2000/01 SEASON REVIEW
Back to pre-season training and Joe Royle signs a new four year contract as reward for bringing the Blues back to the Premiership. The first job is to release Craig Russell who joins St Johnstone on a ‘free’.
The pre-season friendlies start in Ireland where City beat Linfield 4-0 and Drogheda 1-0. Back on English soil The Blues beat Gillingham 3-0, and then the club announces a major coup with the signing of former World Player of the Year George Weah on a free from AC Milan.
After three successive wins City’s form then dipped losing 2-1 at Burnley and then 4-1 in a miserable performance at Stockport in Jim Gannon’s testimomial.
Back on track The Blues win 4-0 at Oldham, before a busy few days in the transfer market, Paulo Wanchope completed a £3.6M move from West Ham, with Lee Peacock leaving Maine Road for Bristol City for a fee of £500,000.
Two days later Joe Royle bolstered the City defence, signing Centre Half Steve Howey from Newcastle for £2M and then recouping £600,000 by selling Jamie Pollock to Crystal Palace.
A trip to Goodison Park for Joe Parkinson’s testimonial ended in defeat with a 3-1 win for Everton, Robert Taylor was then sold to Wolves for a fee in excess of £1M before a trip to Old Trafford for Denis Irwin’s testimonial, where Manchester United beat the Blues 2-0 in City’s last pre-season friendly.
The Blues began there return to the Premiership in the worst possible way with a 4-0 hammering at Charlton, however they scored four themselves four days later at Maine Road as they beat Sunderland 4-2 including a hat-trick for Paulo Wanchope.
Joe Royle added to his defence further by paying Glagow Rangers £500,000 for Paul Ritchie who was on the bench for the Sunderland game.
City’s renowned inconsistency was to return again as they the lost 2-1 to Coventry at Maine Road, beat Leeds 2-1 at Elland Road and then lost 3-2 to Liverpool at Anfield, leaving them mid-table after five games.
A home draw, 1-1 against Middlesbrough, was followed by the 1st leg of the Worthington Cup at Maine Road where Gillingham gained a good 1-1 draw to take into the 2nd leg.
A third stalemate on the trot saw a 0-0 draw at Tottenham and then City secured a 3rd round Worthington Cup place by beating Gillingham 4-2 in the 2nd round 2nd leg.
Back in the League two home games equates to 3 points with a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle and a 2-0 win against Bradford. George Weah’s contract was then terminated with the former World Player of the Year agreeing to leave the club. Joe Royle was then allowed to splash the cash as City paid Everton £3M for defender Richard Dunne, and he made an impressive debut in a 2-0 win at Southampton but then the Blues went down to a 5-0 defeat at Arsenal, not a great debut for Laurent Charvet who a few days earlier had signed from Newcastle for a fee of £1M which could rise to £1.5M based on appearances
The Blues dalliance with the Worthington Cup continued with a good 1-0 win at Aston Villa, unfortunately City’s league form was faltering and Joe Royle’s side lost four on the bounce. 1-0 against Leicester at Maine Road, 4-1 at West Ham, and then 1-0 to Manchester United and 3-2 against Ipswich, both at home. The Blues had now slipped to 16th in the table just 3 points off the relegation zone with a third of the season gone. During this period, Nick Fenton, who had been on loan at Notts County, made it a permanent move, with City receiving a fee of £150,000.
In the Worthington Cup City did manage a win as they beat Wimbledon 2-1 at Maine Road in the 4th Round. In the league though it was a fifth defeat on the bounce as the Blues lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, however the goals flowed a week later as City smashed Everton 5-0 in Manchester to keep them four points above the relegation zone.
City’s home Worthington Cup game against Ipswich was controversially abondoned in the first half due to a water-logged pitch and then a good away draw, 2-2 at Aston Villa was followed by a Christmas period Joe Royle would definitely want to forget.
Gary Mason was allowed to move to Dunfermline on a free transfer and then the re-arranged 5th Round game against Ipswich went to extra time and City lost 2-1. Another young player then left Maine Road, Danny Allsopp, who had been on loan at Notts County, made the move permanent, City receiving £300,000 in return. in the league The Blues then lost 1-0 at Sunderland, drew 0-0 on Boxing Day at home to Derby Joe Royle was then allowed to pay Leeds £3.3M for striker Darren Huckerby, and in the last game of 2000, Huckerby scored on his debut, however the Maine Road crowd were not pleased to see City roll over losing 4-1 to Charlton.
New Years day saw a 1-1 draw at Coventry. And then in an effort to provide more competition between the sticks, Carlo Nash joined The Blues from Stockport County for £100,000. The respite of the FA Cup 3rd round brought some cheer to Maine Road as City beat Birmingham 3-2. But back in the league Joe Royle couldn’t buy a win as The Blues were mauled 4-0 at home to Leeds and then a 1-1 draw at Derby which made it just 3 points from the last possible 21 and City plunged into the relegation zone with just a third of the season left, Royle brought in Andrei Kanchelskis and Egil Ostenstad on a loan to the end of the season from Rangers and Blackburn respectively, to try and add some punch to his attack.
The FA Cup 4th Round saw City beat Coventry at Maine Road 1-0, following the game Joe Royle, unhappy with Paulo Wanchope’s reaction at being substituted, placed the Costa Rican on the transfer list stating he believes he is bigger than the club. Still Royle’s team couldn’t win in the league, drawing 1-1 at home to Liverpool and away at Middlesbrough, a tenth game without a league win saw Tottenham visit Maine Road and beat City 1-0.
Liverpool then knocked City out of the FA Cup winning 4-2 at Anfield, however finally at the eleventh time of asking City got a win beating Newcastle 1-0 at St James’ Park, but misery followed, the Blues losing 1-0 at home to Southampton followed by a 2-2 draw at Bradford. There was then a bit of a player clearout as Ian Bishop moved to American side Miami Fusion, Lee Crooks moved to Barnsley, and two players out on loan made the deals permanent, Richard Jobson at Tranmere and Tommy Wright at Bolton. The bad results continued however, two 3-1 defeats at home to Aston Villa and away at Everton. With just six games left relegation was a great possibillity. City were one off the bottom of the league five points away from safety.
The Blues survival looked highly unlikely as they slumped to their 11th home league defeat of the season losing 4-0 against Arsenal.
The City team rallied with a good 2-1 win at Leicester and the a 1-1 draw at Manchester United which will be remembered more for the infamous deliberate foul (more like GBH), handed out by Roy Keane to Alfie Haaland, which would effectively end the Scandinavian’s career as his knee was ‘left in bits’.
Another win this time 2-1 at home to West Ham meant that with just two games left City were still in with a chance of avoiding relegation, however a 2-1 defeat at Ipswich in the penultimate game of the season meant the rollercoaster that is Manchester City continued as they were relegated from the Premier League. Following the game the board were ready to sack Joe Royle, and Kevin Keegan was a name that they wanted to replace him. Dennis Tueart rang Kevin and he confirmed he would be interested but whilst a manager was still in place he would not make any decision. The last game of the season was a non-event as Chelsea beat City 2-1 at Maine Road. Two days later Joe Royle was sacked and less than a week after that Keegan agreed to take over.
Danny Tiatto was named Player of The Year whilst Shaun Wright-Phillips picked up the young player award.