Monday, 19 January 2009

Football Spotlight article

Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn cannot understand why people continually feel the need to pass comment, or take a swipe, at her beloved Manchester City.
What a difference a decade makes in football. This time 10 years ago Manchester City had been held to a goal-less draw at Bloomfield Road to Blackpool in the Second Division and were getting beat by the likes of Oldham Athletic, Wycombe Wanderers, York City and Lincoln City. It is well-documented and discussed that City scraped back into the First Division with THAT last minute goal by Paul Dickov at Wembley in the Play-Off finals. Who knows where they would be now without his last-gasp strike.

Think back to this time last year. Which City fan would have ever thought that Sven wouldn't be in charge a year on? If somebody came up to you and suggested that City would be the richest club in the world, have Robinho in their midfield and have a £107 million offer for Kaka being considered, what would your response be? It would probably be littered with expletives and a loud, prolonged period of laughter. It's most football fans' dream come true, whether they would admit it or not.

City fans are pinching themselves at the current situation their club is in. It is an incredibly astounding time to be a blue, if not a little unbelievable. Long-suffering loyal fans who remember the dark, dismal days of being consistently mocked and jeered when City were getting beat at home by Oxford United or Stockport County. Manchester City, the club renowned for having a vast quantity of managers, an unlikely, unorthodox club legend (Shaun Goater) and a consistency for being inconsistent. The controversial team that Sky Sports, although they won't admit it, share a passionate and committed love affair with.

But with the money has come criticism, judgement and resentfulness from all directions. Everybody seems to have an opinion on the goings on at Eastlands; from Fernando Torres to Alex Ferguson, David Beckham to Alan Shearer. Why can't people be happy for City instead of encouraging the Grim Reaper to cynically sound his death bell for the supposed 'end of football'. Yes £107 million is a baffling amount of money, but I am in no doubt that if it would be Liverpool, Real Madrid or Chelsea there would not be the same outcry as there is for 'little' Manchester City putting such an audacious bid on AC Milan's table. Football is a business and it has been since Sky Sports came along in 1992, it was only a matter of time before the world transfer record was smashed.

Whether Kaka decides to come remains a question nobody is in a position to answer correctly yet. City are a project in the making: the club is in the early stages of establishing something special and Ferguson was right, signing Kaka would definitely prove to be a signal of their intent. Perhaps the arrival of the Brazilian would stop the critics, whether they be within the media or a former footballer-turned-pundit, a jealous rival fan or a manager fearing City's intimidating wealth. What Sheikh Mansour, Garry Cook and Mark Hughes are planning at City is something that will need patience and time from all parties involved, will that time be granted? Is Kaka moving for the right reasons? Who will be next, Sergio Aguero? John Terry?

One thing is certain; there is an infectious buzz around City at the moment and everybody wants to be a part of the most 'vogue' team in football at the moment. There is a lot of cynical articles around in the media at the moment- if you are a City fan take it as a compliment. City are commanding more column inches at the moment than Amy Winehouse ever has- whether it is to be slated or rated, surely it's time that people began to take the Eastlands outfit seriously. The City fans who have been there for better and for worse through the years are now nervous, excited and bewildered at the potential that lies ahead. Beckham couldn't have been more wrong- there's two teams in Manchester, and it's the blue half who are moving out of the shadows to claim the spotlight.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


Dunne off as City clinch first victory of 2009

Richard Dunne received the eighth red card of his playing career as City claimed a much-needed 1-0 victory over their North West rivals Wigan Athletic.

Dunne saw red on 54 minutes for kicking out at Amir Zaki following a collision between the two. The red card had come just seconds after a strike from Pablo Zabaleta had given City the lead in a closely-fought match.

Wigan made every effort to find an equaliser, with goalkeeper Chris Kirkland venturing up for a corner in injury time, but it was to no avail.

Before the game, all talk had been surrounding Kaka's potential £100 million move to Eastlands, but Mark Hughes needed his 11 outfield men to do the talking for now- and that is exactly what he got. The first half was littered with chances for City, with Brazilians Elano and Robinho linking up well and going close to breaking the deadlock.

Robinho came closest on 21 minutes but his volley was blocked on the line by Titus Bramble. In an audacious move, Zabaleta had been moved from right back to central midfield- and proved to be a revelation. He provided the grit and determination that had been lacking from previous performances, dominating the midfield and linking up well with City's creative options.

Wigan's attacking opportunities were limited to a couple of long-range efforts as City's defence looked to be more convincing and buoyant of late, with Wilson Palacios registering the Latics only chances of the first half.

The game was crying out for a goal and it came on 53 minutes. Daniel Sturridge did well to overcome the Wigan defence and his cross fell to Zabaleta, whose swerving shot flew past Paul Scharner. City were deserved of their lead, but only a minute later Dunne received his marching orders from referee Lee Mason following a collision with Zaki. The Republic of Ireland defender's reaction was hot-headed and immature to say the least and Hughes looked frustrated to see his team, having just taken the lead, reduced to 10 men for the third time at home this season.

This was the cue for Wigan to attack relentlessly, with City battling against a succession of corners for the visitors. Their best chance fell to Zaki, who headed over the bar from just six yards out. With time running out, Kirkland ventured forward to add another option but his efforts were unsuccessful and nearly led to City doubling their lead.

The result was deserved for Mark Hughes' men, whose performance was battling and encouraging. Man-of-the-match Zabaleta was outstanding and defender Nedum Onuoha put in a mature and resilient performance in defence. Elano looked more committed and is clearly relishing playing with his fellow countryman, Robinho. With Newcastle United at home next, it remains to be seen if Kaka will sign on the dotted line and feature among the line up...

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Right so this is my opinion on the Kaka situation at City. I am in no doubt of the calibre of player that Kaka is; he is a world-class individual who would bring his unique talent and skill to Eastlands. But at £100 million, it would be a transfer that would completely change football and one that many fans have been fearing could happen for some time.
I personally do not think that we need Kaka in our team; yes he would be a welcome addition to both City and the Premier League, but we have other problem areas that need fixing. We need a goalkeeper, defender and a striker. Yes we do need a midfielder, but somebody with grit and tenacity, somebody who can boss the engine room about and dictate play as a pose to yet another flair-ish Brazilian. The £100 million could be used on at least four other players that would strengthen City's team and possible bring that consistency that we crave to climb the table.
Bringing in a couple of magicians isn't going to produce spellbinding football when they are being slotted into a team with under-par footballers. Also, it won't necessarily save Mark Hughes' job either. In fact, I think it would make it worse for the Welshman...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


So many rumours are flying about at the moment regarding potential transfers. While I am not so keen on the thought of Craig Bellamy coming to Eastlands, this snippet off is particularly intriguing...

"Manchester City have sent a high-powered delegate to Italy to try to secure a stunning world-record deal for AC Milan's Kaka. It is understood City are prepared to wait until the summer to land the Brazilian if they can persuade the Serie A club to part with him - but they want to do business now..."

The rumour, taken from a mainstream newspaper, is by far the most exciting I have heard to date. But that is all it is, a rumour, so for now take it with a pinch of salt Blues...

Monday, 5 January 2009


Happy New Year to all fellow blues out there! I hope you all enjoyed the festive period and the results that accompanied this time.

Well once again we hear ourselves saying ‘what the hell is going on?’ Knocked out of the F.A. Cup by Nottingham Forest. Nottingham Forest! I mean, no disrespect to Forest but it really should have been a comprehensive victory and an opportunity for build on the platform of festive results that we had already achieved. Instead, it was a disgusting, disgraceful ‘performance’ by individuals rather than a team. The only players that looked to be putting any effort in from where I was stood was Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Daniel Sturridge and Shaun Wright-Phillips until he went off.

But the defeat was shambolic and the players should be really ashamed of themselves. They get to wear the sky blue of Manchester City every week and they should know what City mean to their die-hard fans. There is no pride and no passion, no fight and no performance. Recently I have become accustomed to watching schoolboy-esque football from certain individuals whose heads have been over-inflated by their over-paid wage slips and I for one am sick of it. I could obviously pick out individual players and slate them but there was so many that it is just disheartening to say the least.

To be honest, I am really divided over my opinion on Mark Hughes. Part of me believes that he isn’t the right man for the job; he isn’t experienced enough and doesn’t have the pulling power we need to take the club in the right direction. It sounds bad, but I think the fact that he is seen and is known as a former United legend does portray him in a negative light, for me anyway. But part of me knows that we need stability at City after working our way through so many managers. The Welshman does need time and he does deserve it because he has the potential to be a superb manager.

If you think logically about the situation at City and having Hughes as manager, take the money out of it. Imagine if City were in the position they are in right now, but with no money to spend. Without Robinho. Would Hughes be there right now? Or is the money actually acting as a lifeline for him? Only time will tell if he can bring in the type of players that we need to progress from the precarious point we are at right now.

Playing Portsmouth at Fratton Park will be a tricky one. Our away form is abysmal and they aren’t in the best form at the moment. Having Wright-Phillips out with a hamstring injury is another punishing blow when we are trying to achieve results but seem incapable of grafting out points. I welcome Wayne Bridge to Eastlands- he immediately fills our problematic left-back issue and has the kind of calibre required to tighten us at the back. He reminds me a lot of Jamie Carragher and is somewhat of an under-rated character.

The results of last month’s poll are in. I asked who you would like to see being brought in at City in the transfer window. Brazilian star Kaka topped the poll with a convincing 58% of the vote. Liverpool striker Fernando Torres attracted 16% and Roque Santa Cruz and Luka Podolski clocked up 8%. New signing Wayne Bridge was an option, but nobody selected him as a vote. The new poll is open so get voting.

I am reprising my role as ‘Queen of the Blues’ on Key 103 Manchester radio on Sunday 11th January so tune in if you want to hear a bit of banter with me and the dirty United fan from Oxford. It’s on the MacDonald and Maguire show, every Sunday at 10:30pm. Keep buying King of the Kippax and checking out for my latest work!

Best blue wishes,


FootballFanCast- Hughes fighting article


Despite Manchester City enjoying a reasonably joyful festive period in the Premier League, with an emphatic 5-1 home victory against Hull City and earning a late 2-2 draw at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers, it goes without saying that results and form haven’t gone as well as expected. As a consequence, the World’s Richest Club have found themselves loitering around and in the relegation zone and were unceremoniously dumped out of the F.A. Cup in the third round at home to Championship relegation side Nottingham Forest after the visitors thumped the blues 3-0. Fighting broke out at both Racing Santander and the Hawthorns, but not between rival fans- between City fans who have mixed opinions of the club’s under-pressure manager, Mark Hughes. Why are City fans fighting over Hughes?

When Hughes was appointed in the summer of 2008, many City fans’ reaction was tainted by the fact that he was, and is highly regarded, as a United legend. But Hughes’ track record spoke for itself. He had enjoyed a successful period at Blackburn Rovers, doing well with a modest budget and making impressive signings. He had managed his own national team and was looking at making the next step in his managerial career. However, the majority of City fans were still upset at the departure of Sven Goran Erikkson and remained very uncertain at the future of their club with corrupt chairman Thaksin Shinawatra on the run from the law.

Then, the unbelievable. On transfer deadline day City were taken over by the billionaire Abu Dhabi United Group and immediately became the richest club in the world, signing Robinho for a record £32.5 million. No sooner had the money arrived then the expectation and pressure began to mount at City. Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim spoke to the media insisting that City could win the Champions’ League in a mere matter of seasons and that no amount of money was too excessive for potential signings (being linked with a £126 million move for United’s Ronaldo, Al Fahim simply shrugged, saying “yes, that amount of money should cover it”). Money is literally no object.

Is this the point where the manager’s job at City became too big for Hughes? Going from Rovers to City seemed a natural progression, a ‘promotion’ if you like for Hughes. But the double arrival of billionaires and a superstar Brazilian meant that City were almost expected to become the new Chelsea overnight. The hype surrounding Eastlands was phenomenal as Robinho shirts and Brazil scarves flew out of the club shop and the Chelsea home game was a complete sell-out. Fans gathered draped in tea towels in honour of their new owners and watched on in awe as Robinho took to the pitch wearing the sky blue of City. Although the result went against Hughes, there were a lot of positives to take away from the game and to build on towards a new, exciting era of football for City.

A lot of people thought that the turning point would have come against Portsmouth. In front of an intrigued new chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, City ran riot. The score-line, 6-0, seemed to be a signal of intent to send shivers down the spines of opposition managers, players and fans. To prove that City are now becoming a force and should be taken seriously in their bid to breach the top four in the Premier League; Robinho played the role of magician so magnificently and seemed to be happy, almost milking his role of superstar. Stephen Ireland was a completely reformed character and was instrumental in his role as both play-maker and sizzling shot-taker. Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips had all arrived and immediately made a successful impression on the pitch, becoming first names on the team-sheet.

That home game against Portsmouth, on a still somewhat balmy September day, seems like a distant memory. Since then, results haven’t gone City’s way and performances have become lacklustre, sloppy and soul-less. Carelessly out of both the Carling and F.A. Cups to lower opposition, Brighton and Nottingham Forest, the only hope of silverware now comes in the form of the UEFA Cup. Despite City’s inconsistent and frustrating league form, the club find themselves in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup following a group-topping series of results against FC Twente, Schalke and Paris Saint-Germain. FC Copenhagen may however prove to be a bridge too far for Hughes and his quest for European glory, particularly in City’s current run of form.

Following the defeat at the Hawthorns against bottom side West Bromwich Albion, City reluctantly slipped into the relegation zone. Many rival fans’ scoff at the position the wealthy club have found themselves in; the financial status of the club now proving to be somewhat of a nemesis for City as they have unwittingly become a scalp for most teams. Who is to blame? In which direction should the finger be pointed? Mark Hughes is the club’s manager and many complaints and issues have been raised regarding various different areas and aspects of his job.

Does Hughes actually have the power he needs over the dressing room? Temperamental Brazilian midfielder Elano has allegedly been stirring up trouble, doubting his manager’s ability and talking to the press. Does Hughes have the people skills that are needed in such a job? Players like Micah Richards, Michael Johnson and many of the reserves are regularly seen out around Manchester either drinking or making guest DJ appearances- is this the kind of thing that should be condoned? Johnson, who is currently on the sidelines after being injured but was once touted as being the next Colin Bell, is rumoured to be around two stone overweight due to over-indulging off the pitch. Richards has completely lost his form and looks almost unrecognisable to the player who was once so full of pace and sharpness, his potential as a future England defender shattered as he basks in his status off the pitch.

Is Hughes selecting the right players? Although at the moment due to injuries he is limited, should Hughes be fielding out-of-form players like Jo and Darius Vassell? What good is a forward player like Vassell if his confidence is so low that, once through on goal, he panics and refuses to take a shot, preferring to pass it to a team-mate. Recent starts for Felipe Caicedo and Daniel Sturridge have been encouraging, as has been the formation switch to 4-4-2.

Has Hughes got the calibre to attract the top names that City crave and require if they are to build a successful and consistent team? In this aspect, the majority of fans will surely think back to when Sven was in charge. Sven was a manager that was well-respected and that opposition players would relish the chance of playing for. Would Hughes have the pulling power to entice the vast range of names linked with City? If so, would he be able to control the egos that inevitably arrive with recognised top-quality players?

All managers have to start somewhere though and must be allowed time to build and develop a team of their own. To earn and retain a management style and reputation that is respected and envied. Is Hughes capable of that? Is he respected? So often is the case nowadays that, if instant success and results don’t come to a team, the manager is promptly relieved of his duties (think Paul Ince at Rovers). Never have managers had a shorter life-span than in the current climate of football.

Is Hughes worthy of time? Or has he already proven that the job is much bigger and requires much more managerial experience, skills and personality than the Welshman has to offer. If he does leave City, who would replace him? Frank Rijkaard? Gus Hiddink? Avram Grant? Would Jose ‘The Special One’ Mourinho be tempted by City’s millions at the end of his current season with Inter Milan? One thing is for sure- Hughes’ position at City has definitely split the fans’ opinion and left a very unsavoury taste in thousands of fans’ mouths. Perhaps his only saving grace is that the Premier League is so close this season that it only takes a couple of wins to rocket up the table towards the European places.

City fans are sick and tired of watching dour, passion-less and uninspired football. Where is the passion and pride that players like Kevin Horlock, Paul Dickov and Uwe Rosler displayed week in week out? Perhaps the biggest irony of it all is that the World’s Richest Club is having to deal with the fact that money is sucking the heart and soul out of football. The game is selling out to the highest bidder and although money talks, fans are speechless at the moment.

In this article I have asked many questions. If you have answered no to the majority of them then you are aware that the man in the scorching-hot seat at City is not the right man for the club. At this rate, surely it will only be a matter of time before the Abu Dhabi owners decide to ‘sheikh’ it up- after all, with half the season gone already, things can surely only get better…can’t they?