Former Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin has labeled his five-season stint with the club as one he looks back on ‘with great pride’.
The Frenchman, signed from PSG in 2002 for £4million – then a club record fee for a defender – went on to be crowned the club’s Player of the Season for the 2003/04 campaign in which he appeared in all 38 Premier League games.
Distin, now of Bournemouth following spells with Portsmouth and Everton, will return to the Etihad as Eddie Howe’s team take on the league leaders on Saturday.
And the former blue was quick to wax lyrical about his time with the club.
“Returning to City is something always I look forward to,” he said.
“I look back at my time with City with great pride.
“It was my second club in England and when I joined in 2002, we had just won promotion and it proved to be a difficult first year for us, but we brought in some good players and established ourselves.
“It was an interesting and, at times, tough few years but we managed to keep the club in the Premier League and stabilise ourselves and the club has gone from strength to strength since.”
With the massive changes having seen the club Distin left in 2007 transform into one of the powerhouses of European football, there is inevitably a vastly different scene awaiting Distin when he returns to the Etihad these days.
But the centre-back was nevertheless quick to emphasise the fact that the club has retained its core identity and friendliness.
“I’ve been back quite a few times over the years and the first three or four of those were special because I still had so many friends there,” he said.
“It’s nearly ten years since I left City now and obviously there aren’t as many people left that I know apart from Joe Hart who was just beginning at the club and was still a kid back then and a few people in the media team – and Chappy [the kit-man] of course!”
Having made 194 appearances in total in the sky blue jersey, Distin, who has only made more career appearances for Everton than City over the course his 17-season career, was definitive in his answer to what his fondest memory of his time with the club was.
“My favourite memory is without doubt the FA Cup replay against Tottenham,” said the 2008 FA Cup winner.
“We were 3-0 down at half-time at White Hart Lane and then Joey Barton got himself sent off so we were down to ten men.
“But we came back and won 4-3, which was amazing.
“I managed to score our first goal and we just found the spirit and fight we needed and turned the game on its head. It was an amazing game to be part of.”
With so many split allegiances given his variegated footballing career in England, Distin is a veritable expert in ensuring that all his preferences are catered for when it comes to prioritizing who he wants to win what.
The 37-year old described his perfect 2015/16 season, saying: “I suppose my ideal season would obviously be Bournemouth staying up, Everton qualifying for the Champions League and City and Portsmouth winning their league titles as well.”
Image courtesy of Everton FC, via YouTube, with thanks.