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Hart joined City in 1944 and stayed as a player for 19 years, playing 178 times and scoring 73 goals.
He then moved on to the coaching staff for a decade, serving under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison during the Blues’ glory years and was handed the managerial reigns in 1973 after Malcolm Allison had quit.
In his brief stay in the hot-seat, Hart fashioned a side that were hard to beat, and he would lose just five of his 23 games in charge.
Hart suffered ill-heath barely six months into his new role - but not before he’d tempted Denis Law back to Maine Road and signed Keith MacRae for £100,000 – then a record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.
He was, quite simply, a wonderful servant for Manchester City.
Former City and England goalkeeper Joe Corrigan said: “It is really sad news about Johnny. He helped me so much when I first joined the Club as an amateur in 1966.
“He was a lovely man, a great footballer and a really good coach. I always remember him and Dave Ewing helping with my footwork by them trying to hit my feet with poles - it really made you move them quick! He will be sadly missed.”
Former City skipper and manager Tony Book added: “Johnny was there throughout the era I was at the Club and he was a great man who knew his football.
“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. I hadn’t seen Johnny for a few years –until I bumped into him at Wythenshawe Hospital with his son Paul. He’ll be sadly missed as he was a really good guy.”
Former City stalwart Tommy Booth said: “Johnny was a lovely fella, and everybody thought the world of him. He took over for several months as manager before the job started affecting his health, but I enjoyed the time he was in charge and he was a great coach for many years before that. He was a great bloke who will be missed.”
Ex-City defender Dave Connor, who made more than 150 appearances over a decade, added: “I can’t speak highly enough of Johnny Hart and it’s such sad news to hear of his passing. I doubt I’d have made it as a footballer if it hadn’t been for him. I played under Johnny for 10 years and he was a fantastic guy – absolutely fantastic – and he was something of a mentor. I was a very shy lad and he sort of protected me and made sure I made the grade.
“He was always a first team coach during my time with the club through the 1960s and early 1970s and I left before he got the manager’s job. He was always looking out for the lads and it was only in later years I realised how much he did for me and I was a very lucky lad to have known him – I wouldn’t have made it but for Johnny Hart and many other lads would no doubt say the same. I have nothing but admiration for Johnny.”
Stan Horne was another former City star with fond memories of Johnny: “Johnny was the trainer when I was at City and he’d been a great player in his day. He used to come on the pitch with his bucket and wet sponge – you didn’t need any qualifications for that back then! – and he was a really lovely guy.
“I remember I bought a watch on a US tour and he asked me what I was doing with the old one and I said I was throwing it away – Johnny asked, ‘Can I have it?’ So, I gave it him! He had the respect of everyone, had a great way about him and was really popular with the lads. He’ll be missed, and it was a pleasure to know him.”
Peter Barnes was just a youngster coming through but says he would never have played for City but for Hart’s intervention.
He said: “It was Johnny Hart who put his foot down at City to sign me on schoolboy forms. I had had six or seven trials with Leeds United and with Don Revie being in charge and his connection with my dad, who played alongside him at City in the 1950s. Johnny Williamson took me along to Leeds because my dad was chief City scout and would never have told the Club they had to sign me.
“I had to stand on my own two feet, but it was Johnny Hart who told City they couldn’t let me sign for Leeds United and to get me back and get me on City’s books. Without Johnny putting pressure on the Club to sign me, it might never have happened, so I have him to thank. He was a great man and we’ll all miss him. He played a major role in me playing for the club I loved, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
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