Ahead of the 10 year anniversary since the Abu Dhabi takeover, the defender discusses his time at the club, focusing on their first title success six years ago
Joleon Lescott interview: 'We need to win this' - reflecting on Manchester City's 2012 Premier League triumph
Joleon Lescott remembers the aftermath of the most famous goal in Manchester City’s history. There were 93 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock in the final game of the season when Sergio Aguero pierced Queens Park Rangers' resistance and made City champions for the first time in 44 years.
He recalls running to celebrate, not with the scorer, but the physios. “They were a lot smaller than me so they felt the full weight,” he said. It is significant because, as Lescott recounts, physios make up part of the fabric of the club. “They work longer hours and get the least recognition,” he said. It is notable because, as Lescott rewinds the clock to 2012, he talks of the spirit in the camp.
Vincent Kompany interview: Abu Dhabi takeover transformed Manchester City overnight
A decade at Manchester City: 10 key moments since the Sheikh Mansour takeover
Memories were made; relationships too. “I’ve got a lot of friends here that will be friends for life. Micah [Richards], Gareth Barry, James Milner, Joe Hart, Nigel De Jong, Vinny [Kompany], David Silva, Gael Clichy,” the former England international listed. “In terms of the happiest times [of my career], Man City have got to be there. Wolves and Everton were great but when you get old enough you realise what it means, you want to win titles.”
Lescott won two Premier Leagues and two Cups in his five seasons at City. The most remarkable was the most draining. “I wouldn’t wish that on the current squad, to win it like that,” he said.
The pressure was on City in their previous home game, a 1-0 derby win over Manchester United. “The chairman [Khaldoon Al Mubarak] came when needed to just give us a bit of motivation and credit to him, it was probably the only time he stressed we had to win,” Lescott said.
“He stressed how big it was globally. We were just concerned about winning the derby, but when your chairman comes and tells you ‘we need to win this’ – then you know you really need to win it.”
Al Mubarak had helped persuade Lescott to join in 2009. “He made it known that the players are the most important people, which I’ve never heard at any club I have been at and was strange to hear from the chairman but he also made it known that if we don’t perform, we won’t be here,” he said.
Leaving Everton, who had been a better team, for City was contentious. “Man City’s ambition was to win titles but that was the hope for Everton where City’s was an aim and a belief,” Lescott explained.
Like many of the early recruits, he had to face allegations he was a mercenary. “City were being portrayed as only trying to buy our way to success and as 'the noisy neighbours.' But as a group of players we believed we could mirror what United were doing,” he said.
That they did owed something to an ex-United player. “It was assumed Carlos Tevez only joined for the money, but if you know Carlos Tevez, he was very determined to have success and all of us were in the same boat,” Lescott explained.
Before winning trophies was a habit, before City had some of the infrastructure of an elite club, the drive to succeed came from within the dressing room. “The mentality had to change,” Lescott said. “The professionalism was there from the get-go because we all knew what was at stake.”
Kompany, a 2008 arrival, helped change that mentality. “There was him, Nigel and Micah when I first joined the club. They were the three that impressed me the most because they train exactly how they play, and I’d never seen that intensity in training before,” Lescott said.
After the intensity came the indelible memories of glory.