Men's Team

25 years of the Premier League: City's first game

TONY COTON: New season, new rules, new beginning...
Fireworks, cheerleaders and football on a Monday night – the Premier League had well and truly arrived.

Renovation work at the Platt Lane end meant the Maine Road capacity was reduced to just 24,471 for the first game of the inaugural 1992/93 Premier League campaign.

It was the Blues’ fourth top flight campaign in a row as the Club sought the stability that had been absent from the previous decade that had been spent yo-yoing between the First and Second Division.

Peter Reid had overseen a second successive fifth-place finish, but with English clubs banned from Europe for five years, there was no reward of UEFA Cup football for the success-starved Blues.

Terry Phelan and Ricky Holden had been recruited during the summer months, while Paul Lake was finally available for selection after a two-year absence with a knee injury.

QPR, a club that would become synonymous with historic games against City in years to come, were the opposition for the Blues' first live Monday night fixture and as the Sky Sports cameras rolled into town, so came with all the razzmatazz and hyperbole you’d expect from a brand that was essentially starting from scratch.

The First Division was yesterday’s news – the Premier League was the future and while there might have been a certain amount of cynicism from the home fans as fireworks and cheerleaders accompanied the teams onto the pitch, it also gave a glimpse at an exciting possible future for English football.

Things, it seemed, would never be the same again.

All the players had to do was match the hype off the pitch and deliver the goods on it and as the match finally kicked off, City fans wondered whether Reid’s side could build on the recent lofty finishes and perhaps even do better.

There was also a new rule change – goalkeepers couldn’t pick up a deliberate pass back from a player on their own team, but that seemed to have been momentarily forgotten as Tony Coton dutifully picked up a ball played back from Andy Hill.

The referee seemed to see the infringement and as Maine Road waited for a QPR free-kick to be awarded, Coton duly thumped the ball up field and play continued.

The Niall Quinn and David White partnership, so effective for the previous two seasons, were soon causing problems for the Hoops and on 38 minutes, Quinn’s low shot was parried into the path of White who slid the ball home from close range.

The goal of the game, however, came moments after the re-start as England winger Andy Sinton equalised with a stunning drive from 20 yards.

WATCH: 25 years of Premier League: The first game

Keeper Coton recalled: “My only memories of that game are the Sky dancers and Andy Sinton smacking it in my top right-hand corner live on TV.

“I had no clue at all on how big the Premier League would impact football all over the world but I’m glad I played some part in City’s first game.”

There was to be further scoring and the game ended 1-1.

TV scheduling meant that just two days later, the Blues were in action again, away to Middlesbrough and it is perhaps the fact that Paul Lake was asked to do too much too quickly that the gifted City midfielder collapsed in agony at Ayresome Park just a few minutes into the game with what would prove to be a career-ending injury.

Losing Lake was a massive blow and City’s first Premier League season never really ignited thereafter, eventually finishing in ninth spot in an unremarkable campaign.

For those who were there on 17 August 1992, however, it was a seminal moment.

Football would never be the same again and how ironic that when the Blues finally got their hands on the coveted Premier League title two decades later, QPR would once again be the opposition…

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