Manchester City: Citizens' Top 10 Cult Heroes of All Time
Manchester City fans have a rich history of embracing the unusual, the exceptional and the useless. Luckily, a never-ending stream of each type walked through the gates at Maine Road and later, The Etihad Stadium.
It would be possible to compile a top 10 cult heroes list for every on-field position, such is the amount of discussion and contemplation cutting down a list to just 10 of the characters, which have grabbed the imagination of the fans entailed.
These are the crème de la crème.
Enjoy the slideshow.
Árni Gautur Arason
Mention the name Árni Arason to any Manchester City fan and you will likely be greeted with a grin and the words “Four, three”. Despite only playing two games for the first team, both in the FA Cup and conceding seven goals along the way, Árni Arason remains one of the most beloved Manchester City goalkeepers.
Facing a three-goal deficit, midfielder Joey Barton sent off and leading scorer Nicolas Anelka injured at half time, things looked bleak for City at White Hart Lane. Cue one of the greatest comebacks in FA Cup history, City running out eventual 4-3 winners as Tottenham Hotspur were left shell-shocked and exiting the cup at the fourth round.
Arason’s contribution will best be remembered for a stunning double save when the score was 3-1. German left-back Christian Ziege hit a fierce left-footed free kick which the diving Icelandic keeper pushed onto the post with his fingertips. Spurs midfielder Gus Poyet had the goal at his mercy on the rebound with a goal which would have ended any hope of a City comeback, but Arason reacted quicker than any in the ground, smothering the Uruguayan’s effort.
Gláuber Leandro Honorato Berti
Samba fever gripped Manchester as Seleção men Elano, Robinho, Jo and Giovanni spear-headed the attack of MCFC. But it was one Brazilian, signed on a free transfer to little media attention, who truly gained cult status. It was the mystery surrounding Berti Gláuber which first attracted the City faithful, just who was this unknown defender?
The man known as Berti would make over 20 appearances on the City bench, but for one reason or another manager, manager Mark Hughes was reluctant to feature the defender in the first team.
On the final day of the 2008/2009 season, with the team comfortably beating Bolton Wanderers, Berti Gláuber made his one and only appearance for Manchester City. Finally leaving his regular position on the substitutes’ bench, Berti arrived to a standing ovation and chants of “there’s only one Berti Gláuber”. The time flew by as Berti played out the remaining six minutes.
Post-game, the City manager commented on the fan reaction the left-back received.
"He got a really great reception! I've not been able to give him the opportunities that maybe I would have liked, but I thought that today was a chance to do that."
His contract expired shortly after, but for every fan in the City of Manchester Stadium on that fateful day, his memory will live on.
Alan Douglas Borges de Carvalho
The scoreboard read ‘Manchester City 2–0 Red Bull Salzburg’ when German youth international midfielder Simon Cziommer went down injured. His replacement received the signal and Alan Douglas Borges de Carvalho made his one and only appearance in Manchester.
The Brazilian entered the pitch, announced simply as ‘Alan’, a fact which humoured a crowd accustomed to the outlandish nicknames of his compatriots. Cheers greeted his every touch and it did not take long for songs to be directed towards the Red Bull winger. “Alan is Superman” (a spoof on then City midfielder Stephen Ireland), “There’s only one Alan” and numerous others remained for weeks to come.
Alan may never have played for Manchester City, but he addressed the fans after the game, acknowledging their new-found appreciation.
“I’d just like to thank the City fans for the reception they gave me. I appreciate the affection and all the support and affection you’ve all shown me. I love you guys!”
Before Yaya Toure scored the decisive goal against Stoke to lift to FA Cup in May 2011, Mike Doyle was the last Manchester City captain to lead the side to major silverware at Wembley.
With 16 years and over 500 games for City over his career, Doyle was blue through and through. His fanaticism for the club naturally enamoured him to the crowd; he was living the dream they never would, a born blue leading his club to league titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup.
No-nonsense centre halves often become crowd favourites for their commitment on the pitch. Doyle had the on-field attributes combined with the fan spirit complete with a public hatred of Manchester United, including kicking George Best and a red card for fighting with Lou Macari.
Signed as a free agent by former City manager Kevin Keegan at 32 years old, Algerian international midfielder Ali Benarbia took little time to win over the Maine Road crowd with his pinpoint passing and vision.
His playmaking ability brought a new dimension to the Manchester City team as they romped home to a record-breaking First Division title. Attacking midfielders came and went, with Brazilian duo Elano and Giovanni going some way to fill the void left by the stocky Algerian, but it was not until the world-class David Silva joined that City fans truly had their long-term replacement.
Made captain in his final season at Maine Road, but influence waned as aging legs struggled with the rigours of the Premier League.
An emotional farewell appearance marked the inaugural match at the City of Manchester Stadium. Captaining the side in victory against Barcelona was a fitting send-off to one of the most intelligent players to ever grace the English game.
Instantly given the moniker ‘Bobby Manc’ upon his arrival, even Roberto Mancini’s name seemed destined as a perfect fit for Manchester City.
In previous seasons City had managers who placed toy horses by the side of the pitch for good luck, or walked out after just 33 days in charge. The aura of cool Mancini emanated was infectious; with a silky Italian dress sense and a history of winning trophies as both a player and coach, it was obvious Mancini would become a cult hero.
Blue and white scarves became commonplace once again as the Italian’s trademark look influenced the masses, but none could pull it off quite as smoothly as the suave boss.
Delivering the FA Cup in his first full season at the club, Roberto Mancini marked his place in the history books, but he had long since effortlessly imprinted himself upon the City faithful.
Paul Dickov arguably scored the most important goal in the history of Manchester City Football Club.
Without his 95th-minute equaliser versus Gillingham in the 98/99 Second Division Play-Off Final, City’s recent history would have taken a significantly different chain of events.
The iconic goal celebration has become synonymous with Manchester City, with the striped yellow and black kit now a valuable collector’s item.
Compared to his strike partners of the era, Dickov was not a prolific goal scorer, but his tenacity and constant rattling of opposition defences ensured he was a popular figure amongst the stands.
Some claim Georgi Kinkladze was the greatest player to ever pull on a Manchester City shirt, some claim he was a luxury player at a time when City could ill afford one. But there is no doubting that Kinkladze was an immensely talented footballer who could light up a football pitch, sending the hearts of the Kippax faithful racing.
The Georgian signed for £2 million from his hometown club of Dinamo Tbilisi, as an unknown wildcard in City’s survival hopes. City was ultimately relegated, but Kinkladze’s performances attracted the attention of a host of suitors from across Europe, including Barcelona. In an act of loyalty which would be unheard of in the modern game, Kinkladze committed two more seasons to City in a bid to restore their Premier League status.
Things did not go according to plan, with the club plunging to the depths of the Second Division. New manager Joe Royle was firmly in the Kinkladze, or better known as a luxury player camp. A club record £5 million transfer to Ajax followed for the diminutive playmaker, in a career which sadly failed to fully demonstrate the talent of such a skilled footballer.
Mario Balotelli has quickly become the rock star of the Premier League. Nonconformist, unorthodox and intensely talented, Balotelli has split opinions since his debut for Internazionale in 2007.
With an extensive list of off-field antics, including a bathroom firework display which resulted in the fire service being called just 24 hours before a top of the table derby clash and escorting a truant child back to school to confront a bully with a teacher, it is not hard to see why the Manchester community took the enigmatic Italian to their hearts.
Manchester City fans went to the extent of producing a song featuring a multitude of his exploits,
“Oh... Balotelli, he’s a striker, he’s good at darts. An allergy to grass but when he plays he’s ******* class, he drives around Moss Side with a wallet full of cash”.
His recent goal celebration in the 6-1 derby demolition of Manchester United asked ‘Why always me?’, but City fans would not have him any other way.
On 21 June every year, Bermuda celebrates Shaun Goater Day, such is the impact the forward has made culturally and economically to the island.
Shaun Goater arrived at Manchester City for £400,000; he left after 103 goals in 212 appearances, helping the club cement its position within the Premier League along the way.
Initially a scapegoat as City suffered domestically, Goater quickly won the hearts of fans with his unusual playing style and knack for goal-scoring. A natural predator, Goater had a tendency to be in the right place at the right time leading to him to be Manchester City top-scorer for four consecutive seasons.
His goal-scoring exploits spawned the song “Feed the Goat and he will score”, which was adapted by popular SKY TV show Soccer AM as a weekly featured game for guests to compete in.
Goater currently writes for the Manchester City match day programme with a regular feature entitled 'Read The Goat'.