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Manchester City's Journey To The Top Nearly Complete
15 years ago, whilst their city rivals United were on their way to a legendary treble, Manchester City were competing for a very different prize: promotion to the old Division One.
Following two seasons in the second tier, City had hit a new low when they were relegated, along with Stoke and Reading, to the third.
On the 20th February 1999, City beat Macclesfield Town 2-0 in a league game at Maine Road to complete their 13th victory of the season.
Joe Royle’s first full season in charge did eventually end with promotion via one of the most famous play-off finals ever, as City came back from 2-0 down to beat Tony Pulis’ Gillingham on penalties at Wembley.
They went on to achieve a second successive promotion, this time to the Premier League, but were relegated after one season. Kevin Keegan then took the managerial reins to lead them back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
There they have stayed. Since the 2002/03 season, City have remained in the Premier League, providing a relatively stable base for the money-fuelled project which has seen City move up to ‘big-club’ status.
15 years on from beating Macclesfield, City are gearing up to tackle one of the biggest clubs in football.
Midfield enforcer Yaya Toure has called this latest challenge an acid test of City’s progress. Looking forward, that is the case, but the glamorous tie also offers an opportunity to look back and appreciate just how far Manchester City have come.
Even if Barcelona eventually overcome them, City still have a genuine opportunity to win a domestic treble, and are playing by far the most exciting football in England at the moment.
It’s been a remarkable journey, and City fans will hope their team can boost their chances of a quadruple on Tuesday night in the first leg against the Catalans. Being City fans, though, they’ll be wary of the negative emotions their team can always be relied on to put them through in landmark games.
On behalf of the Premier League, I hope they can do us proud and show the strength of our domestic competition, and keep their journey going a little bit longer.
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