Ahead of Sunday's game between Manchester City and Liverpool, Simon Curtis has taken a look back at a classic game in 1977.
The parallels between Manchester City circa 1977, as they prepared to meet Liverpool at Maine Road in the weekend’s most attractive fixture, and City’s current vintage are various and striking.
City’s record down the years against the Anfield side is one of the poorest of any club against a fellow Premier League side. In 1977, however, the two clubs were shaping to be title candidates, both inhabiting the top four after a fast and furious 3-1 City win had lit up the old stadium with tangible hope of success.
City’s penchant for dazzling attack under manager Tony Book mirrored the instincts of Pep Guardiola’s multi-faceted forward line, with Brian Kidd, Joe Royle and Mike Channon playing against Liverpool, ably abetted by the jinking wingplay of Peter Barnes. Book would often field twin strikers with Barnes and Dennis Tueart outside them on the flanks doing a fair impression of the double threat coming from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane in the present side.
Barnes would frequently be asked to take his left foot talent to the right wing to wreak havoc cutting inside. On this occasion the unfortunate defender with his legs tied in knots was Welsh left back Joey Jones. That Tueart did not feature, underlines the attacking riches at Book’s disposal.
Further back goalkeeper Joe Corrigan was playing his part in the encouraging display, fending off goalbound attempts from the ravenous Liverpool forward line. A couple of years earlier, the big goalkeeper had lost his place to Ron Healey and later to Scottish recruit Keith MacRae, as he went through his own personal crisis of confidence. Corrigan came back leaner and fitter and would go on to represent his country and to play in goal for City almost 600 times.
Thus, being dropped from first team duties as a ‘keeper need not be the end of the road after all.
In front of Corrigan was a central defensive partnership built on steel and guts. Dave Watson was tough as teak, but Mike Doyle had been moved back from midfield, where he had starred in City’s start of the decade triumphs under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. Much like the reinvented Aleksander Kolarov, a change of position had brought a new lease of life for Doyle, who would also find himself wearing an England shirt within months of this fixture.
In a match described by managers Book and Bob Paisley as “the best of British soccer”, it would be around Doyle that the match’s final action took place. Before that the visitors would take the lead through David Fairclough and would spurn a number of presentable chances to move further in front.
City regrouped, however, and produced a stunning second half of sustained attacking football, which brought spectacular left-foot strikes from Kidd and Channon, plus a long shot from Joe Royle to put the Blues 3-1 up.
With the clock ticking past the 90-minute mark, Doyle charged out of defence through the middle of the pitch. Passing the ball out of his own half, time – and all the players - suddenly seemed to stand still.
Doyle chased his own pass into the Liverpool half and suddenly found himself one on one with the onrushing Ray Clemence. As they came together, the ball squirted out of the collision. With both players on the ground, Doyle stuck out a leg and wafted the ball the remaining fifteen yards towards the unguarded goal. As it dribbled agonisingly past the post, the crowd let out its final exultant gasp.
City and Liverpool, the two best attacking teams in the land, had produced a beguiling and enthralling contest of top class football, a repeat of which has every chance of being re-enacted this weekend.