Uwe Rösler was recruited by Brian Horton towards the end of the 1993-94 season to supply the goals to keep Manchester City in the Premiership. An East German 'B' international who had played for Dynamo Berlin and FC Nürnberg in the Oberliga prior to German reunification, Rösler had attracted a notorious reputation in his own country as an over-physical striker with a poor disciplinary record. Nevertheless, as City struggled to find the net going into the final third of the season, Horton took a chance by securing the German's services until the summer and substituted him after Rösler had scored twice in half an hour on his debut for the reserves, saving him for the following week's visit to Queens Park Rangers.
Uwe was joined by ex-Liverpool and Spurs striker Paul Walsh but the new partnership failed to spark. Horton acted decisively on transfer deadline day, recruiting Peter Beagrie from Everton and the three signings were instrumental in steering City to safety, scoring a bagful of goals between them. Rösler was installed as a cult hero after sealing survival with a second-half equaliser in a 1-1 draw in the last game of the season at Sheffield Wednesday; after the game, the streets and parkland around Hillsborough echoed to a version of the Pet Shop Boys' recent No.1 hit Go West: "Uwe, Uwe Ross-e-ler, Uwe, Uwe Ross-e-ler…" referring back to his reputation in his homeland during a close-season interview after Joining City on a permanent contract, Rösler remarked: "I don't really care what they say about me back home, because I love it here at City and I want to stay. The pace of the English Premiership suits my game and I'm sure I can be a success here. The fans have been so kind and friendly and Manchester is a great place to be."
During the summer Horton sought to balance the team by acquiring right-winger Nicky Summerbee, son of Blues legend Mike, with the aim of providing more ammunition for Rösler, Walsh and the returning Quinn. Suddenly the relegation certainties had the look of a team with attacking options, a steady 4-4-2 formation and a season to look forward to. After being sent off as a second-half substitute in a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on the opening day, Uwe renewed his prolific partnership with Walsh as City destroyed West Ham 3-0 and Everton 4-0 at home in the next two matches. The pattern for the rest of the season was set, although both were injured within 48 hours of each other in September, but returned a few weeks later to continue plundering goals from premiership defences.
Uwe finished the season as the club's top scorer, becoming the first City player to score twenty or more league goals in a season since Niall Quinn four years earlier. Highlights of his season included an equaliser at home to Newcastle in a League Cup Fifth Round thriller and opening the scoring in the replay toe days before Christmas as City stunned the Geordies with a 2-0 win. The "other" Magpies, Notts County, were blitzed in a 5-2 home replay hammering with Rösler bagging four and his countryman Maurizio Gaudino nabbing the other. Uwe also scored crucial goals as City once again flirted with relegation; he figured in a 3-2 home win over Sheffield Wednesday and notched another when City ambushed title contenders Blackburn Rovers on a rainy Easter Monday night at Ewood Park. Rösler also scored a late equaliser at Aston Villa in May as a 1-1 draw ensured survival for both clubs.
The hot summer of 1995 was an uncomfortable one for City as they spent most of it trying to recruit a replacement for the sacked Brian Horton, with little success. Various names - including Bayern Munich hero and technical director Franz Beckenbauer, were linked to the vacancy but in the end chairman Francis Lee settled on securing alan ball, who had guided Southampton to safety against the odds for the second successive season. The appointment took place with less than four weeks to go before the new season ended, and was to prove pivotal in City's fortunes in the mid-1990's. Rösler scored in the first two games, a 1-1 home draw with Spurs and a 2-1 away loss at Coventry as City took only a single point from their first nine matches and seemed already doomed to relegation with barely a quarter of the season gone.
Uwe was by now not getting on with his new manager and struggled to score in the League; his next goal came in a 1-1 home draw with Nottingham Forest. Things appeared to reach the point of no return when City were dumped out of the League Cup in a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool and were destroyed 6-0 at the same ground three days later. Before leaving the pitch, Rösler threw his boots into the City fans in the Anfield Road end. At the time this was taken as a sure sign that Uwe wanted out from Maine road but the German later explained that he 'd decided the boots would be better off as souvenirs for a couple of lucky Blues than a bad luck charm for him as he struggled to end his personal goal famine.
Typically, City dropped only a point during November to confound fans and critics alike and ball was duly awarded the Manager of the Month title. Although the Blues won 1-0 at Leeds and grabbed a point in the home game with Forest, they lost the rest of their December fixtures to slip back into the relegation mire. However, as in the previous year, the F.A. Cup offered relief from Premiership strife as City powered past Leicester and Coventry in the early rounds to set up a much-anticipated visit to Old Trafford in a Fifth Round tie on live T.V. City started the game well and an amazing Kinkladze through-ball set up Rösler with a delicate chip over future Blue Peter Schmeichel to give City a well-deserved lead. Just before half-time however, referee Alan Wilkie mysteriously awarded United a penalty for a push by Michael Frontzeck which no-one else either noticed or appealed for, least of all his "victim" Eric Cantona, who stroked the spot-kick home. Playing their fifth match in a fortnight, the Blues visibly tired in the second half and to no-one's surprise Lee Sharpe nicked a win towards the end. All the Blues had left were the usual hard-luck stories and another grim relegation battle to look forward to. Strangely enough, Wilkie never refereed a City match again…
Uwe was by now demoted to the bench as it became obvious he and the manager were no longer on good terms. With the Blues 2-1 down in the second half of the home derby with United, ball had no option than to send his leading scorer on to rescue at least a point (as well as local pride) and Rösler duly supplied a superb goal, receiving the ball on the left of the penalty area and curling a low shot into the bottom corner. The German rushed towards the home bench, turning and pointing at the name and number on the back of his shirt as if reminding his manager who he was and that he should be a permanent fixture in the side. City however lost the game 3-2 and were trounced 3-0 at Wimbledon 48 hours later; they now needed to win their last three games to have any hope of survival.
Rösler scored the only goal as City beat Sheffield Wednesday at home, and they also won by the same score at Aston Villa a week later. A home 2-2 draw in the final fixture saw City relegated as their rivals also drew on the last day. Uwe missed an early chance when the game was goalless, but pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the second half before being substituted.
The 1996-97 season opened a day - or more accurately, a night - earlier for City whose first fixture, at home to Ipswich, was chosen to launch Sky's new Friday night live Nationwide League match series. Although they were hot favourites for automatic promotion, it was a threadbare-looking City who started the game however; Niall Quinn and Keith Curle had left and goalkeeper Tony Coton had already joined United during the previous season. Georgian striker Mikhail Kavalashvili was no Ball's choice as Uwe's striking partner, but the pair struggled to hit it off. City won a tense match 1-0 but lost the next two, away at Bolton and Stoke, and ball was dismissed. Uwe notched his first goal of the season at Stoke, provided by new striking partner Paul Dickov; ball's last signing.
From August to December the season gradually got worse as City contrived to lose against teams they were expected to comfortably beat. Uwe still led the club's scoring charts, including an early strike in the first round of the League Cup away at Lincoln, but City were hammered 4-1 on the night and eventually went out 5-1 on aggregate. The season was also infamous for the managerial turmoil City experienced; it took two months to recruit Steve Coppell as ball's replacement but he then shocked football in general by resigning due to personal reasons barely a month later. Matters came to a head as City gave an inept display in a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley late in December to drop into the bottom tree; Coppell's replacement Phil Neal appealed for the board to sort out the mess the club was in, whether it meant he was shown the door or not. Within 48 hours the ex-Liverpool and England star was gone, to be replaced by Frank Clark, who had recently left Nottingham Forest.
City's next two games, away to Birmingham on New Year's Day and at Brentford in the F.A. Cup the following weekend, were postponed as the country was gripped by ice and snow. This worked in Clark's favour as he had the chance to settle in at Maine Road, get to know his players and staff, and formulate his plans to revive the Blues. After a couple of draws, City beat Brentford in the rearranged Cup tie at Griffin Park and went to Oxford for a Sunday afternoon game televised by Granada TV. Uwe scored twice as Kinkladze gave a masterclass in a 4-1 rout, and the German struck again two nights later in a 3-1 home F.A. Cup win over Watford. Although City went out of the Cup in a controversial Fifth Round tie at Maine Road, the Blues were climbing the table after a few new signings rejuvenated the squad.
Rösler figured amongst the scorers as City thrashed Swindon and Southend 3-0 apiece at home, and again as Bradford and West Brom were despatched 3-1 each away. Never mind avoiding relegation, talk turned to the possibility of reaching the end-of-season promotion play-offs, but defeats at Ipswich and Birmingham effectively killed such hopes off. Uwe scored again in a 2-0 Easter home win over Oldham and led the fightback in the season's final game at home to Reading, opening the scoring as City roared back from two down to win 3-2.
Hopes of genuine promotion challenge for the 1997-98 season soared in the close-season; City changed their kit manufacturer and adopted a turquoise-like "laser blue" and signed a few players, including Dutch "B" international Gerard Wiekens and Mansfield's promising young 'keeper Nicky Weaver. Proof of City's intent was rubber-stamped as Portsmouth striker Lee Bradbury was recruited for a club record fee of £3.5 million. City struggled to a 2-2 home draw with Portsmouth on the opening day - Uwe getting the equaliser after the visitors scored an early goal - and results generally were poor as again, the Blues slipped down the table and went out of the League Cup in the First Round on penalties to Blackpool at Maine Road.
Rösler scored in a 3-1 away win at recently-relegated Nottingham Forest, and a couple more in City's 6-0 annihilation of Swindon at home, but rather than a turning point in the season's fortunes, these results were the exception rather than the rule. Uwe was injured again as November came around; with Bradbury struggling for form and fitness and Paul Dickov suspended, city faced two home games in four days with a front pairing of reserve Chris Greenacre and Irish youth team striker Ray Kelly; the former scored in a 1-0 win over Crewe but the Blues lost to Huddersfield by the same score in a live TV game, exactly ten years to the very day since City demolished the Terriers 10-1.
Worse was to follow; a 3-1 "derby" defeat at Stockport signalled the beginning of the end of Clark's tenure at Maine Road as the Blues' supporters bayed for his sacking. Although as Middlesbrough were beaten 2-0 at Maine Road the Saturday before Christmas, 1-0 defeats by Port Vale at home and Crewe away pushed City deeper into the relegation mire. Uwe scored again as Bradford were beaten 2-0 at Maine Road in the Third Round of the F.A. Cup, but a 2-1 loss in the next round at home to West Ham ended all hope of a cup run. The final straw for Clark came in February as Bury deservedly beat a shambolic City 1-0 at Maine Road. There were angry fan demonstrations against the manager and the board; three days later Clark was dismissed in a similar fashion to Brian Horton, in that he received news of his fate from the local media rather than the board.
The man who succeeded Clark finally took the job former chairman Peter Swales had originally offered him over eight years previously; now working for local sports media but looking to get back into management, ex-City striker Joe Royle finally accepted the difficult task of saving City with just 11 games to go, the first of which would be a home game against promotion contenders Ipswich on the evening of the day he took the job. City took an early lead but lost 2-1 and the new manager immediately reviewed his squad with a view to making changes. He surprised the board by suggesting that arguably the club's best tow players, Kinkladze and Rösler, should be moved on to raise funds for any new blood. Results continued to be mixed; Portsmouth, Swindon and Huddersfield were comfortably beaten as the Blues scored 3 each time and Rösler figured amongst the scorers; he also notched the only goal of the game in a win over West Brom but was injured during the same match and played only a peripheral role for the rest of the season.
During his injury lay-off Uwe, unaware until now that his new manager wanted to move him on, asked Royle for a new contract extension, only to discover his days at City were numbered. The boss had already secured Rösler's replacement from Bristol City for £400,000 - Bermudan striker Shaun Goater, who went on to score in a 4-1 defeat of Stockport and add three more as the final games of the season were played out. City famously beat relegation rivals Stoke 5-2 away on the last day of the season, but long before the end of the match the result was academic as news filtered through that the other sides in the battle to avoid the drop had also won to send City down to the English game's third tier for the first time in history. Uwe Rösler was duly sold to German side Kaiserslautern in the close season, but made his mark early in 1999 by scoring a Champions League hat-trick for his new club. He later joined Second Division side Tennis Borussia before briefly returning to the Premiership with Southampton in 2001 - he scored a late winner on his Maine Road return. Uwe then played a couple of seasons in Norway before news broke in May 2003 that he would be unable to attend City's last-ever game at Maine Road as he had contracted a cancerous tumour in his chest. Happily, Uwe has recently been informed that, after a course of chemotherapy, his condition is now in remission and he can fulfil his dream of visiting his favourite English club - this after all is the man who was filmed by Sky TV swigging bottle of beer at half-time in City's 1999 Second Division Promotion Play-Off Final at Wembley - at their new City Of Manchester Stadium home and the intention is that he will be introduced to the crowd as the club's guest of honour before the Middlesbrough home game on Sunday 30 November 2003.
So, how will Uwe Rösler be remembered when his playing days have finished? The answer is quite easy really; Uwe will forever be regarded as an all-time City legend, since he starred for the club during one of the club's blackest periods. Of course, he couldn't prevent us from dropping into Division Two, but then again that was due to a collective failure, so the entire City squad, staff and board at the time must take collective responsibility for that. Uwe was one of a few players who offered us hope when it seemed we might disappear off the radar but, in addition to his playing exploits for the Blues, he'll be forever popular in the Blue half of Manchester for continuing to show his allegiance to City even now, five years after he left us. To hear that his recent illness is now in remission is one of the best stories of the 2003-04 season so far, and when Uwe Rösler returned to Manchester City for the Middlesboro game as Guest of honour, he recieved a very warm welcome from the City faithfull who always remember players who worked hard and were committed to our club..