Manchester: The City Years

Ron Saunders

Ron Saunders

Born: Birkenhead, 6th November 1932

24th November 1973 – 11th April 1974

Ron Saunders had been a player with a number of southern clubs, including Portsmouth and Watford, before moving into management with Yeovil Town. After saving them from relegation in 1968 he moved on to struggling Oxford in March 1969 and in the final months of the season he guided them to safety. The following July he became Norwich City’s manager and led the Canaries into Division One for the first time in their history. He also took them to the 1973 League Cup final.

His record of success prompted several clubs to show interest but City’s new Chairman Peter Swales was determined Saunders would be the perfect man for the City job. With his tough, no-nonsense style, he demanded much from his players, but according to rumours circulating at the time, the more seasoned professionals did not support his approach.

Perhaps as a result of Saunders tough approach, City started to drop down the table. Rumours even circulated that the players were on strike. Whatever the truth, Swales decided he couldn’t allow his Club to be relegated and according to the Chairman in an interview from 1995, Saunders was sacked on Good Friday 1974 after less than six months in charge, although City played Liverpool on Good Friday and Tony Book claims he was in charge for that fixture. The football world was amazed, especially as Saunders had guided the Blues to the 1974 League Cup Final - their first final since 1970. It is clear that Saunders dismissal was a little harsh, especially as Swales had publicly staked his own career on his first appointment.

Saunders took control of Aston Villa the following June and brought them the success that Swales had craved. At Villa he won promotion from the Second Division, the League Cup (twice), and the League Championship. Amazingly, Saunders left Villa in February 1982 while his side were still in the European Cup. His assistant Tony Barton guided Villa through the latter stages to win their first European trophy, while Saunders joined Birmingham City. He later had a spell at West Bromwich Albion.

All history and statistical material has been produced based on the research and writing of Manchester football historian Gary James ( It is maintained by Ric Turner & Gary James. All text remains the copyright of the original contributors.

Gary's book, Manchester - the City Years: Tracing the Story of Manchester City from the 1860s to the Modern Day, is available to order on Amazon.