1976 revisited

45 years to the day, we recall Manchester City’s League Cup final win over Newcastle United which featured one of Wembley’s greatest-ever goals.

It was a strike that sent Dennis Tueart head over heels on the Wembley turf and delivered one of the iconic moments in Manchester City’s long and illustrious history.

And 45 years ago today, City’s boys of 1976 became the toast of both Maine Road and England after overcoming Newcastle United 2-1 in what was a classic League Cup final.

It was dubbed ‘The People’s Final’, in tribute to two passionate sets of supporters, and it was a game that gave the people – at least from our perspective – all that they wanted and more!

A stunning early strike and bravura display from teenage prodigy Peter Barnes handed City the lead before a dogged fightback saw the Magpies draw level. Tueart then took centre stage as he sublimely executed a spectacular overhead kick to provide one of the most memorable Wembley winners of all time.

Age has not diluted the impact of either the goal nor the memories of that momentous day.

And the achievement of manager Tony Book’s sky Blue buccaneers subsequently became a touchstone for City fans to draw comfort from during our wait for subsequent success.

That yearning for more silverware was to stretch on for 35 long years before our incredible renaissance, ignited by our 2011 FA Cup triumph following the transformative 2008 takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.

But the achievement of the men who triumphed that late February afternoon in 1976 still holds a special place in the hearts of legions of City supporters.

A quick glance at the roll call of City’s cast list that day inspires a warm, reassuring glow.

Legendary goalkeeper Joe Corrigan was the rock-steady presence in goal marshalled by a back four of gritty skipper Mike Doyle alongside fellow central defensive icon Dave Watson with assured Scotland star Willie Donachie and young rookie Ged Keegan guarding both flanks.

Record appearance holder Alan Oakes was the customary heart of oak in the holding midfield role with Tommy Booth and Asa Hartford alongside mixing silk and steel with customary élan.

And the formidable attacking trident of England striker Joe Royle, ably supported by flying wing wizards Tueart and 18-year-old Barnes, was a match for the very best with substitute Kenny Clements an ever-dependable figure who never, ever let the Club down.

This is the story of that famous Wembley win, told through the players’ eyes…

City’s route through to the Newcastle showpiece had been circuitous and eventful – and not without its share of ill fortune too.

Ironically, one of our hardest tasks came in overcoming the dogged challenge of Norwich City – then of the old Second Division – whom we were pitted against in a second-round tie.

After a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road with Dave Watson on target for the Blues, the sides were deadlocked again at 2-2, despite strikes from Dennis Tueart and Joe Royle, after 90 minutes and extra time in an eventful Maine Road replay.

Penalty shoot-outs and concerns about fixture congestion were an alien concept back in those days so a neutral venue – bizarrely Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge of all places – was elected to play host for the second replay.

In front of just over 6,000 hardy souls, Book’s charges finally clicked into gear, securing a decisive 6-1 victory. Tueart scored a hat-trick with efforts from Mike Doyle, Royle and an own-goal ensuring that Book’s men progressed.

Our reward was a third-round encounter at home to a Nottingham Forest side who, though struggling at the wrong end of Division Two, were showing signs of progress under the stewardship of a certain Brian Clough.

In a tough, hard-fought encounter goals from Colin Bell and Royle ultimately settled the tie 2-1 in our favour.

That set the scene for a fourth-round Maine Road showdown with Manchester United, and a derby that would have profound long-term implications for the Club.

Though City were at our majestic best in sweeping Tommy Docherty’s newly-promoted side aside 4-0 thanks to a Tueart brace and efforts from Asa Hartford and Royle, victory came at a devastating price in the form of a terrible injury to Colin Bell.

The creative and inspirational heartbeat of the City side, Colin’s career was effectively curtailed by a horrific first half incident which saw the England talisman stretchered off with a serious knee injury, casting a pall over the rest of the campaign.

A fairly routine 4-2 quarter-final success over Division Three minnows Mansfield Town followed with Hartford, Royle, Tueart and midfield yeoman Oakes all on the scoresheet.

Our prize was a two-legged semi-final assignment with Middlesbrough and though Jack Charlton’s side earned a 1-0 first leg victory at Ayresome Park, a rampant City put Boro to the collective sword in the decider.

Goals from Oakes, Barnes, Royle and 20-year-old Ged Keegan secured a memorable 4-0 win and set up a classic and eagerly-anticipated encounter with Newcastle.

But there was drama aplenty even before City set foot at Wembley.

Central defensive pillar Dave Watson – who had been signed from Sunderland the previous summer – was a major doubt having slipped a disc but, thanks to pain relief and his no-nonsense countenance, Watson was able to play his part.

For Tueart meanwhile, his moment of Wembley magic almost never happened in the wake of a suspension incurred after the England winger saw red in an FA Cup tie.

“There was a time where I didn’t think I would be eligible to play in the final because I’d been sent off against Hartlepool in the FA Cup in the January,” Dennis recalls.

“There was a lot of concern about how many games I would get. I missed the second leg of the semi-final, so I was a bit concerned.

“I couldn’t even watch the semi because at the time I knew we would play Newcastle if we got to the Final. In fact, I was so uptight I didn’t even go to the Maine Road game!

“I actually went out with my wife and friends in Altrincham on the evening of the semi-final second leg. I was popping in and out of the kitchen to get an update of the score!”

Fortunately, City’s busy schedule eventually meant that Tueart’s ban didn’t carry over to the big day itself.

For Ged Keegan, who was to excel against the Magpies, not only the Final but the experience of the days leading up to the showpiece still resonate today.

And for a young lad from sleepy south Manchester, both the build-up and Final itself were an all-out assault on the senses.

“In the week leading up to the Final, we went to stay at Champneys Health Club near London and I’d never experienced anything like it – it was out of this world,” Ged recalls.

“I remember having a bubble bath after training for about 15 minutes before we had a massage, and they did our calves, and shoulders – then we fell asleep for two hours afterwards!

“On the Thursday, we played golf. I’d just taken up the sport but Alan Oakes was a great golfer off three, (assistant coach) Ian McFarlane was a golf fanatic, and we all went out.

“Afterwards, we all had a coffee and the famous TV chat show host Michael Parkinson walked into the clubhouse.

“At the time, he was like Jerry Springer – I thought ‘WOW! It’s Michael Parkinson!’ He came across and said: ‘All the best’ and these things just stick in your mind.”
Ged Keegan

From his perspective, Dennis Tueart believes the decision to base ourselves at Champneys was the perfect location to both avoid the glare of publicity and prepare the squad in earnest.

“We were there for about four days, so we enjoyed the spa treatments and relaxation, and we were out of the fanatical build-up of the fans and the press,” Dennis adds.

“It was a controlled environment. We could focus on the game at the end of the week, but we were out of the public spotlight.”

Come game day, the traditional razzmatazz and excitement surrounding a Wembley showpiece properly kicked in and left an indelible imprint on the minds of City youngsters Peter Barnes and Ged Keegan.

“It was amazing because in those days all the fans would come down in their cars with the City scarves hanging out of the windows,” Peter fondly remembers.

“Our coach journey to Wembley from our base wasn’t too far away and it was so nice to see fans in the morning coming down and beeping at the coach as we set off.

“Then you had the great journey to Wembley, pulling up outside the twin towers in those days and then big Helen Turner was there with her customary bell – larger than life as ever – and then I vividly remember walking down the tunnel which was huge.

“I had never played at Wembley before. I didn’t play for England until 1977 so it was my first time at the famous stadium.

“It was amazing to see the tunnel and the changing rooms where all the kit was laid out and then to walk out onto the pitch. It was just a wonderful occasion.

“And coming out of the tunnel with the City fans packed behind us was incredible. As we walked out, we could hear the 40,000 City fans up above the tunnel which gave us great confidence.”

Ged Keegan concurs, saying the cacophony of noise and emotions had an electrifying effect.

“I said I wasn’t going to look round when I came out, but I couldn’t help it,” Ged admits. “You see and hear the singing and the noise, and you think: 'We’ve got to do it for the fans' - they were just fantastic.”

For Tommy Booth – one of the heroes of our FA Cup final win over Leicester in 1969 and subsequent League Cup success against West Brom a year later – another trip to Wembley was an occasion to savour.

All the more so given that barely six months earlier, Tommy had been left fearing whether he would ever play professional football again.

“At the start of that season, I underwent a really serious operation on my back and I had three discs removed in the end,” Tommy recalls.

“I remember coming out of hospital and I thought: ‘Never mind playing football, I’ll be lucky to even walk again.’

“It was just horrendous, and I’ve still got the zip in my back now from the operation – it’s about six inches long.

“I’d played with the problem for a while but, in the end, it got so bad I had to go and have the operation.

“I didn’t really know if I would ever get back playing again.

“But we had a fantastic physio called Freddie Griffiths who spent hour after hour with me doing specialised training, weight exercises, back exercises and what have you.

“I went in seven days a week, doing bench presses, weights on my shoulder, back manipulation… you name it, I did it and Freddie was just unbelievable.

“So much so, I was back playing within two months which was a miracle.”

Booth was also deployed away from his usual centre half berth by the time he returned with manager Tony Book turning to the big man to try and fill the enormous midfield void left by Colin Bell’s absence.

“I actually ended up coming on as a sub to replace Colin when he got that awful injury against United,” Tommy adds.

“I went into Col’s midfield slot, did OK and stayed there for the rest of that season, including the Cup Final, though I’d sooner as not have done it that way and wish that Colin had not got that terrible injury.”

Legendary City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan had shared in those magical Wembley triumphs of 1969 and 1970 alongside Booth.

Having temporarily fallen out of favour, Joe missed our 1974 League Cup final defeat to Wolves – but, typical of the steely resolve and qualities that would see him play more than 600 times for City, Corrigan knuckled down and reclaimed not only his City place but also went on to deservedly earn his first England cap later that year.

“In terms of the '76 final, I did remember how 18 months before, I went through a bad patch and then came through it,” Joe recalls.

“But I was always told by Bert Trautmann to be able to go back to basics.

“If you don’t have the basics, you will struggle like mad. I learnt that lesson and used it all through my career, even when I was a senior pro.

“You are always going to make mistakes – it’s human nature – but to be able to be professional enough to admit that you have good basics and the ability to go back to them will then bring you back to the standard.”

Recalling the events of that amazing day 45 years on, Joe also chuckles when he recalls how some high jinks from City assistant manager Ian McFarlane helped ease the tension during the pre-match warm up.

“I used to go out and warm up with Dennis Tueart. We did some agility work and some crosses. I always put my gloves in the side-netting and as I bent down at Wembley to get my glove bag, the next thing I knew, a ball had flown past me and just missed my head,” Joe reveals.

“I looked round and I saw Ian McFarlane running round the pitch celebrating like mad with a Tam O Shanter hat on.

“After the game, I walked over to Ian and said: ‘What were you playing at?’ Now Ian was a proud Scot and he said: ‘Joe, I’ve always wanted to score at Wembley, so I put the ball in the net and ran around.’ I thought: ‘He could have knocked me out!’ but was a situation I will never forget.”

McFarlane’s madcap antics also continued in the tunnel as the teams were preparing to make their way out into a cauldron of colour and maelstrom of noise.

“What was funny and made us relax was when we were in the tunnel,” Peter Barnes reveals. “With Ian McFarlane, it was like that famous scene in the film Kes where the schoolteacher runs off with the ball. Ian was just like that!

“There he was, throwing the ball up against the Wembley tunnel and heading it against the wall like he was going out to play! We all couldn’t stop laughing at Ian.

“He’s then on the pitch, playing with the ball, and we only had two or three to warm up with, so we ended up ordering Ian off!”

McFarlane’s antics helped defuse the tension and a high-octane clash full of pace, panache and drama got under way with a vibrant City taking the game to Gordon Lee’s men from the off.

With wing wizards Barnes and Tueart flanking forward spearhead Royle, City set their attacking stall out from the off and we were rewarded thanks to a sensational 11th minute opener from Barnes who, at 18, became the youngest player to score in a Wembley Final.

An exquisitely-worked set-piece saw Asa Hartford’s disguised free-kick floated into the heart of the Newcastle box, before being headed back across by skipper Mike Doyle into the path of the onrushing Barnes who executed a stunning half-volley past Newcastle ‘keeper Mike Mahoney.

“It never gets the limelight of Dennis’s goal as his was that sensational over-head kick but we worked it out,” Peter reveals.

“I went out on the right, the free-kick came in, Doyley headed the ball down and I had to get in the box, and it sat up nicely and I’m coming onto it with my left foot, so I just thought: ‘Get it on target.’

“I then hit it cleanly and, thankfully, it ended up in the back of the net.

“It was great to be able run to the City fans behind the goal, who were all screaming, and to celebrate with them. I’m a City fan and a Manchester lad so it was just meant the world to me.

“The game was only 11 minutes old and I think scoring so early on helped to settle us down.”

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That said, a Newcastle side featuring Malcolm ‘Supermac’ McDonald, Tommy Cassidy and Mickey Burns – to name but a few – were always going to pose a threat.

And in a rare moment where City allowed our resolute defensive focus to falter, the Magpies drew level on 35 minutes through former Manchester United striker Alan Gowling .

That blow notwithstanding, to a man, the City players were adamant we would prevail.

“We were a very good side – there was no doubt about it,” Joe Royle remembers.

“There was always the danger of Supermac scoring a goal but, on the day, we were better than them. We finished above them in the league and we had no problems mentally going into the game.

“We respected them and knew they were a good side, but we were very confident in our own ability.”

Given Tony Book had crafted a side packed with international talent blended with youthful flair, big Joe had just cause to be optimistic.

And in a side brimming with natural talent, no-one was more determined to make his mark on the game than native Geordie Tueart.

And what followed, sixty seconds into the start of the second half, has subsequently gone down not just in City folklore but in the annals of Wembley’s long, illustrious history and still stands today as one of – if not the – most memorable goals ever seen at the famous stadium.

Already a Wembley winner after being part of the Sunderland team which famously shocked Leeds United to win the 1973 FA Cup final, Dennis had subsequently made the move to City in 1974 and became an England international the following year.

And the opportunity to try and get one over on his boyhood idols, and the Club which had rejected him as a youngster, in front of 100,000 people at Wembley was the perfect incentive.

“For me in particular, after leaving Sunderland and being a Newcastle supporter as a schoolboy (and them being a team who rejected me), to go there in a Final at a packed Wembley against your hometown team and to get the opportunity to score the winning goal isn’t bad,”
Dennis recalls today.

Again, it was a set-piece that did the damage with Willie Donachie expertly arcing a cross into the box. Tommy Booth then did wonders to rise and head the ball back across goal.

In the blink of an eye, Tueart, with his back to goal, acrobatically took to the air before executing a stunning bicycle kick past Mahoney to send the City end of Wembley wild.

It’s a moment still etched not only in Dennis’s mind but the collective psyche of the supporters who marvelled at such an audacious piece of skill on the biggest of stages.

Not surprisingly, it was subsequently voted as the greatest goal in the history of the League Cup – though for Dennis, the greater satisfaction came from the collective pleasure the goal gave the City fans and his colleagues.

“That’s what you endeavour to do as a professional football player,” Dennis declares. “To try and perform on the biggest stage of them all.

“I’d had a great relationship with the City fans over the two years I’d been there, and it was very special because there were so many people gaining pleasure from it – none more so than the team and the fans. 

“You want memories in your treasure box – that’s the important thing because your career lasts maybe 10 years at the top level if you are lucky and there are only a certain number of opportunities you have. That was one of them."
DENNIS TUEART

“My teammates and supporters were the most important thing that day.

“Denis Law was always one of my heroes as a schoolboy and when I first came to City, he was at the Club. I did a couple of shooting sessions with Denis and he always said: ‘When in the box, just hit the target all the time’ and I think I had that in my mind.

“When the ball came in from Willie to Tommy, I’d gone too far in, but Tommy headed it back in and the ball came behind – but no matter where you are, you try to get good contact on it.

“How did it feel when it went in? The adrenalin was about to explode! In fact, if you look at the footage, you see I kind of realise what I’ve done – don’t forget I scored at the Newcastle end – and literally I was off and running. I always said that if Asa hadn’t grabbed a hold of me, I’d have done a full lap of the stadium!”

The only drawback to the goal arriving immediately after the restart was that, as David Lacey of the Guardian so memorably described in his report at the time: “Tueart’s goal could only be faulted for its timing. Coming so soon in the second half it probably caught a number of customers participating in one of Wembley’s oldest traditions – queuing for the toilets on the hop.”

With City’s collective gander up, Royle looked to have set the seal on victory when he found the target with a quite exquisite finish midway through the half, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside. Where was VAR when it was needed!

“On a selfish note, I had scored in every round and I actually scored in the Final, but it was disallowed for offside – and I had never considered myself quick enough to be found offside!” Joe quips today.

“I was delighted with it but, nevertheless, the right result came through in the end.”

Indeed, it did – and the celebrations were long, loud and proud as our late, great captain Mike Doyle – a man who gave everything for the cause and who literally bled Blue – proudly lifted the famous trophy aloft while his colleagues and the army of ecstatic City fans drank it all in.

It was a landmark moment too for City manager Tony Book as, in overseeing the trophy, the former City skipper cemented his own notable place in Wembley history.

City’s achievement meant the man universally known as ‘Skip’ became the first figure to both captain and manage a side to League Cup glory.

Looking back 45 years on, Tony still has a proud glint in his eye in summing up what the occasion meant to him and his beloved City.

“To lead the team out at Wembley was such a proud moment for me,” Tony asserts.

“Once your own playing days are over, you never know what is going to happen to you but I was lucky enough to get the manager’s job at the Club in 1974. I always had a lot of pride in what I did and to take that forward into management was great.

“I had a superb team on the field and off it too with the backroom staff I had working with me – they were all such good people.

“It was a very good side that '76 team – they excited the fans and were a pleasure to manage.

“They were great characters on and off the field – that’s very important too. That’s where your team spirt is generated.

“Someone gave me a chance at 32 to come to City and to play through to until I was nearly 40 and then to take over as manager and help us win the League Cup meant an awful lot to me.

“It was a very special day and one I have never ever forgotten.”

Joe Corrigan adds: “Booky came in and did fantastic. He got the lads believing in themselves.

“He had that total respect from everybody, and people responded to him both as a player and a manager.”

Joy was uncontained with even legendary uber supporter Helen ‘The Bell’ Turner joining the City players on their victory lap of honour, though Ged Keegan admits that the exertions told in the dressing room afterwards.

“I remember going on the pitch after receiving our medal and that’s when you see what it meant to the fans,” Ged reminisces.

“Helen actually got onto the pitch with us and the stewards were trying to get her off, and I think it was Booky who said: ‘No, she is staying here – she is part of Manchester City.’ I’ve got a photograph of us all around and she is there with the bell.

“But after we got back to the dressing room, everyone was so drained. We didn’t say a word for about 10 minutes, it was so quiet. Then there was a just a big sense of relief.”

Ged continues: “We stayed in London, right in the centre at the Royal Kensington Hotel.

“Parents, wives, sons and daughters were all invited to the team celebration but I’d fallen asleep after a glass of champagne on the bus! 

“Eventually, after all of the speeches, a band came on. I was with some of the younger lads and we said: ‘Let’s go and have a walk round London.’

“Where we eventually ended up, there were loads of Newcastle and City fans all mingling together, taking photos with us. It was a lovely end to a magical day.”

While the majority of the City squad nursed collective sore heads and returned to Manchester for a triumphant open top bus parade on the Sunday morning, a number of the players remained in London to attend the prestigious PFA awards dinner held later that evening.

Once again, Peter Barnes was to be the centre of attention – but on this occasion for a shy, softly spoken teenager, the glare of the national spotlight proved a far tougher opponent than any hard-bitten Geordie defender!

“After the game, five of us stayed down in London for the PFA awards dinner and I everyone was saying that I’d won the PFA Young Player of the Year award, but I didn’t know,” Peter laughs now.

“I had a speech prepared but when my name was announced and I got up on the stage to be presented with the trophy, I just forgot all the words - live on TV!

“It’s a standing joke now but when I froze on stage, everyone was banging the TV because they thought the volume had stopped. Even my mother thought the sound broke!

“When you look out in front of 500 faces, and see all of your peers, if you’re not confident at talking, it’s tough on the nerves.

“I was fine playing in front of 100,000 fans but to be in a room with 500 players – I just froze!” 

That communication breakdown notwithstanding, it was a weekend never to be forgotten for everyone associated with the Club.

Looking back now, Joe Royle is rightly full of pride, having been part of that richly talented and fondly remembered side.

But there is a twinge of sadness too as Joe – who would later become a hugely popular City manager, piloting the Club to successive promotions from Division Two back to the Premier League in the late 1990s – says that the feeling back then was that this was only the dawn of an exciting era; not a full stop that would extend for 35 long, frustrating years.

“In winning the League Cup, we all thought this was a great start and that we would go on from there,” Joe reflects.

“Of the side that played there at Wembley, seven or eight were full internationals and it’s hard to see why it didn’t go on. We all thought this was the start of something.

“The following season, we finished runners-up to Liverpool in the league by one point and we thought we were very close.

“But unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way. Players began to leave, including myself as I was sold to Bristol City, then Dennis Tueart went abroad, Asa Hartford went to Forest and all of a sudden what looked like an all-international side was coming apart, so it was hard.”

Peter Barnes concurs, adding: “I’m proud to have played for a great team and it was such a happy Club then. It’s just sad it was broken up and who’s to say where we could have gone two or three years after?”

Fittingly though, the final word goes to Dennis Tueart, the man whose individual moment of magic illuminated our national stadium with the most remarkable of goals, one which, 45 years on, has never lost its impact or lustre.

“An overhead kick to win a Cup Final against your hometown club who had rejected you – it was Roy of the Rovers stuff,” Dennis admits.

“It’s for the teammates and supporters. You’ve won them a trophy; it goes into the history of the Club and is with the supporters forever.

“You want to create special memories and with all the clubs I played for – at Sunderland, I won the FA Cup; at City the League Cup and with New York Cosmos, the North America Soccer Championship – I was happy, and these memories are with you and passed on to your family.

“I was also very proud to be presented with an award a couple of years ago from the Football League after they conducted a special poll, and my goal was voted the greatest goal ever in the League Cup.

“It was such a special day and one I’ll never, ever forget.”

And so say of all of us Dennis!