When the Champions League home game for Manchester City was played in Budapest on 16th March 2021 due to the Covid situation some asked ‘have City ever played a home match away before?’ Well, yes City have and the first time this happened in European competition was on this day (July 31) in 2008. Co-incidentally City take on Barnsley tonight (6pm, July 31 2021) at the Academy Stadium. I wonder how many there will even know about this oddity of City history in 2008. Here’s the story of the 2008 game…
The close season of 2008 saw several behind the scenes changes at Manchester City. One of these was the arrival of Garry Cook, who would eventually take on the title of CEO, and another was the appointment of former Manchester United star Mark Hughes as manager. Both seemed pleased with their welcome from fans but behind the scenes the two men were surprised at how the club acted at times. The first surprise of the season was that City’s initial home UEFA Cup tie of the season had to be played away from Manchester. The stadium, as was often the case during the close season, had staged a concert. The Bon Jovi concert prevented the ground from recovering in time for the Streymur return and so the decision was taken to move the game to Barnsley. Some supporters felt the game could have been staged in Greater Manchester or at least in Lancashire, and so the trip to Barnsley was not viewed particularly positively by fans.
This game made history as it was the first occasion the Blues had played a home European tie outside of Manchester. Previously City had played home European games at Maine Road and at the City Of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad), but work following a concert by Bon Jovi prevented the club from staging the game at home. The decision was taken to stage the match at Barnsley.
Subscribers can read about the first leg here:
Subscribers can read about the first leg here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/09/manchester-city-in-europe-2008-09-v-eb-streymur-at-home-in-barnsley/
Incidentally, that first leg (played on July 17) meant that City had played a competitive game in every month of the year (not the same year obviously but the Blues had played in the usual football season August to May plus June 1947 and now July 2008). Covid also resulted in games during June and July in 2020 and 2021.
City comfortably won the second leg 2-0 with goals from Petrov three minutes into the second half and Vassell in the dying seconds, however there was some criticism in the media. Graham Chase, writing for The Times, claimed: “Another European win in July, but as with the first-leg victory over this amateur team from the Faroe Isles two weeks ago, Manchester City again looked very much a side working their way through pre-season as they overcame EB/Streymur at Oakwell last night through goals from Martin Petrov and Darius Vassell.
“This tie has only ever been an inconvenience to Mark Hughes and, while his team again failed to shine, the new manager is pleased to be in today’s draw for the UEFA Cup second qualifying round with no new injuries to concern him.
“Not that opportunities were in short supply. City had 36 efforts on goal, but their finishing was poor and René Torgard, the EB goalkeeper and a garage mechanic, was in impressive form, making fine saves, particularly from Vassell and Daniel Sturridge. Even when Torgard was beaten, the woodwork denied Vedran Corluka and Petrov.”
For some fans the game raised the concern that football seemed to play second fiddle to other activities. It was understandable that financial considerations had played their part, but supporter Sean Riley was not impressed: “This is why there is no other club like us. What club can have a high profile owner and a new manager in Mark Hughes, and then his first game in charge at City is played at Barnsley because four rockers have messed the pitch up! That can only ever happen at City as Noel Gallagher would say. It was a total lack of professionalism and planning. It suggested that other activities were more important than football at a club that liked to think of itself as a major club.
“I know these things take organising, but we knew we’d be in the UEFA Cup in May and we’d hoped we’d be in it much earlier than that, so we should have thought about this. Mark Hughes and Garry Cook must have thought, ‘what the bloody Hell have we come into here?’ I know the ground had to have UEFA accreditation or something so that would have limited options, but to be in that situation was poor.”
Looking back on 2008, it seems an alien world to today.
31st July 2008
Qualifying Round 1 Leg 2 (at Barnsley)
City 2-0 EB Streymur
City Goalscorers: Petrov & Vassell
City: Hart, Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Ball, Fernandes (Hamann), Johnson, Elano, Petrov (Etuhu), Vassell, Sturridge (Evans)