THIS ISSUE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF NEIL YOUNG 1944 - 2011
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CONTENTS PAGE 5
WELCOME - PAGE 4 Words: Clarkey311, http://www.topicalcity.co.uk
COOK & MARWOOD - PAGE 5 PAGE 14
Words: Steven, http://viewfromablue.wordpress.com
MANCINI—DIARY - PAGE 6 Words: Merlin, http://www.mcfcforum.com
HE‘S NO ‗AVERAGE JOE‘ - PAGE 11 Words: Matt Hill, http://www.mcfcforum.com
TOMMY CATON - PAGE 12 Words: Simon Curtis, http://downthekippaxsteps.blogspot.com
HEROES AND VILLIANS- PAGE 14 Words: Pete Cummings, http://mancityblog.com
LAST GREAT BLUE HOPE?- PAGE 16 Words: Mark Wilson, http://withoutadreaminourhearts.blogspot.com
SIGNINGS FOR THE FUTURE - PAGE 18 Words: Michael Maguire, http://thetheatreofbasecomedy.blogspot.com
MAURIZIO GAUDINO - PAGE 20 Words: Danny Pugsley, http://www.bitterandblue.com 2
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PAGE 22 - DAVID, OUR GOLIATH Words: Stu Yearsley, http://www.nowwerenolongeralone.blogspot.com
PAGE 24 - WHERE DO WE GO?
Words: coulsontom, http://www.mcfcforum.com
PAGE 27 - HE ART OF DECEPTION Words: Richard Tucker, http://www.rtfract.com
PAGE 28 - BELIEF? Words: Ryan Corless, http://www.mcfcforum.com
PAGE 30 - THE ETERNAL CUNUNDRUM Words: Tripp, http://www.mcfcforum.com
PAGE 32 - HOW DZEKO FITS IN
Words: Lloyd Scragg, http://www.mancityissues.com
PAGE 34 - PLAYING AWAY Words: Alan Leishman (Sultana of Brunei), http://www.mcfcforum.com
PAGE 36 - WHO DO REF‘S PREFER? Words: Merlin, http://www.mcfcforum.com
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elcome to this the second issue of Topical City, despite a problematic January we are proud to return with a packed issue covering a vast range of topics. We are also pleased to welcome several new contributors this month as we look to further expand and improve the overall quality we have to offer.
With City enduring a troublesome time on the pitch since January’s Issue - winning just 4 out of a possible 9 games - a bitter taste was left with everyone associated with the club as the tragic news of Neil Young’s passing was made public on 3rd of February. With this in mind I point you all in the direction of Pete Cummings wonderful piece (Page 14), which doubles as a fitting tribute to the 60’s hero. The beginning of February saw the transfer window slam shut ,with City concluding their only piece of business early on, in the form of Edin Dzeko for the grand sum of £27 million. Despite several rumours in the closing hours, City weren’t duped into any last minute deals despite the injury picked up by Adam Johnson in training. A rather un-City-like resolve considering the recent January 31st’s which have seen us linked with bids for selective dross such as Benjani, Mido and Bentley in recent years. Before I hand over to the rest of the magazine, I would like to stress my immense gratitude to everyone who has contributed this month, specifically those listed to the right of this column and everyone who has helped behind the scenes once again, without you all this wouldn’t be possible.
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CONTRIBUTORS BITTER AND BLUE Danny Pugsley
DOWN THE KIPPAX STEPS Simon Curtis
MAN CITY BLOG Pete Cummings
MAN CITY ISSUES Lloyd Scragg
MCFCFORUM Alan Leishman
CoulsonTom Matt Hill Merlin Ryan Corless Tripp
NOW WERE NO LONGER ALONE Stu Yearsley
RTFRACT Richard Tucker
THEATRE OF BASE COMEDY Michael Miguire
VIEW FROM A BLUE Steven
WITHOUT A DREAM IN OUR HEARTS Mark Wilson
COOK & MARWOOD: TROUBLE OR PATH TO SUCCESS?
Words: Steven, http://viewfromablue.wordpress.com
affe-prone. Two words which spring to mind when one thinks of Man City‘s chief operating executive, Garry Cook. The two are bound together, inseparable. Or at least that is the perception that has been created.
It’s fair to say that Cook has indeed been involved with his fair share of controversy. Inducting Uwe Rosler into the Manchester United Hall of Fame is perhaps his most memorable moment, and whilst his declaration that City would become bigger than United and would tear down the banner at Old Trafford seemed full of optimism and outward bravado, it was made to look rather foolish when the Blues were defeated days later. He has received copious amount of stick for all these bloopers, but behind the scenes – the part of the job kept hidden from the masses – he is doing a sterling job of helping to run our football club. He is the business brain to Brian Marwood’s footballing know-how, the controlled realism in contrast to the frenetic ideas. The work he does away from the public eye often goes unnoticed but is a prime example of how successful our beloved football club can become. In creating links in America and Sierra Leone, where he has cultivated close relationships with children’s academies and supporters clubs, he has shown himself to be a
man of great integrity and in the words of Tony Hernandez, the principal of the school to whom City dedicated a rooftop pitch, a ‘people’s person’. One aspect that has cemented his relationship with the fans is the constant support and loyalty shown towards former players. Cook has been integral in maintaining the link between past and present, and it’s thanks to him that former City greats, such as Mike Summerbee and Tony Book, still maintain strong links with the club. The emotional wave of recent support for Neil Young, although initiated by the fans, was a message Cook strongly supported and he has been instrumental in bringing together the supporters and the players, staff and himself. Yes, he’s gaffe-prone in public, but behind the scenes, he is doing a superb job and he is someone of whom we should all have faith in and be proud. Alongside Cook in the boardroom is Brian Marwood, the football expert on the board. A key ingredient in the scouting of players and a vital link
between players and the hierarchy, Marwood worked with Cook at Nike after a career playing and commentating on the game. Their close rapport is crucial in maintaining the way in which City are run. We are the envy of many a Premier League club, possessing as we do a wealthy owner who provides significant financial support, but crucially leaves the day to day running of the club in more capable hands. AlMubarak works closely with Cook in creating new projects and is an authoritative figure, someone who oozes class whenever he is seen in public. That is all well and good, but where City differs from its rivals is that we have a specialist football man on the board. Marwood is a visible presence on a matchday and in training, someone whose views are respected, but he maintains a sensible distance from Roberto Mancini. With Cook, Marwood and Mancini at the helm on a daily basis, we have the foundations for success. Slowly but surely, we are getting there. Our time will come: the blue moon is rising. TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
MANCINI—THE MAN WITH OUR WORLD IN HIS HANDS
Words: Merlin, http://www.mcfcforum.com
n December 19, 2009 Roberto Mancini was appointed manager of Manchester City, replacing Mark Hughes, the latter‘s termination based on ―only winning two of City‘s previous 11 games‖. Mancini had been out of football since 2008 following his sacking from Inter Milan mainly because his contract was not formally terminated until October 31, 2009, preventing him from working for any other clubs. None-the-less, Mancini’s credentials were impressive, as he had won 4 Italian Cups, 2 Italian SuperCups and 3 Serie A titles in just 8 years as manager for Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan. His success at Inter Milan actually confirmed him as the club’s most successful manager for 30 years, but his failure to succeed in Europe sealed his demise.
The timing of Mancini’s appointment was significant for three primary reasons, namely: Hughes’ inability to win games in the run-in to the transfer window; the imminent arrival of the transfer window itself; and the sudden availability of Mancini on the wanted managers list. Although other high-profile managers had been linked to City (Hiddink, Wenger and Mourinho to name just three) they were tied to
long term contracts, whereas Mancini was a free agent. ADUG needed a winner, and Mancini had the pedigree. Thirteen months into Mancini’s tenure this article analyses his performance up to and including January 13, 2011, and asks whether he is the right man for the job. After all, Mancini has our whole world in his hands. That’s quite a responsibility.
Month 1 – December 19, 2009 – January 18, 2010 Mancini’s first game was at home on Boxing Day, and City easily beat Stoke 2-0. Amazingly that was only City’s second clean sheet at home all season. City then went on to beat Wolves away (3-0), Middlesbrough in the FA Cup (1-0), and Blackburn at home (4-1). However, it was City’s bogey side Everton that prevented a perfect record for Mancini in his first month, beating us soundly 2-0 at Goodison Park. That defeat is memorable in most City fans minds because Santa Cruz was substituted in the 8th minute with another injury, and his replacement Robinho was so poor he himself was substituted in the 60th minute. After a honeymoon period the doomsayers were in full voice. League points: 9/12 League position: 5th FA Cup: In League Cup: In Mancini Performance: 8/10 Fan Optimism: 8/10 6
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Month 2 – January 19, 2010 – February 18, 2010 Mancini’s 2nd month included a programme of eight games; the conclusion of the transfer window; and a true test of his credentials. The month started in grand style with a home victory over Manchester United in the Carling Cup, but unfortunately did not continue with the same momentum. In this period, City lost the return leg to United, and we were dumped out of the Carling Cup. We played four Premier League games and collected only 7 points, and we played two FA Cup games, winning the first against Scunthorpe, and drawing the 2nd against Stoke. By now, doubts were creeping into fans minds about the wisdom of sacking Hughes, despite City lying marginally in 4th place above Spurs. During this same period Mancini made his first two signings, Patrick Vieira, the aging but reputable midfield enforcer, and the youngster Adam Johnson. These two frugal signings wrapped up Mancini’s activity in the transfer window, but weren’t quite what fans anticipated. League points: 7/12 League position: 4th FA Cup: In League Cup: Out Mancini Performance: 6/10 Fan Optimism: 7/10
Month 3 – February 19, 2010 – March 18, 2010 Mancini’s 3rd month began with a testing league game against Liverpool, but the goalless draw saw Spurs leapfrog City into 4th place. The frustrating draw was followed 3 days later with defeat to Stoke in the FA Cup replay. It was official… City were not going to win any silverware again this season. City’s next game was away against the high flying Chelsea, and amazingly we came away 4-2 victors, re-energising fan’s optimism. However, City struggled to score against Sunderland in the final game of this month, and we were staring at defeat until Johnson popped up with a great goal to draw the game, leaving us 2 points behind Tottenham. League points: 5/9 League position: 5th FA Cup: Out Mancini Performance: 6/10 Fan Optimism: 5/10
Month 4 – March 19, 2010 – April 18, 2010 As Mancini entered month 4, the coveted 4th place was within grasp, but his team was struggling. Next up was an away trip to Fulham, a must win to keep in touch with Spurs. City held on for a 2-1 victory in a trademark nail biting performance. However, Mancini was struggling to inspire consistency in his team, and the next game saw City capitulate to our nemesis, Everton. The rollercoaster ride continued with an emphatic home victory against Wigan, with Tevez scoring a hat-trick. Suddenly City had found their rhythm, and games against Burnley and Birmingham saw us score 11 goals, although we couldn’t keep a clean sheet in either game. With three consecutive wins, and scoring 14 goals, City had firmly seized control of 4th spot in the league, four points clear of Spurs (but Spurs had a game in hand, which they won). Suddenly fan’s optimism had rocketed just in time for a showdown with United at Old Trafford. Forget the wins, or league position, this was the game that mattered to fans. Alas, yet again United demoralized us, beating us 1-0 at home in an encounter that City dominated, but Scholes delivered the sucker punch well into extra time. The irony of the defeat was Spurs played Chelsea the same day, and lo and behold, beat them 2-1! That turn of fortune saw City sitting 2 points behind Spurs in the race for 4th place, both teams having played 34 games. League points: 12/18 League position: 5th Mancini Performance: 8/10 Fan Optimism: 8/10 TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
Month 5 - April 19, 2010 – May 09 2010 Month 5 was the final month of the season, and 4th place was still within City’s grasp. However, the first game on City’s agenda was Arsenal. A 0-0 draw was a typical Mancini “safety first” response to this potential banana skin, but the good news was Spurs were soundly beaten by United (if United winning is ever good news). Now City were only one point behind Spurs, and an exciting game versus Villa returned a 3-1 victory, with Spurs holding their ground with victory against Bolton. It was all nicely set up for a home encounter with Spurs that could potentially decide the 4th place. Alas, City succumbed to an 83rd minute Crouch goal to firmly slam the door closed to Champions League football. City’s season was over, and a dour draw against West Ham in the last game did little to raise spirits. Once the dust had settled, fans were reminded that 5th place was actually City’s highest ever finish in the Premiership, but that was little consolation. League points: 5/12 League position: 5th Mancini Performance: 5/10 Fan Optimism: 6/10
Months 6 to 8 May 10, 2010 – August 13, 2010 A disappointing end to the season gave way to renewed optimism as is often the way with City fans. After all, City had qualified for Europe on their own merit, and the summer signalled the possibility of new players coming to the club. Despite persistent rumours in the press suggesting that Mancini would be replaced, this proved not to be the case, and Mancini was confirmed as City’s long term manager. In all fairness to Mancini, he had inherited a team half way through the season and still managed to deliver City’s highest position in the history of the Premiership. With the opportunity to build his own team, maybe he could improve on that. It was a World Cup summer, which made signing players difficult, and City was linked to just about every player available. In the end Mancini made a few astute purchases, namely James Milner (Aston Villa, £26m), Yaya Toure (Barcelona, £28m), Jerome Boateng (Hamburg, £10m), David Silva (Valencia, £24m), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio, £17m), and Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan, £23m). Inevitably, some old favourites had to be released, the most notable being Stephen Ireland (Aston Villa, part exchange), Craig Bellamy (Cardiff, loan), Valeri Bojinov (Parma, £4.5m), Martin Petrov (Bolton, free), Javier Garrido (Lazio, £2.5m) and last but not least, Robinho (AC Milan, undisclosed). Mancini had filled the positions most fans had identified as weak, and suddenly we had a fantasy football team. Mancini named Tevez as captain as reward for his impressive work ethic on the pitch. City made it clear that Mancini’s minimum goal for the season was 4th place and qualification for the Champions League, plus some silverware. Mancini Performance: 9/10 Fan Optimism: 10/10
Month 9 – August 14, 2010 – September 13, 2010 It seemed like a long summer, but finally the new season had arrived, and fans were enthused about City’s potential in the new season. Pre-season was a disjointed affair, with players returning late after the World Cup, so no-one really knew how Mancini’s expensively assembled team would perform. And the season couldn’t have started with a tougher game… Spurs away! City hung on for a 0-0 draw, with Hart (formally announced as Mancini’s No.1 goalkeeper over Given) performing the heroics in goal. Not quite the start hoped for, but a decent result none-the-less. The first home game of the season was against Liverpool, and City won handsomely 3-0 in a surprisingly one-sided affair, and fans spirits were soaring. The next game against Sunderland should have been easy, but City fell to an injury time penalty which Bent slotted away to deliver our first defeat of the season. 8
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City dominated the game against Blackburn, but could only manage a 1-1 draw. Mancini was gradually introducing Silva to the Premiership with cameo roles towards the end of matches. During this same period, City played two legs against FC Timisoara in the Europa League and advanced comfortably winning both legs. Overall it was a decent month of results, but more was expected of Mancini than one point against Sunderland and Blackburn. League points: 5/12 League position: 7th Europa League: In Mancini Performance: 6/10 Fan Optimism: 6/10
Month 10 – September 14, 2010 – October 13, 2010 City began the Europa League group stages with an away game, beating Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 to maintain a 100% record in the competition. Mancini was rotating his squad, and Silva was given a full game, which he rewarded with a goal. Later this month we also played Juventus at home, earning an important draw. In the Premiership, City played three games, against Wigan, Chelsea and Newcastle. We won all three, surging into second place, four points behind a rampant Chelsea, who of course lost their first game to us in a genuine 6pointer. It would have been a perfect month if not for a very young second string side losing to West Brom in the Carling Cup. This was definitely Mancini’s best month for City to date, and we were above United! However, it was also at this time that rumours began to surface that Tevez was not happy at City following a touch line clash between Tevez and Mancini during the Newcastle game. League points: 9/9 League position: 2nd Europa League: In Carling Cup: Out Mancini Performance: 9/10 Fan Optimism: 9/10
Month 11 – October 14, 2010 – November 13, 2010 Mancini’s 11th month in charge had a packed schedule, with six Premiership games lined up, and two games in the Europa League. First up was Blackpool, and this keenly contested duel looked ominous until Mancini decided to introduce Silva for Adebayor. Within 2 minutes Silva set up Tevez for the lead. Blackpool equalized, City took the lead within a minute, and then Silva sealed the points with a beautifully taken goal, before Blackpool pulled one back in extra time. It was another typically nail-biting display, but another 3 points plus a new hero in David Silva, who played only 25 minutes to change this game. City were not as fortunate in the next game against Arsenal. Boyata was unfairly sent off in the first few minutes, and although City battled hard, Arsenal eventually wore City’s 10 men out with a deceiving 3 -0 victory. It was one of those days where the ref was blamed for the defeat, rather than Mancini. However, things got worse 6 days later when City faced Wolves, who hadn’t won since the opening day of the season. Amidst rumours that Tevez was homesick and wanted to quit football, he was also injured, and Mancini allowed him to return to Argentina to see his family. His captaincy and talent were missed against Wolves, with De Jong also absent. Despite taking the lead City surprisingly lost this fixture, dropping to 4th in the league, 7 points behind Chelsea. With two consecutive defeats it was time for Mancini and his team to show some character. This was achieved with three consecutive clean sheets against West Brom, United and Birmingham, but goal scoring was now becoming a problem, particularly at home, and we only amassed 5 points. City played two games against Lech Poznan in the Europa League, with each team winning their home ties 3-1. League points: 8/18 League position: 4th Europa League: In
Mancini Performance: 6/10 Fan Optimism: 6/10 TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
Month 12 – November 14, 2010 – December 13, 2010 To keep hold of 4th place, we needed to start winning regularly. Fulham away was the next challenge and the goal drought was over. City surged to a 4-1 victory with fans answering Mancini’s critics with the chant “boring, boring City” in an exhilarating game that fully realized the potential of Mancini’s team. The following game, against Stoke, was not as emphatic, and was actually demoralizing. A rare goal from Richards appeared to have sealed the points, but Etherington scored in extra time to rob City of 3 points in another frustrating capitulation. At least the month ended on a high, with a home win against Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League; an important victory against high flying Bolton; and a comfortable win at West Ham. On December 11, City were 2nd in the league on the same number of points as Arsenal. On December 12th Tevez inexplicably handed in a transfer request citing “relations with certain executives had broken down beyond repair”. City immediately rejected the request, and City fans were in bewilderment, with City sitting joint top of the league and their talismanic striker wanting to leave. The timing couldn’t have been worse. League points: 10/12 League position: 2nd Europa League: In Mancini Performance: 9/10 Fan Optimism: 7/10
Month 13 – December 14, 2010 – January 13, 2010 So, ominously, Mancini entered his unlucky 13th month in charge with his captain and talisman handing in a transfer request. The Tevez affair was dominating the media, and City’s position in the league was getting little attention. Fans were pleading with Mancini and City to resolve the Tevez situation. The first game was against Juventus in the Europa League, which finished with a 1-1 draw with City securing top spot in the league with a second string side. With Christmas looming, City had five consecutive league games in this period, but Tevez was still on most fans minds. Everton was up next, City’s bogey team, and this fixture was one of only three to survive the big freeze sweeping England. From City’s perspective it might have been better had the game been called off, because we lost 2-1, despite 25 shots on goal. The good news was Tevez had withdrawn his transfer request after a pep talk with Mancini. Fortunately, with the Tevez distraction put behind them, the team started to perform much better, and the next four games against Newcastle, Villa, Blackpool and Arsenal yielded an impressive 10 points. Mancini masterminded a 0 -0 draw with Arsenal, which stated transparently that his strategy was to avoid losing against Championship rivals. The result kept City above Arsenal in 2nd place, behind United. Two days later the long awaiting signing of Edin Dzeko was announced to add extra impetus to City’s title charge. This period was rounded off with a 1-1 draw with Leicester City, with the replay to be played at home on January 18th. League points: 10/15 League position: 2nd Europa League: In FA Cup: In Mancini Performance: 9/10 Fan Optimism: 9/10
So there you have it. A brief, but comprehensive review of Mancini’s first 13 months in charge. Even as I write this I have already looked into my crystal ball and foreseen an impressive debut by Dzeko in the game against Wolves, and victory against Leicester in the FA Cup. Mancini has proven himself to be a charismatic, determined and intelligent manager. He is very stubborn, and doesn’t shy away from making tough decisions. He demands a strong work ethic from his players, and reinforces this with tough training sessions, which at one point were objected to by some players who, unsurprisingly, have been released by Mancini. The man is a proven winner, so let’s hope he can finally break the mould of “Typical City”. 10
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HE‘S NO ‗AVERAGE JOE‘
Words: Matt Hill, http://www.mcfcforum.com
t's easy to blame the goalkeeper when a team concedes a goal - after all it is their job to prevent them from going in. Indeed 'keepers are increasingly under pressure to perform, especially in England as the leagues are so competitive and every goal matters. The bright lights that shone for Joe Hart earlier in the season have recently transformed into a spotlight whereby his every move is stalked and every mistake pounced upon. After recent blunders against Leicester City and Aston Villa, both resulting in goals and culminating in poor results, Joe appears to be on the end of a barrage of criticism on a level he has never previously received during his short career thus far. Even City boss Roberto Mancini has called on Hart to improve his concentration levels amid continual speculation in the press that City manager is looking to bring in Gianluigi Buffon as a replacement (Mancini has dismissed this as speculation and says he has no plans to sign a keeper). But Joe is a big boy (standing at 6ft3in) and any criticism he receives it is believed that he is confident enough to bounce back. To those who don't know Joe, his clear self-confidence in his ability could be misconstrued as arrogance. Having made his debut for Shrewsbury at the age of 17 it was apparent that he was a talented young man and his career has gone from strength to strength since then, culminating in the World Cup in South Africa last year - where he was desperately unfortunate not to play.
Joining City in 2006 under the then manager Stuart Pearce and the guidance of goalkeeping coach Tim Flowers, Hart was seen as one for the future yet made his debut for the Blues in October 2006 in a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United because of injuries to senior ‘keepers Andreas Isaksson and Nicky Weaver. His successful debut was followed by loan spells at Tranmere and Blackpool making a combined total of 11 appearances. A successful loan spell at Birmingham last season raised his profile and has led to him becoming first choice for club and country, beating competition such as Shay Given and Robert Green respectively. Making 36 appearances for the (Birmingham) Blues, he was voted their player of the year and he also earned a place in the PFA Team of the Year and a nomination for PFA Young Player of the Year. Following this success he has established himself in the City side and his man-ofthe-match performances, against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, have single-handedly saved City val-
uable points this season. Football is a fickle game however, and it appears that Joe now knows the meaning of the old cliché that “form is temporary and class is permanent”. City fans will be praying that his recent form is only temporary and that Joe shows his class once again, sooner rather than later. At just 23 years of age he is very young for a goalkeeper and his achievements to date prove that he has the potential to be one of England’s, and Manchester City’s, greatest ever ‘keepers. With a bit of luck he has another seventeen years at the top level – if Brad Friedel and Edwin Van der Sar are anything to go by. It’s clear that Hart is no ‘average Joe’. 2010/11 Statistics - League
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TOMMY CATON: THE COLOSSUS OF MAINE ROAD
Words: Simon Curtis, http://downthekippaxsteps.blogspot.com
ore than any player at Manchester City down the years, Tommy Caton came to symbolise my affection with this big daft club of ours. Whilst we may have marvelled at the delicate skills of Kinkladze and Bernabia, the lung power of Oakes and Book, the defensive mastery of Doyle and Watson, the will to win of Tueart and Summerbee, the race-horse grace of Colin Bell, Caton it was who came to represent everything I understood about Manchester City Football Club. His debut for the Blues, at the age of 16 in the opening game of the 79-80 season, at home to Crystal Palace, seemed like one of Malcolm Allison’s little follies at the time. I was at school thinking it could be me warming up on the pristine turf, but I lacked the tree trunk body the kid already possessed, the innate ability, obviously, and – even more importantly – I did not have the starturn wad of blond hair that sat atop Caton’s young head. He really looked the part, lolloping out onto the pitch that day in the bright sunshine, a bright young colt straining to be put on the gallop. He had arrived from Liverpool Boys, an effervescent spawning ground for football talent in those days, and could hardly have expected even the most eccentric of Malcolm Allison’s ploys to land him a berth in the first team so quickly. Truth was Allison was settling into a period of team tinkering and transfer market skullduggery that would earn City ridicule and criticism for years to come. But, whilst the likes of Robinson, Daley and Shinton would 12
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flounder in the Maine Road mud, Tommy Caton –against all the odds would soar above the morasse and hoist his name up in lights. My own relationship with City was also taking decent shape at the same time, already turning into a pimply, ill-defined squabble, one week upset, the next blissful happiness. This tended to make a young follower a touch unsure of what he might be letting himself in for: beguiled by earlier sights of Bell and Lee, Young, bless his heart, and Summerbee, just able to recollect Dennis Law’s backheel and his round-shouldered, cuff gripping farewell at the 74 World Cup, having worshipped Tueart and Barnes from my place infront of the TV, Tommy Caton’s time began roughly when I graduated to the Kippax steps. As anyone knows, the switch from living room carpet to Kippax terrace sits alongside the first sip of beer and the earliest glimpse of not-quite-cleavage as seminal moments in a young man’s life and Tommy Caton was there for me, as were Sandra Dougherty and a cold can of Tennants.
His was the towering header out from the back that made me stretch my own sinewy neck in the midst of the swaying masses, his was the outstretched leg, the crunching tackle, the thunderbolt shot that so captured my imagination. He it was that shared the muddy Shay with me, that bowed his head with me after Ricky Villa had danced the light fantastic before running off on the most replayed goal celebration in the history of the FA Cup (his was the just-too-late leg that missed the final opportunity to floor the Argentinian in his tracks). His was the youthful exuberance that matched my own willing sacrifice each weekend, the virgin naivety I shared in those idyllic late seventies days before 30-odd years of catastrophe of differing degrees singed my brain and deadened my senses to a whisper. In fact Caton went on to play in 42 games that season, a towering everpresent from his 16 year old debut. An amazing feat. Alongside him, I also tried for some kind of consistency; home-away, homeaway, but the wallet was weak whilst
the spirit was strong. My relationship with Tennants also flourished whilst having a direct impact on my ability to make progress with the third element of the Holy Trinity. This was one more succinct pointer for the ensuing 30 years. Incredibly, Allison had actually tried to blood Caton at season-end in 7879 but had been stymied by highschool rules. Caton was already playing way beyond his years, a giant blond collosus at the back. He wore number 4 or 5 for the entirety of that first season, a baptism of fire which included a second appearance in a City defence torn to shreads by Craig Johnstone at Middelsbrough, shackling the likes of Mike Channon of Southampton and Arsenals twin threat of Sunderland and Stapleton with some aplomb and experiencing the throbbing Maine Road response to wins over champions Forest and Manchester United within three November weeks. After Christmas, as Allison’s foibles sank City into serious trouble, Caton played on through painful thrashings at Ipswich and Southampton, a dreadful home defeat to West Brom, where his own air shot clearance let in the returning Barnes for the visitors’ third plus the afore-mentioned quagmire exit at Halifax in the 3rd round of the Cup. These were the games that would make a man of Caton but would surely have crippled a lesser character. That he played the whole season alongside his captain Dragoslav ���Steppy” Stepanovic, a Serb whose sole command of English was to look across the backline shouting “Come on you Blues!” speaks vloumes for the maturity of the young Scouser. The 1980-81 season would start badly, ultimately costing Allison his job in the Autumn, but under the careful stewardship of John Bond, City’s fortunes were on the rise again and Caton ended his second season playing at Wembley in the Centenary Cup Final. He had chipped an ankle bone that year but recovered to partner Nicky Reid in a centre back partnership so young and vibrant, the experience of Tommy Booth was not
missed. The fabled Crooks-Archibald strike pair were snuffed out at Wembley, but City could not tether them again four days later, with both Caton & Reid ran ragged by the redeemed pair. The new season dawned with much hope, as ever, but a weird, clanking hollowness to the City coffers. Peter Swales, gripped by a need to overhaul United, spent heavily one last time, on Trevor Francis, but the side soon started to haemorrhage both cash and goals. Injured first teamers were replaced by the likes of Peter Bodak and John Ryan, the latter not far shy of a 40th birthday. Things were changing at Maine Road. Caton remained dependable, making 39 appearances and displaying a newly found penchant for loping upfield into attack where, given the chance, he would swipe in some venemous strikes from outside the box. He was tipped for international honours but never quite made the grade and, as City’s form tilted towards the disastrous, so Caton began to lose form. Ironically, as the consistency went, the goals arrived, memorably two in one game v Arsenal. Although the young guns who had come through with Caton were mainly prepared to stick with the Blues (Ranson and Reid remained) Caton’s head was turned by an Arsenal bid mid season in City’s inaugural beanfeasts in the second division. He had gamely stayed on (despite attempting to put in a transfer request that summer) in the hope that the Blues would bounce back, but that winter saw City peeling away in the wrong direction as Sheffield Wednesday lead Chelsea and Newcastle clear of the chasing group. With City trailing in with Grimsby and Carlisle and Caton in pursuit of that first England cap, he moved on to Highbury. There was little backlash from the Kippax faithful. Caton had given us everything, becoming the youngest ever player in the English league to clock up 100 first team appearances (he was still 19). From the alleyways of Moss Side to the marble halls of Islington for the goofy
lad from Kirkby. Part of me was made up for him, as I watched City’s new splat and thud football fail to tear into Shrewsbury, Cardiff and Cambridge United from my usual spot on the Kippax. This was not for him, I sometimes thought. This mediocrity, the acrid smell of waste and decay that was all-pervading at Maine Road in the early 80s. But mainly we mourned the departure of a young bulwark, who could have been a City great, had the team contained greater quality and a steady hand on the tiller. What he found when he got to London seemed not to have been completely to his taste, as after a steady start to his Arsenal career he frequently failed to make the cut, thanks to the flourishing form of a dynamic youth team pairing of Tony Adams and Martin Keown. By the time he opted to ply his trade at Oxford, he had spent a year in the reserves at Arsenal and, when that turned sour, Charlton Athletic. Injuries were also beginning to accumulate. He had left the grand old pile of Maine Road to better himself down south and injury setbacks, depression and lack of form had taken the wind out of his sails. His last appearances before a bad ankle curtailed his career altogether were a shadow of the barnstorming, bushy-tailed upstart I remember so well in that first season back in 1979. The sloped shoulders carried an unseen burden, the mop of hair was now flat and lifeless. He finally gave up the game at the beginning of 1993. He was only 30. A few short months later, worse was to come. Much worse. At the age of 30, Thomas Stephen Caton was dead. With his passing a little of the light from that sunny afternoon against Crystal Palace went out forever.
1979-1983 CITY 1983-1986 Arsenal 1986-1988 Oxford Utd 1988-1991 Charlton
165 81 53 57
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HEROES AND VILLIANS Words: Pete Cummings, http://www.mancityblog.com
idfield. The engine room full of generals, creative genius‘ and wing wizards. They‘re the ones who make things happen. Or sometimes not. For this edition, we take a look at one of the best wing wizard‘s ever seen in sky blue and pitch him against a midfield general who was anything but.
In schools across the country, young lads dream of scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final at Wembley, but for one City legend, that dream became a reality in 1969 as his goal past a young Peter Shilton won the cup for his boyhood blues. Neil Young started his City life as a simple boot boy and was the epitome of a footballer in the 1960’s. A local lad, born in Fallowfield in February 1944, Young worked his way through the ranks at Maine Road to become one of the stars of the blues golden era of the 60’s and 70’s and achieved legendary status during his eleven years with the club. Young signed for City in May 1959 after being spotted by scout Harry Godwin, who would watch the winger play regularly for the Manchester Boys Under 15’s. Prior to him signing at Maine Road, Young was offered a deal by United manager Johnny Aston, but being a blue, Young turned them down to play for his boyhood club. He began his City career as a groundstaff boy, cleaning boots and sweeping the terraces before progressing to the City ‘A’ team and finally made his first team debut in a 2-1 defeat at Villa Park. Young was unprepared for the call-up and had to borrow a pair of boots from City’s legendary keeper Bert Trautmann for the game. Despite losing, Young held onto the 14
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first team place and remained in it until the end of the season. He scored his first goal for the club in December 1961 in a 3-0 home win over Ipswich Town and went on to finish the season with 11 goals. The following year Young made 31 appearances for the blues as the club was relegated and manager Les McDowall resigned, but two years later, in walked Joe Mercer to turn the fortunes of the club around and turn Young into a blue hero. Young was instrumental in City’s promotion season, scoring 18 goals for the season. The winger was making a name for himself and contributed to 20 of the goals scored in City’s championship wining year, including two on the final day of the season at Newcastle. But is was his goal at Wembley that he is probably best remembered for. Mike Summerbee beat Leicester’s Alan Woolett and rolled the ball perfectly into the path of Young, who smashed it past Shilton to score the only goal of the game and ensure the cup came to Manchester. Young also starred in another City triumph the following year, this time in Europe. The semi-final of the European Cup winners Cup saw City 1-0 down to Schalke from the first leg, but Young scored twice at Maine Road as the blues crushed the Germans 5-1 to reach the final, where
Young again got on the score-sheet in a 2-1 win over Polish side Gornik Zabrze. Young brought the curtain down on his Maine Road career at the end of the 1971/72 and remains to this day a City legend. Imagine the scene. Cross played in from the right wing. Midfielder bursts through, flicks the ball over the defender and heads over the keeper. The crowd go wild, it’s a dream to score such a good goal. Just a pity it was at the wrong end. That is what City fans remember most about Jamie Pollock, simply because that was his most memorable contribution to the City team. Pollock’s career started at Middlesbrough but decided to try his luck in Spain with Osasuna in 1996 but, surprisingly, only lasted a few months before he returned to England with Bolton Wanderers. Pollock spent two years at the Reebok before he made the life changing move to Maine Road in 1998. He made his City debut in a home fixture against Sheffield United, where he made an instant impression as the Blues and the Blades played out a goalless draw. Pollock was instrumental as he helped steer City towards relegation that season as the blues won just two of the eight games in which he played. He grabbed his first City goal in a 2-2
draw at Wolves and scored again in laser blue two weeks later. That game of course, was the now infamous match at home to Queens Park Rangers, which all but sealed both teams fate for the season. Georgi Kinkladze had given City the lead after just a few minutes on the clock but QPR levelled before Pollock made his name in Rangers history. There was no real danger as Pollock intercepted the cross, the ball bounced once and Pollock headed brilliantly over Nicky Weaver to send
the visiting fans crazy. Lee Bradbury levelled but QPR were safe and City were down, despite a 5-2 win at Stoke on the final day. Pollock somehow retained a place in the team, probably because the club couldn’t afford to bring in anyone better following relegation to English football’s third tier and he managed to make 31 starts for the club, scoring one goal and no own goals as City won promotion. The midfielder was deemed to have done enough to keep his place in the
squad for City’s assault on promotion to the Premier League, making his final appearance for the club in the 41 win at Blackburn which sealed their Premier League place. During that season, he made 19 starts, scoring three goals. Pollock’s next destination was London and Crystal Palace, before finishing his career at Birmingham in 2003. As a player, Jamie Pollock never quite met the supporter’s expectations and will always be remembered for saving QPR from relegation.
TOPICAL ISSUE 1 THE LATE NEIL YOUNG AT CITY MAINE ROAD
THE ACADEMY‘S LAST GREAT BLUE HOPE? Words: Mark Wilson, http://www.withoutadreaminourhearts.blogspot.com
n recent years, the City Academy has been praised for producing some good footballing talent. The list of graduates in today‘s game goes on: Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton, Nedum Onouha, Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Ishmael Miller, Daniel Sturridge, Vladimir Weiss, Stephen Jordan, the Etuhu brothers, Willo Flood and Kasper Schmeichel. It‘s been no coincidence that the Blues have made progress at youth level recently, even before the big money rolled in. We reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2006 then two years later we won it. But just how good has the Academy been over the last few years? Let‘s look at a few test cases. Micah Richards exploded onto the first team stage in 2006 and soon found himself in the England set up. The blistering start did not continue, with Richards suffering from patches of inconsistency and a lack of concentration. The full back has rarely been involved with England under Fabio Capello and is currently rotating the right back position with Jerome Boateng and Pablo Zabaleta. Shaun Wright-Phillips was a formidable winger during his first spell with the Blues. The £21 million deal that saw the diminutive winger move to Chelsea in 2005 was indicative of his talent. In truth Shaunie never made it at Stamford Bridge, failing to secure a regular place under Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant. Upon his return to Eastlands, for the most part SWP has looked devoid of confidence and unable to beat defenders like he was once able to. I’ll be surprised if he is still at the club next season. Stephen Ireland made his City debut in 2005, but it was the 2008-09 season that really marked out the Irish16
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man as a player that might reach the higher echelons of the club game. The midfielder blossomed under the tenure of Mark Hughes but soon became surplus to the requirements of Hughes’ successor, Roberto Mancini. The Italian came to view Ireland as not good enough to fill the role at the tip of the midfield triangle that would soon be filled by Yaya Toure. Nor did he view Ireland as flexible enough to occupy the holding position of a Nigel De Jong, or the wide positions of an Adam Johnson, or a David Silva. These limitations saw the Irishman sold to Aston Villa in August 2010. Meanwhile, we have the likes of Nedum Onouha currently farmed out to Sunderland on loan, whilst Daniel Sturridge has yet to break into Chelsea’s first team setup on a regular basis. Joey Barton seems to have turned his troubled career in the right direction, but will probably never be a regular England international, whilst the future of Vladimir Weiss as a City player – currently he’s on loan to Rangers – remains unclear.
On balance then, the modern academy is good, but it has not been great. When we compare it to the gold standard in today’s game – Barcelona’s La Masia – it is nowhere near. When we compare it to some of the closest examples to La Masia in England (the likes of Manchester United or West Ham for example) still we appear to have a lot of work to do. We have produced a few competentto-good level players, but we are still waiting for our first great talent to emerge. Or so it seems. Amongst current City graduates, there remains only one player that has the ability to change the academy’s recent record from a good into a great one, and that player is Michael Johnson. Born in Urmston, the midfielder is as home grown as they come. Johnson broke into the City first team in 2006, but since then has made only 37 appearances for the Blues. For one so young, Johnson has already faced much of what the negative side of football has to offer. The midfielder was side-lined for months during the
Eriksson era with a recurring abdominal injury. Finally reaching full fitness under Hughes, Johnson fell foul of injury once more, rupturing a cruciate ligament in training. He has never been available for selection under Roberto Mancini, but recently completed 45 minutes in an EDS game against Rochdale. Now the midfielder has a new enemy to add to that of his own fragility. Johnson is returning to a different fold than the one he returned to after injuries in the Eriksson and Hughes eras. The millions of Abu Dhabi have driven us up the league further. Competition for places – especially in midfield – is now at fever pitch. A mixture of top class talent, experience and determination struts around the middle of park at Eastlands these days, as Messrs' De Jong, Yaya Toure, Silva, Milner and Vieira would certainly have us believe. In their own right, all of these players are special, but Johnson brings his own qualities to the table. All one has to do is look back to the 2007/08 season and City’s 1-0 victory over Derby County. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, Johnson glided past the opposition midfielder, brushing off the incoming challenge with ease. Then came a sublime one-two with Elano, with Johnson showing his awareness of space and a fantastic first touch to knock the Brazilian’s return pass into a goal scoring position. In full stride, Johnson gracefully carved open the Derby defence, striking the ball with the outside of his boot so that it curled around the keeper and into the back of the net. It was a special goal, a goal that was in fact so much more than a goal. It was a strike that showed all of Johnson’s footballing skill, intelligence and instinct in one slick attacking drive towards the opposition’s penalty area. Soon the boy from Urmston was being compared to Colin Bell, and comparisons don’t come much bigger or much loftier than that. But that was then. Now more than ever Michael Johnson needs to stay injury free and secure a good run of first team appearances. It may well be that for the moment those appearances come elsewhere, with possible loan moves to Leeds United, Leicester City and Wolves being touted. Until Johnson puts that run together, questions over the player’s fragility will remain. Another major injury and we will be comparing him less to Colin Bell and more to Paul Lake. What a travesty it would be if history were to repeat itself in this fashion. Meanwhile, the Academy continues to watch and wait for that elusive great player to emerge from within its ranks. Micah Richards has the speed and power. Stephen Ireland has the guile and creativity, SWP the trickery and Sturridge the selfish eye for goal. But Johnson is better. Here is a player – a Manchester lad - that could potentially do it all. TOPICAL CITY OUTING ISSUE 1 JOHNSON DURING LAST FIRST TEAM
SIGNINGS FOR THE FUTURE
Words: Michael Maguire, http://thetheatreofbasecomedy.blogspot.com
his January‘s transfer deadline day was full of financial ostentation and intimidation. Money being spent in a general panic as the fear that guides the January transfer window (the necessity of the Champions-League-Boosting Midfielder or the relegation defying centre-half) takes hold. Critics would argue that this financial muscling is synonymous with Manchester City – but on 31st January 2011, the madness was all taken care of, with City nowhere in sight. The closest City came to a contribution to the circus of the day were a couple of weak rumours regarding Sebastian Larsson or the recall of Vladimir Weiss. This falls into line with the message from the board that the days of wholesale changes are over. The building has been done; we must now let it settle into place. The one man to come in was the £27m Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko – the goal-scoring lead striker that will give Tevez the option to wander deep without leaving us forwardless. Dzeko comes with a fantastic reputation and goal scoring credentials, but he also fits a familiar mould. Early in his time at the club Mancini spoke about wanting Robinho to “write himself into the history of Manchester City”, and this opportunity to become an integral part in a club’s identity, to achieve footballing immortality almost, is something that even the money-hungry young players can identify with. Dzeko, like many of the others that have come in, is young and wants to make a name for himself in the ‘biggest league in the world’. What we may lose in ex18
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perience we gain in a lack of complacency. Their ambitions haven’t been achieved and the sell is that they can achieve them here with City. A good number of the side could’ve been in the same year at school; Silva, Kompany, Milner, Zabaleta, Dzeko, Kolarov are between twenty-four and twenty-five, with Tevez, De Jong, Hart and Adam Johnson a year either side. The heart of the squad is all there. With a bit of luck, they should all grow together as a team and as people. If they make up the side for years to come, they will all be hitting their personal footballing peak together and will each be completely comfortable with their teammates’ styles, moves and needs. This can obviously be augmented with senior heads for experience, such as Patrick Vieira or Gareth Barry even, and young fiery prospects such as Mario Balotelli. The camaraderie and team spirit alone would make us a fearful proposition for any opponent. The only real comparison to our current state is the Chelsea of Abramovich's 2003 takeover. Whilst their ap-
proach did appear fairly scattergun, and they made amazing losses on players (Del Horno, Duff, WrightPhillips, and Shevchenko, for example), a number of players from their first couple of transfer windows had helped to build a stable team over the years. Cech, Drogba, Joe Cole, Carvalho, and Essien, for example, have all played a huge role in their recent successes and when you add two players who lasted from before the takeover, Terry and Lampard, you have the nucleus of a team that had been together for at least six years. This stability is very important. We want to be signing players who will be together 'writing the history of Manchester City' for the next ten years growing with the club and through the experiences of the club - so that, in most instances, their first trophies are City's first trophies of this new era. The attachment to the shirt will be greater for these players and we should have a greater loyalty and desire from them. So whilst City were a notable absentee from the deadline day activities,
the end of mass changes is necessary for the evolution of the side. There will be the odd exception every window â€“ when a bit of fine tuning is needed or a refresh would help boost the side and the competition â€“ but with most of
the pieces in place, we can look forward to watching them grow together. It is hard not to focus on the present, but taking a moment to look forward - the future looks bright and blue.
TOPICALTO CITY 1 EDIN DZEKO PRESENTED THEISSUE MEDIA
PROFILE: MAURIZIO GAUDINO Words: Danny Pugsley, http://www.bitterandblue.com
ome players earn their place in the hearts and minds of supporters by virtue of the longevity and commitment to the club. Some players however, manage to achieve this in the blink of an eye; their career at a club a mere flicker in the context of history but resonates strongly nonetheless.
Maurizio Gaudino may not have been a Trautmann, Bell or Kinkladze. Not even a Goater or Dickov even, but he still managed to leave an imprint on the fabric of Manchester City that stays to this day despite a brief stay that saw him make just twenty-three appearances for the club.
sessing a frisson of danger, there were reports of an involvement in a car theft ring. He came with a swagger that suggested his pre-match preparation may have consisted of little more than a pack of cigarettes and a ruffle of his locks. Who needed Cantona?
Cup squad, Gaudino arrived to the English game as an unknown.
Gaudino made his debut in the Boxing Day defeat to Blackburn, also playing forty-eight hours later in the defeat at Anfield, two clubs that he would later have a huge influence against. Despite the presence of Gaudino, City’s Gaudino was born in Germany of Ital- On the pitch, long sleeves and shirt fortunes were not bright and the win ian parents and grew up in Rheinau, occasionally untucked, he carried an against Ipswich on February 22nd was close to Frankfurt. He began his caaura about his play. Unshaven and their sole victory in fifteen games reer playing for Waldhof together unkempt he may have been but ap(despite Gaudino hitting a pair of with Jürgen Kohler and Guido Buchpearances are often deceptive: Gaudi- goals) and heading to the Easter wald before moving on to Stuttgart, no possessed a smooth touch aligned weekend they were just three points winning a league title in 1992. Gaudi- with excellent vision and a range of (having played more games) above no moved to Eintracht Frankfurt in passing. the relegation zone and nerves were 1993 and had great success as part of begin to fray. a midfield/striker combination called During the 1994/95 season, City were the 'magic triangle' alongside Uwe struggling under Brian Horton, who No fear though. Perhaps with an Bein and Tony Yeboah. had taken over from Peter Reid the acute sense of timing, Gaudino turned previous year and flirted with relega- in arguably his two best performances In April 1994 Eintracht sacked Uli tion. This season he fared little better. in succession against Liverpool and Stein. Reportedly, during a team talk, The side had talent: Coton, Curle, reigning Champions Blackburn rovers. Gaudino spoke up for Stein and was at Phelan, Rosler and Walsh, with Sum- A bright, sunny afternoon saw his divodds with the management. A move merbee and Beagrie out wide.There ing header in front of the Platt Lane to Kaiserslauten was rumoured but were big victories – 3-0 v West Ham, 4 secure a 2-1 victory and he followed Eintracht blocked the move. Gaudino -0 v Everton and of course the 5-2 vic- this with superb display in the 3-2 win failed to hit it off with Eintracht's new tory over Tottenham. But there big over Blackburn that ignited an unmanager, Jupp Heynckes. Things defeats too, notably the 5-0 humilia- beaten run to secure Premier League boiled over in December when both football when it looked as though the tion at Old Trafford. Gaudino and Yeboah refused to play side was in a tailspin and heading for against Hamburg. This led to his sus- Horton however had failed to settle the drop. pension from the club and eventually on a central midfield pairing for much to his loan to City. of the season and in December And with that he was gone. The 3-2 brought in the German player with home defeat to QPR on the final day Gaudino had the looks of a swarthy the Italian heritage on loan from Ein- of the season was Gaudino’s last in a Dolce & Gabbana model infused with tracht Frankfurt. Despite being a blue shirt and a bright, but fleeting edginess of a street pickpocket. Pos- member of the 1994 German World City career was over. Mexico was 20
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Gaudinoâ€™s next destination with Club America before stops in Switzerland, Turkey and back in Germany until he hung up his boots in 2003. Gaudino is now an agent to a number of players, including current Birmingham (and former Arsenal and Barcelona) player Alex Hleb and is a YouTube favourite after being scythed down by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in a 2006 Charity match. TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1 GAUDINO
DAVID OUR GOLIATH
Words: Stu Yearsley, http://www.nowwerenolongeralone.blogspot.com
ot since the days of Ali Benarbia, has there been such a concurring sense of expectation stemming from one man‘s creative ability. The mercurial, yet maturing wizard came to City in the latter stages of his career and enlightened the City faithful with his range of passing, touch and his sublime vision.
Since the day ‘Ali’ said his farewells to the game, there has been an unyielding desire for the club to fill his little, yet colossal boots. The hopes of the club and prayers of the fans seem to have been answered this summer with the acquisition of twenty-five year old David Silva, a man who casts a similar shadow to his predecessor. The physical stature of our twentyfive million pound Spaniard is not the only comparison that can be drawn. Initially, Silva took a while to settle into English football, his slight build was scrutinised with few suspecting he may be a little lightweight for the Premier league. But Silva has been in impressive form in the last three months and shown exactly why Roberto Mancini brought him to Manchester. The lack of physical strength in his slight frame is contradicted by his speed of thought, his first touch is consistent and his vision nothing short of remarkable. The way Silva glides across the pitch with such grace makes playing football look easy, his natural awareness epitomized perfectly by his contribution to Carlos Tevez’ goal against Chelsea this season where his subtle then sharp movement totally nullified John Terry’s presence, a mental demolition of one of the best defenders in the world.
Showing more of the attitude, intelligence and perhaps most importantly; the ambition that initially brought TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
him to the club, it didn’t take long for Silva to inevitably find his feet. He has now settled in the team and made one of the three forward positions his own. Playing behind Carlos Tevez and predictably Edin Dzeko, Silva has emerged as the player to carry the creative burden, dropping deep into the space behind the midfield and combining his refined attributes to unpick the locks of many premier league defences. The fluency of the team is so much more apparent when David Silva plays, effortlessly interchanging positions with any of the flexible front 3 and even at times with the more positionally rigid Gareth Barry. No matter where on the pitch, the space seems to be where Silva is. Of course any player with any degree of intelligence can find space but it is the touch, control and creative productivity that makes our number twenty-one stand out from the rest. The system Mancini adopts perfectly accommodates the more expressive players and the natural and typically Spanish ‘free role’ that Silva relishes. The first half of the season has seen Silva operate in a wider role although his long term impact could well be delivered from a more central position, higher up the pitch with little defensive responsibility. Silva has so far scored only one league goal, albeit a beautiful individually crafted goal at a crucial time away at Blackpool but the Spaniard certainly has more to offer on that front. With ten goals in forty-four international appearances
it is evident that he can provide a goal -scoring touch from midfield. Fortyfour caps seems somewhat underwhelming for a player of such calibre, although breaking into an international midfield containing Fabregas, Iniesta, and Xavi is no easy task. Silva has already broke a club record having been here only half a season and already winning the clubs official player of the month award three times in a row, an achievement which exemplifies the respect and admiration he has at the club and is a representation of his elevation to a real fans favourite. The importance of Silva to Mancini’s plans has become evident since his return from injury, on several occasions he has been withdrawn after the point in which the game was considered to be won – the familiar ‘wrapping him up in cotton wool’ technique that we have seen also relevant to Torres and Fabregas. After consistent showings of potential and the occasional flash of brilliance in the first half of the season, Silva’s influence on the second half of the season could be much more considerable than anyone anticipated. As we push towards the long awaited silverware that is so desperately desired there is every reason to be confident that the small shoulders of David will be more than sufficient to take on the goliath task.
TOPICAL 1 SILVA VS LEICESTER IN FACITY CUP ISSUE REPLAY
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Words: coulsontom, http://www.mcfcforum.com
fine run of games throughout December and the New Year period put Manchester City firmly in the race for the Barclays Premier League title. Defeat at Aston Villa on the 22nd of January began a week where neighbours United gained 6 points on City and appears to have dashed hopes of the title. This was followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw with Birmingham City, a day after United had gained another 3 points. With Arsenal pushing United hard, boosted by the return to fitness, and form of Robin van Persie and a £70million spending spree from Chelsea, where does this leave City‘s season? Start of the season expectations Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and chief executive Garry Cook set manager Roberto Mancini the task of finishing in the top 4 and thereby qualifying for the Uefa Champions League. Mancini regularly stated on several occasions during his press conferences that his target is 4th and a trophy, be it FA Cup, Carling Cup or the Europa League. Qualification from the group stages of the Europa League proved to be a formality and Mancini was able to play significantly reduced quality teams without hampering the team’s progress. A Carling Cup exit at the hands of West Brom drew criticism from some sections of the City faithful, who were disappointed at the team selection. Mancini’s thinking was that a Carling Cup fixture sandwiched between Premier League fixtures against Wigan and Chelsea was an unwelcome distraction. Victory at Wigan and at 24
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home to Chelsea vindicated his approach and this highlighted the importance – in Mancini’s eyes – of finishing in the top 4 over winning a cup. Finishing in the top 4 has to come first if ADUG are to recoup the investment made from the increased revenue available in the Champions League. Chelsea’s recent slump in form resulted in many altering their expectations for this season, with glances towards the league title. It’s hard to argue that failing to land the title is a failure and it should be accepted that finishing 4th or above would be an improvement on last season with the expectation for even more next season once the team becomes more settled. Goalkeeping situation Roberto Mancini made a decision before the opening game of the season away to Tottenham Hotspur to hand the no1 position to Joe Hart ahead of Shay Given. Hart put in a
man of the match performance which set the tone for his season so far – he has made some fantastic saves, no more so than a sublime double save against Liverpool (with notable mention for his save at home to Blackpool where he tipped Neal Eardley’s shot over the bar). Hart has been accused of over-confidence in recent weeks but calls for Given to be re-instated as number one are premature. Hart will make errors, just like Given did last season – not attempting to save both of Fletcher’s goals in the 4-3 derby defeat for a start – and he will learn from them and get better. So far this season, one can point to Hart losing up to 3 points and forcing an FA Cup replay. He has saved countless other points and will play a huge part in any Cup run.
Firm Mancini A student party attended by Gareth
Barry, Joe Hart and Adam Johnson where Johnson and Barry were seen downing alcoholic drinks instigated an attack by Mancini on Johnson’s attitude. Mancini questioned not only Johnson’s private life but also his work rate and dedication. Many criticised Mancini, but his words acted as motivation for Johnson who has played a big part of City’s season so far, getting the team out of sticky situations by providing something different that opposition defences cannot handle. An ankle injury that will keep him out for near enough the rest of the season will rob fans the chance to see more of his enviable skill and Mancini of one of his most potent weapons.
Defensive solidity Up until recent weeks, the back 3 of Joe Hart, Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany have proved a solid outfit. Screened by the exemplary Nigel DeJong and the stubborn Gareth Barry, City have proved a tough nut to crack. Shut-outs against Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and United the standout performances; Mancini has built his team on the foundations of a solid defence. A return to unpopular yet effective defensive tactics could prove fruitful for Mancini.
Carlos Tevez saga The announcement of Carlos Tevez’s transfer request shocked many City fans due to the timing, during a week that the club could have become the league leaders at Christmas. The fact that Tevez wanted to leave, was not a surprise given the players recent admission of homesickness. Doubts about Roberto Mancini’s decision to keep Tevez as captain eroded after the game winning performance
against Newcastle on Boxing Day. The “badge-biting” celebration will return, probably on February 12th. Credit has to go to Mancini for his handling of the situation and he has shown in his year in charge, how the decision to sack Mark Hughes was an excellent decision which has moved the club forward. Mancini’s strict control of the players and insistence on hard work on the training ground has paid off. It would be a shock to no one if Tevez were to leave the club in the summer but any move would be on the clubs terms.
Negative tactics At the beginning of the season, Mancini was vilified by many if not all sections of the media and by a considerable number of the fans. The accusation was that Mancini was and possibly is defensive in his approach. Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure were all considered defensive midfielders. Yaya Toure performed in a more advanced role, which he has excelled under mainly away from home where lung busting runs - quite literally - have become a feature of his game. In truth, the City midfield was not defensive by design but mainly because David Silva was yet to settle, Mario Balotelli, Emmanuel Adebayor lethargic and Adam Johnson on the lash. Great form throughout December and early January coincided with more expansive, free flowing play with Silva and Tevez given the licence to express themselves. City looked to have hit upon a winning formula.
Edin Dzeko effect The £27million capture of Edin Dzeko, the man hailed by Mancini as the player who could be “the difference
to win the title”, came as welcome relief to Carlos Tevez’s shoulders, upon which the team had been carried on up until now. Dzeko was signed to reduce the burden on Tevez and in his debut against Wolves, he showed his strength, skill and link-up play having a good hand in the 4-3 victory. However, it is the 3 in that scoreline that is cause for concern. Since Dzeko’s arrival, City have begun to leak cheap goals, and are starting to look very open with giant gaps in the midfield for the opposition to expose. During the recent Birmingham 2-2 draw, the midlands side managed to retain the majority of possession as they outnumbered City in the middle of the park. The trend for leaking soft goals is worrying but Mancini should be able to find the balance between attack and defence which we have witnessed both in extremes.
Title run-in City may now be out of the title race, but the team should not give up hope and should keep fighting. It would be necessary to go on a long winning run – almost every remaining game – which for an inexperienced side is unlikely. Victories away at Chelsea and United plus at home to Tottenham would also be essential. However, with the title highly unlikely, Mancini will focus on finishing 4thwhich means avoiding defeat to Tottenham at home, something uncommon in the Premier League. Summer targets Mancini is likely to strengthen again in the summer, but moves for Fernando Torres and David Luiz are now off the cards following their moves to Chelsea. Brian Marwood and his team will target a world class centreback and a commanding, driving TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
midfielder and it would be a bonus if one of the two were a leader. Chelsea made a huge number of signings when they first won the league under Jose Mourinho, similar to City, but they had John Terry, who despite being a vile person, is a formidable leader on the pitch. 26
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Next season and beyond Whilst the target at the start of the season was 4th, even if Mancini achieves that target, which looks likely, Garry Cook and the board may sound out Mourinho if he continues to fall out with the Madrid hierarchy. It would go against the long-term, steady progress planning of the club
and would result in a tumultuous period for the club. However, if â€œThe Special Oneâ€? becomes available, Cook and co may find it too tempting not to replace Mancini. Whether Mancini remains or Mourinho arrives, next season, City are expected to challenge for the title. No more next year, our time has come.
THE ART OF DECEPTION
THE ART OF DECEPTION Words: Richard Tucker (KippaxBlue), http://rtfract.com
ne of the six principles of the Art of War according to the pen of Sun Tzui is deception and foreknowledge. Winning the information war is important to generals to achieve victory in battle and indeed football managers to win football games.
I am sure Roberto Mancini and his team are well equipped to obtain detailed knowledge about opposing teams. Software programmes such as Prozone, Matchinsight, Tacticsinsight and Dartfish are powerful analysis tools to give managers detailed information on both his own side and the opposition. However no matter how well you prepare when the players get on the pitch amid the frenzy of a game in a howling gale and icy rain it’s not always possible for players to think clearly about previously discussed tactics. Many players rely on just instinct and experience. Some are born with a natural ability to beat a defender with a bit of deception and skill or make a perfectly paced pass that gives a colleague a goal scoring opportunity. Others rely on skilful ball control on the run with a feint or drop of the shoulder to beat a defender, but the real key is knowing when to part with the ball – to be aware of what is happening around him so that a positive result of the skill can be achieved. Losing concentration for just a moment can often make the difference between a win and a draw. Losing a goal at the wrong time has cost City several points this season. This is why
players have to be in the right mind set for a match – all 90 odd minutes of it. Defensive drills in training to deal with corners and long throws are essential, but on the other side of the coin, I often wish we would be a bit more creative when taking corners and throw-ins. I am sure Boateng has the ability to give opposing defences problems with a long throw into the box. It’s a shame that many of our corners come to nothing. A well rehearsed move from a dead ball situation can often guarantee success. On a personal note I can still remember a particular situation back in July 1956, when I was invited to coach the Royal Thai Air Force side in Bangkok. I spent a lot of time going through some different approaches to taking corners. During a match against Sing Tao, a strong Hong Kong visiting side, the winning goal was scored via one of these corner routines and all the players rushed up to the stand flinging garlands round my neck! One of my most embarrassing moments! Throw-ins are viewed by many as a mechanism for getting the ball back into play so a team that thinks and acts positively at throw-ins will have a great advantage.
Offensive free-kicks offer another deception opportunity. If you have a player who can bend the ball around the wall and into the top corner of the goal every time –then great – but a few alternatives would be useful. The team taking the kick have time on their hands so it’s essential the players taking part in the ruse are in the loop and ready to go! Overdoing tricks can have a negative effect – it’s the surprise that works. Naturally there is a negative side to deception. Too often we have seen players trying to deceive match officials by exaggerating injuries to get a player yellow carded or sent off. Players are rarely punished for this. Diving to get a penalty has been going on for years but now it’s become much more sophisticated. It’s a difficult job at the best of times for officials but they have to sort out fact from fiction in an instant not via slowmo replays from different viewpoints or CSI investigation! If the time between the contact and the dive is noticeable and/or the arms go above the shoulder then it is a clear indication of deception on the part of the attacker. There have been several studies to help referees but it not easy when your view may be blocked. TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
BELIEF? I‘LL HAVE SOME OF THAT Words: Ryan Corless, http://www.mcfcforum.com
s for as optimism goes, I‘m happy to admit that I‘ve never exactly been high on the stuff, and I‘ve not been since the day I made my first trip down to Maine Road and started supporting City. Too many quarter-final heartbreaks and poor underachieving league finishes have made sure of that. Multi-million pound heavyweights who end up in the lists of ‗who was your worst City player ever?‘ Too many dreamscenarios ruined by finishes that can only be described as ‗typical city‘. A few months ago I was no different, whilst some Blues got giddy about a potential title-challenge; I adopted my usual approach of cold, stern pessimism. There’s a weird expectancy with City, which is basically, I rarely expect us to win, and in previous seasons I’d probably have been very justified in holding this expectancy close to my heart, so I didn’t get hurt when we did get beaten away to the likes of Sheffield United or at home to Nottingham Forest. Then, we went to Blackpool. To the more relaxed, optimistic Blue, Blackpool away might seem like a nailedon three points, newly promoted and all that. For me, and I’m sure some other Blues, I could only see a bad result, I had these images of Charlie Adam scoring scrappy goals on the small pitch at Bloomfield Road. As for as vibes go, I had a very negative one weeks before we stepped onto the pitch in the capital of fatty doughnuts, creaky roller-coasters and donkey-rides on the beach. Yet, what did we see? Yes, Blackpool made it a very tough game; in fact I’d 28
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go as far to say that for sixty-odd minutes it was one of City’s worst performances of the season. But then King Carlos stepped in with a delicate little back-heel, and we were one up. At the time I can honestly say it felt like daylight robbery, especially after seeing ‘DJ’ Campbell squander a glorious chance to put the Tangerines up shortly after halftime. I was returned to my regular state of cynical pessimism when Marlon Harewood headed Blackpool level, it was like my body returned to what it considered a normal expected state whilst watching City. It’s a state that’s taken time to develop over the years, watching Robbie Fowler miss last minute penalties and seeing Wayne Rooney score devastatingly painful goals. The television replays were still going on; I was still shouting and moaning and then we see Wayne Bridge galloping up the field, my only question was to ask: where does he think he’s going?! Then the next minute we’re 2-1 up! Carlos again! I had this strange feeling of disbelief, that isn’t what City do, that’s what teams do
to City. After a piece of Messi-like dribbling from David Silva, and a small glimmer of hope for Blackpool the game was over, 3-2. To this day I still think it’ll be one of the most important games of the season, it felt like the day we ditched the calamitous, unreliable City and traded it in for a brand new sparkling model. Away win after away win followed, West Brom, West Ham, Newcastle, all places that we might’ve lost at in recent years, and yet we were comfortably dispatching of all of them. The home form slowly started to improve and we slowly but steadily advanced up the table. We currently sit in 3rd, behind only the sworn enemy, who do have a couple of games in hand. In any other year I’d be waiting for the moment where it all goes from dreamland to ‘oh, maybe next year’, but for some reason, this time I’m not. Our run-in is fairly favourable, especially when you look at the games that other title -challengers have got to play. I’m not saying we’re going to go and win the league this time, maybe it’s going
down the road to Old Trafford, maybe and up and coming talent. We have it will be sitting at Eastlands come some of the best fans around, who’ll June, who knows. continue to follow City through thick and thin. And most importantly, I It’s definitely time we started believ- think we’re finally starting to ditch ing though, because I don’t see it all that ‘typical City’ tag that’s followed going wrong anytime soon. For me, us around like an obsessed little stalkwe have one of the best managers in er for too many years now. the business, and Roberto Mancini really does fill me with confidence, We’re at a stage where a loss doesn’t because with him at the helm I’m fully feel like the end of the world, because confident that we’ll start to see those there’s every chance that we can go glimmering trophies in the cabinet in out and win the next five games on forthcoming seasons. We have a team the trot. We’re at a stage where not that nobody can really argue isn’t playing particularly well doesn’t mean filled with a mixture of star quality we’ve automatically lost the game,
because there’s every chance we’ll grind out three points. These are all title-winning qualities, qualities that just keep improving at City with every passing second that we have the likes of Roberto Mancini in the dressing room. Maybe we will lose out on the title this year, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ve jumped from mid-table to a game from Champions League qualification to being 2nd in January in three years. You do the math, the future’s Blue and it’s time we started to realise it for real. TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
THE ETERNAL CONUNDRUM Words: Tripp, http://www.mcfcforum.com
or as long as I can remember being a City supporter, we've never had a truly world class left back. Or right back, for that matter, but it's always been the left side that we looked at and said, â€•We really need some quality there, don't we?â€– Though Stephen Jordan, Sun Jihai, and Michael Ball were earnest enough, they just didn't have the skill needed for the position at a Premier League level, and Ben Thatcher was simply a thug. Wayne Bridge was supposed to solve the problem for Mark Hughes, but never was able to match his attacking energies with defensive competence. This year, in an attempt to shore up the position once and for all manager Roberto Mancini has acquired two new fullbacks in Aleksandar Kolarov and Jerome Boateng to join Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta. But, halfway through the season, who can we say are the best players at right and left back?
pearances this season for us, but his preferred position is in the centre. His season has been a bit stop and start with injuries preventing him from starting often, but when he has appeared he hasn't been catastrophic, but never has put in a performance to shout about either. He does have a great eye for the cross, so let's hope his performances so far are down to getting adjusted to the Premier League, not a lack of quality.
Micah Richards: Right-back We all know Micah Richards: he's an Academy product and has been a first-team regular for several years now. His potential is undeniable, he is a massive presence on the pitch and speedy as well. When he is on form, few are better than he is. But, his concentration continues to let him down, and he is often drawn out of position with catastrophic results. With such a wobbly history this year, it's unsure how much longer Mancini will put up with his inconsistency.
Pablo Zabaleta: Right and Left Back Pablo has been Mr. Dependable for the side ever since he was signed by Mark Hughes in 2008. Though he has shown a tendency to throw caution to the wind while tackling sometimes, he is consistently solid for the team, always giving 100% and even popping up with a few assists and a goal this year. I have always been a fan of the Argentine, and I think this year has been his best yet in terms of performance, and his versatility is a huge plus for the team.
Jerome Boateng: All Defence Signed from Hamburg over the summer, young Boateng can play all across the backline, having played left back for Germany at the World Cup and right back during his ap-
Aleksandar Kolarov: Left-back Signed by Roberto Mancini over the summer for 17.5 million pounds from Lazio, Kolarov is supposed to be the long-awaited Saviour of our left back position, coming to Man-
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chester with a reputation for his cannon of a left foot. Injured on the first day of the season and kept out for several weeks, his start to life on Blighty hasn't exactly been smooth, but the more that he has played, the more he looks to be the genuine article. He finally opened his scoring account for us with a great shot against Leicester in the FA Cup, and in the turgid loss against Aston Villa he was far and away our most exciting player. I think we can expect big things from the Serbian in the future. Verdict Personally, I think our best fullback pairing possible right now is Pablo Zabaleta at right back and Aleksandar Kolarov on the left. Kolarov has all the ability needed to be an extraordinary player for us, and in time he will come to dazzle the whole league. However, I think both Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng have the capability to challenge Zabaleta on the right; while I'm a big fan of Zabaleta, he is solid, not extraordinary. Both Richards and Boateng are young, and if their development goes to plan, then we could have a superb right back to match Kolarov on the left.
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HOW DZEKO FITS IN
Words: Lloyd Scragg, http://www.mancityissues.com
din Dzeko was confirmed as a Manchester City player almost a month ago now after a mass of speculation linking him to City. The transfer was hardly a well kept secret, with news creeping out a week before his official unveiling that a deal had been agreed. Nevertheless, he‘s here with us now and looks part of the team already. His English is excellent and he has made an instant impression on his new team mates. Admittedly, he’s made slightly less progress on the pitch than some may have anticipated but we cannot expect too much from a player who joined after a 3 week break. Despite only scoring once, he has threatened to find the net on a number of occasions and has missed some very good chances against Wolves and Villa. Match sharpness is obviously one issue. Another is that the English game is incredibly fast-paced and it will take him time to adapt. He’s been deployed in a number of positions in his short spell at Manchester City – as the focal point of an attacking triangle, as a wide forward and a lone front man. His debut: Against Wolves he was asked to play as the focal point of an attacking trio with close support from Silva and Tevez. He enjoyed a very good debut; linking expertly with the deep midfield runners and vacating space for Tevez to attack. His beautifully weighted assist for Yaya’s goal was definitely the highlight of his day - he nipped inside before supplying the killer ball, highlighting that he does have an eye for a pass. 32
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opposition is not really that hard. Dzeko got his chance after a great run from His performance against Villa wasn’t as Richards left him to apply a precise fingood as his debut. The formation of the ish to an inviting cross. front three was identical to the one played in the previous game, but Dzeko St. Andrews: was pushed out wide for the majority of the second half and was ineffectual Coming of the back of his first goal for in an unfamiliar role. He mustered 6 City, he lined up alongside Tevez in 4-3shots at goal, but all were either off 1-2 formation with Silva operating in target or were blocked. In fairness, the the hole. Tevez looked a lot more commajority of those shots had to be hur- fortable playing alongside Dzeko opried. But there was one chance which posed to behind him. They forged a he should have buried – his late headed fluid partnership for the first thirty miss: Johnson’s delightful floated cross minutes or so, looking dangerous with was met by the Bosnian’s head, which support from the inventive Silva. Dzeko he somehow managed to head wide was holding up the ball, releasing it and from 6 yards. then looking for it back, in the form of a cutting through ball. But City’s early Notts County: dominance was halted after the forced withdrawals of de Jong and Richards. Dzeko saw much less of the ball in the At Meadow Lane he cut a lone figure. Isolated without the service of Silva or second half and didn’t carry much of a Tevez, he had to make do with Jô and goal threat. Milner. The wingplay from them was dire at times; their poor delivery gave There have been glimpses of brilliance the aerially adept front man little to in his performances. He has already work with. A few half-chances fell his disproved the ‘Dzeko is just a big lump’ way but nothing of note was created misconception by showing his good before Notts County scored. The team touch and awareness regularly. Rekicked-into gear after conceding, final- gardless of his stature and build he isn’t ly realising that attacking League One simply a target man. Dzeko is a techni-
cally astute player who has better agili- new outlets that he provides. ty than many give him credit for and prefers to play on the deck. When Dzeko receives the ball high up the pitch, he likes to look for support What does Dzeko bring to the table? and lay-off to a rampaging runner from deep. His short sideways passes high The acquisition of Dzeko has given us a up the pitch have already been put into practise. The most obvious beneficiary completely different option in attack. Carlos Tevez, our other hit-man doesn’t from this trait is Yaya Toure who often makes late, powerful surges from midplay as a conventional striker; he prefers to drop deep, run with ball at feet field. This move was perfectly demonstrated against Wolves when City broke and link play. And we should not atwith electric pace. Dzeko was at the tempt to alter Carlos’ successful approach because of the arrival of Dzeko. heart of the counter attack which was Tevez is at his most effective when giv- eventually finished off by Yaya Toure, en license to roam. Luckily for Mancini, as shown below: the complete opposite applies for Edin Dzeko. Dzeko likes to play on the ‘shoulder’ of the last defender and attack space in-behind defences. Here is an example, when Johnson found Dzeko on the break with a lofted pass, as shown below:
yet. I’m not calling for us to switch to a long ball game, merely throw numbers down the wings more often to increase our chances of a headed goal. Lastly yet most importantly, Dzeko’s arrival gives us a vast numbers of options. He is the only striker disciplined enough to occupy a conventional strikers role whilst also being good in the air. This factor has allowed Mancini to experiment with different formations in attack. The boss knows that Dzeko likes to play with a partner and most recently opted for two genuine front men; which was pretty successful. Below are options available to Mancini.
I think it’s too early to earmark one particular system as our ‘best’. The return of Mario Balotelli will give us yet another set of options, leaving me to reserve judgement until a later date. The one thing I can conclude though, is that Dzeko looks more comfortable with a striker alongside him.
In conclusion, I think the striker has made a steady start to life at City. Kolarov, Silva and Yaya all took a while to get going and it has inevitably been the same for the new boy. Match sharpness is the issue at the moment; he’s not The only strength I think City have This type of pass is best utilised after taking those half chances you’d expect just retaining possession. The diagram failed to utilise thus far is his aerial abil- a seasoned goal scorer to take when ity. Crossing from open play hasn’t shows Johnson picking the ball up in on top form. But I will reiterate once been accurate whilst the set piece de- again that he must be given time acres of space, he spots the arced run of Dzeko and picks the incisive pass. As livery has been below-par all season. once he has adapted to his new surDzeko’s movement allows him to gain roundings and regained full match Dzeko likes to hold his position and an extra yard on defenders and attack sharpness, we will have a dangerous wait for others to support him, this crosses with purpose. Unfortunately we weapon at our disposal. pass is ideal to send him through on haven’t seen him put this into practise goal. However, this is only one of the
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Words: Alan Leishman (Sultana of Brunei) , http://www.mcfcforum.com
rare away day trip to West Brom in November brought back fond memories of my twenties, a period during which an increase in disposable income and a complete lack of responsibilities meant that my mates and I were able to follow City home and away during one of the most volatile periods in City's history. That period, (the1990's) was notable for two reasons. Firstly, it coincided with the gradual decline (though not the death) of football hooliganism, which for me at least had always cast a sinister shadow over previous away trips. Aged just 10 years old, my very first away game was in February 1981 at Anfield for the second leg of a league cup semi-final, a game I remember not for the football (we lost 2-1 on aggregate) but for the bitter cold journey home as every window on our coach was smashed on the way there. Most away trips prior to 1990 involved some degree of personal danger but a combination of draconian policing measures and the impact of ecstasy fuelled Acid House gurners, heralded a shift in terrace culture that made supporting your team away a much safer pastime. Secondly, this period especially the mid 90's marked a low in our clubs history, a time when we stumbled down the rungs of footballs ladder, fuelled by a heady brew of managerial crises, ownership buffoonery and performances that repeatedly redefined the word 'dire' (please replace with your favourite expletive). However, unlike other clubs who have suffered similar though often less dramatic declines, City's support did not decline or wither away. If anything, it was galvanised by our plight, attendances held steady and nowhere was this more evident than at 34
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away games during that period. Every away trip seemed to be significant in it's own right, either because we had stooped to a new all time-low or because of the latest trouser dampening incident that regularly accompanied our travels. To document them all would require me to write a book or at the very least a series of articles but my overriding feeling when thinking back to City away games in the 90's is not one of abject despair but of days filled with gallows humour and laddish japes, usually at my expense. At Tranmere, we arrived at 11am still half cooked from the previous night for a 1pm kick-off only to find the match actually started at 3pm. We retired to the pub to consider our error. By the time we got into the ground, I could barely speak and despite a goal from Kevin Horlock from the penalty spot, within no time I'd fallen into a Guinness induced coma awoken only by a raucous refrain of 'fat Robbie Williams, yer just a fat Robbie Williams' by around a thousand blues orchestrated by my mates on account of my vague resemblance to the Stoke born crooning basket case. During this period, the repertoire of songs from the City faithful was impressive, each new song born in the
mind of an avid supporter before being road-tested in the pub before away games. The songs were educational as well as entertaining, prior to a cracking away trip to QPR in 1994, I had no idea Ryan Giggs was illegitimate nor any comprehension that Alex Ferguson was in fact riddled with herpes. Every away day was indeed a school day. At Oldham, my partner in accidental comedy Paul decided he'd had enough of being quiet standing with the Oldham fans (the City end had sold out) and attempted to scale the fence into the away end, only to find himself impaled on the barbed wire to the severe amusement of both sets of fans. He only escaped his predicament by forcing the issue, jumping down and tearing his jeans in the process with an accompanying cartoon like 'Ri-i-i-i-i-i-ip-' sound that thoroughly warmed a typically freezing cold August fixture at Boundary Park. (a ground which seemingly has its own Arctic micro climate). Ewood Park was always particularly rowdy due to it's locality and the Fernhurst pub across the road from the ground which historically has always been friendly to City fans (like they have any choice). It was here before a 3-3 draw that I stood atop a table singing like my life depended on it before stumbling backwards
and grabbing the only thing to hand, a pair of full length velvet curtains which came crashing down along with the fixtures they were attached to. At Swindon, (Steve Coppellâ€™s last game in charge) , I had obtained four tickets in corporate hospitality through work including a free bar in the players lounge. Naturally we tested the word 'free' to maximum effect ensuring more drunken antics following a particularly harrowing 20 defeat. I vaguely recollect throwing children behind me in the bar afterwards in an effort to approach my hero Kinkladze, a hazy memory of defending the honour of Nicky Summerbee to a loud mouthed Swindon fan who abused him to his face before being ushered out of the ground and staggering back to our hotel. There I managed to spill my dinner on the floor and as the aged waitress stooped to clean up my mess I pretended to slap her on the arse to childishly amuse my friends.Except my alcohol induced lack of spatial awareness meant I actually connected with her backside with a 'thwack' that was loud enough for us to be thrown out in seconds. An uncom-
fortable night sleeping in the car ensued. Adversity fuelled loyalty and when the club eventually started to turn things around ( York away and Stoke at home would be the turning point) the volume and gusto of the blue faithful intensified. It was about this point we discovered that for about 100 pounds we could travel away with City's corporate trip organisers and in reality it cost about the same as normal away days when you factored in train tickets and alcohol. Consequently, for a while we travelled away in style to exotic locations like Grimsby and Barnsley. We even travelled away with corporate travel for the infamous Blackburn promotion game when I am proud to say I was one of the first onto the pitch at the final whistle, leaving my jacket in the hands of a policeman who had tried to stop me. We had many more 'famous' away trips but eventually the drudgery of adult life meant I was unable to commit the same time and money and those trips became less frequent until eventually I reverted once more to attending only home games. I felt at
that time that following City away was a young persons game, like a rite of passage and that I had served my time. Nonsense of course but I had to justify my decision to myself somehow. However, more free time on my hands and a yearning for the tribalism of away trips saw me return this season. The West Brom game in November 2010 was my first 'proper' away trip in ages (other than local games) the moment captured for posterity by Match of the day cameras when I was pictured trying to locate my mobile phone which had propelled itself from my jacket pocket after Balotelli's second goal. The day re-ignited my enthusiasm and I observed that the atmosphere and banter was just as good as the old days. I may have been more sober and I can certainly remember more of the game than previous away trips but as we home-in on success, I find myself nursing a thirst for more away games that demands to be quenched. I look forward to guzzling in the away day saloon many more times in the months and years to come. TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1
CITY VS UNITED—WHO DO REF‘S PREFER?
Words: Merlin, http://www.mcfcforum.com
t seems to most football fans that referees have a little too much influence on the result of a match. And Manchester City fans sense that maybe, Manchester United get a little more ―help‖ from referees than most other teams in the league. Certainly, there is a sense that City is not treated equally to United by the officials. Although the debate will rage on in every post-match discussion, it is impossible to read the minds of referees and conclusively determine if these claims are fact or fiction. However, a little bit of statistical magic can answer the question once and for all. This article attempts to impartially answer the question every City fan asks… Is United favoured by match officials? To be totally impartial it is important to eliminate any opinion or emotion from the analysis. For example, was Nani’s outrageous handball against Spurs an example of incompetent refereeing or blatant United favouritism? The answer requires an emotional response, so it must be eliminated from the analysis. To do this I have looked at every City and every United game in the Premiership and FA Cup so far this season (concluding with games on January 22, 2011). I have ignored European competitions because the consistency of the opposition is more variable. I have also ignored the Carling Cup, because this competition does not appear to be taken seriously by most top teams, and unknown faces tend to pull on the shirt, which might attract a different response from referees. 36
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Statistical Data To resolve the debate I am going to focus on indisputable fact, statistics that even the most fervent fans can’t dispute. And to do this I have chosen the categories described below.
Fouls committed. Each time the referee blows for a foul, this is a foul committed. To be as fair and consistent as possible, all statistics have been collected from BBC match reports. The Analysis
Yellow cards. Yellow cards are usually given for fouls, but sometimes other factors prompt a card, such as time wasting, hand ball and attempting to influence the official’s decision. For this analysis I have simply counted the number of cards received by City or United players, versus the total number of cards received by the respective opposing teams. Red cards. Red cards can be given for serious foul play, last man fouling striker, hand ball preventing a certain goal, two bookable offenses etc. In the case of two bookable offenses this is counted as one yellow and one red in this analysis.
So, having laid out the ground rules, what is the verdict? The first thing that strikes me is on average United commit 19% more fouls than their opposition, but receive 8% less yellow cards. To put it another way, United commit 7.14 fouls per yellow card, but their opposition are only allowed to commit 5.53 fouls before attracting a yellow card. So, despite United committing 19% more fouls than the teams they play against they actually get punished 30% less than their opposition. Amazingly the story for City is the exact opposite. City actually commits 17% more fouls than their opposition, but City players are yellow carded 53% more
frequently than their opposition. Expressed as a ratio, City commit 6.55 fouls per yellow but our opposition is allowed more lee-way with bookings only awarded every 8.56 fouls. City is booked 10% more frequently than United, but we are protected from the opposition 35% less often than United.
cards, City and United are very similar, with United’s opponents averaging 70 fouls per red, and City 69 fouls per red. The infrequency that United attracts red cards (more than 3 times the average) is really quite amazing, particularly when you watch their tendency to mob the referees in every game. That behaviour seems to be acceptable to referees if the players In terms of red cards the story is even are wearing a red shirt. more dramatic. United players have had only one red card all season, The Conclusion which is an average of 250 fouls per red card (that is to the date of this The statistics show that United is analysis, and this statistic is increasmost certainly favoured by referees. ing with every game). City, on the In terms of yellow cards they are alother hand, receive a red card every lowed to commit 30% more fouls 80 fouls. In terms of opposition red than their opposition before receiving United Total Games played Team fouls Opposition fouls Team yellows Opposition yellows
Team reds Opposition reds
23 250 210 35 38
United Average 26 321 274 49 32
Team fouls/ game Opposition fouls/game Team yellows/game Opposition yellows/game Team fouls/yellow Opposition fouls/yellow 4 Team reds/game 4 Opposition reds/game Team fouls/red Opposition fouls/red
a yellow card. They are almost immune to the risk of attracting a red card, and their players are 300% less likely to be sent off than other Premiership teams. City are 53% more likely to be yellow carded for a foul than their opposition and City players are red carded more frequently than any teams playing either City or United. So next time you are arguing about how United players are given an unfair advantage by referees, you can tell them that the all knowing, mystical Merlin said, “It’s true. The statistics don’t lie. United players are punished less than other teams, and City players are punished more.” United Average City Average 10.87 9.13 1.52 1.65 7.14 5.53 0.04 0.13 250 70
12.35 10.54 1.88 1.23 6.55 10.03 0.15 0.15 80.25 68.5
TOPICAL CITY ISSUE 1