NEWSLETTER #1967

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MAN CITY INFO VIA THE ALPS “McVittee!” (1967)

Created in 1994, MCIVTA is the longest running unofficial Manchester City related web site and e-newsletter in existence.

ISSUE DATE: 3 January 2015

NEXT GAME: Sheffield Wednesday, Etihad Stadium, Sunday 4 January (15:00 GMT)

———-
STARTING THE NEW YEAR IN STYLE

Happy Blue New Year to all our readers. It hasn’t been a bad start to the year, has it, with City joint top with an identical record to Chelsea.

City didn’t quite make the ten game winning record, but nine straight wins was none too shabby, and highly commendable, especially with the injuries to key players in a season when City’s squad has been artificially reduced by UEFA’s unjust punishment. Alvaro Negredo or another striker would have been here, had it not been for thus so-called “Financial Fair Play” regulations, which take no account of debt.

Not having a fully fit striker finally caught up with us against Burnley. We also missed Yaya’s class, poise, elegance and ability to turn a match against Burnley and we’ll him miss for a few weeks during the African Cup of Nations, but we have proved can cope without him as we did on Rome.

Who is to say we cannot successfully defend our title and beat Barcelona?

Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany are due to return soon. Who knows we may even field our strongest eleven at last when Yaya returns from the African Cup of Nations.

Signing Frank Lampard for the rest of the season was a must, given the fact that he has scored 7 goals for City, some of which have won 7 points for City thus far. Hopefully ever popular James Milner will commit himself to City with a new contract, but the longer we go without a deal being signed, the more likely it is that Jimmy will be leaving us in the Summer.

Next up we have Sheffield Wednesday at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup. Let’s have no complacency as last seaso against Watford and Wigan. Come on City.

2014 was a great year in the history of Manchester City, with the club memorably securing its fourth League Championship and third League Cup, playing the best football we have ever seen.

Before the Burnley game, the club, as ever, so beautifully remembered those associated with the club who passed on during the past year with a minute’s applause whilst displaying their names on the screens. The pictures of ex-City players Paddy Fagan and Roy Warhurst were also displayed on the screens and the last poignant picture was of volunteer humanitarian aid worker Alan Henning. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Tonight’s bumper festive issue contains match reports (starting with the welcome return of Ed Bodey) and reviews aplenty as well as opinion on our Champions League draws and a well-argued and heartfelt appeal for support for Justice for the late Jeff Astle from his daughter Dawn. Very best wishes to Dawn and the stle family with the campaign.

Thank you very much for all your contributions. Keep them coming.

Happy Blue New Year to you all. I hope 2015 brings you all health, happiness and as much success as possible for Manchester City.

Kind regards,

Phil Banerjee

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MATCH REPORT I: MANCHESTER CITY 3 SUNDERLAND 2

My first match in quite a while. I was a little nervous heading to it given that we’d lost a 2 goal lead a few days earlier and that Sunderland have proved something of a bogey team in recent times.

The weather was marvellous so dad and I arrived duly soaked! It would at least make for an interesting match, and may actually help City’s crisp passing game we thought.  City settled really well and without really carving out any chances looked quite tidy – I think there were maybe 12 mins on the clock before someone other than Pantilimon touched the ball for the Wearsiders.

Poyet had clearly (rightly) thought that he was onto something here last season and so it was predictable that his side was set up to frustrate City and counter attack through Wickham.  His team did him proud sticking ridgidly to the game plan but City didn’t help themselves by failing to bring the full backs into play to stretch out Sunderland’s experienced centre back pairing, and by being too slow in the build up.  It was crying out for more movement and faster passing. 0-0 at half time.

City emerged with a bit more zip in the second half – Navas having a chance within the first minute.  They were starting to use Clichy and Zabaleta more but still struggling to create clear chances.  It was no real surprise then that an absolute welly from 20 odd yards was what would break the resistance – Toure duly obliged with an effort that rivalled Aguero’s from the reverse fixture a few weeks back for being past Pantilimon before he really knew.

What followed was madness.  A well-crafted goal and exquisite finish from Jovetic (the first time his movement and City’s play really clicked) was followed by slack marking at a corner and then a clumsy challenge giving away a penalty that allowed two old boys to score against us.  The former player curse had struck again.

2-2.  From where I was (and probably with a more than slight blue haze to my glasses) I thought the penalty was harsh but not surprising given Sunderland’s players tendency to go down very easily and the referee’s penchant for giving them soft free kicks (having seen it on MOTD my opinion has changed!).  Whilst we’re on that topic, Caballero’s best moment came in the first half keeping out a Larsson free kick moments after Nasri had been sliced down in the Sunderland half.  The ground was baying (and MOTD showed that that one was not the ref’s proudest moment).

At 2-2 the Sunderland fans were singing “that’s why we’re Sunderland”.  This was nicely met with “that’s why we’re Champions” when Lampard again found space in a crowded penalty area to head a ball that was arching away behind him brilliantly into the bottom corner.  Pantilimon had no chance.

From then on City could have had another 6.  Pantilimon saved well from Lampard (twice), Navas (twice), Milner and Fernandinho (who should really have scored).

City also nearly scored what would have been an unrivalled effort for goal of the season straight from kick off after Sunderland’s first. Zabaleta, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva and Navas with some wonderful one-touch passing which ended with Navas hitting the post from a narrow angle.

All in all, a great day out with dad.

Player ratings:

Caballero – 6. Saved well from free kick. Flapped when challenged by Wickham (offside).  Distribution mixed – sometimes volleyed on a six pence, sometimes hurried and played Mangala and Clichy into trouble.  Yet to convince me.

Zabaleta – 7. Got forward better second half, intercepted well and got another head injury to go along with his collection.

Demichelis – 7. Read the game well and broke up Sunderland’s attacks.  Particularly when the game opened up at 2-2.

Mangala – 6. Reminds me of Demichelis in his early days at City. Tendency to try and win the ball immediately rather than perhaps standing the man up. Still intercepted well and strong in the air, and looked solid.  One crucial interception with 5 to go.  Sure he’ll continue to improve.

Clichy – 7. Like Zabaleta, frustratingly not involved first half.  2 assists second half helped to turn the game.

Navas – 7. Lots of energy, still sometimes the final ball can frustrate but always an outlet.  Tracks back well.

Toure – 7. Touches the ball more than anyone I’ve ever seen in a City shirt.  Can strike the ball so cleanly its a thing of beauty.  Today was one of those games where he threatened to grab it by the scruff of the neck but never really did other than in patches.  Still will undoubtedly be missed this month.

Fernandinho – 7. Dovetails beautifully with Toure. Should have scored.

Nasri – 6. Never really committed his man in the way he has of late.  Passes always seemed sideways today.

Silva – 9. Controlled the ball like the driving rain was just a figment of everyone’s imagination.  Class above.  Heart of all things creative.

Jovetic – 7. Ran around a lot and tried to take on his man in the first half. Tried to make things happen in a very crowded central part of the penalty area but showed what should have been happening with his goal – which he took brilliantly.

Subs

Lampard – 7. Scored one. Could have had a hat trick. Tried to calm things down and take some of the sting out of added time.

Kolarov – 6. Quietest of the subs.  One strong burst into the area set up a Milner chance.

Milner – 7.  On for about 10 mins and could have scored 3. Pulled a tired defence around just when it didn’t want to be.  Can see why he’s worked well in the front 3 in the last 2 games.  Needs to sign a new contract please. [Ed: Absolutely. Come on Jimmy, you it makes sense!]

Ed Bodey (edbodey AT hotmail.com)

———-
MATCH REPORT II: Manchester City 3 Sunderland 2 (HT 0-0)

Frank Lampard’s 74th minute header sealed this crucial New Year’s Day win for City over perennially awkward Sunderland, but it was after City had again thrown away a 2-0 lead.
It had taken 58 minutes for City to break the deadlock as Sunderland’s blanket nine (and sometimes ten) man defence plus the doughty ex-City keeper Costel Pantilimon had frustrated City in on a damp, showery day in Manchester. Oddly, though, it was Sunderland who went closest to scoring in a first half that City almost totally dominated, but Willy Caballero, in for the rested Joe Hart, thankfully pushed Larsson’s goal bound free kick behind for a corner. The pattern of the first half was a familiar one, though, with visitors having all the answers to our intricate build up play. When we did breach the Sunderland rear guard, Pantilimon was on hand to deny David Silva just after the half hour. It was Frustration City. The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” was belted out over the tannoy as the players left the sodden pitch at half time, and we could have been forgiven for wondering if we could break down the Sunderland defence in a whole 24 hours.

City, though, became even more measured and moved the ball quicker after the break, and lead by the classy Yaya, increasingly stretched Sunderland. City’s patience paid off in the 58th minute when Nasri, Clichy and Jovetic combined to set up Yaya and with an audible BOOF, he struck a terrific shot into the top corner. There’s something beautifully exhilarating about one of his thumping strikes, and it was a privilege to be there, watching it. It was another great goal, from a great player. The giant Ivorian and the celebrating City players were all in stitches as what appeared to be a Yaya ticklefest took place in front Colin Bell/North Stand corner!

With Sunderland having to come out and attack it was set up for City to score more and with Silva and Nasri enjoying the space more chances came. Navas failed to lift a shot over the irrepressible Pantilimon, but it was a temporary reprieve for the Wearsiders. Yaya, prompting again, fed Jovetic in the inside left position. The Montenegrin played a delicious reverse pass to Clichy who crossed low and Jovetic flicked it past a bamboozled Pantilimon and into net.

Surely lessons had not been learned after Burnley? Er, no, they hadn’t. City switched off and Giacherini stung Caballero’s gloves with a rasping shot. From the resultant corning, ex-City man Rodwell was given too much time to head in at the far post for 2-1. Then Alvarez waltzed past Clichy and others down our left and from the resultant cross Zabaleta mistimed his challenge and a penalty was instantly awarded which Adam Johnson scored. Credit to both him and Rodwell for their low key celebrations, or in Johnson’s case, hardly any. All three ex-City men got good ovations at the start of the game, and there was some good old pantomime booing for Brown and O’Shea.

Unlike the Burnley game, City were still full of ideas and running, and it was not 2-2 for long. More patient, cerebral build up play saw Yaya work the ball to Clichy on the left and Lampard nipped between two Sunderland defenders to cleverly direct a header inside the left hand post. What a relief! “Super, Super Frank, Super Frankie Lampard” and “That’s why we’re champions” filled the Etihad.

With Nasri and Silva at their creative best City had chances to score more but Pantilimon twice denied Lampard as well as Navas and Fernandinho who both really should have scored. Instead we had frazzled nerves, and whilst Sunderland didn’t get a chance to equalise each of their pacey breaks was the cause of enough anxiety in the stands. The worst moment, though, was when Mangala misread a Sunderland pass only to use his pace to stretch and clear the danger.

It was that kind of afternoon. One that lived on the nerve ends. City clearly have work to do on the training ground to tighten up, but at this time of the year we’ll take any kind of win, especially a win that helps take us to the top of the league (along with Chelsea’s defeat at Tottenham).

Well done, City. City, City, top of the league.

Happy New Year.

Goals:
City: Yaya 58, Jovetic 66, Lampard 74
Sunderland: Rodwell 68, Johnson (pen) 71

Att: 45,367

Ratings:
Caballero: Largely unemployed particularly in the first half but still  made an important save to deny Larsson at a free kick. Decent distribution: 7
Zabaleta: Decent as ever in defence and on the overlap in attack but his mistimed challenge conceded the penalty: 7
Demichelis: Classy, composed and sharp in the tackle save for one dangerous misplaced pass in the first half which was luckily dealt with: 7
Mangala: A decent, assertive game particularly in the air against Wickham. Used his pace to good effect to get us out of trouble after he misread a through pass. Once he fully matures he could be as good as Vincent Kompany: 7
Clichy: Generally good, solid and at times proactive defending, except for when Alvarez skinned him in the build up to the penalty award, and when he switched off a few minutes later. His cross for Jovetic’s strike was superb and the one for Lampard’s winner was perfect: 7
Navas: Works hard, tracks back and quick but we don’t see him beat his man enough neither does he get his crosses past the first man enough. Hit the post between Sunderland’s goals and should have scored late on: 6
Fernandinho: Good tenacity in the engine room. Should have put the game to bed from Silva’s exquisite low curling pass: 7
Yaya: Yet another exhilarating classic strike started the scoring. To be there to hear that thump was a joy to behold. His poise and elegance controlled the game, and he played a part in all of our goals: 8 ***Man of the match***
Nasri: Controlled, skilful, patient, classy, now, consistent. These are his best days of his career: 7
Silva: He gives so much to the team with his hard work and industry. In his role further forward, he did his utmost to close down defenders.and keep Sunderland penned in. Denied by a good Pantilimon save in the first half and he created two gilt-edged chances late on Great player, great attitude: 8
Jovetic: He may not be an out and out striker, but his finish for his goal was one that any top marksman would be proud of. Combined with Clichy to set up Yaya for the opener too. He plays the game with such joy and an infectious smile: 7
Subs:
Lampard (for Jovetic 70): Cometh the hour, cometh the man. His great, brilliantly directed header won the match. He went close to adding two more: 8
Kolarov (for Nasri 85): n/a
Milner (for Silva 90): Spurned two good chances to score, and it’s starting to get to him: n/a
Best oppo: Pantilimon: Made several excellent saves in a brilliant performance. Without him Sunderland would have conceded a handful more goals. Our winning League Cup Final goalkeeper left to play regular first team football, and there won’t anyone of a City persuasion who isn’t pleased for him that he has got that. Quality keeper: 9
Refwatch: Roger East: He missed a clear foul on Nasri immediately before Sunderland broke away and won a free kick in a dangerous position. Other than that howler, he got most decisions right: 6
Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee AT orange.net
———-
MATCH REPORT: MANCHESTER CITY 2 BURNLEY 2

Manchester City 2 Burnley 2 (HT 2-0)

Frustratingly, City missed the chance to gain two points on Chelsea, as we threw away a two goal lead to relegation threatened Burnley.

With Silva in imperious form and Nasri pulling the strings in midfield to good effect, City were dominant in the first half and well taken goals from Silva and Fernandinho seemed to put us on our way to victory, deservedly leading 2-0 at the break. Indeed it could have been more had we been more direct rather than trying to walk the ball in.

However a controversial early second half Burnley goal which went in on off the offside Boyd turned the direction of the game. For all Milner’s endeavour and the running of his replacement Jovetic, City finally suffered for not having a recognised striker. We were not able to maintain possession for long enough to create any sustained pressure and spirited Burnley exerted more and more of a threat and their equaliser looked more and more likely. There was no surprise but obvious disappointment when Barnes’ inevitable equaliser came fifteen minutes from the end. The referee messed up for Burnley’s opener and may have fallen for Barnes backing into defenders all afternoon as well as making a lot of mistakes, but there is no denying that Burnley deserved their hard-earned draw.

For City it is a small setback and an opportunity missed but that is the nature of a long season. City’s squad size has been artificially and unfairly restricted leaving us light up front, but Manuel Pellegrini and his squad can take credit for our nine straight wins, especially given the lack of strikers of late. How they respond to this minor setback is important and three points against Sunderland are vital.

Goals:
City: Silva 23, Fernandinho 33
Burnley: Boyd 47, Barnes 81.
Att: 45,608
Ratings:
Hart: His kicking was woeful. The ball went under him for Burnley’s opener but he cannot be blamed as the ball took a late deflection: 5
Zabaleta: Some excellent covering tackles, and his blood was shed yet again. He was down for a long time after getting flattened. Hopefully there are no ill effects from that and he has been fully checked out: 8
Demichelis: Class personified, reading the game really well, making some important interceptions, and excellent on the ball too 8 ***Man of the match***
Mangala Conned by Barnes backing in as was the referee. Mangala would continually end up jumping over the top of the Burnley striker. Hopefully a lesson learned. Otherwise did well: 7
Kolarov: His passing was dreadful and his defending wasn’t much better: 5
Navas: Some good delivery in first half but not as influential after the break: 6
Fernando: Aggressive and competitive and got booked for his troubles: 6
Fernandinho Scored spectacular strike off the underside of the bar. Busy as ever: 7
Nasri: Taking a leading role as a play maker and full responsibility that is a sign of his maturity. He had a tendency to over-elaborate at times but he was one of our main creative forces and teed up Fernandinho for his goal: 7
Silva: Lovely swivel and 180 degree turn and showed great poise, calmness and skill to slot home the opener. Worked hard in tandem and rotation with Milner to occupy the Burnley defence. Creative and bright particularly in the first half but his frustration was obvious after he over hit a pass late on: 8
Milner: Worked hard as ever as a makeshift striker but should have scored early on from a Navas cross: 6

Subs:

Jovetic (for Milner 62): Lively and good combination play with Lampard nearly brought a winner. Maybe it’s time to start with him: 7
Lampard (for Nasri 76): No real impact: n/a
Sinclair (for Fernandinho 88): Why? n/a
Best Oppo: Barnes: Aggressive and used his strength well up front where he combined well with Ings. Got away with repeatedly backing into Mangala and even conned the referee into giving him a series of free kicks as a result. Took his opportunity to equalise brilliantly. 8
Refwatch: Kevin Friend: A very naïve afternoon’s refereeing, in which he repeatedly fell for Ings’s diving and Barnes blatantly backing into Mangala, thus forcing the |French defender to land on top of him. Missing Boyd’s touch for Burnley’s goal was understandable but he was clearly active and should have been ruled offside: 3

Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee AT orange.net

SHAKEDOWN STOCKHOLM

I really enjoyed Shakedown Stockholm’s gig in City Square before the Burnley game. I got there in the nick of time to see the great Johnny Marr introduce them (but it was a very close run thing with the traffic on the M6 a nightmare), and he is right. What a very talented young band they are. Love the rich texture of their sound and great sassy and soulful voices of twins Davina and Joanna Kettle. They and guitarist Danny Smith (whose twin Ryan features on drums) all combine so well (only wish City could have matched you in the second half!) to write some real gems – “Who Says I” was the feature of this set – in their seven piece band. There is a hint of Oasis in the look of some of the band, and the Smith brothers are huge fans of the legendary band that brought us Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, but Shakedown Stockholm have their own sound. Indeed it was very enjoyable and they sounded just as good as their previous visit in April (incidentally ano!
ther 2-2 draw – come on guys, we need better results!) if not even better. I look forward to seeing more of them (and better results for City on the pitch). Love it.

Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee@orange.net
———-

MATCH VIEW: City 3 Crystal Palace 0

The pundits were having a field day trying to work out how City could continue their good form with all three strikers injured. Some City fans engaging in animated discussion in the chippy queue were also puzzled about how we might score but like me most were relaxed about it. After all last year the feature of our scoring success was not having a Sanchez or a Suarez but having a side which could score from anywhere. Yes our strikers did well, all exceeding 20 goals for the season but with Ya Ya contributing 24, Nasri 11, Silva 8 and even Fernandinho 5 there were clearly other sources of goals which other sides can’t count on.

Logically the game should have started with City dominance because Pellegrini had selected a side packed with mid fielders but logic rarely applies in football and Crystal Palace played some attacking football giving our usually sound defence a working over in the first 15 minutes. The pundits would no doubt be typing “I told you so “comments as City’s attempts on goal in the first half all came to nothing. Yaya, so accurate last year, was only deadly in the number of people I estimate he maimed in Row Z with his shots blasted over the bar. The others looked good on approach but played the Arsenal way with lots of short passes around the 18 yard box getting precisely nowhere. By the end of the half City had chalked up the near misses and Palace’s initial enterprise had faded.

Something must have been said in the dressing room because City changed pace and gear in the second half and immediately looked serious about winning the game. The first goal went in after pass by Zabaleta to Silva whose shot had hit a Palace player and looped into the corner. Relief all round because our defence has improved to the extent that we now know it’s possible to win 1-0 although that’s never a comfortable score to protect. The second was also from Silva from a cross by our other full back Kolarov (Clichy has an injured foot) and the third came after a break-away move with Lampard feeding Navas and finally Milner setting up Ya Ya who slammed it into the net. City could have had a fourth to put them top such was their confidence and dominance by the last 15 minutes but wisely Pellegrini took Silva then Nasri off presumably to save them for our hectic Christmas schedule.

The crowd made Silva man of the match but it was Nasri who again stood out with Navas looking dangerous, Mangala improving every game and Milner showing how hard working and versatile he is. We now have the same number of points as Chelsea having at one time been 8 points adrift. If they lose 1-0 at Stoke they will still be top but only on alphabetical order as the statistics of both teams would be identical.

We mustn’t underestimate any side in the premiership but this City team is skilled experienced and unlike me doesn’t panic. They really should be able to take all three points from West Brom at The Hawthorns on Boxing Day and continue the run at home against Burnley and Sunderland followed by Sheffield Wednesday in the cup. By that time we should have one striker back at least.

This was a slow start leading to a pleasing dominance. Strikers – who need ‘em?

Peter Llewellyn
PeterJL AT foxfield.plus.com
———-

OBSERVATIONS ON LEICESTER AND PALACE

I haven’t contributed for a while and I notice that the next issue number of MCIVTA will be an auspicious number, well at least as far as I am concerned, so I thought I’d pipe up and also take the opportunity to
welcome our new editor. Hello Phil!

Leicester last Saturday was my first away game of the season, unless you
count the Community Shield, which I don’t as Wembley is starting to turn
into our second home. Having been to the large majority of home games
recently where the atmosphere has left a lot to be desired, it was a real joy to experience and share the passion of the fans on an away day.

Admittedly we have our fair share of numpties who have managed to spoil the odd awayday for me before. However they kept out of my way this time on a cold, sunny day in Leicester. A few jars in The Kings Head, including a particularly nice Welsh tipple whose name I couldn’t pronounce or remember, loosened the vocal chords. On the way to the ground, Leicester fans and even stewards were welcoming, which all added to a feeling of pre-Christmas bonhomie. Chelsea, take notice.

My last league away game in 2014 was a particularly memorable Sunday
afternoon at Selhurst Park, when the balance of the Premier League suddenly shifted – or should I say, slipped – our way. Edin was the star that day and so was I, being visible on the match highlights for a brief second, as Edin scored his first.

Five minutes into this game and I, perhaps belatedly, noticed that the big Bosnian lump (an affectionate term, before you ask) was missing. Since this game was a particularly obvious candidate for a banana skin/after the Lord Mayor’s show, I got a sinking feeling that today was not going to go well. It seemed to affect the players too, who were not playing the same fluid football we had seen of late.

Pozo, an emergency striker, was making some nice movement but was rarely
being given the ball. When he did get it, he was invariably offside.
Leicester carved out the best chance in the first half but it was pretty
dire fare until Lampard ghosted in to the box and mishit his shot into the net. Half-time was much more enjoyable as a result.

The second half continued with neither side looking very likely to score
and City still struggling to get their real game together. The fans sensed this and went into an extended rendition of “city win, united lose” accompanied by incessant clapping, partly to warm up the frozen mitts. We really got behind the boys and, cliche as it is, it felt like we were the extra man. This lasted most of the second half and it seemed to help the team cross the finishing line. A few stifled chants of “Jingle Bells” just before the final whistle were quickly hushed away in case it jinxed the win!

It felt like a pivotal win. The City of earlier in the season would have
fluffed our lines and drawn or lost this one. Since the defeat at the
Boleyn in late October, we have now taken a possible 22 points out of 24 in the Premier League and we needed to do that to keep pace with Chelsea. Most of these games have been against good opposition or perennial bogey teams, which makes it particularly impressive.

Onto Palace at home and we found ourselves with no strikers. It has to be said it was a serious misjudgement to leave ourselves with only three
strikers for the season, two of them injury-prone. We are where we are
though and I guess starting Milner up front was about as good as we could do. Pozo is more of an attacking midfielder; he might make a Jovetic/Dickov figure one day but he’ll need to literally grow into that role.

The game plan was obviously to pass the opposition to death and take our
chances, which would inevitably come as Palace tired. If Palace had scored first, we might have been in trouble and I do have doubts over this tactic away from home. Thankfully, we have two at home out of the next three so its fingers crossed for West Brom away on Boxing Day.

Wee Jimmy did a good job up front; he ran and ran, got into good positions but couldn’t hold the ball up like an experienced striker would. Nasri was superb again, just about man of the match for me, and the best, most consistent player over the past two months by a country mile. When Yaya, Silva and Nasri are firing on all cylinders, it takes a world-class effort
to beat us.

The defence has – fingers crossed – stopped leaking silly goals. Demichelis has been a very steadying influence with Clichy showing some of his best form for the club and Zabba basically being Zabba. Mangala is not a rubbish player and has shown plenty of potential to my eyes. If he can cut out the rushes of blood to the head, he looks a good long-term option. But I did expect more considering the price we paid for him.

Some may say the first goal, being a deflection, was lucky. Funnily enough, if you play ten men behind the ball as Palace did, you’re far more likely to suffer from one of those. Luck has nothing to do with it in my opinion.

Wee David passed the ball into the net for the second; he should imagine
he’s passing not shooting and he will score more often! Yaya eventually
concerted probably the most difficult of his chances and we went home happy.

The atmosphere was again a bit tepid, as seems to be the norm these days. It doesn’t help that I’m up in the gods on the third tier where you can often hear a pin drop. There were a good 10% or more empty seats, perhaps understandable due to Christmas being only days away but worrying to think what it will be like for such games after the stadium expansion. I think I may try to move into the South Stand next season.

That’s for the future. For now, we’re on an excellent run of form and we
need to win the next few before we hit some tougher games in January. We
lose Yaya to the African Nations Cup then but we should start seeing the
injured players return. Thankfully we don’t have two extra League cup
games mid-January to distract us from a tough run of Everton away, Arsenal at home and then the key must-not-lose game at Chelsea, who do have those extra games, admittedly against a very beatable mid-table side.

Unfortunately I won’t be going to Chelsea as I refuse to run the gauntlet of unfriendly stewards, multiple ticket checks and body frisks and lack of beer – and pay through the nose for the privilege.

Oh, and the small matter of Barcelona coming up in February. I think the
stadium might be full and rocking for that one. See you there and hopefully we’ll get an unbiased ref this time!

James Nash
nash0819 AT gmail.com
———-

[Ed: This City-Palace report was written a week before Crystal Palace sacked Neil Warnock]

MATCH REPORT: Manchester City 3 Crystal Palace 0 (HT 0-0)

This was a well-earned victory for City over a Palace side who typically make like difficult. There was much talk about City lacking a fit striker but City learned to adapt and overcame a slow start to blow Palace away with two David Silva goals and Yaya Toure sealing a deserved win that put City temporarily level on points with Chelsea. Not even the perenially cacophonic Neil Warnock’s latest hard done act can deny that City deserved this ultimately comfortable win.

Backed by a perennially noisy following, Palace started off stronger and might have taken the lead early on but Campbell hooked his overhead kick wide from Bolassie’s head on.

After being pushed back for a while, City gradually got into the game and played some intricate passing moves. Yaya fired over a long range shot and was too high with a second attempt from closer in after some clever interplay down the left. Then at the end of a well worked move Nasri cut the ball back for Silva who forced a save.

The game ebbed and flowed as City struggled to maintain a stranglehold on the match in the first half, and for all James Milner’s sterling work as our furthest man forward, we lacked a true focal point in our attack that either Kun Aguero or Edin Dzeko give. Joe Hart didn’t have much to do but he was twice called upon to deal with strikers running onto dangerous through balls and both times he used his judgement and physique to deny them.

The best move of the first half came a couple of minutes before the break. Yaya threaded a superb through ball down the inside right channel and into box for the advancing Pablo Zabaleta, who lifted the ball over Speroni but agonisingly, just wide. It was almost a carbon copy of Zaba’s superbly taken goal at Sunderland. City missed having an out and out striker in the first half and Palace deserved to be level at the break.

City upped the tempo in the second half and Palace couldn’t live with the speed at which we moved the ball.

The second half was only four minutes old when Fernandinho threaded a perfect pass for Zabaleta, and instead of shooting, he cut the ball back for Silva whose goal bound strike cannoned into the net via a defender and a bounce on the lush green turf. Every outfield player mobbed Merlin in front of us in the Colin Bell/North Stand corner.

City fizzed the ball round the pitch too quickly for the massed ranks of red and blue defenders. Nasri was in his pomp, leading the play, prompting and probing, sharing the creativity with the returning Silva who was relishing being back on the pitch and Yaya was all poise and elegance in central midfield. Navas was at last profiting down the right flank with support from Milner and the marauding Zabaleta. Whilst Milner doesn’t make the runs of a natural striker, he pressed and harried.

The second goal arrived when Silva deftly swept in Kolarov’s pinpoint cross after good work from Nasri. It was a beautifully taken goal of great precision from start to finish. Simply splendid.

Palace had the ball in the net after McArthur headed in Bolassie’s cross but it was ruled offside. There was a bit of merriment as we mocked the Palace fans with mass impressions of their goal celebrations. For once though the ever hard done to (in his mind anyway) Warnock had a point as TV replays revealed that McArthur had been played onside by a City player on the near side (Colin Bell Stand), but he was stretching a point if he seriously thought that a goal would have changed the course of a game, where City were outclassing Palace.

Can you imagine Warnock at Christmas Dinner: “It’s not fair! I had to carve the turkey last year…and our Tarquin’s got more Brussels Sprouts than me. It’s a disgrace!”

Yaya rounded off the scoring with a terrific left footed finish from Milner’s pass, after a swift break.

That was pretty much it as far as meaningful action and City ran out comfortable winners. This was an impressive second half when we moved the ball quicker and troubled Palace. Nasri was man of the match for his dominant play making and intelligence. Silva and Milner did well as rotating strikers, but in the end the whole team can take credit for a good start to the Christmas period. Well done City.

Now we need to continue with this form, firstly at The Hawthorns.

Come on City. Happy Christmas to all.

Goals: Silva 49, 61, Yaya Toure 81.
Att: 45,302
Ratings:
Hart: This was a very mature performance even if he had little to do He did very well to use his body to force Campbell wide when many other keepers would have brought the Palace striker down. His distribution was decisive and intelligent too: 7
Zabaleta: 7
Demichelis: Read the game well and was classy on the ball as he celebrated his 34th birthday: 7
Mangala: Steady game: 7
Kolarov: Excellent precise cross for our second goal and he was decent going forward. Not really tested defensively: 7
Navas: Took a while to get into the game and enjoyed some success down the right: 6
Yaya: Oozed class. His passing and decision making was very good indeed and his finish for our third goal was top draw: 8
Fernandinho: Worked hard as ever in central midfield and his pass for Zabaleta in the build up to our opener was incisive and precise: 7
Nasri: Yet another game which demonstrated that he has come of age over the last 18 months. He took responsibility to lead the way but as a team player, and without ego, which is very encouraging. He worked well yet again with Silva. Showed great determination, persistence and tenacity when he had to: 8 *Man of the match*
Silva: His return from injury will hopefully continue as smoothly as this. Two goals, the second of which was a top class finish, cleverly swept in. Great to see him back. He really appreciated his deserved ovation: 8
Milner: He may not have made the runs that one might expect of a striker but he worked hard and helped occupy the Palace defence. As the game progressed he and Silva worked in tandem as rotating strikers: 7
Subs:
Lampard (for Silva 69): Won the ball in the lead up to the third goal: 6
Fernando (for Milner 82): n/a
Sinclair (for Nasri 89): n/a
Best Oppo: Bolassie: tricky but often lacks an end product: 7
Refwatch: Phil Dowd: The man who once gave a penalty to Liverpool in a League Cup Semi after the ball hit Micah Richard’s knee then headed towards Mars and hit his hand, hasn’t improved much in his decision making. He got most decisions wrong…YET AGAIN: 1
Footnote 1: Neil Warnock, bless him, has become tiresome bore with his habitual whining and had done by act, but he is revered by some at Crystal Palace. He turned them from almost certainties for relegation from the 2nd Division (AKA Championship) into a team that reached the play-offs at a time of severe financial hardship. They were doing well under him when they went into administration a few years ago and he left telling the Administrator that he hadn’t got the stomach to fight on (with the club likely to sell more players). He went on to get QPR promoted back to the top flight for the first time in 14 years. Look behind the whingeing annoyance, and there is a man who has a great record outside the top flight and he has got seven teams promoted, three of them Notts County, Sheffield United and QPR to the top flight. The trouble is he has never kept a team in the top flight, with Notts and the Blades being relegated at the first attempt (the latter after the Blades wer!
e 10 points clear of the drop zone in the Spring), and he was sacked at QPR with them on a bad run, just one place above the bottom three [Ed: His latest sacking at Palace came with them in the relegation places].
I can’t help wonder, if Warnock spent more time focusing on keeping his own team in the top flight and learned tactics that would keep him there, maybe he’d do better [Ed: Whilst he’s in the twilight of his career, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that he’ll get another team promoted, so we may not have heard the last of him…whether he learns or not is another matter].
Footnote 2: The last time James Milner played in such an advanced role on this ground he was a teenager for Leeds United on December 22nd 2003. He was very unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after he was clearly brought down as he chased a through ball into the City box. There was a collective sharp intake of breath, as we got away with it somewhat, and a tense relegation dogfight was drawn 1-1. Leeds went down at the end of that season and City stayed up, and I’ve wondered if things would have been very different if that penalty had been awarded? What if we had we gone down instead of Leeds? Thankfully we didn’t.
Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee AT orange.net
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PALACE LIAISON/GENIUS
On my way back from the Palace game on Saturday, I got chatting to a Palace fan on the station. He was getting on to the same train as I was, but he was going on to the airport. Turned out that he lived in Ireland, about one and a half hours drive from Dublin airport.

I asked him if this was a one off journey. He told me that he attends every Palace match and has done for many years. Each trip involves the return car journey, a flight to the nearest airport and whatever train or bus journeys are then needed to get to the relevant stadium. He was 61 and has been doing this for many, many years, including all the time they were in the lower leagues, involving of course, more matches than in the premier league. Wow.

Ignoring the financial side of his obsession, what a guy! I gave him my number so that we could meet up next season and I will stand him a drink which I think he well deserves. ( turns out he doesn’t drink so it will have to be orange juice…)

It made me think that there are probably similar stories concerning City supporters and I would love to hear about them in Mcivta. Made me think how lucky I was to have a 15 minute train journey to the pub followed by a taxi for 5 of us to the ground, total travelling time about 25 minutes!!

In the meantime, I was thinking after the match that we are so privileged to be able to watch a fit David Silva each game. He is a genius. What sort of adhesive does he use to stick the ball to his boots?

Chris Ryder
chrisryder62 AT googlemail.com
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EUROPEAN ROUND OF 16

So history has repeated itself yet again with City being drawn against Barcelona. This ought to be regarded as a good thing because now the manager, staff and players can get their heads together and plan their tactics based on an understanding from last year of how Barca play and what our mistakes were.

By the time the games are played Aguero should be back to full fitness again, but I hope that MP makes an effort to protect our star striker by not playing him in every league and cup game in between, just enough to get him back to full fitness, bearing in mind that he is injury prone. The same applies to Silva who in my view should not have been played in the Capital One cup game.

With regard to the upcoming congested Christmas/New Year period and all three main strikers being injured, I think MP should try out a 4-3-3 formation, with the front 3 comprising Nasri, Silva, Navas and the middle 3 from Toure, Fernandino, Milner and Fernando; the back 4 same as before. There ought not to be a lack of goals as Nasri, Silva, Navas and Toure have shown themselves well capable of scoring.

I always get annoyed when the African Nations Cup comes around at this time and Yaya has to leave us again. Why can’t they play the damn thing to coincide with the European Nations Cup in June/July every 4 years. The climate in Central Africa is the same the year round and in South Africa it is winter time then.

Philip van Gass
philipvangass AT yahoo.co.uk
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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAWS

By the end of the Barca tie, City will have played 28 games in the
Champions League. Half – fourteen of those – against just three clubs. The total number of clubs in those four years to compete, I don’t know – lets say 32 “regulars” + a “churn” of 8 more clubs, making 40 (I suspect it is more) and that means we are getting drawn against a pool of under 10% of the clubs half the time. Is it any wonder City fans are not enthused by the CL. I for sure am not.

Just saying.

Jeremy Poynton
j.poynton at blueyonder.co.uk

———-

THE JUSTICE FOR JEFF ASTLE CAMPAIGN

Nine minutes into Friday’s [Ed: Boxing Day’s game between West Brom and MCFC) game a large banner will be unveiled in the Smethwick End (to the left of the Man City supporters) reading ‘Justice for Jeff’ (Astle) which starts a minute’s applause – nine being the famous shirt number he wore. The two big screens at The Hawthorns will also display a picture of Jeff with the words ‘If in doubt, sit them out’ which refers to the dangers of concussion in sport.

City fans are more than welcome to join in with the applause if they choose to; for which we would be extremely grateful for; but if not we would like to give them the opportunity to make them aware of our campaign if they haven’t seen it via the national media already.

The Justice for Jeff banner will be at every West Bromwich Albion home and away game for the rest of this season. Hopefully, by then, the promised research by the FA & PFA into the links between heading footballs and brain damage will be in its early stages and, just as importantly, the research into former players and instances of dementia will have commenced.

We would also like to respectfully ask that if you are aware of any former players who may have died of, or are sadly living with Alzheimer’s or any other Degenerative Brain Disease please contact us by emailing dawnastle@justiceforjeff.co.uk – this information is vitally important to forthcoming research.

You can keep up-to-date and learn more about our campaign or support us by visiting our website justiceforjeff.co.uk or through our Facebook
(facebook.com/justiceforjeffastle
< http://www.facebook.com/justiceforjeffastle> ) and Twitter (@astle1968
#justiceforjeff) pages.

Thank You

The Astle Family

ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

The ‘Justice for Jeff’ campaign is dedicated to our dad Jeff Astle and the countless number of former football players who have died of degenerative brain disease (DBD), and former players and their families who are suffering from the consequences of DBD.

Jeff Astle died at the age of 59 on 19th January 2002.

In November that year we attended the Coroners Court. A leading pathologist stood and described how badly damaged dad’s brain was. He found that there was considerable evidence of trauma to his brain that was similar to the brain of a boxer. He said the main candidate for the trauma was heading a heavy ball and it was the repeated trauma that appeared to be the problem. H.M Coroner, Andrew Haigh, ruled “Mr Astle’s type of dementia was entirely consistent with heading a ball and the occupational exposure has made at least a significant contribution to the disease which had caused his death”.

Verdict – INDUSTRIAL DISEASE.

Following this landmark ruling the Football Association (FA) and
Professional Footballers’ Asscociation (PFA) promised to conduct a ten-year joint study into DBD and the medical links associated with head trauma through heading footballs. Twelve years on, this research has never been concluded or published.

After learning about the FA/PFA and their lack of, well, anything, I
contacted a Consultant Neuropathologist based in Glasgow, called Dr. Willie Stewart. Dr. Stewart is one of the World’s Leading Experts in a disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It’s not a new disease, it’s just got a new name. It’s “dementia pugilistica”, “punch drunk syndrome”, or “boxers brain”. The disease has actually been around for nigh on 100 years.

CTE had been found in the brains of former NFL players. It is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions or, as we now know, in dad’s case, low level repeated brain trauma.

Following his death, Dad’s brain was donated for brain research, it was
something dad believed in. We gave Dr. Stewart permission to re-examine
dad’s brain to look for evidence of CTE. Dad was originally diagnosed as
having dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s. Could they have got it wrong? They had. Dad didn’t have Alzheimer’s. He was now the first ever British
Professional Footballer to have died of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Dad died of repeated blows to the head, the type caused by heading a
football. Just as the Coroner had ruled nearly 12 years ago. The question is – how many others?

So what are our objectives?

On a personal level, acknowledgement from the game about what killed our
dad.

Looking ahead – to create a legacy for past, current and future generations of footballers. We are hoping to establish a charity in dad’s name, ‘The Jeff Astle Foundation’, with 3 principle aims…

1. SUPPORT – for those in football and their families who have had similar experiences to us, or who are still living with dementia. Dad’s story has had renewed attention over the past 5 months. We have been contacted by families of former players with dementia all with need of support. While we have done what we can to support them, there is a need to put into place a more robust system.

2. EDUCATION – head injury in sport and its associated immediate and long term risks is a major public health issue, but one for which there is little or no awareness in sport, education, health and allied agencies, never mind public awareness. We would like to see consistent, clear and robust information on aspects of all head injury management, including CTE, and see this information disseminated effectively.

3. INDEPENDENT RESEARCH – this is a complex and fast moving field and one where there are international experts in research in brain injury positioned to lead. It might be argued that sports agencies, including the FA/ PFA have been guilty of trying to take on research in this highly complex issue, in this highly complex organ ‘in house’, and through their own sponsored research. Invariably, this has failed to deliver its stated aims, as in dad’s case, and /or generated accusations of bias. We support Independent Research.

We are not going away, ever. How can you ever give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about?

This is about acknowledgement of what has happened. So as to be able to make a difference for those, unlike dad, it’s not too late for. Those already suffering as he did and those who are, or maybe, a ticking time bomb for the future.

No amount of money or compensation can bring our dad back. It is NOT about that. Money may be the first language of modern football and its
authorities, it’s not the be all and end all to everyone.

What we do want is answers. Answers with regard to what killed dad, what may have happened to others like him, and what may be happening, or about to happen, to others? We need to know. Football needs to know.

For too long this issue has been the silent scandal of sport, possibly
thousands of former players and their families suffering grievously from
damage caused by the game they loved.

As a footballer you can expect to get knocks, perhaps ligament damage and even trouble with arthritis later in life, you don’t expect to die of brain damage at 59.

Football should not, and must not, be allowed to shy away from confronting what is an uncomfortable and unsettling reality. The whole game should be united in wanting “Justice for Jeff “.

Kind Regards

Dawn Astle

The Justice For Jeff Astle Campaign

http://www.justiceforjeff.co.uk/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/astle1968
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/justiceforjeffastle
———-
AND FINALLY…

CALLING TOKYO BLUES

Hi Phil,

Is it possible to put a quick question in your next edition to ask if
any of your readers know if there is a City friendly pub I can watch
the Chelsea game from whilst in Tokyo at the end of the month ?

Cheers

Chris
chris_colesell AT hotmail.com

———-
MCIVTA ADDRESSES

Articles (Phil Banerjee): editor@mcivta.com
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Technical problems (Paul Howarth): paul@City-fan.org

Publishing deadlines are, nominally, 6pm Monday and Thursday evenings by email. Unfortunately we cannot accept email attachments.
———-
DISCLAIMER

Any offers to buy, sell or exchange tickets are made at the risk of the parties involved. MCIVTA has no commercial or insurable interest in any offer and plays no part in any transaction or arrangement.

Offers are detailed purely for the convenience of our subscribers only.
———-
USEFUL LINKS

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