Throwback to when Paul Cook stunned Man City in 1997by Chloe Beresford / 20 February 2018, 13:17Tweet
It may have taken a while, but this season Pep Guardiola has got his Manchester City team firing on all cylinders, fully accustomed to his possession-based style of play.
Already an incredible 16 points ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table - and 4-0 up after the away leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie with Basel - talk of a quadruple was not unfounded, his side looking invincible on all fronts.
Yet on Monday night they went crashing out of the FA Cup to League One side Wigan Athletic, the scorer none other than Will Grigg, the subject of a famous fan chant during Euro 2016. These events inevitably sparked a surge of posts on social media, Latics boss Paul Cook becoming the first English manager to have ever beaten the Catalan wizard Guardiola.
“It feels great. It is such a severe test. They are such a strong side. We rode our luck at times,” said 50-year-old Cook to BBC One after the final whistle.
“Our lads deserve credit for their work. Some of the blocks they made were outstanding and to beat Man City you have to do that.”
Wigan had to cling on to their 1-0 lead in the final minutes, one that will have seen supporters at the DW Stadium biting their nails in anguish. “You just shut your eyes and pray, don't you?, Cook added when asked about how he felt while waiting for the final whistle to be blown.”
Grigg was the most expensive player available to Cook, having signed for £1.3 million from Brentford in July 2015. To put the boss’ exploits further into context, his counterpart Guardiola had a team to select from worth in the region of £349 million. However Wigan - who have the best defence in England’s top four divisions with just 18 goals conceded in 30 matches - defended with heart and determination, blocking 17 of City’s 29 shots on goal.
But this was not the first time that Paul Cook had helped to pull off an against-the-odds win versus Manchester City.
Back in 1997, Stockport County had just secured promotion to the first division (now the Championship) for the first time in 60 years. There they would meet neighbours Manchester City, who had just been relegated from the Premier League, a team so much more successful that this would be their first competitive meeting in 88 years.
A packed out Edgeley Park saw County fans dream of even earning a draw versus a side whose fans included those from their own town who had opted to support a bigger club from down the road. “I think even a martian turning up from the moon would appreciate the significance of this match today,” said the late and legendary County commentator Richard Harnwell.
At £250,000 the signing of Paul Cook was a record for Stockport the previous summer and in that match with City it was immediately obvious why. A City clearance was blasted just wide by Cook from the edge of the box, and he was soon to send those supporters into dreamland.
“AAAAAAARGGGGGGGGHHHH WHAT A BEAUTY! I’VE WAITED ALL MY LIFE FOR THAT!” screamed the inimitable Harnwell on the commentary (as can be seen from 2:55 on the video below) as Paul Cook curled an unstoppable effort from distance into the back of the net on just six minutes. The camera pans to a miserable looking Bruce Jones who at the time played Les Battersby in Coronation Street, much to the amusement off the County supporters.
Of course – thanks to circumstances since – City are now in a different universe to Stockport County, the former at the very top of the Premier League and the latter languishing in the National League North.
But, just like those County fans, Wigan supporters will never forget last night’s victory, and it was all thanks to Paul Cook.