From starting off as a church football team – named St. Mark’s – in 1880, to being established as a top-flight side, Manchester City is a football club with a glorious history – a history unfortunately overshadowed by its many failures and relegations. However at the moment, with new owners Abu Dhabi providing a huge injection of money, it is no wonder why manager Mark Hughes wants to buy the most expensive players to accentuate the status of his team. City are once again aspiring to be a top four team – just as they once were – with the ultimate intention of challenging for the UEFA Champions League.
Manchester City became a registered football club in 1894 and began to participate in the official English divisions. Five years later, the Citizens had won the Second Division – the club’s first ever honour. This league win promoted City to the highest tier of English football at the time – the First Division.
1904 – 1930: Early Success
April 23, 1904 was the date Manchester City won its first major cup after beating Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup final. The following season was one of controversy due to claims of financial irregularities in the club. A match against Aston Villa led to the investigations and subsequently seventeen players – including Captain Billy Meredith – plus the manager and two directors were suspended. Ironically, the majority of the suspended players joined local rivals Manchester United and were all an integral part of the Red Devils’ first successful squad. In 1923 a fire destroyed City’s main stadium and the club had to relocate to Maine Road – which would become its home for the next 80 years. At the new Stadium, the Citizens began to prove themselves as serious challengers in the First Division.
1926 saw City embark on their most exhilarating FA Cup campaign so far. Despite losing 1-0 in the final against Bolton Wanderers, the Manchester club defeated team after team en route to the final – often by large margins – highlighting its growth as a well-respected English football club. In the same season, however, Manchester City was relegated to the Second Division after a season of inconsistent form. In the following season, the club failed to gain promotion to the First Division despite a massive 8-0 victory over Bradford City. This upset was soon forgotten as the next year they won another Second Division title and, most importantly, achieved promotion once again. A much stronger City side, with prolific goal scorer Tommy Johnson – a centre forward who notched 38 goals – was able to secure an eighth place finish in the First Division. The blue half of Manchester would now look to challenging for honours in the decades to come.
1930 – 1956: Growing Promise
The Citizens reached their highest position in the First Division in 1930 – finishing third. The club’s growing promise was highlighted by participation in two consecutive FA Cup finals – in 1933 and 1934 – losing to Everton and beating Portsmouth respectively. Three years later, in 1937, City finally won the First Division title. However, the club was still plagued with inconsistency and was relegated once more the very next season, despite scoring the most goals throughout the season. Luckily for Manchester City, the Second World War prevented any further disappointment as the sport was halted for its duration. After WWII, City soon returned to top-flight football and was once again successful in the FA Cup, reaching the final in 1955 and then winning it in 1956.
1963 – 1977: The Glory Years
This is probably the most successful period in the club’s entire history, despite beginning with another relegation to the Second Division in 1963. A new Manager and European honours made it a period of City’s history that will never be forgotten. Joe Mercer was appointed as Manager in 1965 and his partnership with assistant Malcolm Allison proved to be a significant factor in the success that followed. In the 1967/68 season, Manchester City clinched its second First Division title, beating Manchester United 3-1 in the derby – which was becoming an even more significant event in English football. The Citizens’ FA Cup success continued the following season by beating Leicester 1-0 in the final to claim yet another trophy.
The start of the seventies was to be the club’s most successful era. Two 2-1 victories in cup finals – beating West Brom and Gornik Zabrze in the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup respectively – made City the first English side to win a European and domestic cup double. Unfortunately, the next two years – the 1970/71 and 1971/72 seasons – failed to add to the glorious 1969/70 season as a poor run of results towards the end of both jeopardised City’s position at the top of the table. They finished 11th and fourth in those seasons respectively. Rodney Marsh was a notable player in the 1971/72 season as he was criticised by many for not suiting the style of the team. Marsh enjoyed showcasing his talents to impress the crowd but did not necessarily use them to help his teammates.
The success of the Mercer-Allison team ended finally in 1972 and City never really returned to the same form. Nevertheless, there will always be one match that will never be forgotten by a true City fan – the final game of the 1973/74 season against fierce rivals Manchester United. A backheel by former Reds player Denis Law relegated his old side into the Second Division. After a series of unsuccessful Managers, former player Tony Brook took charge in 1974. However all he could achieve was a League Cup trophy in 1976 and second place in the First Division in 1977. Manchester City’s domination in English Football, however, was soon over.
1977 – 1993: Relegations & Inconsistency
Malcolm Allison returned to the club as Manager in 1977, however, his poor judgment led to a series of unsuccessful signings. One was Steve Daley, who cost £1.4m – a then British transfer record. This extravagance, along with the selling of key players, was to be the main reason for a decline in performances over the next decade. The Eighties was a decade that included seven managers, several unpromising mid-table finishes and two relegations to Division Two – in 1983 and 1987.
Two years later, in 1989, Manchester City was again promoted to the First Division. The season 1989/90 was an extremely difficult challenge for the City squad and relegation looked inevitable. Former Everton Manager, Howard Kendall, took charge half way through the season and was able to prevent relegation against all odds. A new season brought a new Manager – a Player/Manager, to be precise. Peter Reid, who was a 34-year-old midfielder, began to heighten City’s status with two fifth place finishes. The club also finished ninth in the newly-formed Premiership – of which it was one of 22 founding members – in 1992.
1993 – 1998: Poor Premiership Performances
In the seasons 1993/94 and 1994/95, Manchester City finished 16th and 17th respectively, and relegation soon began to loom. Alan Ball became Manager in 1995, and he had a long term vision. He wanted to rid the squad of several old players and draft in younger, more promising players in order to rebuild an old and discouraging side. However, even exceptional young players such as Georgi Kinkladze could not prevent the Citizens from being relegated the following season. Unlike in the past when the club bounced back immediately, City were relegated further until they reached Division Two – the then third tier of English football.
1998 – Present Day – Division Two to Premier League Regulars
City gained back-to-back promotions, meaning the