Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Where today's star signings emerge through a tunnel of confetti and flashbulbs (or not in the case of Dani Alves) to pose in the new season kit wearing the bewildered smiles of the unfathomably rich, back in the day, those blinking and grimacing at the thought that they had been snapped up by the mighty Manchester City were lucky if they received a moist embrace from secretary Bernard Halford. When he wasn't busy inventing new ways to cock up the club's ticketing systems, Bernard always seemed to be the one available for the smiling-newcomer-with.pen photos that would be in the next morning's Daily Mirror. The affable arm around the shoulder; the bespectacled I'm-dealing-with-this glance, this was Bernard territory.

There might have been a slight chance of a chummy slap on the shoulders from Jimmy Frizzell or a quick photo shoot in the broom cupboard with a bic and a couple of sheets of strategically placed A4. If you were really unlucky you might get an immediate bit of elite coaching from the passing Stuart Pearce or even a state-of-the-moment racing tip from Alan Ball. You would do well not to try and engage Mel Machin in optimistic new season conversation, though.

Among the fans, there was no daily scramble to gather sense from the minutiae of the Gazzetto dello Sport's coverage of Torino's pay rebel centre forward or sweaty hours spent trying to get Google to produce a reliable translation of A Bola's tightly sprung rumour mill. The Daily Express would tell you in the morning: it would be either on or off.

OFF; This is not to say that in the late seventies, there weren't some moments of fake news. Here the Sunday Express is sure City are closing in on a deal for West Ham's Rolls Royce midfielder Trevor Brooking. Nothing came of the early summer rumour and City ended up with a forward instead. For the same fee, Mike Channon brought his windmill arm goal celebration, which at the time seemed worth the fee on its own.

Malcolm Allison looks sane enough in this summer 1979 shot, but in fact his mind was doing little cartwheels, having sold Dave Watson, Peter Barnes, Gary Owen and Asa Hartford. The top class replacements? Bobby Shinton, of Wrexham, and Michael Robinson, from Preston. These were the first signs that Big Mal's second coming was about to take a different direction to the guaranteed success route that all had presumed City were embarking on.

Shinton, having uprooted not a single tree in low profile stints at Walsall and Wrexham, was suddenly deemed to be worth £300,000 of City's money, the same amount that had brought in England forward Mike Channon a couple of summers earlier.

It was a bright new phase for the club that would see Paul Sugrue, Dave Wiffill, John Ryan and a number of other luminaries arrive to help the smooth transition from erstwhile trophy candidates to rampaging relegation fodder.

There were near misses aplenty in the years that followed, as City's pulling powers diminished faster than Mr Halford's hairline. Even Middlesbrough's pocket dynamo Stan Cummins, not destined to achieve ever-lasting fame, but nevertheless an integral part of a deeply embarrassing game at Maine Road for newly promoted Sunderland in 1979, decided the lure of Crystal Palace too much to resist. This far City's stock had tumbled.

Graham Baker gets the Bernard Halford Treatment.
Bargain signing Gordon Dalziel has to make do with Derek Parlane and a Tartan teddy bear, as Bernard is out shopping.

By the time Billy McNeill shipped up from Celtic, City's idea of a summer transfer involved anyone with four limbs who cost nothing. Bargain Basement was the name of the game, especially if it was Scottish stock. McNeil pulled in Derek Parlane from Bulova in Hong Kong, Neil McNab and Jim Tolmie, who had been wasting his days in Belgium, playing for Lokeren. In that first horrific season in Division Two, all played a significant role in pulling City together again. Indeed McNab stayed on to grace the first division when City finally returned in 1985.
There had been times when City pushed the boat out, with great initial results and disastrous long term effects. Trevor Francis's arrival in 1981 was the eventual catalyst for City's relegation and subsequent bargain shopping. peter Swales, always trying to haul City up to United's level, broke the bank for Francis, but then discovered that his cod economics left the club without a penny for anything else. Francis was initially brilliant, then frequently injured and his purchase was the last million pound summer excitement for many years. 
On arriving in the First Division for the 1985-86 season, Swales loosened the purse strings a little to allow McNeill to scale up his buying to Nigel Johnson of Rotherham. With him arrived City fan Mark Lillis from Huddersfield and ex-United stalwart Sammy McIlroy. In this picture for Shoot magazine, McIlroy looks as pleased about it as most City fans were. At least Johnson can't believe his luck.
Derek Parlane gets the Jimmy Frizzell/Bernard Halford/bic/strategically placed A4 treatment: very nearly a full house.

By the early 90s City's spending power had still not returned, with swap deals covering the fact that Swales was still hunting for the cash he had stashed away under the Maine Road floorboards. Here fan favourites "Dissa" Pointon and Steve Redmond are sacrificed for the speed and tenacity of Ricky Holden.
City make a big splash for John Deehan, Andy Dibble, Bryan Gayle, Wayne Biggins and Nigel Gleghorn. Be still, our beating hearts.

FAKE NEWS: Three that got away: Pat Jennings, Joe Jordan and Kevin Drinkell.

Modern times have ushered in new ways. The assembled crowd, the triumphal arch, the regal wave, the Welcome to Manchester, the hullaballoo, the tweaking of other people's noses, the popping flashbulbs, the glamour and the glitz of the meet the public sessions and the glorious moment of first contact with the acrylic garment that bears your name.

Ben Thatcher offers his innocent face to the snappers as named shirts become a feature

Emmanuel Adebayor waves to those members of the 30-strong crowd outside, who haven't been frightened away by his headwear.

Carlos Tevez is ushered inside as his headwear is deemed too scary for members of the public to come into contact with. There was also the prospect of a lightly fuming Alex Ferguson loitering outside with a harpoon gun.

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