Current Man City Squad Out to Emulate The Team of 1967
Manchester City made a statement of intent when they beat bitter local rivals Manchester United 6-1 recently and in the wake of that result, the football world has suddenly acknowledged that Man City are serious contenders for the Premier League title. This article looks back at the last City side to win the league, back in 1967 and asks whether the current squad is capable of emulating that achievement some 45 years.
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With the English football world still reeling following Manchester City’s 6-1 thrashing over local rivals, Manchester United at Old Trafford recently, a result that put the “blue half of Manchester” in the driving seat to win the Premier League title and in doing so will no doubt have reminded older football fans of the great Manchester City team of 1967-8 that finished top of Division One (or now known as the Premier League).
That season in fact, ‘City’ had only been back in Division One for one year after being promoted two seasons earlier. Manager, Joe Mercer and his assistant Malcolm Allison, who guided them to that promotion from Division Two, were in their third full season in control at Maine Road and although their first season back in the top flight was inauspicious, Mercer in particular knew that he had the makings of a very good team on his hands.
They had in fact finished mid-table in their first season and were not amongst the favourites to win the league title in their second. However, Mercer bought a certain Francis Lee for a club record of £60,000 from Bolton in October 1967 and it was after he arrived at Maine Road that City’s surge up the table began.
An eleven match unbeaten run followed Lee’s arrival, during which time the now famous Manchester City trinity of Lee, Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee was born. It was these three players in particular that drove the side to their eventual pinnacle. It was also during this unbeaten run that City were described by BBC commentator, Kenneth Wolstenholme as the most exciting team in England, after they played magnificently on a snow covered frozen Maine Road pitch defeating a Spurs side by 4-1. The win put them just one point behind United at the top of the table.
Although the team were rocked by a couple of defeats over the Christmas period; both inflicted by WBA, a second run of seven games undefeated, put them ‘bang’ there again. A defeat by Leeds followed but City bounced straight back, defeating United by 3-1 at Old Trafford, in front of 63,000 fans who saw Bell and Lee amongst the scorers. The win put City back on top of the table.
The two Manchester clubs then fought ‘tooth and nail’ throughout the spring, but after United lost to WBA and City beat Sheffield Wednesday in April, City knew that wins in their last three games would give them the title.
Those final three matches were against Everton, who they beat 2-0, a match in which team skipper, Tony Book, scored his first ever league goal for the team. They then completed the ‘double’ over Spurs at White Hart Lane, winning 3-1, with Bell scoring twice and then they won, what turned out to be the title decider against Newcastle in a 4-3 epic at St James Park, where top scorer, Neil Young, grabbed a brace.
That win gave them a total of 58 points, two clear of United and three clear of Liverpool in third place and with it came a second Division One title, something the club had not achieved since the 1937-38 season. It also qualified ‘City’ to play in their first ever European Cup the following season, a tournament that United of course would win at Wembley, just two weeks later.
United’s 1968 European Cup final win meant that for the first time, the two principle teams from Manchester would both be in the 1968/69 European Cup competition. However, luck ran out of Manchester during that season as both teams were knocked out in the very first round and both teams finished mid table but City did go on to win the FA Cup that year.
Following their league success, City would go on to win a further three trophies under the Mercer/Allison leadership. Lee, Bell and Summerbee, would all go on to become established England stars and major players in England’s top flight. The three still remain as City’s answer to the Best, Law and Charlton trinity that had been so important to ‘United’ at around that same time.
After City’s recent win over United, the question has to be asked Will Aguero, Silva and Balotelli be the next trinity to be born at the Manchester City club and will they guide City to the same success as their much celebrated predecessors?