Long standing Manchester City fan based in South Africa, Mariner sent us the following. To read his previous article aptly named The Birth Of A (City) Blue, click here.
In 1953 England possessed a home record that showed they had never lost to a foreign team on English soil, if one excepts the Republic of Ireland that is.
Then along came the ‘Marvellous Magyars’ with their deep lying centre forward plan and destroyed England at Wembley 6-3. A gentleman called Hidekguti was the deep lying one, but the mainspring of the side was Ferenc Puskas, both a creator and a scorer of goals.
Unable to believe what had happened, England played a return game in Budapest. A few months later and this time they went down 7-2, while in the process finishing Alf Ramsay’s international career.
Until then England had been attached to the ‘W’ formation, relying on marauding wingers, a big goal scoring centre and inside forwards, who linked up with the midfielders and provided the through passes for the prongs of the ‘W’. Virtually overnight this system had been destroyed and football would never be the same again.
At the start of the 54-55 season Les McDowell, a manager with a somewhat chequered record but with a host of ideas, mostly bad, decided unannounced to imitate the Hungarians and utilise Don Revie, (newly signed from Leicester City), in the deep lying role.
The first game of the season was at Preston, who themselves with Tom Finney knew something about attacking wing forward play. City lost 6-0 with their inside forwards Johnny Hart and Joe Hayes supplying incisive passes to a centre forward, who was no longer there. The centre half was totally confused with Revie playing almost on top of him and the home side had a field day. Most Sunday papers called for McDowell’s head.
Very fortunately, he persevered and the plan began to work. Arsenal with Tommy Lawton in the middle were beaten 3-2 at Highbury and 2-1 at Maine Road. Results that have never been achieved since, and when United were beaten 3-2, the supporters began to get behind the side in a big way. Billy McAdams, an Irish international, Joe Hayes and Paddy Fagan got the goals in front of a huge crowd.
This was a remarkable season in which Chelsea became champions, with a mere 48 points ahead of Wolves and Sunderland on goal difference alone. United 5th on 47 and City 7th on 46. Apart from a Cup run that took them all the way to the final it was memorable for the fans because United were beaten three times, 2-0 in the 4th round of the Cup and then glory be, 5-0 at Old Trafford with Joe Hayes and Paddy Fagan getting a brace apiece, to the total disbelief of the home fans.
It was however their FA Cup exploits that touched the imagination and Blackpool, United, Luton (then quite a force) Spurs and Sunderland were all beaten. The latter by a Roy Clarke goal at Villa Park in the semis.
The final was to be against Newcastle, who themselves had won the trophy twice in the preceding four years. The City team included Bert Trautman, Roy Paul, Roy Clarke, Bobby Johnstone (a genius on his day) Don Revie, Joe Hart and Johnny Hayes. Jimmy Meadows, a converted winger was at fullback, and had already featured in England’s 7-2 demolition of Scotland at Wembley.
Newcastle were slight favourites but there was not much in it, but 45 seconds into the game Jacky Milburn lost the City defence and headed the opening goal from a Mitchell cross-disaster. Worse was to follow because Meadows, attempting to turn on a slightly damp surface damaged his leg so badly that it effectively ended his playing career.
No substitutes were allowed in those days so City had to play the bulk of the game with ten men, and until half time were quite superb. Shortly before the break Johnstone equalised after a magnificent run.
The handicap proved too great in the second half with Newcastle running out 3-1 winners. They had the Cup but City had the admiration of the neutral spectators.
To cap it all, Don Revie was elected Footballer of the Year and the scene was set for the Cup triumph of 56.