Monday, 23 June 2008 Loyalty article

Picture the scene; it’s Saturday 17th October 1998 and a bitterly cold and rainy autumn day. I am stood on the home terrace at Springfield Park shivering and dripping wet, my long blonde hair gone from straight to matted in a matter of minutes. I have lost sensation in all of my toes and my fingers it’s so cold and forty minutes into the game it’s still goalless. City, then fallen giants, have failed to score against then-lowly Wigan Athletic for 40 whole minutes.

The condition of the pitch is atrocious, with pot-holes the size of craters deep into the turf. The ref is blowing his whistle at every tackle and any slight incident, unaware of how to play the advantage or when a player fairly wins the ball. The ground is open-air terracing- only two thirds of the home end is full and it’s obvious that the majority of those are blues. I for one am stood in my City shirt. I knew for certain that I would be bed-ridden with the flu for the two weeks following the game yet there I was, waiting for City to find a breakthrough.

Sure enough, the fortnight after the game was spent by me in bed instead of at college. Why did I put myself through it? The same reason I went to Lokeren in Belgium in the UEFA Cup. Why I went to Sunderland away on a Tuesday night when I was in work at nine in the morning the following day and why I went to Gillingham away just for a pre-season friendly fixture. To watch my chosen football team. To show my loyalty to them.

But what makes somebody support a particular football team? Deciding who to support is a big enough decision. It’s a decision that demands loyalty and perseverance for the entirety of your life. Do you go for the geographical option: your local team? Do you go for the inheritance option: the team a family member supports? Whatever you do, don’t go for the glory option (choosing to support a team who has recently won a trophy, for that reason only). Mine was the time-honoured classic- inheritance. City are in my blood through my uncle and my brother, so it was only natural that I became a blue.

Once you have chosen your team then you have to stick with them. This is the loyalty part. I suppose in a way it’s like taking marriage vows; ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer. In sickness and in health, ‘til death us do part’. If you take supporting a football team seriously it’s a huge commitment. It can dominate your life; constantly checking Sky Sports for any transfer news, planning days off from work to co-inside with home and away days, not to mention spending hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on season tickets and replica shirts. This football business is certainly not for the fickle or faint-hearted.

What defines loyalty? Loyalty is about backing your team through the good and the bad. It’s not thinking twice about renewing your season ticket despite relegation; turning up come rain or shine to sing your heart and soul out for the lads to influence the team to victory, or reassure them in defeat. Loyalty is something inspired when things aren’t as good as they should be, yet celebrated when your team is the most in-form side in the Premier League. This applies to any team, whoever you support.

In my experience, supporting Manchester City is a true labour of love. Through relegations, promotions, chairmans and managers. Inconsistency and controversy. Embarrassing defeats (8-1 at the Riverside anybody? 4-1 at Lincoln City?) and dubious signings (Lee Bradbury, Georgio Samaras, Martin Phillips). Normally at City, just when you think its plain sailing, everything goes wrong. There’s rarely a storm cloud that is adorned with a silver lining and the saying ‘typical City’ has become a cliché. City are a club that fascinates and is adored by the media for their ongoing sagas, constant managerial merry-go-rounds and for, at times, being a general circus act.

When we got beat 5-0 by United in November 1994, I was very tempted to take the next day off school due to sheer embarrassment, but I went in and faced the music. When we got relegated to not only the first division, but the second, I wore my shirt with pride. I renewed my season ticket and watched City play Blackpool, Northampton, York and Wycombe. Wembley against Gillingham? I was crying my eyes out with joy, a multitude of mixed emotions, after an inexplicable comeback and penalties.

Through the good, the bad and the downright ugly, that is what it’s all about. No matter how bad is gets you should never give up on your team. Being a face in a crowd of thousands if the atmosphere is so charged is one of the best feelings; together in raucous chanting, clapping and general merriment with one aim- to help your team to victory. You might be blessed to follow a team laden with trophies or you might support a team who drift around in mid-table obscurity. Who struggle to fill the ground or who play in the lower leagues. That is irrelevant. Even if you are unsure of the club’s future and where the club is heading, be proud of whom you support and wear your shirt with pride and passion. The new season isn’t far away. Don’t be fickle- be fantastic.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

So, the media circus finally seems to have settled down after Mark Hughes’ arrival to the club and now it’s well and truly down to business for the Welshman. Have to say that I am a little bit surprised that he hasn’t made his first signing yet, but I am sure that it won’t be long before at least Jo comes to Eastlands.

I think that now Phil Scolari is the manager of Chelsea we will lose out in the race to sign Ronaldinho, which is fine by be. Yes he was a superb player but he is famously out of form and his signing would just bring a media frenzy to Eastlands. I wouldn’t mind Hughes making a bid to sign Bentley, Santa Cruz or Podolski though!!

The results of my recent poll are now in. I asked if you were happy with the appointment of Mark Hughes as Manchester City manager. 75% said they were, with only 25% remaining unconvinced. The new poll is open now so get voting!

The first pre-season friendly fixture has been confirmed, with City set to travel to Hamburg on 26th July just after the first round UEFA Cup qualifying game. As soon as more are announced, I will let you know.

Best blue wishes,


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

New Manchester City Executive Chairman Garry Cook has spoken out about the recent reports linking City with a move for striker Jo. Cook claims that City are in negotiations with the player and the Premier League to make sure that, if the transfer does go ahead, it will be above board and legal.
Cook has just returned from seeing Dr Shinawatra in Thailand and commented on a friendly fixture City have pencilled in against Hamburg on July 26th and about absurb tabloid rumours concerning City's club crest.
He said: “We have confirmed a prestigious friendly against Hamburg SV and will be making further announcements on pre-season games and other developments in the next week or so.

“I did see a ridiculous story in an English Sunday newspaper before I left which claimed that there would be a change to the club crest with the image of an elephant being added to it! I want to assure supporters that there is no truth in that whatsoever,” he added.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Football Hughes article

When you arrive at the City of Manchester stadium, one of the things that are noticeable is the boards littered around the ground emblazoned with the words ‘This Is Our City’. The words take on a dual signification: that Manchester the city itself is represented by City the football club and that Manchester City F.C. belongs to the fans. Well, not literally of course. But the signs insinuate that City are a club that looks after their fans and share an intimate bond with them, and that the feeling is reciprocal.

So how did City expect their fans to react to the news of ex Manchester United striker Mark Hughes replacing Sven Goran Eriksson as manager? There seems to have been two common reactions from blues fans so far. The first reaction is greeting Hughes’ appointment with anger and disappointment. A lot of City fans are unhappy that a former red is managing their club- that his record in management is irrelevant and the saying ‘once a red, always is red’ is being brandished about a lot. Fans assume that Hughes is using City as a mere stepping stone before he takes over from Ferguson at the neighbours.

I have previously written an article based on the rivalry between City and United fans and it is something that you cannot really explain without experiencing it firsthand. It is the same as Roy Keane, Steve Bruce or Paul Ince taking over the reins at Eastlands- they have all worn the red of the neighbours and are City’s sworn enemies. Now all of a sudden Hughes is the City manager and fans are expected to chant his name? No chance. City fans despise United and everything they stand for- they only won the Champions League final because John Terry slipped and fell on his backside.

Then there’s a different reaction to Hughes’ arrival- the happy one. The one where City fans have almost managed to overlook Hughes’ playing career and who his former employers were, and who are excited about the prospect of him managing their club. A 44 year old manager with excellent potential who did very well with his previous two jobs- as the Welsh national coach and manager of Blackburn Rovers.

During his time as manager of Wales, he did a very respectable job and almost secured a place in Euro 2004 with them, losing out to Russia in the play-offs. He then became manager of Blackburn Rovers in September 2004 and completely transformed the Lancashire club from relegation favourites to a club chasing European football. Rovers also reached three cup semi-finals in the four year period that Hughes managed them. He is proven to be tactically astute, passionate and highly motivated. He made some very shrewd signings for Rovers, including David Bentley, Benni McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz. It is a measure of his style of play that many Premier League clubs didn’t relish playing against his somewhat aggressive and tight Rovers’ outfit.

My personal opinion is the latter of the two. In this matter I think it’s imperative that City fans attempt to look past the colour of the shirt that Hughes has previously sported and acknowledge the potential he has, not only as a manager, but City’s manager. In a way it is a bit like a foreigner managing England- if he has got the ability then who cares. But City fans will turn on him hard though if it doesn’t work out, without a doubt, and City can certainly wave goodbye to the Fair Play league if Hughes’ aggressive style is anything to go by.

The thing with City is that being a fan is damn hard work. With every new manager you want to have the hope and optimism every time, but with every press conference and so many false dawns it really does take its toll. I was bitterly disappointed with the departure of Sven after a record-breaking season, but I have decided to embrace Hughes’ appointment and put my skepticism aside. It is another new dawn at City, and this time the new dawn has introduced us to a new figure in the City boardroom.

Garry Cook has been appointed at City by Thaksin Shinawatra as the club’s new ‘executive chairman’. A prolific bigwig at Nike, who was responsible for inventing the Nike Jordan brand, Cook has relocated to Manchester to realise his boyhood dream. Many have tipped him to act as ‘the new Peter Kenyon’ (another ex United figure) at City and will market the club on a global scale. I particularly liked his recent quote after Hughes’ press conference, saying: “You cannot escape the fact that this club has a wonderful history and heritage and that it is Manchester’s club. You have to build on that.” Manchester’s club, I like that.

Cook has also acknowledged the fact that he knows that many blues have been left disconcerted and disheartened after the entire Sven drama at Eastlands. He said: “Supporters are very important to us. There are bridges to be built with them. Many fans will say ‘typical City’ but we have to move on from that. This is a great club with great times ahead.”

But anybody can talk the talk, the test will come with the arrival of the new season come August. Whatever the reaction, you can guarantee that life will never be dull at Manchester City. Rumours linking Hughes with signings like Ronaldinho, Jo, Bentley, Santa Cruz and Samba have been circulating and. Only time will tell whether Hughes will prove to be the man for the hottest seat in English football management and whether he will be given the time by Shinawatra- and the fans.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Reaction to the Hughes appointment

So Hughes is our new manager eh? Now I know what the vast majority of City fans will be thinking- whatttttttt? But he played for the neighbours in Stretford? He can’t manage us. But he is. He has signed a three year deal at City and chairman Thaksin has been showering him with compliments, calling him ‘outstanding’. Do you know what? He is right.

You have to look past the fact that him and Fergie are really good mates and that he was a legend for the Stretford lot. The fact is that he is a great manager, with the potential to do a lot more. He made some quality signings at Blackburn Rovers, is tactically astute and is the right man for the job. A lot of blues wanted Mancini or Hiddink, Scolari or Mourinho (before he signed for Inter), but I am happy with Sparky. Thaksin will undoubtedly give him money to strength with, and I am now hoping that some players who were once unsettled will be encouraged to stay by Hughes (yes that was aimed at you Richard Dunne, amongst others).

So be positive about the news. Don’t let the fact that he played for United cloud your judgement of him as a manager. As always, keep the faith.



Interesting derby days ahead as ‘outstanding’ Hughes becomes new City manager

Mark Hughes has been appointed as the new manager of Manchester City. Hughes has signed a three year contract at the club and will be unveiled at a press conference at City on Thursday morning. Chairman Thaksin Shinawatra issued a statement saying that Hughes is an ‘outstanding manager with great potential’.

It is believed that Shinawatra will give Hughes a substantial amount of money to play with in the transfer market to strengthen his squad over summer, and Hughes will also bring in suitable backroom staff to help him with his new job at Eastlands. Shaun Goater article


With all the uncertainty and disarray following a mostly successful season for Manchester City, I decided to cheer City fans up by taking a trip down memory lane and resurrecting the legend that is Shaun Goater.

In the dark days of City’s demise, we were crying out for a predatory striker (still are); somebody who could score without even thinking about it, who would consistently net 20 plus a season and dig us out of the deep Division One hole we were in. At the time, Goater was scoring for fun at Bristol City; he had just been voted in the PFA Team of the Year and had netted 45 goals in 81 appearances for the Reds. Joe Royle had found the remedy to our striker headache, and scooped on transfer deadline day in March 1998, acquiring the services of the Bermudan for a paltry £400,000.

Every City fan should be familiar with Goater’s background. He was born and raised in Hamilton, Bermuda and football was always in his blood as his mum, Lynette, used to play the sport. At the age of 17 he was invited to Columbia High in New Jersey, America on a scholarship and it was during this time, on a thanksgiving break, that he was spotted by a scout from England. It was about the only thing that City fans have got to be thankful for from Manchester United. Goater was over the moon, so he moved transatlantic to pursue a career in the English football leagues- to initially play as a creative midfielder.

Inevitably Goater didn’t last at United, but he was signed up by Rotherham United and made his league debut in 1989, where he spent seven years learning the trade. He scored 70 goals in 209 appearances for the Yorkshire side before a fall-out with then-manager Archie Gemmill resulted in his transfer to Bristol City for £175,000.

It was during his career at Ashton Gate when he began to start netting goals and set a precedent for the future. He scored on his debut against Gillingham and continued to make a name for himself, scoring an impressive 45 goals in 81 appearances for Bristol City. With a tally like that it was only a matter of time before Goater was snapped up- and it was right place, right price, right time for Joe Royle to make Goater his first signing for City.

Goater made his debut in blue just two days after he signed, against Bradford City. We lost 2-1 in what was a completely dismal season for City. The Bermudan scored three goals in the last seven games of the season, two of which were at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of the campaign. Of course, the 502 result couldn’t save us and Goater, along with City, slipped into Division Two.

Despite his goal-scoring record, I remember my first impression of Goater being very different. He certainly didn’t appear to be a natural goal-scorer; his play was clumsy, he was quite gangly (not quite Wanchope!) and his first touch left a lot to be desired. But I put my personal opinions to one side and encouraged him in the 1998/99 season- and was rewarded for my loyalty. After scoring in the opener against Blackpool he never looked back, netting 21 goals in total during the season, including a hat-trick against Burnley. His most important goal during that campaign came in the Play-Off semi final against Wigan where he arguably hand-balled into the back of the net. The controversy was irrelevant; the goal stood and Goater’s goal saw us into the Play-Off final- and back into Division One.

By now, many City fans had many colourful and varied views on our Bermudan striker; clumsy was a word used a lot. Inept, lucky and unorthodox were further adjectives being mentioned amongst Blues. Goater was an unexpected find, a player who initially puzzled fans through his general appearance and style of play. He was a complete one-off- one minute sublime, the next shocking.

So when I went to a pre-season friendly in 1999 against Liverpool, I had the chance post-match to meet Joe Royle. I took the opportunity to quiz him about the rumours that at the time were circulating linking City with striker David Johnson. He was in a good mood seeing as City had won 2-1, but his response to my question was simple: ‘Keep the faith with Goater, he will come good’. That was it. From then on I put my trust in the City manager and anticipated Goater’s starring role in the 1999/2000 season.

I’m glad he did. That season saw Shaun emerge as what he became recognized as- a poacher. He began to score off most body parts other than his foot (!), became more skillful and much more of a rounded player. It was the home game against Nottingham Forest where I was finally converted. The mood in the crowd shifted- the sarcastic comments and jeers subsided as Goater scored the winner and was greeted to a standing ovation as he was substituted. A hat trick against Fulham and two goals at Ewood Park on the final day of the season sealed a hugely successful run for Goater- his tally was 29 goals, a figure that thrust City back into the Premier League.

By May Goater was a firm fan’s favourite: ‘Feed the Goat and he will Score’ was a regular terrace anthem and he had earned the faith of the fans. Even my brother went out and got ‘Goatistuta’ on the back of his shirt! He was voted Player of the Year by the fans and Bermuda announced it was to hold an annual anniversary to represent his achievements- June 21st in no longer an ordinary day. Forget Independence Day, Valentine’s Day- this was no April Fools. June 21st is forever known in City fan’s diaries as Shaun Goater Day.

Being promoted to the Premiership inevitably meant new players would be brought in, but not even the arrival of George Weah and Paulo Wanchope upfront seemed to affect Goater. The 2000/01 season began but Goater was injured until October- and boy was he welcomed back. A home game against Bradford saw Weah, former World Player of the Year, booed off the pitch to be substituted for Goater, who was greeted onto the pitch with a standing ovation. Although he didn’t score, the reception confirmed Goater’s popularity amongst the blue contingency. Even the arrival of Darren Huckerby at Christmas didn’t affect Goater. In fact, they worked together in an effort to save City from the drop.

Of course, the season didn’t quite go to plan and despite Goater’s 11 goals, City yo-yoed straight back down to Division One. Royle was out and replaced dramatically by KK- Kevin Keegan. A former England manager who was immediately linked with a plethora or big-name stars to rocket us back into the big time. However, Keegan had immediately tried to sell Goater to Wolves for £1.4 million before he had even played a game! Goater was determined to prove Keegan wrong- and once again he didn’t disappoint.

In fact, he excelled beyond anybody’s expectations. Goater became the first City player since Francis Lee (in 1972) to score more than 30 goals in a campaign, finishing the epic Championship-winning season on 32 goals. Highlights included hat-tricks against Burnley and Gillingham, plenty of braces and a sublime finish at the Priestfield stadium against the Gills. The 6-2 victory at Sheffield Wednesday was spellbinding and saw the Goat in unstoppable form. He had also earned a place in the PFA Nationwide Team of the Year. The Goat hadn’t just been fed- he was fit to burst and hungry for more in the Premiership.

Despite the record-breaking goal haul from Goater, there were still question marks over whether he could graze and be fed in the Premiership, or whether he would find himself out of his depth and be put out to pasture (enough of the farmyard metaphors!). Keegan was inevitably given money to strengthen with, and strengthen he did in the form of Nicolas ‘Le Sulk’ Anelka. A huge name with a huge reputation meant that Goater found himself sidelined as Keegan favoured a Huckerby-Anelka partnership (with Anelka playing the big ‘I am’ in the dressing room of course).

That season, 2002/03, wasn’t only the last season for City at Maine Road, it was Goater’s last season playing for City too. Keegan was aware of how well-loved Goater was by the fans but, at 33, he had enjoyed a prolific career at City, even though each and every blue would be sad to see him leave. He didn’t want to go, but it was blatantly apparent that he wasn’t to feature in Keegan’s plans for the future.

But he didn’t leave without creating what was his best performance in a City shirt- in the last Manchester derby at Maine Road, on November 9th 2002. He scored twice to see his overall tally at City past 100, and set up Anelka’s in what was a breath-taking derby match. Nobody will ever forget how he left Gary Neville scratching his head for his first then coolly chipped Fabien Barthez for his second- City’s third. City won 3-1, and Goater left Maine Road that day a bona fide legend.

This was further emphasized when Goater scored the quickest goal ever by a Premiership substitute; it took him all of nine seconds to score the equalizer at Old Trafford, and he would have scored the winner if it hadn’t have been cruelly disallowed for an alleged infringement. Although Goater had only managed seven goals all season, he had only started 15 games. The last game of the season, the final game at Maine Road, was Goater’s last in a City shirt. Keegan made him captain for the occasion, and in true City style we lost 1-0 to Southampton. It was a terful goodbye to two prominent figures in City’s history and perhaps quite fitting that we said goodbye to them both at the same time- Maine Road and Shaun Goater.

It certainly wasn’t the end of his career as a footballer though- Alan Pardew snapped the Bermudan up at Reading and he enjoyed a successful period, scoring 12 goals in 39 appearances. But when Steve Coppell took over as manager he was loaned out to Coventry. Goater made only four appearances under Coppell, so moved to Roots Hall for his final season as a player.

At Southend he scored 11 goals under Steve Tilson, helping them to achieve promotion to the Championship. His final game was ironically against his former club Bristol City and more than 400 blues travelled from Manchester to witness Goater’s final 90 minutes as a professional footballer. Southend also played a friendly against Bermuda as a mark of respect for Goater.

His international career was obviously limited due to Bermuda’s world ranking, but Goater still managed an incredible 32 goals in 36 appearances whilst representing his country. He is a national hero- in 2003 he became Shaun Goater MBE for his services to sport and young people in Bermuda. Following on from undertaking the UEFA B coaching license, rumour has it that Bermuda will be receiving a professional ‘soccer’ team that will play in the American ‘Soccer’ league. Goater is to be both a director and coach of the side, called the Bermuda Hogges. However Goater is currently putting all his efforts into a business initiative in Bermuda.

I had the privilege of meeting Goater a couple of times and I was both charmed and touched by how genuine and humble he was. He spoke with pride when it came to City and was so refreshingly loyal and passionate about all things blue. He had scored 103 goals during his time at City and been the top scorer at the club for four seasons. He is a true ambassador for the game and, in my eyes, will always be one of my heroes and a City legend. He, like the rest of City fans is ‘City Til He Dies’ and deserves to do well in whatever he does in the future. Who let the Goat out? City did- and I will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Can I Have A Word?

So...the decision has finally been made and Sven has left City after only a season in charge. I am bitterly disappointed. Ever since 1994 really, City have been on somewhat of a managerial merry-go-round, with the longest stay coming from Kevin Keegan. I think the way City handled the entire Sven saga was despicable and a complete disgrace. But he has gone now, and we must look to the future.

Many names have been put forward for the vacancy at Eastlands, but who will be willing to sit in the hottest managerial seat in English football? Mark Hughes has been immediately linked with not only City, but the Chelsea job too. He is a great manager, quite young but there is the obvious matter of him being such a legend for the neighbours...would City fans take to him?

A name that is in the running that makes me cringe is Sam Allardyce- he was a good manager at Bolton but for me he is somewhat of a media whore. I would be bitterly disappointed if he was offered the position. I was gutted that Jose Mourinho has become the new Inter Milan manager, I know it would have been a long shot but I don't know one City fan that wouldn't have him at Eastlands. But that can not longer happen, and the search continues...

The results of the May poll are in. I asked who would you be most upset about leaving City this summer out of Micah Richards, Michael Johnson, Joe Hart and Richard Dunne. Unsurprisingly, with 53% of the vote, Dunne was the winner. Unfortunately, it looks like the City captain will be going to Spurs for £5 million if various reports are to be believed. I really hope that he doesn't- when he joined City he was a mediocre defender with somewhat of a drinking and discipline problem. Now he is a top drawer defender and a complete role model. He will be sorely missed.

It was great to see Joe Hart make his England debut against Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday night. He didn't have a save to make and I am certain that his first England cap definitely won't be his last.

The Euro 2008 tournament is nearly here...have you picked your team yet? I will have my eye on Croatia, I do think they have a decent chance. I like supporting an underdog...maybe that comes from years of supporting City!

Keep the blue faith,