Manchester City 10 Huddersfield Town 1

Football League Division 2

7 November 1987 

against all ‘udds

The context

This was one of the all time great games. City’s biggest ever winning margin, and the most goals scored in one game since 1895; Huddersfield’s biggest-ever defeat; and for the one and only time in League history no fewer than three players – Paul Stewart, Tony Adcock (only playing because leading scorer Imre Varadi was injured) and David White – scored hat-tricks in the same match.

All 10 can be seen here, courtesy of Blue Moon MCFC Fans. Writing in the next day’s Sunday Times, Malcolm Winton described how he asked City’s avuncular manager Jimmy Frizzell whether he’d spoken to Huddersfield’s ‘white’ and ‘shocked’ boss, Malcolm MacDonald. “No”, replied Frizzell. “I’ve nae got many teeth and I wouldnae like tae lose those I have.”

On this day SPECIAL CITY 10 -1 Huddersfield Town

On this day SPECIAL CITY 10 -1 Huddersfield Town 3 Hat-tricks in 1 match

In truth Huddersfield didn’t even play badly for much of the game. Before the break they created as many chances as City. But in the second half they were swept away by a display of attacking football later described by City’s Paul Lake (or possibly his ghostwriter) as “a masterclass of neat passing, sublime touches, blistering pace and superb finishing.”

All in all, concluded Winton, one to tell your grandchildren about. And this was a privileged occasion. Only 19,583 attended, a significant number of those from over the Pennines. A true “I was there” afternoon.

The history

City in 1987-88 were a work in progress. Relegated from the top flight under Frizzell the season before, the Scot had been restyled “General Manager” and “Farmer Mel” Machin had come in as first team coach. A number of experienced players were released and five or six – White. Lake, Hinchcliffe, Brightwell, Redmond, Scott – from the previous year’s FA Youth Cup-winning side became regular starters. Essentially the same squad would be promoted as runners-up in 1988-89, but for now they lacked consistency, especially away from home. They were, however, more than capable of scoring goals…

The journey 

We lived a mere half mile from the ground, above a health food shop in Rusholme. There used to be a joke about Rusholme that when you saw it, you wanted to rush home. In the late 80s it was best known as the subject of the Smiths song, Rusholme Ruffians. With good cause. “A boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed” might well have described the walk from our house to Maine Road.

The ground

Ah, dear old Maine Road. Four stands, each perfectly nice in its own right, each looking like part of a different ground. Those tall floodlight pylons, visible for miles around (and totally different to Old Trafford’s square, stumpy ones). The signs saying “commit no nuisance”. Dogshit Alley/the Pink Passage running from Maine Road to Platt Lane. The Football Special buses parking up on Claremont Road. The cobbles. The total edginess of it all. It deserves an article to itself.

We always stood on the Kippax, in the area above the tunnel – entering via the stairs in the corner, exiting on the second stairwell from the segregation fence, where you swayed and bobbed like a cork in a human whirlpool before the crush magically ceased and you were trotting down the steps with thousands of others, into the big walled yard at the back of the terrace. This was where the amenities were – pie hut, beer hut, and toilet sheds ankle deep in piss. Concourse, 80s style.

Flesh and wine

The streets of Manchester 14 in Thatcher’s Britain were mean. We were still about two years away from the point at which everybody started shooting each other, but the sound of gunshots at night was by no means unusual. The Hacienda was at the peak of its coolness, but we only ever went once and for some reason the doormen wouldn’t let us in. Backstreet boozers were more our style, and post-match Saturday nights would typically see us in the Welcome, the Clarence or (if we fancied putting on the Ritz) the Lass O’Gowrie. And, for a real treat, Fosters.

The Clarence – picture courtesy of the Pubs of Manchester blogspot

Until a short while previously, Fosters – the erstwhile Blackstock Hotel, on Upper Brook Street – had been known as Dr Foster’s. The eponymous Doctor appeared on posters in its cavernous and gloomy interior, exhorting patrons to “Drink my ale”. “Fosters” was an attempt to gentrify it, and it had recently re-opened its doors following a refurb. It didn’t work. The same rag-tag clientele as before moved straight back in and took up where they had left off, but in more comfortable surroundings.

the Blackstock – picture courtesy Manchester Libraries

The real attraction of Fosters was its proximity to the Plaza Cafe. Now we might have lived on the Curry Mile – as it was not yet called – but that was for businessmen and tourists. The Plaza beckoned the true curry connoisseur. Owned by Charlie Ali – “Charlie the Somali” – it opened till 4am and for a very modest outlay you could have any curry you wanted, as long as it was chicken biryani. The variety was in the sauce, which came in various strengths up to the infamous Suicide (survival of which won you a t-shirt). It was served in a soup bowl, steaming like a volcano and with a strange oily film floating on top. You added as much as you wanted or dared to your chicken and rice, depending on how starving you were and how much of Dr Foster’s ale you had put away.

The game

OK, confession time. If you’re sharp-eyed you’ll have noticed that the programme shown above isn’t from the 10-1 match. It’s actually from the 3rd round Cup replay 2 months later, on 12 January 1988. This was the middle game of a twice-replayed tie: the teams had drawn 2-2 at Leeds Road 3 days previously, and following this one they went back to the same venue where City progressed 3-0.

We missed the 10-1, one of the few Maine Road games that season we didn’t see. Our friend, who came from Teesside and who didn’t watch football (possibly the two were connected) announced he was getting engaged and having a “party”. Off we went from Victoria early on the Saturday of the match, and instead of celebrating the game of our lives around Rusholme pubs, spent the evening in a truly awful nightclub in Billingham. It was called Eleanor Rigby’s. The locals apparently knew it as “the big fight out”. The locals got it right.

all the lonely people

So, in a season where City and Huddersfield met on 5 occasions and scored a combined total of 19 times, I somehow managed to see 120 minutes of goalless football on a bitterly cold night, following which mounted police chased fans of both teams up and down the street outside my house for the best part of an hour.

As Cream put it: if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.

defences on top

Teams and goals

City: Nixon, Gidman, Hinchcliffe, Clements, Brightwell, Redmond, White, Stewart, Adcock, McNab, Scott.   

Huddersfield: Cox, Trevitt, Bray, Tucker, Webster, Mitchell, France, May, Shearer, Ward, Cork.

Goals: None. Zip. Zilch. Nowt.

Attendance: 24,565.

(I’m grateful to for some of the material used in this article.)