Sergio Aguero may have scored the most famous stoppage-time goal in Manchester City’s history, but for many fans a Paul Dickov strike runs it close.
Aguero made headlines worldwide when he secured the Premier League title in 2012 with a sensational late winner against QPR, and the Argentinian’s goal will long be celebrated in the blue half of Manchester.
Yet despite all the success of recent years, supporters will also not forget a dramatic late equaliser by Dickov 20 years ago this week. It came at a lower level but it was a goal without which none of City’s modern success might have happened.
The Scot struck five minutes into stoppage time of the Second Division play-off final on May 30 1999, rescuing City during one of the most chastening periods of the club’s history. City had been relegated to the third tier the previous year and their hopes of promotion at the first attempt looked set to end in agonising Wembley defeat to Gillingham.
Two late goals appeared to have sealed victory for the Gills but City incredibly hit back with two of their own in the dying moments, first from Kevin Horlock and then Dickov. City then prevailed on penalties.
“It’s 20 years and it’s the one thing City fans still ask me about,” said Dickov.
“It’s nice and if anything it’s been magnified more by the success the club has got.
“Maybe 10 years ago fans would stop in the street, thank us for the goal and that would be it.
“Now, the club are dominating football at the minute and it makes it nicer for the fans to think that 20 years ago we were there, and 20 years later we’re winning Premier Leagues and breaking all sort of records.”
In what was a far cry from the sublime football of Pep Guardiola’s current treble-winning side, the first half of the 1998-99 campaign was an ordeal for Joe Royle’s City.
City were a target as they faced sides such as Macclesfield, Wrexham and Lincoln while a loss to York in December left them in the bottom half.
Dickov said: “Everywhere we went – whether it was Wycombe, Colchester, York, Lincoln – it was their cup final. It took a little bit of time to adjust to the division.
“We played Wrexham and Stoke at Christmas and on New Year’s Day. We won 1-0 at Wrexham and the Stoke game was huge for us.
“We were one down at half-time and we managed to turn it around. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few things said at half-time, a few things thrown, a few punches thrown as well.
“We turned it around, won 2-1 and I think we only lost one or two games until the end of the season from there.”
City followed up their play-off success with promotion back to the Premier League a year later. The club then moved to what is now the Etihad Stadium in 2003 and the takeover by Sheikh Mansour which has fuelled their modern success occurred in 2008.
Many believe none of that would have happened without Dickov’s last-gasp Wembley strike.
Dickov said: “I dread to think what might have happened. If you believe what people were saying, the club would have really struggled.
“It’s probably just as well we didn’t realise how important it was as it would have put more pressure on us.
“A club like Manchester City should never have been in that division in the first place.
“The players and characters we had, we were part of putting us down there and we did everything we could to get us back out of there. That’s what dragged us through eventually.”
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