Following on from the first of the BBC’s three-part documentary Football’s Darkest Secrets, Bitter and Blue would like to acknowledge and applaud the honesty and bravery of all the victims of the UK football sexual assault scandal. This should never have happened to people in the care of adults who were responsible for them, and to listen to the stories from the survivors of these horrible crimes is truly heart-breaking.
It is also sad that two of Manchester City’s former players, Paul Stewart and David White were victims of this abuse. These two in particular were heroes of mine as they were among the first eleven I ever watched at Maine Road, with Stewart scoring my first ‘live’ goal in the stadium, an 82nd minute equaliser in a 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle in 1987.
So, this week, I want to highlight and celebrate the City careers of these two players and show exactly why they are City legends, loved and appreciated by thousands of adoring fans, starting with goal machine Stewart.
The striker joined City in March 1987 after spending six years at Blackpool. During his time at Bloomfield Road, Stewart scored 56 goals in over 200 appearance, which prompted then City manager Billy McNeil to persuade the blues board to part with £200,000 for his services.
Stewart made 11 appearances for City, scoring two goals. His first was in a 4-2 home defeat to Southampton, with his second coming in a 3-0 home win over Arsenal. Unfortunately, City fell into the second division again, but Stewart would lead the line the following season that would see him attract interest from Britain’s top clubs.
The striker started the 1987/88 season alongside Imre Varadi and the two struck on the opening day of the season as City came from behind to beat Plymouth 2-1 at Maine Road. He struck again in a 4-0 win over Millwall an scored his first away goal in a 3-1 defeat at Hull City.
His first brace for the club came at home to Leicester City in October, as the blues beat the Foxes 4-2, then scored two goals at Valley Parade as City finally ended their away day jinx with a 4-2 win at Bradford. After scoring in the 3-0 home win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup, Stewart began to hit his goal-scoring form.
He was one of three players to hit a hat-trick in the 10-1 hammering of Huddersfield Town. His first made it 2-0 as he fired across the keeper and his second was a classic far post header from a Paul Simpson cross to make it 6-0. He completed his treble by tapping home Andy Hinchcliffe’s cross for City’s eighth of the game.
Stewart scored six goals in his next seven games as City went on a 13-match unbeaten run, but a penalty miss at home to Crystal Palace proved costly as the Eagles beat 10-man City 3-1. In February 1988, he scored against his old club Blackpool in an FA Cup replay at Maine Road, however the striker sliced a penalty wide in the first half.
The striker picked up several bookings throughout the season which culminated in a one match ban, meaning he would miss City’s huge FA Cup quarter final at home to Liverpool. The club were able to negotiate with Sheffield United to bring their match at Bramhall Lane forward so Stewart would miss the trip to South Yorkshire but would be eligible to feature against the Mersey Reds.
It was almost an inspired move as Stewart had a powerful goal-bound header palmed away by visiting keeper Bruce Grobbelaar before the reds went on to beat City 4-0.
Stewart would score another five goals before the end of the season, but his performances, physical strength, and power to out-muscle defenders had caught the eye of several top clubs in the UK, most notably Liverpool, Everton, and Tottenham Hotspur, while it was also rumoured that then Glasgow Rangers manager Graeme Souness watched the striker play amongst the fans on the Kippax, wearing a Rangers scarf around his mouth to hide his identity.
It was clear that Stewart was about to leave the club and City accepted a bid of £1.7m from Spurs, which was a high fee for a second division striker at the time. It would later be revealed in a book that City received another bid from Old Trafford, however with the Spurs deal almost done, it was decided to withhold United’s interest from the striker.
Stewart moved to White Hart Lane in the summer of 1988, and City invested the proceeds to build a squad that would challenge, and ultimately win promotion back to the First Division the following season.
Stewart did return to Maine Road with Spurs and was given a very warm and fully expected welcome by the Maine Road faithful.
In just 63 appearances for City, Stewart scored a total of 30 goals, was named in the PFA second division team of the year, and would win the FA Cup with Spurs, but City fans will always remember him for his tenacity and determination to attack opposing defences.