For Manchester City fans of a certain vintage, the play off win in 1999 was the pivotal moment in our City careers.
Manchester City fans had very little to shout about in all my adult life up until that point, bar the odd promotion and occasional superb result.
Instead my career as a Manchester City fan was largely just a series of ever worse disappointments. Supporting City was akin to a trial of Job. We were so frequently tested that despite our physical attendance at games the faith was wavering.
I tried to reimagine myself as a football fan at one point – rather than just a City fan – not to disassociate, but to try to provide some enjoyment. Of course it never worked, as football without jeopardy is pointless.
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The fall from grace for City had been unbelievable. From the cusp of greatness under Peter Reid to the nadir of Frank Clarke. It is hard for any younger fans to appreciate some of this, and I am not trying to earn any points by saying it – but there were many times I was a bit embarrassed to be a City fan.
It got to the point where everyone else felt a bit sorry for us. We became a safe second club for many other fans because if nothing else, our comedy value was huge.
My very good friend was a Stockport County fan and even he commiserated with me on a number of occasions. That is the point we reached.
To understand the nature of that low, is to also understand why the play off victory was so important to us. It marked the possible.
It also probably saved us in ways we did not fully appreciate at the time. It saved the Club from a bankruptcy that could have been catastrophic- just look at Bolton Wanderers or Bury now for an illustration of what that can mean.
It saved many of us fans personally. I know people who would have loved football a lot less if we had lost on that day.
On 30 May 1999 City played Gillingham in the Play Off Final. We were 2:0 down in the 87th minute and it seemed all hope had abandoned us. Kevin Horlock pulled a goal back in the 89th minute and then somehow Paul Dickov scored what used to be our most famous goal in the 95th minute to level the tie.
The extra time finished goal less and so the match was eventually decided on penalties. What people tend to forget is that Dickov missed his and it was down to Nicky Weaver, the City goalkeeper, to win the tie. Weaver made three saves and commanded the goal.
His run after sealing the tie is one of the highlights of my football life. It meant so much to all of us and signalled a way back from oblivion.
The play off win is integral to our shared history. It symbolises how and why we play to the end – something we have become synonymous with thanks to those late goals by Aguero and Jesus.
Without that win, the Club we are today would not be here. It is therefore right that we commemorate all of those players who fought on that day 21 years ago as City heroes. I know I am forever grateful for their efforts.