Forever Boys: the legendary Manchester City side of the late 1960s

Forever Boys: The Days of Citizens and Heroes (Wisden Sports Writing) by James Lawton

Manchester City did indeed exist before the oil money came. It existed before it plunged down the divisions. It existed before Georgi Kinkladze roamed Maine Road. It existed before the Gallagher brothers.

The Manchester City side of the late 1960s won the first division title, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and (if you consider it a proper title, and there are those who don’t) the Community Shield.

With Joe Mercer and legendary football figure Malcolm Allison at the helm, the club rose from the second division to dizzying heights.

Forever Boys is in theory a book about the players, but it is really a book about the club coach, Malcolm Allison. Before the silly hats, the Playboy girls, and the fame that followed him around Europe, Allison established himself as a innovative, effective and visionary coach.

Retired journalist James Lawton, drawing upon his own feelings of mortality following a forced redundancy, and stimulated by Allison’s funeral, interviews the remaining members of the Manchester City side. The dominant figure is Allison.

His ascent – and the ascent of the City team – is traced, along with his sad descent and then the drawn-out decline of dementia.

Comparisons are drawn between Allison and Mourinho. Francis Lee, the goalscorer who later returned to the club as Chairman, says:

“There is a lot of Malcolm in Mourinho, and though he has had such a great career you sometimes have to wonder if he might not finish up going down the same path. He thinks he can win games on his own and he simply can’t. The point is that once you start believing in your own propaganda you are setting yourself up for a fall.”

The rift between Lee and Colin Bell is analysed, with both former teammates giving their sides of the story.

The fate of goalkeeper Ken Mulhearn is told in his own words. Mulhearn was the unlucky sacrificial lamb following the side’s loss to Fenerbahçe, and then lost his place permanently to Joe Corrigan.

Forever Boys is a tribute to the team and the times. For the author and the players it is a trip back to their youth, a time when the team felt it was invincible.

It is also an inside look into how football functioned, in stark contrast to the modern game. It’s not just about the money; it’s about coaching, scouting, recruiting, facilities, desire, and camaraderie.

The book assumes that the reader is familiar with the side and its success – so brush up on your history.

A true-blue Manchester City supporter will revel in Forever Boys.

Click here to buy Forever Boys: The Days of Citizens and Heroes (Wisden Sports Writing)