Manchester: The City Years

Joe Royle

Joe Royle

Born: Norris Green, Liverpool, 8th April 1949

18th February 1998 - 21st May 2001

Managing City during the 1990s and early years of the new century needed someone who understood the mechanics of the club and of Mancunian life. Neither Clark, Ball, or Coppell understood what made City tick, although interestingly Brian Horton did understand. Joe Royle, Clark’s replacement, was another who understood. Royle, a former City tophy winner, had lived and breathed football in the region for most of his life and fully understood City’s ambitions and role in Mancunian life.

After a successful managerial career at Oldham and Everton Royle arrived at City with the Blues at their lowest ever point. He worked hard to try and stave off relegation, but City were relegated on the last day of the season, despite a 5-2 victory at Stoke. The general accepted view is that had Royle’s appointment come a little earlier then the Blues would have survived.

Playing in the third tier of English football for the first time, City simply had to get out of the division at the first attempt. Royle worked hard, but there were many, many problems trying to create a team that had struggled for over four consecutive seasons into one with the belief and ability to win games. Together with assistant Willie Donachie, Royle managed to turn the Club’s fortunes around although they were still not thee perfect side.

Promotion was achieved through the highly memorable 1999 play-off final with Gillingham, and then the momentum of Wembley enabled Royle’s side to challenge in Division One. A second promotion followed, perhaps a little ahead of expectation, and Royle was able to lead the Blues into the 2000-01 season as a Premiership side. This was a major achievement.

Sadly, the Blues were relegated after only one season in the top flight, and Royle was dismissed at the end of the season. Contractual disagreements between the manager and Club followed but despite that negativity Royle should always be remembered as a major managerial influence on the Blues. During his reign he brought back a great deal of pride and interest, and he understood more than most what life in Manchester was all about.

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.