City Playmakers – Talented Midfielders From the Past

by | Apr 15, 2018 | Football, Manchester

As Manchester City’s current crop of playmakers are praised from all quarters, iNostalgia looks back at talented midfielders from the past.

Life as player was very different when Manchester City inside forward Joe Hayes made his senior debut against Spurs in October 1953.

The post-war stalwart worked in a cotton mill and a coal mine before becoming a footballer.

Fast cars, executive homes and fine living were a million miles from his soccer world.

Yet one thing has never changed in football over the decades – sheer talent.

It abounded in midfielders like Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, Peter Barnes, Asa Hartford and Joe Hayes himself – players who could all turn a match with one incisive pass, storming run or unstoppable shot on goal.

Today Nostalgia remembers some of the best.

Former miner Hayes was born in Kearsley near Bolton in January 1936. He played at the age of 19 in the 1955 FA Cup Final when City lost 3-1 to Newcastle United.

A year later he was back at Wembley again, this time scoring the opening goal in the 3-1 win over Birmingham City.

In all, Hayes played 363 times for City scoring 152 goals – the third highest total in the club’s history. He transferred to Barnsley in 1965 and later played for Wigan Athletic.

Our photo shows him tussling for the ball with Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg in the local derby at Maine Road in September 1959.

City won 3-0 on the day with Hayes scoring twice. The third goal came from George Hannah.

Joe Hayes gets the better of United ‘keeper Harry Gregg, September 1959.

Fans remember midfielder Alan Oakes with real affection. He played 776 Football League matches, the seventh highest total in history, and made an all-time record 564 appearances for City, scoring 26 goals.

Oakes made his City debut in 1959 and won a host of honours with the club, including the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970, the League Cup in 1970 and 1976 and the First Division championship in 1968.

Alan Oakes made a record 564 appearances for City, January 1965.

Moving forward a few years, there can be few finer sights in football than City legend Colin Bell lashing in a goal from just outside the box.

The midfielder did precisely that in his first league game of the season against Spurs at Maine Road in August 1971. Our photo shows him finishing a City move with the white-shirted defenders powerless to stop him.

It was City’s first in a 4-0 victory which also saw Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee and Wyn Davies get on the scoresheet.
Bell made 394 appearances for City from 1966 to 1979 scoring 117 goals. He is rightly regarded as one of City’s – and England’s – greatest midfielders. One commentator called him ‘the most finished article in the modern game.’

Two more City legends played leading roles in the famous 2-1 League Cup Final victory over Newcastle United in February 1976.

City legend Colin Bell scores against Spurs, August 1971.

Every fan remembers Dennis Tueart’s stunning overhead kick that resulted in one of Wembley’s most famous goals, but there was another outstanding moment to savour from his team-mate Peter Barnes.

In the 11th minute, Asa Hartford hoisted a free kick into the Newcastle penalty area where it was headed back across goal by Mike Doyle. Teenager Barnes then burst through a four-man wall of defenders to score.

The hugely talented winger was only 18 when he played at Wembley – his performance helped earn him the 1976 PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Barnes was sold to West Bromwich Albion in 1979 for £748,000 in what many still regard as a major error of judgement by new manager Malcolm Allison.

Peter Barnes burst through the Newcastle defence to score at Wembley, February 1976.

Another victim of Allison’s misguided 1979 clear-out was fellow midfielder Gary Owen, who also went to West Brom. Owen, a firm favourite with the City fans, made 103 appearances for the Blues scoring 19 goals.

Fans’ favourite Gary Owen, January 1977.

Any list of City playmakers would be incomplete without mentioning Scottish international Asa Hartford. The midfielder had two spells with the Blues, from 1974 to 1979 and from 1981 to 1984.

Hartford was a West Brom player in 1971 when a medical examination uncovered a heart condition which halted his transfer to Leeds United.

Leeds’ fears were proved to be unfounded as Hartford went on to flourish at a number of clubs, including Nottingham Forest, Everton, Norwich City and Bolton.

He won 50 caps for Scotland and was selected for the 1978 and 1982 World Cups.

Asa Hartford on the ball against Liverpool, April 1983.

Finally we come right up to date with two playmakers that feature highly in any City Top 20 – Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure.

Nasri arrived at the Etihad in a blaze of publicity following his £24 million move from Arsenal in August 2011. The French international made 124 appearances for City scoring 18 goals.

His assists and goals were crucial to City winning two Premier League titles as well as the 2014 League Cup Final, where Nasri won the Alan Hardaker Trophy for being Man of the Match.

Samir Nasri arrives at the Etihad, August 2011.

The sight of Yaya Toure standing imperiously over the ball in our last photo is enough to send shivers down the backs of defenders the world over.

Capable of unleashing a killer pass or just powering his way through to score himself, the Ivorian international has been instrumental in City’s resurgence since joining from Barcelona in July 2010.

Yaya Toure prepares to launch an attack against Arsenal, December 2016.

If you’d like to share your memories of City playmakers, please get in touch with us.