Manchester City’s three best teams

MANY people believe that the current Manchester City team is probably their best ever. It is certainly their most expensive and most successful although the club’s modern-day achievements are often dismissed due to the inflated investment made in the club. However, nobody can deny the quality of football being played by Pep Guardiola’s side or the depth of talent that has been assembled.

City have won 19 major honours but 10 of those have some since 2010-11. For many years, they were one of the big underachievers in the English game, the high spot being the period between 1967-68 and 1969-70 when they won four prizes.

In Game of the People’s 1001 Floodlit Dreams series, we are about to induct the following City teams in the roll of honour:

1902-1905

Jack Hillman, Johnny McMahon, Herbert Burgess, Sammy Frost, Tommy Hynds, Sam Ashworth, Billy Meredith, George Livingstone, Billie Gillespie, Sandy Turnbull, Frank Booth, Lot Jones, John Edmondson, George Dorsett, Irvine Thornley.

Manager: Tom Maley

Achievements: 1902-03 – Football League Division Two champions; 1903-04 FA Cup winners, Football League Division One runners-up.

Five year record (1901-02 to 1905-06): 18 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5

Summary: Newly-promoted City beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0 in the 1904 cup final thanks to a Billy Meredith goal. They finished three points behind The Wednesday in the league, despite being top in the final week.

Manchester City’s Billy Meredith (l) charges down the wing

Key men:

Billy Meredith – Iconic winger who won 48 Welsh caps. A winger with superb balance and agility, capable of excellent crosses and long-range shooting. Banned from playing for his part in a bribery scandal, he joined Manchester United.

Billie Gillespie – Bustling centre forward who scored 126 goals in 218 league games for City.

Sandy Turnbull – Scottish inside forward who played for City and United. Also banned during the bribery scandal. Died in the first world war in Arras.

1967-1970

Harry Dowd, Ken Mulhearn, Joe Corrigan, Glyn Pardoe, David Connor, Tony Book, George Heslop, Tommy Booth, Mike Doyle, Alan Oakes, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, Neil Young, Tony Coleman, Francis Lee, Ian Bowyer, Tony Towers.

Manager: Joe Mercer

Achievements: Football League champions 1967-68, FA Cup winners 1968-69, Football League Cup winners 1969-70, European Cup-Winners’ Cup winners 1969-70.

Five-year record (1967-68 to 1971-72): 1 – 13 -10 – 11- 4

Summary: Exciting young team, managed by Mercer and coached by the innovative and often wayward Malcolm Allison. Attack-minded, with some exceptional individuals.

The victorious Manchester City players drinking a toast in champagne after beating Newcastle United by four goals to three at Newcastle to become champions in 1968.

Key men:

Colin Bell – High energy midfielder known as “Nijinsky” after the race horse. Signed from Bury and became one of the most dynamic midfield players of the 1970s. England international, 48 caps. Career ended by injuries.

Francis Lee – Stocky striker who was tenacious and direct. Signed from Bolton Wanderers, he won 27 England caps. Scored 112 league goals in 249 games before joining Derby in 1974.

Mike Summerbee –  Fiery right winger who was signed from Swindon Town. Won eight England caps.

2017-2019

Ederson, Kyle Walker, Danilo, Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gündogan, Nicolás Otamendi, Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Agüero, Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling.

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Achievements: Premier League champions 2017-18 and 2018-19, FA Cup winners 2018-19, Football League Cup winners 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Five-year record (2014-15 to 2018-18): 2 – 4 – 3 – 1 – 1

Summary: Outstanding footballing team built by wealthy owners, combining ruthless efficiency with individual skill and rapier-like finishing.

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the fifth goal during the FA Cup Final match at Wembley Stadium, London.

Key men:

Kevin De Bruyne – Versatile midfielder who rose to prominence at Wolfsburg after an aborted spell at Chelsea. Signed for City in 2015 for £ 55 million and became a pivotal figure in the club’s success. 72 caps for Belgium.

Raheem Sterling – Signed by City from Liverpool in 2015 for £ 44 million. A versatile player who can play as striker, winger or attacking midfielder. Has already won more than 50 caps for England.

Sergio Agüero – Outstanding striker who has scored 231 goals in 339 games since signing from Atlético Madrid in 2011 for £ 35 million. Classic centre forward with a high level of tactical intelligence.

 

There are other contenders for our roll call – the City league champions of 1937 that were relegated a year later, and the FA Cup winners of 1956. The fact is, this is City’s time, so it is more likely that the club’s best teams may not have taken the field yet. One thing is certain, the current regime at the club will undoubtedly insist on more trophies and more players being added to the list of great players who have represented Manchester City.

@GameofthePeople

 

Photos: PA

 

 

 

 

Football Read Review: Forever Boys by James Lawton

ForeverNICK HORNBY’s excellent book Fever Pitch gave the man on the terrace the idea that his relationship with his chosen club was in someway special and unique. Hornby’s groundbreaker spawned many imitations, resulting in minutiae-packed and myopic tales of how following Torquay United or Middlesbrough was somehow as relevant to literature as Tolstoy’s finest work.

When battle-hardened journalists write about their relationship with a club, it’s often based on their attachment from the vantage point of the press box and insider access. James Lawton’s fine book on Manchester City 1967-70, Forever Boys,  is one of the best examples of the genre, an occasionally moving account of one of the most enigmatic and enjoyable football teams of the past 50 years.

Forever Boys is an excellent read from start to finish. Anyone who remembers City’s title win of 1968 – it was my initiation into the world of football – will recall, with relish, the likes of Colin Bell, Frannie Lee, Mike Summerbee and their team-mates.

The story of the team that won four trophies in three seasons is the classic format of what was achieved and then personal accounts of how the members of that team fared since their golden age. It is superbly linked together by Lawton.

While we know that Lee became a successful businessman and that four of that squad – Harry Dowd, George Heslop, Mike Doyle and Neil Young – have since passed away, it is rarely spoken about that Colin Bell, one of the greatest players of the era, is a private and reserved man. Summerbee, meanwhile, is involved at City as a “meet and greet” man filling an ambassadorial role.

Of all the tales of the City squad, it is Summerbee’s that sticks with me. He was let go by City in 1975 and signed for Burnley for £ 25,000. Some people believed that he was sold too early, but when he arrived at Turf Moor, he received an astonishing pay rise. Summerbee was bemused by this, but Bob Lord told him he deserved it because in all the discussions between club and player, the City legend had not mentioned money once, but merely spoke about what he could do for Burnley. Lord liked that.

Lawton’s story has elements of sadness about it, notably in Malcolm Allison’s role in City’s triumphs of the period. Allison is widely regarded as the driving force, rather than “uncle” Joe Mercer, but it is the  decline of “Big Mal” that leaves you wondering what could have happened had he not concentrated too much on the hedonistic lifestyle that became his trademark.

Allison’s methods were, in latter years, eccentric, but in his day, he was one of the most progressive coaches in the game. Lawton recalls some of Allison’s antics, but the book also reflects on how it all turned sour.

Many people think City should have won the league again in 1972 and Allison’s signing of Rodney Marsh is often blamed as the turning point. With such a pool of rich talent at their disposal, there is credibility in the view that City should have won more. That’s why City fans of a certain age will love Forever Boys, possibly leaving them with the sort of longing ache that Dutch fans experience when they remember Munich ’74. What might have been, as they say.

Almost half a century after their greatest victories, City fans still go all misty-eyed when someone says, “Lee, Bell, Summerbee”. Although City’s current team represents some of the best talent available today , it is unlikely that in 50 years’ time, anyone will reminisce about Aguero, Kompany and Sterling in the same way.

Forever Boys is published by Bloomsbury under the Wisden Sports Writing category.

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twitter: @gameofthepeople

Read more:

November 14, 2015: Great Reputations – Manchester City 1967-70, Mercer & Allison’s alchemy

July 12, 2013: Dear Mr. Sexton…sign Nijinsky