Manchester: The City Years

John Benson


John Benson

Born: Arbroath, 23rd December 1942

5th February 1983 - 7th June 1983

Once John Bond had resigned Peter Swales considered the options. With City struggling financially it was not a good time to search for a new manager. Ex-player John Benson had been Bond’s assistant and after a few days deliberation he was given the manager’s job. As with Johnny Hart a decade earlier, Benson felt he had to accept: “I had no choice really. Once Bondy had left, either I had to become manager or I would, in all probability have to move on. I had nowhere to go to, so I took the job. I kept my old wage – no increase – and tried my best. I never wanted to be manager. I was too young. Too inexperienced, and managing City is inevitably an enormous job. You have to know your strengths in football, and I know that my strength was as a number two.”

It is abundantly clear that Benson was very much a temporary manager in the eyes of Peter Swales. Had City avoided relegation in 1983 it is highly unlikely that Benson would have been in charge by the start of the 1983-84 season, so the former player really was in a difficult position. Supporters recognised this to some extent, and some even joked that Benson had only been given the job because City couldn’t afford to replace the ‘JB’ initials on the manager’s tracksuit.

Sadly, Benson's Blues plummeted down the table and were relegated in their final match of the season – a 1-0 defeat by relegation rivals Luton Town. Relegation hurt everyone enormously, including Benson: “When relegation came I felt the pain and hurt all fans did. This was my club and I was manager when they went down. It was such a painful, horrible, experience, and I still feel that hurt today.”

Benson was dismissed and re-joined Bond again at Burnley - taking over the managerial reins in August 1984 after Bond's dismissal - and later became Barnsley's chief scout (under another former Norwich colleague Mel Machin). He went on to coach in non-League football, but then became manager of Wigan Athletic. Benson: “It was another role I reluctantly accepted. I’d been working for John Deehan at Norwich, then Wigan until 1998. I was asked to take over but said no. I told them I was a good number two, but not a lucky manager. Ray Mathias took over and we finished 6th, but one thing led to another and I was asked to take over again in 1999. I kept saying no, but then I agreed saying I would only have the job for 12 months. I was still a reluctant manager. I called Bondy up and asked him to come in and give a bit of support. It was great and I enjoyed working with him again. At the end of the season we reached the play-off final against Gillingham. They beat us 3-2 with a goal in the last desperate minutes of extra-time – this was only a year after City had beat them, so for me it felt like they’d got revenge!”

Benson later had a spell as a coach under Steve Bruce at Birmingham.

At the start of his career he had been a player at Maine Road, making 44 League appearances during 1961 to 1964, and he remains today a keen City supporter.


All history and statistical material has been produced based on the research and writing of Manchester football historian Gary James (www.facebook.com/GaryJames4). 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.

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