Historical insights into 6 of the biggest English Football Clubs
How underachieving 'noisy neighbours' became City slickers.
Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
There was a time when Manchester City were perennial underachievers, the nearly men of English football. If anything could go wrong, it would for the blue half of Manchester – who else but City could be the only side to be English champions one season (1936-37) and relegated the next?
A thick skin and a sense of humour have been needed as the club have flitted between England’s top two divisions with the added pain of seeing fierce local rivals Manchester United, under Sir Matt Busby and then Sir Alex Ferguson, sweep all before them. For one season, as recently as 1998-1999, City even slipped into the third tier and they have been the butt of opposition fans’ jokes.
However, everything changed in the summer of 2008, when Sheikh Mansour arrived with his billions. Suddenly, the “Blue Moon” was rising over City. A club less than a decade before playing Macclesfield Town and Lincoln City were now signing world-class players with £32.5m (US$60m) Robinho paving the way for the later arrivals of Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero as City closed in on their first Premier League title.
Roberto Mancini ended their 35-year wait for a major trophy with the FA Cup in 2011, and the following season he brought a first league title in 44 years — Aguero’s 94th-minute winner against Queens Park Rangers also gave City the added satisfaction of denying United with the last meaningful kick of the season.
The so-called “noisy neighbours” had been awoken and were ready for more. City were champions of England for the fourth time two years later under Manuel Pellegrini, who also added two League Cups to the roll of honour. But, the recent appointment of Pep Guardiola, acclaimed as the best coach in the world, underlines the club’s status as a bona fide force in European and world football.
City started life in 1880 when St Mark’s Church formed a team, evolving into Ardwick AFC seven years later. But, it was not until 1894 that the name Manchester City came into being, two years after they were founder members of Second Division of the Football League. They joined the First Division in 1889 after winning the first of seven second-tier league titles and became the first Manchester side to win a major honour, lifting the FA Cup in 1904 — it took them another 30 years to do so again.
There were happier times, under manager Joe Mercer and his assistant Malcolm Allison. City were a pleasure to watch, full of swagger and style, and won the First Division again in 1967-68, the FA Cup a year later and the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970. But that was largely it until Sheikh Mansour.
Like many Premier League clubs, City play in a new — or at least relatively new — ground. They left Maine Road, their home of 80 years, in 2003, for the Etihad Stadium, which was originally built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The City team that triumphed at home and in Europe in the late 1960s was full of talented players. Colin Bell was widely renowned as one of the most skilful, graceful footballers of his generation, while Mike Summerbee was a tricky winger full of flair and panache – a player of his time.
Into the 1970s, the flamboyant Rodney Marsh brought plenty of swagger to Maine Road, while Francis Lee, with 148 goals in 330 games, was a key player for the men in sky blue.
Prior to that golden age, the man who kept goal for City when they won the FA Cup in 1956 should not be forgotten. Bert Trautmann, a former German prisoner of war, defied a broken neck to make several crucial saves and lead his team to a 3-1 victory over Birmingham City in the final.
The club’s all-time top goal scorer is Eric Brook, who netted 177 times between 1927 and 1940, while Alan Oakes holds the appearance record, playing 682 times between 1959 and 1976.
The modern day City team, arguably, contains many of the greatest players in the club’s history, not least Aguero, one of the most lethal strikers in world football, and captain Vincent Kompany, a commanding figure who has already lifted the Premier League trophy twice.
The modern day City team, arguably, contains many of the greatest players in the club’s history.
Finishing fourth last season was a huge disappointment for City in what, with the squad and riches available to them, they will feel should have been another title-winning campaign.
Pellegrini has paid the price and has been replaced by Guardiola, who with just the 21 trophies to his name from his stints at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is promising to shake up not just the City squad but the Premier League as a whole.
He has brought in the likes of Spain winger Nolito and Germany playmaker Ilkay Gundogan, while the US$62.1m shelled out on England defender John Stones is a sign that the Spaniard will seek to develop a fluid footballing style right from the back of the team. Joe Hart, the England goalkeeper, has been sidelined to accommodate this play.
Guardiola has inherited an ageing squad and may need time for his intensive methods to work their magic. Then again, at his previous clubs, he hit the ground running, with titles and cups from the very first season. Who is to say that will not be the case again at City?
Did you know?
Aged 15, two weeks before his 16th birthday, Glyn Pardoe became the youngest player to appear for Manchester City when he made his debut in a 4-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City in April 1962.
City achieved a rare feat in finishing fifth in the First Division in the 1957-58 season – they scored 104 goals but also managed to concede 100.
In 2002, City broke their transfer record, paying Preston North End £5m (US$10m) for striker Jon Macken. Fourteen years later, Kevin de Bruyne is their record signing at US$82m from Wolfsburg last summer.
City scored 156 goals in all competitions in the 2013-14 season, the most in the club’s history, as they won the Premier League and League Cup.
Maine Road, until 2003 the club’s home ground, is now the site of 474 homes. There is also a public art display commemorating the stadium, including a point marking where the centre spot used to be.
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