Continuing our series charting City’s rise from the depths of Division Three to Premier League glory, we look back at the 2006/07 season, which would be City’s final season of struggle before it would suddenly change forever.
After finishing 15th in Stuart Pearce’s first full season in charge, blues fans were hoping it would be better this time around. But City were once again struggling financially and were forced to sell some of their first team squad. Out went Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lee Croft, David James, Andy Cole, Antoine Sibierski and Ben Thatcher for a combined fee of around £3.2m while Claudio Reyna and David Sommeil were allowed to leave on free transfers. In their place, Paul Dickov returned from Blackburn, Ousmane Dabo and Dietmar Hamann arrived on free transfers. Striker Bernardo Corradi arrived for an undisclosed fee from Valencia, while Joe Hart was signed from Shrewsbury for £1.5m and the blues paid £2m for Andreas Isaksson from Rennes.
After losing one and winning four of their pre-season matches, City faced Porto at home in the Thomas Cook trophy, but lost to a 43rd minute Adriano goal. As it turned out, that defeat would set the tempo for the season.
The blues first match was at Stamford Bridge and champions Chelsea. Any chance of a surprise victory were over by half time as City found themselves 2-0 down. Ousmane Dabo made his debut and it took him just fifteen minutes to get into the referee’s book. Corradi however went one better and was sent off in the 63rd minute as the blues lost 3-0. David James and Andy Cole made a quick return to City with their new team Portsmouth, and James kept a clean sheet as the match ended in a goalless draw. The match against Portsmouth will always be remembered for a very unsavoury incident involving City’s Ben Thatcher and Pedro Mendes of Portsmouth. Thatcher deliberately elbowed the Portsmouth man, which rendered him unconscious and requiring oxygen pitchside. Mendes was hospitalised but was discharged the next day. Thatcher was subsequently banned for six matches by City, but the FA suspended the defender for eight matches and a further fifteen, suspended for two years.
Next for City was a visit from Arsenal, who had beaten the blues the previous season in controversial circumstances. But City were not prepared to let that happen again and a goal from Joey Barton four minutes before half time secured the points and a first win of the season for the blues. A win, a draw and a defeat in August wasn’t so bad, and blues fans know it could have been much worse.
September started with a trip to new boys Reading, and in true City style, lost 1-0. The blues also had Dabo sent off with ten minutes remaining. City’s visit to Ewood Park ended in a 4-2 defeat to Blackburn. 2-2 at half time, City allowed the home side to score twice in the second half to condemn the blues to their third defeat in five games. City needed a win to give the team confidence, so a trip to Chesterfield in the League Cup would surely be just the tonic. The blues had lost at Doncaster the previous season and when Georgios Samaras scored five minutes before half time, it looked like City would avoid another shock result. Chesterfield equalised six minutes after the break, then went in front on 67 minutes and never surrendered their lead. For the second successive season, City had fallen to lower league opposition at the second round stage.
Samaras scored a brace as City beat West Ham at home in their first match following the Chesterfield defeat, but the last game of September saw the blues score an injury time equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw at Everton. It was a disappointing start to the season for the blues, which saw them sitting in 11th place with 8 points, but only six behind second placed Bolton and just four points ahead of third from bottom Spurs.
City’s first game in October came at home to Sheffield United, which ended 0-0. That match was followed by a trip to Wigan Athletic and City found themselves 2-0 down after just three minutes. The blues stemmed the tide and prevented Wigan from scoring again in the first half, but then conceded another two goals in three minutes in the second half and lost 4-0. Richard Dunne scored the only goal of the game as City beat Middlesbrough at home to end the month on a high note.
But November started with another away defeat, this time 1-0 at Charlton. A 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle was followed with a 3-1 home win over Fulham, Bernardo Corradi finally getting on the scoresheet with a brace. Another away game and another defeat, this time 1-0 at Liverpool before City finally scored an away victory. Darius Vassell and Joey Barton put the blues 2-0 up at Villa Park, and although Villa pulled a goal back, Sylvain Distin made sure of the points with a third for the blues. By the end of November, City had dropped to 12th, but still six points clear of the relegation zone. But with matches against United, Spurs and high flying Bolton, City looked set for a tough December.
But off the field, things were happening and the club issued a statement about a possible takeover of the club, with former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra rumoured to be behind the bid. Shinawatra had been ousted as Prime Minister just three months earlier during a military coup and it was questionable if he could fund a move for the blues. Time would tell, but it certainly got the fans hoping.
The first match in December saw Watford visit Manchester and take a point home thanks to a 0-0 draw, before City’s short trip to Stretford. United were 2-0 up at half-time, and although Hatem Trabelsi pulled one back, United scored a third to secure the points. Just to rub salt into the wounds, Corradi got himself sent off again in the first minute of injury time.
Despite their troubles away from home, City were in fact unbeaten at Eastlands, but Spurs, who had now moved out of the relegation zone, would soon put paid to that. The visitors were 2-0 up at half-time and although Barton pulled a goal back, it wasn’t enough and City fell to their first home defeat of the season. Bolton arrived next and once again, City found themselves 2-0 down at half-time. Former blue Nicolas Anelka grabbed a brace and Joey Barton decided he’d have a red card with three minutes remaining. It was a dismal run that saw City drop to 15th, just two points above the relegation zone. Boxing Day saw the blues visit Bramhall Lane for a match with Sheffield United, who were one place below on goal difference only. Stephen Ireland scored the only goal of the game to give the blues a 1-0 away win, and that was followed with a 1-0 win at West Ham in the final game of the year. Those two wins saw City shoot up the table to 10th, eight points from relegation.
It was to get better too, or so we thought. A Samaras double saw City beat Everton 2-1 at home, but were then held by Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup Third Round. Samaras scored a penalty in the 77th minute, but the home side levelled immediately to force the tie to a replay. The blues drew 0-0 with Bolton at The Reebok Stadium, then beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in the FA Cup replay to set up a home tie with Southampton. The blues were hoping for a good cup run, but the league was a different prospect as City embarked on a five match losing streak. Blackburn arrived and won 3-0, which was not the ideal preparation for their FA Cup tie. The blues had to come from behind to beat Southampton 3-1 and their reward was a trip to Preston in the fifth round.
Back I the league, City’s first match of February was at home to Reading, where to goals in the last 11 minutes won the match for the visitors. Pedro Mendes gained some revenge on City by scoring after four minutes for Portsmouth in City’s match at Fratton Park, and although Corradi equalised, Kanu scored the winner for Pompey with 10 minutes remaining.
The blues visit to Deepdale in the FA Cup was televised and it looked like being another shock when they went a goal down after just eight minutes. New signing Michael Ball equalised on 34 minutes, but it took the blues until the 84th minute to go in front. An own goal and a sweet finish by Stephen Ireland avoided a shock and sent the blues into the quarter final.
Back in the league, City lost again, this time 1-0 at home to Wigan, then exited the FA Cup after a spineless 2-0 defeat at Blackburn. A Frank Lampard penalty gave Chelsea the three points at Eastlands as City’s league struggles continued. But March was to end well and a trip to Middlesbrough saw the blues win 2-0, followed by a 1-0 win at Newcastle. The results left City in 13th, but now just six points ahead of Charlton in 18th place, and a win against the Addicks would be very welcome for anxious blues fans.
The match on 6th April turned out to be a disappointing 0-0 draw, but it was followed with a 3-1 win at Fulham. That would turn out to be City’s final win of the season, as another 0-0 followed, this time at home to Liverpool. The blues lost 3-1 at Arsenal, which was then followed with a 1-1 draw at Watford. April ended with a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, but results elsewhere meant the blues were safe for another season.
A 1-0 home defeat to United in the final home game of the season was then followed by a 2-1 defeat at Spurs on the final game of the season. The last three results saw the blues finish in 14th place. The blues also scored only ten goals at home in the league and all of those came in the first half of the season – City failed to score at home in the second half of the season.
It was another dismal season for the blues fans, which ended with the dismissal of manager Stuart Pearce. It looked to be another summer of uncertainty for the fans to endure, but unbeknown to them, the coming summer would kick start City’s emergence into one of the top clubs in the country.