Born: Blackburn, 1st September 1959
Height: 5ft. 10ins., Weight: 11st. 2lbs.
Role: Central defender
Career: Sacred Heart R.C. Primary School (Church, Blackburn)/ St. Mary’s College (Blackburn)/ Accrington Boys/ Blackburn & Darwen Boys/ Lancashire Boys/ UNITED: Ass. Schoolboy May 1975 App. July 1976 Pro. October 1976/ Blackburn Rovers August 1990 to March 1992/ Bradford City (L) January to March 1992/ Bradford City March 1992 to May 1994/ Golden Electronics (Hong Kong) August 1994 to May 1996
A superb servant to the Reds, Mike Duxbury displayed a high level of performance over a prolonged period for the first-team in the 1980’s, a decade in which the terms ‘consistency’ and ‘Manchester United’ didn’t always go hand in hand. Starting in the days of Tommy Docherty, he remained with the club through the reigns of Dave Sexton and Ron Atkinson and into that of Alex Ferguson. His very last game for United took place just fifteen days before the latter steered his side to victory in the 1990 F.A. Cup final, the Scot’s first major trophy at Old Trafford. Duxbury’s aggregate figures in competitive fixtures for the United senior side totalled 345 starts, 33 substitute appearances and seven goals.
Seven years previously, in November 1983 and at the age of 24, the first of his ten full England caps was awarded for a 4-0 home win over Luxembourg, with the last coming just eleven months later as Finland were defeated 5-0 at Wembley. The highlight of his international career took place in the Maracana Stadium in Brazil when England ran out 2-0 winners over their hosts, but his time at that standard was cut short due to the side going through a transitional stage as well as him suffering a bad patch in which some of his former self-assurance disappeared.
He came into the world in Blackburn’s Queen’s Park Hospital and was raised at nearby Accrington. His father was a keen football fan and often took him to Turf Moor, Burnley then being resident in the old First Division. Beginning as a striker for his primary school side, that same role was also fulfilled for a time at St. Mary’s whereupon he was selected to represent the Accrington Boys (under-11) team. Along with his interest in football, the sports-mad youngster also represented Blackburn at hurdling and in the long-jump, and after becoming the Blackburn District cross-country champion he even ran for Lancashire.
Winning local cup honours at football with St. Mary’s when moving back into a central midfield position, the rise from town to county level followed, at which point he came under the scrutiny of Gordon Clayton and Norman Scholes. Even though he trialled at Everton, Liverpool, Blackburn and Leeds, and despite receiving an offer from Arsenal, Duxbury instead elected to make his bed at Old Trafford and he first appeared for the ‘B’ team in August 1975, right at the outset of his solitary schoolboy season.
With a mere five ‘A’ and two ‘B’ games of the 1976/77 term gone he found himself on Central League duty when utilised as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat at Bury and signed professional terms at a salary of £16 per week just a week later. The following month he was in the Youth Cup team that crashed out at Bolton and he remained in the junior sides until the end of March when recalled to the Reserves. Seeing service with them for the last thirteen games of the campaign, there was no question that for a seventeen year-old he had made an excellent impression.
Having already shown that the rigours of second string standard could be handled he was involved in all bar four games of United’s 1977/78 Central League campaign. On the knock-out scene he was selected for the three games in the national youth competition and also took part in the Lancashire Youth Cup final that was lost to Bolton.
Usually found at centre-half, his soccer education continued in the confines of Central League for the next two years and he ended with the most appearances for the Reserves in season 1978/79. During the same period he also attended England Youth trials at Lilleshall but was overlooked for selection.
It was Dave Sexton who converted him into a full-back and from then on his promise positively blossomed into full flower. In April 1978, Sexton called him into the first-team squad for David Sadler’s testimonial game at Preston where he was sent on to replace Gordon McQueen. When the fixture list had completed he was included in the seniors’ party that undertook a tour to Norway and again took to the field as a substitute, this time against Brann Bergen.
His competitive first-team breakthrough finally came in August 1980 when he was called off the bench during a 0-0 draw at Birmingham City and he only had to wait another month for his starting debut in a Manchester derby. Featuring for the seniors throughout the 1980/81 campaign, as the season unfolded he also became the recipient of four England under-21 caps. By now at a physical and mental level of maturity, it was in the 1982/83 term that his career really hit the heights as by then he had made the right full-back position his own.
Over the September and October of 1982 he was included in England’s under-21 squad for the European Championships, but was unavailable for the quarter-final and semi-final ties. He had previously represented his country in three qualifying games and was recalled for the final against West Germany as England built up a 3-1 lead in the first leg at Bramall Lane. Scoring one of the goals in a 3-2 return defeat at Bremen, the aggregate meant that England were crowned as European under-21 champions.
Duxbury saw service in every one of United’s senior matches that season, including the F.A. Cup final replay in which the Reds beat Brighton 4-0. The glory didn’t stop there either, as it was followed with a Charity Shield success a few months later.
Over the next seven seasons there was no dislodging him from the first-team. Seemingly possessing the football equivalent of a Masters degree in adaptability, and even though he was challenged for his position at various times by signings such as John Gidman, Colin Gibson, John Sivebaek and Viv Anderson, as well as newcomers like Billy Garton and Clayton Blackmore, his displays as a no-frills midfielder, full-back or centre-back enabled him to retain his place.
A second F.A. Cup medal was collected in 1985 and four years later, at the outset of the 1989/90 term, his loyalty was rewarded when he was awarded a testimonial game against Manchester City. At all levels he had accumulated more than 600 competitive appearances for United, the last of which came for the senior side in their 4-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on the 2nd May 1990, and the following month he was given a free transfer.
A number of offers were received upon his release, notably from Wolves and Barnsley, only for their advances to be declined in favour of joining Blackburn Rovers. Sadly, his eighteen months at Ewood Park was blighted by hip and ankle injuries and within that period he managed only 27 Second Division games. An initial loan period with Third Division Bradford City in 1992 led to a full contract offer, and he added another 65 league matches to his considerable total while at Valley Parade.
Then choosing to sign for Golden Electronics of Hong Kong, he and his family spent two years in Asia and while there the club won their national cup competition. Now aged 36, his final game on the 26th May 1996 was in the Hong Kong Golden Select X1’s 1-0 defeat by England, which was viewed by 26,000 spectators at the Happy Valley Stadium.
Upon returning to Britain, he trained with Accrington Stanley for a short while and then decided to bid adieu to playing duties. He was later coaching at Blackburn Rovers’ Academy when asked if he would be interested in doing some similar work at Bolton School and, remaining there to this day, his responsibilities encompass teaching cricket, swimming and athletics, as well as football.
Living in the Blackburn area still, Mike Duxbury took up a role in Manchester United’s Soccer Schools in July 2004 and from then until 2007 he coached in Hong Kong and Dubai for part of each year.