Manchester City Legend Dennis Tueart: "Replacing Pele Was A Shock..."

From replacing Pele in America to that overhead kick ex-Sunderland, Manchester City, New York Cosmos and England legend Dennis Tueart looks back on a fascinating and unique career.
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Dennis Tueart played a significant role in two of the most iconic Wembley finals of the 1970s. In ’73 his second division Sunderland team stunned the country with a FA Cup giant-slaying of Leeds United while three years later his spectacular bicycle kick secured the League Cup for Manchester City and gave the blue half of Manc a cherished memory to help ease them through the dark barren era that followed.

For ten years he electrified Roker Park and Maine Road with his darting runs; he was a small bundle of energy, intelligent running, and trickery all coupled with a firebrand tenacity and will to win. Such qualities – such talent – made him a bona fide legend at each club. In many blues’ eyes he is second only to the peerless Colin Bell as the greatest of them all.

In 1978 Dennis moved across to join the American revolution with New York Cosmos, at only 28 still very much in his prime. It was a surprising switch but typical of the man and player – always looking forward, seeking out challenges and looking to unbalance and entertain.

From his unusual playing style to his white sock tie-ups he was a one-off and that remain the case today – how many ex-pros do you know pen an autobiography and pledge all royalties to a local cancer charity?

The chant that used to thunder across the Kippax terracing had it bang-on – Dennis Tueart was, and will always be, the king of all Geordies.

What were your reasons for writing the book?

People have been chasing me for about eight years to write one and I’ve read an awful lot of football books and unfortunately I can often predict what’s coming next so I just wanted to make sure it was going to be interesting enough.

It certainly is that. I was particularly fascinated by the latter third which covers your nine years as a director at Manchester City during an extremely tumultuous period.

I was trying to galvanise the whole club. I was fed up with Manchester City having this reputation for being roller-coaster and as much as I possibly could I wanted to keep a stability there. What many people don’t realise is that the club was close to going belly-up on at least five occasions and what got us through was the work of the board and the loyal support of the Manchester City fans.

The value of the supporters is they kept us going in the bad days.

I wasn’t a winger in the traditional sense. I was a winger in the modern form.

You mention in the book that one of your proudest achievements during that time was encouraging the club’s youth development system. Do you think that the impressive conveyor belt of home-grown talent that City has produced in recent times has been somewhat over-looked due to the takeover and big-money superstar signings?

Well it has, when you look at the record of Jim Cassell (Jim was head of City’s youth academy for many years) and put it into perspective – two weekends ago seventy players were plying their trade in the four divisions of the football league who have come through Jim’s academy. Thirty of them made their first-team debut for Manchester City and the money raised from some of those assets was almost fifty million. And there is still Michael Johnson, Nedum Onuoha and Micah Richards still in the system now.

Tony Carr, Jim’s counter-part at West Ham – those two were the prime leaders in bringing out the quality of players coming into the English football through youth development - well Tony Carr was given an MBE and a testimonial whereas Jim was moved sideways into other projects. I couldn’t understand that one quite honestly.

Which player reminds you most of yourself in today’s game?

I would suggest – without upsetting the City fans – it might be Ashley Young, and I’d like to say Adam Johnson. When I started out as a youngster I was thrown on the left wing but I was a right-footer. I was ahead of my time being a right footed left winger but nowadays they’re all doing it. Ashley Young can come inside and play off the front man. Joe Royle used to describe me as a wide striker and I think that affected my opportunities with England as well because I wasn’t a winger in the traditional sense. I was a winger in the modern form.

How often are you asked about your over-head winner in ’76?

Constantly. I get 40 and 50 year old fellas telling me they used to practice that goal in the playground or in the bedroom. It was a marvellous occasion because it was against my home-town club Newcastle and also the spectacular fashion. And of course it was the winning goal. It means you’ve achieved something for yourself, your club, your colleagues and more importantly the supporters.

Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto had gone over there and then I realised I was replacing Pele which was a bit of a shock as well.

You were one of the very few players who went over to the US in the 1970s whilst still in your prime (Dennis joined New York Cosmos aged 28). Was it anything like you expected?

It was a culture shock really. I just fancied the experience, I looked at it and Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto had gone over there and then I realised I was replacing Pele which was a bit of a shock as well.

What’s happening today with Abramovich and Chelsea and all the other foreign owners bringing a whole load of foreign lads over…we had that back then. There were thirteen nationalities in the dressing room in 1978. All the problems that are happening now, and all the little culture issues and breakdowns in communication and man-management…I had that myself in 1978.

But I loved it. When you’re living on the banks of the Hudson River on the 36th floor and you get up in the morning and look out of your window and there’s the Manhattan skyline…it was a bit special really.

Despite your long and successful career is there any lingering regret that you never got the chance on pull on the black-and-white stripes of your home-town club?

That’s a difficult call that. All I would say is that I’m still a Newcastle fan as well as being a mad Sunderland fan and obviously number one is my Man City team. The over-riding feeling is that I’ve been privileged to be a part of the north-east and the north-west football scenes and that for me is where the passion is.

Would you ever consider a return to football in any capacity?

In football you never say never. Who knows? If I felt I could make an impact then possibly but I would never go anywhere just for the ride, that’s not my scene.

Dennis Tueart's autobiography, My Football Journey, is published by Vision Sports Publishing (RRP £18.99). Dennis's royalties from the book will be donated to the teenage and young adult cancer unit at The Christie cancer centre.

He will also be participating in book singings at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester (12.30, Sat 19th Nov) and the Stadium of Light, Sunderland (11am, Sun 1tth Dec)

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