The importance of a captain is often debated. For some, it is nothing more than symbolism, a reward for an illustrious career or recognition of a player's experience. In England, however, the captaincy means much more. A captain is a player who leads by example—an ambassador for the club on and off the field.
Former England manager Fabio Capello once said:
In Spain or Italy, the captain is the oldest player or the one with the most caps. Here [in England] it is different. You look at the captain in a different way.
Manchester City have a fine tradition of captains, and here we look at the six best in the club's history. The success enjoyed during their time as captain was one criteria for being included, as was their ability to lead with distinction both on and off the pitch.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
Paul Power signed for City in 1975, playing 365 games for the club during his 11-year stay. He was given the captaincy at the start of the 1979 season.
He will forever be remembered for his role in City's run to the 1981 FA Cup final. City lost to Spurs in a memorable final replay after Power had scored the winner in the semi-final against Bobby Robson's Ipswich, a side looking to secure a historic treble. He also led the club to a League Cup semi-final that season.
He appeared at Wembley three times as a City player and also captained them to promotion from the second tier in 1984/85 under the stewardship of Billy McNeill.
He eventually left in 1986 and joined Everton where he won the title. He scored against City in an Everton shirt and refused to celebrate. In an interview with Stuart Brennan in the Manchester Evening News, Power spoke of his pain at seeing the ball hit the back of the net.
I kicked the ball and remember thinking ‘save it, save it’, but he didn’t and I scored! I felt awful. I couldn’t celebrate. I knew City were struggling and I couldn’t bear inflicting any pain. Awful.
Known for the professionalism and distinction with which he captained the club, he eventually returned as an academy coach but left after a shakeup this summer.
No list of great City captains would be complete without Richard Dunne, winner of the club's Player of the Year award a record four times.
He joined City in 2000 in a £3 million move from Everton. Almost immediately he was embraced by the City fans who saw his potential. He was strong, deceptively quick and excellent with the ball at his feet, with a range of passing that has gone largely unnoticed throughout his career.
He encountered some difficult periods during his time in a Blue shirt. In 2003, manager Kevin Keegan suspended Dunne for disciplinary reasons, and many felt his time at the club was coming to an end. However, that suspension proved to be the turning point for Dunne who came back far more professional.
Dunne was given the captaincy in the summer of 2006, and he remained in possession of the armband until his departure.
He played in some poor City sides but always performed with distinction, making a club-record 253 Premier League appearances during his nine-year spell. Very few players have been as popular as Richard Dunne is with the City supporters.
The signing of Andy Morrison for a modest fee of £80,000 proved the catalyst for City’s rise through the divisions, which ultimately led to their current position as one of the strongest sides in English football. City were completely bereft of leadership before his arrival. Not since the days of Keith Curle had City fielded a player with anywhere near the same qualities as Morrison.
It’s difficult to think of a better signing in the club’s recent history. He initially signed on loan from Huddersfield Town in 1998, but his impact was so big that a permanent deal was soon struck. He arrived with City mid-table in Division 2. A few months later, City were back in Division 1, where Morrison inspired a great start. An injury brought his season to an early close, but he had already ensured City were on track to win promotion. From treading water in Division 2 when he arrived, to heading into the Premier League not long later, City have so much to thank Morrison for.
Many people point to Paul Dickov’s goal at Wembley as the pivotal moment that altered City’s fortunes. Others say the Shaun Goater-Mark Kennedy combination that cleaned up in Division 1 was key. But the signing of Andy Morrison was the true turning point for City. They had become a laughing stock, stuck in a rut of bad results—completely directionless until his arrival.
He made just 48 appearances in total but left a lasting legacy. It’s not far-fetched to say that without his impact, City would not be where they are today. Indeed, Joe Royle said Morrison “dragged City kicking and screaming” to promotion in ’99. He was the definition of an inspirational captain, and he now fulfills the role of official Fan Ambassador at City, proving his enduring popularity with the club’s fans.
Roy Paul made a remarkable 299 appearances for City during a distinguished seven-year stay at Maine Road.
In 1955, Paul captained City to an FA Cup final defeat to Newcastle and a seventh-place finish in the league. However, his finest hour came the following season when City won the FA Cup, beating Birmingham 3-1 in the final at Wembley. According to Alan Rowlands, writer of Trautmann: The Autobiography, Paul engaged in some effective motivational tactics just prior to the game.
Paul led his team into the tunnel and they lined up with the Birmingham players. He put the fear of God into everyone, including the terrified opponents, by suddenly stopping, holding up his fist and shouting 'If we don't fucking win, you'll get some of this.'
Known as a physically strong player with incredible leadership qualities, Paul was described by his teammate Ken Barnes as a "born leader" in his book This Simple Game.
Vincent Kompany, City's Player of the Year in 2011, was signed by Mark Hughes for £6 million in 2008. Undoubtedly City's best defender of the last 20 years, Kompany captained the side to their first league title in 44 years in 2012. His career at the Etihad has so far been immaculate.
Originally deployed as a central midfield player, Roberto Mancini's arrival saw him moved to centre-half where the Belgian has excelled. He's now widely regarded as the best central defender in English football. His performances during City's FA Cup and Premier League winning campaigns were outstanding. His importance to City is underlined by the team's instability in his absence.
Kompany is a perfect modern-day captain. Not only does he lead with distinction on the pitch, but he also represents City brilliantly off it, becoming known as an articulate and intelligent media operator.
Photo credit: www.icons.com
There could only ever be one winner of City's all-time greatest captain. Tony Book won four major trophies in his role as City skipper: A League title (1967/68), FA Cup (1969), Cup Winners Cup (1970) and League Cup (1970). He is the most successful City captain in history.
His story is also a colourful one. Book had played for non-league Bath until he was 28, but Malcolm Allison, who had just taken the reigns at Toronto City, made Book his first signing where he was considered the best defender in Canada.
Allison eventually moved to Plymouth where he again signed Book, allowing the full-back to make his Football League debut aged 30. Plymouth believed Book was 28 after Allison had convinced him to alter his birth certificate for fear of a deal not being sanctioned for someone of his age.
Allison then signed him for a third time when he took charge at City in 1966, just days before Book's 32nd birthday. He was named captain a year later and led City to the title, playing in every game along the way. He went on to win three more major trophies before becoming manager in 1974.
A hero, a legend and undoubtedly City's greatest ever captain.