It’s hard to believe, looking at where we are today that 22 years ago, City fans were in the depths of despair. If it wasn’t for the Coronavirus, we could be looking at another FA Cup Final, or even a Champions League Final, yet on this very day in 1998, even the thought of such an achievement would see you laughed at and carted away to a specialised hospital wing.
It was on this day in 1998 that City fans worst nightmare came true. The blues had been struggling all season and even the appointment of Joe Royle to replace Frank Clarke hadn’t seen much improvement to the blues, and as they went into a final day battle at Stoke, the players and fans knew City had to not only win, but hope one of wither Portsmouth or Port Vale failed to win. The losers of City’s match would definitely go down, but for the winners, it would be an anxious wait for other results.
After a nervous 32 minutes for City fans, there was a glimmer of hope when Shaun Goater put City in front. Blues fans felt there was a chance that this could actually happen, and City would perform the Great Escape, a title so often saved from Premier League clubs.
Paul Dickov made it 2-0 four minutes into the second half, and with the feeling that the points were in the bag, thoughts turned to the other two games in the hope that neither were winning. But City as usual, don’t like to make things easy and allowed Stoke back into the game, by allowing Peter Thorne time to rifle the ball home.
City restored their two goal lead when a hopeful punt into the box from the City right was met by the head of an unmarked Lee Bradbury, and his header bounced in via the post, which was as much of a surprise to the travelling supporters as it was to the striker himself.
City then went for the kill and when Goater was released on 71 minutes, there was never going to be any different outcome than the Bermudan scoring to make it 4-1. Goater looked to have injured his shoulder as he was pushed over as he hit the ball, and was immediately replaced by Gio Kinkladze, making what would be his final appearance for the blues.
Thorne pulled another goal back for the home side, but by now, news was beginning to filter through that both Portsmouth and Port Vale were winning by decent margins. It would take a miracle for City to stay up now.
The blues swept forward again and in the final minute, Kevin Horlock tapped goal number five into an empty net after good work by Bradbury, but City’s fate had already been sealed elsewhere.
As the final whistle went, fans from both sides applauded their teams, knowing they would meet each other again next season, but in a lower division.
MANCHESTER CITY: Margetson, Edghill, Horlock, Wiekens, Symons, Vaughan, Jim Whitley (Brannan 45), Pollock, Goater (Kinkladze 73), Dickov (Jeff Whitley 90), Bradbury.