Sunday will see Manchester City face off against Liverpool in this years League Cup Final. Eight time winners, Liverpool, faced Augsburg in the Europa League before Sundays game, while Manchester City, three time winners, have to traveled to Kiev and back.
Over the past two days, in build up to this seasons League Cup Final I have looked at Wembley matches involving City. Thursday I chose one from the old Wembley, the 1934 FA Cup victory against Portsmouth. Yesterday, it was one from our more recent history at the new Wembley, where Sundays game will take place. Finally, now, I will give you my favorite overall.
Was it only a little under seventeen years ago when City, managed by Joe Royle went on to that Wembley pitch in search of promotion? Every City fan knows what happened in that game and from third tier mediocrity we now find ourselves contending for silverware each and every season.
The 1998/99 season found City in the third tier of English football and, with the planning of a potential new stadium being talked about since the late 1980's, it was imperative that City bounced right back. Financially the club were not in great shape and, as expressed in later interviews, had City failed to win promotion out of the Division then who knows what the ramifications would have been.
The season certainly didn't start great for City as a side lacking confidence failed to dominate the league as had been expected. Eight wins from the first twenty three games saw City way off the pace at the halfway stage. Fourteen in the last twenty three (combined with only two defeats) saw the Citizens secure an unlikely third place. Although it was not enough for automatic promotion it was enough for a playoff place and our form was scary. Defeating Wigan over two legs we now faced Gillingham in the Final.
The first two days of November, 1972 saw the birth of Paul Dickov (Nov 1st) and then that of Kevin Horlock (Nov 2nd). The statistics they share are amazing and do not end there. Both men made their debuts for City in the same season and both would score two of the most important goals in City's history, in the Playoff Final!
Halftime arrived at Wembley with the sides level and no goals to show for the efforts. Both keepers had a hand in that fact with Weaver saving from Mick Galloway in the first ten minutes, while Vince Bartram, later named Man Of The Match, saved well from Horlock after twenty six.
City had the better of second half chances and a Shaun Goater shot against the post with fifteen minutes to go must have seemed as if nothing would go right for City that day. Six minutes later and Carl Asaba scored for the Tony Pulis side (the manager who would face and lose against City twelve years later in the FA Cup Final!) Five minutes later and the lead was doubled as City were stretched defensively, this time Robert Taylor was the architect of the City fans pain.
With only minutes left to go City were 2-0 down and their future was in the balance. With time running out and stoppage time in progress Kevin Horlock pulled a goal back, making sure with his strike. That gave City the belief that maybe they could send the game to extra time and made the Gillingham defense nervous enough to allow another opportunity for City. The Dickov goal, along with the Sergio Aguero goal over a decade later, are still two special goals which send tingles down the City fans spine. Had Dickov not scored that goal at Wembley would Aguero have scored his? Had City lost that game and stayed in the division for another season what would the 2015/16 season consist of?
Now if you ask City fans about their iconic moment of that game quite rightly the opinions will be divided between Dickov's equalizing goal or Weavers penalty save and then marathon run! However you have to score the first goal before you can get the second and 'Super Kev' was the one that got that all important goal. Unfortunately due to the euphoria of what happened next Mr Horlocks contribution has been brushed away to the side somewhat. It is important to note that Horlock took City's first penalty and converted while Dickov stepped up for the second and failed.
In August of 1999, only three months after confirming promotion, the then Chairman, David Bernstein, signed the legal document agreeing to move to the new Stadium, with the Prime Minister ceremoniously laid the first stone of what we now call the Etihad. In truth, more than bricks were laid on that day, as the foundation of what we now enjoy also was put in place.