In a new regular feature I will be reflecting on four seasons stretching back to the inception of the Premier League - 2007/08, 2002/03, 1997/98 and 1992/93 - focussing on key matches, players and incidents that have all become part of the fabric of City's recent history. That 20 year period has overseen the move to a new stadium, 11 managers (in addition to 2 caretaker managers) come and go and countless players of wildly contrasting abilities and reputations representing the club (anyone remember Murtaz Shelia?) As reigning Premier League champions, now is the perfect time to reflect on the rollercoaster journey. In case it needs reiterating, things haven't always been like this.
i) Opening Day Fixture
As City gear up to begin their title defence at home to Southampton we'll take a look at contrasting starts to the season over the last 20 years.
5 years ago - 2007/8
11/8/07 West Ham vs City, Premier League W2-0
Upton Park was where Sven Goran Erikkson's reign as City manager began after the controversial July takeover by the infamous Thaksin Shinawatra. For many City fans this was the first opportunity to cast eyes on the ‘YouTube' signings that had been bought at some expense and haste prior to the big kick off. Never before had the Blue faithful been so oblivious about what to expect, with 8 debutants in the squad and 6 in the starting line up. As it turned out, a pleasingly cohesive City were far too strong for West Ham in the August sunshine with debut goals from Rolando Bianchi and late substitute Geovanni sealing the victory. Man of the match however, went to the inspirational Elano who was prominent throughout and would go on to be a key figure for the Blues in their excellent start to the 2007/08 campaign.
10 years ago 2002/3
17/8/02 Leeds United vs City, Premier League L0-3
Buoyed by a Championship winning promotion campaign that brought a record breaking number of points and goals to Maine Road, City, with a reinvigorated Kevin Keegan in the dugout and big summer signing Nicholas Anelka leading the line, were in optimistic mood ahead of this opening day fixture at Elland Road. That they were then completely outplayed by an ascendant Leeds side was a typically anti-climactic start to the season. With the late Mark-Vivien Foe appearing alongside Ali Bernabia, Eyal Berkovic and Shaun Wright-Phillips in an adventurous midfield for the Blues, Leeds were able to expose defensive shortcomings with Nick Barmby, Mark Viduka and substitute Robbie Keane amongst the goals. 10 years on from that fixture, the financial disparity and swing in fortune between the clubs is startling.
15 years ago 1997/8
9/8/97 City vs Portsmouth, Division 1, D2-2
Arguably the most tumultuous season in the history of the club, the 1997/98 campaign commenced with a dispiriting 2-2 draw at home to Pompey. Frank Clark was the man in the Maine Road dugout, picking up the reigns in February 1997, following the Alan Ball sacking and the Steve Coppell debacle (bookended by Caretaker spells from Asa Hartford and Phil Neil). The first eleven featured esteemed players such as Paul Beesley, Kit Symons and Ged Brannen, but it was the familiar figure of Uwe Rosler who scored the first City goal of the season responding to an early opener from Jon Aloisi. Dutch utility man Gerard Wiekens put City ahead after the break before the Blues were pinned back by an equaliser from Hall with 10 minutes to spare. The poor result was the first of an awful August in which the Blues took only 2 points from their opening 4 fixtures. It was, unfortunately, a portent of greater miseries to come.
20 years ago 1992/3
City vs Q.P.R., Premier League D1-1
The first ever live Premier League match broadcast on Sky Television in the now familiar Monday Night Football slot saw City and Q.P.R. duelling amidst the fireworks, ticker tape and razzmatazz. ‘A whole new ball game' was the Sky tagline for the season, but there was nothing particularly new about ‘typical City' on this landmark occasion. With player manager Peter Reid in his 2nd full season in charge, England hopeful David White - picking up where he left off from the previous campaign - opened the scoring. That goal was cancelled out by fellow international prospect Andy Sinton and thereafter not even the entertainment provided by the cheerleaders and brass band could inspire the Blues as the game ended in stalemate.
There will be more reflections from City's past to come over the course of the season, in the meantime please feel free to add any memories, comments or thoughts of your own below.