Friday night’s debacle at Derby was the 22nd 5-0 defeat in league football suffered by City. As we can’t resist a spot of black humour, let’s look at numbers 21 down to 17…
1: Wigan Athletic (h) 2008/09
Ooorgh, bit too fresh in the memory, this. Afterwards it was cast by the ever-reserved tabloid media as the day our bubble burst, when the upstarts of the Premier League got put in their place, and similarly condescending, clichéd tosh. Three games into a new season in a wholly new division, blinking furiously at the bright lights of showbusiness in football, and we were absolutely stuffed.
That it happened against the previously least fashionable Premier League team of the modern era made it all the more galling, and bizarre too. We’d beaten Fulham and drawn at Blackburn, so by losing to Wigan (managed by Steve Bruce) it just completed the set. But the manner of it was dreadful.
Sam Ricketts, standing at the near post, miskicked an equally poorly hit Kevin Kilbane corner into his own net to start the ball rolling early, then future Manchester United mainstay Antonio Valencia scored a quick second on the break.
Two in five minutes from Amr Zaki – oh, how we wished he would play for us – midway through the second half scuppered any minuscule hopes of a glorious comeback, then Emile Heskey comfortably stuck away the fifth.
It’s remembered chiefly for being Wayne Brown’s only Premier League game, and he was given such a scorching by Zaki and Heskey that he never played for City again. As for Kilbane, we’d like to think there were other reasons than one mishit corner to prompt City to purchase him the following January.
The bubble was indeed burst, but a reshuffle and an international break later, we went up to Newcastle, put on their shorts and socks and beat them. The two away games that followed were at Arsenal and Tottenham. Any idea what happened?
This is one of only two occasions that City have lost 5-0 at home – the other was against Lincoln in 1959.
2: Wrexham (a) 1995/96
It’s sufficient to say that this was a catastrophic season, statistically among our worst ever and culminating in a relegation that would be felt for years to come. Such seasons make it harder for grieving supporters to hate any other team as much as they hate their own, but Wrexham must still be a candidate.
Basically, by the time they stuffed us at theirs in April 1996, we’d played them four times. A 1-1 draw at Boothferry Park was followed by two truly abysmal goalless draws in the FA Cup, the second of which facilitated the further ignominy of Wrexham winning the penalty shoot-out. Then, finally, this.
Wrexham were in the European Cup Winners Cup that season, too, and made the FA Cup quarter finals the following season. Yet the turnarounds in football can marry poignantly on occasion; the season City were promoted to the Premier League for the first time, Wrexham were relegated to the Conference – and there they remain, having lost three play-off semis in nine seasons.
3: Aston Villa (a) 1987/88
New Years Day. Hangovers everywhere. And the fixture computer sends a semi-resurgent City to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa, still smarting over their relegation the year before with the sense of entitlement that festers through a new generation of Villa fan to this day.
In 1987, relegation was notable though as, unlike the modern incarnation, Villa were recent champions of England and, consequently, able to become even more winners of the European Cup. Five years after lifting the biggest domestic trophy in football into the Dutch night sky, they were down, and still with a handful of players from that glory night on their books.
It was billed as a top of the table clash of sorts, as the Christmas fixtures had left Villa third and City sixth. It didn’t look anything but equal out there, however, and Withernsea’s own Stuart Gray gave the home side a half-time lead.
Graham Taylor slung on second half substitute Warren Aspinall for the second half and he scored a straightforward brace, with goals also from Andy Gray (the one that played for England a few years later) and Alan McInally. Of the European Cup winning squad, only two were on show that day – Allan Evans, stalwart Scottish centre back and skipper, and Pat Heard, unused sub in Rotterdam and City’s left back and penalty taker. And when we got a penalty, the baying Holte End condemned the decision vociferously, so Heard kicked the ball straight at them to shut them up. We think.
Villa maintained their form, for the most part, and went up as runners-up, a tad fortunately, while City beat Leeds two days later before going on a 14 game winless run that cost Brian Horton his job just after transfer deadline day.
4: Millwall (a) 1985/86
Let’s face it, in the mid-1980s if you got away from Cold Blow Lane with a 5-0 defeat and your nose still in the vicinity of your face, you’d had a decent day out. The lack of hospitality at the Den, in either of its incarnations, is renowned but in the 1980s it was at its most seething, spitting, nasty, hateful and perilous, and to visitors who felt needle was part of the game, it was actually good fun. And a late December game there didn’t really include an awful lot of goodwill to all men.
City were a good side and Millwall were burgeoning, so it was a footballing occasion in the making, away from the nonsense on the terraces. Steve Lowndes gave them a half time lead, then a Robert Wilson brace and further goals from Alan Wilson and John Fashanu took it away from the Tigers.
Anything else notable? Well, games like this got Millwall gaffer George Graham noticed by his former club Arsenal, and he was off there before long to win league titles and European trophies. As for City, they somehow didn’t shift from tenth place after losing this one, and ended up sixth – three above Millwall. To be fair, it was a freak result within a terrific run of wins – two on one side of the defeat, and three on the other.
5: Huddersfield Town (a) 1980/81
Three of these five fivers seem to have happened over the festive period. Coincidence? Or did Ian Blakey insist that over-indulgence each Christmas was club policy?
And 1980/81 was another of those seasons impossible to unsee. City were deplorable all season and rarely more so than when they visited Leeds Road for the final game of 1980. Well, we say rarely so, but a month earlier City had gone to Barnsley and suffered the same fate with largely the same team. We couldn’t say we weren’t warned.
Huddersfield, aiming for promotion, were 2-0 up at the break and coasted to their quintet of goals in the second half. Names familiar with YTV viewers of the era – Brian Stanton, Terry Austin, David Cowling, Mark Lillis, Ian Robins. At the other end, Stuart Croft made his 190th and final appearance for City.
We do wonder if Huddersfield fans remember this game at all, as in that season our name is far more familiar to them for the 2-1 defeat we inflicted on them at Boothferry Park late in the campaign thanks to two late goals, scuppering their promotion hopes in the process. We were already down so had to get whatever joy we could.
City have also lost 5-0 once in the FA Cup, twice in the League Cup and three times in wartime football, while there have been other scorelines with five goals margins.