They’d grown older, perhaps more weary but they were most definitely remembered, and with great affection and more than a hint of nostalgia. ‘They’ were the class of 1986, the young bucks under the tutelage of an old ‘Book’ who had shone through during some of Manchester City’s darker days – they were the FA Youth Cup winning team, who’d delivered silverware to Maine Road in a unique fashion.
At a time of financial deprivation and uncertainty, they’d shone like a beacon, serving up a slice of history in front of 28,000 success-starved serving members of the Sky Blue Army, downing the arch enemy over two momentous encounters.
By beating the young braves of Manchester United 3-1 in the two-legged FA Youth Cup Final, City’s prodigies punctuated a period of doom and gloom with memories that would last a lifetime.
Nearly 30 years later, they were back together for the first time to reflect on an era that is a world removed from today’s millionaire Manchester City lifestyle, to celebrate the launch of ‘ Teenage Kicks’ a book that captures the spirit and camaraderie of the ‘old’ City.
Assembled at the Houldsworth Working Mens Club in Stockport, courtesy of the Reddish Branch of the Manchester City Official Supporters Club, there they were, the players, the management team of Tony Book and Glyn Pardoe, even the key administrator of the time, the then Club Secretary Bernard Halford.
On a cold November night Steve Crompton, Steve Mills, Ian Brightwell, Steve Redmond, Andy Thackeray, David White, Paul Moulden, David Boyd, John Clarke and Steve Macauley were there in person. Ian Scott was ‘skyped’ into proceedings from downtown Indianapolis in the USA, whereas two of the ‘names’ from the team – Paul Lake and Andy Hinchcliffe – had had to bail out of the night due to unforeseen work commitments.
Tragically, one of the less well known players, John Bookbinder an outstanding left winger, had passed away in tragic circumstances in 2006 at the ridiculously early age of just 37 years.
He was represented by his adoring sister, journalist and broadcaster, Susan Bookbinder and her young son, Zac – he of contemporary fame after emerging as the spitting image of Samir Nasri, and ultimate winner of a much publicised City Player lookalike competition last season.
Suzy – a lifelong City fan herself – was the co-compere of proceedings along with BBC Manchester’s Ian Cheeseman, in front of an estimated audience of more than 250 true blue MCFC diehard supporters.
Not content with taking a heart-warming journey back in time, the evening also conjured up its own ‘magic of the cup’ moment when unsung hero Andy Thackeray was rewarded with his winner’s medal – an engraved tankard – 27 years after the event.
Having been sent-off in the 1-1 drawn 1st Leg match at The Swamp – sorry Old Trafford – Andy was denied his tankard when City emerged victorious from the glorious 2-0 2nd Leg win and aggregate 3-1 victory.
The ‘stuffed shirts’ at the Football Association showed all the compassion of a ton of granite, refusing young Andy his cherished memento from what was to be the highlight of his playing career.
Andrew Waldon and Phill Gatenby – co-authors of the book, set about rectifying the wrong and liaised with the FA to finally recognise Andy’s contribution and give him his tankard.
Staggeringly the successors of the ‘old farts’ of yesteryear proved themselves almost as ungracious in the 21st century, charging Andrew and Phill £120 (plus £10 postage and packaging) for the tankard!
I’m sure there are many among us who could come up with variations as to what the initials ‘FA’ should actually represent, but I digress.
The tankard presentation, performed by Bernard Halford, was rapturously applauded by all. Instantly likeable, articulate and humorous, Andy said the FA Youth Cup win was second only to seeing his young son – Noah – playing at Wembley in his catalogue of best football moments, an endearing and modest observation by a proud Dad.
Andy said: “For the five or six of us who didn’t go on to play for Manchester City’s first team this was our greatest ever achievement in football.”
A revealing Question & Answer session provided an intriguing, often funny, insight into the football world of a bygone age. Messrs Book and Pardoe paid tribute to a ‘…very very special group of lads…’ and spoke of the team’s collective ‘skill and grit…’ which served them so well.
David White, the scintillating winger-cum-striker who went on to play for England and make just shy of 350 first team appearances, scoring 96 goals for City, returned the compliment on behalf of the players.
Whitey said: “Our success was down to Tony Book and Glyn Pardoe. As a bunch of lads we’d come through the junior ranks but most of us were forward players until Tony and Glyn set about converting us into a variety of different positions.
“We pretty much won every game we ever played and we pretty much got a bollocking week in and week out, but we understood what was going on and the fact it was all designed to motivate us and make us work even harder.”
Super modest goalkeeper Steve Crompton was asked why he ended up as the man between the posts?
He mused: “Because I had three left hands and three left feet, I couldn’t be doing with all that running. I was always the last one in training but I was in my element when it came to diving around in the mud in the middle of winter.”
The team’s outstanding centre forward Paul Moulden, now a chip shop owner in Bolton, recalled how a pre-season once began with two weeks of grouting the tiles in the Maine Road dressing rooms.
“I thought, if we ever got to see a football we could be a good team. We did – eventually – but we were bloody good at grouting by that stage.”
One of the ‘foreigners’ of the team was forward David Boyd, who scored in the Final. The Glaswegian recalled how difficult it could be for a young man living hundreds of miles away from home and effectively left to fend for himself.
“It could be very lonely at times being a non-local, but we often went to see the other player’s families if they were from Manchester.”
David was in ‘digs’ – no 5 Star luxury hotels here, thank you very much – and he shared his lodgings with John Bookbinder. He recalled a young John as being very opinionated and outspoken under the strict disciplinarian Book regime.
“We’d be in the dressing room and Skip (Book) would say something and we’d look across to John and you could tell instantly the idea of a question was formulating in his mind.
“We’d think ‘you’re not going to say what you’re thinking John’ but John being John he’d say it all the same.”
The very talented but maverick Bookbinder and Book were polar opposites and, despite a Wembley appearance in a pre-game 5-aside curtain-raiser before the memorable Full Members Cup Final 5-4 defeat to Chelsea, John didn’t progress his career with City.
Perhaps the most popular sentiment expressed by any player on the night came from the captain of the team, Liverpudlian, Steve Redmond who had an illustrious first team career, making 287 appearances and scoring seven goals in the process.
When asked what was the highlight of his career, the forthright Scouser replied: “Winning the FA Youth Cup – it was the only trophy I ever won.
“It was special, I was the captain of the side and we had two great coaches in Tony and Glyn. We beat United in a final – I’ll take that every day of the week. I’m from Liverpool and even if we’d beaten Liverpool in the final it couldn’t have been any sweeter than beating United.”
Cue wild applause!
Lest we forget the reason why the reunion took place – the book ‘Teenage Kicks’ guides the reader on the pre-amble to the exhilarating Youth Cup-winning odyssey, the aftermath and the wildly fluctuating fortunes of the 14-strong squad, as their careers progressed or simply petered out.
Teenage Kicks is highly recommended (Empire Publications www.empire-uk.com written by Phill Gatenby & Andrew Waldon RRP £10.95).
By David Walker @djwskyblu @readbutneverered