Thursday, August 4, 2011
Man City give to Charity
In the days before it was named the FA Community Shield, the FA Charity Shield was the first chance to pick up silverware in the English leagues. In 1968, reigning First Division champions Manchester City played host to FA Challenge Cup winners West Brom at Maine Road and it proved to be one of the highest scoring games in the competition's history.
• Rewind to 1969: Young Ones
Before the bottomless pots of Dubai cash turned Manchester City from mid-table battlers into serious title contenders in recent times, the club had already undergone a dramatic transformation in the late 1960s. Under a management team of Joe Mercer and the inimitable Malcolm Allison, the club had gained promotion to the top flight after winning the 1965-66 Second Division title in the duo's first season at the helm.
The Blues had been 200-1 shots to claim the First Division title just one season after their promotion and given that City had only previously won the title in the 1936-37 season - and the following year became the only reigning champions ever to be relegated - few considered them to be contenders.
However, after the inspired signings of Francis Lee, Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee, City pipped rivals Manchester United to the title on the final day of the 1967-68 season. A 4-3 win over Newcastle, combined with United's 2-1 defeat against relegation-threatened Sunderland at Old Trafford, saw City lift the trophy and Mercer rightly take the plaudits.
His achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had suffered a stroke in 1964, but many journalists wondered whether his golden touch could continue. Ahead of the 1968-69 season, hopes were at their highest for a club unused to being in the limelight and, with the first game of season having rapidly approached, City had been fortunate enough to have the Charity Shield played at their home ground after a coin toss landed in their favour.
An insert in The Guardian's report on their title procession explained: "Manchester City have won the right to stage the FA Charity Shield at Maine Road ... City called correctly when a coin was spun to decide whether they or Everton or West Brom would have the honour."
So, on a glorious August day at Maine Road ahead of the new season, they faced West Brom, who were without three of their FA Cup-winning forward line: Bobby Hope, Clive Clark and Jeff Astle. The Baggies' woes continued almost as soon as the whistle was blown as the 35,510 fans were made to wait just 35 seconds before the first goal.
With Summerbee getting in behind the defence after a long, lofted ball, 20-year-old debutant Bobby Owen netted coolly from his pass to repay some of his £35,000 transfer fee and just a few moments later Summerbee's cross was headed exquisitely into his own net by Graham Lovett.
Ahead of the half-time break, Dick Krzywicki got one back after chasing down a long ball, but not before Summerbee and Bell had worked a superbly disguised free-kick just outside the box to allow Lee to stab home from close range and extend the lead.
Owen was back on the scoresheet again to make it four after cutting inside to fire a shot that squirmed under the grasp of goalkeeper John Osborne, who had sustained a broken finger earlier in the game and only went off midway through the second half.
After some passing play that suggested the Baggies had long since given up the ghost, Neil Young added the fifth with a fine left-foot finish from a narrow angle. There was still time for a sixth, though, as Lee bagged his second thanks to substitute goalkeeper Graham Williams' error, as he let the ball through him on the line.
As the 46th Charity Shield ended as one of the most one-sided on record, City celebrated and media reports heralded the arrival of a new dawn for the club.
The Guardian's Eric Todd, under the headline, 'New season could be memorable for Manchester City', wrote: "They put their own inimitable interpretation upon the competition ... and West Brom escaped very lightly at that. Not since the Amateurs cocked a disrespectful snook at the Professionals in 1926 had this particular final been won by such a margin."
City were similarly ruthless when Albion returned for a First Division match in November, winning 5-1, but their era of dominance ended soon after and they made their last appearance in the Charity Shield for the next 38 years in 1973.
What happened next? City won the FA Cup in 1969 after a 1-0 victory over Leicester City, usurping West Brom, but their league campaign was not quite so successful - finishing in 13th place behind the Baggies. The side failed to retain the Charity Shield either after losing 2-1 to Leeds, but by the time Mercer and Allison's relationship disintegrated in 1971, they had gone on to win two more trophies: the 1970 League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup.
The next silverware that City would collect would be the 1972 Charity Shield - despite the fact that Leeds and Derby had won the league and FA Cup, City and Aston Villa accepted the offer to enter the competition - winning a more low-key affair 1-0, with Francis Lee getting the goal from the penalty spot. They then lost their last appearance in the competition 1-0 to Burnley the following year.