The 1999/2000 campaign bore many highs and lows – and not only for the on-pitch results. For Nicky Weaver, it was quite literally a season of cartwheels.
A crucial component in City’s Premiership promotion bid, the young shot-stopper was cementing his status as one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the country.
Vying for the England Under-21 number one spot against Richard Wright, the 21-year-old earned rave reviews with a string of superb performances to aid our charge for a top-two place, producing some sensational saves along the way.
Already a crowd favourite following his heroics at Wembley in the Division Two Play-Off Final the previous May, Weaver further endeared himself to the City faithful with his post-match celebrations, as Joe Royle’s men stormed into Division One and beyond.
Elated with a particularly impressive (and pivotal) display against fellow challengers Ipswich Town at home, Weaver savoured the moment with the fans, cartwheeling around the pitch to their delight – a feat which would gloriously be repeated on the Final day with promotion sealed at Blackburn.
Although timid about the topic now, Weaver certainly enjoyed those glory days at Maine Road.
“The season of the cartwheels!” he smiled. “Yeah, I don’t really know why!
“I think it started after the Ipswich game. I remember walking off and the whole ground was chanting my name and I didn’t know what to do so for some reason, I did a couple of cartwheels and people liked it.
“Then I did it a couple of games after and it became a thing
“Looking back now, it’s a bit cringey – I won’t show my little girl! – and I remember big Joe pulling me a couple of times saying: ‘What are you doing?!’
“I didn’t have an explanation. I was so young. I always say: to be old and wise, you have to be young and daft.”
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Wise words. Royle also attributed the antics to “youthful exuberance” at the time and so influential and enjoyed was the performance against Ipswich, many City fans still speak highly of it to this day.
“I had some decent games and poor ones as well,” Weaver admits, “but what stands out for me was Ipswich at home.
“Whenever we played Ipswich, I was always in one goal and Richard Wright was in the other and we were battling it out for the England U21 spot at the time.
“Wrighty was just a little bit older than me so he had the edge over me but it was always put down to me and Wrighty.
“For me personally, there was talk about me playing for England (seniors). It never quite happened for me but a lot of that was out of my control with injuries and stuff.
“Some of it was perhaps in my control but I wouldn’t change anything. You can get dealt the cards in your hand. When I look back, it was the best time of my career and as I say, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Fortunately, that night I had a good game we won 1-0. They put the pressure on big time late on in the game and I managed to make a couple of decent saves in the end.
“It was probably my best game in a City shirt.”
Standing proudly as City’s number one aged just 21 with the team seeking promotion to the top-flight, there was real pressure on Weaver’s young shoulders.
However, the City hero believes his youth played to his advantage – he was just loving every minute!
“My first season was promotion from Division Two and then the next season, we got promotion again so that was my first two years playing professional football! I thought: ‘This is great! It can only get better!’” he joked.
“We came down with a bang when we got relegated then promoted again. In a four-year period, I had three promotions and a relegation. So, if you were a City fan at the time, it was not boring!
“No-one expected us to get promoted (in the second season). I remember: we started off and lost 1-0 at home to Wolves and I think Robbie Keane scored. I thought: ‘It’s going to be a tough season.’
“We just thought: mid-table, steady the ship a bit and then kick on the season after but huge credit to Joe Royle, Willie Donachie, Asa Hartford and the coaches… We went from strength to strength and rode on a crest of a wave and before we knew it, we get to the last game at Blackburn.
“We needed to win or better Ipswich’s result I think. We’re 1-0 down and Ipswich were winning… it was ‘Typical City’ again! ‘We’re going to throw it away.’
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“I remember them hitting the woodwork four times that game. I made a couple of saves – nothing major – but they hit the woodwork four times, we had three shots on target and they scored an own-goal as well!
“We won 4-1 and it looks like a drumming and it certainly wasn’t but I think that game was the most enjoyable last 15 minutes I’ve ever had on a pitch. Blackburn didn’t want to be there – they had nothing to play for. They had the flip flops on; they wanted to get on their holidays!
“We’re 4-1 up, passing the ball about and they weren’t bothered. There were City fans all over the stadium – it was like a carnival atmosphere! We knew we were going to do it, Blackburn had nothing left. It was fantastic and then the celebrations afterwards were equally good as well.
“For those two years to have been my first two years playing was phenomenal.
Relive that memorable day at Ewood Park with CITY+ Watch Together on Saturday 9 May 2020 at 3pm UK time!