Mens Team

Ian Bishop: The silk that was sacrificed for steel

Ian Bishop: The silk that was sacrificed for steel
You couldn’t miss Ian Bishop when he played for Bournemouth.

Stylish, skilful and possessing the sort of vision that made him stand out a country mile alongside some of the journeymen around him.

All that and the long hair that made him look more like a rock star than a footballer.

The first time he really came to City fans’ notice was when, needing a win to secure promotion during the 1988/89 campaign, City raced into a 3-0 half-time lead against Bournemouth at Maine Road.

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The party began on the Kippax because even City couldn’t throw this away… could we?

Bishop then played his part in securing we did, with Luther Blissett equalising from the spot in something like the 97th minute to make it 3-3 - so when anyone asks for explanations of the ‘typical City’ tag, this game pretty much sums it up.

Nonetheless, Mel Machin liked what he had seen and snapped up the midfielder for £700,000 following City’s last-gasp promotion clincher the following week at Bradford and Bishop jumped at the chance to move to Maine Road.

He was an instant hit with City fans, locking horns in one particular game with Paul Gascoigne – then in his pomp – and edging the battle with clever passing, dummies and even a nutmeg that infuriated Gazza  as it received the biggest roar of the day.

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In fact Bishop wasn’t just popular, he was idolised by the City fans during his first spell. pulling the strings in the 5-1 win over United September 1989 and scoring a diving header to make it 3-0.

He later played an inch perfect lofted ball that David White raced on to and crossed for Andy Hinchcliffe to make it five.

Bishop scored another header the following week in a 3-1 win over Luton Town – bizarre considering heading just wasn’t his forte at all - but it further cemented his tag as firm fan favourite.

But things soon went wrong for the City and following a 6-0 loss at Derby County not long after, Machin was fired.

Howard Kendall who had once had a spat with Bishop when he was an apprentice at Goodison Park for having hair that was too long and who also subsequently released the player - took over and quickly signed dogged midfield battlers he felt would save City from the drop.

Peter Reid, Alan Harper were signed and Gary Megson was recalled to the side – Bishop, all too predictably was dropped.

As Christmas approached, Kendall decided to bring in Mark Ward from West Ham and to the City fans’ dismay, Bishop was part of the exchange deal.

With the writing on the wall, he played his last game against Norwich and when substituted for the last time, he saluted the Maine Road faithful and left the pitch in tears.

Bishop was afforded warm receptions on his return to Maine Road in the claret and blue of West Ham and he went on to become a real favourite at Upton Park.

He was very much in the West Ham mindset of slick passing and attacking football. 

Meanwhile the City fans watched Megson and Harper patrol Kendall’s midfield – wholehearted competitors, yes, pleasing to the eye, sadly not.

Incredibly, the best part of an entire decade passed when, with Joe Royle now in charge at Maine Road, Bishop was made available on a free transfer by the Hammers.

Who better, thought Royle, than Bishop to orchestrate his team, now in the nation’s third tier, back to the upper echelons of English football?

The transfer was warmly received and for many, it was a treat to see Bish back where many felt he belonged.

The trouble was, he was at the wrong end of his career, now and the years had taken the sharpness out of his play, though he could still pick a pass.

His guile and vision played a major part of City’s dramatic return to the First Division where he again played his part in a second successive promotion.

The Premier League was maybe asking too much, though, and the then 34-year-old Bishop left for the USA to play for Miami Fusion, though returned to run a pub in Southport for a while.

In different circumstances, he’d have probably been with the Club for most of his career – as it was, City fans were given a brief cameo at the beginning and a cultured veteran at the back end of his playing days.

Both spells proved what a class act he was - on and off the pitch.

Illustration by Ben Wild

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