Day of destiny for City's Sky Blues! Just do what you did 44 years ago
00:19 GMT, 6 May 2012
It might not be a case of history exactly repeating itself as Manchester City head to Tyneside on Sunday knowing that they must win if they are to end their long wait to become champions. But run the clock back 44 years and up pops a scenario that is so similar to the current situation that they can start tying the sky blue and white ribbons on the Premier League trophy now.
On May 11, 1968, City and champions Manchester United were level on points as the final day dawned on what had been a fluctuating title race. But City had a significantly better goal average and they knew that if they could beat a formidable Newcastle United at St James’ Park the crown was theirs, no matter what United did at home against mid-table Sunderland.
City slickers: Francis Lee celebrates his goal at St James' Park
Saturday 11 May 1968
Newcastle 3 Manchester City 4
Newcastle: McFaul; Craig, Clark, Moncur, McNamee, Iley, Sinclair, Scott, Davies, B. Robson, T.Robson.
Man City: Mulhearn; Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Heslop, Oakes, Lee, Bell, Summerbee, Young, Coleman.
Manchester Utd 1 Sunderland 2
Man Utd: Stepney; Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston
Sunderland: Montgomery; Harvey, Hurley, Todd, Ashurst, Porterfield, Harris, Herd, Stuckey, Suggett, Mulhall.
The coincidence is uncanny, and even
Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledges that City will be as
good as champions if they pass today’s tough test even though there will
still be one round of fixtures to play next Sunday.
The date with destiny at Newcastle
has triggered all sorts of memories for one of the City legends from
that unforgettable day 44 years ago, Mike Summerbee.
The former England winger, now a club
ambassador at the Etihad Stadium, is as excited as any City fan about
the club’s current position and bases his confidence for a similar
outcome this afternoon on what happened back in 1968, when they ended a
31-year wait for the title.
He said: ‘There’s nothing about that
game I don’t remember. And the coincidences with today are remarkable,
apart from the fact that there will still be one game left. We’re going
to Newcastle and United are at home to Swansea, a team whose name starts
with an “S”!
Champagne movement: The City team enjoy their league title success in the dressing room
‘We went there with a lot of optimism
because the confidence in the dressing room couldn’t have been higher.
We were on a bit of a roll after beating the likes of Everton and Spurs
and our fans were as confident as we were.’
It is estimated that there were
20,000 fanatical City supporters in a 46,500 crowd that day. And they
sang all the way home to Manchester after a thrilling 4-3 victory that
was as dramatic as the entire season had been.
Summerbee added: ‘The atmosphere in
the ground was amazing. There was no segregation at all, City fans sat
and stood alongside Newcastle fans all over the ground. There were even
people sat on the cinder track around the perimeter.
Pure joy: The Manchester City fans invade the pitch at St James Park as they win the title
‘There wasn’t a hint of trouble and, I
can tell you, I know great friendships were forged on that day. The
game matched the atmosphere, a full-blooded clash between two totally
committed teams but we were determined not to lose it.’
An early Summerbee goal raised the
temperature – and the decibels – to an even higher level. But
Newcastle’s ‘Pop’ Robson lived up to his name by grabbing an immediate
equaliser. Neil Young then restored the City advantage only for Jackie
Sinclair to level again before half-time.
‘I had managed to finish off a great
move,’ said Summerbee, ‘but we just couldn’t hold on to our lead. When
we went in at half-time our coach Malcolm Allison just said, “C’mon
lads. Let’s tighten up. Let’s make it happen”.
Celebration time: George Heslop (left) and Colin Bell celebrate in the changing room after the Manchester City victory
‘And that’s just what we did. Youngy
got a third and when Francis [Lee] gave us a two-goal advantage, we were
never going to lose, although Newcastle did manage to pull one back.’
As it turned out, the result was
academic because, despite a George Best goal, United lost 2-1 to
Sunderland in front of 63,000 Old Trafford fans.
But nothing can erase the magic of the moment for Summerbee. ‘There will be a lot of memories flooding back on Sunday,’ he said.
Making a save: Jim Montgomery takes the ball from the feet of Manchester United's Brian Kidd
‘Since that day we’ve lost three
great lads in Mike Doyle, who was a colossus for us that day, George
Heslop and, of course, Neil Young, whose two goals made it possible.
‘I’m an emotional man and I know the spirits of those three guys will be with the team this time.
‘I know it won’t be easy, especially
after Newcastle’s result at Chelsea, but the lads will be up for it as
much as we were. I just hope we can repeat the victory we won on that
Taking the Mick: City's Mick Summerbee clips the ball home