Friday, October 16, 2015


Eddie tries a slick one-liner on John Benson v Luton Town
Most clubs, who come up against Bournemouth in the Premier League  do so comfortable in the knowledge that this is an opponent that has seldom, possibly never, crossed their paths in league competition elsewhere in their glittering histories. 

For City, however, the truth is different (as usual) The mere mention of the South Coast team will take fans back to a relatively recent past when the club’s fate appeared to be tied fast to a sizeable breezeblock that had just been thrown off the side of a dam wall.

City's notoriously inept draw at Maine Road in the penultimate game of 1988-89, where a win would have seen the club promoted, became a benchmark for about as Typical City as you could get. 

In time-honoured fashion, Mel Machin's team had been 3-0 up after 45 minutes and thus coasting to a fabulous sun-drenched promotion party. 

With the Kippax in giddy full voice and the hostelries of Manchester preparing themselves for a bumper evening, Machin suddenly went down with a full and boisterous bout of Cityitis that some say he never fully recovered from. Certainly, he was out of a job within six months and what happened next at sunny Maine Road can't have helped his case.

Machin, a man who gave the phrase softly-spoken new life during his monosyllabic stay in the Maine Road hot-seat, decided things were going so well that serious half time organising could be kept to a minimum. Promotion was within kissing distance after all, if you just puckered your lips and closed your eyes. Instead, it was time to call in a comedian, something that City would become adept at in the ensuing Years of Pantomime that were about to erupt all over the club in the 90s.   

Calling Eddie Large into the dressing room at half time, Machin sat back and allowed the rotund tv personality to administer the team talk for the second half. Paul Lake takes up the story in his autobiography, painting an interesting picture of a club preparing to go out for 45 minutes of football that - if successfully negotiated - would lift them back into the elite. You wonder what Don Revie or Joe Mercer would have thought. 

"An assured first half performance was capped with a brace of goals from Paul Moulden and a poacher’s strike from Trevor Morley. Our promotion was almost within touching distance, and so buoyant was our mood that we almost danced a Highland fling up the tunnel at half-time. Adding to our glee was the fact that the club had promised us an immediate no-expense spared holiday abroad if we were to secure the three points and as such were prepared to field a second string side for what would be a meaningless final game of the season.
As we back slapped each other in the dressing room and mentally packed our suitcases, a typically low key Mel Machin expressed caution and warned us against complacency, but then a mischievous grin played across his face as he informed us that he’d arranged for one of his pals to give us a quick motivational pep talk. What do we need this for? We’re 3-0 up, for Chrissakes’ I remember thinking, wondering which former colleague of the gaffer’s was going to get wheeled out.
From the direction of Roy Bailey’s physio room toddled Eddie Large, the Mancunian funny man and City fanatic who, in those days was a huge primetime TV star with his weekly sidekick ‘supersonic’ Syd Little. What followed was the most surreal half time team talk I’ve ever experienced. Eddie wearing a shiny grey showbiz suit with rolled up sleeves, proceeded to dole out individual advice to each of the players using his well known repertoire of celebrity impersonations. So Deputy Dawg ordered me to keep tight in defence; Frank Carson told Nelly to use the width and pace of Whitey; Cliff Richard advised Trevor Morley to shoot on sight; Harold Wilson told Bob Brightwell to keep it simple and Benny from Crossroads told Andy Dibble to stay awake. If only the cat had heeded Benny’s advice. He conceded three goals in the 2nd half (no thanks to a defensive horror show in the final ten minutes, and a Bournemouth midfielder by the name of Ian Bishop running rings round us) and the sure fire win that we’d assumed at the interval finished up as a sorry score draw. Mel’s mystifying decision to take off in-form Paul Moulden at the interval probably hadn’t help matters, but we were all to blame for a pathetic 2nd half display.
After the match we sat in the changing room dumbstruck, half expecting Eddie Large to come back in and do his Oliver Hardy Impression.“Well Boys, that’s another fine mess you’ve got yourselves into…?”

Bournemouth’s 95th minute penalty equalizer produced something less than belly laughs on an occasion that will stick in the minds of anybody, who was unlucky enough to witness City melt quicker than the ice creams on sale down Claremont Road.

It meant that City had to get a result at Valley Parade the following week, where promotion was once again very nearly thrown to the four winds, Trevor Morley's last minute equaliser sending City up ahead of Palace.

Turn right here
The other Bournemouth memory that everyone will have had trouble shaking off over the last 15 years is of Kevin Horlock, walking slowly from the Dean Court pitch after being awarded the most ridiculous red card in football history. 

Mr Brian Coddington, for it was he, had already dismissed Jamie Pollock for “being slightly overweight”, when he yet again brought play to a halt so that he could play a brief tune on his whistle. Horlock exasperated and clearly inflamed by the off-key flautist, was immediately sent packing before he could even reach Mr Coddington with a suggestion of where to lodge his instrument. “Aggressive walking” was the infamous description given by the official, who later helped Michel Platini with some of his keynote speeches to UEFA congress.

Clearly City should be well aware that when Bournemouth hove into view, the planet tilts a little to one side.

We have been warned.

Andy Morrison gives it the big hoof in the 3rd Division match of 98-99


  1. Simon - hilarious as ever! Good old City, they never fail to put us through it, even today. Some teams are inconsistent from match to match, we are from one half to the next!

    One of my abiding memories from the first match was the decibel level when the Kippax shouted "F*ck off Machin" as the 3 points slipped from us - the loudest chant of the day. From conga to anger in 45 minutes!

    1. Brilliant. Was there ever an angry conga? There really should have been. That way we could have offloaded all emotions at the same time.


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