10 classic Manchester City players long before Pep and the money

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

In light of Manchester City’s first defeat of the season, FOX Sports Asia selects ten classic City players who might have made a difference.

After 227 days without tasting defeat, Manchester City fans find themselves in unfamiliar territory ahead of the Manchester derby. They were beaten 2-1 by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League’s final group game; having already tied up top spot.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, City manager Pep Guardiola’s statement We are going to lose is probably ringing in the fans’ ear.

While there is no doubt the players are reeling in their first loss of the season, the disgruntled fans will once again be questioning the quality of the current players.

But there was a time, not too long ago we might add, that the Citizens were contented with winning promotion from the Second Division.

So are the Sky Blue faithful right? Would any of the past players have helped in starving off this loss?

We look back and pick the ten most important players that played for City before Pep and the money rolled into the Greater Manchester area.

Joey Barton

Regarded by many as the bad boy of English football, Joey Barton is a combative English midfielder who was with City for five years.

The 2003-04 City Young Player of the Year started out as a defensive midfielder, but later evolved into an attacking midfielder known for his passing range and good work rate. Barton has 17 goals in 153 City appearances and was their top scorer in 2006-07.

Ever the controversial figure, the academy player was known for his contributions on and off the pitch. Barton famously dropped his shorts and mooned at Everton fans after scoring an equaliser against them and was responsible for starting a ten-men brawl in a 2004 friendly against Doncaster Rovers for hacking an opposing player.

The England international also did not play well with his teammates – stubbing out a lit cigar in Jamie Tandy’s eye and assaulting Osumane Dabo in training! He was charged and given a four-month suspended jail sentence for the Dabo incident, but that proved to be the final nail in the coffin and he was shipped out by manager Stuart Pearce in 2007.


Shaun Wright Phillips

As the son of former England and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, Shaun Wright Phillips had big shoes to fill when he moved to City in 1999.

The speedy winger was initially utilised as a wing-back under manager Kevin Keegan because of his dribbling ability and pace. Philips won the club’s Young Player of the Year four times before joining Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea revolution in 2005 for £21 million.

After winning all the domestic trophies, he returned to City in 2008 and score twice on his second debut against Sunderland in a 3-0 win.


Subsequently, increased competition for places caused him to left out of the 2010-11 FA Cup final squad and he left for Queens Park Rangers in 2011.

Shaun Goater

A cult favourite among the City faithful, Shaun Goater scored 103 goals and was the club’s top scorer for four consecutive seasons. He is so popular that he has his own song – “Feed The Goat And He Will Score” to the tune of Cwn Rhondda.

The Bermudian striker joined City in 1998 and scored 21 goals winning the club promotion to the EPL. Goater finally made his top-flight debut at the age of 30.

The Goat recorded another milestone when he became the first City player since 1972 to score more than 30 goals in a season in the 2001-02 season.

He clearly loves scoring against archrival Manchester United; having scored his 100th City goal against them in 2002 and scoring the fastest EPL goal by a sub (nine seconds after coming on) against the Red Devils in 2003.

Sun Jihai

Considered the most successful Chinese player in the EPL, China national Sun Jihai joined City in 2002 and was voted best player for the club that same year.

The former Dalian Shide defender immediately endeared himself to the fans with his dangerous attacking forays while being defensively solid. He won the First Division championship with City.

After being promoted, Jihai became the first Chinese player to score in the EPL – heading the first goal in their 2-0 win over Birmingham City. He also became the first Chinese to score in the UEFA Cup.

After being plagued with injuries in the following seasons, the Chinese defender left in 2008 due to increased competition. He scored three goals in 123 appearances, chalking up seven assists and twenty clean sheets.

Sylvain Distin

With over 450 appearances under his belt, Sylvain Distin is a defender who is well known in EPL. He holds the distinction of being the foreign player with the most league appearances.

The French central defender signed for City from PSG in 2002 and was a constant in the team. He was the club’s Player of the Year in his maiden season.

Eventually, Distin was named captain the following season following Ali Benarbia’s retirement. He made 207 appearances for the Sky Blues and before moving to Portsmouth in 2007.

Stephan Ireland

An academy talent come good; Stephan Ireland joined City in 2001, but only made his full debut in 2005 against Everton. The Irish attacking midfielder was named the Man of the Match in his first match and scored his first and winning goal in a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.

The dynamic young talent was also crowned the club’s Player of the Year – scoring thirteen goals!

After the sacking of then-manager Mark Hughes, Ireland fell out of favour with his replacement Roberto Mancini due to increased competition for places in 2009.

He left for Aston Villa in 2010 in a swap deal for James Milner and notched 23 goals for the Citizens.

Micah Richards

Another product of the academy, Micah Richards is a ten-year City veteran with 245 appearances. The youngest defender to be capped for England joined City in 2001.

Making his first team debut in 2005, he came on as a sub against Arsenal and scored his maiden goal against Villa in the FA Cup.

Richards was nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2006-07 season. As the youngest first team captain ever, he was nominated again in the 2007-08 season.

2011 was a year to remember for Richards as he played a part in the FA Cup final and the league title win. As a result, he was nominated for the club’s Player of the Year award and recording five assists – the most for any defender!

Unfortunately, Richards did not earn a league medal in their 2013-14 win as he lost his place to Pablo Zabaleta and left in 2015.

Darius Vassell

A favourite of then-City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Darius Vassell moved to the club in 2005 from Villa. In his first season, the England striker formed an effective partnership with Andrew Cole – scoring eight goals and a FA Cup quarterfinal run.

Despite struggling for form and deployed in a wide position, Vassell scored his 50th EPL goal against rivals United in the 2008 derby.

Having started only fifteen games in the 2008-09 season, he was released on a free. He scored 22 goals in his City stint.

Paul Dickov

Another cult favourite; Paul Dickov had two spells at City – from 1996 to 2002 and 2006 to 2008. The Scottish forward played under five managers in his first season as City was relegated from the EPL.

Dickov has the distinction of playing for City in three different divisions and whose goals were vital in winning them promotion back to the First Division and EPL – his equaliser against Gillingham in the Second Division play-off final was voted City’s Greatest Ever Goal in 2005!

He stuck with the team upon their return to the EPL in 2000 and earned his first cap. However, Dickov left in 2002 after falling out with manager Kevin Keegan.

The Scotsman’s second City was less eventful as he was plagued with injuries in 2006. He was released at the end of the 2007-08 season; having scored 41 goals in total for City.

Eyal Berkovic

Hailed as one of Israel’s greatest players, Eyal Berkovic joined the Citizens in 2001 for £1.5 million. The attacking midfielder was described by Liverpool legend Graeme Souness as “a tremendous passer. In the last third of the field, he is the best that I’ve ever worked with”.

Scoring on his debut, Berkovic set himself to be a fan favourite in the 3-0 win against Watford. He was one of the two playmakers, alongside captain Ali Benarbia, in Kevin Keegan’s first eleven.

After gaining promotion to the EPL in style (99 points and a record 108 goals), Berkovic was instrumental in the 2002-03 3-1 derby win over United. He retained his position as the sole playmaker in the City’s starting line-up and was voted the Player of the Season.

After courting controversy with a ‘throat-slitting’ gesture to a fan, he fell out with Keegan and moved to Portsmouth in 2004. Berkovic scored seventeen goals and 41 assists in 146 City appearances.