Gareth Taylor says he could not be happier his managerial career brought him back to City.

The former striker – who now stands proudly as manager of our Under-18s squad – clocked 48 appearances for Joe Royle’s men between 1998 and 2001, scoring nine goals to help the Club to successive promotions to the Premier League.

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When Taylor joined the ranks, City were languishing in a perilous position – mid-table in Division Two – and the forward played his part in lifting his new Club into the play-off places, bagging the winner on his home debut in a crucial top-of-the-table victory over Stoke which would ignite City’s campaign and .

The 1998/99 season would of course unfold to cement itself as one of the most significant – and dramatic – in the Club’s history, with the fairytale ending of pivotal promotion (following the most turbulent of rollercoaster rides).

Substitute Taylor himself had a hand in both of City's iconic goals at Wembley, flicking the ball on in the build-up for both Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov in the unforgettable finale!

More than two decades later, Taylor has just guided our young charges to back-to-back U18 Premier League Cup success with a 6-0 triumph over Stoke – fittingly, the side he bagged his first City goal against.

Looking back on his 20-year career, the 47-year-old says he could not be more proud of his achievements in sky blue and hopes his experiences can inspire the next crop of budding stars.

“I had no hesitation in joining City,” he explained. “I was in the league above, playing in the Championship for Sheffield United but I was really keen to come because I knew how big a Club it was, although I didn’t realise how big until I actually played the first couple of months to be honest – the expectation and the fanbase were incredible.

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“I’d enjoyed playing at Sheffield United but City’s was a great project and I’m so grateful I did join because we had back-to-back promotions and when you look back at your career, those are special memories for sure.

“When I signed in the December just before Christmas, we were about 12th in the league. I remember going to Wrexham in a packed house at the Racecourse – the away games were like home games because we’d often have three sides of the stadium! – and Gerard Wiekens scored on a bog of a pitch from a real downpour before the game and we won 1-0.

“We went back to Maine Road on the 28th and played Stoke, which was a pivotal game, and we won 2-1. I got my first goal for the Club and we kind of set off from there on a decent run and came up out the back door!

“The amount of support we had really took me aback – we were playing every other week at Maine Road in front of thirty-odd thousand fans! – but you’ve also got the pressure around it as well. The supporters weren’t going to stand for the Club being at that level and they’d let you know about it if you weren’t at it!

“We had a really strong team of staff and players, who all mucked in together. I knew Willie Donachie because he was at Sheffield United previously and he played a big part in my coming to City but the staff were all great and there were some real characters!

“We had some good personalities in the dressing room and you can’t fake that team spirit.

WATCH: City 6-0 Stoke: U18 PL Cup final highlights

“At the time, I was still commuting from Sheffield and Andy Morrison and Nicky Weaver were also living that way so we had a bit of a carpool going on.

“Andy tapped onto me straight away and demanded I drive him back and forth from Sheffield, which I wasn’t going to argue with! A few of his old stories kept me and Weaves entertained on the long journeys!

“You always felt safe with Andy – he’s a big guy – but he would be demanding of us. He felt you could win a game in the tunnel. Before a game, he’d point at you and tell you to make your presence known straight away and get stuck in. That was always my gameplan anyway, back in the days when you could put yourself about a bit more!

“He was great – he just gave you that type of confidence and he was a good leader – a loud leader. He put his body on the line and you can see why the fans loved him.

“I struck up a good relationship with Paul Dickov straight away as well and the Goat is a larger than life character. They were all good lads and everyone wanted to work hard for one another.”

Upon his retirement in 2011, Taylor turned to coaching to pass on his knowledge and experience to the next generation, returning to City as an Academy coach.


                        Taylor: I’m so proud to have played for City

Has he adopted some of City’s old school techniques into his own coaching philosophy? Not completely…

“I remember we used to train at an old school behind the Kippax and I never really knew the reason why,” he recalled.

“We used to put trainers on, get into the minibus and go round the back of the stand, do the warm-up with Willie with the soft balls in the old assembly hall; then get on the bus back to the game!

“That was standard practice but then when we did it for the play-off semi-final against Wigan, it was crazy because the fans were there in the street and we couldn’t get the bus through and I think they had to delay kick-off!

“I’ve been coaching for almost a decade now and I’m fortunate enough to work with the young lads at Manchester City and you always look for your cultural leaders, like we had with Andy.

“You could see with Joe and Willie that they thought: this guy is going to drive the dressing room and you get that sometimes. You can see that in people: they’re doing all the right things they’re leading by example.

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“I never thought I’d be back at the Club but I’m really pleased and very grateful. It’s amazing to have been a player here and to now coach the young players, trying to help them become a player, which is very tough – and also to see familiar faces and witness the transformation of the Club.

“Nothing beats playing – nothing beats the camaraderie that you have with the players in the dressing room – but I would say: if you’re looking for that next fix, coaching is the closest thing.

“Seeing the work you do throughout the week, working with players and seeing them fulfil their potential, trying to help them by explaining similar situations you’ve had in your career, is amazing.

“Looking back on my playing days here, those were great times although it was tough playing for the Club at that time and I think a lot of the lads would say that.

“I’m really proud that I played for this Club – it’s a fantastic Club to play for and any player who’s played for City would say that, throughout the decades.

“Everyone would say they’re really proud to have played for Manchester City.”