Monday, March 19, 2012

First for some, last for others… the League Cup opposed Manchester City to Newcastle United at the final. Both clubs were midtable this year, which was normal for Newcastle. Manchester City was supposed to be better, but the club, like many other English clubs, was late to start building a new squad. It depended on players who reached their best game quite a few years back and were only aging by now. Hence, Manchester City quietly slipped down a bit – from one of the best teams to rather middle of the road. The names of the players had significant clout, though, so it was more or less automatically assumed that City was still a dangerous club, possibly a title contender. Well, they were not that, but still had enough teeth for a cup tournament. Two goals by Barnes and Tueart were enough to secure the Cup.
Dennis Tueart scored attractive winning goal.
Newcastle managed only one, scored by Gowling. The final was tough, indeed, but when one looks at the players involved, Manchester City clearly had more famous names and they kind of tipped the scale. Newcastle really had only Malcolm Macdonald (Alan Kennedy earned fame a bit later and with another club, Liverpool) to oppose. Or so it appeared after the fact of winning.
Back row, from left: Joe Royle, Alan Oakes, Joe Corrigan, Colin Bell, Tommy Booth.
Centre row: Tony Book – manager, Roy Baley – physiotherapist, Willie Donachie, Kenny Clements, Paul Powel, Dave Watson, ? – physiotherapist.
Front: Ged Keegan, Asa Hartford, Mike Doyle, Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes.
Tony Book was managing by 1975-76 and his squad was old news – mostly, his former teammates Bell, Booth, Corrigan, Donachie, Oakes, Doyle. Well known, highly respected, getting old. Even Colin Bell was not quite the star of few years back. The additions were of the same mold: Watson and Tueart from the 1973 Sunderland Cup winning squad; Joe Royle, who knew better days somewhere in the past; Asa Hartford. They fitted well, but hardly made a positive change – by 1976 only Dave Watson (England) and Asa Hartford (Scotland) were included in the national teams, yet, none became a really big star. The only promising youngster was Peter Barnes… and it was hard to imagine strong Manchester City in a few years time, when the team would be organized around Watson, Hartford, Tueart, and Barnes. But looking at the names it was weird to think of crisis and decline. It was a Cup-winning year! What could be wrong? Nobody new it or imagined it back then – it turned out, the 1976 League Cup was the last trophy won by Manchester City. Blame Tony Book… may be his lack of vision ensured the drought lasting, so far, to 2010. But who can blame winners? Tony Book became the first man to win the Football League Cup as both player and manager.