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‘Faz’, who was brought to City by Kevin Keegan, remained on the coaching staff when Stuart Pearce took over and it was during the pre-season of 2005/06 that Pep arrived for a trial.
Despite his illustrious playing career, Pep was 34 at the time and Pearce decided not to offer the former Barcelona stalwart a contract.
Now, as City prepare for Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup tie with Oxford United, Faz is looking forward to seeing the Blues’ boss again – and admits he would have snapped him up.
“Pep came to train at City when I was at the Club and stayed for maybe 10 days,” recalled Faz. “He was looking to try and get a season in the Premier League as I recall.
“Stuart Pearce was the manager at the time and for one reason or another, we didn’t take him on – it wasn’t my decision, but would I have taken him on given his pedigree and experience? I’d have to say absolutely.”
The Blues begin the defence of the Carabao Cup at a sell-out Kassam Stadium on Tuesday and the tie is particularly poignant for Faz who says he remembers his time with the Club with nothing but affection.
“I was at City from 2000 to 2008 and I’ve nothing but happy memories of my time there,” he said.
“I arrived when we were in the middle of the Championship and we won promotion to the Premier League in my first season and then established ourselves in the top flight in the years after, qualifying for Europe for the first time in a long time so they were really good days.
“We had players like Ali Benarbia, Eyal Berkovic, Shaun Goater, Darren Huckerby, Paulo Wanchope and Shaun Wright-Phillips was starting to come through – some great technical players and lots of pace.”
With talk of Wolves being the best-ever promoted side to the Premier League, Faz says it is too hard to say who has been the very best.
“It’s hard to say because we’re talking about different eras, but I think people do have short memories,” he said.
“The Newcastle United team I was involved with under Kevin Keegan that came up were a fantastic side, Blackburn Rovers challenged at the top of the Premier League when they came up and the City team of 2001/02 were a special side, too.
“Wolves have a great team and I would argue it’s more difficult to compete at the top of the Premier League these days, but it’s impossible to say who have been the best.
“The team we had at City scored more than 100 goals and 100 points in 2001/02 so it was a wonderful, attacking team we had.”
Faz also believes Kevin Keegan had many similarities to the way Pep thinks and they share many philosophies.
He said: “I think Kevin had similar principles and his ideals of the game were like Pep – he fashioned a great team at Newcastle that came close to winning the Premier League and he turned City into a great attacking team that entertained and also did really well at Fulham.
“We didn’t have the budget the Club has these days, of course, which does make a difference because we couldn’t afford the world class players that we see in the City team today and Pep would be the first to hold his hands up and admit that having the tools to build a great team certainly helps.”
With Oxford having a tough start to the campaign and lying second bottom of League One, Faz admits this is going to be a difficult game against a side he rates as one of the best in European football – and beyond.
“We’re in a difficult position at the moment because of our league form and have lost a number of key players to injury of late, but we are delighted to be taking on one of the top three sides in the world at the moment after Barcelona and Real Madrid,” said Faz.
“It’s going to be a really tough game for us but a wonderful experience for some of our lads who haven’t had the chance to play against a team like City and it’s exciting for our supporters to see some of the world class players they only normally see on TV up close and playing in our stadium.
“We know City won this competition last season, but they also lost to Wigan in the FA Cup, so we know that we’ll have to play at our top level, City would have to have an off-night and our goalkeeper is going to have to make three or four top saves, so while it’s difficult, nothing is impossible.
“We’ll be looking to give a good account of ourselves. We just want to put on a good performance in front of a full house and hope that we can take something from the game that will give us confidence to start climbing the league.”
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