REVIEW: Boys In Blue: Manchester City FC on Film #MHF2016

REVIEW: Boys In Blue: Manchester City FC on Film #MHF2016

Boys in Blue: A brilliant show that every City fan (and club employee) should see!

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Image: Gary James Facebook

The Gingerwigs review of Boys in Blue

On Thursday (9th June) along with 400 other Blues I went along to the Dancehouse theater in Manchester to watch a special screening of films about Manchester City Football Club. Title Boys in Blue, the show was presented by author and football historian Dr Gary James, and the North West Film Archive.

The show was part of the 2016 Manchester Histories Festival, not bad for a club without a history!

To be far a show about Manchester City hosted by a Manchester City fan to a crowd of Manchester City fans was always going to be good but this surpassed my expectations. In the build up to the event there had been a series of clips shown to promote the event.

Normally when you see a film trailer or advert for a new sitcom it shows the best bits, leading to disappointment. This show was completely the opposite.

Sure the preview clips were good (including the one below where the stand cleaner can be heard saying “Liverpool fans bring the most rubbish!”) but the films not shown were even better! I suspect this is due to copyright purposes but it made the night really good.

City [1978 – extract] from NWfilmarchive on Vimeo.

Show format

The Boys in Blue show was split into three sections and lasted an appropriate 90 minutes!

The “opening half” – a series of amateur and professional material from the North West Film Archive collections. Starting with a piece featuring sport in Manchester (and an onboard camera on an old wooden roller coaster – Belle Vue I think!).

Gary James (A member of the International Sport & Leisure History group at MMU) opened with a cracking joke about United and then introduced this piece. It had dramatic music from the Halle Orchestra and went on for quite a while with brief glimpses of City action. I have to say I was a little concerned at this point. The piece was quite long and I was worried the whole show would be like this – I was wrong to be worried.

After this initial clip most of the footage was either silent in which Gary highlighted parts of the film or interviews with City fans, players and employees. This half of the show focused on City up to the early 70’s with Pathe footage of the 1956 FA Cup final, recently found footage of a game in 1905 at Hyde Road (City’s ground before Maine Road) and a newsreel of the first ever game at Maine Road. As well as footage from City’s 1934 home-coming parade were over 1 million people turned out on the streets of Manchester.

How Manchester Welcomed The City Players (1934) from NWfilmarchive on Vimeo – There were additional clips to this which were even more interesting – especially a special bus lit up like a Blackpool tram which went around Manchester to celebrate the win.

On a personal level I did find myself searching the crowds for my Grand-dad who was at the game at Maine Road where 84k attended (long shot I know).

Now I can’t remember if this was in the first half or second (I should have taken notes!) but some of the most interesting footage of the night was footage taken by the ex-City keeper Harry Dowd on his personal camera. There were lots of behind the scenes clips he took on trips to Australia and European away games (including the ECWC final buildup).

These clips showed a fun side of the late 60’s team with Joe Mercer at one point fetching drinks to the lads who were lounging on sun beds next to a swimming pool. Also included was footage from inside a plane with the wives and girlfriends of the players.

The second half of Boys In Blue

After a short interval (where I managed to photobomb Warrington supporters club Chairman John Baker’s photo see below) for me the second half was the best bit of Boys in Blue.

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John did ask if the John Stones rumours were true but just got a laugh as a response!

The second half went from the early 70’s to the end of Maine Road in 2003.

Starting with an interview of City’s legendary manager Joe Mercer on the day he left. Wow what an interview! Obviously still raw from being treated so badly for a man who had won so much, he managed to maintain a sense of grace that few managers today would manage.

An honest and down to earth gent who just wanted to stay in football and be respected as he respected others. I agree with Gary’s comments on the night that this was the start of City’s demise which went on for the next 20+ years. Although it was funny seeing him packing his belongings into a campaign crate!
Boys in Blue with Gary James

Enter Peter Swales!

A large part of the second half was dominated by one man – not surprising as he was chairman for the period (and not a chairman like Khaldoon doing once a season interviews).

The clips (including one in which Swales is sat in the boardroom which a photo of himself behind him on the wall) told a brilliant story hinting at the reason for City’s decline – Swales himself. Obviously a man who I felt had City at heart but let his own stubbornness and personal glory get in the way of the team’s success.

A really interesting part of the show highlighting the lack of planning and long term thinking at the club – in stark contrast to the club now, although the ticket office may not have moved on since 1981.

Manchester City fans queue for FA Cup Final Replay tickets (1981) from NWfilmarchive on Vimeo.

A key part of the show was the coming and going of Malcolm Allison and one of the biggest laughs of the night came as he was filmed getting into his car outside the main gate at Maine Road having just been sacked. Getting into his car he grabbed a large cigar waved to the camera and then … his car wouldn’t start! Typical City!

After a couple more tries it fired and he went off to Platt Lane to say goodbye to the players.

Injury time

Boys In Blue ended with humour, sadness and a big dose of nostalgia!

The team at the NWFA (Will McTaggart and his team deserve praise for helping Gary with the show) had got a great piece on Frank Sidebottom at Maine Road adding humour, whilst fan videos of the last days of the Kippax Stand and the last game at Maine Road brought sadness as I reminisced about the old place.

It’s worth noting how loud and passionate the Kippax standing section is in the footage and I hope the City top brass, sat in the row in front, spotted this and it planted a seed for safe standing in future developments at the Etihad.

Another great piece was footage of the Boys In Blue being sung by the great side of the early 70’s with Franny Lee getting wedgies from Rodney Marsh whilst they were singing!

All in all the show was a great night and it was good to see Ferran Soriano, Danny Wilson, Brian Marwood and a host of other City big-wigs there. Hopefully the club will get permission to show some of the footage on CityTV or at the very least get Gary James in to show the films to the current members of staff. It’s important that we don’t forget our past and local fans as we strive for world domination.

These clips will certainly be a great place to start!

I think on behalf of everyone there we’d like to pass on thanks to Gary, Will and all those involved in putting on the show as part of the Manchester Histories Festival.

Some more of the City clips from the show can be found at the BFI Player.

You can find out more about the Manchester Histories Festival 2016 here

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