Club News

City DNA #56: The season that lasted one week

LEGEND: City great Frank Swift was part of the 1939/40 City squad
The 1939/40 season proved to be the shortest campaign in City’s history.

 It was, of course, the same for all Football League clubs and would see the end of football – as everyone knew it – for six long years.

With the threat of World War, it is amazing that the 1939/40 season began at all, with Hitler’s Germany threatening to invade Poland and make a largely European conflict into a global affair.

Wilf Wild’s City had played a friendly with United just prior to the big kick-off and hopes were high that the Division One champions of 1937 could bounce back at the second attempt having incredibly been relegated as they defended their crown.

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That first effort to bounce back had ended with a fifth-place finish in Division Two, just five points shy of promotion.

But the opening day clash with freshly-relegated Leicester City saw the Foxes edge home 4-3 at Filbert Street.

And the second game hardly inspired confidence, as City settled for a 1-1 draw with Bury at Maine Road.

Chesterfield were the next visitors to Moss Side and the Spireites were beaten 2-0  putting City in 11th spot of the 22 Division Two teams.

A day later, War was officially declared and the season abandoned - and with it, all three matches played were erased from the record books.

It meant that Eric Brook’s last official goal – his 178th – was wiped from history, too, along with the appearances and goals of his team-mates.

The reasons for stopping the season were simple – large crowds were discouraged by the government with the threat of aerial bombardment from the Germans all too real.

With travel restricted and many footballers called up to serve their country, football in England continued via friendly games and then regional leagues following a 50-mile travelling restriction allowance.

City, like other clubs around the land, could only use players who were locally based, often meaning several guest players appeared for the Club during the Western Regional League games.

The War Cup also filled a void, with City’s best effort a semi-final place in 1943/44.

Wilf Wild would continue to oversee team affairs until the War ended on September 2, 1945 – six years and one day since it had begun.

Sam Cowan would take over as manager and guide City to the Division Two title at the first attempt when ‘normal’ football returned for the 1946/47 season.

But as for the 1939/40 campaign and the three games played – it’s as though they never happened…

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