Manchester’s First National Success

On Saturday April 22 1899 the football season ended with Manchester City as comfortable champtions of the Second Division. They were the first side nationally to gain automatic promotion (a series of test matches, similar to play offs, had been utilised in previous seasons) and the first of the Manchester teams ever to earn promotion and win a national League competition. 

Subscribers can read about the final game and other information from that season below:

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It costs £20 a year (here) to access everything since December 2020 or for £3 per month (below) you can access everything from 1 October 2020.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It costs £20 a year (above) to access everything since December 2020 or for £3 per month (here) you can access everything from 1 October 2020. Why not join for a month and see what you think?

Keeper Scores

On this day (14 April) in 1900 Manchester City’s goalkeeper Charlie Williams scored against Sunderland. It was a remarkable first and subscribers can read the story of that day here:

Subscribe to get access – Annual

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It costs £20 a year for full access to everything posted on the site since December 2020 (plus everything during your subscription) or £3 per month (see below).

Subscribe to get access – Monthly

Read more of this content when you subscribe today. It costs £3 a month for full access to everything posted on the site since 1st October 2022 (plus everything during your subscription) or £20 per year (see above). Monthly subscribers can cancel anytime so why not sign up for a month and see what you think?

City v Burnley

Today’s game with Burnley provides a great opportunity to remember some key games and stories from years gone by featuring the two clubs. I’ve written a lot about City & Burnley games over the years so sit back and get yourself in the mood for tonight’s game by having a look at these articles:

A game in 2001:

An amazing crowd for a second tier match:

Another incredible crowd for a City-Burnley match:

Sterling inspired City here:

One of my quests to find missing objects involves the 1904 FA Cup final ball. I know it was in Burnley for over 40 years and was still there in the 1950s but where is it today? Can you help find it? Have a read of this:

Jimmy Ross was a brilliant footballer for both City and Burnley but he’s often forgotten. You can find out who he was here:

More on Ross here:

John Bond managed both. Here’s an exclusive interview I did with him many years ago where we talked about his career at both:

A season when City and Burnley challenged each other for the title:

The earliest known surviving film of a City Ladies (now Women) match was against Burnley:

There are of course several articles mentioning Burnley manager Vincent Kompany’s time at MCFC. You can access some of them here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/tag/vincent-kompany/

The Great Jimmy Ross

On this day (24 February) in 1899 the great Jimmy Ross signed for Manchester City.  Ross was one of football’s leading names and earliest heroes when he played for the famous Preston side that won the League and Cup double of 1889. He had scored an incredible eight goals when Preston beat Hyde 26-0 in the record breaking F.A. Cup tie of 15th October 1887 – a game in which the referee is reputed to have lost his watch and allowed play to last two hours!  (you can read about that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

In addition, he was the Football League’s top scorer in 1890 (24 goals), and was quite a character.

He signed for Manchester City from Burnley for a reported £50 after previously captaining Liverpool to promotion. He had also played for the Football League.  

At City he was influential from the start. He netted an incredible seven goals in the final nine games of the 1898-99 season (his first nine games at City too!) brought the Division Two title for the first time – this was the first national success of either of Manchester’s professional clubs.  

Years later the legendary Billy Meredith, looking back on his City days, remembered Ross with great affection: “I must confess that Ross will always be my favourite hero.  He was good at everything he put his hand to and what he didn’t know about football wasn’t worth knowing.  At billiards and card games he was an expert.  Though he must have been thirty-four at least when he joined us, he was able to win seventy yards handicaps with ease and did so.  He could talk like a lawyer and on and off the pitch his comic sayings had us in stitches.”  

Today many of the heroes of football’s earliest years as a professional sport are forgotten and in Manchester’s case people often talk about Meredith as if he was the first and only hero in the city. But Jimmy Ross was a major figure and he was absolutely essential in City’s early development. Without him they may not have achieved that first Second Division title success. He helped develop Meredith into a star and should never be forgotten.

The leading sports newspaper of the day, the Athletic News, often praised Ross. When the club was making its first steps in the top flight the newspaper talked of City’s right sided players and stressed the importance of Ross and of course Meredith:  “For real brilliance the right wing took the biscuit….In fact, there are few, if any, better men at outside right  (Meredith).  His partner, the veteran Ross, of whom it is predicted every season that he has had his day, is in reality taking a second lease of footballing life, despite the paucity of head-covering, and as a wing the two will cause some trouble”.

At one point a newspaper article claimed that Meredith was absolutely brilliant when he was being well served by Ross but when the going got tough, Meredith disappeared.  It seems that at this stage in the Welshman’s career he needed the experienced Jimmy Ross more than Ross needed him.  One article claimed that Meredith: “doesn’t like donkey-work and if his partner is off, Meredith is off too.”

By the end of the 1901-02 season it looked as if Ross and Meredith, despite Ross’ age, would go on forever. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1902. Ross died on 12th June that year after an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross’ last appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  Ross died of an infectious skin condition.  City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral.

Ross helped Meredith develop and over time the legend of Meredith grew, while Ross’ name has slowly faded. This is a major shame as Ross’ influence on Preston, Liverpool and City’s development is immense. Ross helped City establish their name at a time when Meredith was not quite the finished article. So many players have been described as legends in the decades that have followed. Many of them become forgotten over time, but it is important that once in a while we pause and remember those players. 

Today let’s think about Jimmy Ross and remember him as one of the men who made Manchester City.

Why not now read about the game when Ross played for Preston against Hyde? It already appears on my blog here:

Hyde v Preston – A Record Breaking Day

Scandals, Investigations… We’ve Been Here Before!

‘The punishment was the largest ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period.’

‘The League met and representatives of each club voted in favour of the punishment meted out to us being enforced. And while their representatives were passing this pious resolution most of them had other representatives busy trying to persuade the “villains whose punishment had been so well deserved” to sign for them under conditions very much better in most cases than the ones we had been ruled by at Hyde Road.’

These quotes are connected with investigations into Manchester City over 100 years ago when the FA considered the Blues to be a ‘nouveau riche’ club despite incredible support etc. Back then certain clubs who were regarded as the aristocracy of football (that included Aston Villa and Everton back then) were somewhat dissatisfied that Manchester City had come from foundation as MCFC in 1894 to FA Cup winners and League runners up within a decade. Lots of investigations followed with some determined to kill off this challenger. This all sound familiar? Well 118 years ago the largest punishment ever inflicted, wiping out an entire team, its directors and one of the most charismatic managers of the period was imposed on the club.

Below for subscribers is a 4,500 word article written on the topic by me. This is an academic piece, focusing on the facts and was written for an academic publication, not something club specific. The article considers the investigation, the ban and its long terms impact on Manchester football, where Manchester City’s first golden era came to an end but Manchester United’s first golden era followed. A truly transformational period in Manchester’s football story and essential reading for anyone looking at precedents or wanting to understand how football in the city was shaped.

Subscribe to get access – Annual

Read this indepth article and access everything else on the site when you subscribe. It costs £20 a year (about £1.67 a month) or £3 a month (see below). Annual subscribers access everything posted to the site since December 2020 (including PDFs of Manchester A Football History & my first book, audio & written interviews, history talks etc.).

Subscribe to get access – Monthly

It costs £3 a month (cancel anytime) or £20 a year (above) to subscribe. Monthly subscribers access everything posted to the site since 1 October 2022 (including PDFs of books, audio & written interviews, history talks etc.).

The Death Of Jimmy Ross

One of the earliest stars of League Football died on this day (12th June) in 1902. Jimmy Ross, who was a major figure for almost three seasons with Manchester City and had competed in every season of League football since the League was established in 1888, died with an illness described as “an acute skin disease and a raging fever.”

Ross was one of the Preston ‘Invincibles’ in 1888-89 and also scored 7 (sometimes reported as 8) against Hyde in the famous FA Cup record breaking game (read more on that game here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/ ).

At the time of his death Ross was a Manchester City player. His last first team appearance was appropriately against Preston North End in the First Round of the F.A. Cup in January 1902.  

City helped his mother, whom he was looking after at the time of his death, financially.  They also arranged the funeral and he was buried at Southern Cemetery (according to newspaper reports of the time he was buried in a grave that contained another City player – Bride – who had died a couple of years earlier). Several City players/personalities carried the coffin, including Billy Meredith.

More can be read on Ross’ life here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/?p=1799

Hyde v Preston – A Record Breaking Day

On 15th October 1887 one of the most remarkable FA Cup games of all time occurred at Preston and featured Hyde FC, who were formed in 1885 at a meeting attended by approximately forty men in the White Lion public house. For subscribers to this site here is the story of a remarkable day that saw Hyde, the town I spent the first 18 years of my life living in, enter the history books. 

Subscribe to get access

If you would like to read this piece and all the other in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book) then please subscribe below. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 240+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.