Mens Team

‘I was told I’d never play again’ – How injury led Terry Cooke to City

Terry Cooke is proud of his place in Manchester City’s history.

The former winger spent three years at the Club having arrived in January 1999, just in time to ensure he guaranteed his place in City folklore as one of the heroes of our Division Two playoff final triumph in May of the same year.

CITYZENS AT HOME |  Fun & educational activities to do at home

“One of the best moments of my career,” is how the 43-year-old describes it.

But 18-months earlier it was unthinkable that Cooke would be celebrating the unlikeliest of comebacks on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium.

Back then he was an academy graduate at Manchester United.

An FA Youth Cup winner alongside Phil Neville in 1995, the pacey winger produced a man of the match performance on his first team debut the following season.

However, his allegiance was not why his heroics with City seemed so improbable a year and a half before that fateful day at Wembley.

A snapped cruciate ligament at the beginning of the 1997/98 campaign left Cooke fighting for his career, but like City would do against Gillingham, he made a surprising recovery, which paved the way for his arrival at Maine Road.

“I came on loan from Manchester United originally, but not many people know that prior to that, I was out of the game for a long time,” he recalls.

“I was told I’d never play again because of a serious knee injury. I was out for 12 months and wanted to get back on my feet, so I went to Wrexham for a month.  

“I did OK, but my best game was on Boxing Day ’98 against City, even though we got beat 1-0.

“Joe Royle must have found out my loan period was coming to an end and, at the time City didn’t have an out and out right winger. I think I was the missing piece in a way.

“Joe enquired about bringing me in on loan. I could have stayed at United and been part of the squad going around Europe, but I was a young kid and I wanted to play football.

“I came to Maine Road – playing in front of a full house every week even in the second division – and the rest is history.”

Cooke was a fully fledged City player by the time the playoff final came around.

Three months into his loan spell Royle made the move permanent, which gave the winger the opportunity to fulfil his childhood ambition of playing in a showpiece game at Wembley.

It’s something he will be forever grateful for and, as the years have passed, the Birmingham-born wide man has grown to appreciate his former manager even more.

In a rollercoaster season of a season, Cooke believes Royle managed the situation impeccably, even though he admits he did not appreciate the pressure the boss was under at the time.

“As a player you don’t really see the extent of what a manager does,” he explains. “I can only imagine the pressure he had to deal with on a daily basis.

“Halfway through, it wasn’t a good season. You have pressure as a player but nothing like that of a manager, so I have full respect for the man he was and the coach he was.

“He was very level-headed. He could scream and shout when he wanted to, but he was very good at man management.

“He knew what buttons to press and how to work certain individuals. There were a lot of characters in that dressing room and it must have been a hard job to manage the group.

“He nurtured me as a young player thrown in at the deep end and I thank him because he brought me into the Club and made me part of its history.”