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.