Saturday’s visit to Hartlepool United links two former Sky Blues’ midfielders who graced the top flight and whose curtain call came at the home of Jeff Stelling’s favourite side. One man missed out on our greatest ever day at Wembley through injury while, along with his compatriot, they both failed to register a single goal in sky blue. What they did bring was the ability to keep it simple, retain the ball and break down opposition attacks. They could be relied upon to deliver each time they stepped out onto the pitch - their names were Dean Emerson and Willie Boland.
Dean Emerson’s introduction to the top flight made one of the best ever impressions on the City support. Signed by John Sillett for £40,000 from Rotherham United after starring against City in a Littlewoods Cup tie he made 132 appearances for City between 1986 and the close season of 1991. Just two months prior to Wembley a reckless tackle by Sheffield Wednesday’s Gary Megson on an icy Highfield Road pitch began an agonising sequence of knee operations for the midfield kingpin as he returned time after time to appear in the Sky Blues' engine room. Eventually, the injury caught up with him and he moved to Hartlepool prior to the commencement of the Premier League. Always popular with the supporters it was Emerson’s pass that created the winning goal against Manchester City in August 1989 that took City top of Division One for the first time ever.
Willie Boland came through the City youth team and made his debut at the age of 17 during Bobby Gould’s tenure. Between 1993 and1999 he appeared 72 times and displayed an excellent engine dovetailed with the ability to retain possession and break up opposition attacks. Ever reliable, Boland made his full home debut in a 1-0 win against Liverpool and starred in front of the home faithful. After his time at City came to a close he transferred to Cardiff and again thrived under the management of Gould. He was a pivotal member of their successful late 90’s/early millennium promotion chasing sides and made his final appearance for the 'Bluebirds' at the Ricoh in their 3-1 defeat when Dennis Wise bid farewell to City. His final move took him to Hartlepool in 2006 but a knee injury led to his premature retirement in September 2009. Willie Boland never let the City down during his time at Highfield Road and, like Emerson, was an asset to the side he performed in.Last Friday's CWR phone-in was an entertaining and humorous hour as City fan of over 35 years, Matt Partridge, displayed a refreshing honesty talking with Clive Eakin and fellow supporters as the 'Fan of the Week' about the current situation. 'Joy Serpentine' was one of his highlights along with an honest assessment of Carl Baker's recent form. Matt received criticism for this while the programme was running and the following day online - his departure from the CWR studios you can see below.
Criticised for telling it as it is in my view - we can all run round and try hard but, like Gary McSheffrey, we all know they can both do so much better and that is one of the points Matt made. Baker and Sheffers were expected to be shining lights in League One yet they are currently fading stars. Matt's honesty I witnessed first hand in 1986 when, in the style of Geoff Boycott, he ran me out in school inter-house cricket. 'Sorry mate!!!' was shouted after me as I trudged back to the pavilion a year prior to the FA Cup final victory. Fast forward 26 years and we both still await that top six finish last experienced in 1970. A few honest words can do no harm, Mark Robins delivers similar each time he speaks, for too long the cracks have been papered over and it's time to tell it as it really is - SISU take note.