There was a thread on here of the ten greatest back in 2009, prompted by the publication of Ric's 50 in the Times, I think. Anyway, this, then, was my list.
10. DENIS LAW
It may be regarded by some City fans as controversial to pick a player who spent most of his career and enjoyed his greatest successes at City's fiercest rivals, but the Scotsman was nevertheless a genuine world class player, as evidenced by his European Player of the Year award in 1965. That he first showed his brilliance in top-flight football at Maine Road ensures his selection here: City have had several formerly world class players who arrived at the club when past their best (including Law himself in his second spell) and many who were outstanding players in the English league but not quite deserving of being labelled true international stars. Even Law's short second spell enhanced his City credentials greatly, though, because in it he managed a respectable nine league goals in 24 games, played in a Wembley Cup final and created one of the most memorable moments in the club's history with his last kick before retiring. But how different might the course of Manchester football have been had City resisted when Torino came calling with big money in 1961? He'd almsot certainly have been a lot higher up this list.
9. ALAN OAKES
The holder of the club appearance record, Oakes was one of the youth products who were already at the club in 1965 when the Mercer/Allison managerial partnership began and who held his place as City won promotion, then stormed to an amazing four major trophies in three seasons. (Others were Mike Doyle, Neil Young and Glyn Pardoe). In many ways, he is the ultimate City stalwart, and for that he merits inclusion in a list of the club's ten greatest players. Solid, unflappable and dependable in defence or midfield, his name was synonymous with complete professionalism, and many far worse players represented England. Oakes was once referred to by Bill Shankly as "exactly the kind of player youngsters should use as a model", and there weren't many better judges than the legendary Scot.
8. DAVE WATSON
An imperious and rugged defender, Watson has no serious rival for the title of the greatest ever City centre half. A regular England pick thoughout his four years at the club, the former Sunderland player was a rock in Tony Book's fine post-Mercer/Allison era side of the mid and late 1970s. Watson was truly outstanding as City won a League Cup, missed the title by a point and regularly played in Europe, notching victories over the likes of Juventus and AC Milan. Ditched by the club in 1979 after Malcolm Allison returned to Maine Road, Watson proved the folly of writing him off as a spent force by continuing to propser in the top flight, and he was still in the England squad when the 1982 World Cup came round.
7. FRANCIS LEE
Only City fans who are best part of fifty years old or more would remember Lee as a skilful, aggressive goalscorer rather than a failed chairman. This is a great pity, because in the former guise, he was the final piece in the jigsaw of the great Mercer/Allison side, helping to transform a team of great promise into one which would create the club's most successful era. His quality was underlined by the fact that he was the only member of that City team to be regarded pretty much as an automatic pick by Sir Alf Ramsey between 1968 and 1972: despite fierce competition for places, he was a regular starter for the 1970 World Cup team, which was regarded by many sound observers as a better side than the one that won the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966. That shows how good he was.
6. ERIC BROOK
A record of ten goals in 18 games for England proves that Eric Brook was an outstanding player who was among the finest of his era, the 1930s. That the era encompassed the club's second and third trophies (plus another unsuccessful Cup final appearance), and that the trophies included the club's first ever League Championship triumph, makes him a true City great. But even those facts fail to do justice to Brook's contribution to the club's cause. His 450 league starts for the club was then a club record, and had the Second World War not intervened when he was in his early thirties, he may have gone on to set a mark that remained to this day. However, his 178 senior goals in all competitions is an enduring City record. Not bad for a man who, although blessed with great versatility, was primarily a left winger.
5. PETER DOHERTY
Many fans who saw Peter Doherty inspire City to the title in 1937, and who then watched all of the club's successful post-War sides in the fifties, sixties and seventies, maintained that the Northern Ireland international was the club's greatest ever player. He scored thirty goals in the Championship season, and 81 in 133 league matches in total, plus a further 60 in 89 wartime games, a remarkable tally from an inside forward. Aged just 26 when the War started, he was regarded as a veteran by its conclusion, and, having been robbed of what probably would have been his best years, he moved to Derby almost as soon as the conflict was over. Doherty was rated as one of the finest players ever to play in the English league by the great Joe Mercer, and it is impossible to take issue with the opinion of City's greatest manager.
4. FRANK SWIFT
Frank Swift, City goalkeeper from 1933 to 1949, was both a showman who knew how to keep a crowd entertained and a magnificent goalkeeper, widely regarded at the time he was playing as England's greatest up to that point. For both these qualities, the Maine Road public took him to their hearts as he featured in FA Cup and League Championship triumphs, the former in his debut season. Swift was another player robbed by the War of probably the best years of his career, but he was still a brilliant goalkeeper when normal league competition resumed in 1946 and he managed a total of 376 league starts for City in official competition. His reputation as a true great was never threatened: his performance in England's famous 1948 win in Turin was regarded by the Italians with awe, while great friend and former team mate Matt Busby went to his grave in the 1990s maintaining that Big Swifty had been one of the best ever.
3. COLIN BELL
Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's side of the late 1960s and early 1970s won four of the nine major trophies garnered by the club in its history, marking this out as Manchester City's single greatest era. And despite the brilliant and stalwart contributions to that success of many players who are fondly remembered by fans to this day, there would most likely be something approaching unanimity if supporters were asked who was the star of the side. Colin Bell had all of the attributes to make him a complete midfielder: supreme skill, amazing stamina, reading of the game, tackling, passing ability and a knack for goalscoring. The heartbeat of the Mercer/Allison team, he was still at his peak when it broke up. However, he was cruelly denied the chance to feature in the successes of the new side being built by Tony Book in the mid seventies when he suffered a serious knee injury in 1975 at the age of 29. He came back after an agonising two-year battle, but was never the same player again. Fans of a certain age wonder just how much that team might have achieved had Book had a fit Colin Bell at his disposal. Despite the injury, Bell totalled almost 400 league games in City colours, scoring 117 goals, and for Manchester City fans, he remains "The King".
2. BILLY MEREDITH
When he was at City in his first spell, Welsh wizard Meredith was regarded as the undisputed best player in the world's only professional league. In all City's history, this would have been the only time the club could boast that it had probably the world's best player on its books. Meredith was English football's first superstar, and his impact on the club was enormous. With him in the side, City went from being a moribund outfit marooned in the lower of the two divisions of the time and struggling to arouse spectator interest, to a team which could compete for - and win - trophies and attract huge crowds. Of course, when City ejoyed their first major success, in the 1904 FA Cup final against Bolton, it was Meredith who scored the only goal. Things turned sour when Meredith was first banned in 1905 and then forcibly transferred to Manchester United as a result of City's illegal payments scandal. But though he also played over 300 league games for United and won medals with them too, he showed where his heart lay by returning to City, first to play in unofficial games during World War One and then, in his forties, to play out the last couple of years of his career. But it is for his early years at the club, in which he played an enormous part in transforming its horizons, that he is regarded as one of the all time City greats.
1. BERT TRAUTMANN
Bert Trautmann never played international football. This travesty occurred because, as a German playing in England, he was unqualified to represent his adopted nation, while he fell foul of selection policy in his homeland. Nevertheless, in the 1950s, he was recognised universally as the supreme goalkeeper in the English game and his fame also spread more widely. The legendary Russian, Lev Yashin, for instance, once opined, "There have only been two world-class goalkeepers. One was Lev Yashin, the other was the German boy who played in Manchester Trautmann." A key member of the City side which reached successive Cup finals in 1955 and 1956, he is most famous for his contribution towards the victory in the latter, when he played the last fifteen minutes against Birmingham City after dislocating five vertebrae in his neck, one of which was cracked. At the start of his career in England, as a former German paratrooper in World War Two only four years after the end of the conflict, he experienced huge hostility from his own and opposing spectators alike. That he was able to overcome this reception owed both to his great personal dignity and to the quality of his play. Even today, fine judges like Bob Wilson and Gordon Banks continue to insist that Trautmann is one of the greatest ever goalkeepers. It is this combination of bravery, dignity and brilliance that marks Trautmann out as a true legend.