As City and Spurs go head to head on Sunday in the League Cup Final, it’s just a fortnight shy of 40 years since the two clubs battled out a historic Wembley Cup Final.
Not only was it the 100th FA Cup Final – it was the first time the ‘Home of Football’ ever hosted a Cup Final replay. Having outplayed the hot favourites from White Hart Lane in a 1-1 draw, the underdogs from Maine Road were valiant losers just four days later, going down 3-2 in an epic encounter.
Many a football purist would still argue to this day that the replay on 14th May, 1981, was the greatest FA Cup Final of all time, featuring the famous – or infamous from a sky blue perspective – Ricky Villa winner, a goal which somehow overshadowed an even more spectacular strike from City’s Steve Mackenzie.
A clear case of to the victor belongs the spoils.
Fast forward four decades and football is fundamentally the same, albeit the culture surrounding it, is completely different. As Pep Guardiola’s team strive for the first instalment, of what could yet be a glorious treble winning season, the beautiful game has become disfigured by avarice, corruption and a blatant disregard for the core principles of fair competition.
It’s a world away from what those of a certain generation would regard as the ‘good old days’ – a time when players weren’t pampered, overpaid prima donnas, a time when players didn’t feign injury and go to ground as if taken down by a sniper’s bullet, a time when football was still – to coin a cliché – the working man’s game.
You only have to look back at how the likes of Gerry Gow would go through the pain barrier, game after game after game, aided by what must’ve seemed like endless cortisone injections, to fully comprehend how he put his body on the line to play the game he loved.
It was time when Gerry commanded the admiration and adulation of the Manchester City faithful, and the respect and trepidation of on field opponents, as well as opposition fans.
Compare and contrast the greed behind the revolting prospect of a ridiculously labelled ‘European Super League’, with the actions of Gerry, when he switched from Bristol City to Manchester City in October, 1980.
Even back in those days, the transfer fee of just £175,000 was a bargain, but the tenacious Glaswegian midfielder was still entitled to a £20,000 signing on fee. Rather than pocket what was rightfully his, Gerry waived what was still a substantial sum, to help the cash strapped Robins, for whom he’d played 445 games and scored 54 goals in an 11- year spell.
It was indicative of the character of the man who was idolised by the red half of Bristol, a player who would quickly become the living embodiment of the term ‘cult hero’, on the blue side of Manchester.
The titanic two-game tussle with Tottenham marked the pinnacle of Gerry’s all too short period in Manchester, but his contribution over just 36 games and seven goals, left an indelible mark on every Sky Blue supporter who saw him play.
No City fan of the early 80s will ever forget his immense contribution during that FA Cup campaign, not least his equaliser in the 2-2 quarter final draw at Everton, his inspirational showing in the 1-0 semi final win over Ipswich, and his gargantuan efforts to quell Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles in the drawn Final.
It is, however, easy to forget the importance of the FA Cup Final, long before a top four Champions League place became more prominent than winning the oldest cup competition in football.
Cup Final day used to mean TV coverage kicking off at 9am on both the BBC and ITV, and continuing all the way through until early evening when the Cup was won. Obviously that wasn't the case in 1981.
Now, as the modern day City seek to avenge that Wembley loss of yesteryear, is as good a time as any to celebrate the life and times of the ‘Double G Force’ – the moustachioed, wild looking warrior who brought steel, bite and fight to a struggling City side.
It's my pleasure and privilege to review a new, beautifully crafted biography, on the man who wore both the sky blue and black and red striped Number Eight City shirt with such distinction.
‘He’s Here, He’s There... – The Gerry Gow Story’ captures the enduring affection for the man whose life ended at the criminally young age of just 64 years, in October 2016.
Author Neil Palmer is able to draw upon the fond recollections of Gerry’s family, friends, team mates and opponents to deliver a thoroughly engaging, easily accessible and hugely entertaining read.
There’s a lovely line where Gerry is being interviewed on the Wembley turf an hour before kick off, and the ITV reporter pointed out a City banner which read, ‘GERRY GOW MAKES GLENN HOBBLE’. The unassuming, and maybe even slightly embarrassed Scotsman, simply laughed and shook his head.
Gerry joined City at the same time as fellow Scots, veteran wing wizard, Tommy Hutchison – scorer of both goals in the 1-1 Wembley draw – and no nonsense left back, Bobby McDonald, both of whom number among the many contributors to the book.
The trio were truly transformational as City, under newly appointed manager, John Bond, rescued themselves from a desperate relegation struggle, following the sacking of the legendary Malcolm Allison. They brought vital experience to complement the skill, energy and youthful exuberance of the likes of Tommy Caton, Nicky Reid, Ray Ransom, Steve Mackenzie and Dave Bennett.
The thoughts and words of Gerry’s son, Chris, a Manchester City fan and a man I’m privileged to call my friend, are especially poignant in relation to his Dad’s time at Maine Road.
Far removed from the glitz and glamour of top flight football and Wembley finals, Gerry later enjoyed and endured a ‘colourful’ time in non-league management, making a puzzling decision to resign from one post, before being perplexed and disillusioned at being sacked from another.
What might come as a surprise to the reader – particularly those who never had the pleasure of being in his company – is that for all his ferocity, drive and, lest it be forgotten, no little talent on the pitch, Gerry Gow was not a man who sought the limelight.
There’s something in this book for all football fans, but particularly so for the supporters of Bristol City, Manchester City and Rotherham United – the three clubs Gerry served with great distinction. It's not the case with his final team, Burnley, where the author makes it crystal clear, there was no love lost between the club and the player! Neil Palmer also gives us a fascinating insight into Gerry's managerial career at Yeovil Town and Weymouth, including the signing of one of England's most celebrated international stars of all time - albeit in a different sport.
From a tough but loving start to life in industrial Glasgow, to a comparatively humble, but equally loving final chapter in tranquil Dorset, Gerry Gow’s story is one well told and very well worth reading.
As the terrace chant would have it, ‘He’s here, he’s there, he’s every fucking where...Gerry Gow, Gerry Gow.’
Five years after his passing, he’ll always be somewhere in the hearts of those who loved and admired him, both as a man and as a footballer.
By David Walker