The Starting Eleven – Ray Ranson

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, 1981’s number two Ray Ranson.

Despite being only twenty at the time of the 1981 FA Cup Final, England under-21 right back Ray Ranson had been a member of City’s first team for over two years.  After making a name with both the Merseyside and England schoolboy sides, Ranson signed as an apprentice for the Blues in July 1976.  Other sides, including Liverpool, Leeds and Arsenal, had shown interest in him, but once he arrived at Maine Road his love of the Blues developed at a pace.  The right back later admitted that he became ‘City daft’ from the moment he arrived.  

Ranson’s first team opportunity came when he was 18 following injury to Kenny Clements.  He made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 23 December 1978 and the following season, after several impressive performances both for club and at Under-21 level for England, he established himself as the Blues’ regular right-back.  This meant that he was already a very experienced defender, despite his age, when the 1981 final was staged.

The match programme for the 1981 final described him as a “player of high potential” and it is true that much was expected of him at Wembley.  In the 29th minute of the first game, Ranson didn’t disappoint as he played a huge part in ensuring the Blues took the lead.  An exciting exchange of passes between Dave Bennett and Kevin Reeves near the right corner led to a great centre by Ranson.  Tommy Hutchison dived spectacularly to head the opening goal.

Ultimately, the final went to a replay.  In the seventh minute Spurs took the lead.  Three minutes later it was Ranson’s free-kick that led to City’s equaliser.  His kick was met by a half clearance which allowed Steve Mackenzie to volley home from 20 yards – a goal that was worthy of winning any cup final.  Sadly, Spurs went on to win the final with a goal that has become one of the most repeated in television history and one that must pain Ranson every time he sees it.  During an amazing weaving run Ricky Villa seemed to pass a dozen players but he actually passed Tommy Caton twice, Ranson and then Joe Corrigan.  Ranson will forever be reminded of this.  It’s an absolute certainty that at some point on Cup Final day this year the right-back will be forced to relive the nightmare moment once again.      

After Wembley Ranson remained a City regular during a difficult period for the Blues.  Then in November 1984 the St. Helens’ born player moved to Birmingham City.  At the time it was reported he had fallen out with manager Billy McNeill.  The fee City received was a bargain £15,000 – desperately low for a FA Cup finalist who was still only 24.  At St. Andrew’s he won promotion alongside City in 1985.  

Ranson later played for Newcastle – under Kevin Keegan for a spell – and then returned to Maine Road initially on loan under Peter Reid in January 1993.  

A move to Reading came in the summer of 1993, but a serious Achilles injury in February 1994 prematurely ended his time there.  Ranson eventually became player-manager of Witton Albion, before becoming involved with the finance industry.

Shortly after City’s move to the new stadium, media reports suggested Ranson was interested in buying into the Blues, then similar stories appeared linking him with a potential takeover of Aston Villa.  Later in the decade stories suggested he had come close to taking over City, but ultimately he fronted a takeover of Coventry City.  Ray Ranson became chairman of the ‘other’ Sky Blues in December 2007 but stood down at the end of March this year (2011) taking on a football consultancy role saying:  “I am more than happy to assist the new Chairman and Board as well as the football management team to get our results back on track.”

Ranson’s City career saw him make a total of 234 (plus 2 as substitute) appearances but interestingly Ranson’s spell with the Blues in 1993 meant that he was the only member of City’s 1981 FA Cup final team to appear for the Blues in the Premier League.

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