It was the season before Manchester City found themselves in the third tier of English football. A new manager, Joe Royle, had been appointed but failed to save the side from relegation and there were very few positives to take away from the 1997-98 season. The club had revealed their new crest, and had redeveloped the City Social Club into the City Superstore, but other than that, not much to shout about for City fans.
It would be on this day in that year though that those City fans would get their first look at a player who would eventually become a City legend. Shaun Goater made his debut in an away game to Bradford before scoring a few days later on his home debut against Stockport. But even his two goals in a 5-2 win away to Stoke on the final day was a case of too little, too late, and City were relegated.
I am sure I do not need to remind City fans of Shaun Goater and his contribution to City in his first full season in the third tier. He was City's top scorer in that season in the third tier of the football league and, although it would be Dickovs goal and slide or Nicky Weaver's save and run which is iconic to our promotion that season, we must not forget it was the Goats goal in the second leg of the playoff game which got us there.
Following promotion, he was also the top scorer for City, scoring six more goals that season than the previous, to ensure back to back promotions and put us back where we belong, the Premiership, and his home country giving him the freedom of the country in the process!
We were relegated in our first season back, Goater falling down the pecking order with the arrival of Paulo Wanchope and former World Player of the Year, George Weah, but Goater fired City back up after just one season, again as top scorer, becoming the first City player since Francis Lee to score more than 30 in a season.
Shaun scored one every two games he started once back in the Premiership, including two in the last Maine Road derby game. That stat is more impressive and puzzling as the Goat actually only scored seven goals in fourteen starts, but everyone remembers him mugging Neville right? In the return fixture later on in the season he scored the fastest goal by a substitute, again against United. He would have scored the winner in that game but it was disallowed for an Anelka handball earlier on in the move.
There has been some criticism from the Goat, after his departure, about his manager and also his French strike partner, but he is still loved by the fans and stays close to the club. You will know him as being involved previously in the BBC Radio Manchester program, Blue Tuesday, writing a column in the match day program and even a co commentator on match days.
What you may not know of the Goat is that he has never forgotten where he came from. He was the focus of an appreciation game when Southend, one of the clubs he joined after City, faced the Bermuda National side. He organized the annual Shaun Goater Grass-Roots Soccer Festival and getting into coaching. He played, and was director of the Bermuda Hogges before finding himself coaching youth with his home town side, North Village Rams. An unsuccessful spell as Assistant Coach with New Mills AFC, of the Northern Premier League Division One North, ended after nine defeats in nine games.
Maybe not the most graceful player we had, he was the player we needed at that time. He was honest and always gave his all while wearing the sky blue. Rejected by the reds earlier on in his career it was nothing but poetic justice his 100th goal for City would be that one against United!