Sunday, 31 August 2008


What an incredible week it has been at Manchester City. The fantastic re-signing of Shaun Wright-Phillips has been met with a wonderful reaction from Blues everywhere, who can’t believe that he has finally come home. I understand why Shaun left but I can’t help but think that he was a bit mis-advised about the Chelsea move and would have perhaps suited a move to Arsenal more.

Anyway, their loss is most certainly our gain and I knew that he would settle back into life at City straight away. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so quickly! The two goals at Sunderland in the 3-0 victory will have other managers seething with jealous at just how good a signing Shaun is. The quote from in the week’s media is so endearing and emotional: “Dad, I just want to go back to City”. He’s now back where he belongs, and it’s onwards and upwards for Mark Hughes’ men.

The UEFA Cup second round qualifying second leg was just typical City. We played abysmally for the vast majority of the 90 minutes, and were handed a HUGE lifeline to continue through into extra time and, inevitably, penalties. You could tell that Joe Hart was relishing the situation, and he just proved how much of an asset he could be to Capello’s England. He is the best young goalkeeper around at the moment and will prove to be hugely important to City this season, in the Cups, Europe and the Premier League. Up next for City in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup are Cypriot team AC Omonia. The draw has been kind to the Blues but, like FC M

Mark Hughes has also added two more signings to his squad before the transfer deadline. Glauber Berti, a Brazilian defender, has signed a one year deal at Eastlands from FC Nuremburg. Argentinian Paulo Zabaleta has signed a 5 year deal from Espanyol. Obviously the signings of two defenders will put further question marks on the future of Vedran Corluka, and whether he will be heading to Tottenham Hotspur at the close of business tomorrow. Lets hope not.

The results of my latest poll are in. I asked if you still want Thaksin Shinawatra as chairman of Manchester City F.C. A definitive 71% of you who voted said yes. The new poll is now up and running so get voting!

Keep the Blue faith,


Thursday, 28 August 2008

Welcome Home Shaun


It has been confirmed that Shaun Wright-Phillips has signed for City in a four-year deal. Wright-Phillips left City in 2005 in a move to Chelsea for £21 million, but has now returned to Eastlands for a fee rumoured to be around £10 million in a transfer that has delighted the vast majority of City fans. Welcome home Shaun!

Sunday, 24 August 2008 Maine Road Finale article

Emily Brobyn's ‘One Moment In Time' is a nostalgic look back at events and occasions and City's past that will no doubt resurrect many impassioned memories for most City fans. Written from her personal point of view, she is hoping that by reliving these moments, whether they were good or bad will prove to be an enjoyable read for all.

As the finishing line was emerging in sight in the 2002/03 season, so was our farewell to Maine Road. I really didn't want to say goodbye and move to Eastlands- but I kept convincing myself that it would be beneficial all round. With a potential 46,000 capacity, it was a must for allowing more City fans to watch their beloved Blues. Plus the ground would be amongst the elite in the country, thus meaning it would be chosen for other sporting events and concerts.But the general feeling within Maine Road was one of sadness and dismay. There was no guarantee of an atmosphere within Eastlands, nobody who renewed their season ticket was sure of whereabouts they would actually be sat and where to park around the ground was a worry. I didn't like the idea that we would be split up from the people around us at Maine Road that we had got to know and developed banter with. Despite all this, City had to move with the times and up roots- for better or for worse.

I really didn't want the season to end. It seemed so long ago since plans had been published regarding moving to Eastlands and I think that many Blues thought it was merely a pipe dream, something that would never happen. Yet here it was upon us. The finale. The last ever 90 minutes of professional football at Maine Road.

I was so upset. Like every City fan I had so many memories of Maine Road; from my first ever match against Sheffield Wednesday to running on the pitch in consecutive seasons when Joe Royle was our manager. The mass fighting when Chelsea and Millwall came to town. The pain of enduring relegation and the pleasure of achieving promotion. The cherished memory of being a mascot and leading my team out in front of a capacity crowd and the even more cherished memory of beating United 3-1 with two goals from Goater.

My personal living memory of course was limited to the mid-nineties and onwards, but thousands of City fans would have their own unique memories of games before this. Other memories link up with match days of course, like the pre-match traditional pint in the Beehive, and this only added to the nostalgia.

May 11th 2003 arrived, and my cousin Sarah and I prepared for the emotional roller-coaster that was ahead of us. I put my hair in pigtails with bright blue streaks and glitter all over my face. Dressed in City's once-famous laser blue home shirt, I wrapped a huge City blue Union Jack around me and we began our final car journey to the ground.

The Beehive car park was full so I parked my car on a street and Sarah and I headed straight to the Beehive. The atmosphere was pensive, but people were determined to have fun and make the most of the historic day ahead. Fancy dress seemed a popular option and Maine Road memorabilia was being sold by vendors on every surrounding street corner. We stood in the sunshine outside the Beehive and I looked over at Bunty's off-license laughing to myself. The banter between the crowd outside the pub and the shop opposite had been so funny, typical of City fans, and now it would never happen again. We made our way to the ground and I savoured the moment, knowing it would never happen again.

I would love to be able to try and express what the atmosphere inside our ground was like that day. Only 34, 957 people will ever truly know that. I wouldn't do it justice even if I tried. It was so emotional and tears streamed down my face as both teams took to the pitch among a sky filled with blue and white tickertape and smoke.

In true City style, we lost. Michael Svensson for Southampton scored the only goal of the game- the last goal ever at Maine Road. The result was irrelevant, although a win would have been a perfect send-off. But in a way the defeat just made me laugh- City never play by the rules, they always ad-lib to the script. They are unique, and that's why we love them.

The only thing that the result did confirm however, was the one thing every City fan had been hoping for- that elusive place in the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play league. We hadn't finished top, but league standings meant that we was high enough in the pecking order to qualify for a place in Europe by default.

Post-match entertainment had been lined up by City chiefs, with the Doves and Badly Drawn Boy (apparently Oasis were unavailable) topping the bill. The players did a farewell lap around the pitch and the music blasted out, with the bands playing on a stage that had been assembled on the pitch.

Cannons loaded with more tickertape and confetti shot into the air and showered onto each and every fan. Even the travelling Southampton fans had stayed to enjoy the spectacle- and fireworks fizzed and exploded over the ground. By this time I was sobbing uncontrollably, and when the party came to an end I didn't want to leave. Hundreds of people joined me as I sat and glanced around the emptying stadium. It was all over far too quickly- the end of an era.

It was a time for reflection and I thought about what my favourite Maine Road memory was. I think I would have to say beating United 3-1 stood out for me. The atmosphere in the ground that day was only beaten for me by Wembley, and the result itself was amazing. I would miss the banter between the stands during a dull game, the bell lady, the strange plastic seagull on the Kippax, the ‘Mr Banks' announcements and the ‘Gene Kelly' eyesore stands. Yes the ground looked like a mismatched stadium built from a Meccano set, but the atmosphere and sense of community was really something to treasure. It had been emotional.

Many people used to say that gypsies had put a curse on Maine Road and that's why we had such bad luck. I think that's rubbish. Perhaps they did curse our ground, but City have always been unpredictable and that will never change. A change of stadium wouldn't change that, especially after hearing so many stories about the builders burying United shirts into the foundations of Eastlands. Trying to plant their own voodoo curse on City. Only time would tell whether it worked or not, as I bid farewell to what I saw as my own theatre of dreams.

I went to bed that night and, as I closed my bedroom curtains, I noticed the clear sky was littered with millions of stars. Glittery dots splashed against a black canvas. There alongside them was the moon, and that night I swear it was a pale shade of blue. Because you never do, do you?

It has been confirmed that Micah Richards has been released from hospital after the dramatic injury he sustained on the pitch today during the team’s 3-0 victory over West Ham. Richards was unconscious for eight minutes on the pitch before being stretchered off and rushed to hospital following a clash of heads with team-mate Tal Ben Haim. It is yet to be confirmed whether he will participate in City’s next game against FC Midtjylland.

Saturday, 23 August 2008


City have signed defender Vincent Kompany from SV Hamburg on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee. Kompany is set to play in a defensive midfield role and is hoping to feature in the first home game against West Ham tomorrow. He recently played for his country, Belgium, at the Olympics where he reached the semi finals.

Monday, 18 August 2008


Following on from City’s 4-2 opening day defeat at the hands of Aston Villa, it has been confirmed that Valeri Bojinov has snapped his Achilles tendon and will be out for a minimum of six months. Bojinov, who has recently just returned from a cruciate knee injury and who netted against AC Milan, was widely tipped to be one of City’s top strikers during the 2008/09 campaign. He will now instead face another frustrating period on the sidelines as City’s woes continue. Uncertainty article


Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn tries to dissect on what is going on at her beloved Manchester City and feels that City fans deserve so much better.

Firstly, may I start this article by saying I have just returned from watching Manchester City lose at home 1-0 to FC Midtjylland in the second round of qualifying for the UEFA Cup and I am feeling a mixture of emotions: fury, anger, upset, confusion, disappointment and bewilderment. It is an ideal time to write a piece on what is going on at Eastlands- or at least try to guess at the difference between the truth and the rumours.Everybody knows the story of Dr Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover at City. The Thai 'billionaire' arrived at Eastlands making all the right noises to the media throng and shocked everybody in the football world when he appointed former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson as manager. £80 million pounds was spent on bringing players into the club to mount City's European challenge and to catapult City from mediocrity.

After an amazing start that found City sitting pretty at the pinnacle of the Premier League, and mesmeric performances from the likes of Martin Petrov and Blumer Elano, the wheels slowly began to fall off Sven's bandwagon. By April, rumours began to circulate regarding a fall-out between Sven and Shinawatra, that the chairman was far from happy with City's slump in form and wanted Sven out. Sure enough, despite big protestations from City fans and outcries from pundits and the media alike, Sven left the club and became the manager of Mexico's national team.

Shinawatra was quick to bring in Sven's replacement- in the form of Mark Hughes, a man who had done well at Blackburn Rovers with a modest transfer kitty. Simultaneously, Garry Cook was introduced as City's new executive chairman. Since their arrivals, Brazilian Jo has been signed from CSKA Moscow for £18 million and Israeli Tal Ben Haim from Chelsea for £5 million.

Right, now we are up to speed, it's time to dissect. A lot of what I will write I admit will be speculation as nobody seems to have concrete answers to the current situation at the club. Our chairman is now a fugitive after he absconded from his court case in Thailand. The case in the far-east will continue in his absence, and if he is convicted he is set to lose his £800 million fortune. A guilty verdict should also inevitably result in him falling foul of the Premier League 'fit and proper' person test, potentially meaning he will be prevented from running City. Are the rumours true that he is looking to sell the club, or that he is looking for a financial injection from the Middle East? In fact, why did former chairman John Wardle sell to Shinawatra in the first place if he was aware of the hoopla surrounded him? Was Wardle lending money to Shinawatra to fund the wages? Are City's mega money transfer deals all on finance and being paid for purely by television money as widely speculated?

Another furore that has been engulfing the club is the supposed transfer deals of Stephen Ireland and Verdan Corluka. Let's look at the Ireland saga first. The events that are alleged to have happened on the day of the AC Milan are farcical and beyond belief. It is reported that, because Shinawatra's advisors informed Ireland that he was being transferred to Sunderland, he wasn't required to turn up to play for the AC Milan game. As time creeped on before kick-off, Hughes began to wonder where Ireland was as he was expecting him to turn up to play. When he made a phone call to Ireland, he was at the Trafford Centre with his missus and Hughes demanded that he went straight to Eastlands. An example of how, allegedly, the board are interfering with Hughes' player management.

The Corluka affair is another baffling one. The in-form Croatian, fresh from the Euros, was the subject of an offer from Tottenham Hotspur. He then travelled down to White Hart Lane to complete a medical and discuss terms and the deal was expected to be completed within 24 hours. The next day, City issued a statement saying that Hughes had been involved in a heart-to-heart with Corluka and had convinced him to stay in Manchester. The same time, Corluka's agent released a statement completely contradicting City's, saying that the Croatian was 'very unhappy' and was expected to complete the move to Spurs as agreed. What is going on? I wouldn't want to lose Corluka as he is a superb player, but if he was insistent on leaving, nobody is irreplaceable.

But it really is typical City that we can beat AC Milan one day (who did play the likes of Paulo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf and Gattuso) and then lose to FC Midtjylland the next. The UEFA Cup shouldn't be taken lightly though. It is fantastic being involved with European action, but City did only warrant the place as a result of the Fair Play league. The Blues didn't actually earn the right to play in Europe outright through league positioning- and it showed. Perhaps the realisation that maybe we are just not good enough to be in Europe technically is the hardest truth of all but one that may have to be accepted. Don't get me wrong- I would love a run of European football, but our performance against Midtjylland was nothing short of embarrassing. The opposition had finished second in their league in Denmark, City had finished ninth. I am sure that the 18,000 people who actually turned up to the game expected City to steamroller their opponents and to take a comfortable lead with them to the SAS Arena. They should know that life is never that easy at Manchester City.

So at the moment, nobody quite knows what the future does hold for the most entertaining team in England. As the 2008/09 season kicks off and City head to Villa Park to start the campaign, there is most definitely an air of uncertainly lingering over Eastlands, with many fans asking the simple question 'what is going on?' So I ask you Mr Cook or Mr Shinawatra, what is going on? You may treat Manchester City F.C. as a business and nothing more, but for the fans it is their beloved football club. Their pride and joy. They deserve a lot more than you are giving them at the moment. As the old saying goes, 'don't bite the hand that feeds you'. This Is Our City. Let's keep it that way.

Saturday, 16 August 2008


What a week it has been at Manchester City. After a quality performance against AC Milan resulted in a 1-0 victory courtesy of a sublime strike by Valeri Bojinov, things has soon deteriorated both on and off the pitch.

A 1-0 defeat in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round first leg at the hands of FC Midtjylland was a bitter pill to swallow, especially with so many disappointing performances all round. Michael Johnson obviously decided to send the cardboard cut-out version of himself to play instead of the real deal, and Richard Dunne had an absolute nightmare. But it isn’t fair singling out solo performances or the lack of them, as a unit the team just didn’t perform at all. Mark Hughes looked understandably furious, and who knows just how much the off-the pitch business at City is actually affecting the players.

Speaking about that, just what the hell is going on at the club? Nobody will speak out and put the fans’ minds at rest- but it needs to be done to quell the rumour-mongering. Thaksin is a fugitive that’s for sure- does he actually care about the club though? Does Vedran Corluka want to be playing in a City shirt following the contrasting statements released by both City and his agent. What’s the deal with Stephen Ireland’s future? There are just too many questions that haven’t been answered. Garry Cook needs to speak out- and it needs to be soon.

The opening weekend of season 2008/09 is finally here, and we travel to Villa Park, minus their former striker Darius Vassell who frustratingly always seems to score against them (trust him to be injured). City have a decent away record at Villa though, but Martin O’Neill has an enviable team and they will be looking to start their season with a bang, knowing that we are low on morale. I would love to go into the game with confidence, but I have to be realistic. A point would satisfy me from the Midlands.

The results of my latest poll are in. I asked who you thought had been the most impressive during pre-season. 60% of you thought that Bulgarian Martin Petrov had been, with a couple of votes going to Daniel Sturridge and Vedran Corluka. The new poll is open now so get voting!

Keep the blue faith as always,


Thursday, 7 August 2008


I cannot believe the rumours at the moment linking City’s Croatian right-back Vedran Corluka with a £9.5 million move to Tottenham Hotspur. I think we would be absolutely MAD to sell the 22-year-old; he had a great Euro 2008 and, like I have said before, is looking sharp and very impressive during pre-season. His fellow countryman Luka Modric has already been one of Ramos’ summer signings so he would be in good company, but Corluka is one player for the future. If City are serious about being successful in Europe, Corluka is exactly the player of player the club needs- it would be a big mistake to sell him.

Since Thaksin Shinawatra became Manchester City’s chairman after a controversial takeover, life at Eastlands (for a change) has never been dull. Having come through the whole Sven saga and seeing his wife sent to prison for a three year stint, the rumour mill has well and truly been churning again this week with whispers that Shinawatra is either looking to sell or looking for investors to plough money into the club.

Shinawatra’s money ‘is still frozen and tied up’; reports that Shinawatra was borrowing money off ex-City chairman John Wardle just to fund the player’s wages. His lack of access to money could also explain why the mega money war-chest promised to Hughes on his arrival at Eastlands has never really materialised.

So what will happen at Eastlands? are reporting that Hughes has demanded showdown talks with City execs over his lack of funds…could the season implode for the blues before it’s already begun? Pre-Season article

Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn looks ahead to the coming season and wonders what lies in store at Eastlands.

This time 12 months ago, Manchester City fans were awaiting the start of a new season with a refreshing optimism and a secret belief that season 2007/08 could be THE season for silverware. With the club benefitting from one of the most on-trend events in football, a foreign takeover, Dr Thaksin Shinawatra arrived and announced his intentions- to establish City as one of the top six teams in the Premier League.

Many critics laughed into their lattes, but Shinawatra was quick to put his plan into motion- and signalled his intent by recruiting former England tabloid favourite Sven Goran Eriksson as manager. Likewise, Eriksson wasted no time spending the controversial Thai's millions, shipping in a fresh, if relatively unknown, continental line-up. Petrov; the Bulgarian winger, pacey and crafty. Corluka; the young versatile Croat defender. Elano; the Brazilian magician with a talent for the sublime. Many more ran away from their former clubs in order to sign up and join ringmaster Sven's infectious City circus.
The media hype was encouraging- and as the season unfolded City emerged as the surprise package, topping the Premier League after playing confident and entertaining football. The majority of the new signings gelled well- Sven's men were surpassing all expectations.

Unfortunately, as we all know, City's form took a nosedive after the festive period. Despite City completing an unprecedented double over United, and ending the season on their best-ever points tally, the slump in former resulted in chairman Shinawatra re-thinking Sven's position of manager at the club. Fans were in uproar about the situation, but Shinawatra's mind had been made up. Sven was unceremoniously relieved of his duties- leaving City fans bewildered as to where their beloved blues would go from here.

After Sven's departure, Shinawatra moved quickly to fill the hottest seat in managerial football. Mark Hughes was unveiled in a press conference at Carrington to a whirl of flashbulbs, with the media throng scribbling frantically into their notepads. Also introduced to the public was City's ‘executive chairman' Garry Cooke; Cooke had been headhunted by City from his prolific job at Nike in America, in effect, to be Goose to Shinawatra's Maverick.

So now to the new season. So far, two new faces have been brought into Eastlands. Brazilian striker Jo was signed from CSKA Moscow for £18 million. The 21 year old has signed a four-year deal with City but will be unavailable for at least the first fortnight of the Premier League campaign due to his participation for Brazil at the Olympics in Beijing. Israeli international Tal Ben Haim was signed for a rumoured £5 million from Chelsea. The 26 year old defender will be a valuable asset to the City squad, after making his name under Sam Allardyce at Bolton.

Some of Sven's signings will be relied on to continue their success. As previously mentioned, Petrov, Elano and Corluka all impressed last season and so far during the pre-season games has proved to be lively and up to the task. Corluka, after participating in Euro 2008 for Croatia, looks particularly sharp and more experienced. Michael Johnson continues to play in midfield along another Euro 2008 graduate, Gelson Fernandes. The colossal defensive pairing of Micah Richards and Richard Dunne is reunited after Richard's injury woes and if Joe Hart continues his form, he just might be receiving a call from Fabio Capello for the World Cup qualifiers.

The main area of worry for most blues is upfront. With Benjani injured and Jo at the Olympics, Hughes is left with Darius Vassell, Rolando Bianchi and Danny Sturridge to score the goals. Sturridge is tipped for big things and the 2008/09 season could be exactly where he makes his mark- his pace coupled with sublime touches and creatively have already caught many City fans and pundit's eyes. Fingers crossed. Hughes should look to strengthen his squad in this area though before the season starts.

City have already progressed through to the UEFA Cup second qualifying round after defeating the Faroes Islands outfit EB/Streymur. The Blues won through 4-0 on aggregate and Hughes' men now face Danish side FC Midtjylland. Although City only reached the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play League, it comes with some irony that it was through Sven's management that City made it to Europe, and that Hughes' former side Blackburn Rovers finished last in the Fair Play League.

With the start of the season just a fortnight away, City have widely been tipped for at least a top eight finish. With Hughes getting tough at Carrington (banning iPods, mobile phones, agents and friends), the players' minds should be firmly focused on the task in hand. But Hughes will be well aware that finishing ninth last season wasn't good enough for Shinawatra- and I doubt it will be accepted second time around. Derby days are always explosive- but now there is added spice with Hughes crossing the Manchester divide to manage his former rivals. Hold on tight for the roller-coaster ride of life as a Manchester City fan- it's bound to be unpredictable, inconsistent and never dull. We wouldn't have it any other way though, would we?

Friday, 1 August 2008


So, the new season is only round the corner now and pre-season is well under way.

City have successfully progressed through to the second round of qualifying for the UEFA Cup after beating Faroe Islands outfit EB/Streymur 4-0 on aggregate. During the away leg it was goals from Martin Petrov and Didi Hamann that gave City the advantage. At Oakwell, the home leg, Petrov struck again to give City the lead. Darius Vassell made it definitive with a goal in injury time.

Both performances proved to be an ideal opportunity for Mark Hughes to test out his players and cast his eye over who may be completing his first team line-up this season. Personally, I thought Petrov proved to be quite a handful for EB/Streymur. Daniel Sturridge looks sublime; it is exciting to see a player of that calibre in a City shirt- he is so young with incredible potential. Call me stupid, but with his first touch and dinky moves, I see an element of Thierry Henry in him. Definitely one to watch.

But for me, the best player of pre-season so far has to be Vedran Corluka. Having played in the Euros this summer has only made him better and he looks even sharper and confident of venturing forward to contribute crosses into the box, as well as defending comfortably. Michael Johnson also looks lively in midfield.

The defeat in Hamburg in the friendly game was quite disappointing but it was an experience for the players and certainly something that they must learn from and improve on. Next up is Stockport, a local derby that Hughes will expect a result from.

Despite City missing out on signing Ronaldinho to AC Milan (that should be interesting in the Thomas Cook Trophy game), Hughes has strengthened by signed Brazilian striker Jo from CSKA Moscow for £18 million. A lot of money means a lot of expectation, and when Jo returns from playing in the Olympics for his country, City fans will be hoping he adjusts quickly to Premier League life.

Hughes’ other signing was completed this week. Tal Ben Haim, an Israeli defender, was signed from Chelsea for a fee rumoured to be around £5 million. The 26 year old has signed a four year contract and will definitely be a vital asset to the squad.

The UEFA Cup draw was today, and City have been drawn against a Danish team- FC Midtjylland. The home tie will be on the 14th August at Eastlands, with a trip to the SAS Arena on the 28th August.

Keep the blue faith as always,

Emily Lokeren article


‘One Moment In Time’ is a nostalgic look back at events and occasions in City’s past that will no doubt resurrect many impassioned memories for most City fans. Written from my personal point of view, I am hoping that reliving these moments, whether they were good or bad will prove to be an enjoyable read for all. This month…City’s UEFA Cup trip to Lokeren in Belgium.
Planning for an away football match is tricky at the best of times. Planning for an away match in Europe is even trickier. Flights, hotels, trains and car journeys all have to be worked out around the kick-off time- if any journey time takes too long then connections could be missed and we could miss the whole game.

City had been drawn in the UEFA Cup first round against Lokeren, a Belgian team that played at the Daknam stadium, which was between Brussels and Gent. Simon (my brother), Spenny and I had vowed to go to whoever City had been drawn against, so we started planning our European adventure. Obviously Brock would be accompanying us, and his friend Pennell decided to join us. He was a thirty-something who played football with Simon and the boys at the soccer dome.

It was a two-legged tie, with the first leg to be played at Eastlands and the away leg in Belgium. I get excited for an away match, but for me to actually get the chance to follow my team on the continent and be lucky enough that my team is actually in Europe…well, I was made up. Suddenly all those miserable Saturdays seemed worthwhile; being stood in the icy rain at Wigan or making a ten hour round journey to witness a hapless, hopeless 2-0 defeat at Southampton.

With the home leg ending in an unconvincing 3-2 victory for City, I was aware it was definitely game on at Belgium. With a fair chance of European glory at stake, City needed a win at Lokeren. I had full respect for the Belgians; they had come to Eastlands and proved a difficult side to play against, and their fans had been incredible. They were completely crazy and boisterous, swinging their scarves around throughout the ninety minutes. Now it was our turn to be the away support.

On 14th October 2003 I left work early to pack. Pennell had family in Dunstable, so we drove down south and planned to fly from Heathrow the next day. It was just our fortune that his family owned a pub, so we spent the night drinking and playing pool, eagerly discussing the match and our journey ahead.

After a few too many drinks we all decided to retire to the Travelodge we were staying in at Toddington services. However the lads decided to run amok in the service station. I think the alcohol had manager to turn the services from a drab and quite grotty eyesore into a magical adventure playground and the horseplay continued with Simon and Spenny wrestling each other in the foyer. That was enough. We stood on the footbridge over the M1 gazing at the cars below and wondering what was in store for us.

The next morning I was woken up with the sunlight beaming in through the gap in the curtains. This was it. 15th October 2003. City travelling to Lokeren in search of European success. My first European match on foreign soil. I threw my City shirt on and met up with the boys for a much-needed cooked breakfast.

Our car journey to Heathrow was filled with City songs and mass chanting despite the sore heads. We checked in and headed straight to the bar for a bit of hair of the dog. I was loving every minute; walking around one of the biggest international airports in the world with everybody knowing that you were on your way to support your team in Europe. We were all decked in replica shirts, draped in flags with Spenny raising the roof singing: “We all follow the City! Over land and sea!”

Everything was running smoothly; our flight took off on time and it only took an hour until we landed on Belgian soil. Inevitably though, something had to happen to knock us off our stride. Everybody’s overnight bags arrived at the baggage reclaim apart from Spenny’s, who then had to spend an hour waiting to file a lost baggage claim. Following this, we had to find a tram and a train connection to the centre of Brussels, which is difficult at the best of times if you only speak German to GCSE standard. Cue a frantic rush to then find our hotel, which ended in all five of us throwing our bags in our room and flagging down a minibus to take us to the ground.

The Daknam stadium was at least a good one hour drive from Brussels, so as it was already 5:30pm we were all aware of just how tight we would be cutting it. It was a tedious and anxious journey; our driver hardly spoke a word of English and he didn’t seem to know where he was going.

With the clock ticking down, we were all starting to look a little pensive. Chatter had turned from possible formations to whether we would actually get to see the game. The hapless driver knew he was in Lokeren but had no idea where the ground was. It was down to us to cast our eyes on the pitch black skyline for any glimpse of floodlights. We spotted an ‘away coaches; sign and tried desperately to translate to our driver. Then, from nowhere, floodlights. We couldn’t believe our luck. In no time we had followed the lights and had even managed to find a pub full of City fans.

Suddenly, City fans were everywhere. We had only seen half a dozen on our journey, even when at the airport. But the pub was covered, and I couldn’t help but notice the floor was covered in shards of glass and a sea of beer. Sensing we had missed some kind of fighting, we quickly finished our drinks and headed to the ground.

The narrow streets were overcrowded with blues all chanting and clapping. It was a bitterly cold night, and even with two pairs of socks on my toes was going numb. We reached a checkpoint where we all had to produce our tickets and I guess that’s where I noticed it first. Belgian police were everywhere. The sour reputation of English fans abroad had obviously preceded us as mounted police followed our every move. I could hear the sound of glass smashing as we were motioned towards our destination.

The Daknam stadium was tiny and the away stand was bolstered for our visit by some very unstable scaffolding. I don’t think the Belgians had accounted for some five thousand manic Mancunians pounding up and down for ninety minutes. As we found a prominent position to squeeze into, the rickety stand shaked and rattled- as both teams took to the pitch met with a deafening roar from the crown.

The ground and pitch were in terrible condition as both teams battled for possession and chances. But it became apparent quite quickly that the battles were set to continue off the pitch too. I could feel the tension mounting as the home fans in their main stand continued to taunt the blues, and we realised that City fans were positioned in every stand in the ground.

It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened. We all looked on aghast as fighting broke out in the stand to the right of us. All I could see was a mass of bodies and an air of punches as the thousands of blues in our end chanted and began to rip down the metal security fence to get to the home
fans. For a good five minutes the situation was well out of control.

The match was very dull and was won quite early by an Anelka penalty. City had seen the ninety minutes out by mainly protecting their lead and attempting to capitalise on it. But the one goal was enough to see us through into the second round of the UEFA Cup.

After the game, the thousands of jubilant Mancs took to the foreign streets, and we all found ourselves in a huge police escort. Not only riot police on foot and mounted police, but police tanks complete with water cannons, reminiscent of Euro 2000. As we sang, cheered and reeled off many a City song, some City fans attempted to break through the segregation, which resulted in batons being raised. It was only after about 15 minutes of walking that we realised we had been taken to Lokeren’s train station. The train platform was overflowing with blues and the noise was ear-piercing. The police had locked us all on the platform, which was no good to us as we needed to get back on Brussels, not to a ferry port in Antwerp.

A mass of bodies surged forward as a train pulled in. We heard the breaking of glass and realised that somebody had broken through an exit leading out of the train station. A bit of quick-thinking led us out onto the street- minus one member of our group. Brock. We had no idea what had happened to him but we knew we had to do something fast as the Belgian police were in a very unsavoury mood. We dived in a taxi and headed for the safety of our hotel.

It had been a very long day. I was so tired as we reached our hotel, at about 1:30am. With no sign of Brock and our flight home and 6:30am, we had to grab some sleep and hope that he was alright. It had been a very eventful day- City had progressed to the second round of the UEFA Cup.

The next morning, Simon and I packed our stuff up and headed to the hotel lobby. There was Brock, full of tales of how he got on a train to Antwerp, then to Gent and a taxi from Gent to the hotel. It had definitely been an away day to remember, one of the best even if not memorable for the actual football. I had spent ninety minutes watching a scrappy and often tedious game of European football at some makeshift ground in the middle of Belgium and you know what? It had been completely worth it. City were still in the hunt for European glory, and we were all ready for round two.