Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Well the summer of 2009 has gone exactly as I thought it would at City; a balmy and barmy couple of months full of rumours, speculation and excitement. Finding where to start is a problem in itself.

New website Top of the agenda as it is the freshest in my mind is the launch of City's new website. July 1st sees the culmination of a lot of research and hard work behind the scenes at City to bring fans an all-singing, all-dancing site loaded with information, from Opta-based stats to match highlights. MCFCTV is being scrapped so all interviews and highlights will be absolutely free. Keep your eyes peeled for a site that is set to be the best in football.

New signings With Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz and Stuart Taylor all having signed on the dotted line, the rumour mill continues to churn out a plethora of various players all linked to Eastlands. Samuel Eto'o is one being played out at the moment, along with Carlos Tevez, and speculation with John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Maicon, amongst many others. Any new arrivals will almost certainly mean departures, with a greedy and unhappy Daniel Sturridge, Richard Dunne and Dietmar Hamann likely to be leaving for pastures new.

New shirts City announced linking up with new sponsors Etihad and shirt makers Umbro in deals that will take the club forward in the new era. City worked closely with Umbro to create a strong retro feel for the shirts, with the new home shirt being released on July 18th.

New fixtures Pre-season friendlies with Barnsley (August 1st), Rangers (August 4th or 5th) and Celtic (August 8th) have been announced, along with the South Africa tour.

But all the positives still bring negative press. Real Madrid have signed both Kaka and Ronaldo for an almost combined fee of £140 million yet it is City that are ruining football?! How exactly does that work? The club are being ambitious by going for the highest calibre of players and are aware that top players may have to be compensated for their lack of European football, at least for this season. The sport of football is more of a business than ever and it makes good business sense to pay appropriate wage structures to the players that deserve it.

Eto'o for example may choose not to opt for City, but we can't forget that he played and scored in the Champions League final this season. If it is money that fills the void of playing European football for him, then so be it. But there are a lot of hypocrital journalists out there who are both naive and narrow-minded. If City want to go places, it must be with the best players available to help us get there.

Keep logging onto http://www.footypundette.blogspot.com/ for the latest news, views and opinions to do with the blues. I'm always trying to bring the best interviews to my site; former City manager and current Hull City assistant manager Brian Horton and former blue Paul Lake are up next, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Keep the blue faith,


Monday, 29 June 2009

City fans should be tuning into tonight's under 21's European Championship final to see England take on the old enemy Germany.

Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha and Joe Hart have all featured consistently throughout the tournament, with all three City players scoring at some point during the competition. Joe Hart saved a penalty and scored one during the roller-coaster semi-final match against Sweden. The match also saw Onuoha score for his country and Richards had also netted against Finland earlier in the competition.

Hart will be devastated to have picked up a yellow card in the Sweden game that rules him out of the final in Sweden tonight, but City fans will have their fingers crossed for the Eastlands defenders that are representing tonight. Good luck boys!

City's Brazilian boys Elano and Robinho were last night celebrating winning the Confederations Cup after a dramatic 3-2 victory against surprise outfit, the United States.

Brazil had been trailing 2-0 before Elano came on to inspire a magnificent comeback. The City midfielder supplied the corner that provided the winning goal, a header from captain Lucio. Robinho had earlier hit the post in a victory that is sure to get both players in the winning spirit. Lets hope they bring that spirit back with them to Manchester when they report for pre-season training!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

City have unveiled a further two new faces to join Gareth Barry at Eastlands this summer.

Roque Santa Cruz has been a long-term target of Mark Hughes and the City boss finally got his man for £18 million from former club Blackburn Rovers. The 27 year old Paraguay international has signed a four-year deal at City and immediately spoke of his desire to be joined by United-rejecting Carlos Tevez.

"I hope that Tevez could join Manchester City. I heard that there have been conversations about that happening. He would be a really good signing."

The second signing in the same amount of days has been ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Stuart Taylor from Aston Villa. The 28 year old has joined City for an undisclosed fee and has a wealth of experience. He will be working to keep current City number one goalkeeper Shay Given on his toes.

The signing paves the way for England under-21 goalkeeper Joe Hart to move to Birmingham City on loan.

Monday, 22 June 2009

"I went from swapping stickers in school to playing at Wembley"

Former Manchester City footballer Jeff Whitley's career was plagued with problems. In the second part of a revealing interview, he speaks to Football Pundette about his time at City and his plans for the future.

Jeff’s career took him across the country, but it started at Manchester City, where he enjoyed 10 years. That’s where his fondest memories lie.

“I did enjoy my time at Sunderland but I’ve been through so much at City. I’d seen a lot of stuff happening, a lot of players coming and going, not to mention managers. To go from being a ball boy and just hoping and praying that one day I might bless that grass, to going and playing on that grass and in that stadium (Maine Road) was a dream come true.

“One of my other dreams was to play at Anfield as I was a Liverpool fan when I was younger. I used to idolise John Barnes. I went from swapping Panini stickers in school to the big stage. To play at Anfield was a dream, as well as Wembley. No matter what has happened to me I can always look back and think ‘you know what Jeff, you have actually lived out some of your dreams.’ There are not many people who can actually say that.”

"We were blessed to play at Wembley"

“It was all new for me- I had gone from being a ball boy to the first team. Alan Ball took me and my brother Jim to his house and we had to pinch ourselves. I looked at Jim and said ‘are we really sat in Ball’s back garden? Is this real?’ On my debut, the guy I was marking scored two goals. I went into the dressing room and thought that my career was over straight away. I was crying. But Ball stuck by me and played me, he showed a lot of loyalty to me and put so much faith in me.

“There was great times and tough times. Getting relegated was absolutely heartbreaking. But I look back at the team, the squad of players that we had and the team spirit in the dressing room. It was unbelievable. Not one player thought that they were bigger than the club. The dressing room banter, as well as at the training ground, was brilliant. As much as we had a laugh, we knew when we had to work hard.

“Even though it was in Division Two, we were blessed to play at Wembley. I was blessed to actually take part in that game; I was at Wrexham at the time on loan and I got called back. I look back and think ‘wow’. There has been so many great players and games that have graced Wembley and for ours to be recognised as one of the best games is amazing.

"Also, getting promoted the season after, I remember playing at Blackburn and getting battered for an hour, they must have hit the post at least five times. But then the goals started flooding in. That season was amazing though; we were going into games planning our goal celebrations. If you look at some of the celebrations from that year we did some daft celebrations, but they were all pre-planned. We were that confident we would score.

“Joe (Royle) and Willie Donachie were brilliant. Joe had put a bid in for me during his time as Everton manager and he came over to me at City and asked why I hadn’t moved to Everton. I simply explained that it had been a childhood dream of mine to play for Manchester City, not for Everton. Joe put up with so much rubbish from me, but he stuck by me throughout my personal problems because he knew that when I was well I would give my all to the game. Neil McNab and Donachie were both so great to me too. Neil drilled it into me that if you don’t work hard, you won’t play. It was as simple as that.

“All my team-mates were great friends to me. The City team that was promoted from Division Two had such a rapport; Michael Brown, Edgy (Richard Edghill), Lee Crooks, Chris Greenacre, Kevin Horlock, Shaun Goater, Nicky Weaver, Gerard Wiekens. It was incredible in the dressing room. Danny Tiatto, Mark Kennedy and Steve Howey, we hung around a lot. I still speak to Steve now. Paul Dickov was such a great man. He helped me out a lot. There was a lot of players that had a good impact on me and a lot that I respected.”

"I was in tears...I loved the place"

But at City Jeff’s time was up when Kevin Keegan noticed his influence in the dressing room.

“That was due to my own doing. A lot of people at the time told me to calm down with my drinking but obviously I didn’t have a clue and I couldn’t stop. That was one of the reasons why Keegan got rid of me. He thought that I was a big influence on the players in getting them to drink.

“My argument was that they were grown men; if I was going for a drink then it’s up to them whether they come with me. So he got rid of me. I remember that I was in tears in the car just thinking ‘I could have stopped that from happening. I know I messed up there’. But I couldn’t stop. I was devastated knowing that I would never play for the club again. Later on in life I know the problem now. I was completely and utterly gutted. I really wish I would have had a few more seasons at City. I loved the place.

“When I went up to Sunderland, Mick McCarthy brought in a lot of players that the fans had probably never heard of. But he had the respect of the players, he had what I called a healthy fear. I had no problem in speaking to him about anything. Mick gave me a chance. But again, because of my illness, I couldn’t take that chance any further. But he was one of the best managers I’ve ever worked under. He’s pretty direct in what he wants from you- if you don’t work hard for him you don’t play almost. I liked that about him.”

Jeff has now been sober for over 18 months and works in a car showroom in Stockport, Manchester. He has been lucky. His problems illustrate just how easy it is to succumb to the downsides of being a footballer. Thankfully, Jeff is recovering well and offers his help voluntarily to Wolves football club. He advises their young stars on the pitfalls and negative side to football, hoping that they will steer clear. But it is obvious that football has had a huge influence on Jeff’s life and that he looks back with fond, privileged and cherished memories.

"I will get to say sorry"

“Football to me is sheer passion. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice if you want to hit the grade. Football is a gift and people take it for granted. Millions of people want to be able to play football and if you can then you are blessed. I miss playing football but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

“I could sit in self-pity all day thinking about all the money I’ve blown and all the people that I’ve hurt. In due time I will get to say sorry to all those people I let down, as that’s part of my recovery. It’s a beautiful world that we live in with beautiful people that have helped me through my suffering. I’m learning so much about myself. I now put into life the best I possibly can.

“It’s knowing who your true friends are and knowing that people who are helping you aren’t doing it to get something, they are doing it from their heart. I don’t want to take it for granted. I cherish my life today. I want to be able to lie on my death-bed and think that I tried to be the best person, the best dad, the best boyfriend, the best at my work. I want to treat people with utter respect and to be able to die in peace knowing that."

Friday, 19 June 2009

The season may well be over but a threesome of City players are continuing to impress- for England.

Joe Hart, Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha all starred in England's 2-0 victory against pre-tournament favourites Spain yesterday to clinch a place in the semi-finals of the under-21 European Championship in Gothenburg.

Richards scored on Monday during England's 2-1 victory against Finland but had been a doubt for Thursday's clash after suffering with a niggling knee injury.
Meanwhile, both Elano and Robinho have been featuring for Brazil during the side's Confederations Cup campaign. Elano had two assists during the side's 4-3 victory against Egypt and Robinho scored a goal in the samba side's triumph against the United States. Their final Group B game is against world champions Italy on Sunday.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The fixture lists for the 2009/10 season are out. City have an indifferent start, visiting Mark Hughes' former side Blackburn Rovers in the first game on Saturday August 15th. The first home match is Mick McCarthy's newly-promoted side Wolves on Saturday August 22nd.

The derby fixtures are at opposite ends of the season, with City visiting Old Trafford on Saturday September 19th and hosting the return tie on Saturday April 17th. Arsene Wenger's Arsenal pose the strongest early test when they visit Eastlands on Saturday September 12th.
For a look at the full fixture list, click here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

"I was dying. I was trying to get a fix from the alcohol to replace my empty feelings."

Former Manchester City footballer Jeff Whitley’s career was plagued with problems off-the-pitch. In the first of a two-part interview, he speaks to Football Pundette about battling his inner demons and the downsides to being a footballer.

You may not be familiar with Jeff Whitley. The 30 year-old Zambian-born former footballer moved over to England as a child and went on to play for the likes of Wrexham, Manchester City, Sunderland and Cardiff.

But Jeff’s story is one that highlights the darker side of football and brings to light the inevitable perils that accompany a job that earns thousands of pounds and attracts fame.

Jeff had to retire due to an illness that had plagued him throughout his varied career. It took him years to confront his inner demons and for him to actually realise and confess that he was an alcoholic.

“I did mess up the latter stages of my career, but I know I was ill. At the time I didn’t, until I got to the point of holding my hands up and saying ‘I need help’. I was dying. I was in a right mess from trying to get a fix from the alcohol to get rid of the empty feeling that I felt.

“It stemmed from a young age, from losing my parents and travelling around, I didn’t feel settled anywhere. I didn’t know who my friends were. There’s a lot of falseness around football. That was hard to take. I was trying to find out who my true friends were. When I came out of rehab that’s when I noticed who they were.

“Since I stopped playing football I noticed that my phone doesn’t ring as much, because I’m not going to nightclubs, so I don’t need to get people into clubs. People want to be seen where certain crowds are. I’ve noticed that people are not real.”

“I thought it was allowed in football”

“I don’t blame anybody for what I did. I look at it as a massive learning curve and for it not to happen again. Bad things have happened since I’ve been out of rehab and I’ve had to deal with it in a different way than hitting the drink like I would normally do.

“Whether I have a bad day at work or I have an argument with the missus, I’ve always got to keep on top of the addict in me and always know that it doesn’t matter what day it is. When I get up in the morning I am still an addict. I am still a recovering alcoholic. I’ve got to make sure that I keep on top of that.

“That day that I wake up and think ‘Jeff’s okay, Jeff’s sorted. It’s a nice day and he can go out for a drink.’ That’s when my hell all begins again and that’s something I deal with on a daily basis. I have to make sure that I am on top of what’s going on in Jeff’s head. I didn’t know Jeff playing football; I was happy when I was playing but off the pitch I didn’t know who I was.

“I thought it was allowed in football. Whether we had a drinking culture or not at Manchester City, the results spoke for themselves but we gelled together and we did go out drinking together as a team. But we were also pulling in the results. We all got on well. We did go out and drink together. I probably drank a lot more than others. I was young and all the players were drinking, but I wanted to be seen with them.

“I had changed my addiction. When I was at school I used to smoke weed so I’d just changed my addiction. Even though I don’t drink and I don’t take drugs and I don’t smoke, I could always get addicted to something else. That’s where I have got to make sure that I am in check of myself. I’m keeping in touch on a regular basis with people who have the same issues as me. I really talk about what’s going on inside me. I don’t need the fancy things in life. If you are not happy and not in love with yourself in a non-egotistical way then you are constantly looking for that fix whether it’s shopping or anything, it’s all a fix to make you feel good.

“Today I feel good. I’m able to sit with myself, to sit by myself whereas before I couldn’t. I’d be on edge. It’s took a lot. Going into rehab (Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance clinic) was tough. I had to talk about things that I’d kept inside me for years. I’d bottled up, stuck in a box and thrown away but things didn’t go away. The loss of my parents: because I was young I thought that I had dealt with it but I probably grieve even more now than I did when I was younger because I know more now. They would be saying now ‘we have our son back, not Jeff the footballer’.

“In football you live in a bubble”

“I don’t want to be known as Jeff the footballer. I want to be known as Jeff the person, knowing that he’s a good person. I’m striving to be a better person and to control the addictive personality that I’m aware I have.

I give my experiences to younger players. We’re working at Wolves at the minute; I don’t get paid but I want to do it. A lot of the younger lads can relate to what I went through and how easy it is to get sucked into that way of life. Addiction doesn’t go away and get easier, it gets worse. It will harm you or it will kill you. I was at the level where I wanted to die and I want to put it across to people that if they carry on at that level, that’s where they could end up.

“I’ve had loads of issues; sex, drugs, drink, family issues. I’ve had a little dabble in gambling. All those could kill you if you don’t keep on top of it and don’t respect it. I was always striving for peace in me. I have that peace today. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my ups and downs and still encounter my challenges. We all get challenged in life.

“In football you live in a bubble. But this is the real world; you have to do things yourself, you have to get by yourself. In football it’s pretty much all done for you. There are a lot of pressures in football and players thrive on pressure. The players that deal with it the best are world class. I now have different priorities. I cherish every day and I thank God for giving me a second chance in life.”

In the second part of the interview next week, Jeff talks about his actual football career and the future.

Monday, 15 June 2009

It was always going to be a busy summer for City and so far it hasn't disappointed. Gareth Barry has been the first player to be brought in by Mark Hughes this summer. At the moment they are plenty of names being linked with a move to Eastlands...count how many you have heard: Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz (that one just refuses to go away), Samuel Eto'o, Peter Crouch, Michael Owen, David Villa, Glen Johnson, Lukas Podolski, Joleon Lescott...it's safe to say that the majority of City fans are being driven crazy with the relentless speculation and rumours.

The Carlos Tevez one is definitely interesting. He may relish a move across the city to frustrate Fergie, but with the departure of Ronaldo imminent, will this provide the cash Fergie so desperately needed to retain the Argentinian's services at Old Trafford? Rumours reached fever pitch last week when forums suggested Tevez had completed a medical at City, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

Santa Cruz has been linked with City ever since Hughes arrived at the helm. Big Sam Allardyce threw cold water on the move in January, but could he now be set to cash in? But is Santa Cruz proven enough? Would he be the right choice? The rumours suggest a price tag of £20 million for him- would that be a wise investment or somewhat of a risk?

One thing's for sure- the rumours refuse to die down. They won't go away. Most fans are glued to Sky Sports News and various fan forums, pressing the refresh button on their PC at any given opportunity just to get a whiff of fresh speculation, to see if new names have been suggested or old ones are being confirmed.

My advice? Don't believe the hype. Don't be bought into stories by red-top tabloids. ALWAYS check an 'exclusive transfer news' article for quotes. Check sites like http://www.newsnow.co.uk/ (who update every minute) and http://www.skysports.com/ (a reliable site) to get your summer transfer window fix. Take links with a pinch of salt; generally if a player says they want to move ie. 'X demands move to City', it's just to create hype and a bidding frenzy. More players will be signed, it remains to be seen just which ones will be playing at Eastlands come August.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

City's new £12 million, £110,000 a week signing Gareth Barry was on the score-sheet for England this evening during a 4-0 win in Kazakhstan.
The new midfield general scored on the 40th minute with a header to give the Three Lions the lead during what was a comfortable victory for Fabio Capello's men. Barry was booked early on which means he will miss England's game against Andorra on Wednesday but he gave an assured performance, encouraging for Mark Hughes and the City faithful.

So, after much speculation, City have finally confirmed kit deals with both Etihad Airways and Umbro.

A three-year deal had been agreed with Etihad Airways, with Garry Cook saying: "Manchester City Football Club is delighted to announce this partnership with Etihad Airways and join its stable of associations of the highest calibre, including the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Ferrari Formula 1™ team."

A 10-year deal has been signed with Umbro to produce City's kits. Garry Cook, commented: “We are thrilled to announce this key partnership. We are building a successful and sustainable football club for the future and our partners are integral to that. Umbro share our commitment to innovation, the city of Manchester and creating world-class experiences for its customers and our fans.”

The home kit is available from July 18th and for pre-order on July 1st.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

"Nicolas Anelka didn't sulk, he had a laugh and a joke with us."

Football Pundette goes behind closed doors to get an insight into what it’s like to be kit man at Premier League club Bolton Wanderers.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work within a football club that you support and love? To be friends with the players and management and have exclusive access to all the games, training sessions, trips and any other perks of the job that come with working in football? These and many other benefits come along with the role of the kit man.

It sounds like a perfect job but it is a lot of hard work. Football Pundette went along to the Reebok Stadium, home of Premier League outfit Bolton Wanderers, to meet up with kit man Ally Marland to find out what it’s really like behind the dressing room doors.


To be honest I was shocked at how young Ally is; he’s a mere 23 years old and the second youngest kit man in the Premier League. The youngest is the Fulham kit man, who Ally texts regularly throughout the interview, as they are Bolton’s next opponents at the Reebok Stadium (“I’ll take him out for a few beers on Friday night,” Ally quips). But how did Ally go from fan to kit man?

“I got a bit of stick over this and I still do, and I was in the programme on Saturday too,” Ally laughs.

“My dad is the club secretary here, so when I was a kid at school I used to come in over the summer holidays and help the original kit man that was here. A job came up here but everybody immediately thought ‘oh you’re only here because of your dad’ and all that.

“I think because I already knew the kit man and I used to come to help him, that’s the reason why I got the job. It helped having the connection there. I think that football is a small world, people know people, everybody knows everyone in football.

“But I’ve always been a fan of football. I played since I was a young boy. It’s obviously every boy’s dream to be a footballer but I think this is the next best thing doing what I do next to a player. I am a Bolton fan as well so it works out great for me. There’s not many that work where they work and are a fan of the team I don’t think. I don’t think that happens too much in the kit man's role."


Although there is a lot of hard work involved in his job, Ally recognises the perks that come with being involved with such a job. “We went to Dubai in January. That was great, got to have a bit of sunshine!”

It becomes apparent that Ally likes to indulge in the fun banter that inevitably comes along with his job and he is quick to point the finger towards the prime culprits within the dressing room.

“Gavin McCann’s a big joker, and Matty Taylor. They are the funniest. Ebi Smolarek, the Polish lad that we have got on loan from Racing Santander, he’s a dark little horse. They have got good banter. Me and the assistant kit man wind the lads up all the time and they always give it back.”


Ally has seen some players come and go during his time at Bolton and, when questioned about his favourite character, two spring to mind.

"Ivan Campo sticks in your head. He is so funny. If there was something wrong with his kit or something missing he would pretend to shout at you. But it was just banter. It was brilliant to work with him and he was a great player as well, he won the Champions’ League with Real Madrid didn’t he? I think to have players like that and to get on with him as well as I get on with Ivan was brilliant.

“I also worked with Nicolas Anelka too, he was brilliant. Everybody goes on about how he moans he doesn’t. He came, he trained, he scored goals and he was fine. He got on with the lads and with the manager. I think he’s the best player that we have ever had here. He was quiet but he did have a laugh and a joke. I think he was even better with the young lads; he helped them and was a role model for them. If you can’t look up to Anelka then who can you look up to?”

In his role as kit man, Ally has to be as organised as possible and explains his pre-match ritual in detail.

“I set the gear out on a Friday, whether home or away. So a Saturday morning I come in, put the kettle on, that’s always the first job. Then we get changed, but because we have got everything done on the Friday there’s not that much to do.
“We just get here, double-check everything and make sure that everything is out. Then we will have a chat with the away kit man when he arrives; I have a good relationship with most of them. The lads arrive about 1pm so we will go in there and make sure that they have got everything, then it’s just playing the waiting game until kick-off.

"Once kick-off arrives, I’m a Bolton fan so I love the game and always want us to win. I’m rubbish; I’ll be sat on the bench on the edge of my seat and the gaffer’s always turning round to me and laughing. When we score I’m sprinting about! But we don’t have a routine as such. We just come, make sure that everything is out, do our job and that’s it, away we go.”


But Ally is relatively strict when it comes to players giving their shirts away at the end of a game.

“I do get annoyed, I can’t lie, especially those players that haven’t played. I can never understand that. If you haven’t played a game, you have been sat on the bench and you give your shirt away. If they tell you then you don’t mind, it’s when you come to the next week and you’re going through everything, if the players got two shirts missing. We call them the shirt monsters here! The foreign lads are worst for it. We must go through about 600 shirts a year no problem. That’s nothing compared to Chelsea and Liverpool, I think they go through about 3000.”

The role of kit man within a football club is often overlooked and taken for granted. But Ally gets to work every day for the football team he loves and supports, but he is quick to be modest and plays the importance of his role down.

“People say that it’s a massive job but I don’t see it. There’s a job there to be done. If you do it, you’re organised, you plan ahead of yourself, then I think that it is fairly simple. Yes there is long hours, you travel away from home. But Liverpool didn’t have a kit man until eight years ago so it’s not an essential role. Footballers still come and go. If you’re away from home there’s added pressure. Even when you go through the checklists, you have to have everything with you. It’s pressure, but the pleasure of working for the team you support makes every bit of it worthwhile.”

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Gareth Barry has become City's first signing of the summer transfer window.

The 28 year old talented England midfielder has signed a five-year contract at Eastlands for a reported £12 million fee. Barry, who turned down the advances of Liverpool last summer to stay at Aston Villa, will be linking up with City's Player of the Year Stephen Ireland, who has also just signed a new five-year deal.

The player is set to be unveiled in City's colours later this week and will feature in England's World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The sun is out which means it's the end of another season for City in the Premier League. I've done a bit of a season review in my King of the Kippax column so I won't go over it again, but our final league positioning was 10th place, three points outside the places for Europe. It's a place down on last season but we did enjoy a UEFA Cup run that resulted in a exit at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Martin Jol's Hamburg side.

The final home game against Bolton Wanderers was played in an almost tropical heat at Eastlands. The 1-0 victory, with a goal from Felipe Caicedo, meant that City ended their season on a high, albeit disappointing not to finish in Europe. We will see during summer what bearing this has on our ability to attract the calibre of players required to push for a higher position next season. It was also great to see Glauber Berti make his first and final first team appearance for City, with Mark Hughes appreciating the novelty value that Berti has amongst the City fans.

It's fantastic news that Stephen Ireland has signed a new deal at the club. The five year deal is rumoured to be worth around £60,000 a week and the Player of the Year is certainly worthy of the new contract. Contract rebel Danny Sturridge would do well to take a leaf out of Ireland's book and work hard on fulfilling his potential before making ludicrous salary demands. It looks like Sturridge will be leaving City in the summer after the club fail to agree figures on a new contract. Don't get me wrong, he is a huge prospect and we have seen glimpses of what he is capable of. But the apparent figures that he has been demanding are preposterous and unwarranted at this stage of his career. Prove yourself first Danny...

The results of my final poll of the season are in. I asked which City player should be voted Player of the Year and the results aren't a surprise. In fourth place was versatile Argentinian player Pablo Zabaleta. Joint second place went to Brazilian samba star Robinho and the bright English defender Nedum Onuoha with 3% each. But the winner...with an overwhelming 90% of the vote was the hugely influential midfielder Stephen Ireland. Congratulations!

I know how boring the summer months are without football, especially as there are no big football tournaments this year. But keep an eye out for City youngers Micah Richards, Onuoha and Joe Hart who are featuring in England's under-21 games this month. I will keep my blog updated with everything City-related so look out for more exclusive interviews, news, anecdotes and views from your favourite Football Pundette!