Nowadays bagging a man of the match award against Man City would be a real claim to fame, and I have to admit I’m proud of the one I picked up against them back in December 2003 when they were on the first rungs of the re-building ladder. We went there with Leeds on the Monday before Christmas, we were struggling at the bottom of the league, and our temporary manager Eddue Gray missed the game due to his daughter’s wedding – arranged before he was piloted it into the job. Kevin Blackwell stood in for him that day in what his first game as ‘manager’. Kevin of course was the man who took Leeds to the Play-Off final in 2006 and I notice he’s been standing again as the main man over the past few weeks at Middlesbrough after Neil Warnock tested positive for COVID-19.
Well, Blackie must have thought management was easy after went 1-0 up early doors thanks to Mark Viduka and came within eight minutes of winning the game, City equalising through Antoine Sibierski. It was still a good point for us, and amazingly I won man of the match. I have no idea why because I’d spent the biggest part of the game chasing their midfielders, including Joey Barton, around the pitch all night! It was bloody hard going that night. They had some ex-teammates of mine, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler both played, and they were building then. It was the start for them with some of the players they had. They were on the up and we were on the down so to speak, and we’ve all seen what a force they became.
The game was my first at the then called City of Manchester Stadium, and it just wasn’t Man City for me. I’d made my debut for Liverpool against City at Maine Road years earlier and I loved the atmosphere there. I’ve always thought City fans are similar to Leeds fans. They have a similar core where they’ll respect you if you put a shift in and graft, even if you don’t get a result. Maine Road was a tough ground to play at too, but once they moved, and I think any football fan will tell you, that it’s not the same as it was.
Man City was always a hard game, though, and I guess that’s magnified ten-fold these days with the players they’ve got and the wonderful coach. Saturday will see Marcelo and Pep go head to head, and I bet they’re both excited about the prospect. I know I certainly am.