Manchester City are battling it out at Europe’s top table these days. Last season’s rampaging win against Monaco will go down as one of the best Champions League games ever.
But as any Blue will tell you, it’s not always been so lush for City. Back in 1998-99 season they were fighting a very different scrap: a battle to get out of Division Two.
Instead of the Giorgio Armani-clad superstar coach that is Pep Guardiola in the dugout at the Etihad, the salt-of-the-earth Joe Royle bossed the team.
And now, while some of the world’s best players like Yaya Toure, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero line up in City’s starting XI, cult heroes like Shaun Goater, Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov were the club’s best players.
In 1999, while rivals United were winning the treble, City had finished third in Division Two behind Fulham and Walsall, their only chance of promotion was in the play-offs.
In typical City fashion, they saw Gillingham off the hard way in the final. 2-0 down and as good as out of the tie as the 90th minute approached, Horlock and Dickov scored a goal apiece to force extra time at the death. After an eventful extra time, City won on penalties. Majestic.
That season was so important for City in their history. If they hadn’t won that play-off, who knows whether Sheikh Mansour would have chosen the Manchester club to invest in in 2008. They could have even “done a Leeds” and been stuck down there for years to come.
They wore a gorgeous kit that season: a Brother-sponsored, Kappa-manufactured work of art.