When you look at the highs and lows of what is know as Manchester City Football club, up until recently you had to go all the way back to the 1970's to find some highs. You didn't have to travel that far back in time however to relive the lowest of the lows, 1998 in fact! On the 17th February Manchester City fans were witnessing the unstoppable decline of their football club. Frank Clark was fired after only seven wins out of 31 at the start of what was meant to be their 'bounce-back' season.
However the 18th February 1998 saw the installation of the man that would eventually return City back to top flight. For the rest of the 1997-98 season though the damage had been done and City were relegated into the third tier of English football. Star players also exited with Rosler and Kinkladze just two of the names to vacate the now Second Division side.
Clark, Ball and Coppell had all fallen at City despite reasonable records before and after. It seemed that City were deemed not to have any stability and maybe that was punishment from the football Gods for the removal of Peter Reid earlier on in the decade. The truth was that if you wanted to be Manchester City manager during this period then it was important that you knew what made City, and its fans tick.
The third tier was not exactly a breeze either for City with the midway point being reached in the season and City occupied 7th spot and a cool 11pts away from the last automatic promotional spot. It certainly was a lot of hard work for Joe Royle to do in order to turn around the mentality of a team that had struggled for a few consecutive seasons and relegated twice in the last three.
We all remember the last game of that season at Wembley with Gillingham and those who do not remember will have been told it just as I was told of the Ballet on Ice game, Ricky Villas goal and other unique City folklore and legend.
After the promotion Manchester City lost only nine games from a 46 game season to finish with back to back promotions. City were back where they should be and only a few seasons back it looked highly unlikely if not impossible.
However that second promotion may have been good for City but it proved bad for Royle. With two promotions in two seasons, turning around the players mentality in the process, and despite trimming the playing staff and getting promotion in the season when staying could have had disastrous consequences on the club he was fired at the end of the first campaign back in the Premiership after failing to secure safety.
Now I am not saying that City were wrong for doing this. Kevin Keegan certainly brought and maintained exciting Premiership football to Manchester. He also managed to mastermind a few positive results on the Salford Boys too but it has to be acknowledged that without Joe Royle all of this that we enjoy today may not have been possible without Mr Royle.