We Weren't Really There - Wembley 1999
As Planet Blue braces itself for a summer of squad rebuilding intrigue at the end of City's 7th consecutive Premier League season, it's time to pause for thought...
Football League Division One Play Off Final
Wembley, Sunday 30th May 1999
Gillingam 2 (0) - CITY (0) 2
(City win 3 - 1 on penalties)
Scorers: Horlock 89, Dickov 90
City: Weaver, Crooks (Gareth Taylor,85), Edghill, Wiekens, Morrison (Vaughan,61), Horlock, Brown (Bishop,61), Whitley, Dickov, Goater, Cooke
Attendance: 76, 935
...despite one relegation under Big Joe Royle following two successive promotions in the mother of all fightbacks from the footballing abyss, Manchester City, through many people's hard work and endeavour backed by superb support are now a well established top flight club.
City's heartfelt move from Maine Road to Eastlands in 2003 saw the club become an attractive proposition despite a couple of bottom half of the table finishes. So much so that Thaksin Shinawatra then his Highness Sheikh Mansour saw enough potential to make the club their own. That's of course a long and well documented story which will run and run.
But as we stand on the edge of exciting times, with the blue sky the limit, were it not for the 1998-1999 City squad's almighty efforts, we would be all but shipwrecked and the dream we are living now would have never, ever materialised.
Week in, week out, Royle's side were up against it, with interest.
'It was like all the other teams were out to ambush us,' reflected Joe. 'They played so much above themselves it was unbelievable.'
A Times match report following the play off victory underlined City's humbling season:
'It has been a tortuous season for City. In their smart club blazers, they have disembarked from luxury coaches on to weed strewn car parks. They have picked their way through puddles and pot holes to run out on to pitches surrounded by broken stands.'
The City support was astonishing and something we can be eternally proud of. We averaged 28,000 for home gates. A stark contrast to Leeds and Newcastle, who a division higher in their respective exiles struggled to get crowds over 16,000.
Morrison, Goater, Dickov, Bishop, Horlock, Wiekens and Weaver were all consistently outstanding and City's unprecedented home and away support ensured that they were backed to the hilt.
Of all the current Premier League sides with long standing top flight traditions, City's escape from a hellish third tier nightmare of total despair is something the majority of our current rivals couldn't possibly imagine what it is like to experience.
All the more reason that we should savour the situation we now find ourselves in.
We should also spare a thought for the increasing number of Football League clubs that we shared that season with who are now struggling to cope financially while certain Premier League clubs continue to operate unopposed under massive debt.
But for now, we can drink it all in with an Etihad Airways plane load of thanks for the never say die belief that saved us from probable extinction that Sunday afternoon ten long years ago.
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