we’re all looking forward to next weekend. I’ll be in my regular seat by then of course but if you are a Blue in San Francisco get yourself down to Maggie McGarry’s.

I often get angry when rival fans or some in the media criticise football supporters for their loyalty, or when some state that ALL City fans are this or that when the truth is that we’re varied and have come to support City in lots of different ways. We live all over the world and show our dedication to the cause in ways that some don’t understand. Fans spend a considerable time, amount of money or put themselves out in lots of different ways to support their club.

I could go on but I’d just like to say thanks again to the San Francisco Blues. Their facebook page is here:

Here’s the scene at the bar when City equalised:

David Humphreys from the branch is heavily involved with a football club called San Francisco Vikings, formed in 1922. They focus on bringing kids through from age 3 onwards to adult leagues and to sponsor kids who can’t pay to play.

It may be some time before I’m in San Francisco again, but when I do make it I’ll aim to get back to the San Francisco Blues. Thanks again for making us so welcome.