40 Years Ago Today: Trevor Francis Debut

I feel old today as 40 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 recently 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).

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 First PL Season Ends and Swales Out!

The 1992-93 season ended on May 8 with a 5-2 defeat for Manchester City at home to Everton. The Blues finished ninth in the inaugural Premier League campaign – not a particularly depressing position but this had been a strange season. There had been protests throughout the season. 

Here for subscribers is some explanation of what happened:

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Congratulations Manchester City

Last night Manchester City reached the final of the Champions League for the first time in their history. Manchester has now become only the second non-capital city to have had two teams reach a European Cup final. Manchester was of course the first British city to have two teams competing in the European Cup in the same season (1968-69).

Last night was a remarkable night and other records were established:

  • City broke the record for longest winning run by an English club in European Cup history (7)
  • They became the first English side to win 11 games in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign (they are one off equalling Real Madrid’s record of 12 games)

This Champions League win is an important step in the club’s journey and to celebrate I’m going to make my special 1 hour audio recording commemorating an earlier important step in this journey free to listen to until May 12th.

This audio recording was made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final victory over Manchester United at Wembley (April 16 2011). To me that game was a crucial step towards the success that came over the ten years that followed, just like last night’s feels like a major step in the club’s development.

The audio recording looks at the years between the 1976 League Cup success and the FA Cup glory of 2011. The 2011 semi-final was a crucial step in City’s journey since the 2008 takeover and I felt it was vital to do a special marking this.

So what’s in this special recording? Well, I’ve included exclusive material from interviews and recordings I’ve done over the years with Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Roberto Mancini, Peter Barnes and Peter Swales.  Why Swales? Well, have a listen and you’ll hear why. Basically though I’m trying to set the tone for why the 2011 FA Cup semi final victory was so significant.

On Mancini… I include a few words from him recorded in 2011 and at one point he talks about the view that was then being expressed that City were ‘trying’ to buy success (now they say City ‘have’ bought success!). His words are a reminder that City have been having that particular criticism thrown at them for over a decade! Oh well, I wonder how long those criticisms were laid at other clubs who had seen major investment which propelled them forward?

Anyway, get yourself a brew and be prepared to be transported back in time. Here’s the recording:

If you enjoy the recording then please let me know, comment or subscribe to the site. If it’s of interest then, over the coming months and years, I’ll produce others like this highlighting key points in Manchester City – and Manchester’s – footballing history. It costs £20 a year to subscribe (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (you can always try it for a month). It’s worth bearing in mind that the 2010 Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 and all subscribers will be able to access all of that for as long as they are a subscriber (plus all the other stuff of course). You can subscribe below.

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Parallels – MUFC 2021 and MCFC 1993?

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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Restored 2011: The All-Manchester FA Cup Semi Final

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final victory over Manchester United at Wembley (April 16 2011) I’ve produced Restored 2011: The All-Manchester FA Cup Semi Final. This special 1 hour audio recording looks at the game and the years between the 1976 League Cup success and the FA Cup glory of 2011. The 2011 semi-final was a crucial step in City’s journey since the 2008 takeover and I felt it was vital to do a special marking this.

Following last night’s Champions League victory for City (May 4th – City beat PSG to reach the Champions League final) this will now be free to listen to until May 12th. After that date, as with audio recordings with John Bond, Malcolm Allison and George Graham (and hundreds of articles), it will only be available to subscribers to the site. So, if you don’t subscribe, have a listen now while you can.

So what’s in this special recording? Well, I’ve included exclusive material from interviews and recordings I’ve done over the years with Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Roberto Mancini, Peter Barnes and Peter Swales.  Why Swales? Well, have a listen and you’ll hear why. Basically though I’m trying to set the tone for why the 2011 FA Cup semi final victory and overcoming Manchester United was so significant.

On Mancini… I include a few words from him recorded in 2011 and at one point he talks about the view that was then being expressed that City were ‘trying’ to buy success (now they say City ‘have’ bought success!). His words are a reminder that City have been having that particular criticism thrown at them for over a decade! Oh well, I wonder how long those criticisms were laid at other clubs who had seen major investment which propelled them forward?

Anyway, get yourself a brew and be prepared to be transported back in time. Here’s the recording:

If you enjoy the recording then please let me know, comment or subscribe to the site. If it’s of interest then, over the coming months and years, I’ll produce others like this highlighting key points in Manchester City – and Manchester’s – footballing history. It costs £20 a year to subscribe (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (you can always try it for a month). It’s worth bearing in mind that the 2010 Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 and all subscribers will be able to access all of that for as long as they are a subscriber (plus all the other stuff of course). You can subscribe below.

Subscribe to get access to the full site

£20 per year to access everything

Match Stats for the 2011 FA Cup Semi-final

City 1-0 United (HT 0-0)

Yaya Toure 52

City: 25 Hart 04 Kompany (yellow card), 05 Zabaleta (yellow card), 13 Kolarov, 19 Lescott, 11 Johnson (Wright-Phillips 79), 18 Barry, 21 Silva (Vieira 86), 34 De Jong (yellow card), 42 Y Toure, 45 Balotelli (yellow card). Substitutes 12 Taylor, 38 Boyata, 07 Milner, 08 Wright-Phillips, 24 Vieira, 10 Dzeko, 27 Jo

United: 01 Van der Sar, 03 Evra, 05 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic, 22 O’Shea (Fabio Da Silva 84), 13 Park Ji-Sung, 16 Carrick, 17 Nani, 18 Scholes (red card), 25 Valencia (Hernandez 65), 09 Berbatov (Anderson 74). Substitutes 29 Kuszczak, 12 Smalling, 20 Fabio Da Silva, 08 Anderson, 28 Gibson, 07 Owen, 14 Hernandez

Referee: Dean

Attendance: 86,549

The Sacking of Ron Saunders

On this day (April 11) in 1974, despite bold statements from new Manchester City Chairman Peter Swales at the time of his appointment, manager Ron Saunders was dismissed after less than five months in the role.  In March Saunders’ City had been defeated 2-1 in the League Cup final against Wolves. 

Here for subscribers are Peter Swales’ comments (from an interview I did with him shortly before he died) on the dismissal:

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Manchester City’s Chairmen and Life Presidents

For the benefit of subscribers to my website I decided to compile for the first time ever a full list of Manchester City’s chairmen since the club’s earliest known game in 1880 through to this season:

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If you would like to read this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 250+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Spurs, The Umbro Stand, Swales Out and That Pitch Invasion!

On this day (7th March) in 1993 Manchester City faced Tottenham in the FA Cup Quarter-Final at Maine Road. It was a day that saw the media express shock at the behaviour of City’s fans when they invaded the pitch during the tie with Spurs.  They condemned the supporters without understanding the background story.  To put the record straight it’s vital the day’s events are covered correctly.  Here for subscribers is the full story of that game, including quotes from Niall Quinn and Peter Swales (from my interviews with them in the years since that day…

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If you would like to read this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 260+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.