Tommy CATON

Manchester City FC

Tommy Caton - Manchester City FC - Biography of his football career at Man City.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 09 May 1981

Click on image to enlarge

    • POSITION
      Central Defender
    • DATE OF BIRTH
      Saturday, 06 October 1962
    • PLACE OF BIRTH
      Liverpool, England.(Died 30th. April 1993. Aged 30)
  • CLUBS
  • Arsenal FC
    • Club Career Dates
      1983-1986
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 3rd December 1983 in a 1-0 defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion (Aged: 21)
    • Club Career
      81 League apps, 2 goals
  • Charlton Athletic
    • Club Career Dates
      1988-1991
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 19th November 1988 in a 1-1 draw at Wimbledon (Aged: 26)
    • Club Career
      56 League apps (+1 as sub), 5 goals
  • Manchester City FC
    • Club Career Dates
      1979-1983
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 18th August 1979 in a 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace (Aged: 16)
    • Club Career
      164 League apps (+1 as sub), 8 goals
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Tommy CATON - Manchester City FC - Biography of his football career at Man City.

 

 

 (Part 1) 1979/80-1980/81.

  

 

A central defender who played for Manchester City between 1979 and 1983, Tommy Caton was born on October 6th 1962 in Kirkby, Liverpool. As a much sought-after youngster he had captained England Schoolboys and had played in the City side that lost 2-0 to Millwall in the FA Youth Cup final before he signed apprentice forms in July 1979. By the time he signed as a full-time professional three months later on his seventeenth birthday he had already played in a dozen first-team games, having been given his debut by manager Malcolm Allison on the opening day of the 1979/80 First Division season, a 0-0 home draw with Crystal Palace.

 

 

Incredibly his meteoric rise to stardom had seen Allison wanting to put him in the side towards the end of the season before, as a replacement for England international Dave Watson, but was only prohibited from doing so by the school authorities. The season would turn out to be a struggle for the team, as Allison's attempt at promoting youth players to play alongside big-money buys almost proved disastrous, but despite his tender years Caton's imposing presence saw him become the mainstay of the back four.

 

Although the team sat in twelfth position in the table at Christmas they had already been knocked out of the League Cup in a 1-0 replay defeat to Sunderland. There then followed a woeful eighteen-game run without a win, which included a 1-0 FA Cup third round humiliation at lowly Halifax Town, but despite this Caton's form was such that he was named Young Player of the Month for March and was also capped at England Youth and Under-21 levels. Three wins from the last four games ultimately saved City from relegation as they finished in seventeenth place in the table, their lowest position for fifteen years, but Tommy's ever-present record meant he became the youngest player in the history of the Football League to have played in every game of his debut season.

 

 

By mid-October of the 1980/81 season City were bottom of the table after a winless opening twelve games, mentor Allison's continuous tinkering with different systems having led to him being sacked along with general manager Tony Book after a 1-0 defeat at Leeds two games previously. The man to replace him was ex-Norwich boss John Bond, who immediately brought about a transformation by bringing some experience into the side. As is often the case the change of manager brought instant results with three straight wins, but the following game, a 1-1 draw at Leicester City, would see Caton suffer a chipped bone in his ankle, an injury that was to have serious repercussions for him later on in his life.

 

A spell of two months on the sidelines followed, and by the time of his return in a 2-0 home win over Everton on Boxing Day even further progress had been made, City having reached the League Cup semi-final with wins over Stoke (1-1 & 3-0), Luton Town (2-1), Notts County (5-1) and West Brom (2-1). With the loss of only three league games in four months the club's First Division status had been consolidated, eventually finishing twelfth, and Caton saw himself being tipped for major international honours and a glittering career.

 

Although the League Cup run was brought to a halt with a 2-1 aggregate defeat by Liverpool the Blues had gone on a great run in the FA Cup, with victories over Crystal Palace(4-0), Norwich(6-0), Peterborough (1-0), Everton (2-2 & 3-1) and Ipswich (1-0) on the way to the Centenary FA Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur. By the time of the May clash eighteen-year old Caton was already a 'veteran' of 88 league and cup games, the match ending in a 1-1 draw (see photo above, Tommy and various team mates taking a 'lap of honour' after the game and, right, challenging Garth Crooks for a high ball). Tommy Hutchison's opener for City was cancelled out by Hutchison himself when he deflected Glenn Hoddle's free-kick into his own goal. In the replay, the first ever to be held at Wembley, Tottenham ran out 3-2 winners (with Ricky Villa scoring a brilliant solo goal) in a game which saw Caton booked to earn the distinction of being the first player in history to have had his name taken twice in one FA Cup final, having also been cautioned in the first game. (David Redshaw)

 

 

Tommy Caton is pictured playing football for Manchester City on 22nd. January 1983.

Photo George Herringshaw.  ©

 

                                                              (Part 2) 1981/82-1983/84.

The 1981/82 campaign brought with it great expectations both for the club and Tommy Caton, and with three points for a league win on offer for the first time City briefly held top spot in the table after a 2-1 home win over Wolves just after Christmas. The cup feats of the previous year, however, could not be repeated as a 3-1 FA Cup fourth round defeat at home to Coventry City was added to an earlier 1-0 loss at Barnsley in the League Cup.

 

The wheels had also come off in the league with the club slipping to seventh place by the end of February, but when Tommy played his 100th First Division game in a 0-0 home draw with Arsenal on March 6th he became the youngest player in Football League history to achieve this, at the age of 19 years and 5 months. He celebrated this a week later when he also scored his first goal for the club in a 1-1 away draw at Nottingham Forest. The season concluded with a disappointing tenth place finish, but for Caton it had been a successful one overall as his 39 appearances with 1 goal led to him being named as the club's Player of the Year.

 

The following 1982/83 season would prove to be a watershed in Tommy's career. After three wins from the opening three games things looked promising as the Blues sat at the top of the table, but as Caton seemed to get the taste for goals there was no hint of things to come. He had scored in a 3-2 home win over Coventry City in October, and by the turn of the year had followed that up with both goals in a 2-1 win over Arsenal at Maine Road and one in a 5-2 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield.

 

Although a trip to Southampton for a third round League Cup replay had ended in a 4-0 loss the team still sat in ninth place in the table by the beginning of January, but a sharp decline in league form was followed by a 4-0 FA Cup fourth round defeat at Brighton, after which manager Bond resigned to be replaced by his assistant John Benson. But the rot had already set in, and on a dramatic last day of the season City were condemned to relegation as, needing only a point to stay up, they were beaten 1-0 by Luton Town at Maine Road. Caton had made 38 appearances and scored an impressive 5 goals, but with Second Division football looming it was only a matter of time before the big clubs came knocking on his door.

 

A new manager in ex-Celtic boss Billy McNeill was brought in to replace Benson before the 1983/84 campaign, but although Tommy started the season in a sky-blue shirt he was beginning to question his future at the club, as he still had international ambitions. He was widely reported to be coveted by Arsenal, and as he became increasingly unsettled he duly handed in a transfer request. After playing in a 1-1 home draw with Derby County on November 26th 1983 he was finally granted his wish, a bid of around £500, 000 from The Gunners being accepted by the City board as he was allowed to move to Highbury. During his time at Maine Road Tommy had played a total of 197 games (plus 1 as substitute) and had scored 8 goals, winning 10 of his England Under-21 caps whilst with the Blues.

 

After playing for Arsenal for over two years he later played for Oxford United and Charlton Athletic, where a recurrence of his old ankle injury in the early nineties forced him to have several operations in a bid to save his career. Having failed to make a full recovery he eventually had to admit defeat and was forced to retire from professional football in March 1993. Tragically only a month later, on April 30th, he suffered a suspected heart attack and died aged just 30 years of age. (David Redshaw)