Inaccuracies and Myths

Over the last couple of years, usually when there’s a Manchester Derby, a number of myths, inaccuracies and twisting of the facts occurs. It’s usually just fan banter. I don’t normally get involved and try to ensure that whatever I post is factually based and something that is true. However, this week a number of supposed facts about the relationship between City and United have been posted that someone has claimed are ‘facts’ I’ve promoted in my work. So, to allow everyone to see the truth and what I have actually stated I’ve included below the supposed facts as they have been posted by others and then followed that with the truth based on years of research, triangulation etc. First of all the supposed ‘facts’…

This image has been posted outlining ways in which Manchester City are supposed to have helped United. Many of these are inaccurate, complete fabrications or exaggerated and I’d like to state quite clearly the following image does not reflect my views (apart from the bit I’ve added saying: ‘Not to be quoted – Inaccurate’).

This image is not my work and is not to be quoted as it contains inaccuracies.

So, now for the facts…

Starting from the top… 1931 – Nowhere do I say in my writing that City provided United with kit. I have never found any evidence whatsoever to say this is true. I do quote a City fan in my work who talks about how United fans gave themselves the nickname Rags in the 1930s because their kit looked ragged, but that’s a fan story and does not correlate with any evidence of City providing any kit to the Reds. 

In any case United are known to have worn blue before 1931 and at no time, based on years of research by lots of people, did City give United kit. After World War Two City asked fans to help City get kit via fan clothing rations, but that’s not connected with United or 1931. I think (but don’t know, so don’t misquote this) that United may have done the same.

Next the stuff about 1945. I am mystified as to where all that stuff has come from about players going from City to United to help with construction? That’s definitely not something from any book or article I’ve written and no research I’m aware of (certainly not by me) has ever claimed this. I’d love to know what evidence has been found for this. If it’s there then great, but evidence and triangulation are definitely needed when supposed ‘facts’ like these are written. 

Also, Old Trafford was bombed in 1941 not 1945 and United used Maine Rd for about 8 years.

Next the first point about 1958… Again I’d love to know where all that stuff about wages, transport & equipment costs has come from. I’ve never written that. City offered to help United in whatever way they could but to say City covered the costs of all that is a massive exaggeration. 

On the second point about 1958… United did continue to play in the European Cup after Munich so that’s wrong for a start. UEFA did not offer City a place in the competition that City turned down. What happened was that UEFA said if United couldn’t play on then it would be right for City, as a Manchester club, to continue on United’s behalf. The FA said that they would choose a team not UEFA and that it would be Wolves (as they had been second in League). City said they would help United however possible to ensure they played on – that was their aim. Bert Trautmann offered translation services etc. 

The problem is that whenever City’s help for United is exaggerated (or anything like this either way) it makes it easier for others to challenge and then the genuine, real facts get lost. City have helped United a lot over the last 125 years and the facts do not need exaggerating. In my books I talk of City’s cash donations in the early years of the last century which are all properly documented and recorded; of the two clubs working together in an act that was widely perceived by the media as protecting United and killing off the threat from Manchester Central; of the close-relationship between the clubs at times; of the offer to use Maine Road in 1941 (they did offer but that fact gets lost with all that inaccurate stuff); of the offer to use Maine Road again in 1956; of the close relationship and support in 1958… You can read the facts of all this in Manchester A Football History and also in various articles on this site. In fact the whole Manchester A Football History is available to download for annual subscribers here:

Sorry to have gone on about this but facts, evidence and triangulation are important. These are essential to my work and so when someone tells me that a load of inaccurate information is being circulated as fact and that it’s come directly from my work then I have to explain. Banter between rival fans is one thing but please don’t exaggerate or twist stories and claim that I’ve said they are facts when I haven’t.

The Origins of Manchester City: Facts Not Fiction

Manchester City’s birth as City in April 1894 was a major landmark moment and is rightly celebrated today on the club’s badge. But, this came after over 14 years of development as a community club representing districts in east Manchester. For this subscriber piece I’ve decided to focus on the earliest years of the club that became City, focusing on the period before 1884. I explain some of the myths that have developed and highlight the facts.

The Origins

Manchester City’s birth as City in April 1894 was a major landmark moment and is rightly celebrated today on the club’s badge. But, this came after over 14 years of development as a community club representing districts in east Manchester. For this website piece today I’ve decided to focus on the earliest years of the club that became City, focusing on the period before 1884.

In the beginning

St Mark’s Church opened in West Gorton – a separate township to Gorton and outside the city’s boundaries at the time – in 1865. In the years that followed the rector Arthur Connell (pictured above) and his wife Anna worked tirelessly for the parish and as his family grew (he had a son and two daughters) they became involved in parish activities, especially his daughter Georgina. She established a number of initiatives while her siblings pursued careers elsewhere. Big sister Anna worked as a Governess, near Preston, returning by 1879 when she established a Working Men’s Club at St Mark’s.

Over the years many myths have developed and so it is important to spell out the facts as we know them based on the latest research. One of the myths is that Anna Connell established the football club. There is no evidence whatsoever that she actually did this. Prior to 1983 no publication ever credited the club’s formation to Anna and no contemporary reports mention her in connection with the football club at all. The story of how her name became linked is a long complicated one which I’ve spelt out in several publications, including Manchester: A Football History (2nd edition, 2010), Manchester The City Years (2012). My Manchester City Folklore book provides the latest research. Paul Toovey, author of several City books, has also analysed this period in great detail.

What is known

Within a couple of years of St Mark’s Church opening a cricket club was established. This played in the late 1860s and by the late 1870s had grown, comprising of at least two teams. Church Warden William Beastow was involved with the cricket team, as were his sons, and at some point in either 1879 or 1880 the younger men and boys decided to add other sporting activities. They established a rugby team and an association football team with both their earliest known games occurring in November 1880. Both the rugby and cricket teams eventually faded but the football team developed and grew. Beastow retained involvement with the sports clubs. 

By 1883 the football club dropped references to the church from its name and later that year it merged with another team called Belle Vue Rangers.

The Founders?

The desire to find names attached to the formation of any club is often fruitless. Historians search for firsts, founders and the like but the truth is that the birth of any organisation is rarely the idea of one person. With St Mark’s people have incorrectly linked the formation of the Working Men’s Club by Anna Connell with the founding of the St Mark’s Cricket Club and ultimately the formation of the football club by cricketers was seen by some as having a direct link to Anna (I fell for this myself for a while!). However, the cricket club predates the Working Men’s Club and, if match reports are anything to go by, it came to prominence at a time in the late 1860s/1870s when Anna was living near Preston. 

There’s no doubt that the community ethos espoused by the Rev Arthur Connell and some members of his family contributed to the well-being of St Mark’s parishioners and may have inspired some to establish clubs and activities, but none of the Connell family could be said to be founders of the football club. That was the boys and young men who played cricket.

One of the boys, Walter Chew, became a major figure in both our club’s history and in Manchester football. In later year he spoke on the BBC and to newspapers on several occasions of the birth of the club. To him it was perfectly clear who founded it and that was his older brother William and some of his friends. One of the older boys, William Sumner, is believed to have been the club’s first captain and his arrival in West Gorton around 1879 coincides with St. Mark’s move into both forms of football. He was an engineering student lodging in Gorton and was also a member of the St. Mark’s cricket club, though Walter did not name Sumner in his interviews.

Walter Chew did play his part in City’s formative seasons though. As well as appearing in some games (many of William’s appearances have previously been credited to Walter but both men did appear for the club in the early 1880s) he was the founder, alongside his cousin, of Belle Vue Rangers. He contributed to the purchase of the club’s first ball and in 1883 he was with the Rangers when they merged with West Gorton. 

There’s much more to be said and written about these formative years but after the merger between West Gorton and Belle Vue Rangers many of the players from the merged club established Gorton AFC in 1884 and, wearing their newly adopted black shirts with white cross pattee, they posed for their first team photo – the earliest known image of our club.

So, here we are around 140 years later. A club created by the boys and young men who played cricket within a supportive community environment encouraged by the church of St Mark’s.  The formation of the club was never about an individual, it was about building a team and community spirit.