Prospective takeover in 1964

petrusha

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There was a thread about this on the main board a little while back, after MES posted that his "2nd cousin tried to buy City": <a class="postlink-local" href="http://forums.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=269531" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">viewtopic.php?f=1&t=269531</a>

Recently, I was reading a book about Danny Blanchflower by the author and former Fleet Street football writer Norman Giller. A Spurs fan, Giller wrote about the captain of that club's 1961 double-winning side. I was keen to read it because Blanchflower, a strikingly articulate figure in the game, was my mother's favourite footballer. If anyone else here is similarly interested, you can find details about it at this site: <a class="postlink" href="http://www.normangillerbooks.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.normangillerbooks.com/</a>

Obviously, barring a couple of asides, City don't feature. However, one of those asides prompted me to raise the issue of the 1964 takeover in this history forum.

Giller notes that Blanchflower, who took up journalism on the Sunday Express after retirement, wasn't tempted by the prospect of a career management. This observation is then qualified by the following short passage:

Late in 1964, [Blanchflower] nearly had a change of mind on the management topic. A consortium trying to take over at Manchester City were ready to offer him a huge salary of GBP 10,000 a year to run the show at Maine Road. He admitted:

"For a while I was tempted. City were my favourite English team when I was a youngster because my idol Peter Doherty played for them. Jackie [his brother] and I used to have Manchester City scarves and followed every report on Peter's performances with avid interest. For a while I daydreamed about managing City , but then common sense arrived as my jury and the verdict was not to get involved with what was something of a political hot potato. I was not in the mood for in-fighting and the businessmen who approached me were younger than me. I had more football experience than the lot of them put together, and with my experience as a manager it could have been a case of the bland leading the blind."

Now, of course, this was City's lowest ebb of the 20th century, at least until the very last three years or so of it. I recall Gary James saying that a senior City figure had approached United over the prospect of us sharing Old Trafford with a view to the two clubs merging. The person in question thought that Manchester could only sustain one top club, apparently, IIRC, it was the vice chairman (the name Frank Johnson seems to ring a bell, but my City materials are in storage in the UK so I may have that wrong).

Of course, we eventually appointed Mercer and Allison, and within five years of them arriving, we'd been promoted, then won the clean sweep of domestic trophies as well as a major European prize. Blanchflower would certainly have had to go some to match that. He did later turn to management over a decade later, but had mixed results with Northern Ireland and a pretty disastrous spell in charge of Chelsea. On the other hand, the chemistry between Joe and Malcolm brought us truly marvellous times - at least for those first five years or so.

The thing is, had this board existed in 1964 or 1965, I suspect that Blanchflower would have been a popular choice. Mercer had left his previous job, where things had soured, after a stroke, while the new number two was an unknown. Blanchflower, meanwhile, may not have had managerial experience but he'd been regarded as the manager's lieutenant on the pitch for one of the best teams English football had ever seen. In that respect, although the two men are very different characters, I suppose the modern equivalent might be the appointment of Roy Keane by Niall Quinn's consortium when they took over a distressed Sunderland.

I find this a fascinating time in City's history. I wonder if Gary James or anyone else might be able to supply information on the plans that the consortium had?
 

Gary James

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Glad you've brought it to everybody's attention. I have Blanchflower's autobiography as well.

That consortium was connected to Chris Muir, which is one of the reasons the 1970 takeover became bitter. Albert Alexander & Frank Johnson (who was the man who suggested the merger and also the man who offered his shares in 1970) didn't realise Muir was involved in 1970 and when they found out they were very critical. He'd been given a place on the board - as part of the Donoghue takeover plans in mid 60s which, presumably is the Blanchflower connection - and somehow had upset Alexander & Co and had been thrown off the board. Ultimately Muir was part of the successful (depending on how you look at it) 1970 takeover (with Smith, Niven, Cussin & Horwich but not Peter Swales - he was brought into the club by these men, many if whom remained supporting directors throughout Swales' time).

Had the mid 60s takeover happened then I think it would simply have escalated our downfall based on who was ultimately brought into the club by some of those involved. Having said that, anything's possible. The saddest part of all this is that Mercer, who brought Malcolm in let's not forget, was cast aside by those who gained power (and this does predate Swales' time as chairman) at a time when the club was a really successful team building for the future.

For me it's fine launching a takeover bid when a club is stagnating or dying (as it was in the mid 60s) but to launch a bitter one when it's at its height is another thing.
 

Mad Eyed Screamer

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I had forgot about this subject!
I am jetting over this week for 2 weeks - well pissed off the Champs League game is away, wont get to see a game :(

Anyway, will get my mum to track down a relative and see if her cousin Peter Donahue is still alive and if so see if we can pay a visit.
Will let you know Gary, especially if you would like to meet him too.
 

Mad Eyed Screamer

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Mad Eyed Screamer said:
I had forgot about this subject!
I am jetting over this week for 2 weeks - well pissed off the Champs League game is away, wont get to see a game :(

Anyway, will get my mum to track down a relative and see if her cousin Peter Donahue is still alive and if so see if we can pay a visit.
Will let you know Gary, especially if you would like to meet him too.

So I am at my Mum's and she has just called the one remaining cousin - 84 year old Ronnie!
Sadly he confirmed that Peter Donahue passed away "years ago" after his liver packed in!
He made a few bob by owning a string of laundrettes in South Manchester.
Ronnie then told me that like all on my mum's side, he was born a blue. He lived on the second house up from the Kippax Street / Claremont Road corner. BUT when the rags moved in, he went to watch City and the lodgers.... When the lodgers moved out, he went with them!
 

Gary James

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Mad Eyed Screamer said:
Ronnie then told me that like all on my mum's side, he was born a blue. He lived on the second house up from the Kippax Street / Claremont Road corner. BUT when the rags moved in, he went to watch City and the lodgers.... When the lodgers moved out, he went with them!

My Granddad did the same! Though he had originally been a Central fan, then City during mid to late 30s (glory hunter?). Ah well. I wish I could prove exacty what impact the ground share had on City. Utd made record profits; got their biggest ever crowds (not matched until a decade later); while City lost fans and City's reserve games got smaller crowds (losing money for the 1st time ever on reserve football) because they moved them to the Cliff/Utd's facilities.
 

petrusha

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Gary James said:
Mad Eyed Screamer said:
Ronnie then told me that like all on my mum's side, he was born a blue. He lived on the second house up from the Kippax Street / Claremont Road corner. BUT when the rags moved in, he went to watch City and the lodgers.... When the lodgers moved out, he went with them!

My Granddad did the same! Though he had originally been a Central fan, then City during mid to late 30s (glory hunter?). Ah well. I wish I could prove exacty what impact the ground share had on City. Utd made record profits; got their biggest ever crowds (not matched until a decade later); while City lost fans and City's reserve games got smaller crowds (losing money for the 1st time ever on reserve football) because they moved them to the Cliff/Utd's facilities.

It may be in one of your books, Gary, but I remember Harry Godwin being quoted saying a lot did that. And I've heard anecdotal evidence from other Blues as well.

There was a thread once, years back, on a message board asking what people would do if they could go back and change one thing in our past. Half jokingly, I suggested that I'd go back to 1941 and tell United to clear off when they hoped to use our ground. (The other contender would be to do something to head off the illegal payments scandal early in the 20th century, which arguably stopped us from establishing ourselves as a really top club at that stage).

Certainly, Manchester football was never the same after the ground share. I don't have the stats to hand, but from memory, prior to WW2, City had been the higher placed Manc team in the league for around 70% of the seasons until then and had higher average gates in about 80% of the seasons. In other words, we were quite clearly the better supported and more successful team.

There were other factors that helped bring about the change in that state of affairs, I guess. It can't have helped that we went down pre-War and they came up, so in the first post-War season they were in the top flight and we weren't. They appointed Matt Busby, which was crucial to United's rise. And they put in place a youth policy pre-War that started to pay dividends.

But the financial effect was huge: after being in debt pre-War, they returned to OT with a large cash surplus. And large numbers of Mancunians who'd never before have dreamed of watching United got into and stayed in the habit of doing so.
 

Gary James

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All true Petrusha and yes I do quote Harry Godwin. I remember asking my granddad 'why?' and he told me a few reasons:

- Matt Busby was a very popular City player in the 30s and everyone wished him well. It's hard to comprehend now but back in 40s City did not perceive Utd as any threat whatsoever and so Busby as manager was a positive. Fans wanted him to do well, whichever team he managed.
- City were in Div 2 in 1946 and Busby created his first truly entertaining side in Div 1
- When Utd won FAC in 48 the vast majority of Mancunians were happy because it was a bit like our 2011 FAC in that few outside of the most dedicated fans expected them ever to win a trophy again. It was seen as good for Manchester and ex-Blue hero Busby
- My granddad had a young family and loved watching both City & Utd each week but once Utd moved back to OT he couldn't afford the additional travel expense (plus work made it easier for him to be in Old Trafford on match days) and so sacrificed City to watch a team that was genuinely challenging for the League
- He also knew Bert Whalley, an important and often forgotten presence behind the scenes at Utd
- Harry Godwin claimed that men coming back from the war (like my Granddad I guess) just wanted to get their lives back on track and they simply wanted to see football. Those that usually attended Maine Rd every week to see City one week then City reserves the next now had the bonus of seeing Utd and their opponents (dont forget in the days before football coverage/TV your only chance to see Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney at al was to attend a game; City in Div 2, Utd in Div 1 meant that the star men would be at Utd's games mostly) instead of reserve players
- When Utd moved back they had become a successful team whereas City were unpredictable

People forget that Utd could have moved to several stadia in the city and beyond - all the local rugby grounds, White City, Belle Vue speedway - most could hold attendances bigger than Utd's 1930s average - plus there are near neighbours such as Bury, Stockport, Bolton. Maine Road was not the only choice and so the terms of the agreement had to be in Utd's favour (which it was) otherwise it wouldn't have happened. Even Old Trafford Cricket ground may have been a possibility I guess.
 

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