Manchester: The City Years

Tony Book

Tony Book

Born: Bath, 4th September 1935

12th April 1974 - July 1979
Continued as General Manager until 8th October 1980

Tony Book’s place in City’s history had already been assured by the early 1970s thanks to his exploits as a tremendous captain and player, however his spell as City manager during the mid seventies saw the Blues excite and entertain in another glorious period of football.

Throughout Book’s time as Manager City were known for flamboyance and yet Book himself was never one to boast or to shout and scream about the team’s achievements. He allowed his team to do the talking and, with star men like Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes, and Asa Hartford there was never a dull moment.

Book had been a hugely successful player during the Mercer-Allison period and was undoubtedly a key figure following his arrival in July 1966 for £17,000. Book was City's influential captain and as a result he did more than most to bring glory to the Blues.

Once his playing career ended he became a member of City's backroom staff and then became assistant to manager Ron Saunders. It was not an easy partnership. When Saunders left, Book was appointed manager and his predecessor told the media: "I wish him all that he wished me when I was in the job!"

Book was in charge for the final month of the 1973-4 season and was, obviously, manager for the infamous final match of the season when Denis Law netted against relegation-bound United at Old Trafford. City ended that campaign fourteenth, and the following eighth, and Book’s side were beginning to excite. They were also rapidly improving.

In 1975-6 Book's team of entertainers progressed to the League Cup final at Wembley where they defeated Newcastle 2-1. Ably supported by Ian MacFarlane - a former playing colleague at Bath City - the trophy success was proof that Book and MacFarlane knew how to develop a highly motivated team. The success made Book the first man to win the trophy as a player and as a manager. At the time he said: “This was my greatest moment. It was a tremendous final and Tueart’s goal was something special… quite out of this world.”

Shortly after that success MacFarlane left City for Jack Charlton's Middlesbrough, and Book was then ably supported by the impressive Bill Taylor – a coach with England as well as City. In 1976-77 the Blues missed the League title by a point, finishing second to team of the Seventies Liverpool.

It seemed as if nothing could stop City’s progression and supporters eagerly anticipated trophy success. A fourth place finish came in 1977-78. Glamourous football, popular players, and average support exceeding forty thousand for two successive years suggested that City were a wealthy club destined for glory, but the City Board were desperate for success. Motivated by an obsession to overtake United, the Board brought back Malcolm Allison and Book, though still City manager, found his influence diluted.

It was a major mistake by the Board and one which led to the break up of a great City side competing in Europe. Book ultimately became General Manager, but the period was an extremely difficult one. In an interview during the mid-1990s Peter Swales admitted: “We were runners-up in the League by one point, and we had got to United on support. We averaged forty odd thousand and we almost caught them, and I thought well next year we’ll win the Championship and we’ll do it. That’s when I made my biggest mistake – Malcolm Allison. I got talked into that!”

Swales added: “Instead of sticking with Tony, who’d got us into second place which would make us kings today, one or two on the Board started to say 'if we could just get Malcolm we could do the final push'. Final bloody push all right!"

In 1980 the two men were dismissed. Book was asked to stay on as caretaker manager until a replacement was found, and then after a brief period away, he returned to Maine Road to fulfil a variety of positions - first team coach, youth coach, youth team manager, assistant manager, and caretaker manager (on several occasions). He remained at Maine Road through thick and thin, until the 1996-7 season when it was announced he was to leave the club. It was stated he was to retire, but late in 1997 he returned to football by joining Peter Reid at Sunderland in a scouting role.

Tony Book's time as manager was without doubt one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history. He brought major success and allowed City to challenge the near-dominant Liverpool. Few City managers since have been able to bring a similar level of excitement, while trophy success was limited to promotions and play-off finals until the F.A. Cup success of 2011.

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.