Most Manchester City fans will have an unwavering affection for the concept of cult heroes. The younger generation of fans (me included) won’t remember bona fide club legends Colin Bell, Franny Lee or Dennis Tueart during their playing careers. Many of their early football memories are marred by mediocre-at-best teams including Richard Edgehill, Ben Thatcher and Lee Bradbury.
Here are some of the club’s better cult heroes…
Club legend: Colin Bell is a bona fide Man City legend[/caption] Before the heady days post-2008 takeover, City’s star players were the likes of Shaun Goater, Georgi Kinkladze, and Richard Dunne. It’s not disrespectful to those players to say that they aren’t of the same calibre as Sergio Aguero, Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Vincent Kompany; it’s a fact. But who makes our top-eight list of City’s cult heroes?
A ray of sunshine during a dismal period for the Blue side of Manchester, Georgi Kinkladze dazzled at Maine Road behind Niall Quinn and Uwe Rosler. Renowned for his jinking runs and deft touch, Kinkladze’s most memorable moment came when he danced past five Southampton players, dumped Dave Beasant on his arse and dinked it over the goalkeeper into the back of the net. He stayed after the 1996 relegation to the First Division, but few blamed him when he left for Ajax after a second consecutive relegation. A hugely popular player, whose undeniable talent seemed to decline at every club he joined after City.
Not only was Shaun Goater the subject of one of the finest chants in Football League history (“Feed the Goat and he will score”), but his goals helped spur City back into the higher divisions of the game in the late 1990s. Goater had all the hallmarks of the cult hero. His clumsy, unorthodox style and implacable determination not only made him popular with fans, but those attributes yielded results, seeing Goater notch up 84 goals between 1998 and 2003. One of those goals came when he mugged Gary Neville in the 2002 Manchester derby before sliding the ball into Fabian Barthez’s goal.
One of the guys other teams hated, Paul Dickov was a nippy gobshite who City fans adored. Dickov ran and ran like an angry Duracell bunny, and scored one of the most important goals in the club’s history. At the end of the same season in which Manchester United had won the Treble, City were 2-0 down to Gillingham in the Second Division play-off with minutes to go.
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Cue a Kevin Horlock goal late on, then Dickov bagged in the 95th minute of the game to take the game to extra time and, eventually, penalties. City won promotion that day, and would return to the Premiership the season after. Hats off to Paul Dickov.
— BlueMoonRisingTV (@BMRisingTV) June 29, 2016
So much more than an own-goal machine, Richard Dunne was a stalwart at the back for Manchester City, partnering with Sylvain Distin and Micah Richards during his nine years at the club. Dunne has a couple of records he won’t be too proud of – joint most Premier League red cards (eight, with Patrick Vieira and Duncan Ferguson) and the most Premier League own goals (10) – but the Irishman was a hero at City, and won the Player of the Season award four years on the bounce. Richards even put Dunne up there with Rio Ferdinand and John Terry in terms of ability. Steady on, Micah.
Most own goals in the Premier League
The Manchester derby, and the days before it, in October 2011 serve as a microcosm of Mario Balotelli’s City career: a moment of madness tempered with a dose of genius. Before a hotly-anticipated derby at Old Trafford, it was unclear whether Roberto Mancini was going to pick his protege Balotelli, after the Italy striker accidentally set his bathroom alight with some fireworks. But Mancini gave him the benefit of the doubt, and Balotelli delivered, scoring twice and producing one of his too-few great performances in a sky blue shirt. City battered United 6-1, and went on to win the Premier League on goal difference ahead of their cross-town rivals. Guess who got his only assist when Sergio Aguero buried the last-gasp title-clincher against QPR?
The Argentina right-back may legitimately be considered as a proper club legend, but his status as ‘unsung hero’ has earned him his place on this list. Zabaleta signed for City the day before the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008. At the beginning of his time at City, he looked pretty average, but grew into his role under Roberto Mancini, becoming one of the Premier League’s best full-backs. A two-time league winner, Zabaleta even scored in the game against QPR. His ability, passion and affable personality make his leaving the club without a testimonial seem like a travesty of gargantuan proportions.
Not ready for a world in which Pablo Zabaleta doesn’t wear a City shirt. Too much to handle emotionally. pic.twitter.com/5Nlpzbk1Cf
— BlueMoonRisingTV (@BMRisingTV) June 28, 2016
Rosler was a hugely popular player at Maine Road during a period in which there was often little to shout about. The German centre forward was City’s top scorer for three seasons on the bounce between 1994 and 1997. The chant City fans belted out for Rosler (to the tune of Go West) was his name over, and over again. Repetitive, but effective. Rosler bagged 50 times in 150 appearances for City.
— Martyn Bishop (@MartynBCFC) May 27, 2016
The only goalkeeper on the list has to be David James. Not only did he hold down the England No 1 spot for much of his time at Manchester City, but Stuart Pearce and James were responsible for perhaps the most Sunday League thing to ever happen in the Premier League. At 1-1 against Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2004-05 season, City needed to win to clinch a UEFA Cup spot. Pearce hooked midfielder Claudio Reyna for back-up goalkeeper Nicky Weaver and moved James up front. Despite looking like Bambi on ice in attack, a cross aimed at James earned City a penalty. Unfortunately, Robbie Fowler fluffed his lines and Pearce’s decision remained a baffling one.
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