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Happy 42nd Birthday to Kevin Mabbutt's Old Trafford Hat-Trick!

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I dream that one day, hopefully soon, Deano, Bristol City will be gracing Old Trafford like the boys of 1976-80.
On that note it's still magical to recall a very rare feat, a City win at the 'Theatre of Dreams' and Kevin Mabbutt's hat-trick, on October 21st 1978.
Thanks for the wonderful memories Kevin and also to my friend Chris Bradfield for commending them to DVD, via an antique reel-to-reel video tape that was originally filmed by Jonathan Pearce's father, John.
You can see them on YouTube: 
I also wrote this column for the Evening Post back in 2008.

EXACTLY 30 years ago today Bristol City striker Kevin Mabbutt completed an extraordinary feat by becoming only the second player in Football League history to score a hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford.


Bristol-born Mabbutt relocated to the United States in 1990 where he now lives with his wife and three daughters in Rancho Santa Fe, an upmarket suburb of San Diego. Yet despite his American accent, a West Country lilt is still evident as he recounted that unforgettable 3-1 victory when he was still only 19.


He recalled: "Going to Manchester United to play for the first time is every young player's dream and I was extremely excited; especially during the coach journey to Old Trafford.


"Even though I'd been playing in the First Division for over a year back then, playing at one of the greatest stadiums in the world, with United's fans and reputation, was a privilege and an honour."


Despite a bright opening to the 1978-79 campaign, City went into this fixture on the back of two consecutive defeats and neither Mabbutt nor his strike partner, Joe Royle, had found the net that term.


"Joe was really the main man up there and I was working off of him" he said.


"But what's interesting is that we hadn't started the season well, as far as scoring, and yet we went there and between us we ripped United apart pretty much.


"In fact, the team played fantastically that day and Trevor (Tainton),Gowey (Gerry Gow) and Jimmy (Mann) in particular kept winning the ball in midfield and controlled the game."


But what about those goals? "What I remember was the confident way I took them all," he said.


"For the first one, Joe knocked it on and I'd beaten my defender, Martin Buchan, to the ball with an early run, and their keeper was in front of me and instead of taking it on another step or two into the box, I just hammered it into the roof of the net."


Mabbutt remembers each of his goals that way; the rush of adrenaline after anticipating the flight of Royle's passes, followed by split-second timing to out sprint his marker, crowned by a confident finish


Following the opener on 11 minutes, Royle continued to give his marker Gordon McQueen a torrid time, out-jumping the big Scottish international to set up Mabbutt's second.


United fought back, but City keeper John Shaw saved brilliantly from a Jimmy Greenhoff penalty.


And despite the United striker chesting home shortly after, the Robins added a third two minutes from time.


Royle challenged United keeper Paddy Roche following a swift City counter attack and cushioned the ball for Mabbutt to complete his hat-trick and join an elite band which now numbers four: Kevin, Dennis Bailey, Martin Peters and Ronaldo.


After such a momentous victory, surely a celebration was called for? "There weren't any special celebrations," reflects Mabbutt, "but I remember sitting in the changing rooms afterwards and feeling very humble and trying to get my head round it."


Mabbutt recalls one of the most memorable moments as being when the match ball was passed around the United team, some of whom refused to sign it.


"I remember having the ball and being on the bus on the way back, and you know it kind of being a prize possession. I think my father still has it."

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3 minutes ago, Moments of Pleasure said:

Dennis Bailey scoring a hat-trick for Rovers in the league at Old Trafford, after we did it first of course, but a lot of people forget Rovers went there and won too. 

Sorry to be pedantic, but Bailey scored them for QPR.

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To the best of my knowledge, these two hat tricks by Mabbutt and Bailey are the last away team hat tricks in league matches, Div One and Prem, at Old Trafford.

PS, what about 1-6 thumping this season. Did anyone get the match ball then?

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2 hours ago, BRIAN WILSON said:

I was there AND extremely frightening coming out of the away end after 😒

If I remember, there werent many of us left in there at the end. They opened the gates with about 20 minutes to go and most City left, and United poured in. I was little more than a kid so think I got off lightly, plus our scarves in those days were red, white and black, same as theirs.

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My Dad and I won tickets for the Man U game in a raffle on the way back from the inaugual CATS Trip to QPR (if my memory serves me right) bastard Busby scored in the last minute - So off to Manchester with Free Travel and Match Ticket ONLY to miss the coach, however a very quick trip up the motorway to flag down/catch the Coach at Michaelwood Services 🤣

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38 minutes ago, DingleRed said:

Me too! Ended up in the Stretford End. Got out to tell the tale, though. Was at school with KM so always followed his career with interest.

I attended the 'Spirit of 76' commemoration dinner in 2011, which featured the majority of the promotion squad. 

Donnie Gillies told me that as he was about to strike a late winner for City at Old Trafford, in February 1975, in front of a baying mob of Stretford Enders, "I was sh****ng myself."


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5 hours ago, Murraysrightplum said:

I think everyone is forgetting that Barry Hayles scores 2 and got an assist in an fantastic away victory at Spurs*, which completely eclipses Mabbut.







* for Fulham

Was that before, or after, the even more fantastic 9-0* scoreline away at Spurs?




* to Spurs.


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Here's the Manchester United team from that day: http://www.mufcinfo.com/manupag/match_data/match_sql.php?my_match_date=1978-10-21


and the match programme cover


City's heroes were....

John Shaw

Gerry Sweeney

Donnie Gillies

Gerry Gow

David Rodgers

Norman Hunter

Trevor Tainton

Tom Ritchie

Joe Royle

Jimmy Mann

Kevin Mabbutt



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1 hour ago, Port Said Red said:

I met him several times through a family member and never found him so.

Me too PSR. I was lucky enough to interview Kevin in 2008 and spoke with him a few times over the next 3 years. This included arranging an interview with Geoff Twentyman on RB in 2010, prior to our first visit to Elland Road since Kevin scored a brace there in October 1979. He was a lovely guy and I can't speak too highly of him.

Edited by Curr Avon
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Stuth, time flies when your having fun.. 

If I could watch three games from our history it would be Portsmouth to win promotion, Coventry away, and Bolton at Wembley... 

On the plus side I've seen us win at Anfield and Old Trafford.. 

Win some, lose some.. 

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