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:

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Bidding War Between MCFC And Villa!

On this day (25 August) in 1981 Manchester City and Aston Villa were in a bidding war to sign Trevor Francis.

I know in recent years City have been criticised by some in the media for both high spending and for not spending more than they deem a player is worth (what a crazy world it is when a potential purchasing team is criticised for not wanting to spend what a selling club want when there are no other clubs interested in buying that player at that price!) but in 1981 the desire to sign Francis meant they were prepared to spend big if necessary.

A bidding war is always in the best interests of the selling club and occasionally a friendly word with a journalist or another club can create a bidding war even if there really isn’t much interest from a club. Thinking back I can’t remember Villa seriously going after Francis but this Daily Mirror report suggests they were interested.

It wasn’t long of course before City got their man.

Notice the brief mention of Peter Barnes at the bottom of that cutting? If you want to know more then obviously I recommend The Peter Barnes Authorised Biography (use tabs/menu to find out more).

Manchester v Liverpool

This weekend marks the latest in the series of games between one of the Manchester clubs and a Liverpool team. Today (9 April 2022) relegation worried Everton face United and tomorrow League Champions and leaders City take on second placed Liverpool at the Etihad. Much will be made of the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry and it is true that the two cities have been rivals for over 150 years (it certainly predates the building of the Ship Canal!) BUT the football clubs have not always been rivals. In fact Utd and Liverpool have been close over the decades at times while the on-the-pitch rivalry between City and Liverpool was extremely strong in the late 60s and 70s.

The strength of the two conurbations’ footballing rivalries came during the late 1960s but intensified in the late 70s. Prior to this one-off seasons may have seen grudge matches or significant games between clubs from the cities but nothing more than that. In fact for many, many years Manchester United and Liverpool, for example, were extremely close. They once put forward a suggestion to the Football League that all home teams should wear red and away teams white – the rest of football soon got wise to the plan!

There was also the time when United and Liverpool ‘fixed’ a game of football. It’s a long story (amazingly United’s solicitor was part of the ‘neutral’ investigating committee!) and can be read here:

Match Fixing – Manchester United v Liverpool: A Long Read

The rivalry between the footballing clubs developed in the 60s and there were many significant games between all the clubs in the two cities with several prominent matches (there were significant grudge matches between Everton and City for example in the 60s and at one point Liverpool’s Bill Shankly told the media that City were Liverpool’s biggest rival!).

Back in 1995 I interviewed former Manchester City boss John Bond at his home. The interview lasted about two hours and here’s a brief snippet from that interview where Bond talks about beating Liverpool on Boxing Day 1981.

The Blues won 3-1 (Bond, Hartford & Reeves) then two days later (Bond says it’s the next day in this clip but it was 28th December) City defeated Wolves 2-1 at Maine Rd. John discusses a brilliant goal from Trevor Francis. City went top of the League after the Wolves victory.

Stick with the clip because it ends with Bond’s views on how Liverpool used to react to wins and defeats. I’d best not comment – have a listen:

I’ve covered one particularly bitter moment in the City-Liverpool rivalry from the 80s that concerns John Bond here:

40 Years Ago Today (Yes, 40!) – ‘Illegal Jumping’, Alf Grey and Manchester City (Sorry!)

I hope this weekend’s games between go well and it’d be great if one of Manchester’s Blues could score four goals as Fred Howard did on his debut against Liverpool – see:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/18/imagine-scoring-four-goals-for-mcfc-against-liverpool-on-your-debut/

and Frank Roberts did:

The ‘Flu Limits MCFC’s Selections But They Beat Liverpool 5-0 (Roberts 4 Goals)

MCFC 20TH CENTURY CHRONICLE SEASON 1980-81

The Matches

The 1980-81 season was one of City’s most remarkable and culminated in two appearances at Wembley.  At the season’s start, however, a trip to Wembley seemed like one of Manager Malcolm Allison’s more imaginative dreams, especially as the Blues succumbed to successive defeats to a Kevin Keegan inspired Southampton (2-0) and newly promoted Sunderland (4-0).

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On this day… John Benson & Manchester City

Sixty years ago today (February 21 1962) John Benson made his Manchester City League debut. He had joined the Blues at the age of 15 in July 1958 and went on to make 52 League and Cup appearances before being transferred to Torquay in 1964.  Spells at Bournemouth, Exeter and Norwich followed, before John moved into coaching.  In 1980 he returned to Manchester as assistant to manager John Bond.  Here’s an interview I did with him during October 2004.

Sadly, John died on October 30 2010 at the age of 67.

Here for subscribers is the interview from 2004.

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Manchester City, Liverpool and the 1981 League Cup Semi-Final!

On this day in 1981: The League Cup semi final! The 1981 League Cup semi-final has gone down in history as one of the absolute grudge moments between Manchester’s Blues and Liverpool’s Reds. People often think the two clubs have only been rivals in recent years but throughout the late 60s, 70s and early 80s games between the two clubs were viewed as major events.

This tie in 1981 is one that still angers many associated with Manchester City, including former players and officials. If you would like to read the story of the tie and the reasons why, then please subscribe to this blog.

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The Starting Eleven – Tommy Hutchison

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final today (May 9) and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the last few days I have been posting these profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please take time to dig them out and read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the last of the eleven (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, goalscorer Tommy Hutchison.

33 year old Scottish international Tommy Hutchison became a cult hero for the Blues.  A dedicated, consistent and skilful professional, he was also superbly fit. 

Earlier he played for Alloa and Blackpool before signing for Coventry in 1972.  It was an inspired purchase by former City boss Joe Mercer, who had been a fan of the player’s for some time, shortly after he had left Maine Road.  Hutchison was later voted the greatest Coventry player of all time.

John Bond also recognised the player’s strengths, signing him for City eight years later:  “I said I’ll give you £400 a week, which wasn’t the best wage in the world.  His attitude was good and he signed without making a demand.”

Hutchison’s arrival helped City enormously.  Bond:  “There isn’t a City supporter anywhere who says anything but good about Tommy Hutchison.  He was absolutely tremendous, and became a real star.  He made everything happen.  He was a revelation.  I know people say this kind of thing a lot but he was a different class.  I always enjoyed having him in my side.”

Hutchison of course played his part throughout the Cup campaign.  In fact frustration had seen Everton’s Kevin Ratcliffe sent off for head-butting the City man in the 85th minute of the quarter-final.  In the subsequent replay Hutchison created two goals within the space of three minutes.

In the 29th minute of the Wembley final, Hutchison dived to head a centre by Ranson.  The diving header flew past Aleksic’s left hand from some distance out.  It was the 150th goal scored in Wembley F.A. Cup finals.

As the game progressed City looked certain winners, then ten minutes from full-time Spurs had a free-kick.  Ardiles tapped the ball to Hoddle, who curled it around City’s defensive wall.  Corrigan was certain he had the shot covered but Hutchison, who had dropped back behind the wall for the free kick, somehow got in the way.  The ball hit his shoulder and was diverted across goal for the Spurs equaliser.  

Goalkeeper Joe Corrigan walked to a disconsolate Hutchison, lifted him up, patted him on the back and tried to encourage him:  “My view was that we still had a few minutes left.  We’d been on top for most of the game.  We could still win.  I also knew that what had happened to him could have happened to any one of us.  So I just told him to “get up, get on with it.  It’s only 1-1 and we are still going to win!”  He was devastated to be fair, but we did almost win it in the dying minutes.”

That own goal guaranteed Hutchison a place in Wembley history as the first player to score for both sides in a FA Cup final – it even became a question in the Board game Trivial Pursuit – but it never changed how fans viewed him.  He remains one of the Club’s biggest heroes, even though his time at City was ultimately too short.  Hutchison was one of the biggest reasons why the Blues had reached Wembley, and the goal was simply an unfortunate incident, albeit a very important one.

A year after Wembley, Hutchison’s role as a stabilising force was over and he was transferred to Bulova (Hong Kong).  

At the age of 43 he received a special merit award from the PFA to mark being the oldest player in League football while appearing for Swansea.

In 2011, Hutchison heads up Bristol City’s Football In The Community Scheme.  It’s a role he has enjoyed for over a decade:  “The great thing is seeing some young kids, who I first met 8 years ago when they were trouble waiting to happen, change.  One even pulled a knife on me once.  It’s great to see that our work has really made a difference.”  

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

The 1981 FA Cup Final

On this day (May 9) in 1981 the 100th FA Cup Final took place between Manchester City and Tottenham.

Here for subscribers is a long read on the build up to that game, the final and the post-final scenes. It contains material from interviews I have performed over the years with Dennis Tueart, John Bond and Joe Corrigan. There are also a few quotes that may surprise readers of what discussions took place after the final.

Here goes….

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The Starting Eleven – Tommy Caton

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, centre-back Tommy Caton.

Together with Nicky Reid (aged 20), 18 year old Tommy Caton made history by forming the youngest pair of centre-backs ever seen in the FA Cup final when they played at Wembley in 1981.  Despite their age both had been playing first team football for a couple of seasons with Caton managing 12 first team appearances before his 17th birthday.  

Caton was actually the fourth ever youngest City player when he made his debut on the opening day of the 1979-80 season.  The media and most supporters thought pre-match that this was one of Malcolm Allison’s more off-the-wall selections.  In fact Allison had wanted to play the defender in the first team the previous season, but claimed he had been prevented from doing so by the school authorities because of Caton’s age.

All suggestions that the 16 year old’s debut was an Allison-gimmick were soon proved false.  Caton helped City keep a clean sheet and his assured performance proved he thoroughly deserved the chance.  The defender retained his place for the rest of the season and, together with Joe Corrigan, Caton was an ever-present in all competitions that season.

Shortly after his 17th birthday, Caton gave his view of his career to date:  “I came to City in March 1978, signing on associate schoolboy forms and then started a full time apprenticeship in July, this year.  It was a bit strange to say the least when I played in my first few games.  I think the biggest tests have been against Arsenal, at Highbury, facing Stapleton and Sunderland.  Plus the match against Forest when it was Woodcock and Birtles.”

He struggled with injury a little during 1980-81 – a chipped ankle bone caused him to miss a period of what became a crucial season – yet he recovered in time to play a major part in John Bond’s Wembley bound side.  

Although the Daily Mail described Caton as “City’s inspiring young defender” in their match report of the cup final replay, the positive aspects of his contribution were soon overlooked as Ricky Villa’s goal became the media’s defining incident.  On his way to goal the Spurs player passed the 18 year old Caton twice, as well as others, and the media proclaimed it as a truly great goal.  City Manager John Bond was not impressed:  “I bet if Keith Burkinshaw [Spurs] had been in my place he wouldn’t have said it was a good goal.  He seemed to beat six or seven people in the space of four yards or so.”

It is worth recalling that Caton had an unusual claim to fame by becoming the first man to be booked twice in one final – he was booked in both the first game and the replay.

In March 1982 he created another record when he became the youngest player ever to appear in 100 League games for any club.  He was also, by this point, regularly tipped to become a full England international, but City’s relegation in 1983 suggested Caton needed to move to progress his career. 

In November 1983 he was sold to Arsenal after rumours that he stood little chance of playing for England while playing for a northern Second Division side.  Worth noting though that the Blues desperately needed the £500,000 fee they received, and so he was encouraged to make that move.    

Caton’s move south was not the success everybody hoped.  After only 95 League and Cup appearances with the Gunners – a developing Tony Adams was challenging him – he became Oxford’s captain.  

Early in 1993 he was forced to announce his retirement after a serious foot injury while playing for Charlton required repeated surgery.  That April he died suddenly at the age of 30 of a heart-attack. 

Of all the players who appeared in the 1981 final, Caton was the one expected to have the greatest footballing career ahead of him.  Sadly, the potential was never really fulfilled.  Caton should however always be remembered as a highly talented defender who, by the age of 17 was easily able to outperform some of the game’s biggest names.

Caton had enormous talent and ability, but ultimately so little time. 

NOTE: Tommy Caton’s son Andy made 13 appearances for Swindon Town between 2004-2007 before damaging his skull in a car accident.  A spell at Bath and Weymouth (in 2009) followed.

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

The Starting Eleven -Steve Mackenzie

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, midfielder Steve Mackenzie

Malcolm Allison’s signing of Steve Mackenzie stunned the football world.  The 17 year old signed from Crystal Palace for an incredible £250,000 in July 1979.  The fee alone was huge – six months earlier the transfer record stood at £516,000 – but the fact that Mackenzie hadn’t even appeared in the League and was now the costliest teenager ever was astounding.

Inevitably, great pressure followed.  Mackenzie appeared in the opening 14 League games of 1979-80 but spent more time playing reserve football.  However, by the spring of 1981 Mackenzie was a permanent fixture in the side, delivering game after game.  Captain Paul Power said at the time:  “We look a different team when Steve is playing.  He has fought his way back and proved to the boss that we can’t afford to be without him.  He adds stability to our midfield.”

Mackenzie, as well as general play, contributed some significant goals such as the spectacular 25 yarder in the 4thround tie against Norwich, and the solitary goal in the February ’81 Manchester derby – “Mac The Knife” read the MEN headline. 

It was Mackenzie who rolled a free kick to Power – a move they had worked on in training – that brought the only goal of the semi-final.

In the 58th minute of the final with the Blues leading 1-0, Mackenzie came close to scoring.  John Bond remembered:  “Reeves and Mackenzie played this magnificent 1-2.  Mackenzie got behind the defence, went around the goalkeeper, went to slot the ball into the net and it hit the post and went wide.  They’d have been dead and buried!”

Three minutes after Spurs had taken an 8th minute lead in the replay, Mackenzie equalised with one of the greatest cup final goals of all time.  A Ranson free kick was met by a half clearance allowing Mackenzie to volley home from about 20 yards.  It was a tremendous goal and the type of effort that should have won the cup.  Paul Power:  “I still believe Steve Mackenzie’s strike was just as impressive as Villa’s second goal.  If that goal had been the match winner it’s possible that would have been voted the best goal of all time.”  Bond agreed:  “Steve Mackenzie’s volley was unbelievable!”

As we all know, Spurs went on to win the replay.  Mackenzie played in one further City game but was sold – to raise money for the purchase of Trevor Francis – for £600,000 to West Bromwich Albion the following August.  Considering his age and performances during 1981 it was a disappointing departure.  

Spells at Charlton and John Bond’s Shrewsbury followed.  Once his playing career came to an end Mackenzie pursued his interest in computers to gain a BA Hons degree in Interactive Multimedia Communication in 1998.  With a strong interest in teaching and learning Mackenzie gained further qualifications in teaching and e-learning.    

He also obtained the Advanced Level FA Football Coaching award and coached at West Brom’s Academy until 2000.  He also had an enjoyable two year stint in non-league management at Atherstone United.  

Since 2003 he has worked full time in Higher Education at De Montfort University primarily as a designer and developer of distance learning courses. 

In 2004 at the age of 42 he made one appearance – and scored – for Gresley Rovers.  Today he keeps in touch with the game, reporting for the Press Association, and takes a keen informal interest in football coaching and player development.

Looking back in 2011, Mackenzie’s strongest recollections from 1981 focus on his side’s endeavours: “pride in fighting so hard to win the cup, knowing if we had to lose we could not have done much more.”  The highlight remains, of course, his goal:  “the exhilaration of scoring a spectacular goal to get us back in the game – I think my beaming smile said it all.”

Janice Monk (former City Store), Glyn Pardoe and Steve Mackenzie at the launch of Manchester The City Years in 2012

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here: