Mens Team

I'm still a City fan at heart, says Terry Phelan

I'm still a City fan at heart, says Terry Phelan
Football has taken Terry Phelan to a new adventure in India.

But though now living 5,000 miles away, the former all-action full back admits a large part of his heart will forever be attached to Manchester City.

From 1992, when the former Republic of Ireland international was signed for a then equal British record fee of £2.5m for a defender, to 1995, Phelan was part of a swashbuckling City side, initially assembled by Peter Reid and later overseen by Brian Horton.

Phelan and his colleagues may have been deprived of tangible silverware, but that City side became firmly etched in the affections of a legion of City fans.

Nowadays, Terry lives and works in India where he is technical director for Bangalore-based South United FC as well as being an analyst for Sony Sports.

Like countless others, he has been entranced and bewitched watching City’s remarkable success of the past few seasons.



And seeing the way the Club has set a benchmark for sustained excellence struck more than a wistful chord.

“In a way the Club now is what I hoped it would become when I joined back in 1992,” Terry declared.

“Back then, City were on about building a training complex and a stadium… they had the plans, it was all there but never came to fruition.

                        TRUE BLUE : Terry Phelan pictured during a charity event at Manchester's National Cycling Centre
TRUE BLUE : Terry Phelan pictured during a charity event at Manchester's National Cycling Centre

“So, to see the success over the past few seasons, has been superb.

“City have done it in style too in the way they have won the trophies and it’s been superb for the fans to see them achieve that.

“Realistically, we’ve got three competitions left in us this season – we’ve got the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League and if we can get in there and win a couple of them it would be brilliant.

“The Holy Grail is obviously the Champions League but any trophy that comes to the club is a success story for the fans. We don’t want to be left empty handed not with the players we have and the way we have been playing.”

It may have been 25 years since Phelan moved on from Maine Road with his subsequent career taking him to Chelsea, Everton, Crystal Palace and Fulham amongst his many ports of call before he ended his professional career playing in New Zealand with Otago United.

But for the Manchester-born former left back, those three and a bit seasons at Maine Road rank as amongst the happiest and professionally fulfilling of his career.

“Playing for City was a very special time in my career,” Phelan recalled.

“Coming to a big club like City after spending five years at Wimbledon was a fantastic opportunity.

“It was a chance to go to a big club where the fan base was massive.

“Peter Reid was in charge and he had this blueprint of what he wanted to do and that’s what sold it to me.

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“I could have gone elsewhere – but Peter had funds from the late chairman Peter Swales and he brought in Keith Curle as well as a couple of other players and we were going places and that’s what sold it to me.

“It was a case of: ‘Yes, let’s have a look at this and see where we go.’ For me it was a really exciting prospect.

“The style of football was great and I think that if Peter had been given a few more years, City would have won a trophy.

“I know that Peter was looking to bring in both Ian Wright and Matt Le Tissier and the funds were available to him. And this is what he was looking to build.

“I was lucky enough to play with some fantastic players such as Keith Curle, David White, Niall Quinn as well as fantastic younger lads like Richard Edghill, Garry Flitcroft and the Brightwell boys.

“We were building - we brought Ricky Holden in to swing those balls in and just a couple more additions and we would have won something back then.

“Yes, Manchester United were strong, but I don’t think there was another outstanding side in those days.

“The facilities were good, we had an amazing youth set-up but we just couldn’t grab that trophy which we all wanted and, obviously, Peter didn’t get that time.”

Back then, the size of the fee that City paid to attract Phelan’s services from Wimbledon attracted almost as much attention as his signing itself.

For many players, the focus and additional pressure of seeking to live up to such an expensive price tag could have proved an intolerable burden.

Instead, Phelan revelled in the pressure – revealing that he felt he owed a special debt of gratitude to the City fans.

“The fee honestly never bothered me – I had the attitude that given the Club has paid that money, so I had to give everything I could back… especially to the supporters,” Terry added.

                        ACTION MAN : Terry Phelan pictured in action for the Republic of Ireland in 1994
ACTION MAN : Terry Phelan pictured in action for the Republic of Ireland in 1994

“They say the club pays the money but really it’s the fans that pay the money. So, my attitude was I needed to give those fans something back on the field.

“I remember my first game and I wasn’t really that fit, but running out in front of the Kippax was just amazing. It gives me goose bumps even now just thinking about it.

“So how could you not fly up and down that wing and give those fans every bit of blood and sweat to show what they had paid for?

“And that’s what I tried to do every single game I played for the Club. I tried to work hard and let them enjoy seeing me fly up and down the wing, whip the ball over and crunch into tackles.

“I hope they enjoyed the 100 odd games I played for them as I certainly did. I’ll always remember City.

“Being captain of the Club a couple of times when Keith Curle was unavailable was a fantastic honour for me.

“Wherever I go, I always get asked about City – and anytime I go back to Manchester I get invited back which is lovely.

“It was a special time in my career and the Club is still very dear to my heart.”

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