Tottenham Memories of a Strong Manchester City Team From The 1960s


Tottenham face a Manchester City team who provide one of the toughest tests of the season as they did regularly in the late 1960s.

Phil Beal and Mike Summerbee [Photo: Alan Hill]A realist would say we are already in the middle of repeating our end of season collapse from last season. Certainly if we don’t beat Manchester City at White Hart Lane this weekend, with Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal in top form (and getting help from linesmen) we may not even finish in fifth place. So near and yet so far again. But where there is life there is hope. If anybody knows that’s true, it’s me. I also keep reminding myself this is still so much better than all those years of season long mid-table mediocrity or hovering above the relegation zone.

The last time Manchester City were champions was back in 1968. I thought it would make a change to look at their team back then as just about all that could be written about that fantastic 1981 Centenary FA Cup Final already has been. What a contrast to today. At last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley they only had two English players in the side. Although they must be happy with the recent success, do Manchester City supporters really feel that this is their team?

I have a copy of the Topical Times football book from 1968-69. It contains an interview with centre forward Mike Summerbee. In addition to a description of how he co-owned a boutique with George Best his friend and rival striker with Manchester United, he also described why City were in his opinion one of the fittest teams in the country, one of the reasons for their success that year.

Joe Mercer was the boss and Malcolm Allison his assistant. Mercer had employed ex-international athlete Derek Ibbotson to put them through special training to improve stamina. He described a couple of the drills…

First there’s a cross-country run of about 4 to 5 miles and all the way round Ibbotson had them changing pace. ‘For 100 yards we probably sprint flat-out. Then we must slow down and trot from about 20 yards or so. Next we get the order to step up the pace for another hundred yards. After doing that for 5 miles you sure know you’ve been training.

Cyril Knowles and Colin Bell [Photo: Alan Hill]Other times we’ll go to Wythenshawe Park on the outskirts of Manchester. There’s a running track there. Six of us line up at the start. At a signal, off we pelt for half a lap of 220 yards to where six other players are waiting. As soon as we touched them, they take their heels to complete the circuit. Meanwhile we original starters return to the starting line by cutting across the middle of the track to be back there before the others get round! Then they touch us and the whole thing starts again. We do that about six times and I can tell you it’s agony.

Who said footballers don’t work hard? But we have all felt the benefits of this type of training. Last year we beat Leeds one nil at Maine Road with a Colin Bell goal. During the game I had a belt down the middle after a pass with only 4 minutes or so to go. I seemed to go past four Leeds players like the wind. I was able to pull out something very extra special.’

Summerbee who was a player who had interested Bill Nicholson, had joined City from Swindon in 1965 for £35,000! This City team that also included Francis Lee, Colin Bell and Tony Book beat Spurs 4-1 at Maine Road and 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Jimmy Greaves scored a consolation goal in each match.

Back to the present. I’m drafting this on Tuesday 16th of April. The lads have had a couple of weeks off and I don’t know whether Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon will be declared fit to play. Somehow I doubt it, despite the optimistic statements that have been coming out of White Hart Lane. Even if they are, it’s hard to believe that they and the rest of the team will be able to return in top form. What we need now is luck. They say this balances out over a season. It’s long overdue for the scales to swing in our favour.