Thursday, 23 April 2009

"The fact is I didn't want to leave. City wanted me out of the club."

He was loved at Manchester City but hated for his move across the City to United. In an exclusive interview, former goal-keeper Tony Coton speaks candidly about what really went on behind the scenes at Maine Road and how football has influenced his life.

Interviewing Tony Coton is something that Footy Pundette is relishing. It’s not very often that a footballer, or a goal-keeper in this case, has the balls to move between rivals clubs, but that is exactly what Tony did. The aftermath of such a move is that Tony is still despised by a large majority of City fans that saw his move as being motivated by greed. Just what is the truth? I headed to Tony’s new office, near City’s training ground in Carrington, Manchester, to find out.

As soon as I arrive, I am greeted by a cheerful and friendly Tony; he is much taller than anticipated and speaks with a strong Black Country accent, offering me a cup of tea straight away. He invites me into his office; the front room of the Victorian house is littered with sporting memorabilia. Behind his huge desk is an even bigger picture of Manchester United from the 1999 European Cup Final. Signed shirts from Ronaldinho and Pat Jennings also feature and opposite his desk is a large plasma television blasting out the familiar Sky Sports News theme tune. Before I get started I read through the questions, expecting Tony to refuse to answer some of the more probing ones. But he accepts every single one on the list and gets comfy for what will be a grilling for the Tamworth-born goal-keeper...

FP: Given that, in 1991-92 and 1993-94 seasons you won City's player of the year awards, did you understand what effect moving to the other side of the city would have on City fans that held you in such high regard?

TC: No. I remember when I first came to the club having a bad time with the fans. It took me a while to settle in and I got a bit of stick replacing Andy Dibble. At that time I didn't think I would ever win them over.

But it's amazing how things change and only performances on the pitch can determine that. So after winning those awards and winning the fans over, in 1996 when I eventually moved over the city I thought there would be a bit of response from the City fans. But not to the certain extent of the faxes and things that got sent to City. But I've often said that City wanted me out of the club. I didn't want to leave the club. Francis Lee and Alan Ball wanted me to leave. Consequently, along with Keith Curle, Niall Quinn, Garry Flitcroft, who all seemed to follow in succession. I didn't think I'd get the reaction that I got, especially if City fans would have known the facts. The fact was I didn't want to leave. City wanted me out of the club.

FP: Which manager did you enjoy playing under the most at City?

TC: Two really, Peter Reid and Brian Horton. Brian Horton was a fantastic man and what I call a friend now. He was very good with the players and I think he was harshly treated by the regime then. Obviously Francis Lee wanted his own man in Alan Ball, and I just don't think that he gave Brian credit for what he was trying to do there. Then Peter Reid, who took over from Howard Kendall, I got on well with him on a professional basis. That's why I signed for him at Sunderland later.

FP: When you left City you were allegedly quoted as saying that you would have a better chance of first team football at United. Is that true, considering that Eike Immel was City's goalkeeper and Peter Schmeichel was United's?

TC: No it's not true at all. I never ever made that comment. I knew exactly what I was moving to. I met with Alex Ferguson and he told me exactly what my role would be; to be number two to Peter Schmeichel. I'd join in the January, and one thing he said, although I signed a three-year contract, one thing he said is that if I still had ambitions of playing in the first team like every professional has, then he would listen to offers in the summer. That's exactly what happened. I went in the January.

I thought, let’s see in the short-term, let’s have a look at see what Man United are all about. Is it any different to any other club? That's the reason I went, and I knew I'd be leaving again in the summer. I was going for a short period of time. If I'm being perfectly honest, I went for the money. I went for the pay day. City wanted me out, United were going to pay me well, going to give me a signing-on fee. I'd still get the experience of being at United and having a ball. I knew I'd be going in the summer anyway, I was either going to join Sunderland (which I did), Wolves or Derby.

FP: During the so-called 'dark days' at City, how bad did it actually get?

TC: The dark days for me, and I don't like to speak ill of anyone who has passed away, but for the dark days for me happened when Francis Lee took over as chairman and Alan Ball came into the club as manager. I still feel that Alan Ball was brought in to be a puppet for Francis Lee, as proven on more than one occasion. So from the day that Francis Lee and Alan Ball came in, I didn't know at the time but my days were well and truly numbered. It's very difficult when you have been a regular in the time, and you are fit. Also they brought in a German goalkeeper, and this is no disrespect to Eike Immel, but he suddenly came in overnight. Nobody knew about it and everybodys suddenly looking at me saying 'you're not going to be in the team'. Nobody had the decency to tell me that they were bringing in another 'keeper. I didn't think I deserved that.

I went in to see the manager; he was sat there reading the Racing Post with his feet up on the desk.
I said: 'Look, you have bought a new 'keeper here, you have been quoted as saying that he's the number one. Does that mean I'm going to be transferred?'
He said: 'Oh I've been meaning to speak to you about that. Yes. We're going to keep the fee down as a goodwill gesture and we're listening to offers. I might do a swap deal with the left-back at Sunderland'.
I said: 'I don't want to go to Sunderland'.
As it turned out I did end up going to Sunderland in the summer, but not in a swap deal for him. So for me, the dark days were when those two came into the club. It was bad.

FP: Do you agree with Robinho that the mentality of the club has got to change if the club is to be successful?

TC: If you play sports at whatever level, whenever you do anything you should always strive to be the best at whatever you do. Whenever you play in any competition you should always want to win. I'm often chastised at home because I won't let anybody win at anything and it's just the mentality you have. I think if you are a professional and getting paid for it, you should automatically have that mentality anyway. Maybe it's Robinho being a bit temperamental and trying to get the lads at it. He's obviously trying to get a reaction from his team-mates, but sometimes when you say the things you say it can have a reverse effect. It can have a negative effect. But every time you play you should have a winning mentality. I don't know what he's trying to get at.

FP: Do you think United, and Alex Ferguson, will ever regard City as a real threat?

TC: I know that they try and class the derby game as just another game, but I know what it means to them. How badly they hurt when City beat them and I know how pleased they are when they beat City. As a threat, whether the threat is in Alex Ferguson's reign as manager of United, I don't think so. I think he will be retired by the time the real threat comes. I think he has been quoted as saying he will be there for another 18 months, I don't think the threat will be in that time period.

In the concluding part of the interview next week, Tony speaks exclusively about his heroes, his motivations, his career in general and his England disappointment, City’s history and future and reveals more truths about his time at City.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A look at the tragics events of Hillsborough through the eyes of Footy Pundette

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that"...Bill Shankly

It was the day before my seventh birthday, a gorgeous Spring day. The sun was beaming down and my street was full of all my neighbours’ children playing out with me on their bicycles. The age of innocence was high; back in the eighties we would leave our house doors unlocked and go between each others’ houses without a second thought. It literally was a perfect day.

I fell off my bike a couple of times onto the moist, warm grass of my front garden and I looked up at the bright blue sky, littered sporadically with cumulus clouds. My friend Kerry ran over, offering me a daisy chain as a reward for my calamitous fall. We laughed and giggled and continued our hazardous bike adventures up and down the street.

I noticed my brother, Simon, playing football with his friend not far away from us. He was nine years old at the time and obsessed with the sport, sharing a love for Manchester City due to our obsessive uncle Bob. But he will watch any game of football at any time. I looked up to Simon, I still do. I see him as a role model and when I was younger I was influenced dramatically by his interests and hobbies.


Although I didn’t kick a ball about with him, football was beginning to intrigue me. I didn’t understand any of the rules but I knew the difference between Everton and Chelsea. I knew the absolute basics. I was always more into football than I was Barbie which at the time was a very rare commodity. I was a tomboy in that sense and I followed Simon like a shadow, which must have irritated him considerably, but has proved dividends now.

We had watched Grandstand that day, the old BBC Saturday sport programme and they reviewed the F.A. Cup semi final, between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest that was taking place at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground Hillsborough. Simon always got excited about the F.A. Cup and the semi final tie was the motivation for his kick-about, visualising being John Barnes and scoring the winning goal.

It was just minutes before kick off; mum was inside doing a vast amount of ironing and I was skipping outside. My carefree moments were about to come to a sudden halt. Amongst the tranquillity outside, my mum’s panic-stricken shouting echoed around the street. She was urging us inside, pointing at the television, open-mouthed, her eyes frozen in terror.

I think with the beauty of hindsight she called us in because my dad was at work and she had nobody to share her shock with. Simon and I were only young and didn’t really know what was going on. But I can relay the images of a crowd almost swaying, a mass of people crammed into a stand with some of them attempting to either climb over the perimeter fence or up onto the next tier at the ground.

Unbeknown to me, what I was witnessing was the tragic events unfolding at Hillsborough. Simon sunk to his knees, glued to the television. This wasn’t football, this was people dying. People who had travelled from Liverpool to Sheffield to watch their team participate in a respected and traditional competition were being suffocated, their lives abruptly ended. I couldn’t understand why and how it was happening. I just recall thinking about the fences, the enormous crowd and the faces. The faces will haunt me forever.


John Motson’s voice delivered details of a helpline number set up for families of potential victims to call for further details. I was crying, sobbing uncontrollably. It was my first real memory of football, yet it didn’t involve a ball being kicked or a player sent off. It involved fans and trauma. It was a horrifically dark hour. My mum lifted me up and consoled me, realising that she should have perhaps censored me from the graphic images. But those images were real and raw, they were happening live. Nobody could have forecast what happened that fateful day.
Since that day I have suffered from nightmares regularly. The images of that day, from the overcrowded Leppings Lane End have forever stuck in my mind and I pay my respects on every anniversary of Hillsborough to the 96 innocent lives that were lost in such an unnecessary manner. I now watch football every week and can understand and appreciate the severity of the events and the sadness of the needless loss of life endured.

I went to Hillsborough for an away match with my own team Manchester City in 2002 and, despite our 6-2 victory, all I could think about was that tragic April day. I went to the toilets at half-time and they were empty. I felt an eerie uncomfortable sensation in the darkened room and I hurried while washing my hands. The toilets were old and I was constantly thinking about just what happened above my head that Saturday, what sights the toilets could have seen during that despicable day. I was alone in the toilets yet I felt eyes on me. I was completely spooked and felt nauseous.

It may well be 20 years since the event but I will never forget Hillsborough. Every year I will observe the silence. It inexplicably affected me more than it should. But we are all part of the football family; people whose lives are driven by the sport and we hurt when events such as the tragedy in Sheffield occur. The victims were united behind their football team but should never have lost their lives supporting them. An occasion where Bill Shankly’s famous ‘football/life’ quote proved to be vacant, meaningless, without substance. Football lost its relevance after that day, I’m not sure if it’s ever been found ever since.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

"I was sat on the gantry at Anfield thinking I can't believe I'm doing this"

Footy Pundette meets the first lady of female commentating and talks about how football not only dominates her life but how the beautiful game made her take a gamble and change careers.

It’s not every day that Footy Pundette meets a figure that has caused so much controversy. Since becoming the first female commentator on Match of the Day on 21st April 2007, Jacqui Oatley has created quite a stir. The negative reaction to her debut was so strong that social networking site Facebook was inundated with anti-Jacqui groups filled with sexist and derogatory remarks belittling her persona and ability.

To deal with thousands of people judging and mocking your capabilities based mainly on your gender would require Jacqui to have skin as thick as a rhino it would seem. Surely that level of abuse and criticism would take its toll on the person it is carelessly aimed at. Footy Pundette headed to BBC Television Centre in West London, armed with intriguing questions, ready to meet the woman behind the microphone.

When Jacqui greets me at reception she is cheery and polite, offering a handshake and a warm, welcoming smile. She is dressed casual in jeans and a lemon vest top and immediately engages in conversation regarding my journey whilst en route to the Match of the Day studio, the location of our interview. The first impression given is one of a woman that is both confident and intelligent and simply loves football, whether it is following her own team Wolverhampton Wanderers or when she used to play amateur football, it is clear to see that football has a massive influence on Jacqui’s life.


Footy Pundette wastes no time in broaching the subject of social networking sites and the possibilities of gender equality in football. As Jacqui settles on the famous white sofa we immediately mention the amount of facebook abuse that is aimed in her direction. Her reaction is a mixture of cringing and laughing.
“I discovered it completely by accident,” Jacqui admits. “I was on holiday in Hollywood, by the pool having a really nice time sunning myself and emailing friends and I got a friendship request from somebody with the same surname as me who I didn’t know.

“This made me put the surname in to look for other family members who I haven’t been in touch with for a while. I innocently put my surname in and...”

At this point Jacqui pauses, rolls her eyes and lets out an almost nervous laughter.

“I just didn’t expect what came up. It was utter bile, I mean really nasty stuff. I was gobsmacked. I told my friend and pointed it out to her. That’s not nice, I was on holiday and I hadn’t expected it. I wasn’t braced for it. But at the same time I know it’s out there.

“The last thing you can do is look at it, read it, take any notice of it. You can’t do otherwise you would never leave the house, you would be so miserable. You would spend all your life thinking everybody hates you, it’s disproportionate. All you can do is do the very best you can at your job. As long as you’re happy with yourself that’s all that matters.

“I don’t think there will ever be gender equality in that sense. Historically football is a men’s game but that is changing. More women are watching football and playing football than ever. I think the people who grow up with mums, sisters, girlfriends, any kind of females around them who are genuinely into football and knowledgeable about the game will be more accepting of a female sports journalist than people who haven’t. It won’t happen overnight but we are getting there.”

Jacqui was born in Codsall, Staffordshire and grew up with an unconditional love of football. She went to university and gained a degree in German then lived in London as a sales and marketing manager.


But football has always played a major part in her life and her heart. She has followed her team, Wolverhampton Wanderers, for years and played football for Chiswick Ladies Football Club, before an injury forced her into having reconstructive surgery and almost a year on crutches. The injury would prove to have a major influence in her life and future career choices.

“Playing football was something I did because I absolutely loved it,” Jacqui enthuses.

“I loved playing football, I love watching football. Unfortunately I just had to stick with the watching after the injury. I used to play every Sunday as well as go to watch my team home and away every Saturday.

“As soon as I got the injury I thought that there was something missing, that I needed to add some kind of football to my life where I lost it. I used to listen to BBC Radio Five Live all the time, for years, and I thought that a degree in journalism would be perfect. So I decided to go back to university and retrain from scratch.

“I gave up everything. I gave up a good job and my flat and stayed on my friend’s floors. When I changed my career it was an unusual thing to do but I was happy doing it because I knew exactly what I wanted. The people who have supported me in that sense are such an inspiration. Somebody told me that it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to be on rather than half-way up a ladder you don’t, and although that sounds daunting it was the realism of the situation that I found myself in. Something had to change.”

Jacqui in her usual commentating spot for Radio Five Live

Jacqui’s persistence and determination paid dividends. Her first job in radio was at BBC Radio Leeds, and worked for BBC West Midlands and BBC London 94.9 before her big break at Five Live came in 2005. There she became the first female commentator, following the 2005 UEFA Women’s Championship.

“I have never felt out of my depth. I have been scared stiff though! I’m not sure if that’s the same thing as being out of your depth because you still have to back yourself. You still think I’m here for a reason, I have worked my way up and I have started from scratch.

I have looked around and thought oh my goodness. When I was on the gantry at Anfield on my second Match of the Day I just thought ‘this is absolutely fantastic’. I couldn’t believe I was doing it.”

Oatley heading to Craven Cottage for her first Match of the Day commentary


Jacqui’s debut on Match of the Day is the moment when she turned into a hot topic. Her first commentary, on the match between Fulham and Blackburn Rovers on 21st April 2007 provoked the mass response and backlash from mostly male viewers who were unprepared to hearing a female voice on a traditionally male-dominated flagship programme.

“Radio-wise I didn’t have any problems; people have always treated me perfectly fine. I just got on with the job. It was only when Match of the Day came along that it suddenly became a really big issue and everybody had an opinion on it.
I found it quite extraordinary at the time. But you just have to accept it and move on. I think whenever you get anybody doing something for the first time it’s going to cause some kind of interest. I just didn’t quite expect the level of interest.

But I am so happy doing what I’m doing. I absolutely love it. My ambition was to work for Radio Five Live and I’m doing that so why would I want to do anything more? The television work I have done has been great too. I enjoy any different experience. I work full time for Five Live and the occasional Match of the Day. I couldn’t be happier.”

As our interview concludes and I exit the studio (‘Michael Johnson is in here next doing an interview’), Jacqui takes time out to show Footy Pundette around the Five Live studios and News 24 offices at Television Centre. She spends a good extra hour with me offering career advice and introducing various ‘behind the scenes’ faces to me. She’s a total chatterbox, perfect for the radio, but very endearing and incredibly passionate about any subject she broaches. In fact, it is Footy Pundette that has to drag myself away when the time is noticed.

It is apparent just how much of an influence football has on Jacqui’s life. It runs through her veins. Her love of the game resulted in her changing career and taking a huge gamble, one that happily paid off. Many people may have their own opinions on Jacqui and her job, but she is simply doing the job she loves and to the best of her ability. Jacqui has set the precedent for more females to enter the male-dominated arena of football commentary, it remains to be seen if the backlash she has received has put others of venturing down the same career path.

Manchester City 4-2 West Bromwich Albion
Robinho goal drought over in some style

Robinho broke his goal drought in spectacular style with a sublime volley to fire City ahead during the club's 4-2 thriller against West Bromwich Albion.

The Brazilian hadn't scored this year until a pinpoint cross from Stephen Ireland fell to his feet. Robinho struck the ball immediately- and his crisp volley fired into the back of the net to give City the lead.

Nedum Onuoha's header from a corner made it 2-0 before Chris Brunt pulled one back for the relegation-threated visitors just before the interval.

Brunt struck again just after the break to level the match but almost immediately Elano scored from a penalty to gave City the advantage again.

The Baggies were desperate to get back in the game and pushed forward for an equaliser, but their attacking left them exposed at the back. Substitute Daniel Sturridge made the three points certain for City in injury time with a tap in goal.

The score-line flattered City during a game where some of Mark Hughes' blues looked lethargic and, at times, very sloppy. Wayne Bridge and Richard Dunne were exposed regularly and a couple of times Dunne was forced to make last-ditch tackles to make up for his earlier errors. Even Vincent Kompany seemed out-of-sorts and consistently surrendered possession.

City's main threat came from their creative players. The likes of Ireland, Robinho and Elano looked lively and, during various attacks in the game, a potent threat. Ireland's work-rate is tireless; always searching for an opening or an opportunity, he always gives the team options and is a huge influence in the middle of the park.

Robinho looks to be finding his form again after a damp squib and his fellow country-man Elano hit the spot again with a penalty.

West Brom deserve credit though- they worked constantly to add pressure and expose City's weaknesses. The score-line wasn't really a fair reflection of the game and Tony Mowbray will feel aggrieved to be going back to the Hawthorns empty-handed. But the visitors did have plenty of chances to score, with poor finishing letting them down. Any chances created needed to be taken- and they wasn't.

After the Hamburg game on Thursday, this was always going to be a bit of an anti-climax. But in reality the game turned out to be a bit of a thriller, despite City looking lacklustre and very tired in the final quarter. Martin Petrov had another appearance in the second half and looked a threat with his lightning-fast late charge during the final 10 minutes. Perhaps with a bit of match fitness and confidence he would have buried his chance. Sturridge got on the score-sheet again but didn't celebrate his goal, maybe suggesting that his future lies elsewhere after recent contract talks had stalled.

With City four points behind West Ham in the race for the final spot for Europe, the run-in will now be very interesting. City's next game, against Everton on Saturday, will prove crucial if Hughes' men are to qualify. They will have to overcome a sustained bout of travel sickness if they are to pick up anything from Goodison Park against a David Moyes' side that are still riding on a euphoric tidal wave having just secured an F.A. Cup Final spot and virtually cemented their place in Europe next season. It will be a very intriguing 90 minutes of football between the blues that's for sure.

What a night Thursday proved to be. With an incredible party atmosphere inside Eastlands, City gave it their all and certainly had the chances to go through on the night. Elano was in inspired form and definitely influenced the tempo on the pitch. Felipe Caicedo was guilty of missing a gifted chance but on the night I was personally very proud of being a blue.

We may have gone out of the UEFA Cup but every City fan can hold their head up high and be safe in the knowledge that the team did give it their best shot. The atmosphere was electric and even Martin Jol admitted that the noise and energy around the stadium shocked his Hamburg side. That is what City fans are capable of, so why isn't it replicated on a regular basis?

Also, a quick note must go to the fact that Mark Hughes didn't hold a training session on the day of the UEFA Cup game and apparently wasn't in contact with any of his players until they arrived at the ground for the actual game...for me I would have to question certain elements of this and whether his motivation and personal treatment of players are appropriate. Not talking or communicating with the players until match-day is a recipe for disaster. A manager should build a relationship with his players. But now City must look to the future and potentially qualifying for the Europa League next season.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Just in case you aren't already aware, there has been an arranged gathering for fellow blues in Shambles Square in Manchester today to 'prepare' for the UEFA Cup quarter final showdown with Hamburg this evening.

The festivities are happening throughout the day, with no actual meeting time being set. Head down to the area near Selfridges and the Printworks in Manchester city centre to come and celebrate City's progress in the UEFA Cup so far. Due to UEFA Cup regulations, no beer is being sold in the ground this evening, so this is a perfect opportunity to make an early toast to all things City. Glauber Berti, above, is loving it. Are you?

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Manchester City star midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips is refusing to give up hope and still believes that City can progress through to the UEFA Cup semi finals by overturning their 3-1 deficit today against Hamburg.

Wright-Phillips faces a late fitness test on his ankle but remains positive regarding the club's chances of progression in front a capacity crowd at Eastlands this evening.

"It's not over until the fat lady sings," Wright-Phillips muses.

"Anything is possible. If we go out there and play the way we know we can, we will make it difficult for Hamburg. We will make enough chances to win 2-0. It's a matter of taking those chances on the night.

"Everyone is confident, we've spoken about it already and we have got the belief that we need."

Shaun Wright-Phillips believes- do you? Keep the faith and act as the 12th man/woman to cheer City on tonight!

So...a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Fulham and chaos all around the City of Manchester Stadium. A manager that’s stood on the touch-line and running out of ideas fast, the easy target and subject of abuse from thousands of incensed blues who decide to vote with their feet and leave 10 minutes before the end of the game. A mega-money Brazilian whose season has gone from hero to zero in a matter of months and a captain that fails to rally his troops time and time again on the pitch. Pick the bones from that...

It’s actually quite hard to. Mark Hughes was forced to make changes for the game, with injuries a-plenty and one eye on the UEFA Cup tie on Thursday that will inevitably a) decide his future at the club and b) make or break City’s future, certainly their season. No pressure then. It was good to see Martin Petrov making a long-overdue comeback although he did look fatigued during his time on the pitch. To be expected after being out for so long really. Javier Garrido stepped in for the injured Wayne Bridge and I thought he did a decent job. I think Garrido comes in for a lot of undeserved stick off City fans- there were worst players on the pitch.

Richard Dunne and Micah Richards had absolute howlers. Right from Dunne’s slip at the beginning nearly gifting Fulham an opener, the pair made mistake after mistake and played like a pair of schoolboys, not grown professionals. What has changed so much in a season? Apart from the money arriving, and that should encourage the pair to play better in order to ensure their survival in the team come summer.

The irrepressible Stephen Ireland and fellow academy graduate Nedum Onuoha were possibly the only two figures on the pitch that actually looked like they cared and who were putting the effort in. Ireland’s goal, possibly a speculative effort in his mind at first, was sublime. The fact that he even attempted it in the first place shows how confident the player is right now and his non-stop running and tackles are evidence of his commitment to the team.

Onuoha spoke out before the game praising the attitude and progress of Ireland, and stating that he would personally love to become ‘City’s John Terry’, and with his progress so far there is no reason he won’t achieve his goal. Having won City’s player of the month award for March, Onuoha continued to impress against Fulham, despite his team’s shortcomings. He’s definitely one to watch.

Robinho and Elano warmed up down the touch-line in front of appreciative and expectant fans eager to see their arrival onto the pitch. Chants directed at Hughes included ‘We want Robinho’ and ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’. When City lost their lead and fell behind, Robinho was delivered onto the field of play, but it was too little too late- what did fans actually expect, for the inconsistent Brazilian to wave a magic wand and pull two goals out of the bag? He is capable of that, but the expectation from Robinho and City was phenomenal.

Fulham are a side that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Roy Hodgson’s team aren’t where they are in the Premier League for no reason and credit should be given where it is due. But City were poor and Hughes should be the first to admit that. Whether he would or not is another matter.

When Fulham came round behind to win 3-1, City fans poured out of Eastlands, deciding to vote with their feet and direct abuse at the constantly under-pressure manager Hughes. The Thursday night game, against Hamburg, will undoubtedly prove to be his ‘Waterloo’; a game where the Welshman faces a certain Catch-22 situation- damned if he wins and damned if he doesn’t. The relentless, passionate if not frustrated fans remain positive and optimistic that the two goal deficit can be made up and with a 46, 000 sell-out crowd guaranteed at Eastlands, they will bring the atmosphere. However, it remains to be seen whether the City team can recover from Sunday, regroup and seek some spirit from 1999 to progress through to the semi-finals. As the final English team in the competition, the whole country should be behind Hughes’ side. Fingers and toes crossed, it’s going to be an emotional one.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

It's finally here. One of City's biggest matches for years is finally upon us: the UEFA Cup Quarter Final second leg against Hamburg at the City of Manchester Stadium.

City do have an uphill struggle to overcome the 3-1 defeat from Hamburg, but must be optimistic and remember that two home goals and Mark Hughes' men are back in the game. The absolute last thing City can afford to do is concede, but that will be difficult against a sharp and acute Hamburg side that look like the best side left in the competition. It's a battle, it's against the odds but it's the most important game of football for Manchester City for YEARS.

But did any City fan actually think that we would get so far? Did you believe that we would be in the final eight of the UEFA Cup at the beginning of this season? Lets make Thursday night an occasion to remember. Bring your flags, bananas and your die-hard City spirit to Eastlands and lets get the place rocking. We as fans have the power to act as the twelve man or woman to push the eleven players on the pitch to victory. a two-goal deficit isn't impossible at all. We must believe. We CAN do it! Expect the unexpected.

The 3-1 defeat against Fulham at Eastlands on Sunday has inevitably got the 'Hughes Out' brigade vocal again. It was obvious that Hughes would be making changes, due to injuries and to one eye being cast on Thursday night. It was good to see Martin Petrov back in action and the run-out will be good for him, with a spot in the team on Thursday potentially up for grabs.

The performance though was disappointing and lacklustre. The eleven players looked out of sorts and you could tell that they hadn't played together before. Richard Dunne and Micah Richards had absolute howlers unfortunately, but positive performances were few and far between. I spoke at length before the game on BBC Radio Manchester with Ian Cheeseman about how important it is, during the club's infinate wealth, not to lose our soul and that players should get sweat on the blue shirt- something that had been told to me by club legend Colin Bell. The only players that actually looked bothered were academy graduates Nedum Onuoha and Stephen Ireland. The latter's goal was sublime and he must be the club's runaway favourite for Player of the Season.

The result of my latest poll is in. I asked which City player you would offload at the end of the current season if you had the chance. 13% of you said Gelson Fernandes and 33% of you suggested Darius Vassell. But the winner, with 46% of the vote is Danny Mills, a player that has been seen more times on the television as a supposed pundit than he has in a blue shirt for a long, long time. Is the club still paying his wage? Ridiculous. The new poll is open so, as always, get voting.

Keep the faith as always. If you can get into Manchester earlier, a lot of City fans are gathering in Shambles Square, near Selfridges, so come on down and share the blue love if you can.

The elusive Glauber Berti has been spotted out and about yet again. This time the Brazilian has been found lurking in a members-only club in the heart of Manchester with his former team-mate, Jo.

If you happen to see him, note that his drink of choice is double vodka and red bull.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Fancy listening to my musing and opinions regarding City this season? Well you can!

Whether you are on your way to Eastlands for the Fulham game on Sunday 12th April or listening from home or even abroad, tune in to 95.1 FM BBC Radio Manchester at 2pm to hear fellow blue Colin Savage and myself accompanying ringleader Ian Cheeseman in a discussion on all things blue for a full hour before City kick off against the Cottagers.

City's financial losses nearly tripled and its net assets shrank by more than 50% when Thaksin Shinawatra was the club's chairman, it has been revealed.

Shinawatra, who is currently on the run after being sentenced t two years in prison for corruption, encouraged the losses that were caused significantly by a £50 million expenditure on players.

The former Thai Prime Minister's personal promises of wealth for City were unfulfilled as the asset value of the club fell from £57.2m to £24.5m under his reign.

Group accounts for Manchester City Ltd. show a pre-tax loss of £32.6m before May 31st 2008, nearly tripling the £11m loss posted a year ago.

The immense spending spree by then-manager Sven Goran Eriksson was authorized by Shinawatra, who didn't have the finances himself to back the transfer frenzy after his reported £1.18bn assets were frozen by authorities when he was removed from his position of Prime Minister.

Shinawatra sold a 90% stake in the club to Sheikh Mansour's Abu Dhabi Group Investment and Development for £210m on transfer deadline day back in August 2008. Since then, plans for a City academy in Thailand have been shelved and merchandise removed from stores.

Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov will return to Manchester City's squad for their UEFA Cup tie with Hamburg.

Petrov has been absent since suffering a cruciate knee injury whilst on international duty back in August but featured in a reserve game against Newcastle United on Monday and is flying out to Germany with Mark Hughes' team.

Petrov's return to first team action coincides with Robinho's lacklustre form and boss Hughes could be tempted to drop the Brazilian in favour of the lively Bulgarian.

"The plan was to give him 45 minutes on Monday night," Hughes confessed. "He came through that and looked impressive. You forget what quality he can produce and he looked in good nick.

"He is an option for us. When I came here as manager, the opportunity to work with Martin was something I was looking forward to. When you see what he can produce you can see what we have lacked on occasions this season."

Wayne Bridge, Benjani and Stephen Ireland will all travel to Germany, although Ireland is a big doubt after suffering an ankle injury during training last week.

I would just like to apologise for the lack of updates on my blog lately. This is due to me being down in London for the week on a work placement at FourFourtwo magazine and struggling for internet access in the locality outside of work hours. This weekend I will fully update my blog, bringing you up to speed with all the latest news, views and anecdotes of all things Manchester City. Fingers crossed for Hamburg away tomorrow...


Thursday, 2 April 2009

Former City manager Sven Goran Erikkson has been relieved of his duties as coach of Mexico, following their 3-1 defeat against Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

The Swede moved to Mexico after he was given his marching orders by then-City chairman Thaksin Shinawatra, but the national side's inconsistent form has found them struggling to qualify for the finals in South Africa next year. Erikkson has received criticism for fielding a notable amount of overseas players, like Arsenal's Carlos Vela and Nery Castillo.

Yes I know, I am sick of hearing City being referred to as a 'project', but that word has been mentioned again today with regards to World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro's next career move.

Gaetano Fedele, Cannavaro's agent, has claimed that the player would like to finish his career with an important project, with City being well and truly in the frame.

"Fabio wants to aim for an important project as he nears the end of his career, one that I would call phenomenal," Fedele stated.

City, Tottenham and AC Milan are all in the picture, but with Cannanavo apparently ruling out a move to an Italian or American club, the rumour mill begins to churn once again with the possibility of the 35 year-old playing for City.