By the time George Heslop arrived at Maine Road in September 1965 he already had six years experience of professional football, firstly with Newcastle United and latterly with Everton. Surprisingly though in all that time he'd been limited to a combined total of just 37 League games. At Goodison Park he'd been understudy to England centre-half Brian Labone, a point noticed by Malcolm Allison who knew the heart of City's defence needed strengthening as he and Joe Mercer set about rebuilding the Blues' team and fortunes.
He cost £20, 000, a lot of money for the cash-strapped Blues, who, according to Allison 'paid for him on installments of £1, 000 per month'. Following his debut at Norwich, Heslop went on to play in a further 33 League games of the 1965/66 season. City lost just four times in those games and were crowned Second Division Champions the following May. Heslop's presence and power at the centre of the defence continued throughout the 1966/67 season as City looked to consolidate in the top flight. Another 37 appearances followed as the Blues finished 11th. In his first two and a half seasons at Maine Road, Heslop had failed to find the net once in the League despite his aerial prowess at set pieces.
As City went neck and neck with neighbours and arch-rivals Manchester United at the top of Division One in March 1968, he chose the perfect time to remedy the situation. With the scores level, Heslop's header at the Stretford End gave City a 2-1 lead before Francis Lee finished the game with a penalty in the dying minutes. The win at Old Trafford proved the catalyst for the Blues to go on and lift the First Division title two months later. George missed just one game all season (a 6-0 thrashing of Leicester at Maine Road), scored his first ever goal for City in a 7-0 FA Cup replay win at Reading and had now won two Championship medals in just three seasons. Regrettably though for Heslop it wasn't to last. Although he started the 1968/69 season as captain in a 6-1 Charity Shield triumph over West Bromwich Albion, the emergence of the young Tommy Booth began to hinder his first team chances. Over the next four years, he made a combined total of 63/6 appearances and added to his goal tally just the once, in a 2-2 draw with Bologna in the Anglo Italian Cup in September 1970. If he was no longer an automatic first team choice, he was certainly still a valued member of an albeit small first team squad.
A player who always gave 100% when called on played valuable roles in both the League and European Cup Winners' Cup Finals of 1970 and deservedly picked up another two medals. On Christmas Eve 1971 he moved to South Africa for an eight-month loan spell with Cape Town City before returning to England on a permanent contract with Bury. His final job in football was manager of non-league Northwich and after his retirement from the game he became the landlord of The City Gates Hotel on Hyde Road, a pub that had been central to the club during their early days as Ardwick FC. A man who made 198/6 appearances for City (3 goals) has been working as a social worker on the Fylde Coast in more recent times.
September 18th 2006: Sad news today about the death City legend George Heslop, who passed away at the weekend after a short illness. He was just 66 years old.
Our younger readers may not remember George, but he was a key member of City's team in our glory years in the mid to late 1960s during the wonderful Joe Mercer / Malcolm Allison era, and was in the Championship winning side of the '67-68 season. He also went on to win League Cup, European Cup-Winners Cup and other honours in a career that saw him turn out for City 198 times with an additional six appearances as sub.
After leaving the game, George was landlord of a few pubs, including one of my locals, the Carter's Arms in Wilmslow. He later became a social worker around the Blackpool area, where he retired just last year.
Rest in peace George, you'll always be a legend
Provided by: Ian Penney (author of The Legends of Manchester City) & Vital Football.co.uk