Royal Reactions (part two)

On 17th of this month I posted the first part of a two part feature on the royal family and Manchester City. Now, as promised, here’s the second part focusing on visits to Manchester City by the UK monarchs over the decades plus a few other snippets. Enjoy this free to read article…

Before I start with part two here’s a link to the first part of the feature:

Over the years Manchester City has proved to be a very popular club for visits by significant members of the British Royal family and of other nations’ royalty.  Whether this has anything to do with the club’s success, the stadium’s importance, or the role of Manchester in terms of industry and commercial activity is unclear (probably a bit of all of that!). There have been two major royal visits to Maine Road and there has been a significant visit to the club’s former ground at Hyde Road (though some people incorrectly think there have been two!). In addition, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh plus other senior royals visited the City of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad) twice for the Commonwealth Games. Prince Philip was creating history by becoming the first senior member of the Royal family to visit two of City’s venues. 

The first Royal visit to Maine Road was on 20 October 1934 when the Duke of York (future King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II’s father) watched City’s 1-0 defeat by Derby County.  Prior to the match the Duke was introduced to both sides and then he took his seat at the front of the Directors’ Box. The previous year he had witnessed City’s FA Cup final defeat to Everton at Wembley.

The next major Royal visit came on Thursday 7 May 1964 when Prince Philip witnessed a City-United derby match. The game had been organised by the Variety Club of Great Britain as a charity fund raiser for underprivileged children, and it had been hoped a capacity crowd of over sixty thousand would be present, however appalling weather limited the attendance to approximately 36,000. Philip, as with the Duke of York thirty years earlier, sat in the Directors’ Box, although this time, according to newspaper reports the box had been decked out with flowers and was christened the Royal Box for the evening.

The game ended with Philip presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Cup to United’s captain Denis Law on the pitch in the pouring rain. Thousands of children, according to local reports, swarmed on to the pitch, as the Duke became drenched. Interestingly, Philip’s visit to the Commonwealth Games in 2002 also saw him suffer with the rain. Perhaps he remembered his 1964 visit as he waited for the 2002 Games to end!

City’s current stadium has welcomed a variety of international royal guests, including the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, who attended City v Liverpool in March 2017, while Maine Road saw several visits by middle eastern princes and others over the years. 

The most significant Royal visit of all to a City venue has to be the 1920 appearance of King George V at Hyde Road. This was the first visit to a provincial ground by a reigning monarch and as such is of immense importance. A month or so earlier the King had gone to watch a FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Leicester.

Subscribers can read more on that visit here:

It has been suggested that twenty years earlier, however, Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII), attended Hyde Road. This is a myth – please don’t believe it! I’m always keen on finding evidence and the author who propagated this story actually mistook City director Joshua Parlby for the future King on a photograph! 

I’ve performed extensive research on this so-called visit and have revealed in earlier books (most notably Farewell To Maine Road in 2003) that the visit did not occur. As with all myths I try to work backwards to understand how these things take hold and why some become convinced (don’t get me started on the myth about Anna Connell!). I find it helps to get to the source because that way it becomes clear why someone who hasn’t performed detailed research becomes convinced. So, here’s the story of how some authors have incorrectly claimed a royal visit in 1900…

Back in 1930 City’s first true history, Manchester City Football Club Souvenir History by Fred Johnson, stated: ‘The Hyde Road ground was honoured with the presence of His Majesty the King on March 27th 1900 when Liverpool were opposed.’ This is clearly a typographical error as the incident it refers to is the visit of King George on 27 March 1920 (Liverpool were the visitors). 

This explains the birth of the error but a photograph has also been produced by one author ‘showing’ the King at Hyde Road. It shows nothing of the sort and the photo (below) is clearly a red herring. It is Hyde Road (the stand in the background is the Stone Yard Stand) but the two gentlemen wearing top hats have been claimed to be leading royals with the one closest to the camera supposedly future King Edward. However, he is not. I’ve compared these photos to others in my collection and published in the early 1900s. These images are actually from the visit of future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in September 1900.

Balfour was the only significant visitor that day and his head actually appears on the image (between the ladies and the top-hatted men). One of the women is described as Balfour’s daughter on another photo from this day. The top-hatted gent at the back is City director W. Richmond (director between 1896 and 1902), while the other top-hatted man looks an awful lot like Joshua Parlby (the club’s former manager and a director in 1900). 

Regardless of this myth, it is amazing that three successive monarchs had attended City’s grounds, albeit in George VI’s case he was still Duke of York when he attended Maine Road in 1934.   

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King George V at Hyde Road

In March 1920 King George V – the present King’s great-grandfather – visited Hyde Road to watch City V Liverpool. This was the first time a reigning monarch had attended a match outside of London and as such this was a major honour for the Blues. Here for subscribers is the story of that day….

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David White Double v Liverpool

On this day (21 August) a Wednesday night meeting with Liverpool ended in a 2-1 victory for Manchester City. You can see highlights of the game (and relive the days of night matches on the Kippax/at Maine Rd) including two David White goals here:

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

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:

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Musampa’s Strike V Liverpool

On this day (April 9) in 2005 a 90th minute volley from Kiki Musampa – his first for the Blues – at the northern end of the stadium gave Manchester City a 1-0 home victory over eventual European Champions Liverpool.  This was Stuart Pearce’s first league victory as City manager.

The Musampa goal was described at the time as a ‘spectacular volley’ – You can judge for yourself here:

Former City and England captain Pearce guided the Blues through the final nine games of 2004-05 after the departure of Kevin Keegan.  Apart from a 2-1 defeat in his first game, the Blues were unbeaten until the end of the season.  This run included the victory over Liverpool and wins over Birmingham (3-0), Portsmouth (2-0) and Aston Villa (2-1).       

As a result Pearce was named the Barclays Premiership Manager of the Month for April. 

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)

The Great Jimmy Ross

On this day (24th 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:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/22/hyde-v-preston-a-record-breaking-day/

Where Were You?

On this day (January 20) in 1900 the attendance stats (see image) seen here were published in various newspapers. Of course, as a historian who researches these sorts of things it does not surprise me at all that Manchester City were the best supported club at this stage. However, I can understand why some may have been surprised back then. City had only just been promoted for the first time the previous season.

In the end Manchester’s Blues ended the season as the third best supported club with an average of 16,000 (League champions Aston Villa attracted 19,825 and 5th placed Newcastle 16,725). City ended the season 7th in the top division.

For those wondering Newton Heath (Manchester United) averaged 6,225 and were the 16th best supported club. Liverpool averaged 11,325 and were 5th best supported club.

Imagine Scoring Four Goals For MCFC Against Liverpool On Your Debut!

On this day (18th January) in 1913 Manchester City’s Fred Howard scored four goals on his debut against Liverpool at Hyde Road.  I love the description of Howard in one report of this game: ‘Howard, a hefty individual who apparently does not believe in allowing the full backs free kicks, had pounced on the ball’. I think we’ve all seen a few ‘hefty individuals’ who did not ‘believe in allowing the full backs free kicks’ over the years!

A report also warns that Howard: ‘would do well to remember that he will not always be served as he was on this occasion. Nor will he have a much easier task’. I’m pretty sure Howard did not expect to score four goals in every game.

Howard, from Walkden, ended his City career after scoring 43 goals in 90 first team competitive games. Note in this article (below) the use of the nickname Citizens to describe the Blues. Maybe one day I’ll do a piece on club nicknames but I do know that many fans didn’t feel the word Citizens (or Cityzens as it is usually written these days at the club) had much to do with the club when City re-adopted it a few years back. It was certainly used a lot when talking of the club from 1894 through to perhaps the inter-war period.

Three of Howard’s goals came in a 13 minute spell as the Blues won 4-1. It was regarded as the greatest debut feat by any player at the time. Even now, over a century later, it’s hard to think of any player having a better debut.

Over the years plenty have talked of players scoring hat-tricks on debuts around the globe but how often do you hear of a player scoring four in the top flight of a major League against a team that is regarded as one of your main rivals? After this game Liverpool had dropped to 13th in the First Division, while City were fifth.

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