We’re talking about ‘The Hill’ – not just any hill, but a hill that afforded a chosen few City fans the chance to watch a sell-out promotion decider from a slightly restricted view.
Let’s back-fill the story a little…
City needed a win on the final day of the 1999/2000 season to secure back-to-back promotions from the third tier to the Premier League.
It was one of those all or nothing games City have ingrained in the Club’s DNA and no respecting Blue would expect anything less.
Joe Royle’s side just had to avoid defeat against a Blackburn Rovers side determined to spoil the party, but imagine the scene – a ground that holds 28,000 and more than 20,000 City fans wanting to get in.
It’s safe to say as many as 15,000 City fans were in the ground by the time the game kicked off – the majority housed behind one of the goals, but many thousands more dotted here, there and everywhere around Ewood Park.
But as soon as it was clear there was no more room inside the ground, the thousands of City fans locked out had to figure a way of seeing the game.
Some looked at the terrain surrounding Ewood Park and figured there must be a vantage point somewhere?
One such fan, David Burton, recalls what happened that fateful, but ultimately joyous Sunday afternoon…
“My wife dropped me off near Ewood Park late morning that day as I was hoping to be able to buy a ticket outside the ground,” he recalled.
“I had missed purchasing one from Maine Road via my season ticket because I had been ill. This proved fruitless so I took up my position in a tree near the open corner between the Darwen End and the Riverside Stand where I could see the goal we were attacking.
“It soon became obvious all the action was at the other end and I moved my location with a handful of others to another corner for the start of the second half.
“There were less than a hundred or so of us up there, but this time we had a great view of the goal at the Blackburn end where we were attacking during the second half.
“Despite the fact we were losing 1-0 and Rovers had hit the woodwork several times, the belief and backing from the handful of supporters up there was incredible. A path behind where we were grouped together had dog walkers and members of the public passing by asking how it was going, one guy wearing an Everton shirt stopped for a chat, he was with his partner taking his dog for a walk, he returned minutes later with a box of wine on tap and paper cups which he shared round and left with it empty wishing us all the best! There was genuine pandemonium on that hill when we scored that day.
“After our third goal a shout went up that the turnstiles had opened to let the early leavers out, we left the hill en masse and many entered the Blackburn Rovers end. I ended up sitting down chatting to some locals who could not believe they were losing the match - never mind being 4-1 down!
“The rest is history- promotion, pitch invasion, pub! The Englishmen (and women) who went up a hill and came down promoted!”
It was indeed an extraordinary, unforgettable day for all those who witnessed it. There was not a hint of crowd trouble and to see 20,000 City fans on the pitch at the end having secured promotion was a sight to behold.
Anyone who saw the game still can’t figure out how City actually won, with Rovers genuinely unlucky not to have been 4-0 up before the second-half equaliser went in from Shaun Goater.
But one abiding memory remains those City fans on the hill. Our hill. At least for a few hours…