The 2021 League Cup Final

On this day (25 April) in 2021 Manchester City defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 thanks to a Laporte goal in the League Cup final at Wembley. The game was played in front of a Covid restricted crowd of 7,773.

Here are highlights of that game:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/city-1-0-spurs-carabao-cup-extended-highlights-63754978

Pearce’s Blues

On this day (19 March) in 2005 Stuart Pearce managed Manchester City for the first time following the resignation of Kevin Keegan.  The game with Spurs ended in a 2-1 defeat with Reyna scoring for City at White Hart Lane. Pearce’s side went unbeaten for the rest of the season after this match.

Manchester City v Tottenham, FAC Semi 1956

On this day (17 March) in 1956 a solitary goal from Bobby Johnstone was enough to see Manchester City beat Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. Here for subscribers is the story of that day…

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San Francisco Blues

Recently I’ve been in San Francisco and was there when Manchester City played Spurs. I was invited to watch the game at Maggie McGarry’s with the San Francisco Blues. It was a great experience (we’ll ignore the result!) and here are a few thoughts and a bit of film from the day….

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to ALL the City fans who were there and who made us feel so welcome. It’s clearly a great supporters club and we really enjoyed our time there.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that MCFC has been a welcoming club over the decades and fans of the Blues have tended to be welcomed no matter where they are from or who they are. The San Francisco Blues are just as welcoming with wonderful hospitality too.

The branch contained several exiled Mancs, British and Irish members, as well as many, many US born City fans. This was great to see and I enjoyed listening to their stories of how they became City fans, or of how they came together to watch games at the bar. Two Mancs actually went to the same school (1 year apart) but didn’t know each other until they met in San Francisco through their City support. One was a history teacher in the States and asked me ’Was Billy Meredith guilty of the bribery charge?’ Hopefully, US children will now hear the rights and wrongs of FA investigations into perceived nouveau riche clubs, as City were called back in 1905 (I know!).

Some had travelled a couple of hours to get to the bar for the 930am kick off (California time of course!). from what I heard the same happens for earlier kick offs – some feat when you consider a regular 3pm UK kick off would be 7am local time. The landlord, who is also a Blue, opens the bar early for City games.

A few of the branch members had travelled to the Champions League final last year and others told me of their plans to get to the away games at Everton and Peterborough. The atmosphere on Manchester Derby Day is always special there – I think we’re all looking forward to next weekend. I’ll be in my regular seat by then of course but if you are a Blue in San Francisco get yourself down to Maggie McGarry’s.

I often get angry when rival fans or some in the media criticise football supporters for their loyalty, or when some state that ALL City fans are this or that when the truth is that we’re varied and have come to support City in lots of different ways. We live all over the world and show our dedication to the cause in ways that some don’t understand. Fans spend a considerable time, amount of money or put themselves out in lots of different ways to support their club.

I could go on but I’d just like to say thanks again to the San Francisco Blues. Their facebook page is here:

Here’s the scene at the bar when City equalised:

David Humphreys from the branch is heavily involved with a football club called San Francisco Vikings, formed in 1922. They focus on bringing kids through from age 3 onwards to adult leagues and to sponsor kids who can’t pay to play.

It may be some time before I’m in San Francisco again, but when I do make it I’ll aim to get back to the San Francisco Blues. Thanks again for making us so welcome.

Premier League Domination?

Recently it has been fashionable for some to talk of the Premier League being dominated by a single club or that the competition is no longer as entertaining as it was because the same old club(s) win the League. Well, this is absolute balderdash of course, but rather than simply say that I thought I’d look at the facts and the supporting evidence. So, if you’re someone who thinks football is more one sided today than it’s ever been, or someone who wants to challenge those who do, then please read on…

The idea that the League is a one club competition is usually stated in relation to Manchester City these days and recently, as City have increased their lead at the top, the view has been expressed over and over again by rivals and some journalists. Yet, the evidence shows otherwise. 

Firstly, at the time of writing Manchester City are 10 points clear of second placed Chelsea. However, if Liverpool win their game in hand then City will be only 8 points clear. I say only because 8 points is less than 3 victories difference and City still have to play both Chelsea and Liverpool, plus of course other potential rivals including Manchester United. 

I also say ‘only’ because we can all come up with seasons when one club has been eight points or more ahead and still lost the League – Manchester United fans will not need reminding about how far ahead they were in the 2011-12 title race as it entered its final weeks, only to see City snatch the title in dramatic fashion. 

Eight point leads are great to have but, at this point in a season, they do not mean you will be successful. Personally, I hope City are successful but no one seriously believes the title race is over and if they do then they really have not watched enough football!

Alongside the ridiculous view that the League is over there has been a frequently aired view that the League title is less competitive now than at any other time in history. Again, this is a ridiculous view that does not match with the evidence.

Much has been said by City’s rivals and others about how having one team dominating can be boring for English football. Whether that’s true or not is debateable but it’s worth pointing out that since City first won the Premier League in 2012 then five different clubs have won the competition (three of these being first time Premier League champions too!).

Five teams in a decade may not sound like much variety to some but it is better than the 2000s (1999-00 to 2008-09) when only three clubs won the League. Even worse between 1995 and 2004 either United or Arsenal won the title and their duopoly was only broken up when Chelsea became a force following their investment. Even then only those three teams won the League between 1994 and City’s first PL title in 2012! 

Had Chelsea not come along would United and Arsenal still be the only teams winning the League? The investment in both Chelsea and City has helped open up the League and, with a greater variety of clubs challenging, the League is now much more open. At the start of each season there are more teams perceived as potential title challengers than in the 2000s.

Did anyone say back when United and Arsenal had a duopoly at the top that the League was boring because it was the same old champions? I don’t remember leading journalists say that then so why now when the PL has had more variety of winners?

Even if City’s rivals or those critical of City’s success accept that United and Arsenal dominated the League back in the 2000s until the ‘new money’ of Chelsea and City came along they tend to suggest that previous decades had enjoyed more variety. Well some did but not all. The 1980s are perceived as an era when the League was varied yet only four clubs won the League during that decade (1979-80 to 1988-89). 

So the last decade has not been such a one-sided race after all and is better than the 1980s and 2000s for a start.

Those figures may surprise or shock some who believe City’s rivals or those who promote the view that City dominate the League like no other club ever has. However, I’m sure some will say ‘but it’s not just about League titles, it’s about trophy hauls too!’

Well, as a Manchester City fan I am proud of the success City have achieved during the last decade and I also recognise that they have not dominated in a way that other clubs have in previous periods. 

In terms of the most successful club of each era, well, Chelsea and City have clearly been the most successful during the 2010s (2009-10 to 2018-19). Their trophy hauls during this time are (excluding one-off competitions like the Community Shield or European Super Cup):

Chelsea: 10 major trophies (includes 3 major European trophies).

City: 10. 

Thinking of domination, it is worth highlighting that neither side has yet won as many trophies in a single decade as Manchester United did between 1989-90 and 1998-99 when they won 12 trophies. They also won ten trophies in the decade that followed. 

Again, I don’t remember negative coverage of United’s domination but somehow it seems fair to say Manchester City dominate today yet their trophy haul has not reached the heights of United yet, plus their trophy haul during the 2010s was the same as Chelsea’s anyway (and since then Chelsea have won another European Champions League of course!).

But what about earlier decades and domination? Well, the 1970s (all trophies won in 1969-70 and 1978-79) – an era generally regarded as one of great variety with several clubs challenging – Liverpool won three times as many trophies as their nearest rivals (Manchester City were actually joint-second most successful English club during that period!). 

Those who have claimed in recent seasons that having one team dominating is boring may want to think back to how they felt during previous decades. 

Each era has its own successful teams but these vary over the decades with no club being regarded as a dominant club throughout its entire history. We’ve all experienced fallow periods or times of struggle, though some may not want to remember that.

Today, no team dominates English football (who remembers all those voices earlier this season telling us how open the League would be or that Liverpool/Chelsea/City/United/Tottenham would be victorious? All of whom could still win the League this year of course!).

There are plenty of issues with English and European football but can we all please remember that football domination has happened in the past and that the situation today is not as one (or two) sided as it was in some past decades. 

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“Ballet on Ice” – December 9 1967

It’s not often Manchester United supporters turn their backs on the Reds to support neighbours City, but that’s exactly what occurred in December 1967 following a thrilling Blue performance against Tottenham.  United supporter Bobby Greenroyd watched the game on Match of the Day and wrote to Maine Road afterwards:  “I am a regular Manchester United fan, but after Saturday’s game your next home gate will be increased by one.”  High praise, particularly as United themselves were on the verge of European Cup glory.

Why and how did this happen and which leading MCFC figure sneaked out to buy a bag of chips while the club celebrated its 1968 League title success? Here for subscribers is an article that explains all….

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Historic Name That Ground – Week 23 Answer

On Monday I asked you to name this ground. I said: ‘This is from the 1920s and is a ground that’s been featured before but this is a different photo and a different decade. The only other clue I’ll give is that this was a Premier League stadium into the 2010s.’

Well, did you get it?

It was Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane Stadium photographed in 1928.

There’ll be another ground to identify on Monday.

Dismal Days AFTER the MCFC Takeover

Here’s a flashback to a difficult period on this day in 2008…

City conceded twice in three consecutive League games during this period, dropping to 13th after a 2-1 defeat to Spurs on 9thNovember. It was a difficult time, especially as manager Mark Hughes felt aggrieved with some refereeing decisions. Most notably, Hughes was unhappy that Middlesbrough on 29th October had been awarded a highly debateable penalty by referee Lee Mason. Replays showed that there had been minimal contact between City’s Sturridge and Boro’s Wheater as the player went down outside the area. That goal switched control in the game. Hughes: “Wheater was not in full control of the ball, he was outside the box and the linesman did not give it. The shape of the game changed… All night the referee took it upon himself to make decisions that were quite frankly disappointing.”

After defeats at Bolton and at home to Spurs the media began to speculate that Mark Hughes’ position was in doubt. City, a point above the relegation zone, had suffered seven defeats in 12 League games causing journalist Daniel Taylor to comment: “Hughes is now at a club where the high expectation levels make him vulnerable…[Hughes] did not sound entirely convincing as he tried to pass some of the blame for this defeat to the referee Mike Dean for ‘not taking into account the [rainy] conditions’.”

It should be noted that City had ended the Spurs game with only nine players following the dismissals of Fernandes (26 min) & Dunne (83) and that Tottenham also had a man sent off. 

Match Stats:

2008-09

29 Oct  Middlesbrough (A)                    L 0-2                                        25,731

2 Nov   Bolton Wanderers (A)               L 0-2                                        21,095

9 Nov   Tottenham Hotspur (H)              L 1-2 Robinho                          41,893

Who Decides the Big Six?

Today I’m taking a look at the so-called current Premier League Big Six and the significance of football history. It frustrates me when people assume that any group of clubs have been the biggest throughout football history and so I’ve decided to post this article.

It considers the claims of the so-called Big Six and has some findings that may surprise fans of some of those Big Six clubs. This article is available to subscribers to my site. Subscribing costs £20 a year and subscribers have full access to everything posted on the site, including audio interviews with John Bond, Malcolm Allison, George Graham and others, plus the entire text of Manchester A Football History and a PDF of my first book From Maine Men to Banana Citizens. You can always try it out by subscribing £3 per month and cancel at any time. No matter whether you sign up for a year or a month at a time you get full access to everything for as long as you are a subscriber.

Anyway, here’s the article…

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Historic Name That Ground – Week 1 Answer

On Monday I asked you to name the ground featured in the above photo. Well, here’s the answer…

It’s Tottenham’s old White Hart Lane ground. I also asked if anyone knew the event being staged… It’s a boxing match between 32 year old British Heavyweight Champion Jack London and 24 year old Bruce Woodcock (the winner in the 6th round) in July 1945. There was an attendance of almost 40,000 and this was the first commercial boxing event in the open air in England since 1939.

London’s the boxer on the left with Woodcock on the right.

Come back on Monday for the next ‘Historic Name That Ground’.

Each week for the next few weeks I’ll post an image of a football ground taken in the past and you can see if you can recognise the ground. Some will be easy (believe it or not there are some grounds that have not changed much in all those decades!), others not so. You’ll be able to post your view in comments at the bottom of each page.

The following Friday I’ll post the answer.