Is it hard to believe you’ve been associated with City for almost 50 years?
“It is – the time had flown by and it’s hard to believe I arrived at the Club 48 years ago. I’ve had some wonderful times with City during that period and I feel very privileged. Long may it continue.”
Can you clearly remember your first game for City?
“I can. We played Southampton away in 1966 and I think we drew 1-1 and back then, the Manchester Evening News used to have an award called ‘Monday’s Man’ - a sort of Player of the Week accolade - and after the game the City reporter came up to me to say it was going to be so it was a great way to start life in a City shirt.”
What is your favourite memory of Joe Mercer?
“My fondest recollection of Joe was when I first came to sign. I was at Plymouth Argyle in the second division and City were in the first and I met him at a hotel in London before we went to watch the first England game of the 1966 World Cup at Wembley. Joe told me about the club and when we got around to talking about my contract and Joe said, ‘Tony, the well is empty.’ He offered me an extra £5 on top of what I’d been earning at Plymouth and I nearly bit his hand off!”
Is it true Malcolm Allison once had to lie about your age to get your signing approved?
“It is true. I was at non-league Bath City and was aged 30 and Malcolm told them I was 28! When I produced my birth certificate there was a crease where my birthdate was which was unreadable so I just about got away with it.”
What was your proudest moment as a City player?
“Winning the league at Newcastle United in 1968 without a doubt. We were a model of consistency that season and I was approaching my 34th birthday so to captain the champions at that stage of my career was incredible.”
There were so many big characters in the team, were you the perfect man to lead the side?
“I’d like to think so. We had players like Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee, Neil Young and Colin Bell (pictured) plus a lot of local lads who had come through the ranks like Alan Oakes, Tommy Booth, Harry Dowd and Mike Doyle. We had a great blend of hard-work and talent which brought the Club a lot of success.”
You retired aged 39 – did you think you still had a year or two left?
“I did. When Ron Saunders took over as manager, I was 39 but still fit as a fiddle. He asked me to be his assistant and leave the playing behind me but I should have carried on at least one more year, maybe two because I’d arrived at the top so late in my career and I wanted to go on for as long as possible. I regret that I didn’t.”
You were caretaker manager when City confirmed United’s relegation in 1974, too…
“That’s right. It wasn't a bad start with Denis Law scoring the winner and I was given the job full-time not long after.”
Who was your best signing as a manager?
“Dave Watson from Sunderland – he was a superb defender.”
What were your highs and lows as a manager?
“Finishing second in Division One to Liverpool in 1977 by one point and winning the League Cup in 1976 were my highs. Getting the sack in 1980 was my lowest point.”
Malcolm Allison returned in 1979 but it just didn’t work, did it?
“No it didn’t. Malcolm was brought in as my assistant but he was his own man, he tried to create a new team and it just didn’t work out at all. It was difficult because I had such admiration for Malcolm because I would never have had the playing career I had without him. He was the only person who believed in me and I owed him everything in that respect.”
You weren’t way from City for long, though…
“No, I went to Cardiff for three months but I was invited back to walk out before the Centenary FA Cup Final against Tottenham with all the ex-captains and the reception I received was incredible so when John Bond (pictured) invited me back to work with the youth team, I knew City was where I belonged and I ended up on the coaching staff until I retired and became an honorary president, so I’ve been at the club ever since, really and still work on match-days. I've never been too far away.”
Would you have liked to have managed the current team?
“I’d have loved it. I think we’ll continue to win trophies for many years to come and I’m so happy the club is back where it belongs.”
Is there any player from the current team that reminds you of yourself?
“I’d have to go with Zaba! He is so consistent and never lets the team down. If he makes a mistake, he’s the first to hold his hands up and say so I’d say Pablo who I think is a fantastic player and one of the best defenders we’ve had at the club.”
Finally Tony, is there anything you want to say to the City fans?
“Just thank you for being so supportive towards me for so many years. Being part of the club for so long has been an honour and I couldn’t wish to have had better supporters behind me as a player or a manager.”