Saturday, October 21, 2023


 Bobby Charlton by Mark Meadowcroft

This is a flex, but Sir Bobby Charlton did play for “Manchester” in Bert Trautmann’s testimonial. 

In fairness, there were 60,000 witnesses at Maine Road, he was famously pictured in a sky blue shirt, he played with Denis Law (who’s really one of us) and if we can’t bend the rules for a Knight of the Realm and a holder of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, then when can we?

Charlton was unquestionably world class, a serial league winner, a European Cup winner and of course a World Champion. But his role as the fulcrum of the team that survived the wreckage in Munich made him a man that transcended his club and his sport.

What more could he have achieved with the friends he lost at Munich? Purely internationally, in 1966, Duncan Edwards and Eddie Colman would have strengthened an already excellent team. In 1962, he could also have combined with peak Jimmy Greaves and a 30 year old Tommy Taylor.

He was also a wise Director at United. How they have missed his counsel. 

City are the next league visitors to Old Trafford. 

It will be an honour to help commemorate his life.

England line up in Guadalajara, Mexico for their opening game of the World Cup finals. Both Bobby Charlton and Francis Lee, lost to the football world this week, featured in the starting line up.

Friday, October 20, 2023


📸Season 1979-80 First Division

📆25th August 1979

🏟 Maine Road

Early season home action between City and Brighton in a 3-2 thriller in favour of the Blues.

Image shows goalmouth action at the Brighton end, watched by a well-stocked Kippax. The goalkeeper making the acrobatic save is Eric Steele, who would go on to total 87 Brighton appearances, before moving on to Watford in time to be a part of their surge into the big time, although his appearances there were restricted by Steve Sherwood and later Tony Coton. On retiring to run a pub, Steele set up a goalkeeping school and later resurfaced at City as goalkeepers' coach in 2007 as a replacement for the departing Tim Flowers.

Crumpling to the ground in front of Steele is Michael Robinson, the City striker finished as top scorer this season, but with a feeble 9 goals. His 46th minute penalty past Steele put City 3-1 up in a rollercoaster game that had seen Teddy Maybank equalise Paul Power's 24th minute opener. In between ex-England striker Mike Channon (2) had already netted City's second. Robinson would move to Brighton and score freely against City, before heading for a surprise upgrade to Liverpool and a career playing for the Republic of Ireland. Channon would also head to the south coast, but in his case back to his first love Southampton, where he would also call in the Law of the Ex-Player, by scoring twice against City in the opening game of the 1980-81 season. 

Attempting to mark Channon in this instance is future BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson, who, like Robinson, would end up at Anfield and play for the Republic and would be remembered as one of Brighton's best-ever players.

Completing the picture is no.2, John Gregory, who would go on to become a classy midfielder for QPR, Derby and Aston Villa, winning 6 England caps along the way. Curiously, he ended up managing these three clubs too, as well as Plymouth, who he had also briefly played for. Is there another individual who has both played for and managed as many as four clubs? Gregory's only tenuous link to City was that he became one of the regular names linked with the club whenever a management vacancy came up at Maine Road/the City of Manchester Stadium, but he never made it past the newspapers' gossip shortlists.

In Brighton's side on this sunny August afternoon was Brian Horton, future City manager, as well as the recently deceased Gerry Ryan. On the City side, goalkeeping giant Joe Corrigan would play 36 games at the Goldstone Ground in 1983-84 to add to the near 500 he managed for the Blues.    


Friday, October 6, 2023


FRANCIS LEE: 1944-2023 

Lee, one of City's all-time greats, completed a total of 320 games (1 as sub), scoring 143 goals.

Monday, October 2, 2023


Make no mistake, Francis Lee was one of the true Manchester City greats, a player of such passion and devotion and a character of such forcefulness that he would have been vying with today's giants for a place in the All-Time City eleven. In my estimation, he would be in it too, with a big white number nine on his proud broad back.

Lee was afraid of nothing and no one, hurtling into the kind of tackles in the 1970s that would make today's hard men blanche. He could dish it out too, built as he was with thighs like tree trunks and an oak barrel of a body. But he could shift, could Francis. Quick and nimble, he was deceptively agile with both feet, a good dribbler, accurate passer, deft penalty taker (and penalty winner) and packed a shot like a thunderbolt that pinged in from all angles. 

When I interviewed him in 2022 at his Algarve villa, he was bursting with tales of the good old days, despite recent illness. That trademark chuckle dotted the conversation, as did a row of well judged expletives. Even in his later sadly diminished state, Francis Lee was still a true giant. 

As one of the talismen in Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's thrilling late 60s City side, Lee burst onto the first division scene like a cluster bomb and took little time making a name for himself. Robust at Bolton, he became unstoppable at City, with the guile of Neil Young alongside and the combative wing skills of his lifelong friend Mike Summerbee out wide. Behind him Colin Bell provided a supply of passes and energetic back up to the front men to complete an utterly beguiling City forward line. Nobody could live with them and they knew it.

But there was an edge to Franny that the others perhaps lacked. Allison, himself no stranger to stepping up to be counted, saw that in the Bolton tyro and brought him to Maine Road as quickly as he could. He knew he could build a side around the likes of Lee and Bell and Summerbee, because they were imbued with characteristics that others did not possess. One of Allison's abiding and favourite memories of Lee came during the Summer tour of the U.S. in 1968, just after City's league championship win and before they embarked on their inaugural European Cup campaign.

Tiring of the slow service in their San Francisco hotel, Lee began to chew on the flower decoration in the middle of their table. Allison, ever the showman, ever the whirling pivot of everything that happened at the club, saw his onfield persona in Lee. There was a cockiness even then that the City coach knew he could harness for the good of the side. Alongside Bell's matchless stamina and Summerbee's steely nous, Lee would play the Westhoughton gunslinger role to a tee. 

This was the Old Elite of Manchester City and Lee was its regal centrepiece, a cosmic wrecking ball of a striker, with x-ray vision and laser accuracy. Nobody played a more central role to this initial searing burst of sunlight when Manchester turned sky blue and we thought summer would last forever. That it did not last forever was predictable enough but Lee, with his vision on and off the pitch, was one of the first to note that things were turning sour. 

He saw it in the arrival of Peter Swales to the City board, who he would later oust in a dramatic fight for control of the club in the 90s. He saw it in the arrival of Ron Saunders to manager characters and heroes at City that no longer wished to be treated as feeble pliant young lads. Lee had a nose for goals, a nose for fun but also a nose for looming trouble. 

Before that trouble could engulf him, Lee was off to Derby County. It was no desertion, however. Discarded by Swales, his heart was still with the club, as it remained to his last day. His final act was to head to the training ground to say farewell to the men and boys who had accompanied him through the highs and flights of City's remarkable trophy glut of 1967-1970. 

"I shook hands with the players, the guys I had grown so close to over the years and then, just as I was leaving, I turned round to them and said, 'I'll tell you what, lads. I've got some bad news for you. We've been here all these years and won all the things that has made all this money for the club and we're still training in a school yard. That shows you the kind of twats that are running this club!'"

Lee's perspicacity was not confined to the football pitch.

And he returned to Maine Road, as a Derby County player on the way to the league title, after Swales had thought he might be able to sell him to "some club in the 2nd division". Lee cut inside City's backtracking defence and smacked an unerring howitzer past his old mate Joe Corrigan and into the top corner for the winner and the birth of Barry Davies' most famous line of Match of the Day commentary.

"Look at his face! Just look at his face!!"  

Well, we did look at his face, beaming from ear to ear with that mischievous grin that was his trademark. Francis Lee of Bolton. Francis Lee of England (the greatest England side, in Mexico 1970), Francis Lee of Derby County but most of all, by far most of all, Francis Lee of Manchester City.

It is to all these Francises we must now say goodbye. God bless you, Francis, for your service to this great club. May you rest well and in peace in the muddy goalmouth in the sky. 


Friday, September 29, 2023


📸 Season 1997-98, Championship

📆 6th December 1997

🏟 Maine Road

A one-goal defeat that saw City drop to 18th in the second division (Nationwide League Division One) table. The goalmouth scramble at the North Stand end features two Wolves players who had earlier worn the sky blue of City with differing levels of distinction.

Keith Curle (2), a £2.5m signing from Wimbledon under Peter Reid, played over 200 games in a five-year stay in Manchester, becoming captain and a semi-reliable penalty taker too. His last game for City was the relegation disaster against Liverpool, when Alan Ball ordered Steve Lomas to waste time at the corner flag when City needed to score another goal to survive. What a way/day to bow out. Curle famously netted a penalty at the Scoreboard End at Old Trafford and ended up walking back towards the centre circle with a City fan draped around his neck. Was less lucky with a penalty at Cardiff in the cup that was saved and resulted in City going out in a bearpit atmosphere in south Wales. 

Curle served Wolves for a similar period after leaving City, lasting four years and making over 150 appearances up to the year 2000. Helping out in a beleaguered Wolves rearguard here is 'keeper Mike Stowell (3), nearly 400 appearances for the West Midlanders standing against his 14 loan appearances for City in 1988. Stowell's inauspicious City debut came at Ewood Park, where he dropped a clanger for the home side's first goal. Stowell also played in the 4-0 mauling by Liverpool in the FA Cup 6th round, his biggest game for City. 

Wolves were another of six clubs Stowell played for as a loanee from mother club Everton, before joining full-time in 1990.

This was one of three games against Wolves that Paul Dickov (1) played for City, all lost, at a time when Wolves were something of a bogey side (curiously almost all of City's opponents in the 90s were bogey sides). On this occasion Dickov would be booked and the winning goal would be scored by Kit Symons (4), a defender synonymous with all that went wrong with City during this time. Leaping with Stowell and causing very little danger at all is another player whose mere mention brings City fans of a certain vintage out in the sweats: Ged Brannan.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


📸 Season 1975-76 League Cup Final

📆 February 28th 1976

🏟 Wembley Stadium, London

The 1976 League Cup has just been won. City are on their lap of honour, receiving gracious applause from the Newcastle supporters and a rapturous reception form Blues fans at the Tunnel End. It is City's third League Cup final of the 70s (winning in 1970 v West Brom and losing in 1974 v Wolves) and their first trophy since the Cup Winners' Cup and League Cup double of 1970.

Unused sub Kenny Clements (1), resplendent in Adidas hoodie (despite the fact City have never worn Adidas in their entire history) parades with his triumphant team mates. Clements, a boyhood United fan who had been on the groundstaff at Maine Road, had made his debut in August of this season in an away defeat at Villa Park. Starting life in the Central League as a central defender, he was switched to right back for a reserve game, ironically against Newcastle, and ended up staying there. He was edged out of playing in the final in his customary full back slot by Ged Keegan (4), a name to conjure with for both sets of fans in this fixture. Keegan had played excellently in the semi final second leg thrashing of Middlesbrough that saw City through to Wembley and kept his place for the final. His namesake Kevin would later play for Newcastle and manage both clubs through some of the most attractive football of their modern times. 

Lifting the trophy aloft is big Dave Watson (2), a magnificent centre half, particularly dominant in the air. Watson, bought from Newcastle's rivals Sunderland for £275,000 would go on to be one of the finest stoppers of City's modern history and a mainstay for England for many years. Alongside him, matchwinner Dennis Tueart (3) had also been bought from Sunderland, both players featuring in the second division side's heroic FA Cup final defeat of overwhelming favourites Leeds in 1973. Tueart, dubbed "King of All Geordies", a Newcastle fan, had just knocked the stuffing out of his boyhood team with an overhead kick in the 46th minute that would go down in the annals of great Wembley winners. Both Tueart and Watson would rival some of City's modern day heroes for a place in the Best Ever City Eleven.   


📸 Season 2002-03

📆 18th January 2003

🏟 St James' Park, Newcastle

Newcastle go two-up through the horizontal Craig Bellamy (4), after Alan Shearer's "early strike" on 10 seconds catches Carlo Nash asleep straight from kick-off. Bellamy, at this time a complete pain in the backside to City's defence, will - after an odyssey that takes him to Celtic, Liverpool, Blackburn and West Ham - ship up at City for a two-season cameo of feisty front-running under Mark Hughes. In January 2009, he will even net a neat left-footer for City against his former club in the fixture at the City of Manchester Stadium.

In the background is Sylvain Distin (1), who has already made the journey from Tyneside to Moss Side five years ahead of Bellamy. The cultured left-footer slots perfectly into defence on the left side alongside Richard Dunne (2).  The Irishman will play 346 first team games for the club, included amongst them 24 matches against Newcastle. As the Premier League's record red card recipient, Dunne registered one of his total of eight dismissals in this fixture. As the Premier League's own goal champion, the Irishman also netted one of his 10 career own goals against Newcastle.

In a career that took him from Nottingham Forest, to QPR, via Newcastle, Tottenham and Villa, Jermaine Jenas (3) first played against City for Nottingham Forest in 2001, a Championship fixture which saw City include ex-Newcastle players Darren Huckerby, Steve Howey and Stuart Pearce in the side.  

* Also playing in this 2003 fixture were the self-same Steve Howey (ex-Newcastle, playing for City) and Shay Given (Newcastle's keeper, future City custodian). 


  Bobby Charlton by  Mark Meadowcroft This is a flex, but Sir Bobby Charlton did play for “Manchester” in Bert Trautmann’s testimonial.  In ...