Tom Maley

By Gary James, Mon 28 November 2011 16:08

Tom Maley

The recent ceremony organised via the Celtic Graves Society marking the grave of former City manager Tom Maley has brought a few mentions of the great man.

Few City fans today probably know Tom’s story in detail and to be fair some won’t know his name. It is for this reason that I thought I’d share some basic stories and comments about him. He really is a manager all City supporters should be aware of. Without him Manchester’s Blues may never have found success at all.

Tom Maley was, without doubt, the first truly great Manchester manager, not simply City’s first great manager.

He had been a successful player in Scotland during the 1880s and was 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. Interestingly, despite being a proud Scotsman, he was born in Portsmouth on 8th November 1864.

He arrived at City’s first proper home, Hyde Road, following the Blues relegation in 1902 and immediately encouraged the Blues to play stylish football. His view was that playing in the Scottish passing style – uncommon in England at the time - would bring the club success and would excite the fans. He was right. At this stage in English football the key tactic seemed to be to run with the ball until it was taken from you or you were able to have a shot, whereas Celtic in particular had perfected a passing style which seemed to bamboozle most sides.

By the time he arrived in Manchester he was known as an excellent football administrator and tactician and, by adopting the 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. Another significant player Jimmy Ross also died that summer. Maley had to lift spirits quickly.

His first League game ended in a 3-1 win and the Blues went on to lift the Second Division championship in Maley’s 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! No squad rotation possible back then. Who said fixture congestion was a modern phenomenon?

City’s success wasn’t popular with the footballing establishment – in particular the southern based FA - and FA Officials soon arrived at Hyde Road to check up on the young northern upstarts. They found one or two discrepancies over transfers but nothing major, however the following year Maley’s side were once again bidding for the League title. A controversial match with Aston Villa gave the FA another opportunity to investigate the club’s affairs and this time the FA claimed to have found widespread anomalies including overpayments to players. Tom 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. I reckon he would have created a dynasty at Hyde Road.

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.

On 24th August 1935 he passed away at the age of 70. Had his time at City not ended prematurely, it's possible he would be remembered today as one of Britain’s most successful managers. As it is, he should always be remembered as one of Manchester's greatest leaders.

I’ve added a few references/images concerning Tom to my facebook. Take a look at the folder “Research – Maley”:

Early in 2012 I will be announcing details of my next history book on City via

Tom Maley’s City Career Details

Secretary/Manager - July 1902 – July 1906

Took Over From: Sam Ormerod following the Club’s first relegation.

Inherited: The legendary Billy Meredith and Billy Gillespie.

Players Brought In Included: Sandy Turnbull & George Livingstone – both major stars.

Nickname: Known as ‘Handsome Tom’ in Glasgow

First Game: City 3 Lincoln City 1 (City scorers Willie McOustra 2 & Fred Bevan), 6 September 1902, attendance 16,000.

High Points: Coming close to the League & Cup double in 1903-04 and developing a quality side that truly represented Manchester for the first time.

Lows: The scandal that rocked City in 1905-07 and caused the Club to be severely punished.

Last Game: Birmingham 3 City 2 (City scorers Herbert Burgess & Irvine Thornley), 28 April 1906, attendance 3,000.

Season By Season Record:

1902-03 P 34 W 25 D 4 L 5 GF 95 GA 29 Pts 54
1903-04 P 34 W 19 D 6 L 9 GF 71 GA 45 Pts 44
1904-05 P 34 W 20 D 6 L 8 GF 66 GA 37 Pts 46
1905-06 P 38 W 19 D 5 L 14 GF 73 GA 54 Pts 43
2 points for a win

FA Cup
1902-03 P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 GF 1 GA 3 Reached 1st round
1903-04 P 6 W 5 D 1 L 0 GF 12 GA 3 FA Cup winners
1904-05 P 2 W 1 D 0 L 1 GF 3 GA 3 Reached 2nd round
1905-06 P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 GF 1 GA 4 Reached 1st round

TOTAL (League & cup fixtures)
P150 W89 D22 L39 GF 322 GA 178

Trophies Won: FA Cup (1904) & Second Division title (1903). His brother managed Celtic to Scottish Cup success in 1904 to complete an unusual double.

He Said: Talking about City’s 1904 homecoming in which, it was widely reported, the entire population of Manchester turned out to welcome the Cup winners home: “Perhaps the love of sport had something to do with the bringing together of so great a gathering, but love of Manchester had much more to do with it.”

(I love this quote and included it in the Introduction to my book on all of Mancunian football "Manchester A Football History": ... permPage=1

They Said: “I never happened on 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” - A 1920s journalist for Athletic News.

Followed By: Harry Newbould.