Years before billionaire sheiks and impudent Argentines, Manchester City had a more down to earth hero - the Bermudan Shaun Goater. His 100th goal for City, the winner against Manchester United, was the sweetest of them all.
On 9th November 2002, I knew Manchester City would beat Manchester United for the first time in 13 years. I just knew it. It was the final derby at Maine Road. With an exciting if flawed Kevin Keegan team still buzzing from an exceptional promotion season the year before, the City fans and players were chomping at the bit to make this their day. And United, despite their illustrious personnel, didn’t fancy it much.
But to put this 3-1 City victory into its true context you have to go further back to March 1998, when then boss Joe Royle signed a certain Shaun Goater from Bristol City. Goater, an ex- Manchester United trialist, came along too late in the season to prevent the club from plummeting to the third tier. And besides, he was useless. With Inspector Gadget legs and an awkward, clumsy lack of composure, he was the least likely candidate to spearhead a revival. But sometimes football works in mysterious ways. Division 2 was the best thing that could have happened to Goater, and in turn City.
Any striker will tell you that scoring goals gives you the confidence to improve, believe in yourself and ultimately score more goals. As City fought for Premier League stability between 1998 and 2002, Goater did just that, but in a most unconventional manner. His “couldn’t score in a brothel” appearance was his strongest weapon. Defenders underestimated him time and time again, and The Goat became a connoisseur of weird goals and a cult hero. He had a natural instinct to be in the right place at the right time, and while in his early City days, goals flew in off his shin, his shoulder, his ear and in one case his nipple – he developed against all the odds and against all laws of common sense to be a superb goal machine of a striker, with a knack of slipping unnoticed into goal scoring positions and slotting home, if modestly, from extremely tight angles and unlikely distances. Under Keegan’s gung-ho, all attacking super Blues of 2001/2, Goater notched up 32 goals. He was scoring every week!
He had a natural instinct to be in the right place at the right time, and while in his early City days, goals flew in off his shin, his shoulder, his ear and in one case his nipple – he developed against all the odds and against all laws of common sense to be a superb goal machine of a striker.
Scoring regularly in the Premier League was always going to a more difficult proposition, and with the arrival of Nicolas Anelka there was a sad, unspoken admission amongst the City fans that Goater’s days may be numbered. By the time City and United met in 2002, The Goat had scored 98 league goals for Manchester City. He was already a legend, but he would prove everybody wrong one more time.
I knew we would win this derby match, but nobody would have dared to predict that Goater would score twice againstManchester United. His first of the two was a delightful cock up by the least popular Red in history, Gary Neville, who clearly hadn’t paid heed to the countless defenders who had underestimated Goater and paid the price. Goater dispossessed Neville with ease on the United by-line, and slotted a sharp finish past Barthez into the United goal without flinching. But if the United fans and the football world thought Goater could only score in this unusual fashion – they would get a huge surprise in the second half. Having conceded possession in no man’s land, United found themselves scampering back to defend a swift City move. Berkovic fed The Goat with a lovely chip into the box. Goater held off the challenge of Laurent Blanc to control and steer the ball into the back of the net for his 100th Manchester City goal. Cue euphoria at Maine Road. It couldn’t have happened to more deserving chap.
What a beauty, what a great victory to finally bring bragging rights back to City and what a moment for Goater – a player who made a career out of silencing his doubters.
Click here for more in the 'Greatest Goal I Ever Saw' series
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook