Manchester: The City Years

Mel Machin

Mel Machin

Born: Newcastle under Lyme, 16th April 1945

1st May 1987 - 30th November 1989

Like Ron Saunders and John Bond before him, Mel Machin arrived at City after a productive career at Norwich. Perceived as a country bumpkin by fanzine Blue Print – they did a parody of his manager’s notes called ‘Farmer Mel’ – Machin seemed the opposite of the flamboyant, high profile style of manager many wanted. Despite this potential problem, Machin brought much joy to City and was responsible for promotion in 1989 and for several memorable results, including the 5-1 annihilation of Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in September 1989.

During his time at City he created a side that was a mixture of youth and experience. Men like Kenny Clements, Imre Varadi, and Neil McNab blended perfectly with products of the youth set up such as David White, Ian Brightwell, Andy Hinchcliffe and Paul Lake. He also signed players who went on to score memorable and important goals, including Tony Adcock and cult hero Trevor Morley.

He did however regularly surprise fans with bizarre team selections and formations. One player who seemed to suffer was young hero Paul Moulden: “Remember the game at Blackburn in April when I was dropped and City lost 4-0? Mel Machin received so much abuse because he’d left me out. Naturally, I was upset we lost, but I appreciated the support I received. Then the game against Bournemouth. I’d scored twice, we were winning 3-0 and I was taken off. We ended up drawing 3-3 and everyone thought we’d blown it.”

Those games came during the 1988-89 promotion season and, although City achieved promotion on the final day, supporters had given Machin some abuse pre-match. Ironically, Machin had received criticism from supporters earlier in the season for selecting Trevor Morley and yet Machin's belief in the player's ability was the deciding factor that gave the Blues promotion on that final day.

During the summer of 1989 he bought Ian Bishop and Clive Allen and his rapport with fans increased. The new players quickly impressed and fans were warming to Machin. Sadly, the new season in Division One saw City struggle. Seven games in the Blues were at the foot of the division but then Machin guided his side to their greatest achievement of his reign - the 5-1 Maine Road massacre of Manchester United. That result is the one that will always be remembered as Machin's finest hour.

Sadly, Machin was dismissed by Peter Swales shortly afterwards claiming the manager had ‘no repartee’ with fans. He meant rapport, but this was a rather poor excuse as, at the time, Machin was actually more popular than at any other time during his reign. If the supporters' views had counted, then Machin would have been dismissed within a year of his arrival.

Machin's time at City brought some success and a few magical memories for supporters. He brought at least four influential players to the club – Trevor Morley, Ian Bishop, Clive Allen, and Colin Hendry - and gave others their first chance in League football – Neil Lennon, Gerry Taggart, and Michael Hughes are just three examples of players who made their debuts under Machin, although all three were to be sold by Machin’s successors and went on to find success elsewhere. /p>

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.