1976/77 SEASON REVIEW
Brian Kidd had arrived during the close season from Arsenal for a fee of £100,000.
Also Jim Conway was signed from Fulham for £30,000,
For the first time in 17 seasons, Alan Oakes’ name was missing. After a record 669 appearances for the club, Oakes had joined Chester as player/manager, bringing his illustrious Maine Road career to a close.
The Blues announced record season ticket sales, over 20,000 bringing in more than £350,000.
City played in the Tennents Caledonian Cup at Ibrox as part of their pre-season, The Blues drew their first game 1-1 against Southampton and after an amazing penalty shoot-out, which ended 11-11, City failed to progress to the final as they lost the coin toss. They played Partick Thistle in the 3rd place play off and won 4-1.
City then travelled to Spain to play in The Columbino Tournament. They were beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid and then after drawing 1-1 against Real Betis they won the penalty shoot-out 4-3.
City’s first game of the season was a 2-2 draw against Leicester at Filbert Street, and at Maine Road The Blues got off to a winning start beating Aston Villa 2-0, The Times reported ‘City sported a new strip, a complete ensemble in the pale blue once favoured by royalty… the end product was more workmanlike than regal.’
Three days later it was another home clean sheet, however only a point gained as City drew 0-0 with Stoke.
Aston Villa avenged their defeat at Maine Road as they met City again, this time in the League Cup at Villa Park, and the Villains won the 2nd Round tie 3-0. Back in the league City drew with Arsenal 0-0 at Highbury and then beat Bristol City 2-1 at Maine Road.
European football returned to Maine Road with a glamourous UEFA Cup 1st round 1st leg tie against Juventus, which the Blues won 1-0
In the league City moved up to 2nd place with a 2-0 win at Sunderland, however Manchester United’s visit to Maine Road left the Red side of Manchester with the bragging rights as City lost 3-1.
The return leg in the UEFA Cup saw City exit the competition as they lost 2-0 to Juventus.
City kept up the pace in the league however, and beat West Ham 4-2 at Maine Road and then drew 2-2 at Everton to reinstate themselves in 2nd place in Divison 1 after nine games
The Blues drew the next home game 0-0 against QPR before a trip to East Anglia ended in a mixed bag, with a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich and a 2-0 win at Norwich.
Another stutter at home saw City draw 0-0 again this time against Newcastle and slipped to fourth in the league.
The Blues managed to score their first goal at Maine Road in three games as they beat West Brom 1-0, but away from home they were goal-less again drawing 0-0 at Birmingham. In between those games City played a friendly at Stockport which they won 2-0.
In a sizzling game at Maine Road Tony Book’s side beat Derby 3-2 then drew twice on their travels 0-0 at Middlesbrough and 2-2 at Tottenham and had now moved up to third in the league.
Another home win, 2-0 against Coventry and the festive period was on us, on Boxing Day City beat Leeds 2-0 at Elland Road and finished the year off drawing 1-1 with League leaders Liverpool, who they were now just 4 points behind.
In the new year two players left Maine Road, Mick Docherty moved to Sunderland on a free after playing only eight games for the Blues, also moving on was Denis Leman who was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday for a nominal fee of £9,000.
The new year started with two games against West Brom in the FA Cup, the first game was a 1-1 draw at Maine Road and in the replay City beat West Brom 1-0 at a snowy Hawthorns.
City should have played again in the Midlands four days later but the game was postponed due to the weather.
Brian Kidd was the goal-scoring hero as he scored four goals as City beat Leicester 5-0 at Maine Road, then The Blues progressed to the 5th Round of the FA Cup as they beat Newcastle 3-1 at St James Park.
It was 15 games unbeaten as The Blues won 2-0 against Stoke at The Victoria Ground to keep their Championship aspirations alive, they were now only three points behind leaders Liverpool but with three games in hand.
The run continued at Maine Road with a 1-0 win over Arsenal and then a 2-2 draw at Newcastle, although the 17 match run was ended with a 1-0 defeat at Bristol City and then in The FA cup 5th Round City were beaten 1-0 by Leeds at Elland Road.
A win and defeat in the league kept City third in division 1, a 2-0 home win against Norwich and a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
City’s good form at Maine Road continued with a 1-0 win over Sunderland, however on their travels Tony Book’s team were struggling to win, losing 1-0 at West Ham and drawing 0-0 at QPR. With 11 games left to play Liverpool and Notts Forest were top of the table with 43 points and City were third on 40 points with a game in hand.
The Citizens closed the gap on Ipswich as they beat the East Anglian side 2-1 at Maine Road.
As the season was coming to an end City continued the clear-out of out of favour squad players as Mike Lester was sold to The Washington Diplomats for £10,000.
It was six home league wins on the trot as the Blues beat Leeds 2-1 but then lost 2-1 at league leaders Liverpool. However City moved to within 1 point of Ipswich and 2 points of Liverpool as they beat Middlesbrough 1-0 at Maine Road and then beat West Brom 2-0 at The Hawthorns, with just 6 games left to play.
City moved into second place with a 2-1 win over Birmingham at Maine Road, but a trip to the Baseball Ground to face Derby County would leave the Blues reeling after a disastrous 90 minutes when all that could go wrong did go wrong in a 4-0 thrashing that changed the face of the title race. Liverpool’s victory over Ipswich on the same day swung the pendulum back firmly in the Reds’ favour with only four League games left.
Manager Tony Book was defiant; “There’s no way I am going to concede that the First Division Championship is lost. We’ve made it very hard for ourselves following that heavy defeat at Derby, but until it is proved mathematically impossible to catch Liverpool I refuse to give up the chase”,
After a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, the Blues proved they were still in the race with a mesmerising 5-0 win against Spurs at Maine Road, a 1-1 draw against Everton followed in the final home game of the season, a match that saw Brian Kidd score his 25th goal of a fantastic campaign.
With Liverpool now three points clear, midfielder Jimmy Conway’s only goal of the season was enough to win the last game at Coventry 1-0, but was ultimately all in vain.
Liverpool were one point clear at the top and still had a game in hand, which they lost to Bristol City.
Quite rightly, Tony Book was proud of his side’s achievements, coming so close to pipping a Liverpool side he described as “in its pomp:”
City’s second place finish was their highest in the top flight since the championship decider at Newcastle back in 1968 and earned them a place in the UEFA Cup in the next campaign.
Dave Watson was voted City’s player of the season