Manchester City supporters could barely believe their luck in September 2008 when the Abu Dhabi Group arrived to transform the fortunes of the club. The arrival of world superstar Robinho from Real Madrid was a sign of things to come but City had make midweek trip to Withdean a few days later and it didn’t go to plan.
The mood on the south coast heading into the Carling Cup third round was a little bit glum, Albion having been defeated 1-0 by Walsall in League One action the previous weekend.
“Not only that, Walsall were down to nine men after half an hour of the game!” defender Adam Virgo recalled.
“City had Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and Richard Dunne in their back four, Stephen Ireland in midfield and Daniel Sturridge was an up and coming striker. [Manager] Mark Hughes had also brought in the Brazilian, Jo, for big money.
“When we saw that they’d rested Robinho, Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips we felt we had a better chance, but I think the belief came into us more when we saw them looking at the portable buildings that doubled up as changing rooms, the temporary seating, the wide open spaces of the Withdean. We got the impression they didn’t want to be there.”
And so it proved, although not without a little bit of drama. City took the lead approaching the hour mark through Gelson Fernandes, against and Albion side including Adam El-Abd, Glenn Murray and Tommy Elphick.
Now at Bournemouth, defender Steve Cook made his debut that evening and played his part as the Seagulls turned their fortunes around.
“It was quite surreal; although I was making my debut I didn’t feel any pressure when I came on,” Cook said.
“We were 1-0 down with five minutes left and nobody really had a clue who I was. Then Glenn [Murray] popped up with a late equaliser and we went on to win on penalties.
“I remember marking the Brazilian, Jo, and they had plenty of other big names in the side, the likes of Vincent Kompany, Richard Dunne, Pablo Zabaleta and Daniel Sturridge. Robinho had also signed, so I’m not sure what he would have made of Withdean!”
Joe Anyinsah put Albion ahead for the first time in extra time but Stephen Ireland’s strike meant a penalty shoot-out that goalkeeper Michel Kuipers looks back on with a real sense of satisfaction.
"When it got to penalties, I just had to blank everything out and concentrate on the ball. When I saved that Michael Ball penalty the most amazing feeling went through my body. Next thing I knew there were hundreds of people on top of me!"
Albion ended up winning 5-3 on penalties and a full-house at Withdean had memories which they will never forget.
Albion: Kuipers, Whing (Cook 85), El-Abd, Thomson, Richards, Livermore, Murray, Loft (Anyinsah 68), Fraser (Cox 74), Virgo, Elphick.
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Hart, Robinson, Wills.
Goals: Murray 89, Anyinsah 95.
Man City: Schmeichel, Zabaleta, Dunne, Ben-Haim, Michael Ball, Kompany, Ireland, Johnson (Elano 102), Gelson, Sturridge (Evans 60), Jo (Caicedo 91).
Subs Not Used: Hart, Garrido, Hamann, Logan.
Goals: Gelson 64, Ireland 108.