Ask Manchester City fans to recall their darkest memory as Blues supporters and the chances are the name Jamie Pollock will come up.
A defensive midfielder from Stockton-on-Tees, Pollock played some 60 games for City, scoring five goals along the way. Yet for all the good work he did during one of the most turbulent times in Manchester City’s history, he’s arguably remembered for one game and one goal.
Relegated from the Premier League in the 1995/96 season, City spent much of the 1996/97 going through more managers than Richard Dunne had hot dinners. Alan Ball, Asa Hartford, Steve Coppell and Phil Neal all took the reins during an astonishing four-month period from late August through to December.
Eventually, some form of stability arrived with the appointment of Frank Clark, who was given the task of stabilising the club in the second tier that season before a promotion push in the 1997/98 campaign.
Manchester City started the following season as second favourites for promotion. The problem was that, on the pitch, the results were failing to match the hype. By February of 1998, Clark was gone, sacked after winning 20 of his 59 games in charge with Pollock part of a team that struggled for results and confidence.
Joe Royle was brought in as his replacement but the team continued to struggle and relegation to the third tier for the first time in their history became a distinct possibility. With two games remaining City faced fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers, knowing only a win would keep them in control of their own fate.
Things started well when superstar midfielder Giorgi Kinkladze opened the scoring after just a minute. It didn’t last though with Mike Sheron levelling things up for QPR just seven minutes later.
The stage was then set for Pollock and arguably the worst own goal of all time. Tracking back to deal with a loose ball, Pollock neatly flicked the ball over an onrushing striker before heading the ball back to his own goalkeeper Martyn Margetson.
Except, that’s not how it worked out. Instead, Pollock made one of the worst gaffes of all-time and marked the darkest day in Manchester City’s history.
With Margetson rushing out of his area to deal with the loose ball, Pollock managed to loop said ball over the ‘keeper’s head and into the empty net.
All of a sudden, City were trailing at home in a game they needed to win. Lee Bradbury found a leveller early in the second half, but it wasn’t enough and, despite a 5-2 thumping of fellow strugglers Stoke on the final day, the Blues went down.
Despite his part in City’s relegation, Pollock has managed to see the funny side in the years since. He was certainly helped by the QPR fans eternally grateful for the goal he scored, which helped the London club gain the point they needed to stay in the division.
“I thought I would need to be smuggled out of Maine Road under a towel it was that bad,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I went down as a legend at Loftus Road, even if I wasn’t that popular with my own fans. So much so, in fact, that QPR’s supporters hijacked an online poll of the most influential people of the last millennium that was being run in America. I beat Jesus into second place.”
“QPR’s supporters hijacked an online poll of the most influential people of the last millennium … I beat Jesus into second place”
Pollock played on with City in League One the following season, before moving on to Crystal Palace and Birmingham, briefly, on loan. He retired from the game in 2002 before two separate two-year stints as manager of local sides Spennymoor United and Spennymoor Town.
These days Pollock spends his days away from football, running his own personal training company and a glazers called Polton Glass in Middlesbrough.
His football legacy lives on though through Ben Pollock, his son, who currently turns out as a defender for League Two side Hartlepool.
And while City fans may remember him otherwise, Pollock has nothing but good things to say about his time at the club.
“Manchester City are a great club,” he told the Mail. “Being captain is one of the achievements I am most proud of.”
It really was one hell of an own goal.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.