If ever there was a man for all seasons at Manchester City, it was surely the late, great Johnny Hart.

Over the course of more than 30 years, Johnny ran the full gamut of roles with the Club.

From backroom boy to player, from trusted coach to City manager, Hart covered a myriad of roles at the Club, perfuming each and every task with trademark diligence, commitment and talent.

Having joined City in 1944 towards the end of the Second World War, Hart, a talented inside forward, quickly proved himself to be a prolific finisher, starting as intended to go on by netting on his City debut in an FA Cup tie at Barrow.

After leading the scoring charts for City’s second XI in 1947-48, the Lancastrian comfortably made the step up in class to the first team, where his eye for goal was matched by his bravery in the heat of combat.

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He was the joint leading scorer in the City sides of 1951-52 and 1954-55 - sharing the accolade with Dennis Westcott and Joe Hayes respectively - and also emerged as a pivotal figure in the fine side assembled by Les McDowall which reached the 1955 FA Cup final.

However, a serious leg break against Huddersfield shortly before City were due to face Newcastle cost him his chance of figuring in the Wembley showpiece, a game which the Blues ultimately lost 3-1.

City would recover to return to Wembley 12 months later - this time facing Birmingham - but injury again meant Hart would miss the big occasion as his team-mates lifted the famous trophy after a fine 3-1 win.

Hart would battle on - a spirit that would only endear him more to the club’s faithful  but he would only make 11 more appearances after that serious injury he suffered at Huddersfield.

His final bow came in a game at Preston in 1961, with Hart having made 178 appearances in total, scoring 73 goals. Who knows what his career stats would have been but for that injury.


                        COACH HART: Second left, with boss George Poyser circa 1963/64
COACH HART: Second left, with boss George Poyser circa 1963/64

Hart was then subsequently appointed City youth coach, and it was to be the start of a hugely successful new phase of his career.

Johnny quickly become a trusted and intuitive member of the City coaching staff, especially during the halcyon years under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison which saw the Club win the League title, FA Cup, European Cup Winners Cup and League between 1968 and 1971.

Hart was then handed the managerial reigns towards the end of the 1972/73 season after Malcolm Allison had left the Club.

In his brief stay in the hot-seat, Hart assembled a side that proved a formidable unit, and he would lose just five of his 23 games in charge.

However, Hart suffered ill-heath barely six months into his new role, forcing him to relinquish the post - but even in that brief time he made his impact on the side.

It was Hart who tempted Denis Law back to Maine Road for a second spell in Blue after more than 10 years at Manchester United while he also signed Scottish goalkeeper Keith MacRae for £100,000 from Motherwell – then a record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.

And City would subsequently go on to reach the 1974 League Cup final, where we were edged out 2-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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Recalling his brief stint in charge of City, Hart admitted: “I liked being a second in command. Management was different.

“I didn’t really want the job, but if I’d have turned it down, I’d probably have been moved on.

“It wasn’t a job I craved at all. It just wasn’t the role for me.

“I’m quite a shy person really, and I guess management just wasn’t for me.

“The players were terrific – I had a fantastic squad and they all wanted to play for me.

“Denis Law arrived back and I was very happy with the players and their motivation, but I just didn’t want the role, and it all got to me. I became quite ill.”

One person who got to know Johnny especially well and hugely valued his advice and input was Tony Book.


                        WINNING TEAM: Middle row, far left, Johnny pictured with Joe Mercer's all-conquering side of the late 1960s
WINNING TEAM: Middle row, far left, Johnny pictured with Joe Mercer's all-conquering side of the late 1960s

Another of the Club’s most loyal servants, ‘Skip’ also made the full transition from player to coach and ultimately the manager’s dugout.

And he says that Johnny’s contribution to the Club cannot be overstated.

“Johnny was there throughout the era I was at the Club and he was a great man who knew his football,” Tony recalled.

“I took over from him for a few weeks when he was taken ill and then Ron Saunders officially took over.

“When Ron went, I was given the job and I often turned to Johnny for advice. He had great knowledge of many different levels at City having played, coached and managed during his time.

“He was held in high esteem by Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison who thought a lot of him.”

Football was writ large in the Hart family. His sons Paul and Nigel both went on to enjoy successful playing careers much to the pride of their father, with Paul also taking up the managerial reins 

Sadly, Johnny passed away in November 2018 but his incredible contribution to the Club will never be forgotten.