Newsletter #1589

City emerged winners in a convincing display on Wednesday night against Arsenal to progress to the semi finals of the Carling Cup. Wenger was less than impressed, although it certainly makes up for those games where his youth side have beaten our first team on previous cup occasions.

We have news tonight on the games, behind the scenes and player round-up from Alex. There’s a match report from Phil and plenty of opinion on the team, the season and the overall plan together with the usual requests.

Next Game: Chelsea, home, 5.30pm Saturday 5 December


General News

Hark Now Hear! Manchester burst into life last night as the Carling Cup semi final draw threw up two Manchester derbies for first fortnight of the New Year. City overcame a young Arsenal side last night in order to progress to the final four of the competition and, despite bearing the brunt of the draw, Mark Hughes expects his side to be triumphant over the two legs: “I think the United draw was meant to be. When we play like we have done tonight we can be a match for anyone. Over two legs we will back ourselves against any side and that includes United. I don’t know whether Fergie will stick with the kids, they have some very good ones. They defeated a near full strength Tottenham side but we know we can compete with them.” United will visit CoMS on the week commencing 4th January with the return leg at Old Trafford taking place on the week commencing 18th January.

On a Global Scale: Ferrostaal is the latest global name to sign a deal with Manchester City Football Club, in a move that will see the plant construction and engineering firm sponsor the Blues until the end of the 2011/2012 season. The German company has a consumer base that spreads across forty countries and joins the illustrious names of Etihad, Etisalat and Umbro by sponsoring the Abu Dhabi United owned club. Terms of the deal will see City take on a German Bundesliga club in the close season of each of the three years of the deal and the Ferrostaal company logo will take pride of place upon the pitch side boards during each of City’s home games.

Ferrostaal’s CEO, Dr Matthias Mitscherlich, expressed his delight with the deal: “The partnership with Manchester City is an ideal opportunity for Ferrostaal to advertise our company internationally. Football is a sport which is very popular in the countries which are important for us and attracts a great degree of attention there.”

City’s Executive Chairman Garry Cook spoke of the importance of such deals when attempting to create a global outfit of Manchester City: “We are delighted to become partners with a company of the calibre of Ferrostaal. With their recently gained independence, they are embarking on an exciting period in their history just as Manchester City has entered its own bright new era. As a premium company, with world recognition in its field, Ferrostaal joins with our other valued partners Etihad, Umbro and Etisalat, and gives us the opportunity to work and connect together as a group of companies as we and they continue to grow globally.”

Money, Money, Money: City may be struggling to find their feet in the Premier League’s hierarchy this season after a run of seven consecutive draws but the club has topped one table this season. Unsurprisingly, the Blues paid out more money to agents than any other club over the last twelve months, having spent almost £12.9 million. Such a total was to be expected after the huge amount of business at CoMS since the takeover of Shiekh Mansour and the £20 million+ signings of Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Joleon Lescott this summer will have done nothing to lessen that figure. The club’s Chief Financial Officer, Graham Wallace, was keen to stress that such a huge total was no surprise to the club: “As has previously been stated by our Chief Executive Garry Cook, the level of player acquisition over the past year has been unprecedented as we have sought to rebuild our playing squad. Squad building at this level and within such a short time frame is unlikely to be repeated. The figure in question relates to payments made for 35 players, many of whom pre-date this time period. The fees represent an average of £360,000 per transaction, and the total amount falls well within our annual budget and operating plan as approved by our board.”

True Blue: City’s International Academy Director, Jim Cassell, revealed this week that having left his former post this summer, he received several offers to join other clubs. Cassell, who is credited with the development of first team stars Micah Richards, Stevie Ireland and Shaun Wright Phillips, was relieved of his job as Academy director this summer before being appointed to lead the club’s new international project. The man, whose rôle it is to now to find the world’s best up and coming talent, admits that he was offered posts elsewhere before signing the new deal at City: “I am really happy here. I have had other job offers but said no to them. The new job appeals to me because it is out of my comfort zone. I think it is fantastic. There is great scope to create something really exciting in Abu Dhabi and I am a believer that you can’t fail at anything if you apply yourself properly and that is what I intend to do. I probably go to bed more tired now than I did before and I am not doing half the physical things in my job that I used to do. But it is a great challenge and I look forward to each day.”

Uwe! Uwe! Uwe! Speaking of men who will forever be dedicated to the Citizens, City legend Uwe Rösler has been inducted into the MCFC hall of fame. Rösler received a rousing reception upon his return to City last weekend as the German international joined the likes of Joe Mercer, Frank Swift and Malcolm Allison in the Blues’ prestigious club. Rösler spoke humbly of how proud he was to be inducted into the club’s hall of fame and explained that he expects exciting times ahead for the City faithful: “Manchester City is a club where I feel at home; I like to come over here and obviously people make me feel very welcome. It’s a very good feeling for an ex-player to go back to an old club and see that people really care about you. The way they supported me through my illness, they have been fantastic support for me and helped me so much through a really difficult period of my life. Now is an incredible time to be a City fan. We have the chance of a lifetime with the new owners to establish City where we belong, at the top of the league in English football. The supporters, who have supported this club for so many decades without winning, they are so hungry to win something. These great supporters deserve to see this great club win something in the near future. I think now with the new owners, the finances and our superb youth academy, who is leading in English football by producing young players, we will succeed. We also have a manager who knows all about winning. Mark Hughes is a winner; he’s played for great clubs and has good experience as a manager. He will definitely guide us in the right direction.”

Down by the Riverside: The draw for this season’s FA Cup third round was made on Sunday as the Blues were handed an away tie to Championship side Middlesbrough. ‘Boro’, who were relegated to England’s second tier last season, have only recently replaced former manager Gareth Southgate with ex-Celtic boss Gordon Strachan, but like the Blues, are struggling for form. The tie will take place during the first weekend of the New Year and is unlikely to feature City duo Kolo Toure and Emmnuel Adebayor who are expected to represent their respective countries at next year’s African Cup of Nations.

February Fixture Flurry: City’s fixture schedule has been altered once again this season with two February fixtures affected. Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers will now visit Eastlands on 9th February with a 7.45pm kick-off whilst the Citizens’ trip to Stamford Bridge on the 27th will start at the earlier time of 12.45pm. Should City qualify for the Carling Cup final, this fixture will be postponed.

Bunch of ‘Twits’: Manchester City were unlikely winners at last week’s inaugural Golden Twits, being presented the Public Vote Award. The City Twitter site is one of the latest club innovations to keep fans up to date with club goings-on, which, alongside the City Facebook group, has been widely well received by the Blue faithful. The club’s Twitter page faced stiff competition from Aleksandr the Meerkat and his well known price comparison site but MCFC finished up the deserving winner.

Squad News

Fighting His Corner: The African Cup of Nations is likely to steal away former Arsenal duo Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor this January as the continental competition is staged in Angola. Although the competition will officially begin on January 10th, FIFA guidelines state that international sides may call players up to duty two weeks prior to the competition itself. This provision has been fought against in the past but Mark Hughes hopes to be successful in postponing the Afrcian duo’s departure from CoMS with key games against Stoke and Wolves coming up soon after Christmas: “There’s the suggestion of a preparation period that has to be factored in, and we are aware of that – there will be communications with the associations involved regarding the release dates for British-based players. A lot of other leagues have breaks for the festive period that allow their players to meet up at the earlier time. We have a crucial period of the season coming up and hopefully that will be taken into account.”

In My Defence: City defender Micah Richards returned to the starting line-up last week in Saturday’s disappointing draw with Hull City after a week of media speculation as to the 20-year-old’s future. Reports suggested last week that Richards had demanded showdown talks with club bosses after Pablo Zabaleta seemed to have replaced him as first choice right back, which in turn seemed to spark interest from Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers. Despite such rumours, the Academy graduate has promised fans that he is here to stay: “I got a wrist injury, Pablo came in for me and did exceptionally well, and I think it would have been wrong for me to come straight back into the team when he was doing so well. I was given the chance again against Hull, so all I can do now is work hard and try to nail down my place again. Every player wants to play in every game. Craig Bellamy has been inspirational at times this season, but he was on the bench to start with on Saturday. That allowed Robinho in, and we all know what he can do. Robi was dying to play at Liverpool but it was good to have him back on home turf, he played really well against Hull. If we want to go places we need a big squad. We have the squad we need now, but the results are just not going our way at the moment.”

Bridge-ing the Gap: England left back Wayne Bridge has been speaking this week of the gap that remains between City and the established ‘big four’ and explained that if the Blues were to lay their hands on a trophy this season, that gap would be substantially narrowed. Despite coming in for intense scrutiny this season, Bridge is expected to be a part of Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad next summer but is solely focused on breaking City’s run of poor recent form and winning some silverware in the process: “It used to be a competition that teams showed some indifference towards but you only have to look at the quarter final line up to realise that everyone wants to win the trophy and we are no different. I came to City to try to win things and we have the chance to do that in this year’s Carling Cup. We are determined to take the opportunity. We have been disappointed with the draws. Teams early in the season had to work hard to score goals against us and recently that hasn’t been the case. We have to defend better. If we had picked up a point here and there we would have been right up there in the top two or three. It has been disappointing but we are still in a good position and there is no lack of confidence in the squad.”

Dad’s Army: If you were a respected professional footballer, whose country had qualified for their first World Cup in years and your dad was national team manager, the majority of us would expect to be included in that national squad, but this is not the case for Vladimir Weiss. ‘Vladi’, whose name is being bounced around the Premier League as the most exciting talent of recent times, is yet to start a league game for City’s new look line-up but having scored in last night’s 3-0 drubbing of Arsenal, the Slovakian international hopes to get a taste of more first team action in order to guarantee a seat on the plane to South Africa next June.

“Nobody expected us to be there, so it’s a great achievement for Slovakia, the first time we’ve ever qualified. For me and my dad, it’s just unbelievable! But it’s seven months away and I’m not thinking that I’m definitely going. My mum will be there to support my dad and hopefully me. But I need to play more to be sure of getting in the squad. The last game I was OK, I went past my man a few times. That’s always a great feeling. My style of play does excite the fans, I like to beat players. But I’ve not played that many. I played for Slovakia when I’d not really played here. He still gave me the chance. I think I took it – since I got in the Slovakia team I’ve started every game. The fans back home support me, which is good to know.”

Weiss kissed the club badge in celebration when he scored his first goal for the Blues last night and having won the FA Youth Cup with City’s Under 18s only two years ago, the 20-year-old hopes this season will bring cup success at senior level: “Every team left is a good team. It does not really matter who we play but if we want to win it we have to beat everybody. It’s been a long time since we have won anything, and with this team we’ll try to win something. We’re close now and I hope we can go all the way. I enjoy every minute on the pitch and when I get the chance I want to impress the manager and the fans. It’s the fourth time I have played for the first time, and it was nice to score at last. I nearly missed it! Everyone congratulated me, but we are really happy that we finally won. Winning the Youth Cup was fantastic, and hopefully that will not be the final trophy we will win in my career. We played really well, it was a tough game until we were 2-0 up. I was not expecting to come on, but after our second the pace of the game dropped a bit and I got my chance. We needed a win, and this was a perfect game for us. Arsenal are a good side and this is going to help us a lot going into the Chelsea game.”

Jewel in the Crown: The return of ‘Robbie’ had many people talking after the visit of Hull City last Saturday and City chief Mark Hughes hopes the Brazilian is just what the Citizens need to kick start their season. Robinho’s influence was clear to see during the first half of last weekend’s fixture with the record signing making chances and missing the goal by only inches. For Sparky, it is only a matter of time before ‘Robbie’ regains full fitness and thrives alongside his new team-mates: “We watched him train this week, and sometimes you can forget just how accomplished a player like that is when he’s been out for some time. We’re delighted he’s back. You always miss the influence that he can have at some point in the game. He’s one of our most technically-gifted players. You’d always like to have his skills at your disposal. They haven’t been available to us. He has that ability to create things – you need players who have the ability to unlock the door and he certainly has that. In key areas, in and around the box, I’d suggest he’s one of the best in the world. We need to get him in those areas, and when we do, he’ll produce for us.”

Transfer Speculation

Best of the Best: Spanish sensation David Villa has been continuously linked with a move to the Premier League ever since it was revealed that his club side Valencia are in serious financial trouble and a move to England may be on the cards this January. Villa, who currently plies his trade in the Spanish La Liga, is hotly tipped to be the star of next summer’s World Cup but despite being dedicated to current club Valencia, Villa understands that he can’t dismiss a move away from Mestalla if his club are offered a fee of around £35 million: “I have not closed the door on any club because I only have a short career and I want to enjoy my football. I have had a lot of offers, but I would have to pick the best option, and that could be in the Premier League, which I have never ruled out.”

Staying with La Liga, Barcelona mis-fit Yaya Toure is preparing for a move away from the Nou Camp, having struggled to break into the European Champions’ first XI this season. Toure, brother of City skipper Kolo, had been subject to transfer speculation only a couple of weeks ago but now his agent has laid down firm foundations for Yaya’s transfer: “We aren’t happy – he isn’t playing and it’s strange that he’s not getting minutes. Barça cannot let themselves be without a player like Toure. I don’t know if we will continue with Barça or not, but it won’t be on the bench. If a team like Manchester City or Chelsea comes in, we will be ready to negotiate.”

Best of the Rest: With City’s defence under constant scrutiny, the Manchester club have been linked with moves for West Ham’s Matthew Upson and Ajax’s Dutch full back Gregory van der Wiel in the winter transfer window though the latter’s agent has asserted that his client has no plans to leave Holland: “There is no official contact between Ajax and Manchester City. But I cannot deny that his performance has been closely followed by Manchester City. He’s just broken through last season. This season he has set himself the target of being a major player for Ajax. That’s why Greg is not concerned with a transfer to another club.”

In the same week that Bolton Wanderers were said to be preparing a £2 million bid for former Portsmouth striker Benjani, City were reportedly planning to go head-to-head with Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur for Middlesbrough’s widely respected Adam Johnson. The young winger is valued at £7 million having seamlessly replaced Stewart Downing this season and it would seem that City’s trip to Boro in January’s FA Cup tie will give the Blues the chance to watch Johnson in action.

Ex-Blues’ News

Keeping His ‘Witt’s About Him: Former City boy Jamie Tandy has this week signed up to Unibond League side Witton Albion. The 25-year-old, who has spent the last four months at Albion as a non-contract player, has won fans on side with his direct and exciting brand of football and the left sided midfielder is expected to aid Witton in their push for promotion following last season’s relegation.

Post-Match Reaction

Unlucky Number Seven: Not a save to make for Shay Given in this Premier League encounter on a cold Saturday in November but yet again the Blues were left ruing missed chances. Hull City returned to CoMS for the first time since last Boxing Day’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Blues and the game seemed to be wrapped up at half time as Shaun Wright Phillips put City 1-0 up in the 45th minute after a half of dominance by the Hughes’ men. In the second half, the Blues continued to exert their superiority over Brown’s Tigers but failed to convert a number of chances. With nine minutes left on the clock, the inevitable happened as the visitors were given the chance to equalise. Referee Lee Probert pointed to the penalty spot for a Kolo Toure foul on former Celtic striker van Hesselink before Hull talisman Jimmy Bullard converted from 12 yards. Bullard then combined with team-mates to re-create a parody of Phil Brown’s infamous on-pitch team-talk for the most creative celebration of the season.

Despite a forward line of Tevez, Adebayor and Robinho failing to convert various chances to wrap the game up, City boss Hughes felt the blame lay at the referee’s door: “You hope referees get the big decisions right. Unfortunately, he didn’t. My first thought was that it was for handball but I’ve seen it since and it’s certainly not. Now the referee is saying it’s for the challenge in the box, and I’d debate that as well. It’s a harsh decision. It was a coming together, not a foul. The players are down, they can see the injustice. We’re not seeing games out, but today the referee played a hand. The penalty hurt us – without it, I don’t think Hull would have given us too many problems. We need to break the cycle. I sensed a bit of anxiety towards the end, which is understandable. Hull worked exceptionally hard and made it difficult, but I thought we did enough to win. At times we will look what we are, a team that’s come together quickly and has frailties as a consequence. We are picking up points and it’s only a matter of time before we’re winning again.”

Returning defender Micah Richards was quick to say that the referee was not totally to blame but admitted he was disappointed with the decision as well as his side’s performance: “We cannot use it as an excuse, we should be scoring more than once against Hull, and that’s no disrespect to them. We didn’t do that, and it’s another disappointment for us. We did not create that much, but we still had plenty of chances. We were not at our best and could have scored a few. What we can’t do is dwell on this, there are two massive games coming up so we’ll just prepare for Arsenal now before thinking about Chelsea later. I thought we controlled the game after getting the first goal and I thought that would have spurred us on to get a second, but we couldn’t. It was a disappointing performance, we normally gel at home and make some good combinations but we didn’t do that. And to concede a very debatable goal was not great either, I don’t know if it was a handball or a foul. I didn’t think it was either, so we feel a bit hard done by.”

Man-of-the-match Nigel de Jong quick to pounce on the poor performance and claimed that that the whole team must take responsibility for the club’s run of draws and work together to help challenge for a place in the top four: “There’s a lot of disappointment, we were at home but it’s another draw and from an equaliser around 80 minutes so naturally we are very disappointed. We’re no nearer the top four so we have to sort it out. We’re very frustrated. We played well at times today and also in the recent home games, but we have to try to dominate at home and we haven’t, so there’s a lot of frustration around. We’ve just got to pick ourselves up again. We’ve got to give more in every part of the side, not just the defence but the midfield and attack as well. It’s a team thing, we just have to worker harder to get to where we want to be. The confidence is there. We have to keep that as high as we can especially at home. But the referee gave a penalty today and that’s the kind of situation we are in right now. But we have not got the luck on our side at the moment. This kind of result is hard to take, but we have to be positive and keep looking ahead.”

Under Pressure: The press speculation that followed Saturday’s draw with Hull suggested that, after the Blues’ poor run of form, manager Mark Hughes may be under pressure. Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini and Guus Hiddink have all been touted as possible replacements but the Manager knows that he has the backing of his Chairman: “I’m not surprised about the speculation with regard to my situation. I’ve had to put up with it ever since I came here. But it’s not something I lose sleep over. It’s obvious it will happen when you have a run of results that are frustrating for everyone associated with the club. The owners are frustrated that these draws haven’t been turned into wins. I discuss it on a weekly basis with the chairman and after our games as well. We have long-term targets and where we are now is as near-as-dammit where we expected to be. It’s the first week of December and we’re not a million miles from where we thought we’d be, so there has to be a bit of a reality check in terms of what our expectations are. It only takes one positive result to turn things around. We’re in the habit of drawing right now but we can quickly change that into a habit of winning.”

£17 million signing Roque Santa Cruz acknowledged that it is for the City players to start winning again in order to stop all speculation of a possible sacking for the man who brought him to the club: “We haven’t been playing badly in parts, we have been playing really well but it seems we are not just closing the games when we have the chances and then we are conceding goals for mistakes that shouldn’t happen. You are just putting pressure on yourself, but I think we have a squad full of experienced players and then you can work it out in your favour. People are very keen on stopping us, they are really thinking how to make us lose points. We just need to stay focused and get rid of these succession of draws and just start winning. Pressure is on everyone. We have a clear aim for the season, which is to get in to the top four and we have been dropping a lot of points with these draws, which is not helping anyone. We are a team, a family, all of us are involved in this together. We are just not doing enough to win the games.”

Pure Football: Any fears of a managerial sacking were appeased last night, for the time being at least, as Mark Hughes’ men thrashed Arsene Wenger’s young guns 3-0. The Gunners visited Eastlands for the second time in three months and despite having the majority of possession, wonder strikes from Carlos Tevez, Shaun Wright Phillips and Vladimir Weiss were all too much for Wenger’s men. The Blues will now contest a first major domestic semi-final for 28 years and City will be looking to get their revenge for September’s controversial derby defeat. Hughes expressed his delight with the result: “We have been frustrating everyone, not least ourselves, because we have let good opportunities slip but the manner of the victory over Arsenal was impressive. We managed the game well once we went in front. We are working hard to drive the club forward and we want to be successful over a long period of time. The first step in that is to make sure we are a team that is consistent in performances and results. We are showing progress. The level of performance in the quarter final was excellent from front to back. We were never going to be denied tonight; we had a strong mentality and a determination about us and we got the job done comfortably in the end. We stood up to the challenge. I was pleased with the level everyone produced. The defence gave us the platform to press further up the field. The three goals were all great. Carlos created something himself and Shaun’s goal capped an outstanding performance. He was back to what we know he can be. He has been a bit frustrated but he was outstanding.”

Shaun Wright Phillips’ superb goal capped a magnificent performance by the England winger and the former Chelsea man explained that his side must now build on this performance: “We are looking forward to the fact that we are in the semi-finals for the first time in a long while. If we play against United like we did against Arsenal then we have a great chance of reaching that final. We don’t mind which team United put out because we are only concerned with our own performance. Of course it will be special to see a huge number of City fans packed into Old Trafford just as it is when CoMS is full. It means so much to the players when the supporters are behind us and I am sure they can’t wait for January to come around. What we have to do now is let them talk and banter about the semi-final and the derby matches and concentrate on the league. Christmas is coming and there are a lot of points to play for and we want as many of them as we can get. We have also got an FA Cup tie before then. It was a team performance that lifted everyone and we are just delighted we are through. If we press like that as a team and play like that as a team then we are very hard to beat and always look as though we have got goals in us. What the win has done has put us in the right frame of mind for the visit of Chelsea at the weekend.”

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


Manchester City swept aside Arsenal with three brilliant goals in a thrilling encounter at Eastlands to reach our first semi-final since 1981. City were too powerful for a youthful Arsenal side that was still packed with talents like Vela, Ramsey, Song, and the much vaunted Wilshere, not to mention a sprinkling of experienced internationals like Rosicky and Silvestre.

The game was played under a full moon, and the club supplied City flags to the fans to add to the occasion. There was another nice touch when the club dimmed the lights in the stadium to shine a ‘Blue Moon’ onto the Kippax Stand for a few seconds. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and the added spice of Adebayor up against his old team (and fans) again. Predictably he was the pantomime villain for Arsenal fans, who were serenaded by the City Singing Section with “Adebayor, Adebayor, [allegedly] stamped on van Persie, now his face is sore”. Ouch!

City enjoyed the best of a tense, tight first half and created the two best chances: Bellamy firing wide when well placed, and Tevez created a chance for himself – a shot that stung the ‘keeper’s gloves – at the end of a thrilling long run down the right. At the other end, Given stood up well to save from Eboue’s close range effort when he broke clear down our left. His positioning and posture made the save look easy, and that was the sum total of Arsenal’s chances, as City set about the Gunners with vigour, aggression and intelligence. Everyone played at a high standard, and in contrast to the Hull game, we looked like a team in every sense of the word.

Wright-Phillips terrorised Armand Traore down the right with his pace and trickery, showing the versatility to go inside the full back or outside. Often there were two or three men trailing in his wake as he thrillingly ran with the ball at full pace. Carlos Tevez also terrorised the Gunners’ back line with his tricky, powerful running and aggression, as City played at a high tempo. He capped his all-action, skilful display with a spectacular goal in the 48th minute when he exchanged passes with Bellamy down the left, cut inside past two Arsenal defenders, and unleashed a powerful drive that hit the underside of the bar and fizzed in. Eastlands erupted, Tevez leaped like a salmon into the air and was mobbed by his team mates on the way down. Don’t goals look that bit more brilliant when they go in off the bar?

Arsenal tried to hit back with trademark, skilful, quick, progressive passing moves but found the whole City team in resilient mood. Our defence has made a lot of mistakes this season and drawn criticism but on this occasion they could not be faulted. All the back four played out of their skins, and they looked like a unit. They were aggressive, resilient, well positioned, read the game well and covered for each other when needed. They and indeed the whole team need to maintain this high standard, as defending, after all, involves everybody. This City side had a perfect balance to it. Barry and Ireland controlled midfield with their aggression, clean tackling and common sense use of the ball, whilst offering good protection to the back four.

It was a measure of how well City defended our lead that when Arsenal did get chances they were only half chances. Song glanced over under pressure at an Arsenal corner, Ramsey blazed over from distance after the dangerous Vela played him in. Lescott made interception after interception, blocking crosses that came in with good support from Bridge, Toure and Richards. It was very pleasing to see such resilience.

The more clear cut chances were still being created by City though. Bellamy crossed from the right but Adebayor was unable to turn the ball in after it bounced in front of him. City looked the more dangerous team with SWP on fire down the right and with Tevez and Bellamy also darting hither and thither with great intelligence.

Wenger tried to change things round, introducing the exotically named Sanchez Watt (Watt the …?) but to no avail as City extended the lead in the 69th minute with another thrilling goal. Shaun Wright-Phillips burst down the right at top speed and cut into the penalty area to unleash a stunning rising shot into the top left hand corner. It was an absolute thrill and a goal of real beauty that summed up the brilliance of his performance. Shaunny celebrated his screamer by laying flat in the corner of the pitch.

So rattled were Arsenal in this game that they resorted to a series of niggly fouls and deliberate handballs (Thierry Hand-ry would have been proud), which earned them a string of bookings: six in total over the night (which automatically brings a fine) and there could have been more. It was hardly the total football that Arsene Wenger likes to play. Whilst he certainly has a point with regards the ‘anti-football’ of Swampside’s Fletcher, he might want to examine his own team’s credentials as well. Not that he was in any mood to be objective or sporting after the game as he refused to shake hands with Mark Hughes. No matter what sparks flew between them during the game (and there most certainly were), Wenger again showed no grace, class or sportsmanship. Despite having rightly earned great respect in the game, sometimes Wenger makes Hugh Laurie’s wonderful character, Gregory House, look reasonable.

Wenger can have no complaints about City’s approach to the game that was firm, aggressive and fair: a job well done. People might say that City only beat Arsenal’s kids, but that would be a gross over-simplification. They beat a very talented side that would probably finish in the top 8 at the very least, and beat them convincingly.

Bellamy then forced a fine save out of Fabianski when the Welshman smartly volleyed a rebounded free kick from 30 yards out. It would have been a well deserved reward for another selfless, skilful performance from him down the left. Tevez and Wright Phillips left the field to richly deserved standing ovations as Hughes stiffened the midfield with Kompany, who fitted in perfectly, and Weiss who was to give us a delightful cameo on the right wing. Shay Given had been greeted with strains of ‘Thierry Henry’ from the 5,000 plus Gunners assembled behind the goal. Ha, ha, tres drole, Madames, Messieurs. What’s the French for ‘cheat’ again? Not that this put the excellent Irishman off his game, and he made an excellent sharp save to tip Song’s header onto the bar. By then, City had scored a third goal after Bellamy tricked his way between Wilshere and Song, to cross to the far post where Weiss hammered in a left foot scorcher in off the underside of the bar to seal off a fine victory and a great night.

Well done to Mark Hughes and his team. The tactics were absolutely spot on. He deserves time to build this team into one that can challenge for honours. Bring on United!

Att: 46,015

Given: One brilliant tip over onto the bar showed his professionalism 8
Richards: Solid, aggressive, determined and well positioned. His best performance for a long time 7
Toure: Marshalled the back line well 8
Lescott: A powerful, aggressive performance underpinned by great positional play and clean, forceful tackling. Absolutely immense 9
Bridge: An accomplished full back performance. His covering was vital 8
Ireland: A complete midfield performance; creativity, aggression, ball winning, guile 9
Barry: Used his muscle and brains to great effect in a superb display 8
SWP: A brilliant display of wing play that was an absolute joy to watch and a great goal to cap it 10 (Man of the match)
Bellamy: Strong running, skill, aggression, and offered superb defensive cover to Bridge as well as an assist. Remained totally focused and kept his discipline well despite repeated niggles from Wilshere 9
Tevez: Scintillating skills, running and aggression, and what a spectacular goal 9
Adebayor: Covered a lot of ground and worked very hard against his old team 7
Kompany: Fitted in well and did his job superbly 8
Weiss: A short, but very sweet appearance 8
Ref: Chris Foy: Had no option but to book six Arsenal players. His decision making improved as the game went on 6
Best Oppo:
Vela: Tricky, skilful, and inventive. It’s easy to see why this tricky customer figures in Champions’ League fixtures 7

Dedicated to Steve Kay. Rest in peace.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


Inevitably the recent run of frustrating draws will widen the dividing lines between the pro-Hughes and the anti-Hughes camps. Whilst enjoying the healthy debate that epitomises MCIVTA, it is not really a management issue for me.

As with everything in life, there is sometimes a simple solution to a problem, but more often than not, there is no quick fix. Nobody can deny that Barnsley’s appointment of Mark Robins to replace Simon Davey has transformed their season (two ex-Reds in 2 paragraphs, apologies to the overly sensitive); but those of us who have been watching City since the late sixties have seen plenty of evidence that management change is rarely a panacea.

Our owners recognise that there is a process that will take a number of years. Why? Well put simply, we are not yet at the top table. No amount of money puts you at the top table, well not overnight anyway.

On the phone-ins, we often hear that Hughes has spent over £200 million. Let’s be clear, whilst this is true, he has only bought in £100 million in talent. The extra £100 million was just a premium because where Man City are concerned, it is a seller’s market. We are shopping in Debenhams, not Harrods. Our purchases are made up of top 4 players who were not wanted by their teams: Wright Phillips, Bridge, Adebayor, Toure, Tevez (OK top 3 teams, Liverpool’s reserves are even below our standards!); and the best players from middle ranking teams: Given, Barry, Santa Cruz, Bellamy. Even Robinho was not a regular starter at Real Madrid. We do not have a single player who would be in Chelsea’s first team.

The top players won’t come at this point in our development, as Kaka and Terry proved. So let’s not just assume we can become the best team in the League overnight, particularly with these players. Equally, in the same way that we have to settle for players from the second tier, we should expect to be run by the best in the second tier of Management. Yes, we can attract a Sven who will work for the highest bidder, but if you want a Mourinho then I suspect we are not quite there yet.

It seems pointless ringing in and calling for the head of Hughes to be replaced by Mourinho. We would all want that if it was on offer, but at the moment it isn’t.

One final point. Whilst money doesn’t buy you success, it does afford you a depth of squad. Hughes’ pursuit of players in the summer was coherent and methodical, leaving us 2 quality players for each position. At the end of the marathon that is the Premier League season, it is the larger squads that come to the fore. I would not discount a charge to 4th place in the latter part of the season, and who knows, maybe when Hughes can attract the players from the top tier, he may even prove to be a top tier manager himself. If not, then you can be sure that our owners will, when the time is right, bring someone in who is. Enjoy the ride.

Mal Ogg <Mal.Ogg(at)>


The historian AJP Taylor said “if history has taught us anything, it is that man does not learn from history”: discuss with examples.

City have repeatedly taken a certain type of manager with the same skill set. All these managers made their names by having the ability to get the most out of low cost journeyman players working with a very limited budgets. I give you the post Mercer-Allison recurring theme:

  • Ron Saunders (Norwich)
  • John Bond (Norwich)
  • Jimmy Frizzell (Oldham)
  • Brian Horton (Oxford)
  • Alan Ball (Southampton)
  • Joe Royle (Oldham and Everton)
  • Mark Hughes (Wales and Blackburn)

With the exception of Saunders who went on to achieve success at Aston Villa, none of these managers have amounted to very much. The point I am trying to make is this: we and the owners have a desire to take us to the next level in terms of playing and as a club, well, the skills needed to do that are not those of a management team skilled in getting the best out of journeyman players. This is like asking the fryer in your local chippy to make Michel Roux’s signature dish; they just don’t have the skills. The skill set I would suggest is something along these lines:

  • Multi-lingual (at least English and Spanish and possibly French)
  • Proven track record in the Champions’ League
  • CV that demonstrates success in winning major trophies (Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga etc.)
  • Clear and obvious man management skills
  • Ambassadorial presence when being interviewed

This of course gives a very short list of potential candidates, but that’s my point: the next manager has to be chosen very, very carefully and not following a sacking and quick appointment; next summer will do.

Ged Wilson <Ged.wilson1(at)>


My wife is not at all interested in football. In fact the only person less interested was my father who, on learning that I proposed to watch the Cup Final on TV instead of listening to a concert on the Third Programme, said he hoped that both teams would lose. Such a grasp of the niceties of football has been my lot with family members but I could hardly contain my excitement at the prospect when it was reported that City were to be taken over by people from Abu Dhabi. I told my wife we were about to become the richest club in world football, that Arabs with even a little access to Sovereign wealth funds could earn more in interest per year than Abramovich’s entire fortune.

She may know little about football but after hearing of our new position in the world she devastated me with her simple comment: “So you’ve become Manchester United then”.

She knew from my mutterings over the decades that the much vaunted youth development programme at OT was always more than matched by huge spending on players from home and abroad, that in effect they bought and discarded many big players. That it was the access to money that won them the big trophies.

Her spine chilling words rendered me speechless. An animal howled somewhere in the field opposite, the windows rattled and a sudden breeze dashed leaves and small twigs against the window. I hadn’t thought of this. Surely our good fortune might change who we could afford to buy but City already had the most successful youth programme in the Premier League so how could things be worse?

Then it struck me. I wasn’t that we might become the money-splashing club that United had been over the decades, although that would be bound to attract media attention, it was what might happen to the fans.

Fans who had been through all those relegations, who had seen us humiliated by Lincoln City and for whom a third place in a Third Division play-off final made us deliriously happy, would surely not be swayed into changing their expectations just because we suddenly had some cash. After all as they knew too well, a couple of signings can mean very little and signing half a dozen is bound to be disruptive as players and management get to know each other. Not for City fans the ridiculous notions of a “top four finish” trumpeted throughout the press: that was what the media would say, not us. Our good humour and well known banter was a product of years and years of disappointment.

City fans would instinctively know it would take several seasons to create a top flight team. We would understand by looking at how other managers had performed, that at least half of expensive signings tend to flop for any club. It certainly wouldn’t be City fans phoning 606 in cockney intonations using “we” to describe City and then whinging about the latest few results. City fans would know that it takes time and if you replace an entire defence, often as much as a whole season or even more for them to be effective. City fans would be patient. They would be aware of their history and would see the trap of immediate glory for what it was: an invitation to mimic the arrogant and presumptive lot we have had to endure as neighbours for the all these decades.

We wouldn’t become those prawn sandwich eating, Chardonnay quaffing, dismissive wretches with no knowledge of any club outside the top few in the English Premier League led by curmudgeon of the century. We would take a lead from our owners whose dignity and words of encouragement would lead us gradually to a better land. Not for City fans the brainless deployment of clichés like “The jury’s out on Hughes” or “Football is a results business”. We would remain above all that. Results would be bound to be mixed in the first season and City fans would understand that.

They would also know from the many, many mistakes which the club made with managers that the occasional replacement of a manger like Joe Royle with an immediately successful one like Kevin Keegan, is the exception. Most managerial changes cause more chaos and effect little positive improvement at any club. City fans would give the manager and the team time to create; a new style would evolve; the way forward would be gradual because it simply couldn’t be anything else. We would know this because that is what happens at all clubs that make genuine progress. City fans would set an example.

Alas, all that shows that I’m an optimist. In real life money corrupts. It distorts vision and expectation. Fans who would have been encouraged by a point at Birmingham are already analysing our failure to win games in exactly the same way as the Rags always do. Anything less than a win is failure. All that money spent means we have right, a duty even, to demand better and we should say so. Out loud. We are not happy and Hughes must go. All we need now is for King of the Kippax to be re-named Blue Issue and the metamorphosis will be complete. Blue Butterfly to poisonous red caterpillar in four months.

My wife was right. We have become Manchester United and in record time too.

Peter Llewellyn <PeterJL(at)>


What really bothers me about Mark Hughes is that his message hasn’t changed from draw No.1 against Villa to draw No.7 against Hull. “We are coming together, it’s going to get better, we are going to start to win.” Oh really Mark?

Someone tell me how has City improved from draw No.1 to draw No.7? Talent-wise, this is probably the most gifted group of footballers City has ever had. When was the last time we had 5 players (if you count Joe Hart) in the England team at one time? Yet as a team, City ares embarrassing. To complain about a naff penalty call robbing us of two points against Hull! This was the team we ran off the park last year.

Reality is that this is Mark Hughes’ team. We assume he had some blueprint when he signed them up so we can only blame Sparky for how his team is playing.

Surely our Dubai friends are not going to put up with these shambolic performances much longer. And I am writing this before the Arsenal Cup game or our home match against Chelsea. Lose both of these games and Sparky will be heading for the exit. Too bad but it’s his own fault. He felt Lescott was worth 24 million quid, he was the one who threw money out of the window to buy Santa Cruz and now has no idea what to do with him.

Somewhere someone is reaching for Gus Hiddink’s phone number. My choice would be Martin Jol. Clearly something has to be done. When we can’t beat Hull at home, something has to give.

Keith Sharp <keith(at)>


Well here we are again! Another draw against a sub par team. City played a very average team but looked, at times, overconfident. In an almost Arsenal-like style. We played around too much and made some lovely moves and step-overs without scoring on the several chances that we had. Hull had few opportunities but were unlucky not to score more than once.

What is happening is what we all expected at the start of the season, the team play as though they are still trying to get to know each other, which they are. I am looking forward to watching after the holidays when they will all know each other and they will start to really dominate with more goals. Tevez will start to score the goals he used to score before Manure ruined that part of his game; Bacon Face made him play out of position and he seems to have temporarily lost that scoring touch – it will come back. Stephen Ireland is rediscovering last season’s form and Micah Richards is improving. We lost a little focus after the Adebayor fuss but I think it will all come back soon.

Condolences to the Kay family, he will be missed.

Jim Heaviside <lablue69(at)>


This was the game Mark Hughes and every City supporter and fan have been waiting for, a well deserved victory. Sparky put out his strongest team, with some great back up on the bench.

The game produced some exciting attacking football, and we saw two brilliant individual goals first from Tevez, and then from SWeeP; both these players ran tirelessly until they were finally substituted, Tevez by Kompany and SWeeP by young Vladimir Weiss.

Bellamy broke loose on the left beating two Gooner defenders as he ran between them, and then crossed the ball to Weiss who was quick to take his chance of scoring his first senior goal. I’m sure that there will be many more from this gifted young player.

We saw a City team that was up for this game and every player deserves some praise for an all out effort. Arsenal put out their young guns, and a talented team they are, having beaten other Premier League teams.

City now go into the draw for the semi-final; I would love to see an all Manchester final but first let us get through the semi-final game, and then to the new Wembley.

Just going to give the team collectively a rating and not individual players: the team 9 out of 10, got to leave room for more improvement. We could have called this game the battle of the airlines – Etihad 3 Emirates 0.

Now for the next big game: bring on Chelsea!

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


Credit where is credit is due to Mr Hughes regarding last night’s fantastic victory. In this one he got the team selection and tactics absolutely spot on! The only caveat being it was an Arsenal reserve/youth team side we played but you can only beat what is put in out in front of you.

Also, all credit to him for the way he handled the TV/media interviews afterwards: absolutely perfect. This is the one area even I find it hard to fault him! The behaviour of Mr Wenger on the other hand was absolutely and totally appalling.

He has truly formed his club and teams in an image of himself: bitter, twisted, spiteful and nasty. Before our recent encounters with them I quite liked them for their free flowing, attractive football and the ‘marble halls of Highbury’ etc., but not now they have become the second team on my list to despise and oppose at every turn!

The boys played with tempo, vigour, skill and speed: where was this form in the other recent home games? It really does make you wonder at times.

During the draw for the semis I was literally praying we didn’t get Chelsea (and hoping against hope we would get Villa) but it sets up a fantastic semi-final with the Great Satan and Bacon Face et al in the new year, certainly something to look forward to!

The ‘noisy neighbours’ are back and we are turning up the stereo to full blast! Overall a great performance both on and off the field to all concerned with MCFC.

[On a few occasions Arsenal reserves/youth team have beaten our first team in the past! Ed]

Ray Bardsley <rbardsley(at)>


Technology and logistics problems have kept me from being able to contribute to MCIVTA for a while so I’ve watched the Hughes In/Out debate without being able to respond in time. However, the technology bit has now been solved so I can contribute again. It’s nice to be back.

Thanks to Howard Davies for a really interesting article that talks about the concept of the team being greater than the sum of the parts. It’s something I often talk about and nowhere is that demonstrated more clearly than at Old Trafford. A team of what seems to me to be ordinary players, with one or two real world class ones, continues to outperform other teams comfortably. However, that team took a long time to come to fruition and even after 3 years at the helm and having spent a fair bit of money, Ferguson was still not happy that he had the team he wanted. Would we have stuck with him for as long as they did?

There are teams like Wigan, Middlesbrough and Hull who have come up from nowhere, with the former two at least having benefited from their chairman’s largesse but the only example of a “Plan B” equivalent in recent memory is Blackburn in the early 1990s. They spent a lot of money straight away and appeared to be walking away with the Second Division title but stumbled badly and just about got the last play-off place. Once in the Premier League their spending dwarfed that of any other club over the next couple of seasons. They duly won the Premier League in 1994/5 but only thanks to United slipping up in their last game.

People often say Mourinho spent a lot of money to take Chelsea to the top but they forget that they were already pretty successful (if skint) before Abramovich arrived and had been for a few years. So that wasn’t really a Plan B scenario either. I was speaking to a former manager earlier this year and he was quite dismissive of the concept that spending the amount of money we have should equate to quick success. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend, it still takes time to get a team playing the way you want. The money may help get you there a bit quicker but you might be talking three seasons instead of five.

I would even argue that we’ve gone out and bought a team of “galacticos”. Robinho certainly falls into that category but did Hughes really buy him anyway? Given, Barry, Bellamy, Bridge, Toure, Adebayor, Lescott and even Tevez are good quality, Premier League-proven players but hardly “galacticos”. So maybe what Howard refers to as Plan B could be more accurately described as an accelerated Plan A. In other words, a lot of deadwood cleared out (or sidelined) and replaced in one fell swoop. In some ways this could be seen as worse than a gradual building policy, as it’s more disruptive with too many new players trying to gel.

Undoubtedly last season was something of a disappointment overall but considering the state we were in at the start of it (close to administration supposedly with only a last-ditch loan secured on our TV revenue for years ahead, keeping us afloat) then it possibly wasn’t that bad. I wouldn’t even begin to argue that home draws against Hull, Burnley and Fulham, all of which involved winning positions until late on, were acceptable but you only have to look back to last season to see that Liverpool (who came second with 86 points) had a run involving drawing 5 out of 7 consecutive home games (including Fulham, West Ham and Hull). Chelsea had a run that involved only picking up 10 out of 24 possible points (including home draws against Newcastle and West Ham and a loss at home to Arsenal) yet they still came third. Interestingly they also drew at home to Hull. Arsenal played out 5 consecutive draws, 3 of which were at home (against West Ham, Sunderland and Fulham) and had another run where they only took 4 points out of 15. One of those teams sacked their manager but the other two didn’t and all came through their slump in form to finish strongly.

I wouldn’t expect us to mount a serious challenge for the top four until next season. Liverpool may look to be slipping up but they’ve been in that position before and come through eventually so you can’t write them off, even if they do look to be a two-man team. I really don’t know whether Mark Hughes is the man to take us right to the top but I do know that there are no quick fixes so am prepared to give him a decent chance, instead of calling for his head after three, admittedly uninspiring, home draws.

Colin Savage <colin(at)>


I saw the mention of Joe Mercer’s tie in MCIVTA and thought I’d let you know that if this was given by Joe and is the 1969 FA Cup tie, then there’s a photo of Joe wearing it in the original version of my book “Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography Of Joe Mercer, OBE”. It’s on page 228 and it shows Joe with Malcolm and the FA Cup on the coach back from Wembley.

It’s not a clear image of the tie, but I’ve seen one of these ties before and it looks like it is the special 1969 club tie.

Gary James <City(at)>


I will be in San Francisco at the weekend and am wondering if local City fans meet up anywhere to watch the games? I have been to the Mad Dog in the Fog on a couple of occasions but am happy to jump on the BART if there is a better alternative.

Neil Adshead <neil.adshead(at)>


If anyone is looking for a ticket for the Chelsea game I have 1x ticket going spare.

It’s a corporate hospitality ticket in the 1894 Club Bar. Executive facility with great match seats right on the half-way line. East stand level 2. Face value.

If interested call Roger on: 07968 096 780

Ray Bardsley <rbardsley(at)>


League table to 2 December 2009 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         14  7  0  0 20  1  5  0  2 16  7 12  0  2  36   8  28  36
 2 Manchester Utd  14  6  1  0 16  7  4  0  3 14  6 10  1  3  30  13  17  31
 3 Tottenham H.    14  5  0  2 21  7  3  2  2 12 12  8  2  4  33  19  14  26
 4 Arsenal         13  5  0  1 20  7  3  1  3 16 11  8  1  4  36  18  18  25
 5 Liverpool       14  4  2  1 21  8  3  0  4 10 12  7  2  5  31  20  11  23
 6 Aston Villa     14  4  2  1 13  6  2  3  2  9  8  6  5  3  22  14   8  23
 7 Manchester City 13  3  3  0 14  9  2  4  1 10  8  5  7  1  24  17   7  22
 8 Sunderland      14  5  1  1 16  9  1  1  5  5 11  6  2  6  21  20   1  20
 9 Stoke City      14  4  1  2  9  7  1  4  2  4  8  5  5  4  13  15  -2  20
10 Fulham          14  4  1  2 11  6  1  3  3  7 10  5  4  5  18  16   2  19
11 Birmingham City 14  3  2  2  5  4  2  1  4  7 10  5  3  6  12  14  -2  18
12 Burnley         14  5  1  1 11  6  0  1  6  8 25  5  2  7  19  31 -12  17
13 Blackburn R.    14  4  2  1 11  7  1  0  6  5 21  5  2  7  16  28 -12  17
14 Wigan Athletic  14  3  2  2  7  9  2  0  5  8 22  5  2  7  15  31 -16  17
15 Hull City       15  4  2  2 12 13  0  2  5  5 18  4  4  7  17  31 -14  16
16 Everton         14  2  3  2  9 12  2  0  5  8 13  4  3  7  17  25  -8  15
17 West Ham United 14  2  2  3 15 15  1  3  3  9 11  3  5  6  24  26  -2  14
18 Bolton Wndrs    13  1  2  4  8 15  2  1  3  8 12  3  3  7  16  27 -11  12
19 Wolves          14  1  2  4  5 11  1  2  4  7 16  2  4  8  12  27 -15  10
20 Portsmouth      14  1  0  6  8 12  1  1  5  3 11  2  1 11  11  23 -12   7

With thanks to Football 365

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