Mike Summerbee is one of Manchester City's most well known ex-players. Making an impressive 452 appearances in ten years at the club, Summerbee was part of one of the most successful City sides in our history. He kindly took time out to speak exclusively to us about his playing career, as well as his views on the current team.
It all started for Summerbee at Swindon Town, where he made more than 200 appearances for the Wiltshire outfit during his six year stay before eventually joining Manchester City. Mike revealed that eventual City manager Joe Mercer was very influential in his childhood: "I knew Joe Mercer as a young boy when I was at Swindon and he also knew my father very well. They both played at Aldershot together during the war years."
However, whilst Summerbee's father and Joe Mercer went their separate ways, Mercer always kept a close eye on Mike: "I know Mercer always fancied me when I was at Swindon, and when I heard that he was appointed Man City manager along with Malcolm Allison I had no hesitation in getting in contact with him. He fancied a winger and decided to sign me up."
Summerbee wasn't the only star to be recruited. City, who were in Division 2 at the time, allowed Joe Mercer to spend money to get City back to Division 1, and it worked. The team built under Mercer and Allison became one of the most successful in the club's history, winning four trophies in just three seasons.
There were a number of great players in that team, but Summerbee believed it was the team spirit that resulted in so much success: "I'm not into all this best player stuff. I'm a team player and the success of our side was that we played as a side and I don't think you can pick any individual out. You'll always think of Colin Bell and Francis Lee because they could win a game single-handedly, but there were people like Neil Young, Mike Doyle, Alan Oakes, Tommy Booth, George Heslop and Harry Dowd."
Summerbee also believes that whilst Mercer was influential in bringing him to the club, Malcolm Allison was a major factor in helping shape City into a title winning side: "You have to give a lot of the credit to Malcolm Allison because he was probably the greatest coach this country has ever seen. He was way ahead of his time in what he did. We were a very fit team, working hard for each other."
Mercer and Allison were definitely two of the best coaches this club has ever seen, and Summerbee even described the pair as a 'great partnership' due to their willingness to work for each other.
Another proud moment in Summerbee's career was representing his country on the football field, and he spoke about his experiences during that period: "I never expected to play for my country. If you get one cap for your country then it's a great honour. It really means a lot to you when you represent your country so it's a very special thing especially when you played in the lower division as a young boy. I joined the England squad in 1967, just after 1966, so I really played with some of the world champions. That was something else as well."
Of course, times have changed since Summerbee's playing days. Due to the improvement of pitches, we are starting to see a different style of football to that played 40 years ago, and Mike emphasised this point when asked about potential comparisons between the team back then and the current team: "It's a different era, with different conditions to play under. I think this team now are as good a footballing side you'll see. We couldn't play that type of football because the pitches weren't made to play small passes and interchanging the play. Our's was more about running with the ball, covering the ground and holding situations up for others. You can't compare them, we were probably the best side in the country but I think that this side, with the squad they've got could end up being successful for numerous years."
He also has took time out to praise current manager Roberto Mancini, who last season managed City to their first trophy in 36 years. It was a moment which we will all savour for the rest of our lives as City fans, and Summerbee was no different: "It was a very emotional time. Not just for the fans but for me as well. I was with Francis Lee and Tony Book and we all had a tear in our eye when the final whistle went."
His praise of Mancini is high though, and Mike is of the opinion that he will get stronger and stronger as a manager: "I'm a great admirer of Roberto Mancini as a person and a manager. He's played at the highest level, winning three Serie A championships with Inter Milan. He's very experienced and knows what he wants to do and he can handle big time players which is important."
And it is this kind of experience which is needed when we go into the title race. With the Blues currently three points clear of our cross city rivals, Summerbee is hopeful that this year can be ours to finally win our first Premier League trophy: "It's a bit early but if we continue in the same vein as we are doing there's no reason why we can't. People have got to catch us, there will be hiccups along the way but I believe that we have a great opportunity to win the league." Summerbee will be hoping that if we do win the league, it'll be something similar to when we won the Championship in Newcastle, which he ranked as his favourite moment in his playing career.
Of course, one of the challengers for the prestigious trophy this season are Manchester United, and we decided to ask Mike about his views on the rivalry between both teams, and whether it has changed in recent years: "I don't think the rivalry has changed, but I think there is a little bit of a tribal thing with the fans. Days before I started playing, if City were away from home then the fans would go and watch United and vice-versa. I don't particularly like the tribal aspect and I also think the press don't help the situation. I think the rivalry is as strong as ever."
Summerbee now works as our club ambassador, and kindly explained what kind of things he does in the job. He is certainly a busy man, and a very kind one at that. As well as making numerous trips to visit City fan's who aren't well, he carries out the task of welcoming guests to the club before match day. This weekend, he will be welcoming guests from Abu Dhabi along with chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak, as well as guests from Ferrari.
His job has certainly been made easier this season after Patrick Vieira decided to take a role behind the scenes, and Summerbee is full of praise for the Frenchman: "Patrick Vieira is with me now, but everyone knows Patrick because of his stature in the game. He was a great player and he also is a person that people want to see as he does a fantastic job for us. Patrick does a lot with the players and he is very astute. He is definitely a great asset to the club."
Without the takeover from ADUG over three years ago, this would have never been possible though. We were curious as to whether Sheikh Mansour was here for the long term, and we have good news for all our readers. Summerbee is once again full of praise, calling them very clever and nice people: "Their all football fans and they've made a massive difference to the club and know what they want to do. They are here for a long time and their enthusiasm for the game is unbelievable."
(c) The Sky Blue View 2012