Hallelujah it’s a miracle. The summer transfer window of 2013 has finally seen a pacey winger arrive at City. He’s even called Jesus. Rejoice indeed.
The last time City had a decent one of those I was still coverting my best friend’s Charizard Pokemon card. Yes, many City fans will be hoping that Navas from Sevilla will solve a problem that has plagued many a Sky Blue side for some time: a complete lack of width.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done pretty well in recent seasons without it. But I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen sides ‘work us out’ or ‘park the bus’ in matches, leaving us bereft of penetration and resorting to pinging long balls to Carlos ‘about as tall as Jimmy Krankie’ Tevez, or even sticking a defender up front like we did with Joleon Lescott on Boxing Day 2012. The FA Cup Final last season was a classic example of a time when we were crying out for a winger.
There was an interesting stat a couple of seasons back (if anyone has a link to back this up it would be much appreciated, I swear I didn’t imagine it) which stated that United’s second highest goal scorer wasn’t one of their own players, but own goals. The reason? Wingers on either side whipping crosses into dangerous areas, forcing opposition defenders into making errors.
So, here’s hoping that our new number 15 will be the answer to our prayers (these Jesus puns need to stop and should never be resurrected). However, it did get me thinking about some of the former players to grace the flanks of both Maine Road and the Etihad in my lifetime; well, from about 1998 when I was eight years old and is the furthest back that I can remember.
This is a look at some of our former wingers.
The first player to cross the Mancunian divide in my time, Cooke joined City on loan from the other lot midway through the 1998/99 season. In a campaign in which many had tipped Joe Royle’s side to take to the third tier of English football a little easier than they actually did, Cooke proved to be an instant success, with his trickery and pace causing problems for the full backs of sides such as York and Lincoln. One of his highlights of the season was scoring a goal at home to Millwall with a cross, although Cooke himself insisted afterwards that he had definitely meant it!
So impressed was Royle that he made the deal permanent before the season’s end, shelling out around £1million. Cooke went on to take part in THAT play-off final against Gillingham at Wembley, but found it difficult to establish himself in the side the following campaign when City enjoyed a second successive promotion. In total, Cooke made 37 appearances for the Blues and scored seven goals. He was sent out on loan to Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday and Grimsby, before making a permanent transfer to the latter in 2002. He went on to rejoin Wednesday, before going on to ply his trade in the States with Colorado, Australia with North Queensland and Azerbaijan with Gabala.
Although arguably more of a natural full-back, Australian Tiatto joined City following a loan spell with Stoke for a fee of £300,000 in 1998. His pace and accomplished left foot saw him frequently operate a little higher down the left-hand side.
He featured heavily in Division Two and Division One, but perhaps his best season in a Blue shirt was in the 2000/01 season, where the Aussie won the club’s Player of the Year award. His performances were one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing season for City, although perhaps his best moment effectively never existed; his wonderful solo goal away to Middlesbrough was cruelly chalked off for an alleged offside.
Following relegation from the Premiership and a change in management, Tiatto was a still a regular in the side under Kevin Keegan in 2001/02, but found opportunities harder to come by in the two seasons that followed. He departed for Leicester in 2004 before spending the remainder of his career in his homeland.
However, it was his, erm, enthusiastic style shall we say, that endeared him to the Maine Road faithful. Many pundits (mainly my Dad back at the time) say that to get yourselves promoted from the lower leagues, you need to show a bit of grit and fight, and Tiatto certainly had both of those qualities in adbundance. Here’s a clip of him keeping his cool after being sent off at home to Norwich in 2002:
And here’s an example of a ‘Tiatto Special’ from his later career:
Signed for £1.5million at the start of the 1999/00 season, Kennedy was an important player during City’s promotion to the Premiership. Strong, quick and with a fabulous left foot, the Irishman provided the ammunition for the likes of Shaun Goater and Paul Dickov to score the goals that saw the Sky Blues secure a second successive promotion. He struggled with injuries, and off the field controversy, during the 2000/01 season and, when Kevin Keegan took over the following term, he found his chances limited. He was sold to Wolves in 2001 and went on to enjoy promotion to the Premier League with the Black Country club, before spells at Crystal Palace, Cardiff and Ipswich.
Former United flyer Kanchelskis had a brief spell on loan with City in the second half of the 2000/01 season, although he ‘flew’ about as much as an old Lada by the time he arrived at Maine Road. He showed only fleeting glimpses of the prowess he once displayed for four seasons at Old Trafford and made only a dozen appearances, scoring just the one goal against Liverpool in the FA Cup. He went on to spend a short amount of time with Southampton before finishing his career in Russia.
One of the best City players of the last 20 years, arguably our Academy’s greatest ever product and one of my all time favourite players, Shauny Wright-Wright-Wright will always be adored by the City faithful.
He was first given his first team break by Joe Royle in 1999, under whom he went on to appear sporadically during the Premier League campaign of 2000/01. However, SWP began to shine under Kevin Keegan during the promotion campaign of 2001/02. Having never scored a senior goal for the Blues in almost two seasons as a first team player, he famously scored his maiden goal away to Millwall in December 2001…in front of no visiting supporters! (Away fans had been banned from both fixtures that season due to historic crowd disturbances). After that he couldn’t stop scoring, ending that particular campaign with eight goals to his name.
His pace, combined with his low centre of gravity, made SWP almost impossible for opposition defenders to stop when in full flow. He made 153 appearances and scored 26 league goals, before joining Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea for £21million in 2005. But in 2008 he returned ‘home’ (I remember hearing the news that he had re-joined whilst fist pumping in a Antwerp night-club of all places) and scored on his second debut away to Sunderland to the delight of every single City fan. He went on to make another 64 appearances before joining QPR in 2011, well and truly dispelling the old adage that a player should never go back to his former club.
My favourite SWP moment? It’s definitely this thronker in the 2003/04 Derby at the Etihad:
Although looked upon more as a striker, Huckerby’s blistering pace naturally often saw him operate out wide on the left wing. Signed by Joe Royle for around £3.5million in December 2000 (remember the pre-transfer window days?), the former Leeds man started relatively slowly as the Blues suffered relegation. However, Huckerby enjoyed his best season in a City shirt the following campaign, scoring 20 league goals as City achieved promotion. He made just 16 league appearances in 2002/03, before he was eventually sent out on loan to Nottingham Forest and then Norwich, with whom he would later join permanently for a successful five year spell. Huckerby finished his career with San Jose Earthquakes in 2009.
Israeli playmaker Berkovic, who would often drift out wide, was part of a midfield in 2001/02 that also contained fellow maestro Ali Bernabia. Whilst many pundits told manager Kevin Keegan that playing both players at the same time just wouldn’t work, Keegan ignored those concerns and proved the doubters wrong, as the two helped City to brush aside the competition en route to promotion. Berkovic made 56 appearances in two successful seasons with City. With an eye for a pass, like team mate Benarbia, he could spot passes that others could not. Berkovic left the club for Portsmouth in 2003 after falling out with Keegan, upon whom he remarked: “I don’t see any reason why Kevin didn’t play me because I was the best player in training for six months and everyone knew that. Man City’s 45,000 supporters knew I had to play but Kevin was behaving like a big baby. I told him that and I think he deserves the sack.” So a dignified exit, then.
He will perhaps be best remembered for this wonder goal against Norwich in 2002 (incidentally the same match in which Danny Tiatto was sent off above):
A two-time Champions League winner on a free transfer? That should be a great signing! Unfortunately, former Liverpool and Real Madrid flyer McManaman didn’t enjoy the best of spells with City. Niggling injuries, a loss of natural pace and general lack of effectiveness saw him make just 35 appearances between 2003 and 2005, of which only a few were of any note. Last seen as a television pundit.
Former QPR and West Ham player Sinclair fulfilled a life long dream when he joined City in 2003, having grown up in Manchester supporting the Blues. With the versatility to play on either the left or right wings, Sinclair was always a willing runner and worked hard to keep his place in the team for four years. He was released in 2007 having made 82 league appearances and notched five goals.
Sinclair also scored the opener in the 2005/06 Derby win over United:
A product of City’s academy, Croft joined the club as a 12 year old before making his debut for the first team as a substitute against Bolton in 2005, after enjoying a spell on loan at Oldham. He only made a handful of starts over the course of two seasons and, despite some early promise and undeniable enthusiasm, Croft perhaps lacked that half a yard of pace needed to operate as a winger in the Premier League. He left for Norwich in 2006 and has since gone on to play for Huddersfield, Derby and St Johnstone before re-joining Oldham permanently in 2012.
Dutchman Musampa spent two seasons on loan at City in 2004/05 and 2005/06 from Atletico Madrid. A solid performer, he was perhaps symbolic of an era at City which was bereft of any top quality and, also, money. Like Croft, Musampa wasn’t blessed with bags of natural pace and was sometimes called upon to operate a role more centrally. Musampa will be best remembered for scoring a last minute winner against Liverpool in 2005, as well as earning the nickname “Chris” from the City fans (think about it). He went on to ply his trade back in the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea before retiring in 2009.
For me, the most memorable thing about Riera was what happened to him a couple of years after leaving City. The Spaniard joined the Blues on loan from Espanyol for half a season in 2006 where he was, on the whole, fairly average. However, a little over two years later, he was bought by Liverpool for around £8million and was touted as one of the best players in La Liga not employed by either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Was this the same player? As it turned out, yes it was. Riera spent two similarly uneventful seasons at Anfield before departing for Olympiakos in 2010. Currently with Galatasaray.
American international Beasley spent a season on loan with the Blues during the infamous 2006/07 campaign; yep, that one where we didn’t score a home goal after the New Year. Injuries hampered the start of Beasley’s season but he did go on to make 18 league appearances and scored three goals, as he showed some signs of his international pedigree. He later went on to join Rangers. If you want to find out what Beasley will be best remembered for, type his name into Google and see what accompanies it in the predicted search term bar…
Bulgarian left winger Petrov was one of a handful of summer signings made during the Sven-Goran Eriksson/Thaksin Shinawatra reign of 2007/08. He possessed a fantastic left foot, but struggled whenever a defender switched him onto his right one. Nevertheless his speed and tenacity meant that he regularly shone for City, making 38 appearances in his debut season and scoring five goals. However, under new manager Mark Hughes and with the new influx of money that came with the takeover of the club by Sheikh Mansour, Petrov found opportunities limited. He made just 14 appearances the following season through injury, but could only make 20 in all competitions in 2009/10, as first Hughes and then Roberto Mancini brought in replacements or tinkered with formations. Petrov went on to join Bolton the following season.
“He pays his transfer fee, to play for Man City,” a chant that was a homage to Mexican international Castillo’s determination to push through a 12 month loan deal to City in January 2008 that he paid almost one million pounds of his own money to make happen. Sadly, his enthusiasm didn’t match his footballing prowess. It quickly became apparent that Castillo just wouldn’t cut it in the physical Premier League; I remember being at Goodison Park when he came on as a substitute away to Everton and the poor lad looked like he was going to get blown away by a slight gust of wind! He was to be unlucky with injury during his time with the club also, suffering a broken shoulder in an FA Cup replay. In total he was restricted to just nine appearances with City during his time at the club, equating to around £111,000 per game…
A product of the youth academy with whom I personally felt wasn’t given enough opportunities, Slovakian winger Weiss made his first team debut on the final day of the 2008/09 season from the bench. The following campaign saw Weiss make regular appearances for the City in the League Cup, where he most notably scored a fine goal in a 3-0 win over Arsenal. He demonstrated pace and trickery, and he looked more than at home alongside his senior team mates whenever he was called upon. Weiss signed a new contract in December 2009, and was then sent out on loan to Bolton for the remainder of the campaign. Having been deployed mainly from the bench at the Reebok, Weiss headed north of the border to Rangers in 2010/11 where he enjoyed a fine season, winning an SPL winners medal. Another season on loan followed with Espanyol in Spain, but unfortunately was never seen again in a City shirt, moving on permanently to Pescara in 2012. In total Weiss made just five appearances for City, something of a disappointment for an academy graduate that had showed early signs of promise. He is currently with Olympiakos.
Robbie Savage, Ashley Cole, Luis Suarez. All players (not ex-United) that I’ve never been able to stand. Craig Bellamy was also one of these players, until he joined City in January 2009, that is. A forward who’s blistering pace often saw him used wider, the Welshman quickly established himself as a fan’s favourite at the Etihad. His passion and effort was plain for all to see, both on the field and off it when talking about the club in interviews. He scored four goals in 11 appearances in his first half season with City, before scoring 11 in 40 in his only full season with the club. A reported falling out with new boss Roberto Mancini resulted in Bellamy being loaned out to his boyhood club Cardiff, before eventually re-joining Liverpool on a free transfer. Definitely a player that you hate until he plays for your team, Bellamy will probably be best remembered for making Rio Ferdinand look about as quick as a slug in the Derby in 2009/10 at Old Trafford, scoring a goal that would have been enough to secure a 3-3 draw had the fourth official known how to operate a stopwatch properly…
Middlesbrough youngster Johnson became Roberto Mancini’s second signing as City manager in February 2010. Having impressed against the Blues in a third round FA Cup game for the Championship side, he quickly settled to life in the top flight, making 16 appearances in the remainder of the season and scoring his first goal in injury time to salvage a point away to future club Sunderland with this beast of an effort:
In two and a half seasons, Johnson went on to make a total of 97 appearances for City, scoring 15 goals. However, he arguably never developed into the player that he could have been. So often he would make a string of impressive performances from the bench, terrorising defences with his pace, effectiveness when cutting inside and his strong passing and shooting abilities with his left foot. But when then given a go from the off he would often be a pedestrian, even getting substituted after just 39 minutes in a Champions League game with Villarreal. This lack of further development, and supposed tendancy to enjoy the nightlife a little too much, culimnated in Johnson transferring to the Black Cats in 2012 for £10million, leaving many City fans with a sense of frustration about what might have been with a player that clearly had (and still has) the potential to be an excellent player.
Ask most football fans (and when I say that, I mean the Soccer AM quoting Manchester United fans from Hastings who have never been anywhere near Old Trafford) about James Milner whenever he plays for England, the chances are they’ll fling a fair amount of stick his way. This is something that constantly annoys City fans because, as any Blue who watches Milner week in week out will tell you, he is one of the most important players at the club. He joined from Aston Villa for around £12 million in 2010 and has since been a key figure in helping City to become FA Cup and Premier League winners in recent years. Whether it’s out on the right hand side of midfield or more central, James Milner will run his socks off until the cows come home; in fact, you’ll quite often see him playing two positions at once for the national side, such is Glen Johnson’s perpetual habit of being caught out of position. Perhaps not blessed with the kind of pace that would mark him out to be one of the best wingers in Europe, Milner’s work rate is matched with a fearsome right foot and a terrific awareness of where his team-mates are, helping him to pick out the right pass at the right time. As of August 2013, Milner has made 112 appearances for City in all competitions, scoring eight goals. He was simply unstoppable in that memorable 6-1 Derby victory in 2011, but I wanted to showcase this video of him finishing off a fine team move away to Arsenal in January 2013 with such aplomb:
I genuinely sat here with Sinclair’s name written down with absolutely nothing to say about him! Having joined from Swansea for £6 million in August 2012, Sinclair has made just 14 appearances for City, most of which coming from the bench during the dying embers of fixtures. His transfer was arguably one of the strangest of recent times (no Glauber Berti, mind) and he clearly wasn’t a target pinpointed by the management staff. It remains to be seen whether or not he gets more of a chance under Manuel Pellegrini.
I’d love to hear from City fans for their memories about some of these players or any players that I might have missed!