Welcome to the November edition of the City Magazine...
This month we have an even better edition, packed with original content.
Kicking off with cover star Gabriel Jesus as our main interview, we speak to our Brazilian forward about his adaptability and excellent start to the season.
David James and Steve Kinsey are this month's guest columnists, with celeb Blue David Ball revealing his lifelong love of City.
Exciting young talent Sam Edozie checks in and Tommy Doyle sends his first postcard from Hamburg - don't miss either of thosee features.
Jill Scott talks of her seamless transition to centre-half while we also catch up with Chloe Kelly's progress as she recovers from injury.
But that’s not all…
Regular contributors Marc Riley and Kev Cummins are included and our women stars share more tunes they can’t live without.
Throw in a Fantasy Premier League update and Andy Morrison once again predicts the scores of our upcoming games in ‘The Month Ahead’.
Plus there there is a Manc Best XI and The Last Word recalls a memorable trip to Lokeren in 2003.
Plenty to keep you going for the next few weeks!
One of City’s unsung heroes, Gabriel Jesus is finally getting the credit his amazing stats deserve…
It’s not been a bad start to the 2021/22 campaign for Gabriel Jesus.
Nine appearances, three goals and four Premier League assists – only United’s Paul Pogba had more going into the international break – a 200-game milestone for City passed and the first Etihad Player of the Month award under his belt.
As mentioned, not bad!
The likeable Brazilian has steadily been building up impressive statistics as a City player since he arrived from Palmeiras in January 2017.
Still only 24, he had clocked up 204 appearances (after the Liverpool clash) and scored 85 goals. It’s not quite a goal every other game, but it isn’t far short.
It’s a record any striker would be extremely proud of – and a striker is what he is, first and foremost – but because he is quiet, unassuming and keeps his head down, it’s almost as though his record in England has slipped under the radar.
Perhaps the mighty presence of Sergio Aguero is partly the reason Gabriel’s record has largely gone unnoticed by the wider media, but he is, most definitely first and foremost a striker by trade.
He earned his 50th cap for Brazil against Uruguay in mid-October, and is, more often than not, the partner of Neymar for the national team.
“I feel comfortable out wide and can help my teammates and my team. I can make runs in behind, control the ball, make passes, make crosses, help in defending. As I say, I feel comfortable there," said Jesus.
And though he has played mainly as a wide man for City this season, he has been doing that role off and on for the Seleção for the past couple of years.
“I didn’t start to play as a winger just this season,” he revealed. “I have played with the national team there for two years. I started to play in the first team of Palmeiras as a winger as well and I played sometimes when I arrived here as a winger as well. So I think I’m okay there.
“I can make runs in behind, control the ball, make passes, make crosses, help defend so it's all good and suits my game."
Indeed it does - Jesus offers something unique to City's attack.
Cutting in from the right against Liverpool, he cleverly weaved his way through a couple of challenges before finding Phil Foden who then drilled an angled shot past Gabriel’s international team-mate Alisson to bring City level at Anfield.
It was just one of the many contributions he's made so far, with his tireless and unselfish style outstanding this campaign.
Yet, despite his age and star status with the Premier League champions, away from football he is a dedicated family fan who will also become a father for the first time soon.
Respectful and popular among his team-mates, backroom staff and club media, he is a credit to Manchester City and the family he dotes on.
“I like to stay at home, I like to be home with my family, with my girlfriend and enjoy the moments because they go quickly so I try to enjoy as much as possible,” he said.
“When I arrived here, I was 19. Now I’m 24 - time moves quickly. I try to enjoy time with my family, my friends, my girlfriend, that’s all for me.”
And after almost five years in England, he says he hasn’t quite gone full tilt with English cuisine!
“I haven’t tried a lot! “ he smiled. “I eat like I do in Brazil - eggs with bacon - that is something I eat in Brazil as well. But I eat more pasta in the club and at home I eat Brazilian food, that’s the only reason why.”
And now Gabriel has another role he will willingly take on – that as a mentor.
Already shining example to Academy players pf how to train, work hard and live outside of the game, he sees a lot of himself in our new Brazilian forward Kayky – a teenager he intends to be around for to help him settle into Manchester life.
“When I see him, I see myself when I came here,” said Gabriel.
He’s a young guy, I have trained with him now a number of times and I can see his quality – he’s a typical Brazilian player with quality, with patience, he wants to improve and work.
“He wants to show himself, and he’s a good guy as well. He can speak with me, Ederson and Fernandinho and the other guys who speak Portuguese.
“And he’s 18 years old so I told him it’s a very good decision to come here and try to improve his quality with one of the best managers in the world and one of the best teams in the world too.
"It’s good for him, he has everything to grow, to improve his football and he’s in the right place - just like I made the decision five years ago to come here and try to improve my game.”
If Kayky follows Gabriel's example, he won't go far wrong...
Former City skipper Andy Morrison assesses our opponents in the coming month and reveals what he expects could happen…
I think we’re all glad to see the last month of games behind us. What a difficult run of games and they were even harder to predict! Personally, if offered a win, draw and a loss ahead of away games at Chelsea, PSG and Liverpool, I’d have taken it without hesitation.
Yes, we want to win every game we play, but against that calibre of opponents, it’s an excellent return. Four Premier League points from six and I believe we will be close to securing a Round of 16 berth in the Champions League by the time we face PSG at the Etihad.
The levels of performance in each game was magnificent, and that’s what will please Pep the most.
Anyway, onwards and upwards and on to the next batch of games…
Burnley (H), 16 October (3pm)
I expect a convincing win here. We have to take into account our previous record against Burnley – which has always been very strong - and if we’re going to kick on in the autumn like I expect us to, we need to be winning our home games and winning them well.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 4-1 Burnley
Club Brugge (A), 19 October (5.45pm)
After our loss in Paris, I expect us to bounce back in this game and win. I think we’ll dominate possession and control the game and win the game. They are not a bad side, but we want to win this competition and in my opinion, we have to be winning these games.
Mozzer’s prediction: Club Brugge 0-2 City
Brighton & Hove Albion (A), 23 October (5.30pm)
This could be a tricky game as Brighton have been impressive so far. We saw how they came back to beat us last season, but we were a man down and the title was already won so this will be different. I think it will be close, but I expect us to shade it.
Mozzer’s prediction: Brighton 1-2 City
Carabao Cup 4th round
West Ham United (A), 27 October, (7.45pm)
West Ham did really well to beat Manchester United away in the last round but I don’t see them repeating that here. I could be wrong, but I think David Moyes may make several changes and I’m sure Pep will, too – but our squad is so strong, I think we’ll have too much for them. Plus there is the target of an unprecedented five successive triumphs in this competition, so we’ll be up for this and I think we’ll progress, too.
Mozzer’s prediction: West Ham 1-3 City
Crystal Palace (H), 30 October, (3pm)
We’ve had a couple of strange results against Palace over recent years. I remember them wining 3-1 at the Etihad a few years back and Patrick Vieira seems to have got them playing some good stuff. But I see us by this point gathering momentum and though I see Palace getting a goal, I reckon we will take the points.
Mozzer's prediction: City 3-1 Palace
Club Brugge (H), 3 November, (8pm)
I don’t see Club Brugge causing us too many problems at the Etihad. They’ve done well to hold PSG and beat Red Bull, but back-to-back group games against City is a big ask for any club in Europe and I can only see a comfortable home win for us.
Mozzer's prediction: City 4-1 Club Brugge
Manchester United (A), 6 November, (12.30pm)
The problem with United and their vast array of attacking options is you never really know which Manchester United will turn up. It’s a huge game and yet another hard away fixture for us – after this we’ll have played United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester and Spurs away already - something none of the other top clubs will have done. I see this being open, but close. Mozzer's prediction: United 2-2 City
It’s no secret that David James is a huge admirer of Ederson, as proven by the former England international and City no.1 dubbing the Brazilian ‘as brave as a lion’ in a recent Matchday Live show against Leicester City.
In this month’s column, James goes into detail about the City stopper’s greatest, and perhaps overlooked, qualities before revealing where he believes he ranks among the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers…
When Manchester City bought Ederson in 2017, the first thing I did was watch loads of clips from his time at Benfica. He’d be diving at someone’s feet or claiming a cross, and I remember thinking I hadn’t seen that in the Premier League for years. Bravery is up there as maybe his best quality, but I don’t suggest everyone tries to copy what he does! I think it’s in your nature or it’s not, but this is a guy who’s not afraid to put his body on the line.
We saw that courage again in his first season at the Club, when he collided with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, and again in the recent game at Leicester when he got a boot to the face. When you’ve got that sort of personality behind you as a defender then you know that if there’s a 50/50, he’s got the best chance of winning it.
On the other hand, I also think there’s a calmness about him. Even after a defeat or if he concedes, at no point does he look flapped or angry. Where some people admire seeing emotion, there’s a consistency with Ederson where you know what you’re getting and therefore don’t need to worry about it. People might not notice that so much but again it underlines the fact that he’s such a great goalkeeper.
And on top of all of that, he’s also such a lovely bloke. I interviewed him a few months ago. It’s nice when you like someone for what they do as a profession and then they turn out to be really nice too. Ultimately, he’s different, and I think that’s the beauty of it - he’s so good in so many departments but altogether he’s unique to what you see elsewhere.
I’d describe a lot of stoppers these days as ‘Action Man’ goalies, if anyone remembers that toy. You’d get it out of the box, and they’d all looked the same, just with a different uniform on. Maybe it’s since I’ve stopped playing, but I’ve recently had a different view of football and I see a lot of ‘Action Man’ goalies. A lot of them hold their hands in the same way, they all walk around the goal and kick the ball the same. It’s not a bad thing by any stretch, but there’s so much familiarity with them.
Ederson, on the other hand, is a character. While there’s undoubtedly been some great goalies in the last 20 years, I don’t recall there being many characters playing between the sticks during that time.
I came close to claiming the most clean sheets in the Premier League in 1996 when I was at Liverpool but never won it myself. To be honest, I was a bit gutted! To win it even once is a huge achievement, but to have claimed successive Golden Gloves, like Ederson has, is some going and demonstrates his incredible consistency and confidence.
I had 18 years in the Premier League and certainly experienced different spells of consistency, there were some when it always clicks and sometimes where it seemed like nothing went right. When a purple patch ends, as long as you know why you were doing well, then you’re able to get back to that place. In the early stages of my career, sometimes I’d go through a great run of form and then, when it eventually stopped happening, I didn’t know why. It’s about always being aware of why you do what you do and then being able to make adjustments to get back there.
All that being said, where does Ederson rank in terms of the Premier League greats, past and present? It’s difficult, I watch videos of early Premier League games in the 1990s and notice the state of the pitches for example. I’ll look at a video of me conceding a goal early in my career and sometimes be able to say, ‘my foot slipped’ or ‘I couldn’t hold it’, whatever it is. But when you take the circumstances or technicalities around the eras and say who was at the top of each era, I think he’s up there. In the early 90s, for example, David Seamen was ridiculously good.
Ederson’s at the top of the tree now, and I also like Edouard Mendy at Chelsea and Liverpool’s Alisson as well. But Ederson, week in week out, is in the top three. If that’s the case, he’s got to be one of the all-time best.
The Name’s Blond…
To celebrate the worldwide smash that is the latest James Bond movie, ‘No Time To Die’ – or in this case, ‘No Time To Dye’, we’ve chosen seven City players that proved life’s a bleach and completely changed their look.
Whether it worked or not is for you to decide, but here is this month’s list…
The former City and England keeper was always likely to give blond a go. The one-time Armani model bleached his locks during his time at City – one of many hairstyles the shot-stopper tried out – and his efforts were rewarded by a City Magazine cover entitled – fittingly – James Blond.
Riyad spent much of last season with a blond-influenced haircut. The Algerian has this season gone back to a darker, shorter look for the new campaign but his blond period didn’t affect his form as he had a superb 2020/21 campaign.
Phil’s Euro 2020 blond look divided opinion and certainly got plenty of media attention. Like all young lads, he experimented with his hair colour briefly before returning to his natural dark brown, short style this season.
It’s fair to say Sergio spent a fair bit of time with blond hair. Our greatest ever goal-scorer could pretty much pull off anything he wanted and would have still been adored by City fans. Full blond, streaks… he tried it all.
City’s blond pioneer? Jordan introduced blond to his Barnet towards the end of his time with the Blues and carried it off pretty well, and could even have passed as a member of Duran Duran (look them up, kids!).
When French play-maker Samir Nasri introduced his new look, there was surprise and a mixed reaction. In fairness, it did suit him, but he didn’t keep it that long before returning to his natural dark locks.
What self-respecting list would be complete without Mario included in it? Mario went full blond, then had a blond Mohican for a time – he pretty much covered the lot! A stylish, unique individual he was loved by City fans no matter what he did.
Honourable mentions also to… Nicky Weaver, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus , Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Bacary Sagna and Scott Sinclair.
STEVE KINSEY played as a winger for City between 1979 and 1986 – he was voted “MCFC Young Player of the Year” three times at City in the early 1980s, and here he talks about his recent visits to the Etihad and his days with City at Maine Road….
It was fantastic to be made to feel so welcome at the Etihad recently. Steph (my wife) and I were invited to attend a Stadium tour and I honestly didn’t think it was going to be as good as it was! In fact, I would recommend it to anybody. Added to that, we were both invited as guests of Etihad (courtesy of an old school friend of mine – Ian Lees – who is now, by coincidence, a tour guide at the Club) to attend the City v Wycombe Wanderers Carabao Cup tie – which was also a very special experience.
It felt great to be remembered so well – and it was especially nice to share a few of my own memories of Maine Road with some of the people on the tour and at the match. I even compared the present dressing rooms at the Etihad with the dressing rooms at Maine Road... if truth be told, there was no real difference at all between the home and the away dressing rooms at Maine Road! After games, of course, all the players would all pile into the one big, communal bath – and woe betide if you were late getting in the bath as the water would be filthy given that some players would even take their boots into the bath and clean them in there!
I was born into a Blue household in Bradford, Manchester about two minutes away from where the Etihad is now. I was a real City fan as a young lad – I was often at Maine Road kicking a ball around outside the ground – and me and my mates would often wait until around ten minutes before the end of the game when the exit gates were opened so that we could go and watch our heroes for the last part of the games at Maine Road. It was a genuine fairy-tale for me to eventually end up becoming a professional at the team I supported and playing with players that I hero-worshipped as a boy – it was all a dream come true in fact.
I remember being super-fit as training was often extremely demanding. In those days it was very much about fitness with lots of running, running and then more running (without the ball). In fact, I sometimes found it easier to play in games as matches involved less running! Believe it or not, I ended up playing under 5 or 6 different managers whilst I was with City.
I have many happy memories – such as scoring my first-ever goal for City against West Bromwich Albion, scoring the winner at Blackburn to put us on top of the table - and scoring for City at Wembley in the Full Members Cup final (again a real dream come true) The funny thing is that I can even remember some of the (great) goals I scored in training!
Another fond memory is of the game at Anfield when we beat Liverpool by 3-1 in 1981. I also, of course, played with some truly great players such as Asa Hartford and Dennis Tueart.
Nowadays, I live in Florida, but I still get back to the UK about once a year to look up old friends and former City contacts – and I have really enjoyed my latest trip to the UK – particularly the trips to the Etihad
I loved the game against Wycombe and it was really good to see so many youngsters play so well - and it was great to enjoy the game as guests of Etihad from their own executive box where we were made so very welcome - and so well looked after! Roll on my next trip – when I will definitely be available for selection!
If there’s an extra spring in Sam Edozie’s step when he and his City EDS colleagues resume our UEFA Youth League campaign away to Club Brugge Under-19s this month, it’s with good reason.
It has already been a season to remember for the 18-year-old who made his City first team debut in August’s Community Shield clash against Leicester after a series of impressive pre-season displays.
The left winger has also helped City open the defence of the PL2 crown in impressive fashion with our EDS side sitting top of the table after the first seven games.
And Edozie has also replicated that class and consistency on the European stage.
He produced a terrific man-of-the-match display in our opening 5-1 UEFA Youth League win over RB Leipzig, before being part of the City side that showed we can marry character alongside class as we dug in to claim a 1-1 draw away at Paris Saint-Germain in our second group game – despite being reduced to nine men.
Now, ahead of our latest European assignment away in Belgium against a Brugge side who sit joint-top with City on four points from two games, Edozie revealed how he had been counting down to experiencing playing in the UEFA Youth League all summer.
“We were all really looking forward to playing in the Youth League and we’ve made a good start and want to keep that going,” Edozie admitted.
“Obviously in my first year here I missed out (as I was too young) and then last season would have been my first experience of playing in it but we missed out (as it was cancelled) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a great experience for me. It’s nice to test yourself playing against the best European teams. We’ve made a good start to the tournament, so we are happy so far.
“It’s different styles of football and different refereeing too, so you have to adapt to it.
“Everything is a learning curve, and we can take what we have learned from the first two matches into the next game and hopefully improve on those things.”
A title winner at both PL2 and Under-18 level with City’s Academy sides last term, Edozie was then afforded to chance to train and play with the first team in our pre-season preparations.
Some fine showing there saw him further rewarded by being named in the starting line-up for August’s Community Shield clash with Leicester City at Wembley.
For a youngster born and brought up in the capital it was a huge and proud moment… both for him and his family.
Though City were ultimately edged out 1-0 by the Foxes, it was day and occasion Sam will never forget.
And he said the experience of learning from training and playing under first team manager Pep Guardiola and City’s star-studded squad had proved priceless.
"I tried to block out how excited I was, but it was obviously the biggest game of my career so far," Edozie recalled.
"I just tried to go out there and enjoy myself and it was an experience I'll never forget.
“Working under the best manager in the world week-in, week-out is big for me at 18.
"I can learn a lot and also training with the best players in the world has allowed me to improve my game. I like to take what I've learned from the first team into the EDS and try as play as well as I can.
"I feel like from my first session to where I am now, I've progressed massively and that is a big positive for me.
"The main things I have taken have been the intensity of how I do everything, not taking so long to do certain things and being more clinical - things like that and runs in behind, different movements to be unpredictable.
"But I like to think there's always more to come with me.
“I've always expected a lot from myself and I will continue to expect a lot from myself so I'll keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully keep impressing."
Aside from his first team learnings, Edozie – along with the rest of his Elite Development Squad colleagues – have been in superb form over the opening two months of the 2021/22 campaign.
Under the tutelage of new head coach Brian Barry-Murphy, Edozie and Co have married artistry, athleticism and character to hugely impressive effect, both in the defence of our Premier League 2 title as well as making encouraging starts to our UEFA Youth League and Papa John’s Trophy campaigns.
And reflecting on life under the new boss, Edozie says former Rochdale boss Barry-Murphy’s experience and know-how from his own experiences in the English professional game had already proved invaluable.
“The team spirit is very high. I’m enjoying my football and so is the team. We all love Brian, he has come in and been fantastic,” Sam said.
“We are enjoying playing under him and I think that shows on the pitch.
“Brian is very encouraging. He knows how I like to play and is encouraging with that and it’s a definite a big confidence when your manager backs you to do certain things on the pitch.
"Brian has also brought in new things from League One, he's brought in knowledge of the more physical side [of the game].
“I think it helped us in the EFL Cup because he has experience in League One. Even the things he brings in we can use in PL2 or the UEFA Youth League to pick our moment.
“They (our opponents) are not expecting City to be physical and have certain parts to our game.
"On a personal level, I'm focusing on enjoying my football, trying to play well for the EDS and see what happens from there."
George Kelsey takes a look at who currently tops the medal podium for Manchester City across a number of different Fantasy Premier League-related categories.
Who has earned the most FPL points for Pep Guardiola’s men so far this campaign? Who is the most popular City star for FPL players? And which players have a knack of picking up those all-important bonus points?
Find out below...
Points mean prizes
1-Joao Cancelo | 2-Gabriel Jesus | 3-Ruben Dias
Joao Cancelo sits top of the tree in terms of the most points earned by a City player leading into the October international break.
The Portuguese defender has been ever-present for Pep Guardiola’s men, helping to earn five successive clean sheets between Matchweeks Two and Seven.
However, the full-back edges ahead of his teammates thanks to standout performances against both Leicester City and Chelsea, when Cancelo grabbed an assist and three bonus points in each of our 1-0 wins.
Those huge 12-point hauls have seen him rack up a total of 44 at time of writing, with Gabriel Jesus and Ruben Dias making up the top three with 41 and 39 respectively.
1-Gabriel Jesus / Joao Cancelo
2-Aymeric Laporte / Ferran Torres
Four City stars have been named in the Fantasy Premier League Dream Team so far this season – a weekly XI made up of players with the best scores across the weekend.
Spanish duo Aymeric Laporte and Ferran Torres made the cut in consecutive weeks, Laporte with a 14-point haul in our 5-0 win over Norwich and Torres with an incredible 18 points from our win over Arsenal.
Indeed, Torres is the only City star so far to also be named ‘King of the Gameweek’ for that performance against the Gunners on Matchday Three, awarded to the highest-scoring player across a weekend of fixtures.
Nonetheless, it’s Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo who are the most regular inductees into the FPL Dream Team so far this season, each featuring on two occasions.
Jesus earned his place over successive Gameweeks thanks to one goal and three assists against Norwich and Arsenal respectively, while Cancelo grabbed an assist, clean sheet and three bonus points in wins over Leicester and Chelsea.
Influence, Creativity, Threat
1-Jack Grealish | 2-Gabriel Jesus | 3-Ilkay Gundogan
The ICT index is created by combining a player’s Influence (their impact on a match), Creativity (how many goal-scoring opportunities they produce) and Threat (how likely they are to score) across each Gameweek.
And it’s Jack Grealish that sits top of the list for City, with only Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, West Ham’s Michail Antonio and Newcastle forward Allan Saint-Maximin able to better his total score of 64.1.
Our new No.10 edges out Gabriel Jesus (56.7) and Ilkay Gundogan (44.0), helped in no small part by boasting the fifth-highest Creativity stat in the entire Premier League as well as making the top ten in terms of the Threat indicator.
It’s yet another example of the England international’s well-rounded attacking ability, capable of creating opportunities for teammates or finishing the chances off himself.
1-Ruben Dias | 2-Joao Cancelo | 3-Jack Grealish
Ruben Dias is the most selected City player in FPL, with 28.3% of players choosing the Portuguese defender for their teams.
It made him the most popular defender in the game leading into the international break.
Despite the wealth of talent that Pep Guardiola has at his disposal, Dias has played the full 90 minutes in each of our seven Premier League matches thus far.
His commanding displays, which often see him yield bonus points on top of potential clean sheets, mean that there are only five other Premier League players to be selected more often than him at present in the entire game.
Joao Cancelo and Jack Grealish come in second and third respectively in this category, with selection totals of 17.8% and 17.3% respectively, while Ederson has also made the cut in 10.3% of FPL players’ teams at present.
1-Gabriel Jesus | 2-Joao Cancelo | 3-Ruben Dias
The Bonus Points System (BPS) uses a range of stats to create a score for each player, with the three highest totals seeing that particular Premier League star awarded extra points.
Gabriel Jesus’ impressive start to the new campaign has already seen him pick up eight bonus points, with only Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and West Ham’s Michail Antonio able to better that score.
The Brazilian earned the maximum three points for his contributions to successive 5-0 triumphs over Norwich and Arsenal, before claiming a further two after scoring the only goal of the game in our victory at Stamford Bridge in late September.
Joao Cancelo comes in a close second with six bonus points and Ruben Dias completes the top three with five.
City’s next five Premier League fixtures:
Crystal Palace (H)
Manchester United (A)
What's on your playlist? We asked five of our Women's team to name their tunes...
All We Do Is Win - DJ Khaled
It's really catchy and upbeat and the lyrics are really motivational. We always want to win so there you go!
I listen to any kind of music – anything from R’n’B to reggae; dance hall to Gerry Cinnamon! I like to switch it up – I’m not fussy!
Before a game, I’ll listen to anything as long as it’s not too slow and boring. I like something upbeat in the dressing room.
My favourite Gerry Cinnamon song is Diamonds in the Mud - there's a line: "I've been all around the world but there's nowhere compares to my hometown" which I love.
Inner Smile - Texas
It's quite embarrassing but it's a classic. It was in Bend It Like Beckham, which I watched loads in my childhood, and it's such a good feel-good song.
Touch - Shift Key
It's kinda old but it'll get you bopping!
I like a lot of music - house, chill, pop... Before a game, I like to listen to house - something motivational and energising. My favourite thing about Manchester is the music!
Round our Way
The return of crowds to stadiums across English football has been one of the most welcoming sights of recent months, as the country continues to slowly creep back to normality during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Club photographer Tom Flathers lived next to the Etihad Stadium when the pandemic struck, with City's home serving as both a reminder of happier times as well as an indication of what was still to look forward to when the global situation improved.
Living on his own at the time, Tom would keep active by walking the stadium’s perimeter with camera in tow, actively honing his professional craft whilst constantly familiarising himself with the local surroundings, including the different houses situated on City’s doorstep.
Wanting to hear the stories of those residents and how excited they were by the prospect of watching the Club they love once again, he reached out to local supporters Margaret Clowes and Mike Turner, before also visiting the Townley pub, located a stone’s throw away in Beswick, Manchester…
“Covid was difficult for most of us, personally I lived right next to the stadium and it brought me solace in that time. There was a six-week period where I didn’t see anybody I knew other than the staff of the loacal shop.
“That was my inspiration, when I was walking around outside the Etihad, I’d see local houses and knew many of those people were going through the same thing I was.
“Those guys are involved every single matchday. They can hear and see the action. I feel like they have a voice, but I don’t see them on social media, I just wanted to raise the profile of those fans.
“The connection City has with its local and wider fans is amazing and, in my opinion, unique. People who come to City are fans because of what the Club means to its community.”
“I think football gave the country a boost. I don’t think there are too many other professions that you could say carried on. Cinema and film stopped, gigs stopped, everyone had to stop, but football carried on through this difficult time. I think it did a tremendous amount for people's morale.
“For Margaret, football wasn’t something that was huge for her, she said a relative supported the Club and she just became obsessed.
“The fact that she was lonely and found solace by walking around the stadium, similar to the way I was during Covid, that shows what the Club means to so many, and you can’t say more than that. It meant a tremendous amount.
“The guys in the Townley Hotel pub, they go to every single match; one travels down from Glasgow for every single game, wearing a kilt!
“With Mike and his family too, it was second nature for them, they go to all the games. It was almost an ‘of course we go to every game’ when I asked them.
“I’m addicted. I absolutely love it, and at my age I find that it’s an interest that I have the time for now. It’s become something special in my life and I’m grateful especially through Covid to be able to walk around the stadium, that honestly got me through the first lockdown.
“Mentally and physically, being able to walk around the ground made me very happy. I can’t really put into words how good it was for me. It didn’t matter if it was raining, I walked around the stadium. My goal was to do three laps.
“I feel I’m part of a community. I really think the Club looks after the people in the area. There’s so much going on, it’s a social thing.
“I’m really excited (to return to matches). I’m so looking forward to being a part of it again. I love it. I think football is about supporting your team through the good and the bad. You never know what’s going to happen – that’s exciting even if it means we lose.”
Our on-loan City star sends his first postcard back from Germany...
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind first month for me after joining Hamburg on loan for the 2021/22 season.
I spoke with Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho before I came over and they both told me I’d love it – and from what I’ve experienced so far, they’re spot on.
I arrived here on an evening flight and the club put me up in a hotel and the next morning it was straight to training to meet the players and staff.
The rest of the week was busy with a load of media work.
Once I found an apartment I liked, I immediately felt more settled and at home – it’s in an area of Hamburg called HafenCity and right by the port, so it’s got great views out. I moved in the same evening of the day I viewed it, got my car sorted the next morning and it was happy days.
I’ve been getting to know my new team-mates and they are a very good group of lads. Everyone gets along well and they all speak English perfectly well, which is a massive help – especially as I know a couple of German phrases at the moment!
After being gradually introduced to squad life being included on the bench for a few games, I made my debut against FC Erzgebirge just before the international break, coming on around 85 minutes in.
We were 1-0 down but I had a chance in added time, chipped the keeper and as it struck the bar it hit one of their defenders and went in to make it 1-1 and earn us a draw, so it’s been a positive start - though I had to wear a red shirt which felt a bit strange!.
Hamburg is an exciting city and I really like it here – there’s a load of stuff to do around the harbour and my apartment is only 10 minutes from the city centre, so I’m really happy.
The German people are really nice and friendly and I couldn’t have asked for much more from my first month.
There’s been a buzz and a bit of expectation because I’ve come from City, but I’m more than happy with that as it’s something I take in my stride.
I want to do everything I possibly can for Hamburg and help them get back into the Bundesliga where they belong and also get as much experience as I can while I'm here.
I’m keeping a close eye on City’s results and keeping in touch with my family and mates back in Manchester and my German language lessons are coming on slowly. I’ll get there…
The food is good, too – there are plenty of Lidl and Aldi stores nearby so I’m happy!
After England Under-21 duty it’ll be back to Hamburg and full steam ahead.
It was a case of love at first sight for David Ball and Manchester City...
The striker, who spent 14-years in the Club’s Academy, went against the grain with his footballing allegiance, but it might never have happened had his talent not brought him to City’s attention.
The 31-year-old Wellington Phoenix striker grew up Whitefield, in a household of Manchester United fans and may well have followed suit had it not been for a passing scout, who invited him down to Platt Lane.
And, from the moment he walked through the doors of the legendary old training complex, Ball was a Blue.
“I played for a local team in Prestwich called Marauders,” he tells City Magazine.
“I think I was around six at the time and it was the first team my mum and dad took me to.
“There are two big clubs in Manchester, my dad happens to support the other one, but I got scouted for Manchester City at the age of seven and just fell in love with the club.
“That’s where my journey started and how I became the only Blue in my house.
“I loved Shaun Goater, just because I was a striker. I’d go to all the games and, as a striker, to see someone scoring goals was great.
“Paul Dickov, as well. I managed to play in the reserves with him when I was about 16, which was unbelievable.
“It was a nice highlight because he was obviously a big part of getting the club back to where it needed to be.”
Ball left City for Peterborough United in January 2011 without making a first team appearance and went on to play nine seasons with five different clubs in the Football League, before moving to New Zealand in the summer of 2019.
It is a measure of his love for the Club that being a professional footballer never prevented him following his team.
During his time in England attending weekend games was nigh on impossible, but the striker would take every chance he got to be at the Etihad Stadium for midweek matches and his support for the Club which provided the backdrop to his youth has not diminished.
The 31-year-old speaks passionately about his desire to see Pep Guardiola lift the Champions League and was delighted when he found out recently that his goal-scoring boots and shirt from the 2008 FA Youth Cup triumph would be returned to him after a period of display at the Etihad Stadium tour exhibition.
“The Youth Cup is one of my proudest memories,” he says.
“Every year I have watched the young lads, willing them to win. I think last year’s win was the first time they had won it since we had, and we were the first group to win it which was pretty amazing.
“It’s something I hold close to me. I remember it as if it was yesterday, I had some great friends in that team and some great coaches.
“I actually got my boots and shirt back from the museum recently. My dad reached out to the club to see if we could get them back if they ever changed the exhibition
“He sent me a photo the other day to say they had arrived, so I am getting them framed to go up in my house.”
Ball was a regular scorer during his time in City’s youth set-up and reserves, but found first team opportunities limited as the Club ushered in a new era with the signings of Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.
His solitary involvement in the senior set-up was as an unused substitute in a Manchester derby in September 2009.
A last gasp Michael Owen goal consigned Mark Hughes’ side to an agonising 4-3 defeat, and, whilst the result stung as a fan, it remains a day Ball will never forget.
“My dad actually said to me it was the first day he ever changed who he supported because it was his son and, first and foremost, he knew that was my day,” he adds.
“It was a dream come true to be involved. I worked so hard to get to that point.
“Obviously, it was frustrating not to come on, but as a player who had loved the club and grown up watching, to be in that position was amazing.
“To be in the dressing room and see how much the players were hurting that day from the result, as a fan and a Manchester lad who had friends who were fans, it was a real moment.
“It’s a moment I had dreamt of for 13 years of being at the club.”
When the door of the women’s summer transfer window slammed shut in 2020, City fans were rubbing their hands in anticipation.
With European conquerors and World Champions joining the ranks in the form of Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, the footballing world could have been forgiven for underestimating the importance of our first summer recruit: 22-year-old England starlet Chloe Kelly.
As it turned out, Kelly would prove the most influential signing. The right wing rocket finished her debut season with an astonishing 16 goals (including her first hat-trick for the Club) and 14 assists in 34 appearances to earn the SCM Player of the Year award.
Sadly, her maiden campaign was cut short by an ACL injury in our penultimate league game and the forward has been sorely missed ever since.
Caroline Oatway caught up with the wing wonder to discuss her recovery and her hopes for City’s campaign…
Chloe, it's been a while since we last spoke. How are you getting on?
"I'm doing well, thank you. Each week is an improvement and closer to being on the pitch with the team, which is what I'm looking forward to the most.
"So far, everything is going well. Everyone has their own track. Of course, some weeks are better than others but at the moment, I'm just focused on taking each one as it comes, improving week by week.
"Being injured, it does make you appreciate things a lot more. When I come back, I'll appreciate so much more. Recognising all of those little things has been a big focus for me."
When we caught up at the End of Season Awards, you spoke about keeping a positive mindset. What do you do to stay upbeat during what is a frustrating time?
"That's definitely something I'm trying really hard to maintain. Some days go really well; others not as well and I guess this is the most difficult period, seeing the girls back out on the pitch and wanting to be out there with them but not being able to impact games. That's the biggest frustration.
"I have small goals that I write down so I have a clear plan that I try to reach each month. Over the coming weeks, hopefully I'll keep reaching those goals and keep moving closer to getting back on the pitch."
Gareth Taylor has spoken a lot about how the injured players are still playing a part to help the team, creating a positive environment. There seems to be a lot of togetherness in the squad with the injured players still very much included...
"Definitely. I've had great conversations with Gaz. He keeps me in the loop all the time, which is great, and being around the team is massive - the people you are with everyday are the ones who can pick you up through the process.
"We have so many injured players at the moment but we're all sticking together. The injured girls are supporting the girls on the pitch in the best way we can, while those girls are also supporting us through our injuries.
"I've been really impressed with the mentality of the group. We've really come together. We have great spirit and it's great to be around the team. The players and staff have really ensured everyone is included and no-one has been forgotten about. I may be injured but I feel I'm still an important part of the team."
Do you feel you'll come back stronger from this experience?
"Definitely. I'm really excited for my comeback.
"I enjoyed my first season but I feel I have so much more to give. I have a lot of things to learn - I'm still young and I have a lot of years left.
"Honestly, I'm so excited to get back on the pitch."
Looking back on that first season, could you have expected to have made such an significant impact so quickly?
"It was a great season. For me personally, it was good but I know I have more to give for this Club.
"To be honest, I was disappointed to come away with only one piece of silverware. We won the FA Cup, which was amazing and we're really proud of that achievement, but I'm excited for more.
"No matter how well you think you've played, at the end of the season, you look at the trophies you won and that just makes me hungry to win more!."
Although it's been a difficult start for City this season, what do you think we can achieve?
"We are a great team. I believe in our ability and challenges only bring the best out of us as a group. They won't break us - they'll make us stronger. We have to keep our heads up.
"It's still early in the season so we have the opportunity to overcome these challenges and push on throughout. The next game is always around the corner. It's about sticking together, picking each other up and focusing on what we're good at and how we can beat teams.
"We still have a lot to play for. We're in two FA Cups this year, which is really exciting and we're determined to go and win those, as well as the Continental Cup and we'll look to finish strongly in the league.
"All we can do is focus on ourselves and not get carried away with what everyone else is doing. Instead of dwelling on what we can't win, let's look at what we can win. We want to win every game so let's take each game as it comes and do the job we're here to do."
BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley continues to track down the great and the good in his Mixed Grill series...
Matthew Maxey runs ‘Enganche’, a Music PR company based in Manchester. I first met him through my work at the BBC where it was his job to get me to play his records on my show. I’d like to say our mutual love of the Blues helped him in this endeavour but truth be told I don’t do favours! Even for a feverishly loyal member of our army.
Lucky for us both then that Matthew has represented (and managed) some of my favourite artists of the last 10 years.
He’s a regular visitor to away grounds… a list which includes the humblest of all - right the way up to Wembley Stadium.
My experiences with Matthew have convinced me he is probably the City supporter who most concerns himself over the ramifications and nuances of every new City kit unveiled. If the socks (in his mind) clash with the shorts it can spoil his weekend. This passion is only surpassed by his love of the game itself - and his beloved team's successes.
Mr Maxey’s hair-style changes with the wind…but his devotion to the Blues stays the same.
Over to you Matthew.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GOING TO A FOOTBALL MATCH?
City v Arsenal at Maine Road in 89/90. The score was 1-1. My uncle took me, we sat in the Main Stand. Can't remember much else.
WHAT IS THE MOST PECULIAR OR MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU AT A MATCH?
Kevin Keegan was signing autographs as the players got off the bus to go in to Ewood Park in 2003. He had a tactics board under his arm and a packet of wine gums in his hand. I asked him for a wine gum, and he ignored me. "Kevin, can I have a wine gum please," I asked again. And again. Pretending to not be annoyed (he definitely was annoyed) he finally looked up and asked me what my favourite colour was. "Red or black," I told him and, lo' and behold, the first two in the packet were a red and black. So he gave me both. City played in red and black that day, and Michael Tarnat scored a freekick from near the centre circle.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND PREVENT ONE MATCH FROM BEING PLAYED -WHAT MATCH WOULD THAT BE - AND WHY?
Any derby day battering from the 1990s. The way we lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final in 2016 was also pretty galling in a different way (a massive missed opportunity IMHO).
WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
Newcastle, Leeds, or any team whose fans deem it necessary to take their tops off during the match!
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MAN CITY TERRACE SONG OR CHANT - AND WHY?
"He's Brazilian, he only cost £30million. We think he's (censcored!) brilliant, he's Ederson..."... to the tune of "She's Electric"... I love our goalkeeper, and this was the one Oasis song that the band never performed live, so City fans are righting a wrong every time they 'perform' it.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CITY GOAL YOU HAVE WITNESSED -(“Agueroooooooooooo…” aside…)?
All the goals in the title run-in in 2012 were memorable... Kompany's header on the Monday night versus United, Yaya away at Newcastle etc etc. BIG GOALS from BIG PLAYERS.
HAVE YOU EVER MET ONE OF YOUR MAN CITY HEROES… IF SO - WHO…AND HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE?
I met Georgi Kinkladze on an escalator in town in 2004. He was 'in between clubs' at the time and wasn't very chirpy. I asked him about the rumours Kevin Keegan was going to bring him back to the club to the fill one of the Eyal Berkovic/Ali Bernabia-shaped playmaker holes in the squad. 'I rang Kevin, but Kevin did not want me,' he said.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY MAN CITY PLAYER - PRESENT OR PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
I haven't got any biscuits in so probably Jill Scott. She has a coffee shop in Northenden, so you'd expect her to bring some supplies with her.
HAVE YOU EVER SHED A TEAR OF JOY (OR PAIN) AT A CITY MATCH
No tears, but I did a lot of groaning at matches as a child between 1995 and 1999, and as a young adult in the 2004 to 2007 era. I also feel slight pain every time we take to the field in a home kit with blue shorts or with bits of purple on the shirt (2019-20).
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MAINE ROAD?
Its proximity to where I live (0.8 miles from my front door).
WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD WIN IN AN ARM WRESTLING MATCH… YAYA TOURE - OR KYLE WALKER?
Yaya's retired now so probably Kyle Walker. Peak Vincent Kompany would beat both. though.
IF YOU COULD PICK ONE CURRENT CITY PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
Fernandinho or Karen Bardsley. Both are 36 years-old, both have lived on different continents; Fernandinho seems like a thinker and KB has a master's degree.
Back in 2012, shortly after City won the Premier League title for the first time, someone at the Club rang me to ask if I’d like to do the kit shoot in the summer.
I agreed obviously; who wouldn’t? I asked what the idea was and they said, 'we were hoping you’d have a few ideas.' I said: “How about if we get Vincent Kompany with Noel Gallagher.”
They were over the moon with that. I had no idea if it was possible, but between us all we managed to pull it off.
The only convenient date was a weekend when Noel was playing at the Werchter Rock Festival outside Brussels in Belgium.
It was also the weekend of the Stone Roses reunion gigs at Heaton Park. Much as I wanted to go, I’d talked myself into this shoot, so I reluctantly gave my tickets to my daughter Ella, and got the Eurostar to Brussels instead.
The kit shoot was scheduled for the Monday - the day after the gig - and off we went in our erm, luxury mini bus to Werchter.
Someone suggested that Vinny could introduce Noel on stage. VK looked a bit hesitant, but Noel convinced him it was a good idea. He told him, “You’re the captain of Belgium. They’ll all love you.”
I was used to seeing Vinny striding like a Colossus around the pitch, not nervously mooching about, side stage at a Festival.
Once he went on stage to introduce Noel his nerves disappeared, The crowd were hugely surprised but delighted, and were soon chanting his name. Then Noel came on and gave him a huge man-hug, and Vinny (almost reluctantly) went off. I was half-hoping he was going to stay on and join in with '(It’s Good) to be Free', the opening song.
I asked him how I thought his first festival appearance had gone and he said in his perfect Manc accent, “I’m still Buzzin’.”
I wandered into the crowd to take some photos - there were quite a few City shirted Noel fans around. Then I went back side stage for the encore - which was two Oasis songs - and watched Vinny and co. singing lustily to 'Little by Little' and 'Don’t Look Back in Anger'.
The rest of the evening is a blur, but suffice to say, I was hoping we weren’t going to start the kit shoot until mid-afternoon...
This side would have an easy chant for our fans – ‘They’re all of our own!’ – because they are...
Now, let’s not get too hung up on city borders or what is construed as Greater Manchester and so on - Stockport is very much included for obvious reasons!
There will be names missing – it’s impossible to get all our Mancunian players in this side – so if there a few favourites absent, it’s not a snub, just because there are only 20 berths available in this team.
So, here is our Mancunian City XI plus bench…
GK: Joe Corrigan
Big Joe remains one of our greatest keeper of all time, so placing him as the No.1 in this team is an easy decision.
LB: Andy Hinchcliffe
Hugely talented left-back Hinchcliffe would provide the set-piece expertise from corners and free-kicks.
RB: Nicky Reid
Though he was by nature a central defender, Reid would occasionally slot in at right back and do an excellent job. Committed and tough-tackling, Reid would enhance this XI’s back four.
CB: Tommy Booth
Long-serving and flexible, Booth was a ball-playing centre-half who could also play in a midfield anchor-man with the odd goal thrown in here and there.
CB: Mike Doyle (captain)
Who else but Mr Manchester City to lead this band of blue blooded men? Mike Doyle would take particular pride on leading a Mancunian City X!.
RIGHT MID: Paul Lake
Lakey was a class act who could play in a multitude of roles for the team. His attacking instincts and vision earn him a spot in right mid on this occasion.
CENTRE MID: Michael Johnson
The man labelled as the next Colin Bell – a comparison that undoubtedly weighed heavily on his shoulders – Johnson was a superb footballer and takes centre midfield in this side.
LEFT MID: Paul Power
Tireless club servant Power could play anywhere down the left – defence, midfield or wing – and he would balance out this midfield trio perfectly.
LEFT WING: Phil Foden
It takes a special talent to keep Neil Young out of this team – but then Foden is a very special talent and impossible to leave out.
RIGHT WING: David White
Speedy, direct and a genuine goal threat, White would add a dynamism down the right flank as well as on the counter-attack where he would have given Kyle Walker a run for his money!
STRIKER: Brian Kidd
Kidd was a clever centre forward who was good on the ground or in the air – he’d benefit greatly from having White and Foden supplying the ammunition.
Clive Wilson: Classy left-back.
Stan Bowles: Gifted play-maker.
Tommy Doyle: Industry and energy in midfield.
Neil Young: Guile, skill and vision to bolster the forward line.
Peter Barnes: Unlucky to have such a rich side of left-footed stars competing for the same role.
Dave Bennet: Tricky, underrated and skilful winger/attacker.
Kenny Clements: A toss of a coin between Reid and Clements – who was a superb defender.
Roger Palmer: Goal-poacher par excellence!
Alex Williams: Terrific understudy for Big Joe.
Jill Scott: Manchester City midfielder, Lionesses legend, MBE and… marauding centre-back?!
The England star is back in City blue, having spent the latter end of the 2020/21 season on loan with Everton, where she enjoyed seven cherished years before making the move from Merseyside to Manchester back in 2013.
As she often jokes, when she hit 30, questions were raised regarding her future: ‘What’s next for you? Will you be slowing down this season? When will you retire?’
Her answer is always the same: ‘There’s life in these old legs yet!’
Admittedly, while a fair bit had changed at the City Football Academy since she returned to the Toffees – a busy summer of activity welcoming six new faces – Jill would have been forgiven not to have anticipated a positional switch… to central-defence!
However, City’s injury crisis has called for desperate measures and the 5’11” attacker shuffled a few spaces back, shielding Karima Benameur Taieb as the last line of defence, alongside lethal left-footers Alex Greenwood and Demi Stokes, and forwards Georgia Stanway and Janine Beckie!
A team worker, consummate professional and all-round positive influence, Scott has always put the needs of the team above her own and she stepped into the breach without complaint. Her first defensive efforts were rewarded with a win and a clean sheet, while she also somehow managed to craft an assist from the right flank for Khadija Shaw’s hat-trick goal with a mazy venture forward and pinpoint delivery to the backpost!
Although she was delighted with her contribution – and to have been named in the City starting XI for the first time since January – the midfielder asserted she was just doing her job.
“I was happy,” she reflected. “I was just excited to play – it had been about eight months since I’d started a game for City.(For people who don’t know, I did go out on loan – I didn’t just sit on the bench!)
“It’s been great to put the shirt on again and play in front of fans at the Academy Stadium. I was genuinely so excited.
“I found out I was playing in defence the day before the [2020/21 Women’s FA Cup quarter-final] game against Leicester and news travelled fast! Everywhere I walked in the CFA, people would smile at me and say: ‘Centre-half tomorrow, eh?’
“I replied: ‘I can play football, you know! I should be okay!’ but deep down, I was very nervous!
“Although I was a bit shocked to be playing there, I wanted to do well for the girls. I was nervous but maybe that was because I didn’t want to let them down.
“I have to give massive shout-outs to Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Janine Beckie, Georgia Stanway and Karima Taieb. They really helped me to get through it – they kept talking to me, which people outside don’t necessarily see – and they were really encouraging.
“At times, they could have told me off but they were really positive. That made my job easier.”
While her attacking talent sparked the creativity of her assist (even if her dynamic run may have been ever-so-slightly rogue!), there were also other traits of Scott’s natural game which aided her transition.
Most notably, her leadership, communication skills and work ethic were clear for all to see and she has been rightly commended, earning deserved recognition by Head Coach Gareth Taylor.
“I enjoyed it,” she added. “A big part of my game has always been communication and putting in tackles – settling the tone.
“Playing in midfield, it comes more naturally – I can organise people a little bit better. Against Leicester, I was focused more on my job – getting that right – but I also think I passed on communication too.
“I thought I’d be in trouble with the assist! As a defender, you’re meant to stay at the back of the pitch so making a run through and putting crosses in isn’t part of the gameplan!
“Thankfully though, it came off!
“I’d joked a few weeks before that I’d play anywhere for this team so I guess this was that dream coming true!”
The Last Word
Planes, Trains and Painted Cows
On the eve of our trip to Brugge, we look back at City’ long-awaited return to European football in October 2003…
In 2003, the sleepy Belgian town of Lokeren was, for 24 hours, completely overwhelmed.
Located in East Flanders and with a population of around 40,000, Lokeren was picturesque and surrounded by pretty countryside.
Just an hour from the capital Brussels, it was something of a commuter town for those working in the city, but wanting a quieter existence away from it.
City were back in Europe for the first time in 24 long years, with Kevin Keegan steering the Blues to a top 10 Premier League finish and a surprise spot in the UEFA Cup courtesy of the Fair Play League.
Having seen off Welsh Premier League side Total Network Solutions – yes, that really was their name back then – the preliminary round was done and dusted and the first round draw was made.
We drew Lokeren.
Having edged past the Belgian minnows 3-2 in the first leg at the City of Manchester Stadium, there was plenty at stake in the second leg where a single goal win for the hosts of 1-0 or 2-1 would be enough to see them through on away goals.
But what City fans really wanted was a trip to Europe.
The demand for tickets was incredible, with many young Mancunians having not only never witnessed City playing abroad but having rarely left Manchester.
Special flights – lots of them – were organised when it became evident that this was going to be a major exodus.
But there was a problem - Lokeren’s tiny Daknamstadion had a capacity of just 12,136 and 5,000 City fans were coming to town.
It was a Manc invasion, though a friendly, high spirited one.
Many City fans flew to and stayed in Brussels, congregating in the magnificent Grand Place – a spectacular square that was both huge and beautiful.
An exhibition of painted cows were dotted around the square and Brussels in general, with the narrow streets and lanes full of cosy bars and restaurants.
There was a police presence of course – English fans overseas didn’t have the best of reputations – but this Blue Army were in town to enjoy themselves, and that they did, long into the night.
The next day, many sore heads and long lie-ins later, the journey began to Lokeren with dozens of coaches shipping those on organised trips, with many others hopping on the train or driving themselves the 56km to watch their beloved team play on foreign soil.
It was a ‘had to be there’ moment and as the 5,000 Mancunians flooded the sleepy town – no more than a village in truth – the few bars and shops that were open were soon struggling to cope with the thirsty northerners.
What beer there had been was quickly consumed, and with City fans everywhere, the final walk to the stadium began.
City fans were banked behind one goal and in part of the adjacent stand as the players ran out to warm up – and what a sight it must have been with the banks of Mancs outnumbering the home support.
The gate was estimated to be around 10,000 and yes, there was the occasional disturbance, but these were reported to be a known group of Belgian trouble-makers not associated with Lokeren but out to cause problems.
Nothing too concerning, as any infiltrators would have taken one look at the sheer numbers of City supporters and thought better of it!
The game itself was settled on 19 minutes when Paulo Wanchope was pulled down in the box and Nicolas Anelka slotted home the penalty.
City were through and the Mancunian masses peacefully filtered out into the Belgian night into coaches, trains and eventually planes to fly home.
It was quite a trip.
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