How many times have we City fans admired the pink sky of a false dawn…?
Twenty two years ago the City team seemed to click together beautifully after a poor start to the season in the second tier. Halfway through September 1987 City had just 3 points from 6 games and things were not looking good. Bryan Hamilton’s side were struggling, and he brought in two new signings Jari Rantanen and Mike Newell. We played Oldham Athletic at home on a Wednesday night and suddenly looked like world beaters.
In the 12th minute Andy Ritchie collapsed under a challenge from Steve Walsh and the ref pointed to the spot. Paul Cooper saved the spot kick, City raced up the other end, Simon Morgan crossed for Newell to head home. That’s how good we were. We scored from their penalty. Further goals from the Rantanen (already dubbed ‘the Mighty Finn’), Gary Ford and Ian Wilson left a bewildered Oldham 4-0 down by half-time and the 7,358 crowd in raptures. Ritchie managed to convert his second penalty late on but it was a convincing 4-1 win for City.
Three days later Plymouth Argyle were the visitors to Filbert Street and, despite the pouring rain, City turned in another performance described in the Mercury as ‘near perfect’.
Wilson opened the scoring; Ford soon added another; Newell made it 3-0 just before the break and Rananten added a fourth on the hour. Cooper kept a clean sheet for 4-0 win.
Plymouth manager Dave Smith was moved to say: “We have seen the Second Division Champions..” after the game, and he wasn’t talking about the team in green.
Sadly we will never know how that side would have fared in future games because Ian Wilson, the main midfield cog, was sold to Everton after the Plymouth game. Things were soon on a downward turn again and Bryan Hamilton was sacked in early December.
Just after Christmas City went to Home Park and were beaten 4-0 by Plymouth. This time Dave Smith didn’t say anything about us being Champions.