Perception of City as a 'big' club

petrusha

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There's a thread on the main board about big clubs and how one should go about measuring what constitutes a big club. Everyone, of course, has their own criteria and it often strikes me as rather futile pursuit to argue whether one club is bigger than another.

Nonetheless, I went to my first City first-team game at Christmas 1975, and I've always had a perception of which clubs could be called 'big' clubs in the context of English football. For instance, in the early eighties, just after Forest had won the league and then a couple of European Cups under Clough, I still wouldn't have thought of them as truly a big club, whereas I'd have definitely put, say, Everton - though in a relatively poor period by their standards - as a big club.

Nor did I have any doubt that we belonged in the company of the other big clubs. In terms of trophy count, our League Cup in '76 put us on nine in our history, just behind Everton (10), Spurs and United (11) and Liverpool (13).

In my first full season watching the club, 1976/7, City were the third best supported team in the country behind the Rags and Liverpool and we'd managed over the previous ten or twelve years to narrow substantially the gap in support that had grown up between the end of the War and the mid-sixties.

Maine Road as a stadium was considered to be up with the best in the league, and had more seats than any other. It was chosen for four FA Cup semi final matches that didn't feature United between 1973 and 1989, in comparison to one such game held at Old Trafford (though OT hosted two League Cup final replays compared to one at MR in the same period).

We had a team full of internationals, which was in Europe and capable of challenging in both the cups and for the league. We had the wherewithal to spend money in the transfer market to add to what we had.

I don't think, at the time, anyone would have disputed our claims to be one of the genuine big clubs in English football. To me, looking back, the moment that it changed was when we sold Trevor Francis in 1982. Our crowds dropped the next season by more than 20% (against an average decline of just under 10% in the old First Division as a whole). We were relegated a year later.

We all know about the travails the club had in the 1980s and 1990s when we were skint and, for the most part, struggling. We never really recovered properly until the takeover in 2008. We lost a lot of prestige pretty quickly in the eighties - when all the talk in the English game was of the so-called 'Big Five' wanting to push through changes to the way TV cash was redistributed, it didn't seem to occur to anyone that we could make that cartel a 'Super Six'. I remember there being talk at one stage of a ten-team breakaway, and we weren't even in it.

I'm not saying that would have been good or right - just that it illustrates how our profile dropped fairly quickly. And that was largely how things stayed until very recently. Not only do you see it in the attitude of many younger fans of other teams, but it's prevalent among a lot of other younger Blues as well. You see on here plenty of posts that seem to assume we've always been a middle-of-the-road club at best.

Sure, back in the late seventies you wouldn't have called us the biggest. Liverpool were the perennially most successful, while United had the most glamour and biggest crowds. But we were high-profile, challenging for trophies, well supported, had a team full of stars and one of the best grounds in the land. And all those things had been true from the start of the 20th century right up until the early eighties, too. Then we lost pretty well all of it - even the stadium was allowed to decay.

Anyway, I'll draw this long-winded ramble to a close now. The point I wanted to stress is that many people since the takeover seem to think that the idea of City as a big club is an anomaly. In fact, that's been true for the large bulk of our history from 1900 onwards. It's 1982-2008 that's the anomaly! :)
 

petrusha

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Billy Blue Bollox said:

Cheers for your considered view. A really valuable contribution to this sub-forum from someone who, based on his other posts, is one of the most stylish, witty and informed contributors to Blue Moon. How lucky we mortals are that you deign to grace us with your presence.
 

squirtyflower

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petrusha said:
Billy Blue Bollox said:

Cheers for your considered view. A really valuable contribution to this sub-forum from someone who, based on his other posts, is one of the most stylish, witty and informed contributors to Blue Moon. How lucky we mortals are that you deign to grace us with your presence.
thought provoking wasn't it?
 

Gary James

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Petrusha you are right in everything you say about City's status in the years before the Premier League. City were one of the 'Big Five' back in late 70s/early 80s which tended to be the Manchester clubs, Merseyside and usually Arsenal (but occasionally Spurs).

I would place City as third to LFC & MUFC in terms of overall glamour & support in late 70s - as did the media. Modern success didn't really determine the Big Five as such back then it was support, long term history and stadium primarily - let's face it MUFC could not compete with Forest or Villa in terms of achievements in the 70s.

I've said it often... it's the last 30 years that have been out of character for City, not the years since the takeover.
 

petrusha

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squirtyflower said:
petrusha said:
Billy Blue Bollox said:

Cheers for your considered view. A really valuable contribution to this sub-forum from someone who, based on his other posts, is one of the most stylish, witty and informed contributors to Blue Moon. How lucky we mortals are that you deign to grace us with your presence.
thought provoking wasn't it?

A truly devastating critique. ;)
 

Rudgey

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Really interesting read.

Does is make new fans from the 70's glory hunters?

Are we not 8th in the all time total of top flight points won? U****d are 3rd from memory.
 

petrusha

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Gary James said:
Petrusha you are right in everything you say about City's status in the years before the Premier League. City were one of the 'Big Five' back in late 70s/early 80s which tended to be the Manchester clubs, Merseyside and usually Arsenal (but occasionally Spurs).

I would place City as third to LFC & MUFC in terms of overall glamour & support in late 70s - as did the media. Modern success didn't really determine the Big Five as such back then it was support, long term history and stadium primarily - let's face it MUFC could not compete with Forest or Villa in terms of achievements in the 70s.

I've said it often... it's the last 30 years that have been out of character for City, not the years since the takeover.

Yes, we're on the same page with this, it seems.

Spurs had cachet in the sixties and early seventies because they were always a good cup team and the double in 1961, when they by all accounts played really superb football, was still quite fresh in the memory. But they were going through a dodgy spell in the mid-seventies after Bill Nicholson left and they ended up going down in 1977. I remember us beating them 5-0 to seal their fate, and Peter Barnes dummying Pat Jennings for that great goal.

However, they restored their reputation to a large degree at the end of the seventies. They came straight back up, and signed the two Argentinians, which was a bold and daring move at the time. In those days, they were always more glamorous than Arsenal (who were slightly better supported and had a better historical record of league titles), with a reputation for playing better football so they were kind of the darlings of the London media.

I remember that, when it became clear who we'd face in the 1981 final, there was a lot of pretty sycophantic coverage of Spurs from the London media. However, the bookies could barely put a cigarette paper between the teams, and I do also recall a lot of media comment to the effect that it was great for two of the country's proper big clubs to be contesting the 100th ever final. That shows how we were regarded then.
 

petrusha

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Rudgey said:
Really interesting read.

Does is make new fans from the 70's glory hunters?

Are we not 8th in the all time total of top flight points won? U****d are 3rd from memory.

I think those of us who started going in the seventies have been through enough crap to avoid being called glory hunters! Although I suppose as a kid, the fact that we were a top team made it easier to withstand stick from the obnoxious rags at school - not sure how I'd have coped 20 years later, to be honest. :)

Managed to find a table here of all top flight points until 7 January 2013: http://www.myfootballfacts.com/All-TimeTopFlightPointsTable1888-89to2010-11.html. It's Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, United, Villa, Chelsea, Spurs and then us. Newcastle (36 behind us - presumably their relegation a couple of years back helped us to overtake them) and Sunderland complete the top ten.
 

petrusha

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Incidentally, if anyone wants a wander down memory lane with the goals from the Spurs game May 1977 that I mentioned above, then here's the video posted on YouTube by the estimable mcfcvideos, who posts on here. The move for the superb goal by Peter Barnes starts around 1 minute 9 seconds:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEPRA-GzQU4[/youtube]
 

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