Manchester: The City Years

Tom Maley

Tom Maley

Born: Portsmouth, 8th November 1864, died: 24th August 1935

1st July 1902 - 1st July 1906

Tom Maley was the first truly great Manchester manager. He arrived at Hyde Road following City’s relegation in 1902 and quickly demonstrated a passion for stylish football. His footballing upbringing had come mainly in Scotland where he played for several clubs including Partick Thistle, Third Lanark, Hibernian, Celtic, and then he had a spell with Preston North End in 1891. He had been a member of Celtic at formation in 1888. Nicknamed ‘Handsome Tom’, his time at Celtic was mainly as an administrator and as such he is recorded by Celtic historians as one of the club's most important early figures. Tom’s brother Willie, who had been Celtic’s manager since 1897, knew Manchester City well as he had guested for the Club in 1896 and had also guested for Ardwick at Easter 1890, so the Maley family may well have known some of City’s more influential figures prior to Tom’s appointment.

By the time he arrived in Manchester he was known as an excellent football administrator and tactician and, by adopting the Scottish passing style, he turned City into a major force. According to a 1920s journalist, Maley built the Blues: "It was when Tom Maley came to Hyde Road that Manchester City may be said to have entered fully into their kingdom. Under his management, he built a team for the club that was comparable with the mightiest sides in the country.

"I never happened a greater enthusiast than Maley, nor yet a better informed man. If Maley had had average luck he would have gone down in history as one of the most successful managers the game has known. It is enough to say that so long as Maley was at the helm, the family at Hyde Road was a particularly happy one."

At City he managed to attract great players and the club’s popularity increased as a result. City’s average attendance exceeded 20,000 for the first time during his reign as the Blues became Manchester’s premier club, although it’s fair to say Maley’s first few weeks were a particularly difficult time for the Blues.

Welsh international and star player Di Jones gashed his knee during the pre-season public practice match and, despite treatment from the club doctor, within a week the wound had turned septic and the played died. Maley had to lift spirits quickly.

Maley soon brought the Blues success. His first League game ended in a 3-1 win and the Blues went on to lift the Second Division championship in his first season. This was a remarkable achievement but more was to follow in 1903-4 when Maley’s men won the FA Cup for the first time in their history. The Blues were the first Manchester side to win a major trophy and the feat had come a mere ten years after formation as Manchester City F.C.

In addition City narrowly missed out on the double, finishing second to Sheffield Wednesday after fixture congestion forced the Blues to play five League games and the cup final in the space of 16 days!

Sadly, the rapid rise of City caused the southern-based FA to question whether that success was natural or whether it had been bought. Serious investigations into bribery allegations made by Aston Villa were followed up with a thorough audit of the Club’s accounts. The result being that Manchester City were deemed guilty of overpaying their players – something journalists of the period knew was going on at almost every club with no FA action. The Football League felt that City, being a northern side, were being made an example of, and thousands of people complained to the FA, but the result was that City suffered the worst bans and fines ever experienced.

Maley was questioned at length and admitted that he had followed what seemed like standard English practice. He claimed that if all First Division clubs were investigated, not four would come out ‘scatheless’. He was right but it was City the FA seemed determined to punish and they suspended 17 players and 2 directors. But the harshest sentence fell on the Chairman and on Maley. They were both suspended for life.

The northern based Football League and the footballing press supported the Blues but the FA got their way and Maley’s brief but successful reign was over.

Maley suffered more than most by the unfortunate events of 1905/6, and his role in football history has been tainted forever by the F.A.’s harsh treatment. However, in the eyes of thousands of Mancunians he is remembered as the man who brought exciting football and the F.A. Cup to the city for the first time. Without his period at Hyde Road, Manchester may never have found real football success. Many of his players were forced to join United after the scandal of 1905, and went on to bring the Reds their first trophy success only a few years later. Had Maley been allowed to develop those players further who knows what success may have come City's way.

After City he became a headmaster in Glasgow, but in July 1910 the F.A. lifted his suspension and the following February he became Bradford Park Avenue's manager. The Bradford club gave him full control of team affairs - something unusual at the time - and he remained there until March 1924. During his reign the club achieved its highest position (9th in Division One, 1914-15), and for a period played in his beloved green and white hoops. During the First World War he is said to have acted like an "amateur recruiting sergeant" and was famous for his entertaining lectures.

After Bradford he is said by some to have managed Southport between May and October 1925, and then in 1931 he temporarily took over as Celtic manager from his highly successful brother Willie during a trip to the USA.

Away from City, Maley became Bradford Park Avenue’s manager in 1911 and guided them to their highest ever finish (ninth in 1914-15). He remained there until March 1924. Hhe is said to have managed Southport between May and October 1925, and then in 1931 he temporarily took over as Celtic manager from his brother Willie during a trip to the USA. It was his first visit to the States. Earlier in his life he was an active Celtic committee man and is recorded by Celtic historians as one of the club's most important early figures.

On 24th August 1935 he passed away at the age of 70. He should be remembered as Manchester’s first great leader. Had the ban not occurred it’s highly probable he would have brought the League title to Hyde Road and who knows what glories may have followed.

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.