This was Manchester City’s first game since the shock announcement that manager Howard Kendall had left the club to re-join Everton following the dismissal of Colin Harvey. In his first programme notes as caretaker manager, Toffees legend Peter Reid said Kendall’s decision came as a complete surprise to him but he paid tribute to what he had achieved in the twelve months he had been at the club, with City fifth in the table after 11 games of the 1990/91 season.
The dramatic turn of events had started on the previous Monday evening when Everton chairman Philip Carter telephoned his City counterpart Peter Swales to ask for permission to approach Kendall but this was refused. However, it became apparent that this was academic as a clause in his contract meant that City couldn’t stand in his way as long as substantial compensation was forthcoming.
Nevertheless, Swales said “He’s done a good job here. He has kept us in the First Division and taken us to fifth in the table. We’re in a far better state than when he came and I’ve got to be grateful for that.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, City at that time had a fair sprinkling of players that Kendall managed during Everton’s glory years of the mid-1980s. As well as Reid, there were full backs Alan Harper and Neil Pointon, plus striker Adrian ‘Inchy’ Heath – who in fact scored the winning goal for City against the Toffees earlier in the season.
This particular match had been chosen by ITV to feature live on ‘The Match’. City didn’t have a good record when their games were shown live from Maine Road. The season before Aston Villa had won 2-0 in the League and Liverpool thrashed City 4-0 in an FA Cup sixth round match in 1988, though City did win the return game against Villa in front of the cameras, with goals from Mark Ward and Peter Reid.
But City’s live TV hoodoo struck again as Leeds came out on top 3-2 thanks to goals from Lee Chapman, Carl Shutt and Gordon Strachan with a Mark Ward penalty and a strike from David White in response for the home side.
Despite the loss, Reid was appointed full-time player-manager a few days later and led City to 5th in the table that season and the following season. But in the first season of the Premier League (1992–93), City slipped into ninth place and Reid was sacked after a poor start though he would go on to enjoy more managerial success, particularly at Sunderland.