“Ohhh Bishop! Three-nil! Ian Bishop’s first goal for Manchester City may have won the derby for them. What a dream!" roared Clive Tyldesley as the No 4 headed home another goal in the ‘Maine Road Massacre’. "A Scouser, Ian Bishop, who still lives in Liverpool, has made his mark on the Manchester derby!”
City 5 United 1. One this day in 1989, we saw one of the biggest upsets in Manchester derby history.
“No one gave us a chance,” Ian Bishop tells The Sportsman.
The newly-promoted Cityzens came up against the expensively-assembled Red Devils at Maine Road on September 23, 1989 and the media didn’t give them a hope in hell’s chance.
“The multi-million pound squad that Sir Alex had assembled... we were a young team and were missing a couple of key players on the day,” says Bishop, now 58.
“There was a belief through the squad that we could achieve big things. We had played quite well in previous games without getting the points we felt we deserved.”
But the midfielder and his team-mates could not have foreseen a 5-1 battering of their fierce rivals in their wildest dreams.
Born in Liverpool, Bishop made a single appearance for Howard Kendall’s successful Everton side in 1984 before spells with Carlisle United and Bournemouth.
Spending his formative years in Merseyside down the M62, he was well aware of the magnitude of the game.
“Growing up so close to Manchester, I knew the size of the club and how big the fan base was,” he said of City, whom he joined in that summer of ‘89.
“It was a family club and everyone knew everyone, from the chairman to the laundry ladies.”
That togetherness proved key. Goals rained in past United keeper Jim Leighton and City were 3-0 up inside 35 minutes. The Kippax was delirious.
David Oldfield fired the hosts ahead before Trevor Morley bundled in a second. Bishop was then on hand to arrow a diving header into the back of the net.
Just 24, he bounced in front of a raucous home crowd and screamed with delight and emotion on what was proving to be a crazy afternoon.
“It was like nothing I’d felt before,” says Bishop. “I remember the noise when coming out of the tunnel, so different to when I walked out only a couple of months earlier in a Bournemouth jersey.
“The Kippax was a special place. I remember the banners they had when I played what was to be my final game against Norwich. I left the field in tears knowing I was leaving.”
With Manchester football back on the main stage following City’s promotion, the game had to be halted just five minutes in when unrest emanated from the stands. Reports suggested some of the 12,000 United fans in the 44,000 crowd had found their way into the home section.
The two sides were forced off the pitch for nine minutes and, although worrying, Bishop believes the delay may have helped the home side.
“It was distressing to see that kind of behaviour but our minds were firmly on the game,” he said.
“I remember United coming out of the blocks firing and maybe that incident, breaking up the game, gave us a moment to collect ourselves and regroup. We came back out and never gave them a yard. We dominated the rest of the half.”
While City’s dominant display has been the talk of the town for decades, Bishop insists it was probably United’s consolation - Mark Hughes scored before Oldfield netted a second and Andy Hinchcliffe provided the killer blow - which was the key moment in the game.
“Obviously to get on the scoresheet was an amazing feeling but I think the moment that stands out is when Mark Hughes scored.
“There was a sense of ‘3-1 is not enough’ but after Dave Oldfield put in the fourth I knew it was lights out. Hinchy getting a fifth - and the best of the five - put the icing on the cake.”
It remains such a special day that, even all these years on, the date and score amusingly features as part of Bishop’s contact details.
“Yes, numbers 198951 are in my email address. It was a special day, it cemented my relationship with the City fans who had already won my heart by that time. They did and still do treat me like one of their own.”
One of the iconic images of that day, and that era, is Bishop being hoisted up by Paul Lake, hugging his team-mate before raising a clenched fist in celebration, pride all over their faces.
“I love that picture,” Bishop says fondly. “Lakey was a gifted footballer who was destined to captain England, had it not been for the horrendous injuries that cut short his career.”
Lake, one of Liam Gallagher’s favourite players, was one of several academy products to feature in the match, alongside Steve Redmond, David White and Hinchcliffe, and many of the squad that day remain in contact to this day.
“I had come face-to-face with the lads as a Bournemouth player at the end of the previous season and almost ruined their promotion plans, which maybe could have prevented my signing for the club, so as soon as I arrived they had no problems telling me what they thought. It was a great dressing room and the majority of us still keep in touch.”
While it was a momentous day for the blue half of Manchester, it proved to be a wake-up call for the stuttering Red Devils.
Sir Alex Ferguson hung on to his job after Mark Robins’ heroics at Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup and the rest, as they say, is history. United went on to dominated English football and the Premier League for 20 years.
“No one knew what lay ahead for Sir Alex and his players,” Bishop said. “When you look back and the whispers about them sacking him after that defeat, football might have been so different. Thank you Mark Robins!
“I do believe losing to City played a part in inspiring them. Sometimes a kick in the backside will do that to you. We would not like to take any credit for it though would we!” he jokes.
Despite writing his name into City folklore, Bishop departed just three months later and joined West Ham. He went on to spend nine years playing at Upton Park.
“The receptions I got coming back with West Ham over the years were nothing short of amazing,” he said of the Kippax.
However, his relationship with City was not over and the story was far from finished.
Returning in 1998, Bishop was part of the side which heroically fought back against Gillingham in one of the most famous play-off finals in Football League history.
Initially re-joining the side as they failed to beat the drop to the third tier, Bishop was so intent on returning to City that he was happy to leave the top-flight.
“I would not have left West Ham for any other club and came back because I had unfinished business. I didn’t care what division I was dropping down to, once the call came, there were no second thoughts.
“One fan said to me ‘you were with us in the bad times’ but I told him that I hadn’t had any bad times. The Maine Road Massacre in my first spell and back-to-back promotions in my second. What bad times?”
Having returned to his native Merseyside on the night of the 5-1, he made sure he was in the city of Manchester for the play-off celebrations a decade later. He feels privileged to have been so involved in both games.
“The play-off final was the stuff of fairytales. I remember after the derby I went straight back to Liverpool and sat in a working men’s club watching the game on Match of the Day with my dad. I could’ve had the run of Manchester that night.
“After the Gillingham game I stayed in London as my family had come down. The next day I jumped on a train and left my family in London to be with the boys.
“I spent four hours on the train with a carriage full of City fans singing and drinking the whole way. I am very fortunate to be the only player to have played a part in both, a decade apart.”
Reflecting on how he and his teammates are remembered, even amongst City's successes, Bishop is grateful above all.
“For the club and its supporters to still keep us in their hearts is very humbling and I am a proud man to have played in three separate decades for the club, and be a part of its history.”
A version of this article was originally published on The Sportsman on 23rd September 2019.