Date: 8th March 2010 at 2:01pm
Written by:

MCFC legend Gary Owen continues to answers questions from worldwide VMC Forum members. In the final instalment we look at Gary’s departure from City and highlights of his City career…


BORN: St Helens, Lancashire. 7th July 1958

Arrived at City from Manchester Boys

LEAGUE DEBUT: Saturday, 20th March 1976 in a 3-2 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers (Age: 17)

124 League and Cup apps (+2 as sub), 24 goals

22 apps, 4 goals

1. Do you miss having a Mancini style hair do and what shampoo do you currently use? Did you ever grow a 70’s moustache?

‘I never grew a seventies tache, but I try a bit of a blondish bum fluff beard that my Mum used to say that she could flick off with a tea towel. Probably took me about three years to get to that stage. A strong wind and it would have been blown off!

‘I always had longish hair as a player and I’m currently only three weeks away from a Mancini haircut. It’s my winter mode. I’m waiting for the better weather, a bit like sheep when they get sheared. But one thing about not becoming a football manager is that I don’t have Mancini’s grey hair! The shampoo for me is that Original Source Mint & Tea Tree one. It’s brilliant. Feels like you’ve had a hot towel on your head when you come out of the shower!’
(Vital Manchester City also recommends Original Source who are based in Stockport for those post match headaches!)

2. How gutted were you when they sold you to West Brom?

‘Gutted was not the word. I was more angry. I was gutted after a time. They said I wasn’t for sale, but they said that if anyone was interested they could speak to me. You can’t buy experience or wisdom, but looking back, I wouldn’t have gone to West Brom, no matter what Ron Atkinson sold me about Cyrille Regis, Bryan Robson, Derek Statham and Barnesy (Peter Barnes) coming as well. It took Bryan Robson to leave West Brom and go to United to get into the England team. It took me to go to West Brom to get me out of an England team! It’s just that West Brom was an unfashionable club and when Ron went, the whole circus razzamatazz went with him. We then went through a succession of managers, losing players and then Barnsey left. It was not the team I joined. I was playing regularly for England B and the Under 21’s but you just don’t get the publicity. Graham Rix got into the England World Cup Squad in 1982 and before that had never once been in a team ahead of me in any selection, but he was in a successful Arsenal side.

‘There was never any contact from Peter Swales before I left City. I remember being told that Ron wanted to speak to me and Ron made it very clear that he saw myself and Barnesy as the missing links in his team. He certainly wanted us whereas City were prepared to let me go. Malcolm made it clear he wanted a new team which is ironic considering myself and Barnesy were only 20 to 21 years old!

‘I recall the same weekend that I agreed to join West Brom I joined up with the England team. Dave Sexton, the Manchester United manager said to me: ‘I understand that City are prepared to sell you and they won’t sell you to us, but if you hang on, they’ll have no option because Malcolm wants to sell all the players and I want you to come to Old Trafford.’

‘It’s ok in football people saying you’d never play for United and as a supporter you don’t even want to go near their ground, let alone consider playing for them, but if you look at Denis Law, John Gidman, Brian Kidd and Peter Barnes, at the time you just don’t know. Other teams were interested and I didn’t know that at the time. I could have gone to Everton. It’s strange how your life pans out.’

3. Do you ever have an old boys reunion?

‘We do. We have a former player’s association which holds a dinner and Christmas party every year. Supporters can also come along as well. It’s like an old boys reunion every other weekend for me because working at the club on match day now are Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Joe Corrigan, Peter Barnes, Tony Book, Tommy Booth, Alex Williams and Paul Lake. The old boys actually have a room in the East Stand which is next to the Citizens Suite which I host on a match day.’

4. If you were starting out today, do you think you would have made it in the Premier League with all these international signings? Don’t get me wrong you were one of my favourite players!

‘Absolutely. Of course we’d have been able to do it. One thing I could do is pass. One thing City fans love is people who play with their heart and I love that great fans banner which we haven’t seen for a while at Eastlands: ‘WE DREAM OF PLAYING IN THE SHIRT – TODAY GOD CHOSE YOU PLAY LIKE WE DREAM.’ It would be great to see that fantastic banner back.

‘I played alongside the likes of Kenny Sansom, Terry Butcher, Bryan Robson, Peter Reid, Glenn Hoddle and Peter Barnes. You could go on and on and of course those players would have been able to do it as well. The only difference is the fitness facilities that modern day players now have.

‘We used to be run and run pre season until we were tired. Nowadays it’s realised that is no longer necessary and it’s all about doing hard work that gets energy to the parts of your body that need it. It’s no longer necessary to start off running 6ft tall and ending up 5ft 8 at the finish! Players are giving everything they need now to be in top condition. When you look at players like Stan Bowles, Francis Lee, Colin Bell, Tony Currie, Alan Hudson, Peter Osgood, Frank Worthington and Rodney Marsh, you know that all those players could have played in this era. And with that extra help that players have now, we would have been all the stronger for it.’

5. Ronaldo sold for £80m, what do you think Colin Bell would be worth at todays prices?

‘Colin Bell and Ronaldo are two different players. Colin Bell was a midfield player that had everything. He would have been like the Kaka of today and you can see how much he went for. But whereas Kaka plays in one part of the field, Colin would play from his goal line up to the opposition goal line. He’d do another third of the work that Kaka does to get the same results. Of course, the prices and wages have escalated over the past decade phenomenally but Colin Bell in any team in any country would be the top midfielder.’

6. I have met you a couple of times, the first when I was 16 before our 2-1 defeat at Forest 80/81 and then last year at home to Everton in the corporate entertainment suite which you were compering (great day out £100 for me and £40 each for my sons, where we got to meet Peter Barnes, Tommy Booth Alex, Williams and Javier Garrido – I would recommend this for value for money to any City fan) My question is, did you always have City in your heart even after your departure to WBA?

‘Of course. From when I was 14 and signed schoolboy forms committing to Manchester City to where I am now at 51 years of age, that commitment has not wavered one iota. David Beckham has gone on record recently as saying that United will always be in his heart. Manchester City is exactly the same for me. To now help the club on match day in that lounge, it feels like when the supporters come in there that I am with all my pals, even though I don’t know the majority of people. I have always been close to City and everything I have revolves around City. My girlfriend is more blue than me! Absolutely blue through and through. We are more blue than anything. I don’t have anything red. Even my golf tees are blue. And they call me ‘Bitter Blue,’ I don’t understand it!!’

7. Is the current team anywhere near as good, as the one that last won the league title in 1968?

‘It’s different now. The team that won it in ’68 were all British players. They’d all been at Manchester City for some time before and after ’68.

I have got to say something. When you try
to compare teams, you have got to compare eras and the type of football it is now. When you consider that the team won what was essentially the Premiership of that era, they have to be considered to be the better team than a side that hasn’t in it’s own era. The side that won in ’68 is in my opinion the best City side in the club’s history because it won the league of it’s day.’

8. Do you think Alex Ferguson would be thinking he should have kept Tevez?

‘Let me tell you that the man is so stubborn, the answer to that would be no because he must have two sides to his brain whereby one works and one doesn’t. The one that works only sees the Alex Ferguson way and the other side shows a bit of consideration and realism which doesn’t exist. In his opinion, whatever he does is right. His track record as a manager shows that most of what he does is right, but he will be the only person on this planet, no matter what colour you support who would look at it and think he was right about Tevez because he thought he was overpriced at £25 million and thinks Carrick at £18 million, Hargreaves at £17 million and Nani at £19 million aren’t. Ferguson won’t admit when he has made a mistake. He’s never wrong. Ferguson said Carlos would never score 20 goals a season. He now has 21 goals in 28 City starts.’

9. Gary, you may remember on 13th February 2009 you came to a young man’s fundraiser who had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy… well that young man named Carl Tilson, the grandson of Manchester City legend Frederick Tilson is me and I would like to ask what player past or present would you have loved to play alongside or against?

‘First of all I would like to say that Carl is a very brave young man and what he has done to increase awareness of this disease is quite remarkable. He has made the shortlist for Pride of Manchester and is in the running for Pride of Britain. I have got to say that when it comes between a footballer, the advantages he gets and the disadvantages Carl has, there shouldn’t even be a contest. Carl has raised awareness of Duchenne’s, a disease that nobody knew about, with such bravery. It was a pleasure for me to be able to help on that day and obviously to meet Carl. I am glad to see that he is still going strong with his charity and is becoming more and more well known. Bravo to him.

‘To answer Carl’s question, I was lucky. The City supporters voted Colin Bell as the best ever player to pull on a Blue shirt and I had the privilege of not only training with him before his injury but also playing with him after that injury. I recall when he made that remarkable, emotional comeback against Newcastle. We were 0-0 at half time and I firmly believe that Colin coming on in that second half when we won 4-0, it was the crowd that lifted everybody that day. To have played with Colin Bell, to have seen at close quarters what he was capable of and what he meant to the fans of Manchester City, it’s such a shame that I couldn’t have played alongside him before he was injured. That’s the man I would have loved to have played alongside on a regular basis.

‘As for the player I would have hated to play against or alongside, it’s Vinnie Jones.’

10. What was the highlight of your career at City?

“The highlights of my career were to make my debut a year after joining the club as a kid. Then scoring my first goal and helping take the team to the highest league position we’ve ever been since 1968, finishing second in the league to Liverpool by one point in 1977 and playing in Europe with City which has not happened many times since that era. Everything else like not playing at senior level for England is overshadowed by being able to have given something to our supporters to shout about.

‘If I could have done one thing it was in 1983 when I had an opportunity to come back to the club three years after I had left. I didn’t, only because of the loyalty I showed to the West Brom manager at that time who was Ron Wiley. He went into the boardroom about my situation the night that I was speaking to John Benson and Bernard Halford at City. If I had one regret about that it was that I should have thought about myself and not anybody else as City were in my heart. Ron Wiley called me and told me that he had told the board that if they did not give me the contract I wanted, he would resign as manager. I felt I had to show some loyalty to him after he had put his job on the line.

‘If I could have had that time again with the benefit of wisdom, I would have told Ron that City was where my heart is. I know it sounds harsh but in football you have to be selfish because if they don’t want you and you are not the player of the day, they sell you. I should have come back. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t come back.’

– Very many thanks and respect to Gary for this tremendous three part series. An absolute pleasure to have shared in his recollections and his outstanding footballing knowledge.

If you missed Parts One and Two, please visit the following VMC links:
VMC Link: EXCLUSIVE: VMC Meets Gary Owen Part One

VMC Link: EXCLUSIVE: VMC Meets Gary Owen Part Two

As well as being a widely respected, successful media personality and commentator, Gary is the Managing Director of GTC Management, one of the UKs leading independent utility procurement brokers.

To find out more go to:
GTC Management: ‘Reducing Costs,Saving Time and Providing Peace of Mind’

Interview copyright Vital Manchester City, Gary Owen and The Vital Football Network 2010.

A Play As We Dream Production.


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