In the first of a new series of Favourite Games features, four Typical City writers have got together to discuss a classic Manchester City game. The Blues fans have had plenty to enjoy recently and the last few years will surely provide ample topics for discussion in this series, but even in the darker days there were still wins to savour.
On 4th February 2004 City travelled to Tottenham Hotspur for an FA Cup fourth round replay. The first half was the stuff of nightmares for City. Spurs took the lead after two minutes through Ledley King, before Robbie Keane doubled their advantage in the 19th minute. When Christian Ziege curled in a free-kick just before half-time the night looked to be a disaster for the visitors.
It somehow got worse for the Blues when Joey Barton earned himself a red card at half time. While for most, thoughts quickly turned to damage-limitation and staving off potential humiliation, City had different ideas. Goals from Sylvain Distin, Paul Bosvelt and Shaun Wright-Philips leveled the scores to defy belief, before a stoppage time Jon Macken header handed Kevin Keegan’s City one of the most famous FA Cup victories of all time.
Ciaran Murray, Alex Timperley and Rob Toole discussed their memories of this game with Richard Burns.
First off then gentlemen, where did you watch this game? I can vividly remember this being one of the first seasons that I really started following City away but I wasn’t allowed to go to White Hart Lane because it was a school night. That’s still one of my greatest City regrets.
TIMPERLEY: I was also at school back in those days and couldn’t make the game due to that. I listened to the first half on the radio with my Dad but we turned it off at 3-0 down because we had to go out (and we thought it was pointless to keep listening anyway), so I didn’t hear the incredible comeback. These things happen I suppose.
MURRAY: Hello, Burns. I watched this game at home on the telly. I had A-Level Literature coursework due in the next morning and had left it ‘til the night before like every single piece of schoolwork I’d ever been given. My memory is a little bit hazy as to whether it was on the BBC or Sky (because we only had Sky Sports if there was a week’s free subscription or something) but I remember being made up that City were on TV. It was such a rarity then. I’d had that jittery guilty feeling in the build-up to the game about the work I should have been doing but City were on and I couldn’t peel myself away from it. I was fairly glum after two minutes knowing City were getting beat and I’d 1,500 words to write. Mountains to climb and I didn’t think we’d get there.
TOOLE: I watched at it home with my family. At the time I was living near Leicester so the only games I could ever really go to were home games.
Can you remember what you were thinking at half time? I assume nobody was feeling confident about City’s chances of victory.
TIMPERLEY: At half time I think we shared a collective “F*ck that” moment. Understandable, I’m sure you’ll agree. By that point in my life I was basically inured to City being complete and total let downs to me so I wasn’t even contemplating the team might be on the verge of giving us a special night.
MURRAY: Yeah. I remember thinking that it was done and dusted. Anelka had gone off injured and when I saw Joey Barton, who I really loved as a player when at City, get sent off, I just thought it was game over. I decided to take myself upstairs to my room to sulk and to get my work done. An essay on 20th Century drama seemed more appealing to me than watching a performance so devoid of character as the one on show in my living room. Although City showed in 1999 they could surely mount a comeback, the side out against Spurs in that first half did just not seem to have it in them. City were abysmal before the break and I have to confess I gave up on them for the night.
TOOLE: Yes! I had given up all hope and, as a consequence, I had given up on the game and stormed off. 3-0 down with 10 men, you’re never going to come back from that. You have to remember that at the time losing to Spurs was as likely as City’s home shirt being blue.
I think I played on the computer for most of the second half in a sulk but when I heard a few of family say that we’d scored two goals I came back to watch the rest of the game. Shame on me.
Where does this game rank in your all-time favourite City games? It is undeniably an absolute classic.
TIMPERLEY: Ranking this game is hard on a personal level due to missing the comeback as previously stated, but purely on result it must be up there as an all time great. I’ll always prefer other comebacks to it though. You know, ones which I actually watched like the play off final and the Aguero title winning game.
MURRAY: So yeah, an absolute classic. The greatest comeback in FA Cup history. One of the best City matches there has ever been. And Muggins here was sat upstairs writing about Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee having no idea of the real drama that was about to unfold at White Hart Lane. I mean, what a comeback. I remember my little brother and sister screaming at 3-1 and me running down doing the old sit-on-the-arm-of-the-couch trick to make it seem like I wasn’t going to stick about. That little lofted free kick from Tarnat was gorgeous, wasn’t it? I headed back upstairs for a while but kept going halfway down to peer in through my living room door. I was in my room when Wright-Phillips scored and I’ll never forget my young siblings going nuts. It had never really gripped them like it had me until then but this was a time when they really ‘got it’. Even though I missed a portion of the game itself, I’ve such happy memories of shouting up and downstairs and listening for their reaction from the living room.
TOOLE: It’s not one of my top, top favourites but it is probably in my top ten. It had all the ingredients of a classic comeback and because it was the FA Cup it gave the press the chance to spin that whole FA Cup magic thing once more. You’ll find most of my favourite games in Sven’s season or since the takeover.
Obviously, the result and the comeback speak for themselves – is there anything in particular that stands out for you? Any special memories or little moments that stick in your mind? For me, I’ll never forget my dad not budging or celebrating the equaliser because he was so shocked, but then literally falling off his chair and screaming on the floor in sheer delight after the winner.
TIMPERLEY: The main standout memory I have is one which is probably quite petty and small minded, but it is what it is. There were a few Spurs fans I went to school with who were texting me relentlessly at half time. Dozens of texts a minute. The beep of my phone had become all encompassing, a symphony. And then soon after… silence.
Needless to say, my sh*it eating grin in class the next day could probably have been seen from the moon.
MURRAY: Of course I sacked the work off when it got to 3-3. The three of us sat on the edge of our seats for ten minutes after that and we went absolutely boogaloo when Macken scored. When he came on for Anelka early in the game I don’t remember being too hopeful that he’d come up with anything, to be honest with you. I also don’t really remember him doing anything else the whole match but I loved him in that moment. Let’s face it, his goal will never be thought of like Dickov’s or Aguero’s, will it? Especially as United dumped us out in the next round. But we didn’t have much to celebrate in 2004 and a comeback like that had me absolutely buzzing. City once again thriving when the odds were stacked against them. Top. I passed that coursework, too, and got an A overall. You just can’t keep good men down.
TOOLE: I always think of Jon Macken. Yeah, so City pull off this amazing comeback and all I think of is Jon bleeding Macken. Great! But he did score the winner which completed the comeback so it’s hardly surprising. Thought he could have done more with his celebration though.