As the decade ends, it is time to look back on what has been the worst ten years in the club’s history and give you my nominations for the awards of the decade. When the decade started City were comfortably placed in mid-table in the Premiership fresh from a Christmas victory over Arsenal and were being described as ‘the entertainers’ by Sky TV pundits.
Gary McAllister and Mustapha Hadji were at the peak of their powers and creating chances galore for Robbie Keane. In the summer of 2000 the departing McAllister and Keane were not adequately replaced, and twelve months later the entertainers were relegated from the top flight after 34 years.
Team of the Decade : To compare the players who represented the club in the top flight with the 150 or so players who have passed through the City revolving doors since 2001 is impossible. Therefore I have selected a team to represent the post-Premiership era.
Keiren Westwood: Richard Shaw, Robert Page, Calum Davenport, Stephen Warnock: David Thompson, Gary McAllister, Dennis Wise, Gary McSheffrey: Dele Adebola, Michael Mifsud. Subs: Tabb, Best, Fulop, Dann, Safri, Gunnarsson, Konjic.
Readers may be surprised at the inclusion of Dennis Wise but his influence in early 2006 took City from relegation candidates to the verge of the play-offs. He may have only played 13 games but for once City fans had something to cheer. Mifsud’s presence may also be queried but few can deny the electrifying effect he had on City fans in the autumn and winter of 2007 before he went off the rails.
Performance of Decade: During the Dowie era City finally knocked a Premiership side out of a cup competition by beating Manchester United 2-0 in the League Cup, then did the same to Blackburn in the FA Cup, and in between was a classic 4-2 win at West Brom. However my favourite performance has to be the 4-3 home win over Manchester City in September 2001. Roland Nilsson had taken over from Strachan ten days earlier and the Swede inspired his side to a thrilling victory over Kevin Keegan’s star-studded team with David Thompson snatching the winner in the last minute.
Best Day of the Decade: There can only be one – the final day at Highfield Road in April 2005 when a packed house roared the team to a 6-2 win over Derby County, assisted by Derby’s former Sky Blue skipper Mo Konjic being unclear which side he was playing for.
Worst Day of the Decade: It has to be that depressing day at Villa Park in May 2001 when City lost their Premiership status. It couldn’t have happened at a worst ground! Close behind is that depressing day at the Valley in 2008 when with City fans resigned to defeat, they had to endure 86 minutes of hell and but for Stoke’s ‘keeper Carlo Nash, City would have been relegated to League One instead of Leicester.
Player of the decade: Richard Shaw may not have been the most skilful player of the decade but he always gave 100% and managed to survive under six different managers. He could play in any defensive position and finally got his first goal for the club at Gillingham in 2004.
Worst player of the decade: There have been countless dreadful players wearing the famous Sky Blue strip during the decade but three so-called ‘big names’ (all internationals) stand out as flops.
Tim Sherwood was so obviously crocked when he arrived that it was amazing that he managed to start ten games before retiring. Kevin Kyle was not injured but came with a reputation for mediocrity that everyone but the club’s management knew about.
The clear winner however was £1 million rated Keith O’Neill, who picked up his inflated wages for three years and made just seven starts.
Most popular player of the decade: Dele Adebola and Dennis Wise overcame the boo-boys and Freddy Eastwood often threatens to become a big favourite but none of them can match Mo Konjic for popularity, and his performance for the Rams in the final game at Highfield Road cemented his legendary status with City fans.
Least popular player of the decade: It seems a long time ago that Craig Bellamy was at City and he has had numerous big money moves since then. His performances for Coventry in the relegation season were nothing short of disgraceful and he compounded his unpopularity with his derogatory comments after leaving.
Manager of the decade: There have been eight managers during the last decade and none of them have been successful. The two with the best records in charge, Roland Nilsson and Eric Black, were both prematurely sacked. Nilsson had an amazing start with an 11-game unbeaten run and should have got into the play-offs. Black took over from McAllister in 2004 and brought the smile back to the fan’s faces with some bright, attacking play which brought results. I believe both men would have brought success to the club if given more time but on balance Black gets my vote.
Worst manager of the decade: In a large field one man stands head and shoulders above all others, Peter Reid. The wise fans were not fooled when Reid was brought in to replace Black. McGinnity was forced to eat humble pie seven months later after some of the most depressing performances for years. Reid was finally forced out following a massive crowd demonstration during the Leeds home game with what seemed like the whole ground chanting ‘Reid out’.