Newsletter #1488

After the upbeat feeling the previous week with wins against Arsenal and Schalke, it’s back down to earth with a bump post the derby and lacklustre PSG performance. Tonight we have Alex’s round up of the week’s news and happenings with reaction to the games, player rumours and off pitch happenings.

We also have opinion on the recent games, looking ahead to January and the usual requests.

Next Game: Fulham, away, 12.45pm Saturday 6 December 2008


General News

Euro Trail: Before the success that was the trip to Schalke last week, Hughes stated his ambitions for the club and remarked that with such a quality squad, winning the UEFA Cup is a reasonable target to achieve: “We’re young in European experience both as a team and a club, and this will help us develop on both fronts. We’re still in the early stages, we have ambitions to better but we have fantastic and ambitious owners. Big European nights are something we want to experience on a regular basis, so anything we can take from this year’s UEFA Cup campaign can help us in that respect. We want to see if we can go all the way this year because the ambition of the club is huge now.”

Fan-Tastic: Having received all the media plaudits for winning in Germany last week, the club has taken time out to praise the travelling fans. The skipper Richard Dunne stated that: “Our fans were brilliant. For them to be heard in a crowd of 54,000 really inspired everyone. It was a great night, but a great night for them to come to a European city and see their team win, I’m glad we made a long and difficult trip worth it for them. Most of us have not been in Europe before, and we are really enjoying the experience. We played like a team that has played at this level before, and having Didi in there settles us down and helps the team out.” Man of the match, Stephen Ireland also told of how proud he was to be Blue after the inspiring performance of the supporters: “They were impeccable and I hope they can create the type of atmosphere we’ve had in the stadium against United over the past few years – especially with the way they waved their scarves as we walked out on to the pitch.”

Home Draw: It could just be me but it seems an age since we last got drawn at home in a domestic trophy. On derby day however, the Blues were drawn to face Nottingham Forest at CoMS in the third round of the FA Cup. The tie will take place on Saturday 3 January at 3pm and as the clubs have not faced each other since the 1977/78 season (in which Forest won the league) the game should make for an interesting one.

What Economic Crisis? Though we may be feeling it in our home lives, it’s nice to live in the knowledge that we’re probably the only club in the country that won’t be affected by the credit crunch. Yet the Blues are lowering their ticket prices in relation to the recent VAT cuts. Home match day adult tickets in the East and Colin Bell stands will be subject to a £1 deduction and the North/South stands will have their prices cut by 50p per game. City store prices have also been dropped. A club spokeswoman stated: “Wherever it has been possible to do so, we have dropped prices to reflect the VAT changes and in many instances have chosen to lower prices by more than the government’s 2.5% reduction rate. In fact, the double discount deal for supporters using our retail outlets represents a fantastic deal for our supporters, particularly so with Christmas approaching and the financial implications it raises for families and individuals alike.”

Dreaming of a Blue Christmas: Santa will be making the effort to visit his favourite club this year with visits on the weekends of the 6/7 December and 20/21. Santa will be sat in the entrance of the club museum and young fans will be able to visit him as well as receiving a Manchester City present. Unfortunately, nothing comes free these days and to visit the man in the blue suit will cost £5 with two accompanying adults unless you have paid for a stadium tour on the day where your visit to the grotto will be free. Santa told reporters: “I am very much looking forward to my visit to the City of Manchester Stadium. I came to City’s Stadium last year and everyone made me feel very welcome. It’s with great pride that I’ll be wearing my City blue suit especially for the occasion – this is the only time I get to wear it.”

Cup Defence: City’s under 18s walked into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup this week with a 3-0 win over Swansea. A brace from Nimeley and one from Mak helped the Blues progress from the third round on a cold day in Wales and Jim Cassell has his eyes firmly set on the defence of the trophy: “We knew we would be faced with a stern test by Swansea and we produced a mature and accomplished performance capped by two well taken goals. If I had a slight criticism it was that we could have had more goals, but it was a fine start to this year’s campaign.”

Squad News

Robinho’s Right: Suggestions that Robinho will be fined for comments about the club being ‘small minded’ have been quashed by the manager. Robinho was quoted as saying that City should no longer aim to simply draw games away and that finishing sixth in the league is not something that should be settled for when there is talent enough in the squad to challenge for the league. But rather than fine the Brazilian star for his comments, Hughes has stated that the samba man is 100% right but it takes time to create that winning mentality: “All clubs aspire to having a winning mentality and we are no different in that respect. We are trying to build a focus in the team, and a strength – physical and mental – in the team in order to help us win on a consistent basis. It is something all the top four clubs have because they are used to winning week in, week out. We are not used to it at this point in our development but it will come because as we get better that mentality will be more robust. At the moment we are finding that difficult – but that is not because of a lack of effort or goodwill.”

No Jo-ke: Hughes has stated that the price tag that the Blues paid for Brazilian striker Jo was not made simply to announce the introduction of the new owners and that £19 million is not an unreasonable price to pay for the out of form forward. Jo played last night in the goalless draw against PSG and once again gave no account of himself that would cause Hughes to think differently about starting Benjani in the Premier League but the manager has faith in the former CSKA Moscow player: “He’s a young player that has come into a league that’s a lot stronger than what he was used to. It takes time to settle in, and I think it is harder for forward players acquit themselves straightaway. Robinho has, but he’s a more experienced player to begin with. Jo has found it a bit of a struggle but he is working hard in training and trying to do the right things. He’s a young player with potential, as we knew when he came, but he will get better. In certain games I have had other options that I have decided to go with but he is still a big part of what we are doing here.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Iker Casillas: £129 million is the mere pittance that it is reported that the club have bid to Real Madrid for the services of Iker Casillas. The goalkeeper, who is respected as one of the best in the world, has been a servant of the Spanish champions for the entirety of his career but currently there is unrest in the Madrid camp and it is believed Casillas would be keen to jump ship and join former team mate Robinho in a brand new project. However, the club has moved swiftly to deny the newest of the sensational reports and stated categorically that the club will not use third parties in order to sign players and that all club transfer dealings will as such be kept ‘in house’. Executive Chairman Garry Cook explained that: “Manchester City have a clear strategy for the future – we want the right players who will take this club forward and, through discussions and meetings between myself, Mark Hughes and his technical staff, we have identified a list of targets. We will be working to bring those players to the club ourselves and we have not given another party or individual a mandate to negotiate on our behalf. We are not using intermediaries to negotiate with players. In fact, only last week we refused two agents permission to seek out players on our behalf. Mark Hughes and I very recently met the chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, to discuss this matter and we are all in agreement that the mandate for seeking out and securing new playing personnel for Manchester City is ours and ours alone.”

Sam Williamson: Making the more minor pages of the newspaper was the news that City academy graduate Sam Williamson has made a loan move to Wrexham in order to gain some first team football. The versatile defender, who made his début for the club at the end of last season in Sven’s makeshift defence, will join fellow Blue Angelos Tsiaklis in Dean Saunder’s league two side until January but if the 21 year old impresses, there is the option to extend the move.

Post-Match Reaction

Schalke: Beating the German side who contested with Europe’s best in the quarter finals of the Champions’ League last year is quite a result and the fact that the three points have helped the club progress to the last 32 of the competition doesn’t hurt either. A consistent performance with stars all over the pitch, the win against Schalke has done nothing short of place the Blues on the map of European football and Hughes was quick to compliment his side, who now top Group A: “I thought we were really comfortable and knew when to break, so as a consequence Schalke were always on the back foot. It was a very accomplished performance. We’re in great shape. It’s been a great week, starting off against Arsenal and we’ve had a great performance here.”

Stretford Reds: Losing the most boring game of football so far this season, at home, to that team isn’t the best way to boost morale but such is life. Excellent performances against Arsenal and Schalke, coupled with the hype surrounded by Robinho vs. Ronaldo led to the most disappointing tie of this term. The Blues simply didn’t get into the tie until the second half and if the truth be told, only very rarely did the Citizens ever look like scoring. Having SWP booted off the pitch every time he got the near the ball didn’t help in any way but the underperformances of Ireland, Robinho and Benjani meant that City lost their first derby in two years. The manager expressed his disappointment: “We sat off too much and allowed them too much space to play and dictate the tempo of the game. That obviously wasn’t our game plan, we wanted to force the issue, but you have to factor in the game on the Thursday. It was a huge effort by everybody and it took us a while to get going. We lacked that little bit of sharpness that we’ve seen in recent weeks. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to half time level and gave the goal away on 42 minutes but we changed a few things around and regrouped in the second half and we were better for it. We got a second wind and forced the issue more but the sending off didn’t help us as much as people would have thought because they very quickly got people behind the ball and defended our efforts to attack.”

PSG: Little to say about this shambles. Disappointing that 25,000 fans pay an extra £20 and receive a dull display in the bitter cold. A lack of heart and a lack of quality, 0-0 suited this game down to the ground. Sparky tried to take the positives: “We are guaranteed second position in the group after tonight’s events, and ideally we want to finish on top because you then miss out on the Champions’ League teams that drop into the competition. When we started the main aim was to get past the group stage, which we did with a little bit to spare so then we wanted to finish by topping the group. It was a difficult night, credit to PSG because they came with a game plan to get people behind the ball and were prepared to concede ground before hitting on the break. We needed to be patient; there were a few misplaced passes when opportunities presented themselves. Tonight was part of a learning experience, we have not got a great deal of experience as a team or a club in Europe and at times you have to show some patience do draw people out or not get anxious. That hampered us at times tonight.” The major drawback to this disappointing result was the injury sustained by Elano who limped off early in the second half. Early physio reports claim that the Brazilian maestro will be out for at least two weeks (though this may be the same physio who had Joe Hart ruled out for a month).

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


Well, against the French side, tonight, we saw we were extremely fortunate to get a point. Their forwards showed much, much more inventiveness and determination in front of goal. Ours, by contrast, were once again impotent. The contrast was alarming, once Paris came into the game and realised it was simply theirs for the taking, if they really wanted it. And they came really close a number of times.

Necessary to repeat my points from the last issue that, surely, Vassell has to go. As for Elano I’m really not sure how much longer MH will persevere with this player. He appears to be disinterested, and totally without confidence. Elano needs a change of club. As far as I’m concerned, and especially after his public outbursts from the other week, I hope he remains incapacitated untiil January, when another club can take him off our hands. For the most part he has become worse than useless and no longer merits being on the bench, let alone being in the starting lineup. He’d be good with an MLS side.

Once again Jo failed to impress and surely the club will allow him to leave, come January. An absolute waste of money, sorry to say. Totally out of his depth and another player who needs to find himself a new club, at the earliest.

Vincent Kompany, however, remains one of our class players of late. A future club captain, without any doubt, wherever he plays.

MH really cannot be pleased with our last two performances, and neither can the fans, especially those who are paying the price of admission. Courtesy of our owner, roll on January!

Dislike having to be negative but, not too much to be truly positive about, right now, based upon the last two performances and results. We need to be much better. MH has to get to grips and fix this. The season marches on, as our current league position reminds us.

There can be no better beginning than with the next game.

Graham Mills <gkm_5(at)>


I write some 24 hours after the defeat in yesterday’s derby game. Therefore ample time to reflect and harvest my thoughts…

Yet again the inexperience and lack of tactical nous along with poor team selection and game plan by Mr Hughes has cost us another game. To play a home derby match against a team that are currently out of sorts and have trouble scoring goals with a single lone striker just about sums up the negativity of Mr Hughes. Again he persisted with Vassell in place of Elano. Whilst a number of wise sages who contribute to this forum have lectured / told / informed me regarding the ability of Vassell ‘tracking back’ I am simply not buying it! Vassell is played as a striker to score goals. This he simply does not and cannot do this at Premier League level. Don’t take my word for it, take a look at the statistics: the number of starts / games played to the number of goals scored. I rest my case. Anelka does not ‘track back’. Berbatov does not ‘track back’ simply because they don’t have to.

They are class strikers who find the net on a very regular basis. Further to this the natural instincts of Mr Hughes came through in the first half again with his ‘long ball’ strategy. Simply hoofing it up field at every conceivable opportunity in the general direction of Benjani. Again, Benjani is caught offside more times than Darren Huckerby! However, this is not Benjani’s fault. At Portsmouth he was goal machine. Why? because the majority of the time he played alongside supporting strikers who played through balls for him to run on to. Not to simply belt the ball as long as possible with a ‘hit and hope’ mindset.

Maybe Mr Hughes and his coaching staff should watch the videos?

Yes, Robinho and Ireland had quiet games, but what do you expect if Mr Hughes insists that the ball is continually pumped forward? If you don’t believe me watch the video and count how many times in the first half Joe Hart rolled or threw the ball out to his full backs for them to play it forward. I will save you the trouble of wasting 45 minutes: None, exactly none! Every single time he wellied it up field and you must assume he is playing to instructions.

The admission of this wrong selection and tactics was confirmed at half time when Vassell was replaced with Elano and the long ball, hoof it forward, up and under game plan was changed. However, it was too late, the game was lost. By general admission we were damn lucky to go in only one goal down and how many teams come back and beat United when they are in front at half time? Not many! Whilst the distribution of Elano was far from perfect it was clear to anyone watching that Elano is simply a better footballer than Vassell. We looked more composed, more balanced and more of threat. Will this be end of the Vassell saga? In all probability no. Mr Hughes does not strike me as a man who likes to admit to his own mistakes. Also, how many times do I and other wiser judges of football have to mention that we struggle when we meet a team who can mix it? Yes, SWP was cynically hacked but let’s be honest, United can both play it and mix it when required. We can’t. There was nobody to give as good as we were getting. We are a team of lightweights.

I am also becoming increasingly concerned of the general thought and consensus that City are ‘making progress’ under the stewardship of Mr Hughes. Take a look at the league table! We are 2 points off a relegation place and we are in December! Also, take a look at exactly where we were at the same point last season and tell me where the progress is being made! These are facts: we are going backwards at a rate of knots under Mr Hughes. Again, please don’t tell me we are making ‘progress off the field’. The last time I heard this nonsense was when Franny Lee improved the catering in the executive boxes! The rest is history as they say. It is only demonstrable progress on the field that counts, the rest will take care of itself and progress in this area is not happening. It is simply not happening! If results go against us during December and the Christmas period we could end up being in the relegation zone and into January! Exaggeration? I don’t think so, as I said take a look at the league table chaps. Is any world class player going to join a club in a relegation battle and with a non-entity of a manager like Mr Hughes? Not a chance! In fact the exact opposite. The likes of Robinho, Ireland et al will be seriously considering their future at the CoMS.

It is clear Mr Hughes is simply not up to the job of managing Manchester City. This time next year he will be gone and replaced with an experienced, seasoned manager who has a track record of winning trophies and managing superstar players. Roll on next Christmas!

Ray Bardsley <rbardsley(at)>


I live and work in Reading and don’t have Sky Sports so the only opportunity I get to watch City is the 30 seconds the BBC grant us at the end of Match of the Day, if I can be bothered to stay up for it or when I can get to see us in a European game, if I’m in the country that is! So I can’t speak any longer with any certainty or clear knowledge about how good or bad the squad are doing other than by the results and what I read in the papers. I do of course see a lot of comments from others about who they feel should be replaced and with whom come the January transfer window.

The problem is, can we entice people now that we sit 2 points above relegation in 14th and we are proving that the only thing that remains predictable about us is our unpredictability. I hope I’m wrong but I can’t see too many big names being enticed to join us in January in our current position, and without new blood, and quality new blood, I don’t see us challenging for the European spots, which means getting the big names in next summer will also be hard, unless they are willing to risk the move like Robinho was.

I think Mark Hughes has done a good job this season with what has been a poor team handed to him from last season. His buys have been good, Kompany, SWP, and of course Robinho all performing well. Jo wasn’t his buy, that was a long running saga that deserved a spot on UKDrama long before he arrived. I hope Jo can turn it around otherwise we’ll be seeing his name in the top ten lists in a few years of all time worst buys. No other buys spring to mind right now just in case he has made any others!

Obviously I, like all City fans, want to see the big names come to us, fill the ground week in week out and challenge for the top honours, but right now if the team don’t get their act together, avoiding relegation may be the only thing we are cheering.

After we got all of the millions I have never been one to say all the rubbish about how we were going to turn it around overnight and be one of the big 4. I believe it’ll take at least 3 years before we can challenge for those places and maybe 5 to 7 before we challenge for the top award. Having supported City for 30 years and seen the highs (not too many I admit but one would be the day we put 10 past Huddersfield, and I was there) and the lows (oh where to start…) I’ve learnt patience, and I can wait a few more years.

Mark Forsyth <md_forsyth(at)>


To Andrew Keller and especially John Nisbet, thanks for your responses in MCIVTA 1486 to my piece on the Brazilian psyche in the previous issue.

It may surprise you, but I don’t disagree with your opinions of Elano. Sadly he doesn’t dominate matches like Ireland or Robinho can, and I don’t think he ever will become that type of player. If you could harness the strengths of Vassell and Elano into a single person then you might have a decent player (but the tackling would still need a lot of work!).

The point I was trying to get over in the piece was how Mark Hughes is in control of the destiny of the club at the most important time in the club’s history, and may well be judged on how he handles the Brazilian players at the club.

Elano to me is an inferior Gio Kinkladze; not blessed with the same dribbling skills as the Georgian maestro, but can provide bits of magic in a game that can make you go “wow”. Neither of them would put defending on their CV, but you have to accept that when you buy them. The same is generally true for any attack-minded player you can think of. The current exception that springs to mind at City is Shaun Wright-Phillips. Part of the problem is that Hughes didn’t buy Elano, and Elano cannot understand why he isn’t being allowed to play from the start like he did under Sven most of the time. We all love to see unrest at other clubs, but it doesn’t bode well for the future to see Elano and Jo in their current state, and it must have an impact on Robinho as they probably spend much of their spare time together.

After another OK performance when he came on for the second half against United (spoiled by the horrendous free-kick when he rightly hung his head in shame), I think I now accept that Elano may be frozen out in January, and with Jo probably looking for an escape route, I think many of us fear that Robinho will follow.

As for the song, I think you missed the point, which was that if the fans were to create a catchy song for each player, this would make them feel at home, and encourage them to perform. Change the lyrics, think of a different song, but let’s try to make players feel part of us.

Steve Kay <steve(at)>


A late response to the derby match, because I’ve been spitting feathers over the treatment to SWP by the United players. Especially Ronaldo’s brutal tackle on him, then displaying contempt for referee Webb that came out of the top drawer of petulance. Fergy’s insistence that Ronaldo’s some kind of football martyr is ridiculous. The real martyr at Eastlands was SWP. If a United player had been so relentlessly targeted, Fergy would have called for intervention by the UN.

Back to my favourite hobby of hating all things MH. Got Arsenal on a good day. Brilliant at Schalke. But back to his worst for the derby. Note Robinho was interviewed on TV yesterday. Evidently he’s supplying MH with names of Brazilian defenders to buy in Jan. He’ll be taking over next.

Finally, lots of comments again about Elano. There is only one rôle he does well. That’s in the hole where Sven played him. What a further waste of his talents by MH in second half, playing him as a “quarter-back” so deep he was almost in the stands. As I’ve said often here, MH stubbornly keeps asking him to do the impossible and it all ends in tears causing more upset and breakdown in their relationship. Again, I say this, MH is to football management what “W” was to the Presidency.

Please, bring back Sven.

Patrick Knowles <pjamk(at)>


I can’t find words to describe this man. I don’t think I have ever heard a descent comment from him during a game. In fact I would go as far as to say he needs a slap.

I remember once he and Mark Lawrenson spent 90 minutes slagging off the referee. The BBC should be ashamed to employ dross like him.

Sam Duxbury <Sammy459(at)>


In relation to the query for the Santander ticket, we still have tickets available at the stadium and they are on sale to City Card holders from today and Access Card holders from Friday.

I trust this is of assistance.

Jane – Supporter Services <Tickets(at)>


I’ll be in New York with my 14 year old daughter during the Racing Santander game and in Boston for the Xmas games.

Is there somewhere in Manhattan that shows games and lets under 21 year olds in (I’d hate to leave her outside in the freezing cold with a coke and packet of ‘potato chips’!).

And are there any bars showing Premier League games in the Greater Boston area of Natick / Framingham / Wellesley?

Phill Gatenby <Safestanding(at)>


I believe Nottingham Forest will be taking over the beloved and extremely vocal south stand, and last time that happened it killed the atmosphere completely against Wednesday and we got utterly humiliated noise wise. So a fair few fans have decided that the south stand vocal fans will move to blocks 136 & 137 in order to create an atmosphere at the ground… it would be terrific if the club could support the fans on this issue and encourage vocal fans to move to these areas rather than be spread out all over the place.

Felix Good <felixbg(at)>


We have a number of spare tickets for the Santander game. If you want them, face value of course, please get in touch with Mike Wilsonby email.

Mike Wilson <BongsBlue(at)>


1 December 2008

Liverpool             0 - 0  West Ham United       41,169

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1488