After Peter Reid’s resignation just thirteen days into the new 1993-1994 season, fans were pleading with the board to appoint someone of stature to stop the rot. Joe Royle, Dave Bassett and Terry Venables were all tipped for the top job at Maine Road. The fans were hoping Venables would be approached however it was Oxford manager Brian Horton who was given the job on a full-time basis. He served as manager in seasons 1993-94 and 1994-95.
“Brian Who” signs were handed out at the Kippax following the appointment of Horton and fans felt disappointed once again by the club’s owner. Protests and demonstrations gathered momentum ordering the resignation of Swales and Horton’s appointment was seen as the final straw. Not the greatest of starts for the new manager.
Horton tried to ignore the off-field issues and was determined to become a success at Maine Road. His first game in charge resulted in a 1-3 away victory to newly promoted Swindon Town. Just one defeat in eight games brought much-needed confidence on the field of play.
Sadly a subsequent run of one victory in thirteen games saw the team drop to just above the relegation zone. Eight-year club veteran David White was sold to Leeds United in exchange for David Rocastle – who failed to live up to his glory days at Arsenal scoring just two league goals. He would be sold to Chelsea at the end of the season for a loss of nearly £1 million.
The attack-minded approach of Horton led him to recruit the relatively unknown German forward Uwe Rosler along with Paul Walsh and Peter Beagrie from Portsmouth and Everton respectively. These signings helped City to survival and the club suffered only two further league defeats in their remaining fourteen games. Many had expected the club to be relegated but City’s end of season form had saved their blushes.
Now under new ownership, Nicky Summerbee (son of Mike) was signed from Swindon as Horton aimed to bring a brand of attacking football to the club. Mike Sheron was sold to Norwich for £1 million.
The season started with inconsistent performances but the entertainment value at Maine Road was second to none. 6th place was soon achieved and the new signings were starting to become fan favourites.
Unfortunately this early good form was once again a false dawn. A run of just four wins from twenty-five games saw City tumble down the table to finish the season in 17th place after initial naive talk of European football.
In the he final six months of the season there were many rumours that Horton’s dismissal would come at the end of the season but he remained keen to stay on. The most embarrassing result of the season came when United hammered City 5-0 at Old Trafford.
His sacking was predicted by many since Francis Lee had taken over as chairman after Horton’s appointment and wished to have his ‘own man’ in the dugout. Despite being given reasonable financial support and having a host of young players at his disposal, Horton couldn’t establish consistency at the club.
He was replaced by Alan Ball just two days after the end of the 1994-1995 season.