The late, great, Ian Niven Manchester City Honorary President and die-hard supporter describes the best game he remembered in all the years, and it was more than 90, he spent following the team he idolized.
The game was a not only a top of the table late season clash away at arch-rivals and reigning champions Manchester United but a decisive game in deciding the winners of the 1967-1968 Division One season.
The text is transcribed from a video recording with Ian, me (a United supporter), and our mutual friend and ardent City fan Phil Bellamy.
|Frank||Which is the best game you’ve ever enjoyed at City? Which would you say?|
|Frank||I know it’s difficult.|
|Ian||I think it was the night we were talking about.|
|Frank||3 – 1 against|
|Ian||3 – 1|
|Phil||That was the one at Old Trafford.|
|Ian||3 – 1 at Old Trafford because, to be honest, the score could have been 5 – 1, 6 – 1, 7 – 1 we absolutely were on top. It was like he said earlier on (Phil), the team had to know before they went out they were going to win the game. And I think he, Malcolm (Allison) had actually done his job perfectly ‘cos City were absolutely magic that game. How only three goals went in I don’t know!|
|Frank||So who scored?|
|Phil||Colin Bell equalised. George Heslop got a header from a free kick.|
|Ian||I remember the header.|
|Phil||And then we got the penalty when Colin Bell was injured, that’s why he was late getting to the pub (Ian was also the landlord of the Fletchers Arms in Denton and had a room dedicated to Malcolm Allison where celebrations were held with the City team after the game) because he was in hospital. I can’t remember if United played with somebody called Francis Burns.|
|Frank||Yes, there was a Francis Burns.|
|Phil||Yes, Francis Burns chopped him down and he got carried off and we got a penalty.|
The match being described was played on 27th March 1968 at Old Trafford before a crowd of 63,004 supporters.
The final score was MANCHESTER UNITED 1 – MANCHESTER CITY 3.
The scorers were:
George Best (1) Man Utd 1 – 0 Man City
Colin Bell (18) Man Utd 1 – 1 Man City
George Heslop (57) Man Utd 1 – 2 Man City
Francis Lee (89 pen) Man Utd 1 – 3 Man City
The teams were:
Stepney, Brennan, Burns, Crerand, Sadler, Stiles, Fitzpatrick, Best, Herd, Charlton,
Law – sub Aston (64)
Mulhearn, Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Heslop, Oakes, Lee, Bell, Summerbee,
Coleman, Young – sub Connor (89)
The game indeed proved to be decisive. City went on to win Division One that year just two points better than runners up United. It was City’s first Division One title for 31 years since the 1936-1937 season and the last for 44 years until they won the Premier League at the end of the 2011-2012 season when they once again pipped reigning champions Manchester United to the title by an even smaller margin – on goal difference. Ian had enjoyed watching City winning the title in all three of those seasons spanning 75 years – what an achievement, and he would see them go on to win it a further four times.
(Our chat took place during the evening of 23rd August 2021. Ian passed away aged 97 shortly after in December and sadly won’t see City win again this season as they surely will.)