Friday, September 3, 2010

As time drifts by....

Part One: Davidson, Hoekman, Ingebritsen, Daniels, Conlon, Beardsley, Christie, Shinton, Hiley, Lee

It is not an overly difficult task to pick out the sepia days of glory from the hundreds of games played by the likes of Corrigan, Lee, Trautmann, Oakes and Bell, but those who arrived at Maine Road's great flat edifice and left again in the flash of an eye have had a far harder job finding an appreciative slot in our collective memories. Nevertheless, we would do well to recall them, if only to keep a loose grip on reality in these days of mangled Audis and subsidised loan deals. With the current squad housing instantly recognisable international exotica from Spain, the Ivory Coast and Italy, the walk-on parts in this long-running soap form part of a history as deliciously unproductive in the past 34 years as it is promising today. Manchester City may seem to many these days like the inevitable bastard creation of the modern football world, but, as the deceptively apt banner at the Stretford End suggests, there’s so much more to it than the gloss and glamour of 2010:  

The magic moment v Swansea
Watching the slightly portly, slightly off-balance, somehow disconcerting figure of Duncan Davidson swivel slowly and miscue his shot off a combination of post and Dai Davies’ back and into the Swansea net, one could have been forgiven for thinking an unlikely unbalanced but well-fed hero had just arrived. Sadly for the cut price Scot (one of many smuggled into Billy McNeill’s 1984 promotion chasing side), that was as good as it got. Of his 7 eye-opening appearances in a blue shirt, four were as a sub. Those of us lucky enough to witness the aforementioned piece of ball-juggling, dai-defying acrobatics, saw just about all that was memorable in Davidson’s City career. The crazed zig-zag, arms flapping celebratory dance is still etched on the memory however as the moment he too thought he had arrived in the big time.. 

Danny Hoekman’s stay in the sky blue was even briefer. Three substitute appearances in 1991 was the slightly built Dutchman’s total effort for City. What the record books will not explain, however, is that the ex- Den Haag winger actually had the ball in the back of the net at Meadow Lane and had already turned for home, arms aloft, little face cracked into a broad grin before his place in City history was wiped away by the precocious wave of a linesman’s flag. To add salt to the wound in the 3-1 win for Peter Reid’s men, his moment of City glory had been called off owing to Clive Allen’s suspect positioning, not his own. 

The stick-like Norwegian Kare Ingebrigtsen managed a princely total of 17 appearances for City, but the majority of those produced little more than polite applause and frustrated exhortations for more effort, accuracy and thrust from the terraces. The somewhat incongruous exception to this inglorious trail was a 1994 cup tie v Leicester City at Maine Road, when the tiny midfielder miraculously netted a hat trick in City’s 4-1 4th round win. This sudden burst of goal scoring prowess represents 100% of Ingebrigtsen’s City career goals tally and ensures he will be remembered long after the rest of his efforts ideally deserve. That year’s cup run faded in the following round when the Norwegian found himself marooned in the middle of a downtrodden performance at Cardiff.

When Barry Davies’s BBC commentary galloped towards falsetto, it was normally a moment to check if Francis Lee had entered the fray, but in 1975 the vastly unheralded Barney Daniels had the BBC man reaching for his beaker of Pepsodent, as he marked his nine game City career with a sudden and dramatic appearance v. Leicester at Maine Road. Not content with a close-in strike to pull City clear, Daniels, fresh-faced and full of the uncoordinated energy of the eternally hopeful, hit a second to his and Davies’s utter delight. Neither man was to know that this sudden burst of activity would represent the highpoint of Daniels’ entire career. 

An unusual sight
No such glory for Barry Conlon, who pulled on a City shirt to start a game just once, against Port Vale in the notorious 2-3 home defeat at Christmas 1997. Once the seven substitute appearances are added, Conlon’s tally – given the lean years in which they were assiduously accumulated – represents as poignant a symbol of the dark days of the late nineties as any. Mention his name to anybody who misspent Saturday afternoon’s watching City’s floundering incompetence and you strike a chord with a fellow sufferer. Conlon will forever be a name associated with the heady aroma of drowned hope, scorched trousers and that special aroma of complete despair. It wasn’t long before this and only slightly further up the league pyramid that the once heralded Peter Beardsley found himself donning the laser blue. For a player who had regularly terrorised the City defence over a lengthy period spent spraying in goals and telling passes for Newcastle, Liverpool and Everton, all sides in the 80s and 90s who could be guaranteed to hand out easy-on-the-eye pastings to our boys, the heavy-jawed Geordie will remain another novelty memory for his brief cameos at Huddersfield Town and Reading. No goals were forthcoming in the six tumultuous games he played for City. 

Christie scores for Notts against City
Twelve years earlier, City fans had also been coming to terms with the familiar feeling that their side was losing shape and life. A recurring theme if ever there was one. With the dizzyingly exciting period of Parlane and Tolmie reaching its sell-by date, up stepped the ex-Notts County goal machine Trevor Christie to enjoy his ten minutes of Maine Road fame. His three goals in just ten City performances will not be remembered by many, but nevertheless represented the welcome but ultimately useless acquisition of two points against Wimbledon and one versus Norwich, where he netted both in a 2-2 draw. Rather than this, those present will certainly have stored an image of a professional footballer with knock-knees and the mobility of a rusty farm vehicle.

Smiling at Wrexham
If you are looking for someone other than the oft-mentioned Steve Daley and Michael Robinson to illustrate colourful accounts of Big Mal’s 2nd coming profligacy, then look no further than the v-shaped chin and exquisite bubble perm of Bobby Shinton. A prolific scorer for Wrexham, the partially bearded, always moutachioed Shinton appeared in the number 3 shirt at Highbury, wore number 4 v Middlesbrough and played in three unbeaten games over Christmas 1979 before sinking without trace. It is often overlooked that his £300,000 fee was also seen as a huge waste of money in even those devil-may-care days, but the much-maligned and almost completely forgotten Shinton nevertheless takes a record of played 5 lost none with him into the record books. 

The sight of Scott Hiley skipping past a bemused Newcastle defence to set up yet another attempt on the Magpies goal during a see-saw encounter in the relegation year of 1996 was sadly not duplicated on many occasions. The injury-jinxed left back made just 4 appearances for the Blues and another 5 as sub before moving on to pastures new, but he can claim to have been an integral part of City’s greatest game of that particular season, remembered for everything good in the game at the time: a long-legged head-butting cameo from Asprilla, Keggy Keegan’s 90’s mullet flopping dangerously in the Moss Side rain, Buster Philips trying to climb Niall Quinn to offer his congratulations after the second goal and artful dodgers like Ginola and Albert coming face to face with a damp and smoldering Keith Curle. A truly grand day out in the sleet.  

Stuart Lee’s arrival at Maine Road in 1979 provoked no fanfares and precious little publicity, coming as it did in the backwash of Steve Daley’s staggeringly rash transfer from Wolves. The £80,000 fee Big Mal paid for Lee was comparative peanuts and Lee’s impact was to amount to roughly the same. Although a well-struck volley in the dreadful 3-1 home reverse to West Brom revealed a talent that was not fully exploited during his short spell at the club, the remaining appearances were tragically brief and unspectacular.
Another stalwart of the lower leagues-to-be had had his moment in the Maine Road hall of mirrors.

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