As far as the traditional fierce rivalries in football go, not many players in the game can claim to be held in high esteem by both sets of supporters. For example, ask Tottenham Hotspur supporters for their views on Sol Campbell, Leeds fans what they think of Eric Cantona or Everton fans for a quick word regarding Nick Barmby, and you are likely to be subjecting yourself to a torrent of abuse at best and physical altercations at worst.
There are exceptions of course, and some players such as Pat Jennings and Peter Beardsley stick out in this category as players equally revered by Arsenal and Spurs, and Liverpool and Everton fans respectively.
Then, perhaps uniquely, there is the case of Brian Kidd. Unique in the sense that not only did he play for each of the Mancunian sides, but he also spent many years at both clubs in a variety of coaching roles and is held in the highest regard by followers of both clubs.
Born in 1949 in Collyhurst, Manchester, Kidd famously made his name as a player at United, playing and starring in the European Cup-winning side of 1968. The final was held at Wembley on Kidd’s 19th birthday, and Kidd netted United’s third goal in their 4-1 victory.
Kidd would play for United for another six years and end up making more than 200 league appearances before being sold by Tommy Docherty to Arsenal in 1974 following United’s relegation to the Second Division.
His time at Highbury was relatively short-lived, lasting only two seasons until 1976, but in that time he managed to establish himself as a regular scorer in what was a pretty average Gunners’ side. The arrival of Malcolm ‘Supermac’ Macdonald from Newcastle spelt the end for Kidd at Arsenal and so it was back to his Mancunian roots he headed and this time to Maine Road, home of Manchester City.
The Manchester City side of 1976 was managed by Tony Book and it was a decent vintage. The 1975-76 League Cup had been secured courtesy of a 2-1 Wembley victory over Newcastle, and the 1976-77 season would see a real challenge for the league title alongside Ipswich Town and Liverpool. The season ended in disappointment for City and Kidd, however, with Liverpool prevailing by a single point.
Another strong season in 1977-78 resulted in a fourth-place finish but in March 1979 Kidd was surprisingly transferred to Everton, then managed by Gordon Lee. Everton at the time were just about clinging to the coat-tails of Liverpool and West Brom in the race for the 1979 league title and would ultimately finish fourth.
Kidd spent one full season at Goodison Park during which the highlight was the Toffees’ run to the semi-final of the 1980 FA Cup. In an ill-tempered match at Villa Park, Everton led courtesy of a Brian Kidd penalty going into the hour mark.
It was then that Kidd got into an altercation with West Ham’s Ray Stewart and was ordered off by referee Colin Seel. It was an incident that divides Everton fans to this day, with some blaming Seel for sending Kidd packing for what seemed much ado about not very much, while others point fingers in Kidd’s direction and hold him responsible for Everton failing to reach the cup final that year.
Almost twenty years later Kidd would turn down the chance to manage Everton with memories of Villa Park still fresh in some people’s minds.
Anyway, Kidd moved on at the end of the season and joined Bolton Wanderers for whom he played a single full season before being loaned out to Atlanta Chiefs in the NASL and then signing permanently for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A further spell with the Minnesota Kicks brought the curtain down on Kidd’s playing career in 1984.
Into Coaching: Back to United
After retiring from playing, Kidd went into coaching at non-league Barrow. Kidd had a short spell in charge of the team in the 1984-85 season before moving into league football once more with Preston North End.
Installed as a coach in time for the 1985-86 season, Kidd was appointed caretaker manager of the club in November 1985 with the appointment being made permanent in January 1986. Confusingly, the arrangement only lasted two months and March of that year Kidd left his post.
There then followed a spell out of professional football while Kidd was employed in working for the community. In 1988, Sir Alex Ferguson offered him the chance to become involved in coaching the youngsters at Manchester United and the start of a dynasty beckoned.
Charged at first with helping with the youth teams, Kidd quickly worked his way up to the position of Youth Development Officer at Manchester United, and it was under his watch that some of the players who were to shine in the famous ‘Class of ’92’ started to take shape.
Sir Alex Ferguson had always believed in giving youngsters a chance and Kidd’s work had not gone unnoticed. When Ferguson found himself short of an assistant manager following Archie Knox’s sudden defection to Glasgow Rangers in April 1991, it was in the direction of Brian Kidd that he looked for a replacement.
Working together from the spring of 1991 to the late autumn of 1998, the two men were to achieve fantastic success together. Kidd quickly settled into his new role working with the senior players, and his coaching methods and tactical prowess made him a great favourite amongst the Manchester United playing staff.
League titles were won in 1993, ‘94, ’96 and ’97, alongside FA Cups in ’94 and ’96 and the League Cup in 1992. Working alongside Ferguson, Kidd was seen by many as the natural successor to the throne when Ferguson finally decided to call it a day. Kidd’s passion for the club that he had served so well as a player was there for all to see and nobody can forget his on-field celebrations when Steve Bruce’s 97th-minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday practically secured the 1993 league title.
However, as the years went by not everything was as rosy in the garden as it seemed. The 1997-98 season was a bad one by United’s standards and from being in a position of strength in the spring with a commanding lead at the top of the Premier League and into the quarter-finals of both FA Cup and Champions League, they ended the season potless.
Martin Edwards, Chairman of United, put a lot of the blame for this failure squarely at the feet of Ferguson himself, telling the manager that he felt he had ‘taken his eye off the ball‘ and should be spending more time in his office and less on the race tracks.
This did not go down well with Ferguson, as one can imagine, and nor did the fact that at around this time Edwards seemed to be having rather a large number of intimate chats with Brian Kidd behind the manager’s back.
Kidd is alleged to have spoken to Edwards expressing concern at Ferguson’s intention to pursue Aston Villa’s star forward, Dwight Yorke, and is said to have suggested John Hartson as a viable alternative. Ferguson saw such clandestine communications as somewhat a betrayal and thus the season kicked off under a shadow.
Leaving Old Trafford
Around this time, Kidd’s work as Fergie’s assistant was beginning to draw the attention of other clubs and several tried to tempt him away from Old Trafford. The summer of 1998 almost saw Kidd decamp for Goodison Park and Everton before ultimately deciding to stay, but when Jack Walker came swinging by with his cheque book at the end of 1998 the lure of going into management at Blackburn Rovers proved too difficult to resist and so Kidd left Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson said little at the time other than to publicly thank Kidd for his time at United and to wish him well for the future. The truth is, though, he was hurt and angered by Kidd’s departure.
As the 1998-99 season played out to its conclusion, the fortunes of both men differed considerably. While Sir Alex was busy winning the treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup, Kidd and Blackburn were dropping out of the top flight following relegation.
That summer, Ferguson released another one of his various autobiographies in which he takes the opportunity in print to settle scores with those he believes have offended him in some way while all the time harking back to his ‘long-held beliefs’ that ‘loyalty is the keystone to my life’.
In Managing my Life Ferguson slammed Kidd in no uncertain terms, labelling him ‘insecure’ and ‘a moaner’. He also wrote that he expressed serious doubts that Kidd would ever have been suitable for the top job at Manchester United.
Kidd was hurt deeply by the comments at the time and expressed his right to reply. He stated that Ferguson’s decision to go public was extremely unbecoming but he stopped short of responding in kind by divulging any details of their time working together.
After Blackburn’s relegation, Kidd did not last long in the Ewood Park hot seat and in November 1999 was dismissed with Rovers 17th in the First Division.
Perhaps chastened by the experience, Kidd never returned to management but the high standing and regard in which he was held in the game meant that he was not out of work for long.
Spells coaching at Leeds United, Sheffield United, and Portsmouth followed in the ‘noughties, as well as a short-lived spell as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s assistant in the England set-up between 2003 and 2004. This tenure came to a premature end when Kidd underwent surgery for prostate cancer in May 2004 just before Euro 2004, from which he thankfully made a full recovery.
Back Home: Part Two
In September 2009, the wheel once again turned full circle as Kidd found himself once again being employed by Manchester City.
In the decade that has since passed, Kidd has worked alongside managers Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini, and Pep Guardiola and has contributed to a further four Premier League titles being won. In addition, FA and League Cups have also been secured in what has been a golden era for the blue half of Manchester.
Having professed to have ‘long ago made up’ with Ferguson, there now seems to be not a solitary soul in professional football with anything bad to say to about Brain Kidd – one of football’s true gentlemen.