My great grandfather, Peter Percival was born in Stockport in 1911. He was a quiet and unassuming man, who played professional football for Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Chester City.
In 1934 he was playing for Manchester City, who embarked on a three week post season tour taking in both France and Italy just two weeks after winning the FA Cup. My great-grandfather was earmarked to play in the FA Cup final, however, an unexpected early return from injury by Ernie Toseland kept him out of the side and in the days before substitutes, his chance was gone.
Nonetheless, he was a member of the squad for the post-season tour as the team embarked for France, first meeting Racing Club de Paris, then on to Florence, via Nice, for the friendly match. The team then headed back to Nice for the Coppa di Nizza; a tournament comprising of AC Milan, Admira Wein, and of course, Manchester City. The final match of the tour was against Olympique de Marseilles.
The game in Florence was played at the newly built Stadio Giovanni Berta, the Stadio Artemio Franchi as we now know it. La Viola in their first decade were not only playing an English team for the first time, but playing the winners of the FA Cup. Watching the game from the sidelines was the Italian World Cup squad, who would go on to win the World Cup that year on home soil. A thrilling game ensued. According to the report, both teams had very different playing styles, and it ended 3-3.
In my great-grandfather's own picture of the game he is standing next to goalkeeper Frank Swift who later died in the 1958 Munich Air Disaster whilst reporting on Manchester United for the News of the World. Sir Matt Busby was also on the post-season tour and played in every game except versus Fiorentina. He went on to become the legendary Manchester United manager who survived the Munich tragedy.
It wasn't until my father saw an article run by Museo Fiorentino that he realised that his grandfather had scored in the game. Vinicio Viani scored twice for La Viola. The article itself can be found here: Il Marzocco fiorentino e l'orgoglio azzurro azzannano i Leoni ingress (Media Ufficiale di Museo Fiorentina).
It was a proud moment for my father when he first arrived at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in March 2013 with a small group of friends. They were allowed into the ground to take some photographs and were given such a warm welcome by the Florentine people, who were very interested in their story. They made some firm friends on that trip, a "Stockport Viola" flag was ordered to be made by hand and more trips followed, including the final of the Coppa Italia Final in Rome.
21 'Stockport Viola' fans made the trip to Florence for the game versus Inter Milan in October, including my Nanna who had never been to the stadium where her father had played. She brought with her a letter that Peter had sent home, written on stationery from the Grand Hotel O'Connor Giraudy in Nice, but sent in an envelope stamped with the crest of the Grand Hotel in Florence. We took the opportunity to locate where the team had stayed during their trip. After some searching, we found the luxury hotel, now named St Regis in Piazza Ognissanti.
Many more trips to Florence are to follow and a little corner of Stockport is now forever Viola, both figuratively and literally as there is now a brick inscribed with Stockport Viola in the wall of Edgeley Park, home of Stockport County.
FIORENTINA: Baggiani, Gazzari, Magli, Morselli, Bigogno, Neri (Turchi 46'), Prendato, Nehadoma, Viani, Scagliotti, Biagini.
MANCHESTER CITY: Swift, Dale, Barkas, Cann, Cowan, Bray, Toseland, Percival, Marshall, Heale, Wright.
Scorers: 11' Viani, 36' Viani, 41' Percival, 60' Heale, 76' Scagliotti, 82' Barkas.