NEWSLETTER #1971

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MAN CITY INFO VIA THE ALPS “McVittee!” (1971)

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

ISSUE DATE: Saturday 31 January 2015

NEXT GAME: Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, Saturday 31 January (17:30 GMT)
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JANUARY, SICK AND TIRED YOU’VE BEEN HANGING ON ME…

It’s not merely the thought of a soppy record from my 1970s childhood that is causing cringing in this corner of the world. City have not played convincingly since the turn of the year and after two 0-2 home defeats in the space of seven days, City’s prospects for the season are not looking quite so bright. We’re out of the FA Cup, which was the most realistic chance of a trophy, and five points behind Chelsea in the League. Not an unbridgeable gap even against the West London machine, but it could and should have been less.

Whilst Arsenal and Middlesbrough played very well in out last two, there were too many flaws in our game, both in attack and defence, and The Etihad is not looking like the fortress that it was not so long ago.

City haven’t defended that well all season, in all truth, and it has been our sublime attacking talent that has won us the points more than anything. We are increasingly vulnerable to counter attacks and set pieces, and we are conceding goals at them too often. There is something wrong in the way we are set up, and we are getting further and further away from the defensive solidity that was instilled under Roberto Mancini. To compound this, the form of Vincent Kompany is starting to cause concern. Since he has come back from his month long injury lay-off, he looks impetuous, rattled, and is not reading the game like the player he has been in recent years: one of the best, if not the best centre back in the world. It is still early days in his come back, and he shouldn’t be written off, but one has to hope that he finds his form quickly. Tonight at Stamford Bridge would be a nice time, because Chelsea are a fine team, who are perennially good at set pieces, and the thought of deliveries from free kicks and corners flashing across our box with the likes of Ivanovic, Terry and co waiting without Vincent Kompany, or indeed anyone heading them away, does not bear thinking about.

Further forward, we are missing the quality and intelligence of Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure. With Sergio Aguero feeling his way back after Everton took him out of the action for a month, there has not been a partner for David Silva with the sharpness, close control and quality to capitalise from playing in tight spaces.

Hopefully another week’s training on top of those two games will see Sergio Aguero in sharper form, to regain our cohesion and incisiveness and there is the possibility of Samir Nasri returning at Stamford Bridge.

Today we have comment on recent form and some cracking memories from the the 60s and 70s, including a visit inside the Maine Road dressing room and a meeting with the greats (as well as a far less salubrious place). There are thought provoking opinion pieces which will hopefully spawn more debate, and we finish on a high with Mark Thomson’s feel good piece. Enjoy.

Come on City.

Kind regards,

Phil Banerjee

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ONE FOR SORROW…

MANCHESTER CITY 0 MIDDLESBROUGH 2

Right from early on the morning of the match the omens were far from good. The 24th-25th has been the RSPB Birdwatch weekend, which I enjoy partaking in. What I didn’t enjoy, mind, was seeing, amongst the number of avian creatures visiting our back yard, one lone magpie. YIKES! Not what I wanted on match day but at least I could tell myself that superstition is nowt but hokum…touch wood.

The missus was going into Manchester early afternoon anyway, so I had her drop me off with the intention of killing some time having a good look around the recently finished Academy. WOW! What I didn’t realise at the time was that this would be my highlight of the day because oh what a
shambles was about to take place between three bells and ten to five; right from the very kick off there was something in the air that spelt calamity. Whilst it is nice to play proper passing football, there is a time to occasionally put you laces through the ball, and never more so than in the first minute when we invited trouble in spades, with ‘Boro getting an earlier sniff of blood – not to mention optimism, no doubt.

Beyond that and several more incredibly jittery defensive moments in the first half, we nevertheless could and perhaps should have been over the hill and far away by the break. We really seem to be in an awful pattern at the moment of wasting a plethora of chances before having it come back to
bite us later, and this was another example.

Actually, we are in several negative patterns these days, one being our conceding of a brace in four consecutive home games, and another being a complete uselessness on our corners and high susceptibility when defending set pieces – and whilst the latter didn’t cost us this time, it was
noticeable that one of our best chances in the match came from the one time we tried a short corner – before then going back to the tried, tested and too oft failed method of just lumping it in.

Then, come the second half and the comedy defending that we had threatened earlier came to the fore when Fernando combined with Patrick Bamford to walk the ball together into our goal. Having fallen asleep post-break, that goal at least woke us up for a while although we soon drifted back off into the land of nod, shockingly wasting far too many simple passes later on. And then, on the umpteenth dangerous breakout with numbers by our opposition, it was game, set, match and personal thoughts of the scant solace of a jar or two in town where the wife was waiting.

Yes it was another farce, and I type this, as much as anything, as a form of catharsis, but whilst the soap box is out, several individual performances need a looking at-
Caballero. Several good saves to keep us in it until the very end but some woeful distribution. Erm, was it Willy or Joe in disguise?
Vinnie. Not just rusty but cumbersome and a flat out liability on for too many occasions. It perhaps says everything in that Boyata filled me with more confidence in defence.
Fernando. With both “full backs” (isn’t it time that term went the same way into obsolete as, say, ‘inside forward’ or ‘right half’?) playing so high for so much of the match, he simply was not up to the job of providing adequate cover for the often overwhelmed central defensive pairing.
Milner. One of our better players on both sides of the ball, covering for the man who was supposed to be doing the covering, but disappointingly went out wide in the second half and disappeared from the game – apart from the odd misplaced pass.
Navas. Did what Navas does, and this, of course, means a big zero end product for all his running.
Silva. As much as I love watching Sir David, there are times when he’s just not on his game, and when this happens he can be somewhat frustrating. This was one example. Far too many times he tried to be too fancy or force the issue with some would-be clever little ball in the middle of a clogged up area when a clear outlet was available with a simpler pass. Still, I’ll always forgive him a great deal, just as I would…
Aguero. Tried and tried, ran and ran, but too often playing into the hands of a very well organised defence. Clearly still rusty, he looked like the Aguero we saw at the World Cup last summer.

Dowd. We never get anything out of him do we? Two very strong penalty shouts fell on deaf ears. Funny how itchy he is to point to the spot when it’s the other way around – although I doubt Micah, for one, would be laughing.

So that’s the second year running that we’ve gone out of the FA Cup to a Championship side, and whilst it would be easy to say we didn’t bother to show up given the competition it was, that would be far from the truth. We simply were just not good enough on the day, and ‘Boro were. I’m old enough myself to remember the glory days of this Cup back in the ’70s and ’80s, so I find it very sad not see us out of the draw for the fifth round.

Well, if nothing else, I feel better for having got that off my chest…

Cheers
Steve O’Brien
Bodsnvimto AT googlemail.com

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MANCHESTER CITY 0 MIDDLESBROUGH 2 (HT 0-0)

Middlesbrough took advantage of City’s second half horror show to deservedly win this FA Cup tie, and end our dreams of Wembley glory for another year. There are no excuses. Manuel Pellegrini fielded a strong City side (only Joe Hart and Gael Clichy would have strengthened it) who had the best of the first half without being able to make the breakthrough, but Boro upped the tempo significantly after the break, and ran out deserved winners. They eventually outnumbered us in midfield at times and too often on the break, with goals from Bamford and substitute Kike, giving them a 2-0 win that didn’t flatter them one bit.

City played quite well in the first half, but took a little while to get going. Indeed it was 25 minutes before James Milner threaded a ball through to Aguero who worked some space and stung Mejias’s gloves with a shot that was just going wide – referee Dowd wrongly awarded a goal kick in yet another afternoon of poor officiating.

Boro’s rear guard was stubborn and resolute, but Mejias was forced to make a few saves to maintain parity before the break: Kolarov forced a save after good work from Milner in the 27th minute and Jovetic tested the Boro keeper with a 25 yarder a minute later. On the half hour Dedryck Boyata spurned two good chances to score from a corner, miscuing the first and then skying the second. A minute later, Milner forced a really good save from Mejias with a low drive. Only City looked like scoring before the break. Aguero squared for Silva and Mejias pushed the Spaniard’s shot behind for a corner. A Navas cross was cleared to Jovetic who forced a good save from Mejias in the 40th minute.

Boro forced us to scramble clear in one of their breakaways, then a mazy run by Lee Tomlin took him past Kompany and Kolarov before the City captain recovered to block his goal bound effort, but the visitors didn’t test Caballero in the City goal.

HT 0-0

Kolarov had a free kick deflected behind after the break then Jovetic had a header pushed out from a well delivered Kolarov corner.

City were jittery in defence and it was clear that Vincent Kompany was neither timing his tackles well nor reading the game with to his normal very high standards, and he received a booking for a pull back. He was not at fault, though, when Middlesbrough took the lead, despite losing out on a header. The ball broke backwards towards the City goal and was allowed to bounce. Boyata challenged half-heartedly for it, Fernando seemed to have it under control, but misdirected and under-hit and misdirected his back pass. As Kolarov sauntered back, Caballero was also less than fully committed as Adomah closed in on it, and as the ball headed towards the City goal, Fernando cleared against the persistent Bamford and it ricocheted into the City net. Six thousand Teessiders went delirious with joy. It was great persistence by Boro, but also a catalogue of errors from City. Fernando’s mistakes were bad but honest. However, Boyata and particularly Caballero and Kolarov did not show the desired levels of commitment.

For the fourth FA Cup tie in succession, a lack of commitment and complacency saw City having to chase the game against 2nd Division opposition.

Aguero was clearly grappled and pushed in the back by ex-City youngster and City fan Adam Clayton at least twice in front of us, but referee Dowd was determined not to award a spot kick, despite clear offences being committed.-

City just couldn’t stop making life difficult for themselves, and Willy Caballero’s poor clearance afforded Boro another chance, which forced him to make a save and Kompany a block from the rebound. Someone should have told Caballero that Christmas was last month.

City enjoyed greater possession, but our attacks foundered against Boro’s superbly organised defence, and we were very vulnerable to their swift counter attacks. In one of these, a perfectly weighted long, lofted Leadbitter pass saw the speedy Adomah leave Zabaleta for dead and Caballero saved.

Boro were looking more likely to score than City and in the 64th mite, the impressive Tomlin’s exquisite turn duped Kompany and by some miracle, his shot struck the inside of the right hand post and fizzed across goal to safety.

Pellegrini rang the changes bringing on Lampard and Fernandinho for Navas and Jovetic, when we needed Dzeko to take advantage of Navas’s improved service, but we continued to struggle to break down Boro’s excellent defence. When their line was breached by Silva’s incisive pass, Boro left back George Friend made the tackle of the match to deny Aguero as he was about to shoot. At his fittest and sharpest, Aguero would probably have buried the chance before the defender had arrived. Credit though to Friend whose tackle was clean and sharp, and if we are looking for a new left back to help Gael Clichy, this lad is worth scouting at the very least, as he covered and tackled really well all afternoon. Compare and contrast his excellent attitude and application to Kolarov, who just jogged back when he could have covered and cleared the danger for Boro’s opener.

Still, Boro were dangerous in an end-to-end game and good work from Adomah resulted in Vossen’s volley forcing a good save by Caballero in the 74th minute.

Finally Dzeko was sent on for the supine Fernando in the 79th minute, but he again didn’t get any service in Pellegrini’s muddled team, which became increasingly desperate to the point that Kolarov went down easily in the box, to no avail. Sergio Aguero fired over from the edge of the box, but Boro’s defence was too well organised. City again missed the poise combination play and partnerships that Yaya and Nasri bring.

In the 89th minute Lampard’s deflected shot looped onto the bar, but that was City’s last attempt before Kike put the tie beyond doubt at the end of another swift counter attack.

It was no less than Middlesbrough deserved and they richly merited their win. Indeed, the Teessiders might have scored three more, had they taken full advantage of City’s malaise. City were sluggish and slow all over the pitch after the break, and we got we deserved: nothing. Boro’s opener apart, it was less about lack of commitment from City and more to do with a lack of ideas and poor defending. Some of that is down to poor form of Kompany and Fernando, and a lack of commitment and defensive ability of Kolarov, but it is also down to the way we are set up. City will always be vulnerable to counter attacks when our full backs are pushed on so far, and we do not have a defensive midfield player who can snuff out the danger reliably. Sergio Aguero is feeling his way back and is getting fitter, but too often David Silva had no one running in behind or finding space to stretch Boro. Sometimes, even his passes went astray, but he wasn’t alone. He cannot do it all on his own. There were several poor performances out there. Indeed, our whole team underperformed. Questions have to be raised about the City squad’s late arrival back from Abu Dhabi at 8pm on Friday night (couldn’t they have come back on Thursday?), especially given the lack of energy in the second half, but we have not played that well for a few weeks now. Pellegrini’s tactics, selection and substitutions are also a cause for concern. If we are really serious about the FA Cup, then pick our best team and that also means selecting our best goalkeeper, and our best left back. Kolarov has always been a weak defender, and he is not even offering much going forward at the moment, and does not merit a place in the team. Why not give young Angelino a chance? For the second week in succession, sub Dzeko had no out-and-out winger to cross to him as the manager had taken Navas off. If Navas is not playing well enough, then why not give a hungry youngster a chance? That is surely the holistic approach that the club is looking to implement. Another season passes by with City squandering a good Cup draw, and it is made all the worse by Chelsea going out. Opportunity missed, again. Credit to ‘Boro though. They showed us how it is done.

Goals: Bamford 54, Kike 91
Att: 44,836

Player scores:

Caballero: Made three good saves, but one was a result of his own poor pass out. His bottling out of the challenge which led to Boro’s opener was a total dereliction of duty. It was a challenge that most goalkeepers would have made. The lot of a goalkeeper is to go in where it hurts, and Joe Corrigan, Tony Coton and Joe Hart amongst many others would have put their body on the line. Costel Pantilimon certainly would have gone in where it hurt and certainly did so while he was here. Caballero didn’t and is nowhere near as good as his predecessor: 5
Zabaleta: Giving a chasing by the speedy Adomah who pinned him back for long periods. He looked leggy and tired in the second half and we didn’t see his usual overlapping: 5
Boyata: Nervous at the start and his hesitance on the ball saw him closed down easily. He improved and showed more composure to mop up the danger on a couple of occasions in the second half, but this was after his at best tentative, at worst half-hearted challenge in the build up to Boro’s opener: 5
Kompany: Mistiming challenges, impetuous, easily turned, not reading the game well, and looking a yard short of pace, the skipper is some way from getting back to his best. It will come back, but when? 5
Kolarov: He could have helped to clear the danger for Boro’s opener but just jogged back. Slow to respond to the rebound after Lampard’s deflected shot hit the bar, which could be more down to tiredness than lack of desire, but only he knows. His only positive was his set piece delivery, because he offered next to nothing going forward, and as usual, was poor defensively: 4
Navas: His delivery was better than against Arsenal (it couldn’t have been any worse!) and there were other more deserving candidates for being substituted: 5
Milner: Had a rare start in central midfield but didn’t take his chance. He went close with an effort in the first half, and helped make the play in the first half from the role he craves, but like others his influence faded in the second half. His final ball and other passing lacked quality which is not like him. No real impact when moved out wide in the final quarter: 5
Fernando: Off the pace. Hapless in Boro’s opener but at least he showed commitment: 5
Jovetic: Started on the left and forced two saves from the Boro goalkeeper before the break and one afterwards. Tested the Boro keeper in the first haff but one poorly directed cross drew momentary ire from Aguero. Subbed, and yet he had been more likely to score than any other City player: 5
Silva: As ever, cannot be faulted for effort, but his game lacked its usual zip, and even his passing lacked its customary incisiveness, barring the excellent pass which Aguero would normally have pounced on to score: 5
Aguero: Lacking fitness and match sharpness that would give us the edge, but slowly improving: 5

Subs:
Fernandinho (for Navas 67): An odd choice to replace Navas, his passing and general play was poor on this occasion: 5
Lampard (for Jovetic 67): Nearly rescued the game, but little else of note in his cameo: 5
Dzeko (for Fernando 80): No service, had to go out wide to get the ball: n/a

Best Oppo: Tomlin: Bright inventive and a handful for our defence all afternoon in the Number 10 role (he actually wore number 10 too!). Released by Leicester City as a youngster, he has worked his way back through the leagues via Rushden & Diamonds and Peterborough. At 26 this late developer may enjoy an Indian Summer in the Premier League if Boro continue their promotion charge. In this game, he certainly looked like he had very good skills levels and intelligence that could prosper at top level. Honourable mentions to the whole Boro defence, particularly the excellent Friend and Ayala; and the industrious Clayton in midfield, as well as Adomah and Bamford on the flanks. This Boro team already has the basis of a team that would survive in the top flight. Oh no, not another Boro bogey team: 9

Refwatch: Dowd: Slow and struggled to keep up with the game, making a plethora of mistakes. Most notably, he made poor decision to deny City a penalty when Aguero was jostled. The chant “You’re not fit to referee” could have been written for him: 3

Footnote: The Cup of Hurt

The freezing cold at the Etihad tram stop is that more biting after losing. This game was like a flash back to the bad old days in the 90s when Boro always seemed to beat us. Singing “We never win at home and we and we lost today” has some truth in it. Not good.

In common with you, I’m gutted about today’s exit from the FA Cup. It hurts. Not hurt like the loss of a loved one, if I can put it perspective but hurt nevertheless. My first season following City was 80/81, and we came so close to winning the final but couldn’t kill Tottenham off at 1-0 up. Older fans will know what happened. They equalised with Glenda’s free kick cannoning off poor old Tommy Hutchinson’s shoulder, and we couldn’t quite finish off the Cockneys despite them going down like flies with cramp (do flies ever suffer from cramp?) in extra time. It went to a replay and despite leading 2-1 in the second half Tottenham were the better side in the night and the rest is history…Ricky Villa and all. It hurt more than I realised. We said we’d do it next year, but we got hammered at home by Coventry – Peter Bodak having a stormer against us, (Bodak was next to useless in a City shirt later in his career). The years rolled on, mostly bad years. You’ve been there too. It took thirty years to win that Cup and we won it in 2011 which was an emotional moment. Winning it was special but I still feel every FA Cup exit keenly. It really hurts.

Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee AT orange.net

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THE VARIABLES OF FOLLOWING CITY

If any one wonders why the City supporters song is “Blue Moon” then you are now under no illusion after the last two matches because as always it has been that City only win once in a blue moon!!!

I am sorry to say that the defence is City’s let down…; the fact that the forwards cannot score does not mean they should not at least come away from a match with a draw considering the supposed calibre of the players in the team who are considered to be the best considering the amount of their transfer fees and wages they are paid!!! I think that Kompany, Boyata etc are not up to it I am sorry to state and in Kompany’s case he shows this fact with the tackles and or attempted tackles which leaves him giving away fouls which of course results in free kicks and then finds for his further trouble often gets a yellow card and complains bitterly to the referee, when it was obviously a desperate tackle for which every good referee was going to give him a yellow card for!

At least I am cheered by the Chelsea result today and a little bit encouraged that the Rags may just fail in their replay match against Cambridge. Come on Cambridge. [Ed: Hear, hear: and even more so at £45 a ticket that the Cambridge fans are being charged by The Evil Empire]

My regular attendance was at Maine Road in the mid to late 1950’s – so I cannot add to your 1960’s reminiscences and now I have to rely on NZ Sky TV and this can be a bit of hit and miss affair this season as they seemed to have failed to show at least two of City’s prior matches; whereas today they are showing the Cup match twice once from a UK commercial TV broadcast feed which I recorded as it was on at 5am this morning and watched over my breakfast around 8am and the other feed is our tomorrow morning from City TV. I must say that the City TV commentary is one person whose name I have yet to get to know, does seem to be a fair commentary as compared to when I have on occasions caught the odd part of either an Arsenal or Rags TV broadcast, who seem to use two comments persons, and who seemingly are very biased in their view of things. It was interesting just recently on the City TV broadcast. When they showed the new completed complex around the area of the Etihad Stadium which use to be a mine (Bradford Pit) and a chemical factory (Clayton Aniline Co), so quite a change from my travels along Ashton New Road back in the 1940s and 1950s! I also noted the fund raiser appeal for the Ancoats Dispensary, and I have sent my donation and trust all readers of MCIVTA have done so too!
Trevor Bevan
mate.bevan AT clear.net.nz

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WORSHIP FROM AFAR

Having confessed to being an outsider in my “Why Blue”, I did have one experience that most Blues would have given anything for.

I was always mad about aircraft and as I had to choose what A levels to do, I wrote to Hawker Siddley (who had eaten Avro amongst many others) enquiring as to which subjects could lead to a career in aviation. I received a letter inviting me to “go for a chat” at their Middleton factory and I was thrilled to be heading for Manchester.

My dad insisted on accompanying me. As I have said, he ran a boys club in Nottingham, but refused to let me play, claiming I was too young (the team were about 3 years older than me, but I still don’t think it should have mattered, I was good enough to hold my own). Dad, being afflicted had recommended a couple of lads to the swamp, and had visited them with at least one prospect. Joe Armstrong, their chief scout had stayed at our house a couple of times, but happily no one had succumbed to such an evil plight.

I was suitably impressed with the Middleton factory and had my chat, but it was over all too briefly and I thought that was it for the day.

Dad had written to Joe Mercer (honorary President of my dad’s Club) and I suddenly found myself being taken to the holiest place on earth, Maine Road. I had been invited to meet the first team and have a tour of the ground (such privilege was not something that could be bought in those days).

I was suitably gobsmacked as I looked at the main door and was ushered in with my dad. I was stunned as I was shown the board room (along with trophies), the manager’s room, the gym, the pitch etc. I was struggling for words when we went in the changing room, where the first team were getting dressed, having trained and showered and I was in awe as I stood next to Joe Corrigan and saw Buzzer and Franny larking about and having a laugh. King Colin was actually there in the flesh, but I was far more shy than he and we didn’t speak.

Suddenly, with alarming speed, they all disappeared and I was with Dad, wondering what the hell had just happened. I had, by then expected to actually meet Joe himself, but he was not even at the ground. That was a bit deflating, and quickly made far worse when my dad said we still had plenty of time and he wanted to have a word at some other place (the swamp) and I quickly found myself being taken in that awful direction.

I waited outside whilst dad went into the place. He soon returned and I found myself in a taxi with my dad, at their expense, heading for the Cliff (a notorious place of ill-repute). Having arrived there, I was mortified. I took some comfort from the fact that the first person I saw was an ex-Blue (and later to score the finest goal in all history, which I was privileged to witness live). I remember pointing out to Denis Law, that he was acceptable because of his Blue connection, but his response was muted.
Then I found myself in the lounge, surrounded by first team players. I vividly remember Ian Ure being measured for a Wembley Blazer and thinking how utterly absurd it was. Then came my greatest moment of horror/shame. Possibly stung by my (completely false) jest at my dad’s expense when I suggested he said to Joe Corrigan’s face what he had said behind his back, dad’s revenge was horrific. He loudly said, for all to hear, seeing as you are here, why don’t you ask them for their autographs.

Of course, dad had ensured that I had a book with me as he knew I was to meet my heroes that day. I felt trapped, I had no escape. I turned around and found myself face to face with the worst person on earth (the one who betrayed all his friends, who regularly failed to turn up and who lived out of a bottle). I was appalled as he took the book out of my hand and signed it.

For those who witnessed the same scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I was there decades before, Spielberg stole it. It wasn’t Hitler, it was Best and it wasn’t Berlin, it was the Cliff. Apart from that, the horror and the shame were faithfully shown in the film.

Outside, I recall sympathising with Wilf McGuinness about his unfair treatment and impossible situation (he was still manager at the time). The only other thing I remember is my dad chatting with Nobby Stiles. As soon as Nobby heard that I was a Blue, he broke a sacred law of the time and confided that Joe Mercer was on “This is your Life” that night.

Suddenly, I understood the unseemly haste in which my first visit to Maine Road had ended. We raced from the swamp to the station (Piccadilly), got the first train and fretted as we tried to get home. Sadly, we got into Derby just as the connection home left.

We missed the programme. There were no mobiles in those days and no VCR (a technology from the last century). There was no iPlayer, there was no chance of seeing the programme. Indeed that particular episode got lost/destroyed, so there isn’t even a YouTube. I missed it.

But all in all, I had an experience at Maine Road that very few were ever lucky enough to have had.

Martin Hunt
Martinhuntctid AT gmail.com

[Ed: I hope you wiped your feet on your way out of The Cliff, Martin]
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NO BOVVER IN THE SIXTIES?
I cannot quite remember the year but it must have been late 60’s when this incident took place. City were playing Hull away in the FA Cup and as usual for the times we took a huge away following. City had a large skinhead contingent and this would be about the time “Bovver Boys ” were causing a
lot of trouble on the terraces. Well the local police were having none of it and were waiting in force for the skins. The police then ordered the skinheads to take off their “bovver boots ‘ , I kid you not and in no time there was a huge pile of Doc Martens boots piled high on the terrace. So a large part of the City fans had to watch the game in their socks which pretty much diffused any idea of confrontation with the Hull fans. I have no idea how the correct boots were re united with the correct owners but the match passed off peacefully. I cannot remember the score but that incident
has stuck with me down the years.

Regards Bob

Bob.price AT upcmail.nl

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MORE OGDENISMS

……. then I’ll shut up. The result of the Boro cup tie was a wonderful thing for Ogden, particularly as City’s return from Dubai was rather close to the kick off. We are now desert prats and next time City will choose to prepare for a big game at their much-heralded training ground across the road from the Etihad rather than take a 9,000 miles return trip to the home of their owner. What cheek. He concedes that City may have dominated play in the first half (they had nearly all of the play for 50 mins and should have been one or more up) but Boro were so much better. That was Sunday and his
report in the Monday issue was also rubbish “Pellegrini must re-boot faltering City.” Nothing about the game itself, just a load of criticism about the attack and a stupid joke about Kompany. However, it was in his markings that he showed his true colours giving higher ratings to all Boro players in relation to ours. Aguero had our top mark with 6 while six Boro men had 7, four had 8 and one had 9 making a total of 81 against our 47! This did not balance with our possession rate of 67 against 33, our shots at 24 against 14 or corners at 11 against 2. But that is Ogden and it is ludicrous that he gets paid for his biased rantings.

Derek Styles
deranne10 AT gmail.com

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PRIORITIES
After witnessing City’s abysmal performance in our Cup Exit against Middlesbrough, it’s pretty obvious to figure out where Manuel Pellegrini’s priorities lie. No matter what he said about winning the FA Cup, City’s main focus right now is to advance in the European Cup and to give Chelsea a run for another Premier league title. How else can you explain how a virtually-full strength City side could surrender so meekly to Middlesbrough. The problem as I see it is that with all the success City has achieved in the past four years, the bar for future success just keeps getting raised.

From supporting a team we continually hoped would not get relegated to now supporting a team we virtually expect to be in contention each year for the championship, it’s really hard to gauge how we are progressing. Obviously major success in Europe is our next target which seems to mean that the FA Cup and League Cup are viewed as a scheduling nuisance. Which is too bad because hard core fans will always have an affinity for the FA Cup.

So the team’s recent training break In Abu Dhabi was about preparing for their game at Chelsea rather than their cup tilt against Middlesbrough! Well, great if it works out, but if it doesn’t, City will have dropped three straight and will have a hard time catching Chelsea at the top.

There was a time, quite recently when the Etihad Stadium was a City fortress. Yet this year, we’ve lost league games to Stoke and Arsenal, a European Cup game against CSKA Moscow, a League Cup loss to an under-strength Newcastle and an FA Cup loss to Middlesbrough and we’re only half way through the season! I think it’s time to get worried about this team’s priorities. Truly great teams play well consistently, not when they feel they have to.

Yes it’s great that Manuel received the FA’s Manager of the Month award, yet with the talent he has recently purchased and the staff he inherited from Roberto Mancini, you would expect City to mop the floor with the likes of Middlesbrough. If City don’t get at least a point against Chelsea and don’t raise their game against Barcelona I feel that our Middle East benefactors will start plotting for a new managerial direction next year. The way things stand now, just being top in England isn’t good enough anymore.

Keith Sharp
Toronto Canada
(keith.sharp AT hotmail.com)

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WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE GAME?
City still have not won a Premier League game without Yaya Toure, and we have really missed his poise, all round quality, and match winning ability in his absence this January.

Yet, many Blues would happily see the back of Yaya. Last Summer’s poor behaviour and/or his perceived lack of interest at times have understandably caused irritation, but despite that, in common with many others, I’m glad that he stayed. His behaviour last Summer was most likely motivated by a desire for a new contract, whether it was here or elsewhere. There are some days when he doesn’t look interested (both for City and the Cote D’Voire), but we haven’t really had one of those at City since he got sent off at home to CSKA Moscow. He has played very well for City after a slow start to the season, which is understandable, considering he was coming to terms with the death of his brother.

There has, though, been a recent spot of ambiguous behaviour from Yaya. After leaving for the African Cup of Nations, he has said that he does not know where he will be next season. Again, he is probably looking for that last big pay day, and given the politics of the Gulf, the Qataris who own Paris St Germain would not be averse to putting one over their counterparts in the United Arab Emirates by signing perhaps our most influential player. However, he is under contract to City until 2017.

Still, it would be no surprise if his agent Dmitri Seluk and/or Yaya make more noises this Summer about being unhappy/disrespected/lacking an iced bun or would love to play for PSG et al.

Some might say Yaya is the epitome of a football mercenary. That may be true, but they are doing him a disservice. Is it fair to expect loyalty from a footballer, who like any person in any line of work, will generally get the best deal for themselves? Is it realistic to expect all our players to love City as well as play with passion as well as quality like, say, Zaba or Sir Vincent do?

Still, he remains an enigma. When he does behave like he did last Summer, if I could borrow from a popular Swedish pop combo in days of yore, I’d love to sit down with him and ask:

What’s the name of the game, does it mean anything to you?

Maybe Yaya cares more than he lets on – when he takes the game by the scruff of the neck, he certainly looks like he does. The way he played at Selhurst Park last season and the way he flung his arms in celebration after his goal suggested that he did. He has won too many games for City with his brilliance, giving us some of our best memories of following this dear club, to be dismissed: scoring the winners to defeat United and Stoke at Wembley in 2011; his goals in the crucial win at Newcastle in the 2011/12 title win; his stunner to turn round the League Cup Final last season and many, many others in the League last season when he scored 24 goals in all competitions including 20 in the League. Yaya may be a gun for hire by the highest bidder, but he has made such a great impression on our history, won so many matches, and been such a big contributor on the way to four trophies in the five years he has been here. He may win many more matches.

Whilst Yaya is 31 years old, and possibly slightly past his best, making less of those trademark lung-bursting runs, he is still good enough to win games for us, having bagged 9 goals in all competitions (7 of them in the League) this season, as well as his assists. Not only has he got an eye for goal and legendary shooting ability, he enhances the way City play and is a good influence in the dressing room, rather than a disruptive one. You only have to watch how the players respond to him on the pitch to see how well respected he is. Several are better for his presence. A lot is made of Yaya not tracking back enough but this can be accommodated. His desire not to be beaten in midfield – time after time he has used his strength and desire to retain the ball when many other players would have lost it – cannot be overlooked. Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives. A total of 61 goals in 209 appearances for City overall (45 in 152 League appearances) is outstanding and speaks volumes.

For those reasons, he is worth keeping, and that is why I am glad he is in our team. Yaya’s presence doesn’t prevent us from seeking out his successor, and the name of Paul Pogba keeps cropping up, and with good reason. Indeed, we should be looking for his successor, possibly even bringing him alongside Yaya initially. It could be that successor may not be quite the same kind of player, and City’s team has a different shape and/or way of playing. When that day comes, his replacement will have very hard act to follow.

Phil Banerjee
phil.banerjee AT orange.net

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BLUE FOR 45 YEARS, AND COUNTING.

I became a blue at the very end of the sixties. Nothing to do with trophy winning, that had kind of passed a starry eyed seven year old by, although I did love my little triangular wall flag they did in those days, with a list of the things we had won. I had seen Colin Bell play and that was that. I wanted to be him. Mum also tells me that I loved the colour sky blue too.

City V Chelsea 1975
Anyway, based in London it was not possible for me to get up to Manchester as a kid so my Dad would get us tickets for some of the away games in and around the Capital. First up was Chelsea away in 1975. We were near the tunnel as the players came out and I sat in awe as what seemed liked sky blue giants ran in front of me. My jaw probably didn’t come back up until well into the first half.

What was a bit of b*gger being in the home parts of grounds for our away games was you felt a bit isolated, looking longingly at the enclave of fellow blues. But joy of joys no sooner had Rodney done his first bit of trickery than these three men in front of me, also City fans in disguise, starting singing City songs and cheering them on. Fantastic. That and one other thing made my day. We won! We hardly ever won away in those days. A new hero for me, Asa Hartford, half volleyed in from a chip over the free kick wall. What a day.

City V West Ham times two!
Many other London away games spring to mind. Including one in March 1977 where we lost to West Ham 1-0. And we were in with a shout for the title. I still have my wall chart somewhere which I remember tearfully filling in when Derby had spanked us 4-0 to effectively mean we would be runners up to Liverpool. We were a great a team that year with a front five of Barnes Kidd, Royle, Asa and Dennis Tueart. Mike Doyle was carried off in the West Ham game and in the ensuing chaos when the ‘Ammers scored I’d become separated from my Dad as everyone whizzed around like it was some giant fairground ride. The result helped them stay up I think.

But the match my Dad often recounts is the 0-1 victory at Upton Park, August 1977. (Sorry Ed’ just realised I have rather stretched the boundaries of “early 70s”) [Ed: No need to apologise, Blue, it’s all about the quality]. As usual we had tickets in with the home fans. And somehow we had ended up standing pretty much next to the infamous North Bank. There were a few nice old guys around us who didn’t seem to mind too much that I was clearly a City fan. But then we scored! In those days my blue and white scarf was pretty much as big as I was. And when Joe Royle rammed the ball home midway through the second half I went berserk. Silence was all around us apart from this scarf jumping up and down with a screaming small-for-his-age lad attached. Several thousand heads all turned in our direction and before I knew it said scarf had been confiscated by my Dad and we were running down the road to get to the tube station before we got murdered. A hilarious memory and I remain ever grateful to my Dad for taking me all over the place to see my heroes. And for saving me from presumably a fate worse than death that day in East London!

I have now been up to see City at home many times over the years. To this day it still feels like a semi religious feeling as I approach the ground. And I have never see them lose at home. (Sorry if that puts the mockers on the looming West Brom game I’m up for soon). It’s been close a few times. I couldn’t believe it as I sat slumped in the second tier of the Etihad as QPR went 1-2 up on Sergio-day. Surely not today, surely this wouldn’t be the first time they lose at home with me here! But of course the rest is history. What a day to actually be there. Priceless as they say.

Having been through the lows and lows with City – being chased around Surrey docks in my replica shirt by Millwall “fans” when we were in the second division a case in point – I don’t accept very graciously when some idiot talks of us buying success. And here is the strange thing. I hero worshiped Bell, Tueart, Hartford. Pretended I was David White as I whizzed down the wing when I played a bit. But I feel a real admiration, respect and warmth towards today’s players. These guys who are supposed to be mercenaries, here for the cash.

Zabaleta, what a man. Kompany one of the best defenders I have seen in blue (Dave Watson runs him close). Yaya a special player and one who scores crucial goals when it matters. Silva and Sergio frankly the best I have seen. Kinkladze was a special player but was perhaps like a gourmet dinner when we had a diet of rather poor fare to feed upon. So I feel a real affinity with today’s team. I suppose being there to see us win the FA Cup, League Cup and that first title for years, and standing in the Nou Camp watching my team go toe to toe with Barca, might have a bearing on all that. I still do a slight double take when the Champions League tune plays and it’s my team on the pitch.

Through thick and thin City have been and always will be my team and a part of who I am. A splendid sky blue waistcoat as part of my wedding suit in 2013 came as no surprise to friends and family. Keep the faith.

Mark Thomson.
markdthomson@sky.com
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