They say that all wounds heal if they are just given time. In football it seems that some wounds heal quicker than others though and on this day in 2008 City had an humiliating wound. The start of the 2007-08 season was full of expectation as new owner Thaksin Shinawatra took charge of the blues and appointed Sven-Goran Eriksson as Manager. There was a renewed optimism and expectation for the club had never been as high for decades.
$45 million was spent in the summer on eight players, in what then, was a crazy transfer window and included the additions of defenders Vedran Corluka and Javier Garrido. In the midfield we added Martin Petrov, Gelson Fernandes and the Brazilian duo of Elano and Geovanni. In attack there was Rolando Bianchi and Valeri Bojinov and our season began well.
Our first three games consisted of three wins, including a 1-0 victory against Manchester United. Today it is not surprising to see City win against United but, back then, it didn't come along so often. When the return fixture came along the following February and we beat them again, on the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster, well, you could just have ended the season then and City fans would have been satisfied with a derby double.
As it was, that was a highlight in a poor second half to the season, which would eventually see City finish a poor ninth, below Portsmouth, Blackburn and Villa, two sides no longer in the Premier League and the other who's status as an EPL side is hanging by a thread.
So where did that good early form go? Where did it all start to unravel for City? It is hard to pinpoint a single game but for sure the incident in the FA Cup fourth round on this day eight years ago is as big a culprit as any. Up until that game City had eleven wins from the opening twenty three. After that game, City only managed to win four of their remaining fifteen games, losing eight in the process including a final day 8-1 capitulation against Middlesbrough in what would be Erikssons last game in charge.
The shock defeat at Bramall Lane halted City's last real chance at silverware in the most bizarre way possible with the help of the traveling City faithful. For those of you who do not remember fans had brought balloons with them and released them as a party atmosphere began in the away section. However, instead of floating away, the balloons gathered on the field of play, around Joe Harts goal. When a low ball was directed into the box City defender, Michael Ball, lost sight of it among the balloons and kicked latex rather than leather! This left the United striker, Luton Sheldon (which is the most inappropriate first name for City fans to have to know by the way), to score the opening goal.
City players were furious with the referees decision to allow the goal and, despite Harts frantic popping of the remaining balloons, City would concede another just thirteen minutes later. Despite a Daniel Sturridge goal just after the half City would not be able to recover and were eliminated from the Cup in a game now remembered as ‘Balloon-gate'.
Eight years on City have won that competition and built a squad capable of challenging for anything and everything. Premier League title winners twice now and League Cup winners, have we truly banished the balloon-gate demons? I think so, but it wouldn't hurt to make sure later today at the Etihad.