THE 1950's began badly. Relegation was avoided twice in the first three seasons after long struggles and it was not entirely unexpected when the axe fell in 1953.
City finished 21st, a point adrift of Manchester City, and were relegated along with Derby. Successive attempts to find a goalscorer as prolific as Freddie Steele, who had left in 1949 to become player/manager of Mansfield, failed and in the year of relegation the goal tally of 53 was the lowest in Division One. But that was not the main crisis. Neil Franklin had made repeated transfer requests at the turn of the decade - he felt the local air was not conducive to healthy living as the pottery kilns continually belched out their smoke and fumes and wanted to move his family away to a cleaner climate. What no-one envisaged was that would mean not just another Club, but another country...and even another continent.
In the summer of 1950 Franklin and winger George Mountford, along with a number of other English professionals, left the country bound for Columbia to play for Independiente Santa Fe of Bogotá They could never have anticipated the storm that would follow. Columbia was outside FIFA jurisdiction and their FA was considered a rebel authority. The situation was further aggravated when Franklin, who had just won his 37th consecutive England cap, declined to join the squad for the 1950 World Cup finals in neighbouring Brazil. Political and social unrest in Colombia made it hard for the English players to settle, and Franklin suffered the consequences more than most. Within two months he was back in England but never played for City again, his international career was in tatters, and he signed for Hull in 1951. Mountford completed the season with Santa Fe and returned to play after serving a suspension.
Fading fortunes on the field led to the resignation of Bob McGrory in February 1952 after 31 years as player and then manager. He was replaced by the former Wolves full-back Frank Taylor, a fitness fanatic who gradually built his own side as the last vestiges of the famous Class of '47 faded away. It was a difficult time and consolidation in Division Two became the byword. Only one major push for promotion was mounted, missing out by two points in 1955, and the long-awaited FA Cup success was as elusive as ever.
There were notable landmarks - the FA Cup Third Round tie with Bury in that same year turned into a marathon, City finally winning a 4th replay at Old Trafford after 9 hours and 22 minutes. Lincoln were thrashed 8-0 at the Victoria Ground in February 1957 and winger Neville Coleman scored seven, still an individual record in one game. Floodlights appeared at the Victoria Ground and Radnicki (Yugoslavia) and Essen (West Germany) were beaten 3-0 and 5-0 in floodlit friendlies before intrigued supporters. Crowds generally, though, continued a downward trend and by 1960 the average home gate was below five figures for the first time since the Club had re-entered the League in 1919.