"I never wanted to leave"
Ian Bishop on how he was shipped out by Howard Kendall despite the protests of City fans...
Ian Bishop says having to leave City was the hardest moment of his playing career.
Signed for £450,000 from Bournemouth during the 1989/90 pre-season, Bishop became an immediate crowd favourite with City fans.
A gifted playmaker, he was a classy midfielder who had been released by Howard Kendall as a youngster at Everton, before climbing back up the league pyramid, first with Carlisle United and then Bournemouth.
He had scored at Maine Road for Carlisle in a 3-1 win, but it was the penultimate game of the 1988/89 season that he really caught the eye of manager Mel Machin.
City needed a win to go back to the top flight and led 3-0 at half-time, but a Bishop-inspired Bournemouth came back to draw 3-3.
The silky-skilled, long-haired Liverpudlian stood out for the Cherries that day and was exactly what Machin wanted – and a deal was struck to bring him to Maine Road.
“I think the City fans liked me after the Bournemouth game – the City players probably didn’t because it ruined their holiday to Australia!” recalled Bishop.
Bishop took the No.4 jersey for City, cut his hair some and made his debut in a 3-1 defeat at Anfield.
He made his home debut in a 2-1 loss to Southampton, and four days later, the foundations were laid for a bond between Bishop and the City supporters.
Paul Gascoigne, in his pomp playing for Spurs, was engaged in mocking Paul Lake, pulling faces, and making gestures in a way only Gazza could.
Bishop then enraged the England star by nutmegging him, to the delight of the Kippax.
That game ended 1-1, but City would win just one game of the opening seven games, which would include a League Cup defeat to Brentford.
It was a worrying start to say the least.
City would bounce back with a superb 5-1 Manchester derby win and a 3-1 win over Luton Town – with Bishop starring and scoring in both games.
A 4-1 second leg win over Brentford followed and any murmurings over Machin’s future seemed to calm, but it was the quiet before the storm.
“I didn’t really get the fans coming up to me in the week or suchlike because I was living in Liverpool during my time at City,” said Bishop.
“It might have been different if I’d been in and around Manchester more often than I was.
“It was only when I turned up on matchdays and I met them again – I had such a special rapport with the City fans when I was on the pitch where I loved to be. I loved Maine Road.”
City’s patchy form reached crisis point with a 6-0 defeat at Derby County and Machin was sacked shortly after.
His replacement was Howard Kendall – the man who had once told a teenage Bishop to get his hair cut before releasing him as Everton boss...
It seemed the writing was on the wall for the talented Bishop as Kendall signed a number of experienced, bargain basement players, many ex-Everton, as he shaped up a ‘dogs of war’ type side to beat relegation.
Within a couple of weeks of Kendall’s arrival, crowd favourite Bishop was informed he was surplus to requirements.
News broke of a potential part-exchange deal with West Ham’s Mark Ward joining City and Bishop and Trevor Morley going in the opposite direction.
The news didn’t go down well with City fans.
It was pre-social media and websites back then, so fans had to make their stance at matches, and make a stance they did.
On the Boxing Day 1989 game with Norwich, Bishop’s name echoed around Maine Road and there were dozens of banners and flags urging the Club not to sell what many believed to be the prized asset.
It would ultimately fall on deaf ears.
“My last game against Norwich came three months after we’d beaten United 5-1,” said Bishop.
“I didn’t want to leave the field that day when I was subbed – that’s the impact the fans had on me.
“It took me forever to walk off and Howard (Kendall) was waiting for me as I came off the pitch.
“There had been talks with West Ham with me and Trev going one way and Mark Ward coming to City had been, but they had broken down for whatever reason so we sort of knew it was still likely to happen.
“Once a manager has decided to let you go, it’s hard to try and stay, but to go out and play a game and know it’s possibly your last is hard.
“You still have to go out and actually do it, even though I knew I was wanted by the manager, there was a job to do.
“And then you go out and see the banners on the Kippax – ‘Don’t go Bish’ or whatever, really hits home, especially as we had an important game to play.
“I was in tears on the pitch but looking at Howard as I walked off, I was thinking ‘Is it going to change? Is there still time for things to turn around?’
“I’d played and we’d won, but it didn’t make any difference. It was clear my time was up.”
Bishop would stay with West Ham for nine seasons, making 304 appearances during his time at Upton Park where he was again a crowd favourite.
The City fans, despite the years passing by, never forgot ‘Bish’.
“I remember the many times I came back with West Ham and the City fans would sing my name and the West Ham players would say, ‘What the hell did you do here?’
“Fortunately, my relationship with the City fans continued throughout my career and played a huge part in me coming back in 1998.”
Bishop had unfinished business at City and though just shy of his 33rd birthday, when he became available on a free transfer in March 1998, Joe Royle snapped him up.
He arrived too late to prevent relegation from what is now the Championship but would be an integral part of the side that won promotion via the play-off final against Gillingham the year after.
Then, he played 43 times as City made it back-to-back promotions in 1999/2000 – he had helped City back to the top flight and his mission was complete.
He stayed for much of the 2000/01 season before moving to Miami aged almost 36 – where he still resides today.
In total he made 117 appearances for City and the Club and supporters remain a big part of his life.
“I don’t blame Howard for what he did, but he took away what would have been my life – who knows what would have had happened if I’d had 10 years with City and been there forever?” he said.
“Saying that, I can’t change what happened with West Ham and I loved every minute of playing for them, but leaving City had a big impact on my life.”