Calling all football fans. A new exhibition by photographer Sefton Samuels is due to open at Manchester’s National Football Museum on September 24, 2021. When Football Was Football features a combination of portrait shots of legendary players and managers including George Best, Joe Mercer, Matt Busby, Brian Clough, Denis Law and Bill Shankly alongside stills of football grounds, fans and ball games on Manchester streets.

A lifelong Manchester City fan, Samuels is 90-years-old and still living in Manchester. He was L.S. Lowry’s favourite photographer and was once described by The Guardian as “the photographic equivalent of Ken Loach”. The exhibition of 30 images highlights a bygone era, a long-ball world of Bovril, packed terraces and northern rain, as well as supporters watching fantastic footballers with equally fabulous haircuts.

Photographs in the exhibition include George Best outside his menswear boutique in 1968, Sir Matt Busby overseeing club business sat at his desk in 1969, Bill Shankly in 1978 (just three years before his death), and action shots from Maine Road and Old Trafford in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sefton was born in Manchester in 1931. He left Manchester Grammar School at 16, trained in textiles and went to work in mills around Yorkshire. But a camera was never far from his hand. In 1960, he was named Manchester Evening News’ amateur photographer of the year and headed back to his native city. Today, 70 of his pictures are in the National Portrait Gallery, 10 photos in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s National Collection of the Art of Photography, and more than 100 in total in national collections.

Main image: The Stretford End Lads by Sefton Samuels 

When Football Was Football: The Photography of Sefton Samuels 1960s-1980s will open in the museum’s Pitch Gallery next to a car once driven by George Best who also features in several photographs. The exhibition opens on September 24 and will run until December 31, 2021.

Museum tickets are on sale now at The museum is free to City of Manchester residents.