MANCHESTER CITY are coming up against the one Premier League club who know what it is like to blow a 12-point lead with 15 games left.
Pep Guardiola’s side hold that huge advantage over second-placed Manchester United despite Sunday’s loss at Liverpool.
But they need only look back at Newcastle’s 1995-96 season to be reminded of how the title is far from won.
Tomorrow’s Etihad clash comes 22 years to the very day that Kevin Keegan’s Toon beat Bolton 2-1 to go 12 points clear of Sir Alex Ferguson’s United.
What followed has gone down in football folklore as Newcastle lost five of eight games from the end of February to the start of April.
And the Red Devils won 13 of their last 15 to win the title by four points.
Ex-England defender Steve Howey vividly remembers that season as a key man in Keegan’s Great Entertainers.
Yet he does not see history repeating itself with City — another of his former clubs.
Howey, 46, said: “I cannot see it happening.
“City have a fantastic team, like we had a fantastic team.
“We were one of the best — if not THE best team not to win the Premier League.
“But without being too critical, I don’t think United’s team today is anywhere near what their team was then.
“Those United players go down in history.”
Howey admits Pep’s City remind him of Keegan’s Newcastle, given their focus on attack over defence.
Indeed, there were striking similarities on Sunday when City lost 4-3 at Anfield — the same scoreline by which the Reds famously beat Keegan’s men in April 1996.
Howey, who was with City from 2000 until 2003, said: “They are a team who are up there with the kind of football we played.
“Pep has drilled it into his players that, ‘If you concede, so what? Keep on playing’.
“We were like that because Kevin always used to say, ‘Entertain the fans — they’ve paid a lot to watch you’.
“Our defence was criticised then and that was simply because we didn’t have one!
“John Beresford and Warren Barton would bomb forward — leaving just me and Darren Peacock back.
“We’d have four or five players attacking us and it would be like, ‘Well, I’ll get three, you get two!’.”
Yet Howey insists it was naivety, not complacency, that cost Newcastle in 96.
He explained: “We never thought it was done. United knew the pressure wasn’t on them as it was ours to lose.
“Peter Schmeichel was playing out of his backside, saving absolutely everything, then Eric Cantona would score and they’d win 1-0.
“We weren’t like that, even when the pressure was on we still tried to play the way Kevin wanted us to play.
“The biggest thing was naivety. When it was 3-3 at Liverpool, any normal team would take a point at that stage. But we went forward and got caught out.
“Obviously, the dynamic of the team also changed when Faustino Asprilla signed. It wasn’t his fault but it unsettled us a bit.”
During the Toon’s title choke, Keegan responded to Fergie’s mind games with his infamous, “I will love it if we beat them” rant.
Howey said: “We thought, ‘Bloody hell gaffer, what the f*** have you done?’.
“But you loved him for it. He wore his heart on his sleeve and was so emotional.
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