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.”
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.
Some people say that history repeats. I’m not so certain about that but I do think we can learn a lot from history about modern society and how things develop. Actions are often similar decades apart and, unless we learn from what’s gone before, we do often make similar mistakes or not consider how things could turn out. Parallels should be looked for and considered.
This weekend (May 2 2021) has seen the postponement of the Manchester United – Liverpool Premier League game due to concerns over the safety of players and staff. Whether it should have been or whether there had been any potential for players to be injured is debateable but postponed it was.
United fans had been protesting on the forecourt outside Old Trafford a few hours before the match and some managed to find their way into the stadium. Footage of some smashing a door down and others seemingly walking straight into the stadium at a door manned by stewards have circulated, causing various conflicting views as to how fans managed to get into a stadium that should be impenetrable (if a few hundred fans can get in to a closed and secure stadium what does this say about the general security of the venue?).
The fans that made it in to the stadium found their way on to the pitch and television broadcast the scenes. Eventually the stadium was cleared, although Sky TV told us of a second group of fans who had got into the stadium through the second tier. Ultimately, all fans were cleared but the game was postponed. Fans were also positioned outside the Lowry Hotel where the United team were and television told us that there were concerns as to whether the team would be able to safely travel to Old Trafford.
Similar views were expressed about Liverpool (don’t get me started on the safety of teams arriving at Anfield!).
Whether any player was in actual danger or not didn’t seem to matter. This was the view being expressed by those paid to describe the scene.
So, what should we make of all this? Well, we have been told that the protests were against the owners of Manchester United, the Glazer family, and the birth of the European Super League. The Super League plan has been halted (I’m sure it will keep coming back as the birth of the Premier League did) but the Glazers still own United.
I opened this post by saying how parallels should be looked for and considered and, as a historian, I cannot help but compare what’s happened this weekend with events at Manchester City in 1993. Back then the Blues were run by chairman Peter Swales.
Swales had mismanaged the club for two decades and had taken a hugely profitable and successful club, piled it with debt and seen it lose pace with some of its traditional rivals. Fans had been angry about his chairmanship for years and had demonstrated regularly. Swales Out was often the most popular chant at Maine Road and the pre and post-match demonstrations were an everyday part of life as a City supporter. Fans loved City but hated Swales.
Inevitably, when City were successful the Swales Out protests were not as visible as they were at times of failure – and this has been true at United. There have been many, many United fans who have constantly highlighted the faults of the club’s ownership and they have campaigned, but the wider fan base has been quiet when the successes have occurred. This was true at City (though successes were less frequent at City during Swales’ chairmanship).
Frustrations at Manchester City continued, even when the club had relatively successful seasons. For example, the Blues finished fifth two years running in 1991 & 1992 – poor by 1970s standards but better than the 80s – but fans still wanted Swales out. Part of the reason lay in his support for the proposed Premier League, which began in 1992-93 but had been discussed for several years before that (it was initially planned as a complete breakaway from the Football League by the biggest clubs who were determined to reduce the money they passed down to the rest of football – hmm, parallels here that often get forgotten!).
The Premier League was anticipated to make the rich richer and clubs that had lost their way, like City because of Swales and his supporting directors who had placed the club in enormous debt (for the time) which meant they struggled to compete for the best, were going to make up the numbers to some extent.
The first season of the Premier League went okay for Manchester City. They finished ninth which was a little disappointing but in itself was not the main concern. That was still Swales’ chairmanship and the general mood was poor. Fans had had enough.
City’s chance of glory that season faded in a FA Cup quarter final with Tottenham and fans’ frustrations at their chairman and directors spilled out. It was a day when Swales’ new stand was opened – the Umbro Stand – and this was small-time compared to the club’s history and heritage. The stand it had replaced held over 9,000 seated. The new stand was basically two rows of executive boxes with about 4,500 seats in front. The ordinary fan felt that with that stand and the birth of the Premier League they were no longer relevant. Hospitality, money and TV deals seemed to matter most to club owners.
The frustrations that had been bubbling for years (and we must NEVER underestimate the efforts City fans made demonstrating against their directors and for how many years they did this) bubbled on to the pitch. Live television captured the scenes as City fans invaded the pitch and the FA Cup quarter final was halted.
The media criticised the couple of hundred fans who made it on to the pitch. They didn’t ask why they’d done it, they just assumed City fans were unhappy at losing a FA Cup game. Had they bothered to ask fans – I was there and knew the situation and have over the years discussed this extensively with people who were on the pitch – they would have realised that they climbed on to the pitch out of frustration. Frustration at the way football was developing and frustration at Peter Swales and his supporting directors.
Fans were right to be frustrated and history has shown that their predictions (covered extensively in City fanzines at the time) about the way football was developing to create an elite and more money for certain clubs was right.
I interviewed Peter Swales about two years after that pitch invasion and he told me that he should have listened to the fans and resigned that night. I agree – things would have been different for him and for City. Maybe in a few years the Glazers will say the same about this weekend?
That 1992-93 season saw Manchester United win the top flight for the first time in 26 years and United’s success brought added pressure to those in charge at Maine Road. The frustration of seeing your nearest rival achieve something that you’ve not done for years (City had been the last Manchester team to win the League prior to 1992-93 as they’d won it in 1967-68) gave fans further ammunition. Fans could point out to Swales that he became chairman of a club that had been hugely successful (four major trophies in the previous 5 seasons before his chairmanship) and profitable (previous chairman Eric Alexander was proud of the profitability of the Blues in the years before Swales). They could also ask ‘where did the money go’, ‘Why were we mismanaged?’ etc.
That event in City’s history is similar to some extent to what’s happened at United. Years of frustration at the owners/directors; the recognition that a rich club had been placed in significant debt; the proposed birth of a new league; the resurrection of a neighbour who seems destined to have a bright future just at a time when your directors don’t seem able or willing to compete etc.
The proposed change of structure to football, where greed of club owners seemed more important than what the fans wanted, was the catalyst to the demonstrations at United this weekend.
Please don’t be fooled into thinking this is a demonstration against the European Super League – that’s the catalyst but United fan dissatisfaction runs much deeper than that. As with City’s 1993 FAC quarter final defeat and the birth of the Premier League that season, these are catalysts that bring the wider fan base on board (and often the media attention), but they are not solely the cause.
In 1993 the media claimed City fans were unhappy because they’d lost the FAC tie. Well, yes, but they’d lost plenty of other FAC ties over the years and never invaded the pitch. That tie became the visible outpouring of dissatisfaction, just like the European Super League has created a situation which has allowed United fans to bring more visibility to their longstanding protests against the club’s owners.
So where do we go from here? Well, there’s one major change since 1993 and that is that the majority of media coverage seems to have sympathy with fans this time. But those working in the media should ensure they go and talk to the fans who were actually on the Old Trafford pitch and ask them why they were there. That would help frame the discussions about what it all actually meant. Some media coverages has said in rather simple terms that United fans were campaigning against the European Super League – no, it’s part of a long standing dissatisfaction with the club’s owners, but I’m not a fan who went on the pitch (that’s my interpretation but best way to find out is to ask those who were in Old Trafford).
In 1993 the media didn’t ask City fans why and they made assumptions which painted football fans extremely negatively. Instead of showing them as people who cared about how their club was developing they were presented as hooligans.
If we’re thinking about parallels then it’s worth considering what happened next in 1993 so that United fans can shape things differently or prepare for the worst! Back in 93 the momentum at Maine Road continued but, as with the widespread protest of the 1980s at City, nothing could change while the majority shareholders supported Swales. Put simply, if you own the club no amount of fan pressure can force you to sell. You only sell when you want to.
Swales felt the protests would die down (he explained all of this to me in an interview) but this time, as protests continued in 1993-94, former player Francis Lee decided to mount a takeover. That was eventually what forced Swales to stand down.
Sadly, for City the damage was done though and financially Lee’s City couldn’t compete with clubs who were able to spend freely like Blackburn (a major benefactor at the time) and those who were already benefitting financially from Premier League success. City ended up dropping to their worst ever position in the late 1990s and were financially adrift of many of their traditional rivals. Only the takeovers of 2007 and 2008 could help the club regain its position as a serious trophy challenger.
If we consider the City situation as an example, then it seems that the best chance United fans have got to change the ownership of the club is if someone like Gary Neville came in to front a major takeover of the club. Even then, as with City, it may well be that the damage done to the Reds and the debt placed on the club limits its future.
It does make you wonder what would have happened had Alex Ferguson, who had spoken out against the Glazers before the takeover, opposed the Glazers when they took over his club. Had Ferguson stood down back then maybe the protests against the Glazers would have been immense?
Football owners have never been properly policed and there are examples throughout the English league system of clubs whose futures were jeopardised by owners who have gambled on future success by borrowing to fund purchases, or who have sold club assets or placed a club in debt for their own personal gain. Change in football’s governance is needed. Simply changing owners is not the answer because football is a business and any owner wants his/her business to be profitable for him/her and shareholders.
Fans views, whether in the 1980s or 1990s campaigning against the Premier League and football chairmen, or in the 2020s campaigning against the Super League and football owners need to be listened to. Understand us and work with us – you might help make football an even greater spectacle.
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Following Manchester City’s victory in the League Cup last Sunday (April 25 2021) I’ve updated the table showing the span of success (above) – i.e. the number of years between a club’s first major success (FA Cup, League, League Cup, European trophy) and their most recent.
Despite the win City remain third behind Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers, though the gap with Blackburn is narrowing year on year at the moment.
Tottenham missed out on not only winning a major trophy last Sunday but also on leapfrogging City, Blackburn and Liverpool to take top spot! I doubt it would’ve made national headlines if they’d topped the span of success table though.
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 first became significant (often after transformational investment).
While you’re here… You can now order my new book, Peter Barnes: The Authorised Biography, and get your name printed in it (if ordered before May 15 2021). All orders before May 15 will also have their copy signed by me & Peter Barnes. To order see:
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.
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:
This is only a brief clip of my John Bond interview. The full interview is being uploaded here in stages for subscribers. More details here:
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:
After today’s (7th February 2021) 4-1 victory over reigning Champions Liverpool by League leaders Manchester City it’s worth highlighting a few of the records and the significance of today’s win in City’s history. It was the Blues’ greatest win at Anfield for over 80 years.
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 – hopefully this is a good omen for this season.
As the above advert shows, it cost 3 shillings for a return train fare to Anfield that day (sadly no fans were allowed today).
Here’s how the MCFC match programme remembered the victory:
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:
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! You can check all results here if you really want to: https://bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk/History/Matches/Opponent.aspx?id=15 ) and so today’s resounding victory over Liverpool is significant. Of course, it is only one result and anything is possible this season.
Here’s a few stats:
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 Braut Haaland (20 years 2021 days) is younger than Phil Foden (20 years 255 days).
Since netting his first goal of the season on 15 December, Ilkay Gundogan has 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 today.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 80+ years for City’s next 4 goal plus win at Anfield!
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Today marks the latest in the series of games between one of the Manchester clubs and a Liverpool team. Yesterday (6 February 2021) we saw Everton score an equaliser deep in extra time in their 3-3 draw with United). Much will be made of the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry today 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.
The 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!
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!).
Liverpool had only lost one of their opening 12 games when they came to Maine Road in October 1977, while the Blues – who had opened the season undefeated in their opening 8 matches – were now struggling. This blog post focuses on what happened when the two clubs met in October 1977:
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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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