Book Review: Looks Like Scunny Next Year by David Mooney
“It was one of those things that was instinctive. Even now when I look back and see it, and I see my celebration, it was nothing I could have done before or done afterwards or re-enacted. It was just plain ecstasy, relief…..as for the actual goal itself, I can’t remember a lot about it.”
David Mooney’s book is a look back on that famous day in 1999 when City came back from the dead to win the Division Two play-off against Gillingham, released on the 15th anniversary of what was (then at least) City’s greatest escape. The title refers to what Joe Royle said to his assistant Willie Donachie as Gillingham’s second goal went in. Scunthorpe has just won the Division 2 play-off final.
Each chapter is dedicated to a player involved on that fateful day. David Mooney travelled far and wide (and even abroad on one occasion) to see the players in person, with only one player interviewed by phone, the USA a bridge too far. As a prelude to that though a chapter looks at the dark days that lead to that day and the 1998/9 season that panned out how no one could have predicted.
The book succeeds in recapturing the many moments from that amazing day that have lain dormant in my brain for so long. The sea of blue down Wembley Way, the weather that followed us from Manchester, the despondency followed by unbridled ecstasy from those last ten minutes, then the general feeling that we would not mess it up after that. The book also made me realise how little I remember of the actual match. The various chances mentioned have long since left my memory, my recollections limited to an early penalty appeal, the late flurry of goals, the Dickov slide, a handball in extra time and some of the penalties that preceded Nicky Weaver’s manic celebration. This book fills in the gaps.
It also mentions many anecdotes from the day that I wouldn’t have otherwise known, such as Paul Dickov’s secret post-goal slip on the Wembley turf (secret as sadly no camera picked it up).
Inevitably a book of this nature does run the risk of repetition, but this is generally avoided as it doesn’t just look at the one day, but at each player’s time at City as a whole, and their lives since. This adds greatly to the book as it is as rewarding as reminiscing about the day itself to know what has happened to the group of players, from Lee Crooks journey to Afghanistan as an RAF gunner, to Andy Morrison at Airbus, Richard Edghill working at a primary school in Harpurhey (and at City too) to Tony Vaughan, who works in form concrete. We know a few of their exploits of course, but many have left our daily lives in the subsequent years and their career paths show what a different world they live in compared to the stars of today.
Just as inevitably, you will have your own favourite chapters as some players have more obvious appeal than others, but some of the most interesting stories can be found from the “lesser” players. As for the Goat, it was good to see he is back in the country and working towards his UEFA licences. And for the record, he is quite clear that his winner in the semi-final 2nd leg against Wigan was not handball.
What is clear from the accounts is the high esteem that Joe Royle was held in, not just as a manager but as a man. There is a sense of desire to succeed for him and a portrayal emerges of a great team spirit at the club during his tenure, even when things weren’t going smoothly. Joe himself provides a foreword for the book and is interviewed in the final chapter. The players all seem to sing from the same hymn sheet – they knew they weren’t the greatest, but they had a common desire to succeed and to drag City back to the “big time”. It also provides a fascinating insight into the players’ own evaluations of their individual careers, in a period when there was no social media and when everything a player did was not public knowledge within the hour. You feel that Royle’s successor Kevin Keegan was not held in quite such high esteem, though the players do not stick the knife in and it is understandable that this disparity exists as many moved on and were surplus to requirements once a new manager came in and started splashing the cash.
Overall this is a fascinating and unique book that is well worth a read for any City fan, young and old. It reminds us all of where we as a club have come from and brings back fond memories of an amazing day. Hearing from those involved that day is a great trip down memory lane.
You can purchase the book via the following link: