It was the game that gave a whole new meaning to the phrase horse play.

And it’s the unlikely tale of a how a child’s small toy horse helped ride to the rescue by serving as a timely City lucky charm.

For the origins of the story we need rewind back to September 2006, when both our then manager Stuart Pearce and his struggling City side were in need of some urgent salvation after a morale-sapping run of 13 defeats in 16 matches.

CITYZENS AT HOME

With speculation starting to rumble about his own future, and City facing a crucial Premier League home encounter with West Ham, divine intervention galloped over the horizon from the most unexpected source – Pearce’s then seven-year-old daughter Chelsea.

An innocent suggestion from Pearce junior was to serve as the unlikely catalyst for Pearce senior and his players.

In fact, you could say it was the perfect gee-up for the struggling side.

Step forward, Beanie the Horse.


                        ROAR POWER: Stuart Pearce barks out the orders during City's 2-0 win over West Ham in September 2006
ROAR POWER: Stuart Pearce barks out the orders during City's 2-0 win over West Ham in September 2006

Pearce takes up the story.

"My wife Liz and my daughter Chelsea had decided they would come up to the game and Chelsea said to me that Beanie the Horse should stand next to me on the touchline," Pearce revealed.

"Beanie was her idea of a lucky charm for me.”

Universally known throughout the footballing world as Pyscho, thanks to his unflinching and uncompromising manner during his playing days, one would have been forgiven for thinking that Pearce would have baulked at the idea about carrying a toy horse into the dug-out in front of more than 40,000 fans.

Not a bit of it.

DAVID SILVA: Made in Gran Canaria

Pearce was more than happy to have his miniature equine friend by his side in the City technical area – and whether it was fate or sheer co-incidence, Beanie's influence more than rode to the rescue for the boss.

With the manager deciding to also place his faith in the younger members of his squad and opting to hand the then 19-year-old Ishmael Miller a first senior start, to a man the City players responded in kind.

After an encouraging first-half display which saw us take the game to Alan Pardew’s Hammers but without any tangible reward, City further ramped up the pressure after the break.


                        HAMMER TIME: Georgios Samaras fires home City's and his opening goal in our 2006 win over West Ham
HAMMER TIME: Georgios Samaras fires home City's and his opening goal in our 2006 win over West Ham

And while Beanie was doing his best to inspire us on from the touchline, Greek striker Georgios Samaras stepped up to the plate on the pitch, claiming two all-important second-half goals to help deliver what was a vital victory for Pearce and Co.

Samaras's opening effort five minutes into the second half was a thing of beauty.

After Miller's surging run down the left had been halted by Christian Dailly, the ball fell to the tall, rangy striker and Samaras calmly controlled it on his chest before volleying home from the edge of the area, to the Etihad’s relief and acclaim.

The striker’s second strike demonstrated both Samaras’s vision and verve as he deftly lifted the ball over Hammers’ keeper Roy Carroll after being played in by Bernardo Corradi.

Not surprisingly, both the three-point dividend and vibrant manner of the performance left Pearce purring in the immediate aftermath - and more than grateful that he had taken on board his daughter’s advice.

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"It's difficult to tell a seven-year-old that this is the Premier League and that I'm known as Psycho, the hard man,” Pearce told the assembled press afterwards.

"But I put all that to one side to be a family man. And after this result Beanie is travelling to Everton next week with us. He's certainly cheaper than Samaras!"

Just for the record, Beanie was to work his equine magic again at Goodison Park as City secured a 1-1 draw against the Toffees seven days later.

You could call it horse sense indeed!