1970/71 SEASON REVIEW
City had a short pre-season as they lost 4-1 at Oxford, drew 0-0 at Celtic then beat Bury 5-4 at Gigg Lane. The only player to join City was 30 year old Freddie Hill, who moved to Maine Road from Halifax Town at the end of last season for £12,000
The European Cup Winners Cup holders kicked off the season proper at Southampton with a 1-1 draw, and then gained a good away victory in a 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace , then in front of a large expectant Maine Road they could only draw 0-0 against Burnley and so with the first League Tables of the season published, The Blues were mid-table on four points.
City then shot up the table as they beat Blackpool 2-0 at home and then a fine 1-0 win at Everton took them into 2nd place behind Leeds United.
They continued their early push to go to the top of the table with a comprehensive 4-1 home win against West Brom , to keep the pressure on Leeds.
Away from the league The Blues slipped on the proverbial banana skin as Carlisle knocked them out of the League cup, City going down 3-1 in the 2nd Round.
The Blues however got back to the bread and butter of the league and beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 away to go within a point of Leeds, just seven games into the season. The early season had been dominated by affairs off the pitch rather than on it as news of a takeover bid by double glazing tycoon Joe Smith who was trying to buy a large enough chunk of shares to take control of the club. Joe Mercer was dead against a takeover as he felt that Albert Alexander should stay as chairman of the club, however Malcolm Allison had thrown his weight behind the takeover as he had been promised he would be able to take full control of the management of the team, as he had become more and more frustrated at not being in the immediate limelight of City’s success.
Allison provided a candid insight into the proceedings in ‘Colours of My Life’; “I didn’t want to clamber over Joe, I wanted recognition of my work with the team. I wanted to be a team manager. Joe could have any title he wanted.
… He threw me a sprat. I could be called team manager, but he would still make the final decisions. I realised, bitterly, That Joe was hanging on.
I suppose it was then I decided to organise a takeover of Manchester City.
… I knew that the City vice-chairman, Frank Johnson was ready to sell a huge chunk of shares for £100,000 and that the man who bought them had only to make one or two available alliances and he could win control of the club. I said to Ian Niven, a fanatical City supporter “find me a man with £100,000 and we will get control of the club”. Niven came up with the man in a fortnight, Joe Smith, a double glazing ‘tycoon’ from Oldham.
… He was ready to do all he could to develop City. He wanted to give me a twenty year contract. I was apparently in business”
Smith agreed to buy the shares in the end for £110,000, however the City directors were not going to take the possibility of a takeover lying down and with the support of Joe Mercer they legally challenged the share purchase citing that Frank Johnson had broken a covenant, not to sell shares without first offering them to the current members of the board. Allison thought his days at Maine Road were now numbered.
And so with the status quo maintained, City then opened up their defence of the European Cup Winners cup at Home to part-timers Linfield of Ireland and what appeared to be an easy task turned out to be a lot harder as City only took a 1-0 win into the second leg.
Two weeks later, in the fierecly partisan atmosphere of Belfast’s famous Windsor Park, City found themselves right up against it. The determined Linfield side gave Irish football one of it’s biggest ever boosts by winning on the night 2-1, but City were through by way of that most important Francis Lee away goal.
City also had their only dalliance with the short-lived Anglo Italian Cup losing 1-0 in a 1st leg in Bologna and then drawing 2-2 at Maine Road to see Bologna go through 3-2 on aggregate
Back to the league and an impressive 4-1 win at home to Stoke was followed by the Blue’s first league defeat of the season losing 2-0 at Tottenham .
Newcastle were the next visitors to Maine Road and earned a point in a 1-1 draw. Another 1-1 draw followed at Chelsea with City still hanging on to second place in the League with a quarter of the season gone.
Unfortunately another 1-1 draw followed at home to Southampton , and then a 3-0 defeat at Wolves left City without a win in five games and they slipt to seventh in the league.
Back in Europe and The Blues managed to buck their League form with a gritty 1-0 win in Hungary against Honved .
City got back to winning form in the league with a 2-0 win at Maine Road against Ipswich . But then lost 2-1 at Coventry . Sandwiched in between the two league games City disposed of Honved in the 2nd Leg of the European Cup Winners Cup tie with a 2-0 win. Due to City’s European commitments a young squad was sent to London to defend the Daily Express 5-A side Trophy and although they put up a fine performance they were finally knocked out by Spurs.
City dropped another point at home to Derby in a 1-1 draw which left the Blues in seventh place and seven points behind the leaders Leeds. Joe Mercer then took the team to Belgium to play in Georges Heylen’s testimonial and they lost 1-0 to Anderlecht.
City were going to have to start getting their scoring boots on if they were to start turning the draws into wins, and they managed that in their next game at Maine Road with a 2-0 win over West Ham .
A break from competitive football and a prestigious friendly against an Australian Tour XI saw City win 2-0.
In a tough away game at leaders Leeds City put up a brave performance but in the end lost 1-0 at Elland Road leaving them 11 points adrift of Don Revie’s men but had now moved into fifth spot.
Since the failed takeover bid Malcolm Allison’s future at City looked to be in doubt and things came to head following the defeat at Elland Road. Allison recounts; “City sacked me at 6 o-clock, it happened in the corridor of the Leeds United ground. The chairman Alexander, gave me the news, he said ‘Malcolm, the board wants to sack you’
… Joe Mercer joined us. His expression was very intense. He said to the chairman ‘If he goes I go’.
… They returned to the Leeds boardroom. A few minutes later I was ‘reinstated’ even though it was clear that the only reason was that Mercer had insisted that he would also leave. Even so I felt a break had come between Joe and myself. I sensed that the best of our relationship had gone. Twice he made me big promises about power coming over to me at a certain time, and these had been specific promises.”
With Harry Dowd’s chances of a first team place thin on the ground, City allowed him to move to Oldham on a full-time transfer after a loan spell at Stoke.
City then lost their first home game of the season to Arsenal 2-0, but the loyal City fans were certainly not disappointed a week later, as the Citizens traveled to Old Trafford and humiliated Manchester United beating them 4-1, unfortunately the downside was an horrific broken leg suffered by Glyn Pardoe in a ‘tackle’ by George Best.
City went on to score a further four goals without reply at Burnley a week later.
There was only one game over the Christmas period a 1-1 home draw against Huddersfield and The Blues entered 1971 in sixth place in the league 12 points from the summit.
Non League Wigan put up a brave display at Maine Road in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup but City overcame them with a solitary goal.
Another 1-0 home win saw Crystal Palace beaten in the league then two away draws 0-0 against Liverpool and 3-3 at Blackpool .
A bumper Stamford Bridge crowd of over 50,000 saw City beat Chelsea 3-0 in the 4th Round of the FA Cup.
City then went on a bad run which would virtually end their season domestically. They were beaten 2-0 at home by runaway leaders Leeds , then Arsenal beat the Blues at Highbury 1-0, and then Arsenal visited Maine Road eleven days later and knocked City out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Two further away games saw City draw 0-0 at West Ham and lose 2-0 against Ipswich a game that saw Joe Mercer turn to young goalkeeper Ron Healey after some bad form from Joe Corrigan. With just a third of the season to go Joe Mercer’s boys stood eighth in the League and were now out of the League Cup and FA Cup.
Another home point dropped as Wolves drew 0-0 at Maine Road before City flew out to Poland to renew rivalries with Gornik in the European Cup Winners Cup, this time Gornik winning 2-0 in the first leg.
City were struggling to score and went a fifth game without finding the back of the net in a goal-less draw at Derby , a match that left City’s squad decimated, Tony Book sustained a dislocated shoulder, Alan Oakes was carried off with a cartilaged damaged knee and Mike Summerbee went down with an injury that was diagnosed as a broken leg, his third fracture in the last twelve months.
Another draw followed, 1-1 at home to Coventry.
With Europe the only chance for silverware a young City side managed to overcome a two goal deficit from the first leg and inflict their own 2-0 defeat of Gornik at Maine Road to amazingly take the tie to a one game replay.
Back to the league and another draw, 0-0, this time at the Hawthorns against West Brom saw the Blues go 10 games without a league win
In an amazing replay which was held in Copenhagen against Gornik , City overcame the Poles with a 3-1 win to book a European sem-final place.
At the eleventh attempt City managed a League win, a 3-0 victory over visitors Everton , but it was not ‘a corner turned’ as The Blues went down 3-1 at home to Nottingham Forest then lost 1-0 at Huddersfield , before a goal-less draw at Newcastle leaving City in 8th place in the league with just 6 games left.
an inexperienced City side were drawn away in the first leg of the European Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Chelsea and were narrowly beaten 1-0 by the Londoners.
As fate would have it before City met Chelsea at Maine Road in Europe they met them in the league first and drew 1-1. The bad League form followed with a 2-0 defeat against Stoke at the Victoria Ground and a 2-2 home draw against Liverpool .
City’s attempt to defend their European crown fell at the penultimate hurdle as a mistake by City’s young keeper Ron Healey gifted Chelsea a 1-0 win in front of the Kippax and The Blues were out, defeated 2-0 on aggregate
The season frittered out with two defeats at Maine Road 1-0 against Tottenham and 4-3 against Manchester United on the last day of the season.
And so after winning five trophys within five years City had ended the season ‘potless, admittedly the squad was ravaged through injury and Mercer had to throw in many untried youngsters such as Willie Donachie, Jeff Johnson and Ron Healey, who did themselves proud and can only strengthen the squad for the 1971-72 season. Joe Corrigan writes in his autobiography “We finished the season empty handed for the first time in four years, we ended the season by winning just one of our last 18 games; relegation form however you looked at it… in many ways it was a glimpse of the future as the all-conquering City team built by Mercer and Allison slowly began to fall apart, players were getting older, the magic was fading.”