The Span of Success 2023

Ahead of West Ham’s European final tomorrow night (7 June) I thought I’d post the latest update to the table showing the span of success – i.e. the number of years between a club’s first major success (FA Cup, League, League Cup, European trophy) and their most recent. If West Ham win tomorrow they will leap ahead of Leicester City.

This season has seen City overtake Blackburn Rovers and they are now second to Liverpool.

Okay, the span of success does not show how many trophies each club has won or how frequently that club has experienced great eras of success, but it does demonstrate how wrong those people are who believe certain clubs were unsuccessful until recent years, or those who think certain clubs have always been giants. The column on first major success helps to show when some clubs first became trophy-winning significant (often after transformational investment).

While you’re here… why not take a look at the free to read daily Maine Road features counting down to the old stadium’s 100th anniversary of its first game? Here are a sample couple of features (follow the Maine Road tag or search for more):

1898: The First Ever Salford and Newton Heath Match Programme is Produced

On this day (9 May) in 1898 the first ever Newton Heath and Salford match programme was produced however all is not what it seems. This was actually a mock up of what a Manchester football programme could look like and was used to officially register the new publication. Everything in this issue was mocked up based on an Everton-Liverpool style programme. The company behind the Manchester programme was Merseyside based.

From 9 May 1898 the first Manchester football programme was a mock up based on Everton Liverpool programme

When the programme properly began the following football season it carried the details of not only Newton Heath and Salford but also Broughton Rangers and Manchester City.

One interesting image the original mock up contained was this scene from an Everton Liverpool game which it described as the finest picture of football ever published (hyperbole, hey?).

From 9 May 1898 the first Manchester football programme was a mock up based on Everton Liverpool programme

Reports Talk of Peter The Great

Twenty years ago today (5 May 2003) newspaper reports reflected on Manchester City’s 2-1 victory at Liverpool two days earlier. They tended to praise City ‘keeper Peter Schmeichel most, even though Nicolas Anelka had scored both goals for the Blues. It was a hugely popular City win of course in Manchester but this was a strange and emotional period for all connected with the Blues. The following game would be City’s last first team match at Maine Road and while fans celebrated a rare win at Anfield there were many emotions as the club now looked ahead to Maine Road’s farewell.

Johnson’s 38th Goal

Today (4 May) in 1929 the legendary Tommy Johnson netted his 38th League goal of the season at Anfield when City drew 1-1 with Liverpool. This is at the moment (4 May 2023) Manchester City’s record number of goals by a player in a League season. His 38th goal came in the 22nd minute of the final game. Here for subscribers is a detailed look at Tommy’s record (while it stands!) and his life.

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Manchester-Liverpool Rivalry

In terms of football the two cities of Manchester and Liverpool were extremely close for decades but in business and everyday life they have been rivals (bitter at times) for over 150 years. People will talk about all sorts of factors with the main one discussed being about the trade issues Manchester faced because Liverpool basically controlled Manchester’s access to the sea. I don’t want to go on too much about it all but I do want to show these sections from American newspapers which give an indication of what the situation was from another nation’s point of view.

It’s interesting to note that at least one of these articles shows that Manchester tried to ensure the whole of England benefitted from the city’s growing prosperity, suggesting that previously Liverpool only benefitted from this kind of trade.

Crittenden Record, July 04, 1907
Americus Times, April 14, 1903,
The Morning News, July 23, 1894

There are lots of articles on my site about Manchester’s teams and those from Liverpool. Here are details of articles than are tagged ‘Liverpool’:

Here are articles tagged ‘Everton’:

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.

David Johnson

After a glittering career with Preston, Everton and Liverpool, striker David Johnson joined Manchester City on this day (21 March) in 1984.  Johnson scored on his City debut – an 83rd minute equaliser v Cardiff in a game the Blues went on to win 2-1 (Image is of that goal). Unfortunately, despite a reputation as a lethal striker – and hard evidence of achievement – Johnson’s time at Maine Road was not particularly successful.  After one goal in four (plus two as substitute) games Johnson moved to play soccer in North America in May 1984.   

Johnson died in November 2022 and the following piece was written by Samuel Meade and published in the Mirror:

MCFC v LFC 1988

Today (13 March) in 1988 Second Division Manchester City faced Liverpool in the FAC quarter final.  At the time this was seen as a major game, shown live on television and it was full of the usual controversy that these games tend to have. You can read the full story and watch highlights of it here:

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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: ).

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

MCFC Score 4 At Anfield

On this day (7th February) in 2021 League leaders Manchester City managed a 4-1 victory over reigning Champions Liverpool. It was the Blues’ greatest win at Anfield for over 80 years.

The Blues have struggled to win at Anfield over the last 40 years (I don’t need to go through the stats, City fans get bombarded with them every time there’s a game at Anfield! So the 2021 resounding victory over Liverpool was significant. City ended up winning the League by 12 points with Manchester United second.

In 1937 the Blues managed a 5-0 victory on Good Friday (and three days later won 5-1 at Maine Road). That season the Blues went on to win the League, as they did in 2021 of course.

As the above advert shows, it cost 3 shillings for a return train fare to Anfield that day (sadly no fans were allowed in 2021).

Here’s how the MCFC match programme remembered the 1937 victory:

I love that advert – so appropriate!

Here are the League results and table following that historic win at Anfield. It’s interesting to see which clubs are no longer members of football’s top division and which of today’s giants are missing.

Here are a few snippets from a Liverpool based newspaper telling the story of that day:

Here’s a few stats from the victory over Liverpool in 2021:

  • Sterling became the third player to score 100 or more goals under Guardiola, after Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (211) and City’s Sergio Aguero (120).
  • Of all players to score at least 10 goals within the top five European leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) this season, only Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland (20 years 2021 days) is younger than Phil Foden (20 years 255 days). Now where have we heard of Haaland?
  • Since netting his first goal of the season on 15 December 2020, Ilkay Gundogan had scored at least three more Premier League goals than any other player (nine).
  • At 20 years and 255 days Phil Foden is the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game at Anfield.
  • Oleksandr Zinchenko made his 50th Premier League appearance on that day.

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