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Manchester City History: The Citizens First Foreign Player?

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The influx of foreign players into the Premier League, it may surprise you, is not a new phenomenon. Manchester City arguably had an Indian in their team in 1937! Ok so he was only 'technically' Indian as he was born in Gunga Pur, but was actually raised in Scotland as a Scot. I am, of course, talking about Les McDowall.

He joined City towards the end of the relegation 1937-38 season and couldn't help avoid the inevitable. Despite making 126 appearances, scoring 8 goals and even being captain at some point it wouldn't be on the pitch that he would become a City legend.

In 1950, Les took over a Manchester City side that had just faced relegation under John Thompson with just 8 wins in 42 and conceding seven in one game against Derby County! Les McDowall gained promotion in his first season as Manager before consolidating in the next. He would lose his first derby game in September 1951, but then went until the last day of 1955 before losing again. This run included the double in 1954-55 in which City won 3-2 at Maine Road and then hammered United 5-0 in the away fixture.

He would then lead City to a FA Cup Final defeat to Newcastle, the Semi Final played sixty one years ago today. With today's Manchester City side it doesn't seem that remarkable to have got to, and lost a final, but you must understand that although we have been to numerous cup finals in the past few years, this particular semi final had been our first for twenty one years, and the first one since the end of World War Two.

Instead of being down and disheartened by the defeat the City side vowed a quick return, and did so the very next season to win the Cup at the expense of Birmingham. McDowall was also involved in other points of City history before leaving in 1963, with every one of his seasons, except his first, in the top tier.

In 1955 City's Don Revie won the Football Writers player of the year award before Trautmann would win it the following season. The 1955-56 season was McDowalls best after he saw City finish fourth. The next season he was in charge of the first game filmed by the BBC, which was also the return of Bert Trautmann, who made over 500 appearances for City.

It wouldn't be a City roller coaster though and he had his own 'Typical City' moment. In the 1957/56 season City scored and conceded 100 goals in the one League season. Despite this City still finished 5th!

That was a sign of things to come though as in the final game in the last full season in the 1950's, it was City or Villa facing relegation. The penultimate game was between the two and that draw helped keep City up and send Villa down. At that point Villa were managed by a Mr Joe Mercer, I wonder what he went on to do?

In the 1960's City would decline due to an aging team and limited resources. In his last four seasons City would finish 16th, 13th and 12th before finally getting relegated in 1963 and the end of the Les McDowall era. He would go on to manage Oldham but only stayed in the business for two more years before quitting in 1965. Mr McDowall died in August 1991 at the age of 78.