I recently had the opportunity to question the former Manchester City, Liverpool born midfielder Ian Bishop on all things City ranging from the time he played in the sky blue, a certain Maine Road massacre, a Wembley Final which was the most critical in City history and what exactly was a Liverpudlian doing with Floridians?
PA: You played in several great and important games for Manchester City. How great was it to be a part of a high win game and score against our rivals Manchester United in what was to become known as the Maine Road Massacre?
IB: I have recently found clips of that fantastic day, and it seemed like it was only yesterday.All of the emotions came flooding back,and it was nice to re-live it again. When the boys trounced them 6-1 this season, I was ecstatic but at the same time felt like something had been taken away. The 5-1 had stood for so long, and I never thought it would be surpassed, but I also believe it was a game that will stay with the people who were there that day as long as they live.It was one of the highlights of my career.
PA: To win a game of that magnitude, with that kind of scoreline and the odds stacked against you, you must have celebrated. It was obvious how much fans enjoyed and celebrated that win, but what about the players? How did you celebrate afterwards?
IB: It was strange for me, as I was living in Liverpool at the time and only had time for a couple of scoops in the bar with the lads. I know if I had gone out in Manchester, I would not have had to buy a beer all night and in some ways I regretted not going into town, but I ended up in a working mens club with my Dad and his friends, watching Match Of The Day. The proud look on his face when I walked in is priceless to me, so I suppose it was ok to forfeit the free booze.
PA: The eleven taking the field that day certainly came up on top against Uniteds Millionaires. How do you think that group of City players would get on in a match against the Manchester City Millionaires of today?
IB: We had a very young team out that day, I think we had five England u/21's and at 24, I was one of the old farts. The game is obviously different today and it is hard to compare, but I think if we had more time to play together than we did that we might run them close. I am not suggesting that we would beat them, but if we were as fired up as we were on that day then we would certainly give them a game, ( I almost said a run for their money, but we could not run that much ).
PA: So your first spell at City ended with the arrival of Howard Kendall, playing in your last game less than two weeks after his arrival. Rumours at the time were that he didn’t like the length of your hair. Was this an issue and who has the craziest hair in football now (assuming Jason Lee no longer plays)?
IB: The rumours get mixed up from time to time, he did cut my hair once, but that was when I was at Everton as a youngster. He had told me to cut my hair, so I did, well I sort of did. I was not happy but I thought if he is making me, then I have to. When I came back in to training he still wasn't happy, I had it shaved at the back and the sides, and dyed it Blonde on the top. I thought I had won but he still said the fringe was too long and trimmed it for me. He said if I didn't let him cut it, he would fine me a week's wages. Only one outcome!!Today,I am torn between Marouane Fellaini and Gervinho, but there are many more.
PA: Thankfully you did return to City a few seasons later and were involved in the near death and revival of Manchester City in the late 1990’s early 2000 with Joe Royle at the helm. You came on as a sub for City in the Playoff Final with the score 0-0. What was going through your mind when Taylor and then Asaba scored for Gillingham in the last ten minutes?
IB: What about that for a rollercaster! People say "you should never go back" What a load of b@ll@cks!! I had spent 9 great years at West Ham and was about to sign one more year for my Testimonial. There was no other club that I would have given up so much money for. It would have been easy for me to stay there and have a lucrative year, but as soon as Joe got on the phone, the deal was done within hours. I always felt that I was meant to go back for unfinished business, I did not know what it was, but it was like payback for me for having to leave so abruptly the first time. I was obviously taking a gamble with my career, but I had a feeling it was meant to be. That day, I was not supposed to be there as I had torn my hamstring in the last game of the season. The specialist told me it would be six weeks for it to heal, but I never did agree with specialists when it came to these things. I had missed out on the Wigan semi's but was not going to miss my one and only appearance at Wembly. After two weeks out and one week before the game, I trained with the teamand protected myself the best I could. I had to convince Joe that I was fit, so I conned my way through training! The day before, I more or less begged Joe to at least have me on the bench, which he did. Joe said to me after the match that I had changed the game, I said yes! it was 0-0 when I came on and we went 2-0 down, I knew what he meant though. I thought at the time that thegoals came against the run of play, and felt drained when the second went in, but the boys never gave in and the rest is history.
PA: Paul Lake talked about Tony Book's influence on the youth sides at City. How good is it for the young developing players to have someone with Book's CV guiding them?
IB: Skip (Tony Book) is a fantastic guy to have around. We were sort of young when he was there with us, but we could remember him as a player. I think if the younger players look into his history they could appreciate him more, but it is priceless for them and the club to have part of its history still closely connected. It has always been like a family.
PA: Who were your biggest influences within the football world? Either players you watched growing up or ex players or senior players who helped guide you during your career?
IB: I have just spoken yesterday with Adrian Heath, who is over here in Orlando. The Everton teamof the early to mid eighties when I was there were a fantastic squad and big influence on me. Colin Harvey and Graham Smith with the youth and reserve teams at that time helped me tremendously. Charlie George was my hero from when I was 6 years old, and I am still an Arsenal fan today. Glen Hoddle and Liam Brady after that, the French midfield of the eighties, Platini, Giresse, Tigana.
PA: With Manchester City fans longing for success of almost any kind after such a barren spell, how good was it to see them lift a trophy last season?
IB: It was a great day for everyone involved with the club and I am only sorry I could not make it over to be part of it. I think I can safely say that anybody who has ever been part of the club will understand how much this meant, and I can guarantee that there was celebrations going on wherever these people are today. I know I did!
PA: Do you still follow the rollercoaster ride that is Manchester City? What do you think about the position and progress City have made over the past few seasons with Champions League participation and occupying top spot in the League for most of the season?
IB: If you have ever been a part of this fantastic club, you will understand what an emotional ride Manchester City is. From the outside, people may say, it is just the 'money' and you are trying to buy the 'title'. I can tell you right now, with no envy of salaries or jealousy of trophies, anyone who ever pulled on the Sky Blue jersey is ecstatic for the supporters and everyone involved with the club. There is no one who deserves it more than City fans. No one can begrudge what is happening at the club right now, and I only hope that they can hold out and win the Prem this season. I would like an invite to the party though! What I am most proud of and always will be, is that myself and many others in the past have played some part in getting them where they are today, and hope that is not lost along the way.
PA: Every City fan would like to know exactly what you have been up to since leaving Manchester City. What venture are you currently involved in and what are your goalsgoing forward?
IB: Since leaving City in 2001, I had a spell in the MLS with Miami Fusion (now disbanded), I came back to England and ran a Pub for a year, not the best move for a footballer! That was short lived, and decided to bring my family back to Florida, where I have been for the last 6-7 years teaching kids 'the beautiful game'. I have recently taken charge of a youth soccer program consisting of 16 boys teams and 11 girls teams, the club is called FC Florida, and if you go to www.fcflorida.org you may recognise the colours! The club has an affiliation with Man City. This is new at the present but we are trying to build up a strong connection between the clubs and maybe in the near future, we will have some of our players wearing the real colours.
PA: Thank you very much Ian for taking the time to answer some questions for the City fans and good luck with your role and future success with FC Florida.
IB: It has been a pleasure going over 'old' and 'new' times with you. "City till I die"
(Interview was conducted earlier this year before the mighty City had secured the Premiership crown)