Etihad Ten: 2004/05 season
- 02 June 2013 10:03
- Posted by @porter_mcfc
The dying moments of the 2004/05 campaign found City with two goalkeepers on the pitch, just one kick away from the tantalising carrot of Europe.
Without a win in their opening three games, by September few would have predicted City to record their highest Premier League finish to date.
A mixed bag of form over the campaign saw the Blues record victories against Chelsea and Liverpool, but fall to disappointing defeats against West Brom and Bolton.
The squad contained a healthy sprinkling of academy graduates, eight in all, supported by several more experienced players who had already chalked up Premier League appearances with other clubs.
Shaun Wright Phillips was the most exciting product to emerge from the youth system in years, and capped off a stunning season by earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year and a nomination for Young Player of the Year.
A representative from each group shared the top scorer honours – Wright Phillips and Robbie Fowler chalking up 11 strikes each.
That potent mix was also mirrored in the season’s two managerial appointments –Kevin Keegan had an extensive portfolio of experience at Newcastle while his replacement, Stuart Pearce, could only point to the briefest of flashes as caretaker boss at Nottingham Forest before building his craft as a City coach.
Shortly after the Christmas decorations were taken down and January dawned, the previous season’s top scorer, Nicolas Anelka, packed his bags for Galatasaray.
In February, City were clinging to 12th place in the league when Kevin Keegan’s departure as manager was announced.
Yet, when the sunshine and icecreams materialised in May, City just needed a win on the final day of the season to leapfrog opponents Middlesbrough and seize the last UEFA Cup place.
The crowd roared as a packed Eastlands was determined to haul their side over the line.
A dramatic finale to a season stuffed with twists and turns took on a bizarre tinge when City emerged for this home fixture wearing their away strip.
Events descended into the truly whacky on 88 minutes, when Stuart Pearce replaced midfielder Claudio Reyna with his reserve goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, and sent his no.1 David James up front.
There was disbelief etched on the faces of the watching masses as James (wearing an outfield shirt) caused havoc in the opposition penalty area, attempting some silky skills on the edge of the box and a wild shot on the volley.
As the 2004/05 campaign hurtled towards its conclusion, City and Boro were level at 1-1. For those in sky blue it was excruciating – a draw would not be enough and they would have to watch Boro celebrate the prospect of European jaunts on their own new turf.
With stoppage time ticking down at a much faster rate than at any point that season, the man in the middle provided a late surge of electricity by awarding the Blues a last-gasp penalty.
The surreal sight of David James waving his arms exuberantly in the opposition penalty area did nothing to detract from the tension as Robbie Fowler stepped up to the spot with the chance to send City fans into dreamland – and the travel agents.
It was Fowler against Schwarzer, and the Australian keeper emerged the victor, batting away the ball which seemed destined for the bottom corner and then leaping on it gratefully.
It was to prove the last meaningful action and the match finished with a draw – European ecstasy for Boro, heartbreak for the Blues.
Once more, City fans had been put through the wringer, and as they sank to their seats there was a familiar feeling of agonising despair edged with a little bit of hope – and the promise of next season.