Derby Draw

On this day (16 November) in 1991 the Manchester derby ended goalless at Maine Road but so many, many chances went City’s way! It was a frustrating draw for the Blues and came at a time when neither side had won the League since the 1960s (City in 1967-68 if you want to know). It was felt that momentum was building at Maine Road. This is one of those periods when football history could’ve gone in a different direction.

There was pressure on United boss Alex Ferguson. He had brought the ECWC and FA Cup to United by this time but it was the League that the club craved. City had ended 1990-91 in fifth place and United were 6th. Had City had a bit of fortune around this time they may well have found some success.

Arsenal had won the League in 1991 but no team dominated the League year after year. The birth of the Premier League was coming (1992) and the new riches that came with that meant that the teams that did find League success from then on could potentially dominate in a way no club had before. With United’s title success in 1992-93, United and Arsenal became the two clubs that benefited most from the riches of the Premier League. That created a gap that only strong investment could bridge.

Ah well! Money and football is nothing new. Anyway, here are a few highlights of the derby:

MCFC 20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE SEASON 1989-90

The Matches

After achieving promotion the previous season City embarked on the 1989-90 First Division campaign with a view to consolidate rather than set the world alight.  The relatively low-key City manager, Mel Machin, seemed determined to play down expectations, especially as other clubs – in particular Manchester United – were spending millions on strengthening their squad.  City could not afford to spend wildly, although they did increase their overdraft by signing Clive Allen and Ian Bishop during the close season for a combined fee of around £1.75m.

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I Just Wellied It!

On this day (February 3) in 1990 Manchester City and Manchester United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford. The derby became remembered as the ‘Wellied It!’ derby. Here is the story of that day with quotes from an interview I did with Ian Brightwell a few years ago. He explains how the ‘Wellied It!’ phrase came about and why he said it. Enjoy….

Howard Kendall’s City arrived at Old Trafford for the return derby match on February 3 1990. So much had changed since September when Mel Machin’s City had defeated Alex Ferguson’s United 5-1 and so the game was always going to be a difficult one to call. As the Blues were now supposedly a better side it is true to say most City fans eagerly awaited this particular match. Disappointingly, United only gave City 600 seats and 4,500 terrace tickets, although even that was considerably more than in the years that followed. The eventual attendance was only 40,274 in a stadium holding a minimum of 48,000, as many disenchanted United fans stayed away. 

Although there were noticeable gaps in the United sections, the paddock in front of the Main Stand appeared full of City supporters. They were later joined by Blues evacuated from the Stretford End and estimates from impartial observers suggested there were around 12,000 City fans in the 40,000 crowd. 

The match was the 100th meeting in the First Division and commenced with City tearing into the Reds as they had in September. The Blues were actually two points better off than United in the League and the difference in position prompted City fans to chant “Fergie in” to annoy the home contingent… Football humour, hey?

Squandering some early chances, City looked the more composed overall but when Clarke missed a sitter some fans still muttered about Everton rejects (it had been a thing ever since Howard Kendall’s arrival and transfer of several former Evertonians to Maine Road). It wasn’t just the Evertonians who should have given City the lead; Ian Brightwell was also guilty of a shocking miss when, with Leighton off his line, the youngster feebly lobbed the ball wide. Don’t worry, he made up for it!

Against the run of play it was actually United who took the lead when Clayton Blackmore was gifted a free header. Fortunately, within five minutes Mark Ward found Brightwell who, from fully 25 yards out, blasted a stunning shot past Leighton for the equaliser. Afterwards the delighted player explained exactly how he’d scored by succinctly telling the media: “I just wellied it!”  In May 2010 he remembered how the expression came about:  “We totally outplayed them, but Clayton Blackmore scored even though we’d had most of the chances.  I had a chance in the first half, but that’s a different story.  Once they went a goal ahead you’d normally think it’s going to be difficult, but we still had a lot of chances and I felt we’d still do it.  I remember that the ball was out on the right and Mark Ward sort of half-crossed it.  It came to me and I’ll never forget this – I heard Steve Redmond on the half way line shout:  “Bob…” I’d best not say his exact words, but let’s just say he wanted me to have a go in his strong scouse accent!  It was on my left foot, which isn’t my strongest, but I did what Reddo said.  It went in the top corner!

“I ran off and jumped about twenty feet in the air – or at least that’s how it looks on the photos.  I remember the noise because back then the away fans used to get about 10,000 tickets at Old Trafford and it was phenomenal.  

“When we came to do the post-match TV interview I was asked the usual stuff and then was asked about the goal.  So I told him what I just told you, being careful not to say what Reddo actually shouted!  Just as I was doing it, someone walked past and we had to do the interview again.  But then the same happened again.  So we had to do it a third time.  By this point I thought I had to say it in a different way – inexperience I guess.  I didn’t need to, but I ended up saying:  ‘the ball came out to me and I just wellied it!’  It’s true I did, but now it’s the phrase that people remember.  It summed it up nicely, but it wasn’t what I’d meant to say.”

The match should have brought a City victory, but everyone seemed satisfied with a point. You can watch highlights of the game here: 

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Manchester City in the Early 1990s

We hear so much about the Premier League era and how the game has changed, so for today’s feature I’ve decided to take a look at the early 1990s and the birth of the Premier League. It’s almost thirty years since the structure of league football changed forever and during that time some clubs have benefitted from the new structure and others have found life difficult. City have experienced both extremes of course.

The narrative that we often hear about the Blues’ journey over the last thirty years is that they’ve gone from a struggling club to a hugely successful one and, while it is true City are highly successful today and that the Blues entered their lowest ever point in the late 1990s, it is wrong to assume that the position the club found itself in by 1999 was typical of the club’s full history. 

So, here for subscribers, I’m taking a look back at the early 1990s and remind ourselves where the Blues were; who their rivals were; and the state of football at that time:

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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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City’s history via 16 players

I’m always keen to find links between today’s Manchester City and the key players of the past and so I set myself the task of trying to find connections from the club’s first competitive game in 1890 through to the Premier League successes of today.

The idea was to see how few players I could find to form a chain through the decades.  Subscribers can read the result of my efforts below:

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