Malcolm Allison was the infamous cigar-smoking, federate-hat wearing coach that as an assistant to the legendary Joe Mercer, turned Manchester City into serial trophy winners in the late 1960’s and early 70s.
Fifty years on, and Pep Guardiola is building a similar era of success in Manchester to that entertaining team that many older City fans feared could be the last great side they would ever see.
Guardiola is far more reserved than the larger-than-life Allison, who once threatened to “terrify Europe”, but Mike Summerbee, who was a member of that team that won four trophies in three years, sees plenty of similarities between the two men.
“”It’s called man-management,” Summerbee, now 75, said. “When I came to City there were players like [Alan] Oakes, [Glyn] Pardoe and Mike Doyle, players who weren’t rated at all.
“Malcolm gave those boys the confidence to be a major part of the team that won the championship. When you came off the field he would put his arm round you and give you a few words, and Pep does that all the time.
“He knew the people he could give a rollicking to. He got a response on the field, Pep gets a response on the field.
“I don’t know the ins and outs of this dressing room, but he talks to people, has given everyone confidence.”
Summerbee, was signed by Mercer in 1965 and, along with Colin Bell and Francis Lee, formed City’s own holy trinity that transformed City from a second division club to the champions of England in the space of three years and also helped them win the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of that group’s First Division title success, won in almost as dramatic circumstances as the unforgettable Sergio Aguero 94th-minute winner in 2012. In 1968, they needed to win the final game of the season at Newcastle United and secured a nerve-shredding 4-3 win with Summerbee scoring the first.
Many of that squad will be on the pitch before Sunday’s game against Huddersfield Town to give the current team a guard of honour. Allison died in 2010, before City’s current era of success, but Summerbee has no doubt he would appreciate what Guardiola is creating.
“His widow is coming to the game on Sunday, and she thinks Pep is wonderful,” Summerbee added.
“It’s a different era but we had the same inner confidence as what these players today that Pep has installed into them — trust in their ability and how he wants them to play. Our game was similar to other teams but Pep’s team is something very special.
“It was a learning process [for Allison]. It was like Pep’s first season, when he knew he didn’t have the right players to play the way he wanted them to play.
“Malcolm was the same. He wanted people who could play how he wanted them to play.”
Allison’s coaching was hailed to have improved many of City’s squad. Bell signed from Bury, made 48 appearances for England, Summerbee himself, made eight appearances for the national team, while captain Tony Book, who joined City at 31 after only turning professional two years earlier, was the joint winner of the FWA Footballer of the Year award in 1969.
Guardiola’s patience on the coaching ground is also transforming City’s young players and Summerbee sees the performances of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus as particularly notable. And he does think this could be the beginning of a special era.
“I think you’re looking at an era,” he said. “I’m trying not to be over glossy, he’s created something that you know is long-standing. I think that they can go from here. I think they’ll get even better.
“I think they’ve got a big chance [of back-to-back titles]. I’m getting old but I hope to be around to see a few more trophies at this club. What has it been two years under Pep?
“I’d like to see him stay forever. He’s a nice man, he knows everybody from the cleaners, by their name. I always find in life, the people that I’ve mixed with, the more famous and great they are, the more humble they are.”
Current captain Vincent Kompnay will be presented with the trophy following the full-time whistle to round off what could be a remarkable day. A two-goal win would see them set new Premier League records for most wins, most goals and most points in a season and Summerbee believes it would cap an incredible season.
“We’ve got a team here under Pep that entertains people,” Summerbee insisted. “Sometimes you look at the atmosphere in the stadium and it’s not noisy because they’re all dumbstruck.
“It would be a great thing to create history, which is what it’s all about. That’s what life’s about. Players work very hard to be successful.
“They are such a good side that they’ll continue doing it. It’s nice to be successful. And it’s always nice to look down!”
Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.