Mens Team

On this day: City's first game at Maine Road

It was a proud day for Manchester City and our fans when the side walked out into the Club's brand new Moss Side home for the first time to play Sheffield United on August 25 1923.

The crowd of 56,993 was a new attendance record for the Club who had left the far less grand surroundings of Hyde Road a few months earlier.

Our old home and its unique atmosphere had not been completely forgotten, though. Goal posts and several turnstiles were integrated at Maine Road whilst the old main stand roof was transported to Halifax Town’s The Shay stadium to keep the rain off an entirely new set of shivering souls.

The total cost of the new stadium is almost impossible to trace but various reports seem to suggest it was in the region of £150,000.

Designed by Manchester architect Charles Swain and built by Sir Robert McAlpine builders in less than twelve months, the whole ambitious project was a tribute to all concerned in both its design and construction.

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Maine Road’s capacity was more than double that of Hyde Road and was built to house approximately 80,000.

Only Wembley Stadium, opened just months earlier, could hold more fans in England.

The vast bank of terracing facing the players as they ran out was known originally as the ‘popular side’ (later to become the Kippax) and was where the main bulk of City fans gathered for the opening match – a trend that would continue until the ground’s closure eighty years later.

With only the Main Stand roofed, much of the noise generated by the crowd was lost to the open air above their heads but there was still a tremendous atmosphere as Ernest Mangnall’s side took to the field of play.

Legendary all-round sportsman Max Woosnam was named as captain and it was he that led City out as the assembled band played ‘Ours is a nice house, ours is’.

MAINE ATTRACTION: The fans pack into City's new ground on this day in 1923
MAINE ATTRACTION: The fans pack into City's new ground on this day in 1923

Woosnam had missed the whole of the 1922/23 campaign with a leg fractured whilst colliding with a wooden fence at Hyde Road and also missed the chance to defend his Wimbledon doubles title during his absence!

No doubt immensely proud, the captain rallied the side to ensure the first game at Maine Road began with a victory.

The Lord Mayor of Manchester was then introduced to the players before ceremoniously kicking the match off before Tommy Johnson did it for real moments later on referee Howcroft’s whistle, beginning a whole new era for City.

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Sammy Cookson and Eli Fletcher, like Woosnam, had returned after lengthy lay-offs and Alec Donaldson, a recent signing from Bolton Wanderers, made his full league debut. Sheffield United were more than capable of ruining the day and had taken three out of the four points available the previous season’s corresponding fixtures.

A tight first half ended without either side testing the new netting, despite Tommy Johnson and Horace Barnes forcing the visitors’ keeper Gough into a couple of decent saves.

City came out for the second half determined to see off the Blades’ challenge and the prestigious honour of the first ever goal scored at Maine Road went to the prolific Horace Barnes on 68 minutes after connecting with debutant Alec Donaldson’s cross.

Strike partner Johnson made it 2-0 just three minutes later and City could have really begun life with a Manchester 14 postcode in style when we were awarded a penalty and a chance to go 3-0 up shortly after.

But, just as Barnes forever etched his name into the record books by scoring the first goal, Frank Roberts followed suit by becoming the first player to miss a penalty at the new ground despite the new introduction of the arc on the edge of the box which allowed the taker a good run up to the spot.

He hit his shot straight at Gough to give the visitors an unlikely lifeline.

The Blades, reduced to ten men through injury, duly scored in the 88th minute through Harry Johnson to ensure a tense finish – one of hundreds to follow – but City held out for a victory the huge crowd had demanded.

For skipper Woosnam it was to be his only league appearance of the season – no doubt his desire to lead out his team for such an historic occasion had clouded his judgement regarding the extent of his injury or rather he was determined to play at any cost.

His decision had not adversely affected the day’s play and Maine Road was up and running with the best start possible.

City: Mitchell, Cookson, Fletcher, Hamill, Woosnam, Pringle, Donaldson, Roberts, Johnson, Barnes, Murphy.

Sheffield United: Gough, Milton, Cook, Pantling, Waugh, Green, Mercer, Sampy, Johnson, Gillespie, Tunstall

Attendance: 56,993

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