Guest Blog: Kevin Horlock
- 25 April 2013 10:08
- Posted by @dclayton_MCFC
We chat with the former City and Hammers favourite...
Kevin Horlock was a popular player for City for more than six years, clocking up 252 appearances and scoring an impressive 44 goals from midfield and – bizarrely – played in a different division every season until he left the club…
I still look back to the play-off final against Gillingham and think, ‘did that really happen?’
We were a massive club in the lower reaches of English football – a big fish in a small pond – and everyone wanted to beat us.
We filled grounds everywhere we went – the majority being City fans – and it often acted as a spur to many teams who raised their game against us and treated it like a cup final.
We found it difficult so Andy Morrison’s arrival a few months into the campaign when we were struggling in mid-table had a massive impact on the team and the club.
Even though he didn’t play a massive amount of games for City, it shows you the impact he had during that time because he is still so fondly remembered by City fans who have great respect for him.
He brought the leadership and a touch of nastiness – not just to the opposition but in training, too – and when you’ve got people like that willing to put everything on the line and win at all costs, you’ve got half a chance.
I’m not certain where the turning point actually was, I think it was possibly after we beat Wrexham away on Boxing Day 1998 that things started to take off and we started on this crazy run that took us up the table and into the play-offs where we played Gillingham and found ourselves 2-0 down with normal time almost up.
I didn’t think there was any way we could get back in it with just a few minutes left so when I scored on 90 minutes, I thought ‘OK, we’ve had a hard tough season and just missed out and we’re going to have to go back to places like Chesterfield and Lincoln, but nobody can take scoring a goal at Wembley away from me.’ I know that sounds really selfish, but I just thought there was no way back at that point – but I was wrong.
Having come back from 2-0 down the way we did, I thought we’d win it in extra time in, but we didn’t and the penalty shoot-out was always going to be a lottery. I didn’t have much left on the day but I stood up to take a penalty because I felt fairly confident. I’d missed a few over the years for City, but I just fancied it. I had no idea how long that walk from the centre circle is to the penalty area!
I’ve looked back at the video over the years and I can see the fear in my face! As I made that long walk towards the area, I changed my mind about 150 times! I knew I’d take it with my left foot but that was about it. Lots of scenarios went through my mind – should I hammer it, place it, dink it, go left, go right or down the middle?
Still, I managed to tuck the ball home despite all the anxiety. If the keeper had gone the right way, he’d have saved it without a doubt, but I always say I had a slight hesitation before I took it and waited for him to go, which gave me the edge – but the fact is, I didn’t!
In hindsight, it’s one of my favourite memories at City, but at the time I felt it wasn’t a great achievement because I’d been part of the team that had got us relegated the year before which should never have happened. I just wanted to get it over and done with at the time and back into a division where we could move forward again, but now, thinking back, yeah, it was a great day.
It was the longest I spent at any club and if I played even a small part in City returning to the force it is today, it’s something I feel really proud of.
Unless you’re a City fan, it’s hard to understand how the club gets in your DNA I’ve spoken to a lot of players who played for the club and they all say the same thing, that the club just gets into your system and you become a part of it.
“I took my nephew to Wembley against Chelsea as I’d promised I would the next time City played there. I went into the Green Man and had a quiet first half-hour behind a food van before someone recognised my face – albeit a bit chubbier these days – and that was it!
It was incredible and the reception and songs the City fans sang made me feel very humble. These are supporters who never forget what players have done in the past for the Club and appreciate the part we’ve played, however small. That’s what makes them something pretty special.