For the latest entry to our regular Elevens series we turned to Simon Curtis, a longstanding supporter of, and writer on all things Manchester City. He’s been following the club since the early 1970s and can just about remember some of the great players from that first golden era for the club.
We were curious to know how those players stacked up in comparison against the expensively acquired stars of the current generation, so Simon has produced a fantasy Eleven selection taking in the best of the old, the new and even some from the years in between.
Here’s some background on the players who made Simon’s selection.
1) JOE CORRIGAN: 592 apps. Big Joe played in the first multi-trophy-winning era for the club, but was badly hampered by weight and form problems in his early career. Came back from being dropped and having some stinging criticism levelled at him – from crowd and team mates alike – to make the England squad in the late 70s. Incredibly agile for such a block of a man as well as being reliable and consistent to boot. Voted man of the match at the Centenary Cup final in 1981.
2) TONY BOOK: 312 apps. Only made his City debut at the age of 31, yet held aloft the League, FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup as skipper of the Mercer-Allison side of the late 60s and early 70s. Club stalwart thereafter as manager, assistant, youth coach and oft-used caretaker during City’s turbulent decades. For attitude, stamina and unstinting, dutiful service to this club, Book makes the right back slot his ahead of another sky blue stalwart Pablo Zabaleta.
3) WILLIE DONACHIE: 421 apps. Not a position that has been occupied by many greats in City’s history, but Glasgow-born Donachie was probably the best of the lot. Solid, calm and reliable, he played for the club while scoring just twice, one of which coming from his sparingly used right foot. Also a Scotland regular who appeared for his country in the painful episodes of the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.
4) COLIN BELL: 489 apps. The King of the Kippax, a gliding, restless presence in midfield during the Mercer-Allison glory years. 48 England caps and a career cut short in its prime by a well-documented Martin Buchan tackle in a Manchester derby. Bell was a thoroughbred with unbelievable stamina and balance. Not just lung power, however, but a midfield action man, who did it all. Fine technique, goal-scoring (152 in total from the middle of the park), truly box-to-box before the term had been invented, Bell was the first piece of the jigsaw (in 1966) that would see the managerial duo build a super team.
5) DAVE WATSON: 185 apps. Absolute man mountain of a defender in the exciting Tony Book-managed side of the mid-to-late 70s. Strongest header of the ball seen at Maine Road, scoring the best-ever headed goal at that venue with an unbelievable, thumping, long range hit against Ipswich direct from an outswinging corner in 1977. Played assiduously 65 times for England too, where his they shall not pass attitude went down equally well.
6) MIKE DOYLE: 551 apps. Mr Manchester City Mike Doyle holds off Vincent Kompany for the berth alongside Watson. Attitude, determination and no little technique, a multi-purpose, deluxe model of the modern-day central defender, Doyle also played defensive midfield, like Kompany, and dragged his City team mates kicking and screaming through some of the more difficult matches with his never-say-die attitude. Personified Malcolm Allison’s anti-United rhetoric on the field of play and was at his thundering best in the Manchester derbies.
7) DAVID SILVA: 249 apps. Merlin, a magician of slight build, but constructed out of granite. The little man who sees space where none exists and sees angles that simply do not occurr to normal mortals. Glides, drifts, dinks and shuffles, the player that manages to be permanently in space in the crash-bang-wallop maelstrom of modern football has indeed become a unique specimen.
8) YAYA TOURÉ: 267 apps. An absolute colossus and possibly the most influential player in City’s modern era renaissance. Scored the semi final winner v Man Utd in the 2011 FA Cup, then the winner in the final v Stoke, the critical goals at Newcastle to set up the QPR finale for the eye-wateringly close Premier league finish in 2013 and an exotic stunner of an equaliser v Sunderland in the 2014 League Cup final. Also dragged every opposition midfield City played against for 4 years completely out of shape chasing his unstoppable surges down the centre of the pitch.
9) FRANCIS LEE: 320 apps. Lee’s arrival from Bolton was the defining factor in pushing City for the league title in 1967-68. His spirit was matched by an ability to drive straight at the opposition box. This forcefulness won him penalties and England caps in equal measure. Joe Mercer called him “squat and strong and so very very brave” and with Francis Lee in your side, you always knew you had a fighting chance. Returned with Derby to score a cracking goal at Maine Road on his way to a final league triumph with Dave Mackay’s side and no one there that day could begrudge him that.
10) SERGIO AGUERO: 189 apps. Still not really given the credit he deserves for the mountains of goals he has scored and the record-low amount of minutes he has required to do so. Perhaps the one really world class player plying is trade in the Premier League, Aguero has a peerless knack for putting the ball where it belongs. Tap-ins, headers, or low backlift rockets from outside the box, nothing is too much trouble for this A-class predator. Individual rewards continue to evade him, but his record at City is second to none.
11) DENNIS TUEART: 259 apps. The ultimate goal-scoring winger – 107 of them for City alone- Tueart’s irrascible character and ability to tear inside from the right wing and score regularly gets him a place ahead of Kinkladze, Young and Tevez. He gave balance to Tony Book’s 70s side that so nearly took the league title ahead of the magnificent Liverpool side of Bob Paisley. Like Mike Summerbee before him, he took few prisoners and fearlessly blazed a trail down either flank. Two spells at City sandwiched a golden period in the NASL at New York Cosmos with Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele
Subs: Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Georgi Kinkladze, Alan Oakes, Neil Young, Carlos Tevez, Mike Summerbee.