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Team of the decade

The end of the 1990's saw the club back in Division 1 after clawing their way out of Division 2 at the first attempt following their disastrous relegation the season before.

As the noughties(!?) arrived, City stood in first position in the table with a four point lead of Huddersfield, a surprising position as there were no great expectations of promotion that season - with perhaps a play-off berth a hopeful aim at outset.

Of course, that season culminated in promotion back to the Premier League with the famous victory at Ewood Park on the final day of the season and the decade (like so many others in the clubs history) that followed brought a mixture of hope, despair, frustration and joy through to the present day where as we head towards a new decade which promises to be the most successful in the clubs history.

Managers and players have of course come and go and when researching this post my eyes were opened to quite how bad some of those that pulled on the shirt were. Equally so, it brought memories of players now only a memory but time has not diminished the contribution they made.

With the decade almost behind us, myself and Jack over at TLDORC have kicked around a bit of a discussion and a few ideas about the City 'Team of the decade', with his up here, whilst the team I came up with is as follows:

David James
- Was brought in after the short-lived and ill-fated David Seaman era was brought to a merciful end. Arrived with the 'Calamity James' tag but he was nothing short of superb during his time at the club and firmly established himself as England's number 1. Decamped to Portsmouth in 2006 when they offered a lengthier deal than the one the club offered and had he not departed he could well still have been first choice such has his form been.

Career (2004-06), Apps 100 goals 0

Micah Richards
- Given his still tender years, it is interesting to look back and see that Richards made his debut back in 2005, not only due to circumstances at the club necessitating a progression but also his precocious talent. Such was his burst onto the scene that he quickly gained international recognition. Has struggled the past season or so having shifted into a more central role, but now back at right-back there are signs he is recapturing his earlier form.

Career (2005-current) Apps 141 Goals 4

Richard Dunne - His departure earlier in this season was shrouded in controversy, and whilst the majority of fans supported the move, believing his time had gone, his subsequent form at Villa and our own defensive struggles have seen some having second thoughts. The move itself was symbolic of a breaking of the past - Dunne inexorably linked to previous struggles and the 'typical City' culture. There is no doubt though that for the most part of the decade Dunne was a huge presence in the side, holding the defence together on many occasions and was a far better player than he was credited with at the time. Also hard to see a better overall candidate for player of the decade.

Career (2000-09) Apps 345 Goals 7

Sylvain Distin
- His departure somewhat tarnished his legacy at the club, but as much as the 'greedy' tag was thrown at him when he ran his contract down but it is easy to forget that at the time they club was not in the healthiest of positions financially and even a tilt at a European spot was beyond ambition. A smooth, pacy defender, he brought the ball out of defence superbly (remember his goal at Aston Villa?) but was equally strong in defence and forged a superb partnership with Dunne for a number of seasons that was the bedrock in us establishing ourselves back in the Premier League. Was also criminally overlooked for international recognition throughout his time at the club.

Career (2002-07) Apps 206 Goals 6

Danny Tiatto
- In truth, left back is not a position we have been particularly blessed with over the past ten years. There have been many real stand out candidates but perhaps the most consistent - particularly in terms of longevity - for me is Danny Tiatto. He joined the side in 1998 and was with us throughout our journey back to the Premier League. At times indisciplined, he was perhaps not the most technically gifted, but was a versatile player, operating also in midfield at times, and his attacking qualities were his strength. Departed to Leicester in 2004, and have struggled to fill the spot since - going through Niclas Jensen, Michael Tarnat, Stephen Jordan and Javier Garrido before Wayne Bridge's arrival.

Career (1998-2004) Apps 159 Goals 4

Shaun Wright-Phillips
- Has performed well and been an important part of the side since his return to the club, showing the form that earned him the transfer to Chelsea. He has also worked his way back into the England set up. He has gained selection to this side though on the back of his performances during his first spell, where he emerged under Kevin Keegan and profited from playing with talents such as Bernarbia and Berkovic. Towards the latter part of his first spell though he was one of the few attacking threats we had, yet, if anything, stepped his game up even further.

Career (1999-2005 and 2008-current) Apps 207 Goals 44

Joey Barton
- A controversial selection perhaps given the way his career with us finished and taking into account his misdemeanours (both with ourselves and Newcastle). Yet it is easy to forget that he became a very good player during his time with us - so much so that he forced his way into an England squad not exactly struggling for central midfielders. His main qualities of course were his commitment, passion and tenacity but this sells his abilities as a passer and goalscorer a little short. Not everyone's choice I'd imagine but deserved of his selection.

Career (2003-2007) Apps 142 Goals 17

Ali Bernarbia - In general I've tried to steer away from players who - no matter how good they were - were only with us for a short period time given that the team is supposed to represent the past decade at the club. Some players have such an impact though that they cannot be omitted. Bernarbia arrived ahead the promotion season that is fondly remembered for it's attacking potency and he struck up a wonderful partnership with Eyal Berkovic. Clearly in the twighlight of his career when he arrived, Keegan took a punt on him and whilst he was never going to be an energetic box to box player his passing was sublime. Whether bringing team mates into the game or a killer final ball there haven't been many better. It would be interesting to know just how many assists he had during his time at the club.
Career (2001-2003) Apps 66 Goals 11

Stephen Ireland - Ireland has often suffered through being played out of position due to his versatility, and unfortunately he has been shoe-horned on the left hand side in this side. Not just as a result of a lack of credible alternatives, but because he really does deserve a place. Always a player with undoubted quality, it took him some time to marry this with the consistency and commitment that made him the unanimous player of the year in 2007/08. Suffered a little under Mark Hughes when a number of other attacking options were brought in, but he will be a major player for us and should feature in this side in ten years time.

Career (2005-current) Apps 135 Goals 23

Nicolas Anelka
- A criticism often levelled at City fans is their preference for substance over style, a penchant for the '100 per centers'. Often portrayed as a sullen, surly and insular figure, Anelka was perhaps never going to win the hearts of most. But history has perhaps painted him unfairly and he was never the troublemaker he was often accused of being. What is not in question though was the ability that made him the best goalscorer I've seen at the club and he was one of the very few players that created an air of expectation whenever he was involved in the player.

Career (2003-2005) Apps 101 Goals 46

Shaun Goater -
For fans, probably the antithesis of Anelka. A warm, welcoming personality who did not possess the greatest of talents but rose up through the divisions and against the odds to carve his name in the clubs history. Slightly ungainly but made a habit of being in the right place and the right time and his goalscoring record cannot be questioned. Never really got an opportunity under Keegan once we returned to the Premier League, and it would be interesting to have seen whether he could have translated his form at the highest level.

Career (1998-2003) Apps 189 Goals 103