The History Boys: Pellegini as Poyser, Guardiola as Mercer

Why supporters disapproval in 1965 resulted in success and is it much different to the City of today?

Statistically Manuel Pellegrini is the second most successful manager in Manchester City’s history, yet the majority of the club’s supporters have fallen out of favour with the Chilean. Indeed, you would be mistaken to think that three major trophies in three seasons and significant success in European competitions would undoubtedly increase his popularity within the loyal fan base, but that has proven not to be the case. Not for the first time the supporters’ lack of enthusiasm for the manager has preceded a change in the hot-seat at the club.

Rewind to 1965: George Poyser was the man in charge at Maine Road and ultimately it was the supporters’ disapproval that resulted in his position becoming untenable and the board was forced to make changes. It was during Poyser’s managerial reign at Maine Road that the lowest attendance for a first team match was recorded when just 8,015 supporters showed up for a league match against Swindon Town. The attendance was only 615 more than Stockport County – who were languishing in the Fourth Division.

Supporters discontent had been brewing since prior to the beginning of the season when some board members announced their wish for both Manchester clubs to merge with the idea being presented to the United board. Both sets of supporters were quick to reject the possible scenario and their anger would be vented further during the season at the first-team and the man in charge, George Poyser.

Finally the supporters took action against the regime by launching bricks, stones and protesting outside of the main stand at Maine Road as they felt performances from players and management were not justified. Then-chairman, Albert Victor Alexander, felt there was no choice but to terminate the contract of Poyser during Easter 1965. Alexander’s father, Albert Snr., was the man who founded the Manchester City academy in 1920. Whilst Albert Jnr. was the man in control of internal situations at City, he was the final member of the Alexander family to sit on the club’s board with a member of the family present at every board-meeting since 1904.

Like today the club’s supporters wanted the best and felt they deserved the best. However, unlike today with few games remaining in the season a committee was appointed to take charge of first-team matters until the end of the season. There were rumours of Bill Shankly being approached and also Peter Doherty but it was former Aston Villa manager, Joe Mercer, who was appointed the new first-team manager with the task of gaining promotion back to the First Division.

The large discontent amongst the fan base during this present moment has not hit the severe heights as previously experienced in 1965 but the resulting action may well produce similar results with Mercer’s appointment. Pep Guardiola has been confirmed as the club’s new head coach commencing July 1st, and his reign in charge of City is expected to be a successful one similar to that of former manager Joe Mercer, who held his position for eight years between 1965 and 1973.

Mercer would become the club’s greatest ever manager with four major trophies coming City’s way during his eight years in charge. Those included a European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970. League success soon followed FA Cup success in 1969 before the Mercer led City to a double in 1970 with victories in Europe as well as a League Cup triumph. The former England captain to this day has remained an iconic figure in the history of the club and many are hoping Guardiola will follow suit with a successful tenure like Mercer.

Guardiola himself was also his country’s captain for his native Spain. Like Mercer, Guardiola proved to be a phenomenal player and achieved great success as a player and coach prior to joining Manchester City, but will his appointment be similar to Mercer’s fifty-one years on?

Guardiola holds an impressive record in his seven seasons as a manager. His attacking style at Barcelona resulted in the Spanish giants recording six major trophies in the year 2009, a record achieved once only by any club manager. His Barcelona side of 2008-2009 are labelled the greatest club side ever assembled, much to the likeness of his predecessor Mercer in the mid to late 1960s.

Mercer’s reign took City to the forefront of English football once again. Stuck in a rut in the Second Division prior to his appointment, he led City to title success in 1966 and promotion back to the top flight. During this time stars such as Colin Bell were becoming central figures to Mercer’s success. Significant signings such as Bolton’s Francis Lee lifted City’s capabilities even further and their competitiveness on all fronts rose. They say if you’re not in them you cannot win them and this was the case as City’s domestic success meant they qualified for European competition’s and ultimately would go onto achieve great success in those. Had the success come from the fans disapproval of the team’s performances and outandish boardroom suggestions or was it a case of good leadership from the chairman?

Neither Poyser or Pellegrini will go down in City folklore as hated figures as both held successful reigns in charge. Poyser was appointed in 1957 as the club’s chief scout and had an exceptional eye for talent. During his reign as City coach, he promoted the likes of Mike Doyle, Glyn Pardoe and Alan Oakes to the first-team whilst signing icons such as Mike Summerbee. Pellegrini’s three years in charge at City have seen him finish second on many fronts. On the other hand, the former Real Madrid manager holds the second highest win percentage as City’s manager whilst winning three major trophies, the second highest by any manager. Now with the changes soon to be faced at the Etihad, it’s very easy to make comparisons to the situation faced in 1965 when the unwillingness to accept second best resulted in the most successful period of the club’s long and proud history.

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