Posts Tagged ‘Manchester City’

What Became Of…?
City legend Colin Bell

By Richard DJJ Bowdery.


Colin Bell: City’s greatest ever

In a poll carried out last year by the Manchester Evening News, its readers overwhelmingly voted Colin Bell as Manchester City’s greatest player ever. This at a time when the club’s star is in the ascendancy and its current crop of players are winning the hearts and minds of a new wave of fans.

But supporters have long memories and can recall those heady days in the 60’s and 70’s when Bell romped across the pitch like Nijinsky, one of two nicknames City fans bestowed upon him: the other being King of the Kippax. How he would have graced the game today with its Bowling Green pitches, unlike the quagmires he so often had to contend with.

Playing Career

Bell, from County Durham, started his football career at Bury, before that wily old fox Malcolm Allison spotted his potential. Man City’s assistant manager deflected interest from other clubs by saying: “He can’t head, can’t pass. He’s hopeless.” Allison’s subterfuge won the day and in 1966 20 year-old Bell became a City player costing the club £45,000.

In his first season with City he helped them win the Second Division (now the Championship) title. During his time at Maine Road the club also won the League title, the FA Cup, the League Cup twice and the European Cup Winners Cup.

He was the dynamo in City’s midfield. Such was his athletic prowess that the great British runner, and world mile record holder in the 50’s, Derek Ibbotson, after watching Bell in training, said: “He would have been a world champion had he chosen athletics over football,” hence his Nijinsky nickname.

What helped cement his iconic status among the City faithful was his performance against near neighbours, and deadly rivals, Manchester United during the 67/68 season. In a league game at Old Trafford Bell scored and also won a penalty. The Blues ran out 3-1 winners, a result which helped them beat the Red Devils to the League title that year.



Bell won 48 caps for his country

His first cap came against Sweden, a game England won 3-1. He went to Mexico as part of England’s World Cup squad where he replaced Bobby Charlton during the 3-2 quarter final defeat to West Germany. Some at the time criticized the substitution, claiming it was the game’s turning point. But Charlton pointed out that West Germany had already got their first goal before his substitution.

Bell hoped he would get another crack at a World Cup. As he recalled: “I had joined the England squad just after 1966, and was on the edge of things in 1970, so… [1974] was going to be my World Cup.” And had it not been for a goalkeeper Brian Clough labelled a ‘clown’ he might well have achieved his dream. Bell later said the Polish keeper “… played out of his skin, but he was a bit lucky that night as well.”

Bell went on to represent his country 48 times, scoring nine goals and would undoubtedly won more caps had a serious injury not curtailed his playing career.

That Injury…

In 1975, and still in his prime, 29 year old Bell suffered a serious injury that would ultimately bring down the curtain on his glittering career.

City hosted Manchester United in a League Cup tie. Bell was racing towards goal when United defender Martin Buchan attempted to stop him. As he tried to cut inside Buchan, the defender tackled him. The combination of both player’s movements resulted in Bell being sidelined for two years. It was no consolation that City won 4-0.

On his return to the City first team, City fan Dave Brammer managed to get to Bell as he warmed up and placed a crown on his head. The king had returned…but not for long. In August 1979 he announced his retirement.

He flirted briefly a return to football in 1980 with North American Soccer League side San Jose Earthquakes. He lasted 5 games: it was time to call it a day.

Speaking about the tackle Colin Bell said: “People ask me if the tackle was done on purpose. I don’t believe it was and don’t believe things like that should happen in the game. No – it’s a man’s game, you take the knocks. I’ve only got to be thankful that I was in my late twenties when picking up the injury.”

In a thirteen year career at City he made almost 500 appearances, scoring 152 goals – a tremendous goal to game ratio for a midfielder.

After Football

Bell took on the role as City’s reserve and youth team coach in 1990 but left when Frank Clarke became manager. He later returned as an ambassador for the club.

Fittingly Manchester City honoured their famous son with a stand named after him. What was the City of Manchester stadium’s West Stand was, in 2004, renamed The Colin Bell Stand.

The following year he was awarded an MBE in recognition of his charitable work, and was also inducted into Football’s Hall of Fame.

A Reluctant Hero

It is a given that footballers, at some point in their careers, publish an autobiography. Colin Bell was no exception, though in one respect it was exceptional: it probably saved his life!

Written by Ian Cheeseman and published in 2005 it was called: Colin Bell – Reluctant Hero: The Autobiography of a Manchester City and England Legend.


Cancer scare: Early diagnosis was vital

Jim Hill, a colorectal surgeon at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, was given a copy of the book. Coincidentally Bell’s son, Dr Jon Bell was also working at the hospital. On reading the book the surgeon discovered Bell’s mother died of bowel cancer at a young age. The surgeon suggested to Dr Bell that his father should have some tests.

Colin Bell had a scan which showed which showed the onset of an aggressive form of bowel cancer. Within three weeks he was being operated on.

Mr Hill said later: “If it was left untreated then I think what Colin had would have turned into a bowel cancer. I’m just pleased he’s come through this fine.”

It was a shocking bit of news but it led to an early diagnosis which saved his life.

Bell said: “It wasn’t until a few weeks after the operation that I started to take it in.”

Still the King

Whether it’s on the City of Manchester stadium terraces or in the Manchester media, Colin Bell is still called the king. They started singing ‘He is the King of the Kippax’ (after City’s Kippax stand at the old Maine Road ground. And as last year’s poll demonstrated, his fans are still singing it now.


Bell Misses Derby Semi-Final Triumph As City Go Through



Ahead of the Manchester derby this weekend we had a rummage around to find something suitable and stumbled upon this lovely photo of Colin Bell looking out at Old Trafford after being ruled out of this 1969 derby with (I’m going to stick my neck out here) an arm injury.

This was a League Cup semi-final second leg, the first leg having finished 2-1 to City at Maine Road. Over 63,000 witnessed a humdinger of a derby with City emerging victorious thanks to a late equaliser on the night from Mike Summerbee in a 2-2 draw.

City led 3-2 on aggregate going into the second half. Then George Best picked the ball up 35 yards from goal, wriggled his way through the City defence and hit a shot which Joe Corrigan grasped at, then let drop. Denis Law couldn’t miss the follow up and he struck the ball into the net to bring the aggregate scores level.

That was still the case when City were awarded an indirect free kick just outside the United box.  As they lined up the defensive wall, the referee still had his arm pointing skywards, but that didn’t stop Franny Lee from striking the ball at goal. Luckily for City Alex Stepney tried to save it – he could have stood and let the ball fly into the net and it wouldn’t have counted, but instead he did his best to stop the shot  – and Mike Summerbee pounced to place the rebound past him and see City through to the final.


League Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg

(City win 4-3 on aggregate)

17th December 1969

Att: 63,418

 Bowyer(17), Summerbee(82)
United: Edwards(23), Law(59)

Ref: Jim Finney

United: Stepney, Edwards, Dunne, Stiles, Ure, Sadler, Morgan, Crerand, Charlton, Law, Best – sub Kidd

City:  Corrigan, Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Booth, Oakes, Summerbee, Connor, Lee, Young, Bowyer – sub Owen


Hatters Hit For Six by Law!
But it Counts for Nothing as City Still Go Out & He’s Robbed of Cup Record

by Richard DJJ Bowdery

Manchester City’s great form over recent seasons might have the purists drooling but none of Pellegrini’s players have managed to achieve what the Scottish Lawman did on January 28th 1961: one player, six goals.

The irony is that despite such a heroic effort City still lost the tie. Let me explain…


Law is credited with 42 FA Cup goals, but it could have been 47

Dennis Law, known affectionately as the Lawman by the fans, scored all six goals for City in a 4th round FA Cup match against Luton Town at their Kenilworth Road ground.

After 68 minutes the Sky Blues were winning 6-2. By the 69th minute the referee took the decision to abandon the game because of a waterlogged pitch.

As the game was abandoned Law’s six goals were wiped from the record books.

To add insult to injury when the match was replayed on 1 February Luton Town won 3-1 – with the Lawman scoring his side’s only goal.

Had those six goals been allowed to stand then Dennis Law would have gone into the record books as the FA Cup’s top goalscorer in the 20th Century with 47 goals (assuming he didn’t add to his tally in subsequent rounds).

Instead Ian Rush’s 44 FA Cup goals propelled him into the number one spot, by default.

Another interesting point to note from City’s bygone era, which was almost emulated by last season’s side, is that in the 1957/58 season the Sky Blues scored 104 League goals in the old First Division. However, they also leaked almost as many by conceding 100 goals. In so doing they became the only club to score and concede a century of goals in the top-flight.





Manchester Derby Preview
PLUS: The Magnificent Seven – Classic Matches Over The Years

By Rob Shepherd.

Di Maria is good value at 9/1 to score first

Di Maria is good value at 9/1 to score first

This Sunday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad stadium will be the 166th competitive meeting between City and United, and so far The Reds have secured 69 victories while The Blues have 46 and there have been 50 draws.

City are in desperate need of a win to keep on the shoulders of Chelsea, while a win for United would put them to within one point of City, making Louis Van Gaal’s boast they can still challenge for the Premier League not sound so fanciful.

It would certainly enhance United’s chances of securing a top four place at the end of the season thus achieving LVG’s major objective; regaining Champions League status.

United are 3/1 to with Corals who favour a City win which is 5/6.

The draw is 11/4. On that front Bobby’s Bets likes the look of a 2-2 draw at 11/1.

First goalscorer? Given his form Sergio Aguero has to be worth a punt even at favourite price of 7/2. United’s Angel di Maria is an attractive 9/1.

In these big game clashes, its often a centre-back from a set-piece who breaks the deadlock, so Vincent Kompany at 28-1 is worth a couple of quid perhaps.

For further inspiration here is a trawl back at seven magnificent encounters between the Manchester rivals over the years.

1. Manchester United 4 Manchester City 1, August 1957
Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, David Pegg, Liam Whelan, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor would all feature for United – five months later all of them perished in the Munich air disaster. Goals from Edwards, Taylor, Johnny Berry and Dennis Viollet maintained United’s perfect start to the season in what was the last Manchester derby before the tragedy in Germany.

2. Manchester City 3-3 Manchester United, November 1971
Sheikh Mansour’s deep pockets have led to a return to the days of the early 70’s when the blues and the reds met as equals. United were top and City third when the latter came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down in front of over 63,000 and even won bragging rights at the end of the season, finishing four points ahead of the Old Trafford side (highlights below).

3. Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City, April 1974
If the 5-1 derby victory 15 years later was City’s zenith – until 2011, anyway – then this was United’s nadir. This result, after an ill-tempered affair, led to them to being ingloriously relegated at Old Trafford and their doom was confirmed when Denis Law – the former darling of the Stretford End – famously back-heeled them into the second tier. Law, utterly heartbroken at what he had done, was substituted immediately after and never kicked a ball in league football again.

4. Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United, September 1989
This was the first time in three years the great foes had met, and newly promoted City’s fans were at boiling point. After an enforced break due to crowd trouble the hosts ran riot, with David Oldfield scoring a brace and further goals from Trevor Morley and Ian Bishop, and City fan Andy Hinchcliffe capping a day still spoken of in hushed tones with a lovely fifth (goals are in below link). Sir Alex Ferguson used the pain of this defeat to best their nearest rivals for the next decade and more. The Maine Road Massacre, as it came to be known, would be the last time in 13 years City managed to win against United (their next was in 2002 when Nicolas Anelka and a Shaun Goater double won the game 3-1). Later that season Fergie won his first trophy.

5. Manchester United 5-0 Manchester City, November 1994
In the 1990s City failed to chalk up a single win against United, and this thrashing perfectly illustrated the gulf in class between the pair. Andrei Kanchelskis and the magnificent Eric Cantona starred on this occasion, with the Frenchman opening the scoring and the Ukrainian winger delivering the coup de grâce by scoring a hat-trick, which he completed in the final minute. Mark Hughes, who would go on to manage City eight years later, also found the target.


"Sorry pal, are you OK..?"

“Sorry pal, are you OK..?”

6. Manchester United 1 Manchester City 1, April 2001
This game is remembered not for the goals but for the culmination of a long-standing feud between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland. It started in 1998 when the United captain suffered a cruciate ligament injury when chasing a through ball against Leeds, who the Norwegian Haaland was with at the time. Three years later Keane made an x-rated knee-high tackle on Haaland that would have made Graeme Souness blush. He was sent-off and later admitted in his autobiography that it was a premeditated attempt to injure. He eventually received a £150,000 fine and a five-match ban as punishment.

7. Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United, 2004
It was almost 1989 relived again as United were convincingly humbled once more. A struggling City side somehow lifted themselves to rout the old enemy. United were not at their best but City had Jon Macken, veterans Trevor Sinclair and Robbie Fowler and the erratic Shaun Wright-Phillips – all of whom found the net – meaning this is still one of the most unlikely derby results on record.


The Oil Firm Derby Preview
PLUS: Stunning Colin Bell Volley Earns Draw at The Bridge in 1970


Colin Bell

Manchester City v Chelsea, Premier League, Sunday 21st September, 4pm

Sunday’s clash between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad certainly feels like the Big Title Showdown Game of the campaign so far.

City, not quite the goal machine of last term, have got the job done for the most part so far. They are a team with an effortless grace about them which stems from the demeanour of manager Manuel Pelligrini.

Chelsea have evolved into a team Jose Mourinho now believes can go all the way. Last season’s mantra of steely concentration with the bite of cobras has made way for demolition with artistic licence.

Even if City have an owner even richer than Chelsea’s and consequently a bigger wage bill, Chelsea have spent prudently in this transfer window and have made a clear statement with their play that they won’t be blown out of water by anyone.

Money can’t buy success, eh? Oligarch Abramovich and Oil monarch Mansour have reshaped the football landscape with their billions.

It’s far from a two horse race yet… but these two clubs are now setting down a new power base.

Things can still go in cycles but the sheer sums of money would seem to protect these clubs from spiraling into decay rather like, well, Manchester City and Chelsea did by the end of the Seventies.

At the start of that decade the two clubs seemed poised to dominate for some time.

When Man City visited Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in October 1970, City were holders of the European Cup winner’s Cup and Chelsea had just won the FA Cup, both hugely glamorous trophies back then for two very glamorous teams.

That particular game ended 1-1 and was most notable for a stunning long range volley by Colin Bell that is a reminder that those boys knew a thing or two about technique back then too.


Would this new more audacious Chelsea settle for a similar result..? Quite possibly.

Man City go into their clash with Chelsea as favourites with Coral at 7/5. The draw is 5/2 with a Chelsea win 15/8.

Despite the goalscoring talent on display a 0-0 at 11/1 would not surprise – City are 17/2 to win 1-0; Chelsea 10/1 to repeat the 0-1 scoreline from last season.

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: A draw this early in the season suits both teams, lump on at 5/2.

 Odds courtesy of William Hill.

Going Right to the Wire!
1977: City and Liverpool Battle it out for the Title, Sunderland Fight the Drop

Richard Bowdery looks at the last time City and Liverpool were this close in a title race – oh, and it was touch and go at the bottom too!

You have to go back many years to find the last time Manchester City and Liverpool were neck and neck for the League title: 27 in fact.

And while City and Liverpool were vying for the League Champions crown, at the other end of the table ten clubs were battling it out to avoid relegation.

It was the 1976/77 season – Manchester United had appointed Dave Sexton as manager, after Tommy Docherty was sacked following his affair with the wife of the club’s physiotherapist. Don Revie announced his resignation as England manager after three years and headed to the Middle East to fill up his tank. And Wimbledon FC, that season’s Isthmian League champions, were elected to the Football League replacing Workington.

It was Liverpool who edged the title by a single point. Their 57 points from 42 games might not seem much today but remember this was in an era when only two points were awarded for a win.

Liverpool were going for the treble but stuttered in the FA Cup Final which they lost to Manchester United, 2-1.

Four days later order was restored when the Reds defeated West Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1, in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, to become only the second English side to lift the European Cup.

At the other end of the First Division the contenders for demotion had been whittled down to six. They were Bristol City, Coventry, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham, and West Ham United.

Spurs were the first to fall through the trap door but a surprise 2-1 victory for Bristol City over Liverpool kept City’s hopes alive.

Stoke lost to Aston Villa by the only goal of the game to confirm their demotion leaving one vacancy to be filled.

Three teams, Bristol City, Coventry and Sunderland battled for the points to stay up in their last game of the season.


Norman Hunter joined Bristol City from Leeds in October 1976 and helped keep them up

In a twist Bristol faced Coventry at the Sky Blues Highfield Road ground, while Sunderland travelled to Everton.

Conspiracy theorists must have had a field day, as the two teams drew 2-2. Though it didn’t matter as Sunderland went down 2-0 to Everton and so occupied the final berth on the ship sailing for Division Two.

The relegation battle that season had one of the closest finishes in the League’s history with five points separating the bottom ten teams. Nails must have been bitten to the quick.

So the parallels between 1976/77 and 2013/14 are eerily similar. Will Sunderland stay up? Will Manchester City get their revenge? All will be revealed over the coming week…

Manchester City v Bayern Munich + City’s European Cup Heartache of 45 Years

Wednesday night sees Manchester City mix it with the big boys again as they continue in their Champions League adventure – And they don’t come much bigger than the reigning European Champions Bayern Munich.

City won their opening game 3-0 at Viktoria Plzen, but this encounter will provide a first real test for City under Pellegrini. Under his predecessor, Roberto Mancini, City failed to get out of the group stages in the last two campaigns and if they are to establish a serious reputation for themselves in Europe they will have to improve upon that this time round.

Those last two European campaigns were City’s first in the quest for the cup with the big ears since way back in 1968. That time England had two representatives in the European Cup and both were from Manchester; City represented England as champions and United were there as holders.

But back then, just as it has done lately, Europe’s premier competition brought little cheer for the blue half of Manchester and sadly for City they succumbed to Fenerbache in the first round 45 years ago this week.

Tony Coleman

Tony Coleman gave City the lead in Istanbul

It all began well enough in Istanbul, Tony Coleman giving City the lead after 11 minutes. After a goalless first leg City were now in the driving seat and they were doing a decent job of navigating their way through this tricky tie, Fenerbache looked a beaten side as they went in for the break.

The Guardian’s Albert Barham described it like this: “Ercan, the big, burly strong man of the defence shaped to head it back. Then he made mistakes. He decided to fox Coleman and anticipated that the ball would carry to Yavuz. It did not. Coleman, quick to spot the chance, pounced on it and as Yavuz came out to him, trying to tackle waist-high, Coleman popped the ball into the net. From then until half time the game was City’s to have if they could hold it. Oakes was playing superbly and Young did great work as City fell back on defence.”

But the second half couldn’t have started worse for the Blues as they conceded almost immediately after the restart, Abdullah the scorer after Ogun had squeezed the ball through a tiny gap in City’s massed defence.

City faced wave after wave of attack as the reinvigorated Turkish champions, roared on by a huge partisan crowd, tested their English counterparts resolve to breaking point. That point came with only 12 minutes left as Can’s free-kick was prodded home by Ogun.

It was a hostile environment the likes of which City had never encountered before and Fenerbahce in the end would not be denied.

Barham gives us an insight into what it was like that night in Istanbul: “They had begun the game, as was only to be expected, in a flurry of action which was almost hysterical, and from Can’s pass, Ogun put the ball into the net after six minutes. He was offside but not a Turk in the stadium – crammed to overflowing three hours before kick-off for this, Fenerbahce’s greatest match – would believe this. Players jostled the referee and hustled him in the general melee, but the official stood firm. He had a similar moment of embarrassment only seconds before the crucial goal. Again it was Ogun who got the ball into the net. Again he was offside. The scene was a repeat one.”

So City’s hopes of emulating their near-neighbours triumph from the previous May disappeared after just 180 minutes of football.

United on the other hand made it all the way to the semi-finals before losing out to eventual winners; Milan.


Bayern’s Robben is 13/2 to open the scoring


Manchester City v Bayern Munich

Man City:  2/1  The Draw: 12/5   Bayern Munich:  23/20

Selected Bets:

Correct Score: Man City 1-1 Bayern Munich at 13/2

First Goalscorer: Arjen Robben at 13/2

Scorecast: Aguero to score 1st, City to win 2-1: 70/1

BOBBY’S BET OF THE DAY: Halftime/Fulltime:  City/Draw at 14/1


Odds courtesy of William Hill


The Maine Road Massacre – 23rd September 1989

by Karl Hofer.

The demolition of United by Vincent Kompany and company sets a familiar tone. In recent years derby wins for City, whilst not being a regular occurrence, have often been spectacular; amongst Citys’ nine victories in the last 25 years we’ve had a 6-1, a 5-1 and a couple of 4-1’s.

Here we recall one of those gems – Affectionately referred to as ‘The Maine Road Massacre’ by fans of City, and it took place 24 years ago today;

Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United, 23rd September 1989.

This was the first Manchester derby in three years, and newly promoted City’s fans were at melting point in anticipation . The game was a fairly even one before the players were taken off the pitch because of crowd trouble, emotions were clearly running at their highest.

And when they players returned, it was City that ran riot, with David Oldfield, Trevor Morley and Ian Bishop putting City three up, before Mark Hughes scored a spectacular scissor kick to briefly give United hope of a fightback. Maine Road was already shaking at its very foundations after Oldfield’s second of the game restored the three goal cushion – and then City fan Andy Hinchcliffe added the fifth.

Rising to meet David White’s cross, he dispatched a header past the helpless Jim Leighton to make it five-one in front of the dejected United fans. Seizing the opportunity to install himself as something of a City legend, he then gleefully brandished five fingers at an elated Kippax Stand. Twice.

The star of the day was the Australian-born Oldfield, he had been bought by City boss Mel Machin for a modest £600,000 from Luton Town the previous season. He went on to make barely two dozen appearances before he joined Leicester City in a swap deal for Wayne Clarke, a move set up by Howard Kendall who had since taken over the reins at Maine Road.

What made it all the worse for United was their investment in the quartet of Gary Pallister, Neil Webb, Paul Ince and Mike Phelan who had all arrived in the summer, it made the whole day all the more embarrassing for a team expected to mount a serious title challenge.

Said Ferguson after the game: “Every time somebody looks at me I feel I have betrayed that man. After such a result you feel as if you have to sneak around corners, feel as if you are some kind of criminal.”


Ian Bishop takes the acclaim after making it 3-0

In an interview with The Scotsman years later, Archie Knox, Ferguson’s assistant at the beginning of his time at Old Trafford, recalled the trauma it caused.

“I think Alex said he felt like going home and putting his head in the oven. That’s it. It was a disaster. After games, we were parking our car under the stand and leaving through the laundry and that kind of stuff. There was a bit of that going on. It affected him.

“He says he became a bit of a hermit and, aye, he went into his shell round about that time. We weren’t maybe as close socially as we had been. I was trying to get him out for a drink but he didn’t want to.

No doubt the defeat hurt United, but Sir Alex Ferguson used the pain to good cause. ‘The Maine Road Massacre’ as it became known would be the last time City managed to beat United for 13 years. History indicates that those in doubt of David Moyes’ credentials for the job should bite their tongue for a while longer at least.

United and City would both finish in the bottom half of the table that season, but United won the FA Cup, the first piece of silverware Sir Alex would win with United, but not by any means the last…

David Oldfield, now 42, used to run the reserve and under 18 teams at Peterborough United alongside Darren Ferguson, son of Sir Alex. He is now in charge of the development squad at West Bromich Albion.


Trautmann the Wunderbar!

Manchester City paid tribute to Bert Trautmann ahead of their opening match against Newcastle on Monday night.

Trautmann died at the age of 89 last month in Valencia, Spain, where he had settled after a globetrotting and colourful career in football to say the least.

The goalkeeping legend was a former German prisoner of war. At the end of WWII he opted to stay in England, married a local girl and became a pro with City.

Famously in the 1956 FA Cup final, Trautmann bravely played on after suffering an injury when diving at an attacker’s feet but played on as City beat Birmingham City 3-1.

Our photo shows Trautmann being helped by team-mates at the final whistle. An X-ray the next day revealed he had suffered a broken bone his neck. Trautmann would play over 500 games for City before retiring in 1964, he then managed various clubs and nations until the early 1980’s.

The Crazy Gang reach the top table

by Richard Bowdery.

On 23 August 1986 the Crazy Gang burst onto the top flight of English football. On that day they played Manchester City in their first ever match in the old First Division – and came of age.

For the record Andy Thorn scored the Crazy Gang’s first-ever top flight goal, a curling fluke of a free-kick from the touchline to give them the lead. The Dons eventually lost 3–1 but the result was immaterial. What mattered was the fact that they had risen to the pinnacle of English soccer in only their tenth season as a Football League club, climbing from the fourth to the first division in only four seasons.

Wimbledon’s first top-flight game at Plough Lane ended in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa – the champions of Europe a mere four years before – and by the start of September The Dons were sitting pretty at the top of the table.

“My mum will want this season to finish tomorrow,” joked manager Dave Bassett, as he soaked up the table with his feisty minnows on top, and Manchester United at the very bottom.


“Lovely, just a little more perm love, hold it……Beautiful!”

Wimbledon Old Central Football Club, as they were originally called, was founded in 1889. They spent the 88 years plying their trade in the amateur and semi-professional ranks, what we call today non-league football.

Then in 1977 they were elected to the Football League and so began their meteoric rise, the culmination of which was one day in 1988 when their name would be synonymous as the little David battling the giant Goliath.

On 14 May that year this little club – whose Plough Lane ground was so intimate those playing wide could shake hands with the crowd – did the unthinkable. They beat the mighty Liverpool 1-0 to lift the FA Cup and so a legend was born.

Sadly that success was not to last. Not only did they slip down the divisions they also slipped out of Plough Lane and, much to the anger of their fans, headed to Buckinghamshire, in 2003 and were renamed MK Dons in 2004.

But Wimbledon fans, like the Crazy Gang of old, don’t give up without a fight.

In the summer of 2002 when a three-man FA commission shocked the club’s fans by allowing the old Wimbledon FC to relocate, the fans decided that their club would never die.

Within six weeks of the decision the fans had organised a new club from the ashes of the old and so AFC Wimbledon was born.

This time the club reached the football a lot quicker than before and in 2011 they were back in the football league.

Will history repeat itself and find this new incarnation plying its trade in the Premiership? Only time will tell. But given their pedigree I wouldn’t bet against it.

(Thanks to the team at WUP for their help with the Wimbledon lineup that day)