When you think about City players from more recent times who may have not played so many games but made a huge contribution, Andy Morrison comes to mind. In his 47 appearances he metaphorically and sometimes literally grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and got it pointing in the right direction.
Sadly, from an earlier era, we this week lost another like Morrison – the midfielder and never to be forgotten Gerry Gow, who in his 36 appearances from 1980 to 1982 left an impression on all the City fans who saw him play and on many a shin of those he played against.
John Bond became the manager of City in October 1980. He found a young team bereft of confidence, so he added a triumvirate of experienced players; Tommy Hutchinson, a rangy and wily wide man; Bobby McDonald, an attacking left back with an eye for a goal; and midfield hard-man Gerry Gow. These three players added much needed balance to the side, transforming a team which had looked like it was heading for relegation into a mid-table side with its eye on a cup double.
Though not the tallest, Gerry was tenacious. He was always available for a short pass or a one-two and he is rightly regarded as a legend a Bristol City. He made his debut for The Robins in 1970 and made 445 appearances for the club and was at the heart of the team that made it back into the top flight of English football in 1976 after a 65 year absence. The Glaswegian was a mainstay of the side in the top flight but eventually Bristol City were relegated in 1980 and in October of that year he signed for Manchester City, a seasoned veteran at the age of 28.
If there is one thing the fans on the Kippax loved it was a wholehearted player and this was Gerry to a tee. From his first appearance at home to Norwich he got stuck into the opposition and, crucially, won the battle in midfield. He prowled around the middle of the park, won challenges, laid off both short and long passes, created space for his teammates and got City on the front foot.
City won that day by a single goal from Paul Power but could have won by a lot more but for poor finishing. Most importantly, the momentum of the season started to change and City started winning consistently again. Gerry even popped up with the odd goal – a long trip to Crystal Palace for the City fans was rewarded with a brace from Gow in a 3-2 win, but more important goals were to come.
It’s the run to the FA Cup final of 1981 for which he will be remembered most and for me in particular, the two exhausting but breath-taking clashes with Everton in the sixth round. Goodison Park was rammed with a 52,791 crowd, I was in the Park End wooden seating behind the goal and the ground was a cacophony of noise and swaying bodies. It was not a day or a game for faint hearts, but it was a game for the likes of Gerry Gow.
City fans had begun to dream of Wembley and it was this game which would see that dream almost slip away. After a gruelling first half battle Peter Eastoe put Everton ahead with a tap in at the far post in the 42nd minute and City were up against it, but in added time at the end of the half, McDonald pumped a diagonal ball into the box, Kevin Reeves nodded it back to Gow who coolly dinked it over the oncoming keeper.
City were not on level terms for long. Future Blue Imre Varadi tried to shake off Tommy Caton in the box and was hauled down and Trevor Ross put Everton back ahead from the resulting spot kick in the 48th minute. As the hands on the Littlewoods clock in the corner of the ground ticked around, City battled but it was heart-breaking as the dream slipped away.
Then it happened. A break from midfield, Steve McKenzie laid it off to Reeves, McKenzie’s way was blocked for the return but captain Power sprinted onto the pass and lofted it over the advancing keeper to equalise. Cue pandemonium behind the goal, the like of which I have rarely encountered. Power jumped for joy, City had earned a replay.
As was traditional then, the replay was played the following midweek, so just four days later a crowd of 52,562 crammed into Maine Road. We were set for another great battle, this time under the lights, and we were packed in like sardines in the Kippax, but no one seemed to care.
The momentum of the tie had swung with that Power goal in the first game. Both teams gave it their all but it was City who eventually grabbed the lead in the 65th minute. A high ball from the right was punched out by the keeper to the edge of the box, but was hit back first time by Bobby McDonald and nestled in the corner of the net. Then, just two minutes later, a free kick into the box was met by McDonald again, this time with one of his trademark bullet headers and City were on their way. Everton pushed everyone forward to try and get back in the tie and City hit them on the break in the 85th minute. With a three on three Dennis Tueart put a ball through for captain Paul Power who ran on to slot the ball past the keeper. Though Everton grabbed a last minute consolation it was City who advanced to the semi-final.
Gerry would again play a huge role in the semi-final against a formidable Ipswich side that would end the season as league runners-up. Gerry helped to stifle the Dutch midfield duo of Arnold Muhren and PFA player of the year Frans Thijssen. He played the whole 120 minutes of this energy sapping game, which is all the more amazing as John Bond had revealed on signing Gerry that he didn’t have a medical as they felt he would fail it due to his injury record.
Sadly the dream of winning the FA Cup was dashed by Spurs in the FA Cup final replay. No one could be faulted for effort, the team gave it their all over the two games, but it was not to be.
Gerry only made eight appearances in the 1981/82 season as injuries caught up with him. He’d got injured in a home defeat to Spurs in September and he returned to play in the third and fourth round of the FA Cup in January 1982, but these were his last games for City and he later moved on to Rotherham. It was a shame to see him leave but he had given every ounce to the club and his status as a cult hero was assured.
Written by Richard Donlan
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