Newsletter #1894

Well, we made it!

Nearly 20 years, 1894 issues and I simply cannot imagine the number of words printed or the number of articles submitted (and only 16 editions away from number 2000!).

Quite something isn’t it?

This edition makes for quite some reading, taking us back to the 40s, covering every decade since and bringing us right up to date with recent events. Through our eyes.

Thank you all for your contributions, not just now, but throughout my time as editor and the history of MCIVTA.

There is, however, a sad piece of history recorded by Gary James. As some of you may know, Norah Mercer has, sadly, recently passed away having just turned 93 years old. Gary, who got to know her well, has submitted a lovely recollection of her. It seemed appropriate to hold this article for this edition and makes for a suitable ‘and finally’ I’m sure you will all agree.

Next Game: Newcastle United, Etihad Stadium, 30 March 2013, 15.00


Ideally I should have been there in 1894, but I wasn’t and missed the first 50 years or so of City’s existence.

For this special edition, I’ll just jot down a few moments that have stood out over the early years (forties and fifties) of my support for this club that means so much to me (according to my wife it means far too much to me!).

My earliest memory is of my boyhood idol Frank Swift bouncing the ball, basketball fashion, as far as the halfway line, much to the amusement of the huge crowd. He didn’t get away with it, but wasn’t punished by anything more than a free kick.

Albert Emptage and his one trick of bringing his foot down suddenly and fooling the opponent into thinking he was coming to a standstill. He did it every week and opponents still fell for it.

Nobby Clarke sprinting down the wing, head down, then flinging himself horizontally to score the winner in a pulsating semi-final against the millionaires of Sunderland.

Frank McCourt’s man-of-the-match display in a sea of mud against Notts County.

Big Dave Ewing grabbing the shorts of Stan Mortensen and giving him the choice of stopping or carrying on and scoring, but losing his dignity.

Bert Trautmann’s save from Denis Wilshaw’s powerful header against Wolves in a midweek match. I swear the ball had already passed him when he turned in mid-air and caught it.

The grace of Billy Spurdle, threading his way effortlessly through opposing defences.

Ray Haddington’s remarkable goal, scored from near the halfway line against West Ham. Not the most mobile of players, but he could hit a ball as hard as anyone I’ve seen.

Jimmy Meadows scoring from the halfway line against Charlton. I was at the Platt Lane end and saw him shoot, but had no idea he’d scored until we heard the roar from the far end. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see beyond halfway and I suspect that Sam Bartram didn’t even know the shot was on its way.

Not all memories are pleasurable ones, and I can still hear the crack as Billy Linacre’s leg broke in a fair tackle by Eric Westwood. At the time Linacre was playing for Middlesbrough, although he’d already suffered a broken leg when a City player.

The game that stands out more than any other was a defeat. 3-0 up at half-time in the Cup against Newcastle, only to finish 4-5 after extra time. We were still shaking our heads a week later.

Some of those early players were regarded with genuine affection – players like Roy Clarke, Joe Hayes, Bobby Johnstone and Denis Law in his all-too-brief first stay with us. It’s not as easy these days, with the enormous amounts earned by footballers, to feel the same affinity with the players. Probably David Silva and James Milner are the type of player capable of arousing similar sentiments today.

These thoughts of mine will mean little to the majority of City fans, but they might stir a few memories amongst the older generation. No doubt this special edition will contain many reminiscences of the Mercer-Allison years, and I’ll leave those to you (relative) youngsters.

David Buxton <dbb26(at)>


My abiding memory of City is attending the 1955 Cup Final as a 17 year old. I had been supporting City from the age of 13 and an uncle of mine who was a member of Cheshire F.A. had promised me that when City got to a final he would take me.

It was a brilliant day travelling down by train and the seat we had in the stadium was on the front row. The game started and unfortunately Newcastle scored. At around the 20 minute mark and only about a dozen feet from me, Jimmy Meadows was attempting to get the ball off Bobby Mitchell, who turned Jimmy and, as I was sat only a few feet away, I saw Jimmy’s foot was stuck in the ground as he turned and he thus suffered a horrendous injury that tragically stopped his career as a footballer.

Despite attending various finals, the first time I saw City win the FA Cup was in 2011 – a long wait!

Russ Alcock <russell.alcock(at)>


A particular personal favourite was the Boxing Day treat of 1963, particularly given that there had been no matches between mid-December 1962 and late February 1963.

City, under George Poyser and with Neil Young, Alan Oakes and Glyn Pardoe just breaking into the squad, popped 8 past a hapless Scunthorpe (who conceded another 4 City goals 2 days later). Derek Kevan scored two: one of which was a genuine Boys’ Own “net-buster”.

Happy days.

Alan Hallsworth, Professor <a_hallsworth(at)>


Early 1964 January, might have been February. Manchester City are at home to Tottenham Hotspur. City are entrenched at the bottom of the First Division, Tottenham are challenging for the Championship. Dad and I attend the match expecting City to get thrashed. We had been in such a hurry to get to the match that Dad hadn’t had time to eat lunch so as the teams kick off, I am banished to the concessions line-up to buy Dad a meat pie and cup of tea and, as I’m in the line-up, I’m hearing all these cheers coming from the Kippax end. I figured goalie Bert Trautmann must be making a series of great saves to hold Jimmy Greaves and Co at bay.

Imagine my shock when I got back to my position in the Main Stand to find out City were ahead 3-0!

Peter Dobing would go on to score three goals in a 6-2 win (I believe Greaves scored both for Spurs), a result which summed up what it’s like to support City.

Even when they are at their worst, City can, and will, pull off a major surprise result.

City would be relegated that season and Tottenham finished second behind Everton. Yet of all the games I have seen City play, I still remember the shock and awe of watching them tear apart one of England’s top sides of the day.

Keith Sharp – Toronto, Canada <>


Saturday 24 February 1973
FA Cup Round 5
Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland
Attendance: 54,478

I had everything I needed as an eight year old going to my first ever City match: hat, scarf, gloves, Dad (Brian) and Granddad (Eric), as we drove along Princess Parkway towards Moss Side, the home of Manchester City.

We parked what seemed miles away near Alexandra Park and we weaved our way down the side streets amongst the huge numbers of people towering above. My hands were held in an iron grip with Dad on one side and Granddad on the other. We crossed over to Parkside Road and I could see the floodlights of the stadium that I had not yet been to.

I chirped up that I needed to go to the loo; “Can’t you wait?”, says Dad. I wasn’t the only one and then Granddad said, “I need to go too”. Dad said “oh well in for a penny then…” Three of us let nature’s call down the aptly named number 1 passage. Then all of a sudden the fence moved swiftly to one side and to our horror all three of us were staring at this poor bloke opening up his back yard to look after peoples’ bikes. “Oi begger off all of you” – (I think he said begger). We laughed out loud in various stages of undress as we ran towards the ground. Dad said “don’t tell your mum” and Granddad said “don’t tell your Gran either”. I felt so grown up: this was a rite of passage.

We emerged from Parkside Road then Lloyd Street towards the bedlam of noise and crowd in front of Maine Road. Ticket touts shouted their prices like stockbrokers. Men with sandwich-boards and loud voices warned us all of the evils of drink and the devil. I was frogmarched to the ground, shoved through a narrow gate and this boney hand emerged from behind the turnstile and snatched the ticket stub from my hand. I jumped up to see who this corpse like hand belonged to and was greeted by this poor frail cadaverous bloke in his early 90s. I looked shocked at him and then he broke into a bronchitic laugh that exposed his three crooked teeth stained a sickly shade of yellow by a 40 Woodbine a day habit.

“Granddad, will that funny man get to see the game?”“I doubt it son, he’ll be lucky to make it through to half time, did you hear him cough?”

Inside, the air was full of foul language, the stench of cheap pipe tobacco and cigarette smoke. I felt even more grown up now. A programme for 5p, a dodgy pie (with mystery meat) that was “centre of the sun” hot. We made our way to the seats. The oasis of green looked magnificent; the roar of the crowd as the teams took the field of play was deafening. The sky blue versus the red and white stripes looked fantastic against the huge billiard table playing surface.

City took the lead; Sunderland equalized then went ahead, a late equaliser by City and then a late sending off. A four goal thriller, noisy crowd with whip smart remarks, indigestion and a burnt mouth; fantastic stuff and three more swear words to share with my mates at school next Monday. Even the likes of Doyle, Book, Corrigan, Bell, Lee, Marsh and Summerbee couldn’t beat Second Division Sunderland. Why? Because we were thwarted by two brilliant players; a winger who made our defence miserable all afternoon and a defender we couldn’t get past. Why couldn’t these two play for City; Dave Watson and Dennis Tueart.

I couldn’t wait for the next game. I still can’t.

Phil Lines <philipjlines(at)>


It’s 12:00 pm and we’re sitting with our cans of Tartan (jeepers was that bad beer!) in the car park beneath the twin towers. Blues mini bus arrives and as the fans pour out so does a football. Cue kick-about frenzy and then someone notices about 15 NUFC fans sitting nearby, they are called over, coats go down for goals and a (somewhat drunken) pre-run of the League Cup final ensues.

What was the score? No idea, but it was great fun and what going to a game is all about. All NUFC fans were great that day, including being noble in defeat to that goal from Mr Tueart – good job we won to compensate for the 6:00 pm hangover!

Graham Schofield <graham.schofield(at)>


Newcastle featured prominently in our late-60s/mid-70s history and, mostly, encounters with them were in our favour.

Boxing Day 1977 was to prove no exception but, what was exceptional, was the turning point that the arrival of a certain Mr Colin Bell provided.

As I’m sure you are all aware, King Colin had been badly injured by a horrific challenge by Martin Buchan on our run to the 1976 League Cup Final and, despite a short abortive attempt at a comeback at the end of that season, he had not played since.

At the age of 9 he was my hero. Full-stop. Idolised as a player and lionised as a result of his fitness battle.

There had already been a murmur of excitement around the ground at kick off as he was named as sub, though no one really expected him to play a part.

A fairly non-descript first half followed on a cold misty day when shortly before half time youngster, Paul Power, took injured. The pre-game murmur built during the half-time interval – could our hero be about to return?

There were no half-time laggers, everyone was back in their seat or in their place on the Kippax wondering, if, just if.

What followed has lived with me to this day. Seeing a, sadly, hobbling hero jog out on to the pitch for the resumption of the second half and the reaction of every single person in the stadium. As a boy I was in tears. As I looked around, I was surrounded by men in the same state.

It was utterly electric, utterly unforgettable and still, to this day, one of the most moving scenes I’ve witnessed in sport.

The second half? A 4-0 rout and a Dennis Tueart hat-trick to boot.

King Colin… Let’s drink-a-drink-a-drink… to Colin the King-the-King-the-King…

Phil Alcock <philipalcock(at)>

EARLY ’80s

My love affair with the Blues started when I was in Primary School in the early 80’s.

I was at that stage where I was changing my team every week and just couldn’t settle on one. My mate, Earl Craig, and I decided enough was enough and possibly with some divine intervention we both said ‘What about Man City?’

Nothing in my young life felt more right at that particular time. I could feel my blood turning blue as I sat there. City were in mid-table obscurity, the good times were behind us. I had nothing to look forward to apart from pride, passion and belief.

I welcomed the abuse from all my glory-hunting mates, it made me feel proud. My first kit had the Philips sponsor on it (which my mother burnt with the iron – still bitter!), Billy McNeill was manager and Paul Power was captain. I still have the completed team in my ’83 (or ’84) Panini sticker book!

Many years passed, time moved on, as did Earl. About 20 years or so later I bumped into Earl at a local petrol station. I shook his hand. We didn’t even say “Hello”, I just looked him squarely in the eyes and said ‘What about the Blues big lad?’ At that, we simultaneously reached into our pockets and pulled out our City key rings. I was delighted! 🙂

I don’t need to go into details of the journey to date, you all know it. Loving the good times at the minute, not just as many peaks and troughs to this part of the roller-coaster, which suits me fine.

CTID, Gareth Leslie <gareth_leslie(at)>


Manchester City: two words that make me fill with pride.

Two words that mean so much to so many. Words that make us travel through all kinds of weather and some of us over thousands of miles to watch teams of varying ability through the years. Come rain or shine those two words have bonded us together to see those Boys in Blue strut their stuff (or on sadly too many occasions, stutter through strife).

All those cold, dispiriting days as we suffered (ok, bit of perspective here, not suffered in the sense of not having a roof over our heads or enough to eat) playing, managerial and boardroom incompetence as City went from being a top club and getting relegated (1983, 1987, 1996 from the top-flight, and 1998 when we ignominiously dropped towards the Third Division).

Too many terrible dispiriting afternoons: the tumble from respectability and shock of Raddy Antic sending us down in 1983, the drip, drip, drip of defeat in 1986/87, Alan Ball’s stunning incompetence, telling Stevie Lomas to take the ball to corner flag in 1996, an appalling, spineless 1-2 defeat at Port Vale in ’98, the numbingly incompetent 0-1 Maine Road defeat to a terrible Bury side that same year, are deeply etched in the memory, but we came in our droves: why did we do it to ourselves?

Love? Stubbornness? Sheer bloody-mindedness? Foolishness?

Yet that badge (ok, badges), that name, Manchester City, still filled us with pride. No matter how bad City were, Manchester City was a badge of honour.

Not that City should be defined by a few dark years (though having known mostly struggle since the 80s we can be forgiven for mentioning it). This club’s centre of gravity is in the top flight of English football, and this club is now up where it should be, challenging for trophies. Not that anyone, no matter how big, has a divine right to be anywhere. It has taken the insight, benevolence and shrewdness of Sheikh Mansour and his advisors, the acumen of Roberto Mancini and the skill and endeavour of the players to put us back where we are now: the Champions of England.

This might be a “disappointing” season in terms of winning trophies, but it’s all relative. I can take this level of disappointment, but I never want to experience relegation again.

For so many years I was inspired by the fact that this club had great teams in years gone by. Ok I’m not one of the lucky ones who saw Bell, Lee, Summerbee, Young et al but the fact that they were great Champions still warmed us. They gave us trophies, pride and a lot more. The previous City team to win the title in 1936/37 got relegated the year after! I was lucky enough to be sat two places away from a gentleman who saw it all last season. His smiling face was a picture after Sergio Agüero won the title for us all on May 13th last year. That very goal will have drawn many more young fans into the Manchester City story.

Every era has brought people closer to our beloved City. Peter Swales is not remembered with a lot of fondness, but the pioneering development of the Junior Blues ensured another generation strengthened their bond with Manchester City.

In renaming Ardwick to Manchester City in 1894, Joshua Parlby broadened the club’s appeal, giving it to the people of Manchester. That spirit has endured. I have always found Manchester City an inclusive, welcoming club, and that has not changed. As the son of an immigrant and a Yorkshire lady who moved to the North West when I was very young, a few years later I found a second home at Maine Road, and later in Eastlands. I won’t pretend that I have liked every City fan or been liked by every Blue but I have always felt welcomed by Manchester City, like I belong here. Yes, I feel included. So should all Blues, and it is important for the club to continue that (unlike clubs like Arsenal, United and Liverpool who have failed in this respect by pricing many of their fans out).

Perhaps the greatest instance of inclusivity came after the 2nd World War. Bert Trautmann not only gained acceptance and won over the people of Manchester, but served this club with great distinction, and so bravely at the zenith of his career in the 1956 FA Cup Final. He too was part of the magnetic attraction of Manchester City.

The ups and downs of the club are part of its attraction, though it would be great for this club, to once and for all become established amongst the elite clubs in the world, let alone England. Why not?

Who knows what’s in store next?

I can’t begin to describe every trial and tribulation of Manchester City, besides Gary James has already done that in his fabulous and definitive book “The City Years”, but we all have our take on it, and I look forward to reading those of other City fans. I will leave you with some favourite memories from my relatively small 33 year window:

  1. Going to my first City match with my dad in November 1980 and TheKippax singing “We love you City we do” with gusto when City were bottomof the League.
  2. A little terrier dog weed by the posts at the Platt Lane end of MaineRoad, and The Kippax chimed “John Bond, John Bond, sign him up…”
  3. Andy May heading in a goal between angle of post and bar in the finalday 5-1 defeat of Charlton: we knew were on our way to promotion in 1984/85(after some serious wobbles in the preceding weeks).
  4. The amazing, thrilling 10-1 win over Huddersfield in Autumn 1987 withhat tricks from Adcock, Stewart and White. An almost surreal afternoonwhen our thrilling young side, in particular Paul Simpson, delighted usall with fast, free flowing football. Unforgettable.
  5. Losing my glasses on the away terrace at Valley Parade in Oct ’87 aswe po-goed after David White scored one of our goals in our first away win(4-2) for 21 months!
  6. The 5-1: the net billowing and going absolutely potty after DavidOldfield’s rising shot beat United’s Jim Leighton to give us the lead inthe derby on September 23rd 1989; going absolutely “mental” again afterTrevor Morley stabbed home the second; not being able to believe being3-0 up after Ian Bishop’s diving header; the relief after Oldfield madeit 4-1 from Lakey’s cross; spraining my ankle and not feeling the painin the supreme joy of Andy Hinchcliffe’s header to make it 5-1 from DavidWhite’s cross and Hinchy five fingers held aloft.
  7. Laughing maniacally when Edin made it 5-1 then 6-1 at Old Traffordlast year.
  8. Ali Benarbia’s stunning début in 2001 against Birmingham. With a lovelytouch, sublime intelligence and a range of passes, he ran the game andhelped inspire us to promotion.
  9. Feeling like I was going to burst after Nicolas Anelka swept home theopener on the way to our 3-1 win in 2002, followed by the ecstasy of theGoat’s 99th and 100th goals in the same game, especially the 100th!
  10. Yaya Touré’s powerful winning goal at Wembley and the shared experience ofhaving a face full of tears after the final whistle of the 2011 FA Cup Final.
  11. De Jong… Balotelli… Agüeroooooooo… net billows… unrestrained,delirious and ecstatic joy as Sergio peels away in delight…

Here’s to many more.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>

APRIL 16th 1994 – SPOOKY

Nice idea having a “Special 1894 Issue” to commemorate the time that Manchester City Football Club Limited became a registered company on April 16th 1894. It’s just a pity that most of the important buildings associated with that time such as The Hyde Road Stadium, St. Marks Church and the Hyde Road Hotel are now long gone.

I’m sure there will be many superb tales of incredible games, significant moments and other facts and foibles relating to the last 119 years submitted by MCIVTA subscribers, which will bring back great memories for us all, so I thought I’d make a small contribution to mark the occasion, the content of which I am sure that no one else who subscribes to the newsletter will be aware of, apart from my dad that is… my eldest, Hannah, was born on April 16th 1994 – one hundred years to the day that the club came into existence!

Spooky or what?

Paul Rawling <p-rawling(at)>


Relegated by Ipswich on a 1-2 defeat, despite a brave equalising goal by the Goat.

Watching this cruel match alone in university dorm in Hong Kong early morning.

Calvin Chan <calvinc(at)>


There have many highs and lows for our club since 1894 but, to my mind, the best high occurred on 13 May last year when we won the Premier League in a manner that could not have been better scripted by Hollywood – a last kick goal while the baddies were setting up a stall for their presentation!

The Mercer-Allison years had many wonderful moments but my second high is at the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster where we spoiled United’s day with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford with goals from our superstar strikers, Darius Vassell and Benjani. The lowest of the low for me is when we were relegated, not by Raddy’s antics for Luton but by one of our own (the manager at the time) failing to get his maths right, insisting that a draw would enough to save us whereas a win was needed.

The forgotten ritual is the entertainment at half-time provided by the Beswick Prize Band who assembled in the centre circle, whatever the weather, to blast out some rousing stuff. Brass bands at half-time were a feature at most first-class grounds, so much so that I recall a cartoon depicting the interval of a Brass Band Contest where two football teams were running into the arena! It was not just the teams that changed ends at half-time as many fans would move in order to watch the action from behind the opposition’s goal. At one time, at Maine Road, you were free to wander around three sides of the ground.

Derek Styles <deranne1(at)>


Winning the League in this fashion completes anyone’s football supporting life.

Calvin Chan <calvinc(at)>


11th March 1920 – 12th March 2013

A short while ago I heard the news that Norah Mercer, the widow of former England captain and manager Joe Mercer, had died. She was 93 the previous day. (ED – Please note this article from Gary was submitted the day after Norah’s passing but has been held back for this special edition of MCIVTA)

I first met Norah in 1988 when I was researching for a book on the Manchester derby. Joe had agreed to write an introduction to the book and I was invited to the Mercer home to talk with Joe. Unfortunately, on the day the car my father and I were supposed to be travelling in had a few problems and we ended up using a white transit van to get to their home.

As we arrived at the end of their street we started to worry. We were about to park a transit van outside the house of the greatest Manchester City manager of all time. Not only that but we were about 45 minutes early. We couldn’t pull up outside Joe Mercer’s house 45 minutes early and in a transit van! We decided to park near the junction of the neighbouring road – where we could see the Mercer house – and wait in the van.

At the appropriate time we climbed out of the van, walked up the Mercer road and knocked on their door. Joe came out with a big beaming smile and simply said “come in”, then Norah appeared from the kitchen wagging her finger at us and saying “you’ve been hiding in that van for 45 minutes! No need for that you should have pulled up outside.” From that moment on Norah made us feel welcome and in the 25 years since has been a wonderful friend.

Throughout her life Norah supported Joe wonderfully. Today people often talk of footballers’ wives – often for the wrong reasons! Back when Norah and Joe first became a couple it was unknown for a wife to become known by supporters. However, Norah’s support for her husband was such that she played a marvellous part in every period of his career from the moment her father helped Joe get to Goodison Park in the early days of his career; through the highs and lows of an amazing playing career with Everton, Arsenal and England; on to managerial ups and downs at Sheffield United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Coventry City and that great spell as England boss; and on to retirement, illness and so on.

Joe passed away on his 76th birthday in 1990 but Norah continued to show interest in football, becoming a regular at Manchester City and a frequent visitor to Joe’s other clubs.

When Joe passed I asked Norah if I could write a biography of her husband. Her response was typical: “Only if it’s not too much trouble for you.” Too much trouble? After what Joe had given football and, in particular my team Manchester City, I felt we all owed him something, but typical of Norah she wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking on too much, or doing it for the wrong reasons.

With Norah’s support – and also great assistance from her son David – I wrote the biography over the following three years but, most significantly, I also spent many days at Norah’s listening to her views on football and life, questioning her on odd snippets of information, marvelling at her photo collection, and generally enjoying every minute.

Typically my visits would include Norah insisting I had something to eat – I really didn’t want to intrude too much but soon realised that Norah was always such a welcoming figure. She was also keen to meet my own family and my girlfriend (my wife since 1992) was as welcome as I was and became someone else looked after by Norah.

On one occasion, when I was researching Joe’s Aston Villa material, Norah insisted I have a beer. When she brought the drink in she nodded to my girlfriend and then gave me the tankard – Joe’s League Cup winning tankard from his days at Villa! I was petrified that I was going to damage it.

Norah was born in Liverpool in 1920 and was the daughter of a popular grocer, Albert Dyson, on The Wirral. Albert was a passionate Evertonian and had various contacts at the club. As Albert’s business was based in Ellesmere Port inevitably he came into contact with a young Everton player called Joe Mercer. Joe and another player were invited to the Dyson home for tea one day. The other player couldn’t come but Norah did meet Joe for the first time: “Old cheeky face Mercer came! At the time I was 11 and Joe was 17 and he treated me like a sister.” Around six years later a relationship began to develop between the two of them and Norah became an integral part of Joe’s life.

In March 1941 Joe and Norah became engaged and on 3rd September that year they married with Everton’s TG Jones the best man. Norah explained to me fifty years later that the honeymoon was cut short by a day so that Joe could play for Everton: “We left early Saturday and he played Saturday afternoon. So that’s how our marriage started… with football! And that’s how it went on.”

Norah was knowledgeable about football herself. In fact some of Joe’s team-mates teased him that Norah knew more about the game than he did! She played her part in all the big moments of his career: “Playing for Everton meant a great deal to us all because we were all Evertonians, but I suppose the greatest moment in his pre-war career came when he was selected to play for England. He was at our house when it came through on the radio – no one ‘phoned you then to tell you you’d been selected.”

“He was delighted. We all were. It was such an honour to play for England. It made us all so proud. When he played at Hampden in one of his first internationals, Joe’s mum came with me and my father to watch him. That meant everything and Joe was named the Man of the Match (England won 2-1).”

The couple were, of course, separated for significant periods during the war years. It was a difficult time for all, but once the war was over it also looked as if Joe’s footballing career had come to an end. Joe became a grocer like his father-in-law, but he often admitted it was a poor substitute for playing football.

Then a chance came to join Arsenal and arrangements were made for Joe to train on the Wirral and travel to Highbury for games. Whenever possible Norah would travel, together with their young son David, to London for games. She was, of course, present at all the landmark moments of Joe’s career with the Gunners: “I went as often as possible, and of course we had David by then. If I didn’t go to games I’d be waiting for him up here after the game. He used to catch the 5.30pm from Euston and arrive back to The Wirral around 10.30. We lived near the line then and I used to look out for the train. Of course, Joe often fell asleep and would end up at the end of the line! Once he said to a guard ‘why didn’t you wake me?’ and the guard said ‘because of what you did to my team today!’ Arsenal must have beaten his team.” (ED – Joe’s picture is the pre-eminent photo in the Arsenal Boardroom to this day)

Once Joe’s playing career ended he moved into management with Sheffield United, Aston Villa and then Manchester City. As football management required a much closer presence, the family moved whenever Joe’s career took a different course. Norah, for her part, tried to ensure everything ran smoothly for Joe and David. She also played her part as a welcoming aspect at each of the clubs. In 2003 she told me: “I used to come to all the games of course, and both before and after the match would be with the wives of the directors, visiting officials, and even the referee’s wife in the Ladies Room. We were all told who the referee’s wife was and we tried to make her feel welcome, although for some ladies it all depended on how well her husband had refereed the match!”

Norah supported Joe fully throughout his managerial career, especially during some difficult periods at Aston Villa and the final days at Manchester City. Norah, talking to me in 2003: “He didn’t want to leave City but felt he had no choice. He obviously wanted Malcolm to succeed and he did not blame him, but the new directors could have sorted it out properly. Once the takeover had happened and the new directors came on board (1970-72) the club had changed. It wasn’t really until Franny returned to the club (1993/4 season) that efforts were made to invite me and others back. Of course Joe had passed away by then, but I was delighted to be asked to games. That invite has carried on ever since and it is great to feel part of the club again.”

Joe passed away after suffering with Alzheimer’s. Norah did all she could during that period to ensure Joe was comfortable and she insisted on looking after him, even during some very difficult days.

Norah continued to attend games at City from 1994 through to the present day. She also came to the ground for other activities and functions over the years, including the unveiling of the Mercer mosaics in 2005. That day she was accompanied by her son David, but sadly, a little over two years later he passed away after a struggle with cancer. Life must have been difficult once more for Norah.

Away from football Norah tried to play a part in her local community. For many, many years she worked in charity shops on The Wirral. In fact, when I went to see her once when she was in her late 70s she told me that earlier that week a man had stolen a handbag from someone inside the shop and that Norah had chased after him. Only losing him when he jumped on a waiting train at the railway station: “If that train hadn’t been there I’d have caught him!”

On another occasion when she was approaching ninety she told me of her upset at being “made redundant!” The charity had decided to stop using volunteers and had employed younger permanent staff instead. I’m pretty certain that few permanent staff would have had the same level of dedication and determination that Norah had.

I once asked her about her family’s interest in football: “It’s changed so much since Joe and I first met. Throughout his career I supported him all the way. To Joe football was the most important thing. The people… the money… the grounds even change, but Joe used to say that the game itself doesn’t need to change. Football is a great game and that’s what mattered to Joe. I often joke that football was everything to Joe. When he met me it was football then me. When our son David was born it was football, David, then me. When our granddaughter Susan was born it was football, Susan, David, then me! Football was always number one and we all knew that. Football was Joe’s life.”

By 2009-10 I had become a little frustrated that the Mercer name was not often remembered outside of the clubs Joe had been involved with and so I decided to update and revise my biography of Joe, but first I asked Norah’s permission. Just like twenty years earlier she said “Are you sure? Will anybody be interested? Don’t do it unless you feel it’s worthwhile.” “Joe Mercer: Football With A Smile” came out in April 2010 and I made sure that the book explained Norah’s continued presence and interest in football – to me it’s a shared story. It was the least she deserved.

In September 2009 I included an interview with Norah in the Manchester City match programme. In that piece I asked her about present-day City and ended the piece with a simple question: Looking to the future, who would you like to win the League?

Her response: “After City you mean? Well, the top four would have to be City, Everton, Arsenal and Liverpool, but apart from City as Champions I’d best not say which order.” In 2012 she got her wish and, most significantly, she was there when City defeated QPR to lift the title for the first time since Joe’s side had in 1968.

My thoughts are with her granddaughter Susan and the rest of her family.

Gary James <City(at)>, 12th March 2013


League table as at 21 March 2013

                        P / GD / Pts
 1 Manchester Utd      29 / 38 / 74
 2 Manchester City     29 / 25 / 59
 3 Chelsea             29 / 28 / 55
 4 Tottenham Hotspur   30 / 14 / 54
 5 Arsenal             29 / 23 / 50
 6 Everton             29 / 11 / 48
 7 Liverpool           30 / 18 / 45
 8 West Bromwich Alb   30 /  2 / 44
 9 Swansea City        30 /  2 / 40
10 Fulham              29 / -4 / 36
11 Stoke City          30 / -8 / 34
12 Norwich City        30 /-18 / 34
13 Newcastle Utd       30 /-11 / 33
14 West Ham Utd        29 /-11 / 33
15 Sunderland          30 / -9 / 31
16 Southampton         30 /-10 / 31
17 Aston Villa         30 /-25 / 30
18 Wigan Athletic      29 /-21 / 27
19 Reading             30 /-22 / 23
20 QPR                 30 /-22 / 23

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1894