Having watched Tottenham’s enthralling Premier league victory over Manchester City the other day on television, I caught sight of City’s assistant manager Brian Kidd at the end of the match. He was ruefully shaking the hand of the victorious Spurs manager and an oddly trivial memory popped into my mind.
As many of you will know, Brian Kidd began his career at Manchester United, where he famously scored on his 19th birthday in the 4-1 European Cup victory over Eusebio’s Benfica in 1968, prompting the terrace chant, ‘Eusebio, We say Kiddo!’
But that’s not the memory I had in mind, delightful though it was when United became the first English team to win the European Cup, ten years after the Munich Air Disaster.
It was something that happened the year before that famous Wembley victory that I remembered, when United, as reigning League champions, went on a close-season tour to Australia. There was much talk of the rising star in the youth team ranks, Brian Kidd, the latest to be dubbed ‘the next George Best’, and he made quite an impression with his athletic dash and goal-scoring feats in a series of friendlies down under.
Inevitably the world’s press was interested in this new Kidd on the block and wanted to interview him. The ever protective Matt Busby agreed to the youngster doing just one interview, and that’s what I recall. He was asked how he’d been changed by joining the Champions’ first team squad and, much to everyone’s surprise, he revealed that he had ‘read a book’ for the first time in his life on the long flight to Australia, and had ‘quite enjoyed it’. He added that he ‘might read another book’ in future. The interviewer then asked Kidd what book had he been reading, wondering if perhaps it was something like War and Peace. The youngster then pulled out a well-thumbed copy of ‘Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly’, declaring proudly that this was the ‘book’ he’d been reading.
I have to admit that in my snobbish way I had wondered if Kiddo was a bit dim, and it was not entirely a surprise that he never won any more medals after the European Cup triumph, in a career spanning many years at United, City and Arsenal, although he did get a handful of caps with England. It seemed a life of under-achievement, given the early, if exaggerated, hopes when he was just a kid.
It was as a coach that Kidd really made a mark, becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager after playing a crucial role in developing The Class of ‘92. It was sad when Fergie made nasty little digs in his Autobiography at Kiddo’s contribution towards United’s success in the ‘90s, when United won the Premiership four times, the FA Cup twice and the League Cup, along with various other trophies. What angered Fergie was Kidd’s desertion to become manager of Blackburn Rovers at a critical stage in what turned into the Treble Winning season in 1999. Fergie showed that he didn’t need Kidd and never forgave him for his ‘disloyalty’, happily rubbing it in when a draw at Ewood Park saw Blackburn relegated, while United powered on to their three-way triumph.
However, Kidd gained considerable consolation at Manchester City, where as coach he has helped two managers win Premier League titles, plus FA Cup and League Cup victories.
Now, with change in the air, one wonders, will Kiddo survive at City when Pep Guardiola arrives to take over as manager, or will that be the end of a distinguished Mancunian footballing career?
And will Fergie relent and belatedly admit how valuable it was to have the Kidd from Collyhurst, where Nobby Stiles was born, at his side when he first started piling up the trophies? Perhaps now’s the time for Kiddo to write a book, just to remind him.
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