clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

20 Years Since Peter Swales Passing

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

the 24th of November 1973 Peter Swales promised Manchester City fans the moon on a stick! Less than five months later that plan was shelved, the moon would stay where it was and sticks had to be wrapped and put away.
On May 2nd in 1996 our ex Chairman died only three days before we bowed out of the Premiership, never to return, well not until the year 2000. Say what you want about Peter Swales good or bad, he was still our Chairman for a good twenty years (using the word good in terms length as opposed to success) although in the fine line between good and bad decisions he could have been our saviour in the end he was more the target for our inability to produce success.
Swales and his business partner had made their money in the 1960's in the audio and Hi-Fi business with them coming into the industry as it was really taking off. This gave them both the money to invest in side projects or hobbies and first up was Altrincham who they did transform from unknowns to contenders outside the established football leagues.
In 1973 a share holding became available in Manchester City and it was City's directors that looked to Swales as they wanted someone with money and a love for football to come onboard. Malcolm Allison was becoming increasingly frustrated at the fact that Joe Mercer was still above him, albeit in a general manager role that he too wanted Swales onboard as the current board were sympathetic to Mercer and felt they didn't given him a fair shake to prove what he could do solo.
If his time in the job is a measure of success, then the appointment of Swales was a master-stroke. If, however, a rather more demanding criteria is required then it was nothing other than the word 'calamity' can be used. The facts are that although under Swales Manchester City did win the League Cup once and Runners Up in the FA Cup. On the flip side they were also relegated twice, and went 18 years without winning a trophy. In that time Swales went through 11 managers and purchased three £1-million players, which at the time was rare! He even broke the British transfer record for Steve Daley, who cost £1.4 million from Wolverhampton Wanderers. Daley failed so badly that his name is still known at the club along with a select others as really bad buys for the club. However, with the Daley buy he was merely letting his Manager, manage. What other City fan would have questioned the judgement of Malcolm Allison at that point? The guy had bought well before when with Mercer and they had no money, so why not now?
Swales also took the bullet for Ron Saunders who had been successful elsewhere but within five months all the promises had evaporated and City and Swales went back to the drawing board. Tony Book took over and we went to the League Cup Final only to be beaten by Wolves. Now in Tony Book we had a manager that could do things with the players, runners up in the League in the 1976-77 season and League Cup Winners in the previous season. After that though the League finishes and cup runs became less impressive and as a result Allison was brought back for a second term.
Straightaway Allison started to get shot of the older players, and bring in youth. It worked under him and Mercer before but was too much too soon this time around, rather than slowly integrating the young signings along with the older pros. Allison lasted a year and some change before his head rolled and another was brought in.
For such a seemingly savvy businessman Swales seemed very naive when it came to City and merchandising rights. The City Chairman agreed to sell the rights to the badge (which is why we have a new badge) and a flat fee for the sub let of the City shop which was still only worth a small 60k a year, to give you some idea of the short fall in profits the redeveloped merchandise (new badge launch in 1997) netted City an estimated 2Million +.
Despite City being just as bad off the pitch as on it was never likely that Swales would be forced out. The backing of Manchester businessman Stephen Boler and Greenalls Brewery, both major shareholders, meant his position was secure.
Then in 1993 he made a serious error in the judgement of how much he could push without being pushed back. The sacking of Peter Reid, our most successful spell in the League to date, and the appointment of a journalist as General Manager along with Francis Lee's public desire to invest in the club led to supporters finally standing up to reclaim their club.
It was not the most calm and pleasant changes of guard at City but more like a bitterly fought war. Swales eventually relented to the pressure and stepped down but really the whole situation will be forever a stain on the City history. Stories of death threats aimed at Swales and his family were circulated and if they were true were certainly a step too far. Whatever the truth the ex chairman stepped down and in 1994 the new one stepped in.
The whole ousting of Swales and his fight to stay on at City ultimately led to his death of a heart attack on this day in 1996. The rot at City was too intertwined within the club and matters for Lee were not helped by appointing his friend as Manager. Alan Ball came to City in 1995 and left in 1996 havingsuccessfully taken City into relegation.
Peter Swales died on May 2nd 1996 and a minutes silence was observed respectfully against Liverpool at Maine Road, with the side already facing relegation unless they could get a win. Liverpool went 2-0 up before City clawed it back to 2-2 but that was all she wrote and as Swales was buried and laid to rest so was the club he loved, at least for a while.