On this day (April 6) in 2002 Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City won the Football League Championship by defeating Barnsley at Maine Road. Here, for subscribers to this site, is the story of that weekend, including quotes from Keegan, Ali Benarbia and even Alan Ball! Enjoy reliving that day again…
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The first Manchester derby at Manchester City’s new stadium occurred on this date (14th March) in 2004. To mark this anniversary I’ve interviewed former City winger Trevor Sinclair. Trevor scored in that game, which the Blues won 4-1. Here he talks about being a City fan; signing for City; scoring the first competitive goal at the City Of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad); and the 4-1 derby. He also talks about the 3-1 victory over Manchester United in 2006 (again he scored); present day City and other memories.
Here’s the audio from our chat (it lasts about 26 minutes so get yourself a brew and settle down to listen):
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From Wednesday, for subscribers I’ll be posting the entire hour long plus interview I did with Malcolm Allison about his first period at Manchester City. Here’s a brief clip from the interview (he’s talking about his relationship with Joe Mercer):
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Manchester City suffered a 1-0 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers on 7th March 2005 and this game ultimately led to a significant change to the then 12th placed Blues. Years later, in an interview I did with him the City chairman John Wardle told me that Kevin Keegan, the City manager, took him to one side: “There were nine games left and Kevin said ‘John, I can’t do any more for you’. I didn’t believe him. I thought it was a joke at first but with Kevin you knew when he was being serious. He said ‘I know when I’m done and it’s only right that you put somebody else in’. I sat there shell-shocked. He said that if I wanted him to recommend someone he would. He then recommended Stuart Pearce.
“Stuart had already left Carrington and we had to call him back. I spoke with him, then Kevin talked with him. It was like a handover. Kevin packed his bags and left. We never saw him again at the training ground. That’s Kevin. Once he makes a decision to move on, he moves on. Obviously, it stunned me on the day but I have to stress that I cannot speak highly enough about Kevin Keegan. He’s a real football person and he also cares about people.”
Keegan was hugely popular with fans and they recognised that he had been responsible for the second stage in City’s redevelopment following the disastrous mid-nineties. They also felt that the departure of Nicolas Anelka in January was a sign that financial issues were having a severe impact on the Club. The player was sold for a reported £7m to Fenerbahce. At the time this was City’s record sale.
It is fair to say that Keegan’s time brought a great deal of pride back to the Club. Director Dennis Tueart felt that bringing Keegan in during 2002 was absolutely the right move for the Club. He told me: “I knew he wouldn’t stay for years and years because I knew him. He said to me in 1975 that he would never stay anywhere longer than about five years. People told us he wouldn’t stay but I said if he can have control for a couple of years and get us out of this division then that’s fine. That’s what we needed. Let’s manage first things first and get out of this division. If we can’t do that then what hope? So it was no surprise to me when he eventually left us.”
Former City and England captain Stuart Pearce guided the Blues through the final nine games of 2004-05, taking over on this day (11th March) in 2005. Apart from a 2-1 defeat in his first game, the Blues were unbeaten until the end of the season. This run included victories over Liverpool (1-0), Birmingham (3-0), Portsmouth (2-0) and Villa (2-1). As a result Stuart Pearce was named the Barclays Premiership Manager of the Month for April. The Club announced he was the first City manager to win the award since the birth of the Premier League. That was not true – Alan Ball had, of course, previously won the award in 1995-96.
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The 18th February 1984 saw Manchester City attract a crowd of 41,767 in the Second Division for the visit of Newcastle United. The attendance was the biggest of the day (see image above to compare with Arsenal for example). It was also City’s and the division’s second biggest crowd of the season (the division’s highest was 41,862 for City v Sheffield Wednesday). It’s worth stating that the highest average League crowd of the season was 42,534 (Manchester United) and the next best was Liverpool with 31,974.
City’s average was the sixth highest in the entire League at 25,604 while fellow Second Division side Newcastle were the third best supported team that season with 29,811.
The Blues had been relegated the previous May (it was a shock relegation!) but with three automatic promotion places available City felt certain they could achieve an immediate return. Unfortunately, they did not account for the role Kevin Keegan would play in Newcastle’s fortunes. Newcastle had been struggling to make an impact since relegation in 1978, but then Keegan returned as a player and the whole place seemed revitalised (part of the reason Newcastle’s crowds were their best for six seasons), indeed he had helped the Geordies achieve a 5-0 thrashing of City in October.
City boss Billy McNeill later admitted: “There are few players that I have greater respect for than Keegan and this time, I’m referring only to his ability on the pitch, he was the heart and soul of Newcastle. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but every time I read that Kevin had an injury I hoped it would keep him out of the Newcastle side for a game or two. Usually it didn’t and I was glad in the end because I have such a high regard for him. He was certainly the difference between City and Newcastle. They had Keegan’s inspirational qualities and we didn’t.”
By 11th February City and Newcastle were level on points with the Blues in third place, and Newcastle fourth with a game in hand. Above them lay Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday. The four sides were termed the ‘Big Four’ by the media who regularly chose to feature games from the Second above those in the First. As always Liverpool seemed destined to win the Championship and so much attention turned to the glamour clubs of the Second, especially Newcastle with the charismatic Keegan.
On 18th February came the vital Maine Road clash between the ‘Jocks’ and the Geordies. A win would put City six points ahead of Newcastle, yet defeat would put the two sides level with Keegan’s men also having a game in hand. The crowd saw Steve Kinsey score but fine goals from Beardsley and Keegan gave Newcastle a 2-1 victory. It also gave the Geordies the advantage.
Here’s film of the game (poor quality but well worth watching for Steve Kinsey’s lobbed City goal):
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On this day (4th February) 2004 Manchester City managed a remarkable comeback in the FA Cup away at Tottenham Hotspur. The story of that game (and film of it) is available here:
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If you would like to read this and the blog’s other in-depth, longer articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book) then please subscribe below. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 200+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.
On 27th January 2002 Manchester City’s fourth round FA Cup tie at Ipswich saw Kevin Keegan’s side thrill live on TV. City impressed the nation with their spectacular 4-1 fourth round cup demolition of Premier League side Ipswich Town. It is worth remembering that City were in the second tier at the time, hoping for promotion. Many of us felt that the Blues were not only good enough to find success in the League but also stood a genuine chance of FA Cup success (mind you, some of us felt that every season – nine years later it finally happened!).
The City scorers against Ipswich were Eyal Berkovic, Shaun Goater (2) and Darren Huckerby.
After the Ipswich match Keegan said: “Our fans know we can play but I think we showed the rest of the country that we are a good team. I believe the FA Cup needed a game like our tie with Ipswich where the atmosphere was tremendous and both sides picked their strongest available sides and really set out to win.”
In the fifth round, Keegan’s Blues travelled to Newcastle for another thrilling performance against the manager’s old club. The media hype focused on Keegan, but the match ended with national recognition that the Blues were clearly a force. Although City lost the match 1-0 after Richard Dunne had been sent off, the general view was that ten-man City were more than a match for the Geordies. City impressed the nation once again.
The Newcastle tie, like the Ipswich game, came at a time when many were questioning the status of the FA Cup. City’s performance in both ties were seen as major boosts for the competition. According to Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph: “Keegan returned with his magnificent Manchester City side whose spirited, defiant football sent the heart rate soaring among Newcastle’s nervy support. Making light of Richard Dunne’s dismissal and Nolberto Solano’s goal, City scared the black-and-white life out of those who still cherish Keegan’s name. Shaun Wright-Phillips was marvellous, Eyal Berkovic and Kevin Horlock not far behind with outstanding displays as City narrowly lost a Cup-tie but won countless admirers. If they build on this, they will surely keep the Blue Moon rising and head back to the Premiership, where their noisy supporters belong.”
Here are highlights of the Ipswich tie:
Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour has bought the oldest surviving FA Cup trophy at auction. The trophy, which was the first major trophy won by Bury, City and United, will be on display at the National Football Museum. To understand more of that trophy’s significance to Manchester check out my earlier posts:
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