by Richard D J J Bowdery
Yesterday (2 March) Manchester City won the League Cup for the third time in four final appearances when they beat Sunderland 3-1. But if you cast your mind back to 1970 you will notice a startling difference between the City team then and now.
On 7 March, 44 years ago, Manchester City took to the field at Wembley against West Bromwich Albion in the 10th League Cup Final.
City won that match 2-1 with goals scored by Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe; West Brom’s consolation came from Jeff Astle.
But it was City’s line up that day which proved the greatest contrast to the team that took to the lush turf of Wembley for yesterday’s final.
Back in 1970 the team that lined up for the kick-off comprised off 10 Englishmen and only one ‘Johnny’ foreigner, well Scottish actually so I guess that would make him ‘Jocky’ foreigner. Even the substitute (only one per team back then) and manager were English.
The eleven who lifted the cup that day, managed by Joe Mercer, were:
Joe Corrigan (in goal)
Tony Book (c)
Arthur Mann (Scotland)
Interestingly there were four Scotsmen in West Brom’s side that day, with a Welshman as substitute.
Four years after their first win they faced Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final. They could not match their heroics of 1970 and went down 2-1. Hibbitt scored for Wolves in the first half. City’s Bell drew the team’s level with a goal in the 59th minute. But John Richards sealed a Wolves victory, scoring the winner five minutes from time.
This time there were three ‘foreigners’ in an otherwise all England City side. Ron Saunders from Cheshire was City’s manager.
In 1976 Manchester City once again found themselves in the final, this time up against Newcastle United with Malcolm McDonald spearheading the Magpies attack.
City won 2-1, the same final score as their previous two appearances. A goal from number 7 Barnes and a wonderful overhead effort from Dennis Tueart in the second half, sealed the match, with Gowling getting Newcastle’s solitary reply.
Only two ‘foreigners’ made the starting eleven that day.
In the boardroom
During City’s League Cup appearances in the 70’s the predominately English boardroom reflected the team on the pitch.
Albert Alexander was the chairman as the sixties turned into the seventies. Around this time the board faced a power struggle, ignited by deputy-chairman Frank Johnson’s decision to sell most of his shareholding.
The tussle that followed convinced Johnson not to sell and the status quo resumed; that is until ill-health force Albert to relinquish the reins. His son Eric replaced him as chairman.
By the time City lost at Wembley to Wolves a new face lead the business side of the club: Peter Swales. This change was brought about by Eric’s decision to step-down.
Throughout the time of these League Cup appearances the City boardroom was largely English. But it was their lack of success on the pitch under Swales tenure as chairman which led to a revolt by the fans who wanted Swales out. They duly got their wish in 1994 when former City forward Francis Lee, self-made millionaire, purchased £3 million of shares. Swales was ousted, never to return.
In hindsight that revolt could be seen as the catalyst that took Manchester City from being a British run, predominantly English team to the club that now graces the Premiership.
By September 2008 the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour, who has pumped millions into Manchester City that has seen an upturn in the club’s fortunes.
Fast-forward to 2014
Today Manchester City has undergone a massive facelift and is, in many respects, unrecognisable from the club that last reached a Wembley League Cup Final.
Not only has it relocated from its spiritual home at Maine Road, the make-up of the boardroom, dugout and team is dominated by foreign imports.
In City’s starting eleven yesterday there was not one Englishman. The team City fielded was:
Pantilimon (in goal)
Three of the six substitutes (only one allowed in the 70’s remember) were English but manager Manuel Pellegrini didn’t involve any of them in his three second half substituions.
Is this good for the game? I guess it depends upon your point of view. I’m sure most City fans to a man would say it is, following their Premiership title, FA Cup win and now their third League Cup success. So, I suspect, would the fans of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United.
But those battling for Premiership survival without the millions to invest in top class players would probably disagree.
And if you are playing below the top tier of English football how can you get to the top table and stay there longer than the aperitif?
You could ask that cash-in-hand plasterer, Loadsamoney for a wad. Or find yourself a billionaire looking for a new toy to play with.
But what about the England national team. There is an argument that with so many foreign players plying their trade in the English game it hampers local talent.
Maybe, maybe not. Personally I don’t think England has ever fully recovered from the footballing lesson the Hungarians taught us at Wembley in November 1953.
Older readers may recall we were soundly beaten 6-3 even though Walter Winterbottom put out a decent side that day which included Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Alf Ramsey and Billy Wright.
The style of the Hungarians cultured play left those watching the game mesmerised.
Some say that was the day England’s dominance of the game crumbled, apart from the little matter of a tournament in 1966.
What is the solution?
I think it is too simplistic to say limit each club to a set number of foreign players. That in itself will not provide the skillful players England needs.
And don’t forget, the game is no longer about ‘bums on seats’. It’s about TV revenue, branding and global markets.
It is a world apart from the game that as it was in the 70’s.
A final thought…Just think, if Jesús Navas hadn’t scored in the 90th minute all of Manchester City’s four League Cup Final appearances would have finished with the same scoreline, 2-1.