"Football is a great game. It is all about goals, goalmouth incidents and end-to-end attacking football. There is nothing wrong with the game; plenty wrong with managers, players, directors, legislators and the media. Football has been very kind to me and I really mustn't complain so I can leave you with this thought - The object of playing any game is for enjoyment. If you have enjoyed it and done your best you have won no matter what the result!"
Above is a quote from the City legend that was Mr Joe Mercer OBE from the early 1980's. I wonder what the ex City boss would think of the current crop of City players and the way the game has gone since he left us on the 9th August 1990, aged 76. How would he, for example, have handled the Tevez incident in Munich a few seasons ago? I would hazard a guess that Mr Tevez would have been left to find his own way home that night. Or how about the numerous incidents involving players and their agents over the years? Would Mercer have channeled Marie Antionette and let them eat cake? I’m not so sure.
What I am sure of though is that fifty years ago on this day, Joe Mercer joined as City Manager.
In that first season, and with City in the second tier of English football, Mercer and the boys won promotion back to the top flight while also going on a decent FA Cup run in the process.
The following season a mid table position was secured before, in his second full season back in the top flight, Joe led Manchester City to their first League Championship in post war history. Showing his no nonsense approach to controversy, shortly before Manchester Uniteds last game (holders of the cup at the time) the trophy went missing from their boardroom. One official told the media he hadn't seen it all day and the other said it had been collected earlier. Finally one admitted they had locked it in their vault, even then they were scared City might take the limelight! Joe simply told journalists he would be happy to walk all the way from Newcastle to collect it if he had to. City beat Newcastle and Joe didn't have to walk back to get the trophy.
In 1969 Mercer added the FA Cup to the cabinet as a lone Neil Young strike proved the difference in a very tight game against a plucky Leicester side. Twelve months later he had added a League Cup and European Cup Winners Cup trophy to the cabinet both by a 2-1 scoreline. Doyle and two Pardoe goals sealed the League Cup before Young and Lee scored in Vienna to secure the double.
Eighteen short months later though and Joe was stepping down as Manager and although City would go on to win another League Cup five years later it would bring to an end the short but very trophy laden flirtation between Mercer and City's most successful period in history.
Malcolm Allison was given the responsibility of first team affairs and Mercer was promoted 'upstairs' as General Manager. It wasn't what Joe wanted and it really didn't suit City either so Joe moved on to Coventry City and stayed there, eventually becoming a director, until 1981. Joe did manage the England National team and, just after missing out on the 1974 World Cup, Joe was just the man to put the smile back on the face of English Football. Unfortunately he would only remain in charge for seven games in 1974, losing only the one game before being replaced by Don Revie.
However he will be most remembered, and considered a legend, for his time at City and his six years there he would win everything going and be regarded by most, if not all City fans as the best Manager we’d ever had.