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Remembering The Ballet on Ice

PAT JENNINGS: Kept  the score respectable for Spurs

PAT JENNINGS: Kept the score respectable for Spurs

It's 50 years since Manchester City delivered a performance so majestic it earned comparisons to the beauty of the ballet.

It wasn't just quality of the display, but the circumstances.

The harsh Manchester winter left only flecks of green grass on the snow-drenched Maine Road pitch for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur, but that proved no issue for Malcolm Allison's City, who cantered to a 4-1 win.

And so, the game was consigned to history as 'The Ballet on Ice'...

Where and when?

Maine Road, 9 December 1967

Division One

Attendance: 35,792

City XI: Mulhearn, Book, Pardoe, Oakes, Heslop, Doyle, Bell, Coleman, Lee, Young, Summerbee

Spurs: Jennings, Kinnear, Knowles, Mackay, Mullery, Hoy, Jones, Saul, Greaves, Venables, Gilzean

Report

Christmas may still have been a fortnight or so away, but the snow-covered pitch suggested it was a lot closer.

This was a game that would go into Manchester City folklore as ‘The Ballet on Ice’ – and it wasn’t hard to understand why.

The grace and poise the Blues showed in adverse conditions was, indeed, seemingly choreographed as the champions elect took apart Tottenham on the frozen, white surface.

PAT JENNINGS: Kept the score respectable for Spurs

Jimmy Greaves poked Spurs in front after six minutes, but the North Londoners looked uncomfortable throughout, barely able to keep their feet.

Colin Bell levelled for City who had created chance after chance that had either gone narrowly wide or been repelled by the excellent Pat Jennings.

Spurs clung on until early in the second-half when Mike Summerbee powered a header home on 50 minutes.

Neil Young then struck the bar before Tony Coleman scored from close range with 64 minutes on the clock.

Young got the goal he deserved on 75 minutes and City struck the woodwork twice more in the time that remained but settled for a 4-1 win.

What it meant...

The two points consolidated City’s third spot in Division One with Liverpool second on goal difference and Manchester United top by a point.

Spurs remained in fifth spot despite the Maine Road reverse.

The Blues remained comfortably the league’s top scorers with 31 of the 45 scored to that point coming from 11 Maine Road fixtures.

Reaction

Tony Book

“We arrived at Maine Road not knowing whether the game would go ahead. While the inspection was going on, I told the lads a tip I’d been given by a coach at my old team in Peasedown St John, a mining village outside Bath. He said whenever pitches were icy to take the top layer of leather off your studs.

"Three little nails held the stud together but taking the leather off meant the nails were on show and you had extra grip. In those days, referees never inspected your boots. It couldn’t have worked any better.

"That was the day I knew we were genuine title contenders. It was a fantastic performance, the best in my time at City.”

Colin Bell

“I remember Skip telling us what to do with our studs and I also know he still really enjoys telling that story!

"I equalised not long after Greavsie had scored but even before that, the football we were playing was second to none.

"Pat Jennings was in goal for Tottenham and what a keeper he was. You’d shake hands with him and realise his were three times as big as yours. He saved everything early on."

COLIN BELL: On the scoresheet...

 

Glyn Pardoe: “There was a suggestion Tottenham wanted the game postponed but that wasn’t the case in our dressing room. We just wanted to get on and make the best of it."

Mike Summerbee: “What really made the difference were the words of Malcolm Allison and Joe Mercer. Malcolm was an incredible psychologist. We were not worried about ice as he had us believing we could walk on water.”

Media reaction

 

Kenneth Wolstenholme: “And here we are Maine Road to see Manchester City, the most exciting team in the country.”

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