Friday, October 22, 2021

86 GAMES


As
it states in Tim Rich’s excellent collaboration with Brian Horton, the ex-City manager and Brighton midfield terrier clocked up over 2,000 games in the English professional game, bettered only by Alex Ferguson and Graham Turner. It is quite a feat.

It is a true testament to the staying power of a player who was tenacious, skilled and perceptive for Port Vale, Luton and Brighton and a manager, who was imbued with all the best qualities of the British game.

Tasked with the unenviable job of picking up the pieces at City (a repetitive theme in the 80s and 90s), Horton was also saddled with expectation levels that would have flattened an ox.

The infamous Brian Who headline that met his eyes on Day One at Maine Road would have squashed lesser men, but Horton threw himself into the job with enthusiasm and passion, his performances in front of the press matching his team's energetic efforts out on the pitch.


Against the odds, he produced a swashbuckling side that, for a while at least, produced some of the best attacking football City fans can remember.

Often unafraid to play what looked like a front four, occasionally five when they got carried away, it brought unforgettable away days at QPR in the League Cup (4-3), title-chasing Blackburn Rovers (3-2) and a home game with Spurs (5-2), which the BBC’s John Motson christened “one of the best matches I have ever commentated on”.

That Ballet in the Rain will forever be remembered as the quintessential Brian Horton City match. The flow was non-stop, with both sides enjoying periods of flamboyant dominance. Spurs, led for the last time by Ozzie Ardiles, played their part, by attempting to take on City at their own expansive game. The result was a veritable feast of attacking football in an absolute downpour, which, thanks to the redevelopment of the Kippax, cost many people their clothing. 


The loss of a sodden pullover or a wrecked pair of trainers was small beer for the entertainment that was delivered in shovel-loads. It was a game where City's promise shone brightly and continued to flicker at Loftus Road the following midweek, when a League Cup tie refused to go quietly. It was all such heart-warming stuff and, to give it the compliment it is due, sits comfortably alongside some of the better efforts of Kevin Keegan, Manuel Pellegrini and even Pep Guardiola.

Horton's team lacked consistency, however, and when trouble arrived, City took off in the wrong direction. Within two games of the Spurs and QPR rollickings, City went down, unforgivably 0-5 at Old Trafford. The season drifted badly and was only saved from disaster by two more Hortonesque displays of cavalier football, a 2-1 Easter win over Liverpool at Maine Road, when Maurizio Gaudino skipped the light fantastic and the afore-mentioned win at Ewood, seemingly handing the title to United. 



  

Patience draws thin, however.

Horton’s time was soon up, with Alan Ball seen as a safer pair of hands for the Premier League struggles ahead. Within three years City were in the third division. 

Brian Horton had long gone by then, but the memories of some of the brightest matches of a truly dark decade in City’s history would stay with us until better times arrived.


Future City star Trevor Sinclair is one of the celebrating players as QPR win 3-2 in the last
game of the 94-95 season, Brian Horton's final game as manager of City













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