Monday, 26 November 2012

Tinkering the european problem?

The dust is settling on a 2nd straight poor showing from City in the Champions League as yet again the best the Blues can hope for is 3rd in the group.  Whilst the draw both times has hardly been kind to the club but 3 wins in 11 games so far is a grim stat.  People have pondered and puzzled as to why City have struggled some pointing out rightly it took Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson a few attempts to get past the group stages.  Others have pointed out poor Champions League form played a part in Roberto Mancini getting the sack from Inter Milan.

 Whilst planning this blog I must admit I seemed to recall a lot of squad changed as each European game week came and went and that curiosity lead me to look at the starting 11's for each game.   It shows 2 or 3 changes every game sometimes a few more. Below is a list of both seasons Champions League starting 11's


Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko , Nasri
Hart; Richards, Kompany, K Toure, Clichy; Barry , Y Toure; Aguero, Nasri, Silva; Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, DeJong , Yaya Toure, Nasri , Silva, Johnson , Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Savic, Clichy, Yaya Toure , De Jong, Nasri, Silva , Milner, Balotelli
Hart, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott Milner, Silva, De Jong, Y Toure, Dzeko , Balotelli
Hart, Savic, Clichy, Lescott, Kompany, Barry, Y Toure , Silva , Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko 


Hart, Maicon, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Garcia, Yaya Toure, Silva, Barry, Tevez, Nasri
Hart, Zablaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy , Yaya Toure, Garcia, Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko
Hart, Richards, Clichy, Lescott , Kompany, Barry , Milner , Yaya Toure, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko
Hart, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Garcia, Barry, Y Toure, Nasri, Tevez , Aguero
Hart, Maicon, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Nastasic, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Nasri, Dzeko, Aguero 

True injuries play a part and of course there was Carlos Tevez's infamous bust up in Munich last year.  But for a team trying to find it's feet in the competition it can't help not knowing for definite who your playing partner will be.  There is also new players bedding in whilst in the Premier League things have been a touch smoother the constant changes to the starting 11's cannot have helped in Europe.  True with an easier draw I might not have come to this conclusion but given how hard the groups have been the tinkering cannot have helped especially  when trying a new formation as the blues have this year with 3 at the back some games.  

With a settled side I do wonder if the club will do better if they qualify next year time will tell, but another poor showing and it could lead to pressure on Roberto Mancini's job despite the domestic success we have enjoyed.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Perfect Day

Yesterdays match against Sunderland was extra special for me as my 6 year old son Lucas won the right to be mascot.  Getting the call Wednesday lunchtime and receiving the letter and our tickets was a huge buzz for Lucas and my wife and me.  We already knew we would have been getting up early as it was a 12:45 kick off but to allow for a tour etc.. we had to be at the Etihad for 9:15am.  I was a little worried Lucas does have ADHD and there was a risk he might be over stimulated by what was going to happen.

We arrived a little after 9 and were directed to the back of the City @ home building to await Liz Douglas who looks after the mascots.  After a quick drink and chat with the other mascot Marcus's family it was over to the stadium to begin the tour.  Using the players lounge as our base we were shown the home dressing room where the kits were already neatly laid out.   I could see the excitement in Lucas being in there before the players made the reality of the magic day that lay ahead begin to sink in.  I even managed to have a chat with legendary kit man Les "Chappy" Chapman.

From there it was the warm down area where after some impressive press ups and forward rolls Lucas was allowed to "make a sub" using the boards you see the 4th official use.  Excitement building it was then up the tunnel and pitch side via posing at the Match of the day interview position,  where the kids (ok and the adults) got to sit in the dugout and even have pictures and a chat with club ambassador and former player Mike Summerbee. 

Back to the players lounge for some light refreshments in the shape of some delicious mini burgers and hot dogs, and both Marcus and Lucas were given their kits to wear to run out onto the pitch.  Lucas was bouncing as I was changing him he was really getting excited he was delighted he had been given a goalkeeper kit and looked really smart.  Once back in the players lounge we met up with the Sunderland mascot and the girls who were player escorts for the day.

Just before the players arrived we were wisked up stairs to meet them and for them to sign the tops of Lucas and Marcus.  Both boys were full of beans and energy as soon as the laid eyes on Roberto Mancini and the players both went silent and stood still allowing the players chance to sign their tops whilst staring transfixed at their heroes.

Then it was back to pick up the rest and head near the family stand for some pitch side photos with Moonchester and Moonbeam. Lucas was surprised we didn't see Moonchester and Moonbeams Rocket Ship but was informed by security it was parked on the roof with it's cloaking device on.  After the pictures a big test for Lucas, Angela and Connor were taken to their seats and he didn't bat an eyelid at the thought of his mum going.  He was taken to the tunnel whilst the other parents and myself were taken to a vantage point above the tunnel.  I was praying he was behaving himself and looking at tunnel cam I  shouldn't have been worried though you can hear some classic Lucas comments,  a gap in the players coming off was greeted by "there's more there's more there's more more more"  a hot Sunderland player "uuurrrggghh he got his sweat on me!"  Then it was time the teams marched out and Lucas did the fairplay hand shake with the entire Sunderland team then ran towards the family stand and not that i'm jealous (much) scored against Joe Hart.

Then off he and the mascots ran and the match kicked off.

 We met the kids back in the players lounge and were being escorted to our seats when a huge cheer!  We'd missed the first goal!  Managing to catch a glimpse on the big screen it was a cracking free kick from Aleks Kolarov.  Getting to our seats we were able to enjoy the rest of the game as City ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. 

Missing the goal was the only negative it was a fabulous day for us as a family and especially Lucas.  Liz and the other City staff were fantastic and are a credit to the club deep, heart felt thanks to them for making my little boys big day so special and making us feel welcome.  We will have many fond memories of yesterday for years to come and of course Lucas has his signed Goal Keeper shirt as a memento as well as many photos and the videos both ours and the clubs tunnel cam.  I really shouldn't have worried Lucas was a star!

Friday, 24 August 2012

A sign of the change

The news that Adam Johnson has completed a reported £15 Million move to Sunderland is an indication of how things have changed at the Etihad.  Before Shiekh Mansour took over losing an England International who is 25 would have seemed a disaster to City fans like the departure of Shaun Wright Phillips (the first time) 

Reading on facebook and twitter this certainly isn't the case everyone wishes Adam well at his new club the very team he supported as a boy.  On arrival at City Johnson earned rave reviews turning in match winning performances on the wing both scoring and setting up goals on a regular basis with his tricks.

Those performances lead to him being a fairly regular pick for the England squad  gaining 11 caps for the 3 lions.  His form seemed to drop off at that point for City and increasingly Johnson found himself on the bench with Roberto Mancini preferring to throw him on if a game needed changing and he did on a few notable occasions but when he started he could vanish for long periods of the game and more often than not would be subbed. It seemed his best form was saved for international duty as if he was caught up in his own hype.

His spell at City can hardly be called a disaster though he earned his England spot and can call him self both a Premier League Champion and FA Cup winner.  If he had upped his work rate there is little doubt he would still be a regular in the starting 11 at City he definitely has the talent.  It could be the loss of form was down to home sickness as rumours of more clubs than just Sunderland being interested but returning home to the North East might just give him the motivation to reignite his club career.  Good Luck AJ!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Tevez reborn and "Honest Kia" appears AWOL

It would seem the fit goal hungry Carlos that has returned to City this summer and is playing without a care in the world and that could be very bad news for the rest of the Premier League.

It has been reported Tevez returned to City the lightest he has been since his days at Corinthians which is surely an indication he intends to play and judging by his performances pre season he is back to his deadly best linking up well with fellow Argentinian  Sergio Aguero.  Tevez was sensational in the Community Shield causing the Chelsea defence all sorts of problems and scoring a great goal. 
Through out all this one thing has been missing and that has been rent a quote player advisor Kia Joorabchian. I've not minced my words with my opinions on "Honest" Kia in previous posts but his absense from the media regarding Tevez appears to be a good thing.  The very fact he calls himself an "advisor" to dodge FIFA agents rules says a lot,  It would also seem to back up that Tevez being unsettled for the last year or so was down to Joorabchian trying to get him back to Brazil or somewhere that allowed him to own a share of his registration again as was the case until Tevez joined City in the summer of 2009.

It was widely reported Joorabchian was also the advisor to former City manager Mark Hughes and helping him at QPR whilst feeling sorry for QPR this has to be a good thing for City as it means Joorabchian is busy down in London allowing Tevez hassle free to return to the sort of form that had him win the golden boot in 2010-11 and that could indeed be better than any new signing as the squad know Tevez there is no need for a bedding in period.

Time will tell if Tevez will stay long term at The Etihad but whilst he is in a good strong place mentally looking his best for 6 years it also means the other strikers at the club have to step up and equal the form of Tevez and last seasons top scorer Aguero, whom on the basis of their pre season play deserve to be starters for Roberto Mancini as the defence begins of the Premier League. Long may Kia be AWOL it can only benefit Manchester City.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Statement made!

Summer has for the last few years been about big money signings at The Etihad Stadium as City built a side capable of challenging for major honours.  Indeed as last season ended with the Premier League title rumours were already rife as to whom City would sign.

City usually play their cards close to their chest regarding transfer business which means the media have to make up their own stories relying on agents for tip offs etc...  Indeed if you believed all the rumours City would have spent close to £200 Million already signing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic Thiago Silva and RVP as well as a few others.

But todays contract news from the club is indeed probably better than any new transfer as it was announced club captain Vincent Kompany has signed a new 6 year deal.  Great news for fans and as he stated on twitter

Very pleased and honored to announce my new 6 year contract with MCFC! I am good here, best fans in the world! Ready for much more trophies!
 A tough tenacious centre half he has been the rock from which City's recent success has been based.  The fact he is only 26 whilst being one of the more senior pros at the club shows City to be a young side and that's something the wider media don't give much credit for. Indeed with few tweeks this City side could remain almost unchanged for 4 years and only 3 or 4 players would be over 30.

Added with the news earlier in the month manager Roberto Mancini has signed a new 5 year deal the statement made for the Premier League and Europe is crystal clear Manchester City are here to stay, the FA Cup and The Premier League were only the beginning the club have that taste of silver and want much more.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

RVP = RSC Revisited??

The news Robin Van Persie has refused a new contract at Arsenal sent the media into a frenzy.  He had already been linked heavily with either a move to Manchester City or perhaps a move to Juventus.  At 28 this is his last real chance of a big money move and contract and given Arsenals recent trophy drought it would appear he would also like to win top honours like former Gunners Cesc Fabregas Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy did in the first year of leaving Arsenal.  He certainly was good at clocking up personal honours winning the golden boot and Player of the year awards. 

Having familiar faces in the dressing room could mean a bid from City holds sway with Van Persie that said City have recent history of signing a player for their last big money move.  Step forward Roque Santa Cruz.  Signed at 28 there were doubts about his fitness when he signed and indeed in two seasons Roque only appeared in 20 games for City having took over a month to be fit enough to make his debut.  A lot of fans felt medical concerns were ignored as then Manager Mark Hughes rightly rated the Paraguay international who had a habit of finding the net when he played.  However appearing 57 times in two seasons for Blackburn did indicate there might be issues.

And that is a similar story with Van Persie indeed last season is the first time he has managed a full season in the Premier League.  There is little doubt he is a proven scorer as over all he is near enough a 1 goal every two appearance striker for Arsenal, though that was aided by 30 in 38 last season.  It could be he has fully shaken off his injury woes but given his age it does beg the question is he worth the risk?  Given the options City currently have up front added to by the returning John Guidetti from his loan at Feyenoord is he actually needed as goals haven't been an issue for City.

I'm not totally against the idea but can think of more reasons to steer clear the money it would take could be better spent in my opinion.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

One Month on

One month and one day on from that dramatic finish to the Premier League we are less than a week off finding out whom City will face in the first game of next season in August.  There is a noticeable sense of excitement amongst any blues I've had the pleasure of talking to since.

One thing I have noticed is a changed in United fan friends attitudes.  Originally full of well dones it's slowly got more bitter with digs about buying the league.  Well of course we did unlike their squad of free transfers......Ignoring the fact squad for squad there isn't really all that huge difference in fees paid.

Whilst awaiting those fixtures the transfer rumour mill is in over drive and this is an area the club does well not to get involved.  Some managers seem to thrive on linking themselves with all the rumours where as Roberto Mancini and the club will usually keep quiet.  The flip side is this means the press do seem to go OTT linking many big names with the Etihad whilst also linking players at the club with moves out.

One rumour was Sergio Aguero was apparently off to Real Madrid.  Now this rumour did tickle me the player himself seems happy and settled in Manchester indeed no vibes either from him or his agent that he might well be off.  Added to the fact in Spain he is a legend at Athletico Madrid wearing the white of Real would be taking a huge risk to his reputation.

The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor Wayne Bridge etc.. will also return from their loan spells.  In Adebayor's case there were strong links that Spurs wanted him on a permanent deal however with Harry Redknapp's departure it does look like only a matter of time before Adebayor announces he wants to try and win his place back In City's Starting 11. 

The key area that does need strengthening is the back up Centre Halves when ever Kompany or Lescott were out City didn't look the same side.  Perhaps the answer maybe already at the club with Dedryk Boyata but I'd be tempted to loan him out again to get more experience he does show signs of promise and could indeed become a regular along side Kompany for both club and Country. 

Edin Dzeko is strongly linked with a return to Germany and Bayern Munich I wouldn't have an issue with this if Mario Gomez was part of the deal as he has what Edin lacks good close control.  Don't get me wrong I like Dzeko but he blows way to hot and cold for me to be a regular in the team though his vital goal with us 2-1 down to QPR to make it 2-2 will ensure him a fond place in the hearts of City fans.

What has been refreshing is hearing players happy to announce they want to stay at the club indeed the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero have already let that be known.  Most of the squad is tied to long term deals and something City don't really get much credit for is the age of the squad there aren't that many over 28 years old which is bad news for the rest of the league a young squad has won the league and they will be hungry for more.

And there does appear to be proof that City are "ruining football" as the tv rights for 2013 onwards were auctioned off for over £1.25 billion more than the current deal.  And that's just for UK audiences with Sky and BT sharing coverage.  

Whatever 2012-2013 brings I'm sure the main aim of the club will be to have a bigger impact on the champions league and of course defend the title we snatched at the last possible second.  I just hope we do it a bit easier on the old heart!

Friday, 18 May 2012

My kid blues and me!

Some of you may well know me I'm the writer of this blog Robert Allen I'm 34 years old and am a Manchester City fan always have been always will be.  That love for the club despite me now living in Chester has passed on to my two sons Connor aged 11 and Lucas aged 6 we proudly sit together in Block 134 of the Family Stand.  We enjoy going to games and cheering on City.

Bar the fact both boys do look a lot like me that's where the similarities end.  You may ask why so I'll explain.  Aged 8 I started attending games at Maine Road on a regular basis, I loved being stood on the Kippax about 15 yards past half way towards the North Stand End peering through the railings was my spot and most games it would be the same faces stood round me cheering on the likes of Kenny Clements and Paul Power etc... I even went away a fair few times back in them days going away was an experience the abuse hurled from the home team fans and the "modest facilities" most away ends had were a sight to behold.  I've endured 4 relegation's I've celebrated one 3rd tier playoff win and one 2nd tier title.  I've seen many managers come and go some did well some well lets just not got there! 

I've even seen 2 club saviours come and go in the board room.  Through it all my love for City didn't diminish any excuse to go to a game and I'd take it even if amazingly in the 3rd tier getting tickets to Maine Road wasn't that easy.   I saw us roll over 4-2 at Sheffield United as Brian Gayle did what a lot of ex blues always seemed to do and score against us. I saw Christian Negouai punch the ball into the net V Rotherham.  Following City played a part in making me the man I am truly believing try your best and if it doesn't work out just keep trying no matter how low you go.

My boys well they are well use to the facilities modern stadia give them.  True there is still the banter with opposition fans when you go away but the chances of a fight are a heck of a lot less, true we see a  lot of the same faces sat next to us week on week. They've seen 3 managers and 2 chairmen.  Connor started coming to watch with me on a regular basis during Svens season in charge City were still City 2 steps forward 3 back then 1 forward again but then things began to change.  It began with Thaksin and although City finished 10th there were definite signs things were improving till the last weeks when it was clear Sven was a goner . Little did we realise our saviour was infact broke there had been rumours but they were always flatly denied in the media by Thaksin.  To be fair knowing he was in trouble who he sold to the Club to was the key.  HH Shiekh Mansour and his chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak did get behind then manager Mark Hughes and despite improvements it wasn't happening fast enough,  Hughes got the push and in came Roberto Mancini.  I don't think anyone could have foreseen what was coming.

 Narrowly missing out on the Champions League in his first half a season Mancini in his first full season clinched Champions League Football and won the FA Cup the first major trophy I'd seen us win.  In his 2nd full season despite getting the "magic" 10 points City dropped out of the Champions League in the group stages City had dominated in the league.  Then a huge drop off and suddenly United were clear....then amazingly City not only pulled it back but clinched the title in the last minute of the season.  So to the boys their outlook being shaped by the club is keep striving to be the best and with effort and commitment you will get rewarded so different to my own above.

They've only known a club on the up, its doubtful they will suffer so many relegation's in the same time as I did and seeing a City captain lifting a trophy could well become a sight we and the rest of the world have to get used to!  I am a tad envious cheering on the likes of Aguero and Kompany, but am enjoying the journey with them that's why they were delighted to go and see the Premier League trophy as much as me it meant every bit as much to them.  It's a great time to be a kid blue but you know I wouldn't swap it as I do see this current period as reward for my love of the club and I'm glad I have my boys with me.  What an amazing time to be a kid blue though!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

All hail Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini proudly holding the Premier League trophy is a sight many City fans at 4:45pm that Sunday didn't think was possible.  We all know the rest as City fought back from 2-1 down to QPR to win 3-2 and the euphoria that followed was richly lapped up by Mancini and his team.

They say the best team always wins the league and based on the generous reaction I've had from friends who are Utd fans they have been saying exactly that.  It didn't seem possible just a month ago as Utd pulled away the press were saying Fergie had won the mind games and Mancini had bottled it.  Mancini stood there and didn't make any excuses as he conceded the title to them.  Then the results turned City kept winning as Utd began dropping points, even going into the derby at the Etihad Mancini said because they were 3 points clear it was still Utd's title to lose...City won and Mancini even went toe to toe with Fergie which went down well with the fans.   Even post match Mancini wouldn't admit City were now favourites as he knew Newcastle away was far from an easy game. In the end City were comfortable 2-0 winners.

During that game as at the derby Mancini was brave with his tactics pushing Yaya forward and that paid off big time. That said he hasn't been afraid ti make changes when they've been needed domestically. There have been mistakes and Mancini was quick to always blame himself not his players.  He is always evolving and learning and that makes City a dangerous side for the Premier League and Europe.
Could it just be Mancini out mind gamed the master?? It sure looks that way over the course of the season Mancini has taken the blame for poor results like Everton saying "he got it wrong" so in conceding the title was Mancini once again taking the pressure off his players? Given the interview chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak gave to City TV this would indeed appear to be the case.  The players could have felt sorry for themselves but instead they rose to the challenge and in the end got the rewards they deserved.  And that is credit to Mancini though I think even he would have preferred a more comfortable win than the drama that unfolded at the Etihad.   

Only Mancini will know but in the end the record books show Premier League champions 11-12 which now means Mancini has 2 trophies in 2 and a half seasons at City which is a brilliant return to have got success so quickly and man managed the squad to get them to the top.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

This is how it feels to be City

Its took me nearly two days to be able to plan this piece such has been the emotional rollercoaster I and many thousands of City fans went on.  It had started at 6am when I woke up completely awake and excited It was like Christmas morning only my present was hopefully waiting for me at the Etihad Stadium.

Arriving in Manchester at 11am I was amazed to see street traders selling scarves saying "MANCHESTER CITY CHAMPIONS" Lucas even spotted a blow up trophy and wanted one there and then.  I refused telling him I would only get it IF and WHEN we won.  After a spot of lunch I met a few friends for a quick pint whilst Lucas was getting agitated at my refusal I decided it would be best to get to the Stadium.  I had arranged to meet my uncle Keith who was using my eldest sons seasoncard as he couldn't make it, It seemed the right thing to do allowing the man that had took me home and away as a kid to see hopefully the dawning of a new era in City's history.  Summerbee Bar was already full by 1pm and the queue was huge so I stood no chance of meeting some other friends, you could sense something in the air people had got there early to drink it in.  Gates opened it was straight in for us.

When the game kicked off you could see the tension in the players they were dominating but not getting any luck in front of goal.  Tension amongst fans went up when news filtered through Utd were winning at Sunderland.  Then suddenly Pablo Zabaleta let fly Paddy Kenny didn't get the best of touch the ball looped up and dropped behind the line the stadium erupted the Poznan even made a welcome return.

The 2nd half started similar then disaster a rare Joleon Lescott mistake allowed Lord Cisse of Frodsham through and his smart finish was to much for Joe Hart. Keith leapt from his seat and slumped back down he was along with everyone else wearing MCFC colours shocked.  Then out of no where the advantage looked to be back with City when after a bit of handbags with Carlos Tevez, Joey Barton elbowed Tevez and the assistant spotted it.  Ref Mike Dean after checking with his assistant sent Barton off and what followed can only be described as disgraceful as Barton kicked Sergio Aguero then tried to headbutt Vincent Kompany.  Surely against 10 men with over 30 minutes City would get the winner??

As It turned out that was far from the case indeed QPR broke and scored a great headed goal by Mackie as he did what any coach will tell you head down and back to the direction the ball came from leaving Joe Hart helpless.  City piled forward chance after chance came and went as Kenny more than made up for his earlier howler with save after save some from near point blank range.    The news from the Stadium Of Light was unchanged City had to win.  Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko were brought on as Mancini tried to find the answer to the problem that was Paddy Kenny.  I had began to accept typical city was having a swansong then the stoppage time board went up 5 minutes left.  The announcements over the PA about a lap of honour and not going on the pitch were beginning to get really annoying.  Then from a Silva corner Dzeko rose and buried the header past Kenny the goal was celebrated but it seemed it was merely saving our unbeaten home league record.  QPR's bench appeared to have got the result from the Britannia stadium as they seemed excited there was also a cheer from the away fans in the South Stand as indeed it was the case Rangers were safe and Bolton were down.

1 minute left Nigel De Jong ran forward it was last chance saloon he passed to Aguero who linked with Balotelli who fell over but as he did he managed to flick the ball right into Aguero's path a side step past a challenge he unleashed a shot that flew past Kenny as the net bulged the entire stadium went wild City's bench emptied on to the pitch fans were celebrating wildly I hugged Keith, Lucas who had been stood on his seat to see launched himself into my arms and planted the biggest kiss he has ever given me.  Putting him down I realised my chest was sore I was struggling to breath I found my inhaler quickly and within a few seconds was ok enough to soak up the last few seconds.

Now you may note I said the entire stadium well I standby that comment after seeing this youtube video by a QPR fan knowing they were safe they wanted to party with us
  Fair play to them they knew it didn't matter had the news they needed.

Full time whistle and the roof came off the stadium never before had the league finished in such a dramatic fashion.  Forget Michael Thomas and that famous goal at Anfield this was even more incredible and no doubt will be talked about for as long.  Given the drama there was a pitch invasion the raw emotion was understandable.  Appeals were made for fans to return to their seats so the trophy presentation could take place and slowly people heeded and trotted back.  The party then started as bluemoon and various other songs boomed out.

In a great nod to the past Tony Book and Mike Summerbee carried the trophy out for the presentation, As well as a guard of honour formed by Francis Lee Glynn Pardoe etc..  Seeing Vincent Kompany lifting the trophy and the party atmosphere was brilliant.  Indeed watching the trophy go past held proudly by Roberto Mancini and Brian Kidd and seeing the players with their families was joyous.  On the way to Piccadilly I spoke to some QPR fans they were brilliant happy they were still a Premier League side they in turn happy for us that after dropping into the old division 2 we had come good and become Champions of England.  And as a man of my word Lucas did indeed get his blow up trophy and on the train home I had to pretend I was the crowd and he was Vincent Kompany lifting the Premier League Crown.  I loved it as much as he did, If this is how it feels to be City it feels just champion!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Yet more noise from the Noisy Neighbours

Yes they are at it again the last few days have seen a glut of articles in the press from players from Old Trafford. Wait with the headline you were expecting me to say the Etihad Stadium weren't you??  Well that's the thing despite "Noisy Neighbours" being a United put down and something Fergie invented it is actually them making all the noise as the title race enters the home straight.

In the last few weeks there have been articles from Danny Wellbeck and Jonny Evans basically saying United's experience will see them through to their 20th title and they will win at the Etihad Stadium to all but clinch the title in late April.  Jonny Evans must be trying to cheer himself up still after his red card played a small part in City's 1-6 win in the Derby earlier in the season.  As for Wellbeck he's young and has been bred into United arrogance.  They are brought up believing they are the best they deserve all the success they have had.  Whilst true they have been the best many times the fact the challenge has come from City really does appear to be getting to the players as the weekly articles are beginning to show more and more.

Put simply they expected City to have choked by now and it's scaring them that despite a few wobbles City are still top because United also wobbled at the same time.  It's really eaten at them that despite their comeback win in the Community Shield (a footballing lesson according to Wayne Rooney) they haven't been able to shake off City as the massacre at Old Trafford proved City are for real.

But here is the thing the league table shows City and United pulling away from 3rd spot which quite probably means worst case scenario City would finish 2nd.  And that would be a best ever season since the Premier League started in 1992-93.  That would be progress for City it's a win win situation either way we've nothing to lose yet everything to gain it would be disappointing having come so far not to win the title but it isn't the end of the world.  Where as for United the reverse is true they have everything to lose if their local rivals pip them to the top spot.

The press make a big deal about the youngsters in United's side whilst completely ignoring the age of City's squad so lets look at that.  In goal Joe Hart is 24 in defence Micah Richards is 23 Vincent Kompany is 25 Pablo Zabaleta is 27, in midfield David Silva is 26 James Milner is 26 Nigel De Jong is 27 Adam Johnson is 24 and up front Sergio Aguero is 23 Mario Balotelli is 21 Edin Dzeko is 25.  In other words most of the first team aren't at their peak yet City have many years challenging at the top left in them.

So winning the title isn't an urgent must do 2nd place would still be a sign of progress.  The "Noisy Neighbours" will come good it might be this season it might be next the point is time is on City's side.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Match day experience at Manchester City

City fans have become very accustomed to the words "match day experience" Indeed the club on a regular basis get fans to do online questionnaires about their experiences whilst visiting the Etihad Stadium.  These have been used to introduce various facilities and features.  Since Shiekh Mansour bought the club the changes have been swift making the Stadium a much better place to go and have a day out, instead of just turning up seeing the game and leaving.

It first started with the changes to the North Stand which became the Family Stand. It's the end where my seasoncard is along with my two sons.  I got my first taste of it when City played Valencia in a pre season friendly and was impressed the whilst well lit plain lobby area had been transformed.  There were player height charts so the kids could see how big they were along side their heroes, as well as a kids food bar and sweet shop.

There was also face painters and during the season various forms of entertainment ranging from a robot chasing the kids around to pantomime dames.  Balloon animals were also popular seeing the speed those guys could make them really is a sight to behold and of course it gets your child's attention as they watch every twist and knot.  For me the best entertainment was a magician that came up to us and started performing he was brilliant and given chance I'm sure Connor would have stayed there all evening but there was a game to watch.

Then along came CitySquare now from what I know this is a fairly unique part of the Stadium Complex comprising of 3 large screens a stage a bar and cafe area.  Summerbee and Star Bar are the main meeting points for a lot of blues alongside Bluemoon Cafe on the other side of the CityStore.  Pre kick off there is usually things for kids to do be it being a keeper in the huge blow up goals as demonstrated by Lucas! or shooting through a giant picture of Joe Hart, to having your shot speed measured. On stage "Fanzone" Danny, Natalie Pike and Hugh Ferris interview various former players and celeb blues fans and stage competitions for upgraded tickets.  As well as this there have been "battle of the bands" etc...  It's all designed to make fans get there early have a beer or food and then not have to worry about rushing to get to the stadium and it's working normally CitySquare is packed an hour before kick off.  The bars are also open after the match so you can have a drink and a bite to eat whilst letting the traffic go and listen to a review of the 90 minutes.

This is where I do have a slight moan.  Things have ground to a halt in the family stand there is now no longer any entertainment there is rarely any face painters it seems the emphasis is purely on CitySquare.  If you go into the Stadium early you end up seeing whats going on on CitySquare on the big screens though the audio can be bad depending on the elements outside and in my opinion perhaps should be left for the people who are out there on the Square.  CitySquare is great but for me if you have younger children having things to do inside should still happen.  I have mentioned this in the last fan questionnaire I received so yes I am not just blogging without attempting to make my views clear to the club.

Things have changed The Etihad is a place to head to long before kick off and mix with fellow fans well before the game, things have been a bit trial and error as the club do strive to create a great "match day experience"  They are getting there and it made me change my habits that's for sure and I know other blues have said similar.

Who are the noisy neighbours

Back in September ’09 when United beat City 4-3 Sir Alex Ferguson  first uttered the phrase “noisy neighbours” gloating about the victory they had snatched late in injury time,  it has becoming something of a buzz word that United  and the press have used to beat City down with.  Indeed every time either City beat United or vice versa the “noisy neighbours” have either been silenced or made a statement.  It has become that much of a buzz word that City winning the FA Cup was greeted by the line of “the noisy neighbours have just got louder”

The Community Shield was a “footballing lesson” according to Wayne Rooney on twitter as United came from 2-0 down to win 3-2.  Then of course came the derby at Old Trafford as City thrashed United 1-6 and yet again the buzz word popped up in most match reports as the noisy neighbours made a huge statement.  There have been comments from David De Gea apparently saying that United in the long term will pip City in the race for Premier League glory.

Paul Scholes has also said similar and yet again that buzz word crept in again as Ferguson even repeated it pre the aforementioned Community Shield.  Perhaps you can see the patten emerging here?  Yes that’s right all the noise appears to be coming not from the Etihad Stadium but from Old Trafford.  This could actually be a key in the title race United do appear that wrapped up in what City are doing instead of what they are.  That said it is unusual to go in to February with the top 2 so close.  Normally one side does have a healthy lead, indeed looking at the table United are ahead points wise as at the same point why is this?  Simply it’s keeping on City’s tail that has got them to that level.  The “Noisy Neighbours” are bringing a level of consistency and performance that means this title race could well go down to the game at the Etihad Stadium in late April or even into the last couple of games.

United do have the experience edge they have been there and won titles so many times in recent years but you actually do get then impression much as they won’t admit it their focus is on what is happening at the Etihad instead of their own performances.  When interviewed you tend to see Roberto Mancini and his players asked directly about the title race and United yet they usually reply with comments about it simply being about Manchester City winning and not looking at other results.  This is the key all Manchester City can do is focus on their own results and not worry about what is happening at Old Trafford or any other stadium.  In my opinion that is what cost Newcastle the title in the mid 90′s as Kevin Keegan got sucked into mind games and the Toon Army threw away a title which was theirs for the taking.

There is however a difference Roberto Mancini despite still being young in managerial terms he knows what it takes to be champions as he proved in  Serie A.  The first title was handed to him and Inter Milan as Juventus were stripped of their win during the match fixing enquiry in ’05-’06, but he followed that that up by retaining the title twice.  The term Noisy Neighbours is a United invention and actually sums them up it is them making all the noise mainly about the fact they will catch City and in the end win the title.    Time will tell I don’t have a crystal ball but honestly without us would United be in their current position points wise? Will they win the title? Will City win?  Who knows but it’s going to have many ups and downs as the race for the Premier League title enters it’s last games.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

You what??

Getting home from a great 4-0 win V Porto to make it 6-1 overall I was gob smacked to hear rumours spreading that Porto were looking at reporting City fans for unsporting behaviour in their chants and actions directed towards Porto striker Hulk.  Then came the news no it wasn't a wind up Porto are deadly serious they want UEFA to look into the matter.

So just what was the chant that had Porto so upset??  City fans as a spin on his name being like the movie and tv character were singing "you're not incredible"  Yes that's right it's that simple and is mentioned in reports of Porto preparing the complaint.  He was also booed a bit as it didn't take much to send him over as he blatantly went looking for free kicks, but credit to referee Wolfgang Stark he rarely fell for the antics and Hulk as the chant suggests had a poor game.

So what has caused the complaint from Porto?  I maybe a tad biased being a City fan but to me it stinks of Porto trying to get even for City making a complaint about "alleged" monkey chants being made in the first leg at Estádio do Dragão aimed at Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure.  Porto officials even tried to claim it was fans chanting "Hulk Hulk Hulk" or City fans chanting "Kun Kun Kun"

Modern technology would suggest Porto officials are burying their heads in the sand as a quick search on youtube uncovers footage of the game recorded by a Porto fan on a mobile phone camera.


Now I don't speak Portuguese but that to me does indeed sound like monkey chants and makes Porto's defence of their fans and this subsequent counter claim of unsporting behaviour against City fans seem truly ridiculous.  Do we live in a world were some good natured put downs aren't allowed? no and that's the point what City fans did on Wednesday to Hulk was purely good natured fun.  What happened to City players is a flashback to the dark days in football.  The game has moved on a heck of a lot it just appears small pockets believe they are above the law.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mancini "blame me"

Losing a game and facing the tv cameras is grim reality for a football manager.  Indeed usually what follows is a list of excuses ranging from a poor display from the referee through to injuries robbing the side of a key player.

On Tuesday night Manchester City lost in a very flat performance to Everton. Roberto Mancini did indeed step in front of the cameras and to the amazement of the sky reporter interviewing him blamed himself for not preparing the team correctly.  He even hinted he might have took the game to lightly.  That is strong stuff and as and old saying goes "fail to prepare...prepare to fail" So what was behind Mancini saying it?

It's been obvious Yaya Toure being away with the Ivory Coast has meant City have had to change the system slightly added to that Mario Balotelli's injury followed by his ban has meant the same front pair of Dzeko and Aguero have started most games since Yaya's departure.  Modern players are used to different set ups for different games but with what has happened within the squad it could simply be the players had become comfortable and relaxed playing the same system week in week out, and this is what Mancini meant by he hadn't prepared the team properly.  Indeed with 6ft 4 Edin Dzeko leading the line there seemed to be a stubborn refusal to get any first time crosses in to him even with the blues 1-0 down.

Another reason could simply be it was an attempt to take the pressure off the players as the race for the title enters a key stage.  This again could indeed be another likely reason for the comments as Mancini is said to be a perfectionist no perfectionist would allow a team to go into a game without preparing them properly.  Whatever the reasons City still lie top of the table on goal difference recent form hasn't been the best away from the Etihad Stadium and if City are to win their first top flight title since the late 60's there simply cannot be many more slip ups.

Mancini has always struck me as a student of the game he watches and learns and evolves.  He learnt in his first half a season that to do well in domestic cups you have to battle after Stoke dumped City out of the FA Cup by ironically beating Stoke in the final the very next season.  He learnt from narrowly missing out on qualifying for the Champions League by guiding City there the very next season.  I believe he will continue to learn and if City do miss out on Premier League glory this season he will succeed in capturing the title next season.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Deadline day tomorrow...and shock news

Sky Sports News leading on a team not planning any major transfers does seem a none story.  Thing is that team is Manchester City.  Roberto Mancini when interviewed today has confirmed he doesn't expect any incoming players to the squad at the Etihad Stadium.

The last few January windows have usually marked some big money signings like Edin Dzeko or Nigel De Jong.  In fact since Shiekh Mansour arrived, usually it tended to mean at least 3 signings as City strengthened the squad as they pushed for European qualification. It's widely accepted City do have a very strong if not the strongest squad in the league so why is it such a shock to Sky?

It could well be simply because City do have the money they are expected to buy for the sake of buying and whilst freshening up a squad it sometimes can take away some momentum as the new players bed into the team and for that reason with City proudly top of the Premier League Roberto Mancini has decided to leave any deals till the summer when that bedding in can be done over the pre season, as buying for buying sake can be dangerous as a look at City's past will tell you.  Rodney Marsh is rumoured to blame his own arrival for costing City  the title when he arrived in the March the club were 4 points clear at the top of the old Division One, his different style of play he felt made a difference  as City were pipped to the title by Derby.

One thing it does do is give the vote of confidence that Mancini believes his current squad is good enough in the final push towards Premier League glory. 

Certainly once the African Cup Of Nations finishes City will get back Ivorians Yaya and Kolo Toure to give options in midfield and defence and that could also be part of the reasons behind Mancini's thinking. Certainly Yaya had been in great form and Kolo was showing his class with every passing game it will be like getting two new signings. The whole thing is a none story really but because it involves Manchester City it becomes something bigger.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Mario..Mad, marvellous or both?

Another week another headline involving City's gifted Italian striker Mario Balotelli.  This time he managed to make the news twice in one game firstly with ice cool nerve as he slotted home a penalty to win the game for Manchester City V Tottenham.  Then as I made my way to Piccadilly there was news on twitter of an incident which from where I was sat looked innocent enough involving Scott Parker.

Indeed it wasn't till I got home and saw the highlights that it appeared Mario swung his boot back and kicks a prone Parker in the head.  I've swung from "what an idiot" to "Surely he was off balance"  but I have to admit the more I watch it the more I'm convinced Luca Modric played a part by pushing Mario.  This is something the press simply haven't picked up on and a fact I will return to later.

Balotelli certainly does attract headlines be it "a brother's friend" setting off fireworks from a bathroom window on the eve of the Derby at Old Trafford.  Through to giving a tramp a substantial amount of money.  On the pitch we've seen the brilliant from his hat trick V Villa last season to the stupid kick out which got him rightly sent off against Dynamo Kiev.  We've even seen him celebrating goals more especially his goal V Everton.   

Problem is there have been issue early on in his City career he scored two delightful goals to win the game at West Brom only to then get himself sent off.  Then of course there is the famous grass allergy which flared up whilst playing away in Europe.  Yet when the club really needed him he has been a star turn in both the FA Cup Semi and Final he was at his best to help City win their first major honour in 35 years.

It's become a bit of a media circus with Gary Linekar on Match Of The Day admitting he loves watching him.  Added to this the numerous rumours of going round Manchester hi fiving City fans, to putting up a group of homeless people in a luxury hotel. I've seen players sent off for various reasons but feel Mario got sent off against Liverpool at Anfield purely on the basis of his reputation rather than anything he'd actually done on the pitch.

That's where I return to the Modric push now bear in mind Modric saw the kick at Parker he walks away and doesn't make a big deal when Howard Webb stops play to allow Parker to get attention.  This could mean he knew he had caused it.  Some might argue the kick was aimed at Modric, that thought has crossed my mind.  I honestly don't think there was any intention to hurt Parker I'm fairly certain Mario didn't even know where Parker had landed.  Problem is whatever the reason the kick was done by Mario Balotelli and for that reason alone he must have meant it and Sky held what I can only describe as a witch hunt mentioning it on every opening segment for hours.  It was confirmed the FA are charging Balotelli for violent conduct and because this would be his second ban after the Anfield red card he faces a four game ban

And that's despite former referee Dermott Gallagher earlier looking at the incident and saying he didn't think there was a case to answer.  Interestingly he did say he felt Joleon Lescott did have a case to answer, yet like so many other incidents involving England squad regulars the FA haven't charged him.  Personally I think Lescott is very lucky in fighting terms it was a clear forearm smash to Kaboul.  But there again he isn't "Mad Mario"

And therein lies the problem as long as Balotelli plays in England the press are going to show interest, be it him winning games or doing something silly either on the pitch or in his spare time.  Every detail is dragged up and examined in a way no 21 year old should have to put up with.  It carrying on could cause Balotelli to decide to call time on his career in this Country and for the entertainment Linekar mentioned that would be a crying shame.

I must admit I fully cannot decide if he meant it or not but do feel Modric played a huge part.  That said we are guessing if he meant it or not and that is what makes me flip flop between he meant it to he didn't.  One thing that is obvious Mario is slightly mad but can be marvellous.  But given the press it might be he has to go for the sake of his promising career.