Ian Bishop has revealed just how close he came to missing Manchester City’s Division Two Playoff victory over Gillingham in 1999 due to injury.

The classy midfielder, who had two spells at City, says he had to con then City boss Joe Royle into thinking he was fit enough to take part by deliberately going through the motions in training.

On the 20th anniversary of that magnificent day at the old Wembley, Bishop says he had waited all his career to play at the national stadium and wasn’t going to be denied by a hamstring tear suffered in the final game of the normal season.

“I was injured in the last game of the season,” he said. “I pulled my hamstring against York at home, which made me miss the two Playoff semi-finals [against Wigan].

“They told me it was six weeks for my hamstring, so I wasn’t going to be involved. It took all my playing career [to get to Wembley] and I’m thinking I just can’t miss it.

“I was chatting to my physio and he said you’ve torn the fibre of your hamstring. 

“I think a week before the final I decided I was going to join in training and coax my way through it and try and convince the gaffer I’m going to be on the bus.

“It took me a while to convince him; I sat in his office saying Joe I got through training. I hid a bit and kept myself safe. I thought it’s the third week, if I don’t overdo it I might be OK.

“He said ‘I can’t take the gamble; I can’t have you on the bench then I put you on. What if you break down and I’m down a man and it goes into extra time?’

“I said ‘Joe, I’m honestly fine - you’ve got to take me I can’t miss this.’

“He agreed, we spoke about it and we agreed I’d be on the bench.

“To be honest when he put me on I think there was about thirteen minutes left, I was thinking I’ll get through this, it was still 0-0.

“He did actually say after the game: ‘Bish, you changed the game’.

“I said ‘yeah Joe, I came on 0-0 we went 2-0 down. Definitely changed the game!’”

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Bishop’s first spell at City back in 1989 saw him play 24 times for the Club – including the 5-1 win over Manchester United at Maine Road.

But he left just six months after signing, despite being a popular figure with City fans.

However, he got the chance to return as a 32-year-old when Royle decided he needed some additional guile in the middle of the park with City looking to avoid relegation to the third tier of English football. 

Bishop says it was a dream come true to return to the Club nine years after leaving - and he even waived a lucrative testimonial with the Hammers in order to ensure the deal was completed.

“I spoke to Harry Redknapp about my testimonial year and we were sort of falling out a little bit at the time,” he said.

“I’d been on the bench 23 times that season and got on three times. It wasn’t good for me as a 32-year-old.

"I wanted to play, no matter what money the testimonial would have brought in it wasn’t about the money, it was about finding a team and playing football.

“I said to Harry I’d give up the testimonial year and the one year deal that he offered if he gave me a free transfer. 

“I didn’t expect City. I was out in London and my wife called and said you need to come home, Joe Royle wants to speak with you.

"And I was like: 'Wait, Joe Royle. Manchester City. See you lads.' I wouldn’t have gone home any other time.

"There was a reserve game against Port Vale the next day. I drove up after training and spoke to Joe. It didn't take long to discuss everything and then I phoned Harry, who, to be fair, didn't know anything about it.

"I said 'I've spoken to Joe and I want to do the deal'. He said: 'I don't think we can,' but he succumbed in the end and said OK."

Wembley '99
'We're Man City, we'll fight 'til the end!'