Joshua Parlby will go down in history as the first manager in Manchester City’s history, as Parlby was in charge when the club changed its name in 1894 to Manchester City after being previously known as Ardwick AFC. Despite a relatively short run as the manager of the club, Parlby’s name remains iconic in the history of this great football club.
Details of his life before he moved to Manchester are unclear, though some sources indicate he played for Stoke in the pre-professional era. Manchester City historian, Dr Gary James claims that Parlby was a player for Stoke City.
Parlby first came to Manchester to take over a public house and immediately, like Lawrence Furniss before him, he looked to get involved with the local community. Whereas Furniss had taken an interest in the church and the interests that kept the congregation interested, Parlby was more interested in the social activities of East Mancunians. His role within the brewing community of Manchester led to his involvement with Ardwick AFC in 1887. (Ref: www.mcfc-bluemoon.co.uk )
He felt Ardwick AFC was very much a parochial name and not one that could appeal on the national stage. He had also seen how near-neighbours Newton Heath (later Manchester United) had fared in Division One. The Heathens were to be relegated at the end of the 1893-94 season but more importantly they had failed to attract sufficient support. Parlby felt that a Manchester-named side could achieve much more.
Parlby advocated employing a full-time secretary-manager and in 1893 became the club’s first paid secretary. He was keen to combat the club’s financial troubles and successfully achieved his goal to rename the club Manchester City.
At the end of Parlby’s first season as manager Ardwick finished thirteenth in the Second Division and were required to seek re-election to the league. Believing the club needed to establish an identity capable of appealing to all Mancunians, Parlby was an influential figure in the reformation of Ardwick as Manchester City in 1894, and also in the success in achieving re-election to the league.
Parlby managed the club for one more season in which they finished ninth.
He returned to the pub trade in 1895 but retained a role on the club committee for several years.
There’s no denying that without Joshua Parlby, Manchester City as we know it today would not exist.