1966/67 SEASON REVIEW
The newly promoted Blues had a short pre-season losing 2-1 at Aberdeen, and by the same score at Walsall, finishing with a 0-0 draw against Bolton at Maine Road.
City surprisingly signed Tony Book from Plymouth, Tony remembers in his biography “Plymouth turned down the initial bid, in fact Argyle demanded what was then a staggering £35,000… I had to go cap in hand to the manager, pleading for them to let me go because the opportunity represented everything that I had ever wanted to do. I desperately wanted to test myself by playing at the highest level and this had to be the final chance of doing so. Eventually they accepted £17,500, and I was on my way to Maine Road.” Book joined City on £40 a week just a £5 rise on what he earned at Plymouth and the 31 year old made his debut in the first League game of the season as City drew 1-1 at Southampton. City then beat champions Liverpool 2-1 at Maine Road, to allay any fears they may struggle in Division 1 indeed it was a great performance and Eric Todd in the Guardian reported that the referee himself applauded City off the field at the finish.
They continued the good start with a 1-0 home win over Sunderland. However Liverpool got an early revenge as they beat City at Anfield 3-2 and then City lost again 3-0 at Aston Villa, City were certainly starting to lose their early season form and West Ham’s World Cup heroes put City to the sword at Maine Road, the Hammers winning 4-1. It was The Blues first home league defeat since Good Friday 1965.
Arsenal were the next visitors to Manchester and City stopped the rot with a 1-1 draw and sat 16th in the League after seven games.
The cost of promotion to Division 1 was then announced as the annual statement of accounts revealed a staggerring loss of £45,000, this included £91,500 paid out for new players, and an income from the season’s league games of £128,835.
The League Cup saw City beat Bolton 3-1 at Maine Road on a rain sodden pitch, however 3 days later at Old Trafford Manchester United beat The Blues 1-0.
City then went on to beat Blackpool 1-0 at Bloomfield Road, before top of the table Chelsea visited Maine Road and beat City 4-1, a game in which Dave Connor played for an hour with a broken collar bone. It was the first of four defeats on the trot, City then went out of the League Cup losing 4-2 at West Brom, then back in the league they lost 2-1 at home to Tottenham and 2-0 at Newcastle.
The Blues were obviously struggling in their first season back in Division 1 but won 3-2 against Burnley at Turf Moor to keep them fourth from bottom in the league.
The Blues then drew 1-1 against Newcastle at Maine Road and then two 1-0 wins followed at Stoke and at home to Everton, however they conceded four goals for the third time as they lost 4-1 at Fulham.
Moving into December and The Blues form improved they drew 1-1 at home to Notts Forest, beat West Brom 3-0 at The Hawthorns and then drew 1-1 again at Maine Road against Southampton.
The festive season was not to be a happy one however as The Blues lost 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday and 1-0 at Sunderland on New Years Eve.
It was clear that the problem for Joe Mercer was the lack of goals, City had only scored more than one goal in a game only once in the last nine games and the sequence continued into the New Year as The Blues drew 0-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday, lost 1-0 at Arsenal and drew 1-1 at home against Manchester United. City were now perched just 6 points off the bottom of the table in 17th place.
The lack of scoring sequence was eventually broken in the FA Cup 3rd Round as City beat Leicester 2-1 at Maine Road. Back in the league though City goals were still a rarity as they beat Blackpool 1-0 at Maine Road and then drew 0-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
In the FA Cup The Blues earned a passage into the fifth round as they beat Cardiff 3-1 in a replay at Maine Road after drawing 1-1 at Cardiff.
In the league City scored just single goals again in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham and a 1-0 win at home to Burnley.
Mercer’s men were making hard work of the FA Cup as they earned another replay drawing 1-1 with Ipswich in the 5th Round tie at Maine Road. In the replay at Portman Road The Blues put up a great display beating Ipswich 3-0.
City had now only scored five goals in their last ten league games, Joe Mercer strengthened the forward line by bringing in Tony Coleman from Doncaster for £10,000 but his debut couldn’t stop the stats now reading five goals in eleven games as City drew 0-0 at Leeds, luckily for City with twelve games to go they were twelve points clear of bottom club Blackpool and therefore looked safe from relegation worries in their first season back in Division 1.
It was a good job City had that buffer of 12 points as they proceeded to take just one point from their next four games, at Maine Road they lost 3-1 against Leicester and drew 2-2 with West Brom, and on their travels they lost 2-1 at Leicester and 1-0 at Sheffield United.
The FA Cup 6th round tie is the match Joe Mercer looks on as the turning point for his struggling side, in his biography he remembers
“We were drawn away to Leeds United, ruthless robot-like Leeds they were then
…The entire football world expected us to play it tight, but they reckoned wrong. They overlooked the moral courage, the gambling streak, the spirit of adventure that was always just below the surface of the Mercer-Allison partnership. We did precisely the opposite to what was expected. We attacked them! We threw everything in, we decided What The Hell Have We Got To Lose”.
…”City were brilliant that day, we gave Leeds a lesson and with the most outrageous luck lost by a solitary goal that should have been disallowed. We had been so much on top the result was unbelievable.
Still, we had found ourselves, we were on our way. We started to stretch defences. Fear was scoffed at!
It certainly was a turning point as The Blues started to find their scoring boots, young Colin Bell in particular, who scored a hat-trick in the next game at Maine Road as City beat Stoke 3-1.
Mercers men then drew 1-1 against Aston Villa and then beat Fulham 3-0, both games again at Maine Road, at Goodison Park City drew 1-1 with Everton.
In a bad tempered game at The City ground Mike Doyle was sent off as Nottingham Forest ended as victors 2-0.
The last three games of the season saw a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United and a 2-1 against Leeds both a home and then a 1-1 draw at West Ham on the last day of the season saw City finish in an acceptable 15th place in their first season back in Division 1.
Tony Book was the winner of City’s inaugural Player of the Year award.
City went on a short end of season a tour of Europe where they first played in Germany and beat the German Champions Eintracht Brunswick 2-1, it was then on to Belgium where the Blues won again beating the Belgian Cup holders, Standard Liege, 1-0.
Despite a successful season Malcolm Allison recalls in his book ‘Colours of My Life’ that there was still discontent on his behalf; “Albert Alexander came to me and said ‘Walter Griffiths the secretary is getting a bonus of £400 and so are you, and Joe Mercer is getting £600’. I was a bit stunned. Then I felt disgust. I felt I had been badly insulted.
I remember saying ‘Yes, I thought the secretary did very well. He booked us into some very nice hotels.”
I had worked up to Christmas on £30 a week as agreed. Then we had some talks and I got a £10 a week rise. But really it was chicken feed. I didn’t have a club car or any other perks. I knew the club wasn’t rolling in money but this did seem very cheap.
Eventually they agreed to pay off my overdraft which stood at £600. I hadn’t been bowled over by their generosity.”