That's Man City, I love this club

Kevin Keegan: Long after we're all dead they'll be showing this match again to show what the FA Cup is all about
Click to follow
The Independent Football

White Hart Lane, Wednesday, 4 February

Kevin Keegan stomps into the visitors' dressing-room with his Manchester City side 3-0 down in their FA Cup fourth- round replay to Tottenham, having lost their leading scorer Nicolas Anelka to injury and now, he discovers, midfielder Joey Barton to a second yellow card.

Keegan: "I've never questioned the character of my players, but I had the right to question it in that first half. We were in a hole. I was very annoyed with Joey, because it's not like we haven't told him before. But we sat them down and said it was a matter of pride now, and we needed to get some more sweat on the shirts. There were a lot of things said, but not in anger. Paul Bosvelt, you're an experienced player giving the ball away too much; Sylvain Distin, can you keep a clean sheet now in the second half? Can Sun Jihai and Michael [Tarnat] get forward enough and not expose us? We asked Shaun [Wright-Phillips] and Trevor Sinclair to tuck in a bit so Paul didn't have too much to do in the middle, and told a couple of them to work their socks off because we had fresh legs on the bench."

Jon Macken, substitute for Anelka: "I was sorry for Nic, but it was an opportunity for me. When you get the chance you've got to take it. The one thing in our favour was that we had nothing to lose. The boss just said, 'You've got to play for a bit of pride and give the fans that have come all this way something to cheer'."

Paul Bosvelt, City midfielder: "We found some kind of inner strength when Joey was sent off. At half-time there were very few raised voices - we just talked about pride and not letting the fans and ourselves down. We felt we made fools of ourselves in the first 45 minutes."

Second half begins with Tottenham fans checking ticket arrangements for the fifth round in their match programmes. "We can still throw it away," counsels a long-suffering one next to the press box. One City supporter is persuaded by his disgusted brother to set off back to Manchester. Another, sitting at home, puts £2 on his team at 400-1. At a charity auction at Old Trafford, a City follower pledges £3,000 if they win.

Macken: "I don't think anybody really thought we could pull it off. When we walked out for the second half, all we could hear was the City fans singing 'We're gonna win the Cup'. It was quite amusing at the time."

Keegan: "I thought they were being a bit optimistic."

Jonathan Pearce on Radio Five Live: "We're staying with the commentary here because we want to see if Manchester City can stage something of a recovery."

Tottenham defence stands and watches Distin head in Tarnat's free-kick. 3-1.

Macken: "Even at 3-1 you're struggling and fighting an uphill battle. The majority of the team just thought we had to give a better performance than in the first half and stop them scoring again."

Keegan: "When the first one went in, I felt that at least we'd come out and not sulked. Let's show a bit of character now and dig in, no humiliation. One side of me, because you read comics like Roy of the Rovers as a kid, is thinking about a comeback, but the other side, because you're involved in a professional game, is saying, 'Hey, this could be really bad'. Down to 10 men, lost your top scorer, 3-0 down away from home, you go through all sorts of emotions."

Bosvelt's drive deflects in off Anthony Gardner. 3-2.

Bosvelt: "You could see them looking at each other and wondering what was going on. They were probably starting to wonder what people would say if they lost to 10 men from being 3-0 up."

Macken: "You need a bit of luck in those games, and it boosted everyone and made us go for it a little bit more."

Arni Arason, the Icelandic goalkeeper standing in for City's David James, makes an astonishing double save from Christian Ziege's wicked free-kick and Gus Poyet's swift follow-up.

Keegan: "Sometimes when a team's winning they think they can just go and get a goal anytime. We've had a strange week or two, getting a goalkeeper in and then throwing him out because he's cup-tied, fetching another lad in who doesn't know us, put him in and he's done terrific for us."

Robbie Fowler sends City's inspirational wide player Wright-Phillips away to equalise, the linesman failing to spot that he is fractionally offside. 3-3.

Macken: "I was just behind Shaun. And he was definitely onside!"

Keegan: "There's not many teams could have dug themselves out of that. Even the great teams, the Liverpool team I played in at their very best, it would be a massive hurdle even with the players and the confidence we had. It showed one thing, that you can't say we're not together or that the players don't care."

Tarnat crosses to the far post, Ledley King slips and Macken loops his header into the far corner of the net. 3-4.

John Motson on BBC1: "Who would have thought it possible?"

Macken: "Scoring a goal's a great feeling, but to score the winner in a 4-3 victory from 3-0 down was special."

At the full-time whistle, City have gone from the ridiculous to the sublime and earned a fifth-round tie away to Manchester United next Saturday - after critical Premiership games against Birmingham [today] and Liverpool [Wednesday]. Keegan leaps into the arms of his mentor Arthur Cox and then his coach Derek Fazackerley.

Wright-Phillips: "The memory of our win will always be there, but we have to put it to the back of our minds. The game at Old Trafford is more than a week away and we've two huge games before then."

Keegan: "Eddie Large, the comedian, who I've known for years, has always said to me 'That's Man City' and I told him I didn't like that. But I phoned him and I had to say, 'Eddie, you're right, that's Man City'. I love this club and love the supporters. They're the barometer, and if they turn against me that'll be the end. I understand some of the negativity with only two wins in 19 games. And if the chairman comes to me and says, 'We want to get someone else', I'll shake his hand and get on with my life. There'll be no falling out and we'll be friends for life. I hope it won't come to that, but I'm a realist. I know that only results will keep me here or any manager at any club. And I wouldn't swap this result for anything, because it answered a lot of the criticisms we've had at this football club. Long after we're all dead they'll be showing this match again to show what the FA Cup is all about. It may never happen again, it's just an incredible thing. We've just proved that anything is possible."

Comments