On this day in 2005, David James played up front for Manchester City vs Middlesbrough

Manchester City v Middlesbrough

On this day back in 2005, David James was put upfront during Manchester City’s final Premier League match of the season against Middlesbrough.

City faced Boro on the final day at the Etihad with the winning team knowing they would qualify for Europe. A draw would away be enough for the away side.

With the scores level at 1-1 with two minutes remaining, Man City boss Stuart Pearce turned to his bench with one substitute remaining.

Jon Macken – an actual striker – sat there alongside reserve goalkeeper Nicky Weaver.

Nobody could have predicted what Pearce would do next.

He substituted on Weaver in place of Claudio Reyna while James ran out of his goal to don a players’ shirt with ‘James 1’ on the back – they had clearly planned for this scenario.

He was sent upfront alongside Robbie Fowler.

Manchester City v Middlesbrough

What followed was pure hilarity.

The 6ft 4in goalkeeper couldn’t have looked more out of place. He was like a bull in a china shop.

In one calamitous moment, he took out two opponents with a horrendously mistimed challenge after he had completely mishit a volley.


In fairness, his sheer presence may have confused Boro enough to give away a penalty as Franck Queudrue handled the ball inside the box with seconds remaining.

Instead of letting James take it, legendary goalscorer Fowler got the nod only to see his effort saved by Mark Schwarzer.

While Pearce’s stroke of tactical genius didn’t exactly work, it has allowed us to watch back highlights of James’ cameo and give us quite a few laughs in the 15 years since.

Take a look:

After the match, Pearce attempted to explain his thought process behind it all.

“I sat at home on Saturday night and thought to myself: ‘What shall I do if we’re drawing the game late on and need to hit it long?'” Pearce explained. “I’ve got a good striker in Jon Macken, who is really disappointed, but I wanted to unsettle them and in some ways it did.

“It unsettled everyone . . . them and us.”

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