Book review: Manchester The City Years by Gary James

By Ric Turner, Wed 12 September 2012 20:33

Book review: Manchester The City Years by Gary James

Manchester The City Years is the latest book by renowned Manchester football historian and City fan Gary James, whose previous works include Manchester The Greatest City and Football With A Smile, the authorised biography of Joe Mercer, OBE.

The City Years is a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed (and sadly out of print) The Greatest City, having been significantly updated to reflect the incredible events of the last decade since the latter was first published in 2002.

It is immediately apparent just how in-depth and thorough a study the book is, weighing in at over 600 pages. The research is meticulous and exhaustive, chronicling every season in the club's history from the formation as St Mark's (West Gorton) in the late nineteenth century, through to the climactic end of the 2011/12 Premiership campaign.

The book immediately dispels the absurd notion, usually repeated ad nauseum by less educated fans of certain other clubs, that City "have no history". City, after all, were the first Mancunian club to win a major honour, lifting the F.A. Cup in 1904, four years before United's first trophy. This was 26 years before Arsenal won a major honour, and 51 years before Chelsea. I could also mention the fact that we won both the F.A. Cup and a European trophy before Liverpool managed the same feat, but hopefully you get the point.

As you would expect, all the key moments in the club's development are covered in great detail, including the name changes and moves to various stadiums, as well as scandals such as the 1906 F.A. investigation that saw practically the entire first team banned.

There are, of course, also many examples of the "typical City" tag that the club are still unable to shake off, such as winning the First Division title for the first time in 1937, only to be relegated the following season, despite scoring more goals than any other team in the division.

The book features over 100 in-depth interviews with supporters, managers, players, officials and every chairman of the club since 1972, and we get to discover the key motivating factors for Sheikh Mansour's takeover in 2008. It is also superbly illustrated, with a vast array of fascinating archive images.

Certain other recent publications about City feel like they have been rushed out in order to cash in on the club's current success, but that's certainly not an accusation that could be levelled at The City Years. The book is the result of 25 years of research, and the author's knowledge of the club and passion for it are obvious.

It is the definitive book about City, essential reading for anyone serious about the club, and is the standard by which all club histories should be judged. We are fortunate and privileged as City fans to have such a lovingly constructed account of our rich history. If you only purchase one book about the club then ensure it is this one.

Manchester - the City Years: Tracing the Story of Manchester City from the 1860s to the Modern Day, is available now to order on Amazon.