japan/south KOREA: 1976

As City embark on the 2023 trip to Japan and South Korea, we look back at our very first tour to both countries in 1976…

It had been an exhausting campaign...

The 1975/76 season had begun at the start of July with the Anglo-Scottish Cup and by the time the post-season tour of Japan and South Korea had finished, City had played 62 games over the course of 48 weeks.

After securing an eighth-placed finish in Division One (as the top flight league was then known) and having won the League Cup against Newcastle, it had been a very good season for Tony Book’s side.

The former skipper was rebuilding the side after the break-up of the team that had won so much in the late 1960s and 1970, with the ageing squad refreshed with players such as Dennis Tueart, Asa Hartford, and Dave Watson, not to mention emerging talent such as Peter Barnes and Gary Owen.

Chairman Peter Swales had organised a lucrative trip to the Far East and a fortnight after a final day 2-0 league defeat to Manchester United, the City squad set off on the long, but exciting journey to Japan.

Two of City’s travelling squad recall the trip vividly.

“I was captain on that tour because Mike Doyle and Dave Watson had been called up for England and Don Revie had left me out of the travelling squad,” says Dennis Tueart, who played 276 games for City over two spells, scoring 109 goals.

“We were away for three weeks, so it was quite a long post-season tour coming on the back of a long domestic campaign.

“It was a long journey, I recall that! I think we had to refuel in Anchorage, Alaska because you couldn’t fly there direct from Manchester at the time.”

The tour itinerary would see the Blues take on Japan four times in the space of eight days – a gruelling schedule that would be watched by a combined total of more than 72,000 people.

Then it would be over to South Korea for three more matches against their national team.

The Japanese public lapped up the matches against City, with few western sides touring the country at that time.

“We went to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya and played four games against the Japan national team and each of the games got a fantastic response – there were some great crowds for those games,” says Tueart.

“We played in the national stadium in Tokyo which I think had the biggest of all the attendances.

The Japanese people were wonderful – very polite, respectful, and hospitable and it was a really enjoyable trip from start to finish.

“If I recall correctly, we visited the British Embassy while we were there and met the Ambassador.”

Young England winger Peter Barnes attracted plenty of attention on the trip.

The 19-year-old winger had scored along with Tueart in the Wembley win over Newcastle United and was an emerging talent in English football.

“I think we were one of the very first top English clubs to travel to Japan,” recalled Barnes.

“We had three games against the Japan national team before moving on to South Korea for three couple more matches.

“We went in May which is the rainy season and it chucked it down for a lot of the time we were there, especially in Tokyo!
Peter Barnes

“We stayed at a lovely place called the Tokyo Prince Hotel and me, Tony Book and Gary Owen decided to go up to the roof where there was a terrace on one of the days when the sun was out. Tony stayed for an hour or so and we stayed – only we fell asleep and woke up with really bad sunburn!

“We were both bright red being fair-haired, and I remember our physio Roy Bailey coming to our rooms and putting camomile lotion all over us to try and calm our skin down.

“I don’t know what the Japanese fans made of it all. Tony was going mad at us for getting burnt on a matchday and I remember Rodney Marsh pinging a ball out to me in the first game and I chested it down and almost passed out with the pain of hitting my skin at speed.”

City began with a 3-0 win over Japan, followed by a 1-0 win two days later; another 1-0 win two days after that and a fourth victory – a 2-0 win – to wrap a hectic few days.

“They Japanese team were very energy-driven, really fit lads and you had to move the ball quickly because if you didn’t, you’d get caught in possession because they were fast and would close you down,” Tueart recalls.

“They had some good players, and because we were up against the same players for four matches, there were some little duels going on all over the pitch and they were very physical.”

“We were given some nice keepsakes like decorative chopsticks, pennants and I still have a Japan shirt I swapped in one of the games that is safely tucked away in my loft somewhere.

“We spent a lot of time wandering around the streets, soaking up the atmosphere as it was such a colourful, vibrant place.”

Barnes concurred with the outstanding fitness of the hosts and has nothing but good memories about Japan and its people.

“The matches were all well attended, and a local sports magazine came to interview me at the hotel and did a big feature about me – a young kid breaking through into City’s first team,” he said.

“The Japanese players could run all day and were super fit, but they lacked technique – now they have the technique to go with the fitness which is why Japan has such a strong national team today.

“We travelled to Hiroshima on a bullet train and walked around the museum they had there, obviously all connected with the atom bomb that had dropped there in 1945. It was such an historic place with buildings devastated and a sense of what an enormous, horrific event had once happened there.

“We returned to Hiroshima for a game against Japan and were greeted by these beautiful geisha girls as we got off the plane and each one sat next to a player on the coach to the game.

“The Japanese people really pushed the boat out for us and the welcome and hospitality we got was something else.

“The people were so respectful and warm towards us – I remember walking down a street early on the trip and every Japanese man had a shirt and tie on.

“Everywhere was so clean and tidy and the food was fantastic – we could eat local cuisine, or the hotel catered for more Western tastes if we wanted it.

“They had all the latest technology everywhere and some fantastic cameras – it was just such a wonderful place to visit.

“I’ve still got some mementos in my attic including a towel and some other stuff as I’ve got great memories of that trip.”

From there it was it was a two-and-a-half hour flight to the South Korean capital of Seoul.

The heat and humidity, mixed with a group of physically and mentally drained players led to three feisty games against a South Korea XI.

Indeed, City lost the first game 4-2, and in one of the games a Korean player was sent off for a high challenge on Tueart.

“There were one or two confrontations, Asa and I had a little disagreement with one or two individuals but that was only to be expected,” said Tueart.

“Korea weren’t as organised as Japan had been, but they were also very fit, physical and I think they had a foreign coach at the time as well.

“I remember before the game against South Korea we played in the day, and it was roasting – they played the national anthem and it seemed to go on forever and we were wilting in the heat!”

City won the final two games against South Korea by a score of 3-0 on each occasion and more than 90,000 attending the three tour matches.

Barnes admits the players were tiring by the Korean leg of the tour but retains good memories about his visit there.

“The trip to Korea was different again - again, lovely people but totally different. Seoul was a fantastic, bustling city and the whole trip was memorable.”