Friday, 23 October 2009

Don’t you just hate international breaks? I miss Premier League action so much, you just cannot beat going to the game on a Saturday (albeit Sunday kick-offs are tending to dominate the fixture list) and watching Match of the Day to check out the opposition. But no, international breaks deny us that privilege and tend to come with baggage. Baggage meaning injuries.

Point better than none

But the break ended last weekend and it was back to business with City visiting the DW Stadium, formerly known as the JJB. Tricky game considering Wigan’s form sheet defines inconsistency. A cold 90 minutes and disappointing home crowd watched City go back to Eastlands with a point. A 1-1 draw in the circumstances was a decent result, given the fact that the influential Craig Bellamy and reliable Kolo Toure were both out injured.

Wigan battled and attacked with vigour and perhaps if this would have been last season City would have suffered a defeat. But key additions to the squad proved their worth, notably Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry and Martin Petrov. Tevez ran himself into the ground and created Petrov’s equaliser, which in turn deserves applause. The team spirit at City at the moment is commendable and even when Pablo Zabaleta saw red there were chances for either team to steal the three points. A draw, in my opinion, was fair.

Life’s a beach for Rafa

The controversy of the weekend seemed to be the ‘beach-ball’ goal at the Stadium of Light. If you have been living on Mars, allow me to explain: Sunderland played Liverpool at the Stadium of Light, young Liverpool fan threw a beach-ball onto the pitch and Darren Bent scored the only goal of the game when the football deflected into the net off said beach ball. Well, City fans have all felt that ironic deflating feeling of being on the end of a defeat that was aided by an inflated device (Sheffield United in the Cup, anybody?) so I have zero sympathy for Liverpool fans. Sorry Rafa, deal with it and move on. The fact is, your team had 89 other minutes during the game to get something out of it, the blame cannot lie solely on the beach-ball.

Premier picks

Premier League football never fails to disappoint and this season has been no exception so far. Burnley have proved to be a surprise package, turning into ‘this years’ Stoke’ with an impeccable home record. The signing of David Nugent could prove to be a big coup for Owen Coyle: Turf Moor is a tricky enough place to go at the best of times as Alex Ferguson discovered. Despite City’s good record against Burnley, I will still be apprehensive when it comes to visiting East Lancashire next year.

Sunderland are another team that I have high praise for. Steve Bruce has made a habit of managing teams with a more than respectable budget and impressing- and Sunderland are no exception. I like the fact that they have Niall Quinn at the helm- a sensible chairman with great football experience and knowledge with the club’s best interests at heart (yes I’m looking at you, Carsen Yeung). Bruce is stubborn and determined and reigniting Darren Bent’s career by moving him up north has proved a masterstroke- Bent’s in the form of his life and thriving at the Black Cats in amongst a well-balanced and tricky team.

Blue Tuesday news

If you aren’t familiar with the show, Blue Tuesday is an hour-long City-based show on 95.1FM BBC Radio Manchester. It’s presented by Ian Cheeseman and Paul Lake and I feature as the ‘interaction queen’, checking all the City forums, blogs and so on and reading out texts and emails. It sounds an easy gig, but Paul and I put a lot of effort into producing quality contacts for interviews, getting studio guests on and writing great content. I’m having a great time with it and I hope you are enjoying it.

We’ve had some great guests on: the likes of Uwe Rosler, Shaun Goater, Peter Reid, Danny Tiatto, Neil McNab, half of the 1989 5-1 team...we’re always working on going bigger and better and have some amazing ideas and things lined up for the future, so tune in to find out more. Become a fan of the show on Facebook by logging in and searching Blue Tuesday or ‘tweet’ us via.

This weekend

City face Fulham on Sunday at Eastlands. I watched Fulham in the Europa Cup last night against Roma and I thought they were quite unlucky with the full-time 1-1 draw. They have beaten City for the past couple of seasons at home so I am more than apprehensive. It took extra time for the Blues to beat them 2-1 in the Carling Cup last month and I’m expecting more of the same come Sunday- Zolten Gera’s wonder strike is still very fresh in my mind. But City have got to keep up with the pace and I view Tottenham Hotspur as our major rivals for breaking into the Top Four. Aston Villa and Everton are good, but I don’t think they have the strength in depth and tools required to penetrate the status quo. Only time will tell if City, or Spurs for that matter, do.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

I was having a bit of a spring-clean at home and stumbled upon this very old match report- in fact it was the first match report that I have ever written, dated February 23rd 1996. Have a read and see what you thought of my journalistic skills when I was a mere 13 years old...


Manchester City 3-3 Newcastle United

Georgi Kinkladze is starting to prove to the critics that he is one of the best players Manchester City have had the pleasure to buy.

But this spectacular match was overshadowed by the two on-pitch incidents which included Columbian new boy Faustino Asprilla and City captain Keith Curle. Asprilla, was Keegan bought for over £7 million, firs elbowed Curle in the face during a jostle for the ball. Then, after the referee had blown his end-of-match whistle, Asprilla and Curle were still playing and were once again joined in attack for the ball. This time, Asprilla opted to head-butt Curle directly in front of the watching linesman who didn’t take any action, unlike the F.A. who have decided to review video footage to decide whether they should take action on the Columbian.


The match itself was enthralling. The home team took the lead on 16 minutes when Nigel Clough’s shot on goal was deflected into the net by Niall Quinn’s shin. City had some good chances but Newcastle gained possession through David Ginola’s wing position. Nicky Summerbee was the unlucky defender who tried to put up with Ginola but the Frenchman was too strong for him. The Magpies equalised on 44 minutes when Philippe Albert struck a well-taken shot into the corner of the net.


After half-time, City went ahead when Kinkladze’s shot was saved but Quinn was able to head home in the 64th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, in the 71st minute, Eike Immel saved from Albert only to watch Asprilla score his first goal for Newcastle. The match was closely fought out and City looked to have secured a victory when Uwe Rosler scored in the 81st minute. But Newcastle struck back four minutes later when Albert’s shot whizzed past the on-looking defence.
Despite this glorious performance from both teams, it seems like the Premiership title might just be slipping away from Newcastle. However City are having to fight a tricky relegation battle but if the Blues play like they did today all the time, it might just be a different matter. They were four bookings during the 90 minutes: Summerbee for City and Peter Beardsley, Albert and Asprilla for Newcastle.

So there you have it, my first ever venture out into the world of match reporting. Not quite Oliver Holt or Henry Winter, but a decent effort considering. Nice to reminisce over the Rosler/Kinkladze days although being reminded of how dark those days really were is such a stark contrast to the status of City right now. Look out for more of my retro musings over the coming weeks...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Here we go. It’s been a relatively quiet week City-news wise, what with the internationals and all, but it looks like the rumour mill is starting to churn and speculate on the future of City’s first takeover megastar signing, Robinho.

The 25 year-old is currently recovering from injury, but during his time on the sidelines Craig Bellamy has excelled and is in undroppable form at the moment, raising question marks over whether Robinho would be content to warm the bench while other in-form players remain so vital to City’s cause.

It now seems that Robinho is doing his best to catch Pep Guardiola’s attention over at the Nou Camp.

“They’re a great team. I played against them and know their quality. But right now I can only do it on the Playstation.

“Of course I would like to play for Barca. Who would not? We could have so much fun. It would be a pleasure to play alongside (Lionel) Messi, my compatriot Dani Alves, Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, with all of them.

"They're a great team. I played against them and know their quality. But right now I can only do it on the PlayStation.

"It is a pleasure to watch Barca play. They look like the best Brazilian team with the way that they use the ball. Pep Guardiola's team is truly spectacular."

Robinho’s £32.5 million move from Real Madrid back in September 2008 set the precedent for other big-name signings to follow suit but speculation has always clouded his career at City. Cynics sneered from the beginning that he was only at Eastlands for the £160,000 a week and that he would only ever put in a performance at that ground.

The transfer window nearly always delivers controversy in some form and January 2010 looks set to be no exception. But would Robinho go?

“It is a question of sitting down and talking when there is a serious and concrete proposal and as I have said before I have not personally received that.

“Now would not be the right time to say things that could be badly interpreted here or there.

"I have a contract with City and being the professional that I am, I am dedicated to them."

By being so outspoken, people are already reading between the not-so-suttle lines of Robinho’s quotes. Surely if he was the consumate professional he would just keep quiet and let his football do the talking.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Dunne makes a point against former club

City’s visit to Villa Park should have been all about measuring just how far the club has come to breaking into the Top Four outright against a steely and often resilient Aston Villa led by the irrepressible Martin O’Neill. Instead, it was a battle of wits and proving a point for both Richard Dunne and Gareth Barry, the two former captains who were both facing their old teams for the first time since their much-debated transfers.

The contrast couldn’t have been more diverse: Dunne was greeted with a heroes reception from the thankful travelling City fans who recognized and acknowledged his contribution to the Manchester club throughout his dedicated career. It came with no great surprise that Barry’s welcome back to Villa Park was far more hostile, with the 28 year-old being subjected to constant torrents of abuse and money-waving, with his summer move to City still having left a sour taste in many Villa fans’ mouths.

But it was Dunne who had the last laugh: the Republic of Ireland defender out-jumped, ironically, Barry to head Villa into an early lead before in-form Craig Bellamy netted his eighth goal in 13 appearances for City to equalize and grab a point for Mark Hughes in a tight and vigorous encounter. Dunne played a blinder for the 90 minutes and was superb at the heart of the Villa defence, with Barry putting in a nervous and somewhat mediocre performance in City’s midfield.

Villa were quick to close City down, preventing any free-flowing moves with constant waves of determined blocks, stopping City from countering in their usual menacing style. The home side broke the deadlock when Dunne climbed above Barry to head home an inswinging corner from Stephen Warnock, followed respectfully with an understated and muted celebration. The home team limited City’s attacking options but Brad Friedel was forced to tip over a header from Emmanuel Adebayor on the stroke of half time.

After the break Hughes introduced Stephen Ireland who made a significant difference, offering a fresh option to the City attack. But it was Dunne who nearly extended Villa’s lead but his header from a James Milner corner went just wide of the post. City continued to pile on the pressure with a succession of corners and the equalizer seemed inevitable. Ireland and Adebayor combined to set up Bellamy who blasted the ball into the net to level the tie. It was the very least that City had deserved after a spell of dominant possession.

Mark Hughes headed back to Manchester with a point and plenty to think about. City fought well but were once again questionable when defending set pieces and looked unbalanced, with Bellamy thriving on the left but Shaun Wright-Phillips struggling to beat men on the right. But Villa proved tricky opponents and a point in the circumstances was well warranted. After the international break, City face an unpredictable trip to the DW Stadium to face a somewhat ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Wigan Athletic side. Which team will perform for Roberto Martinez: the team that beat Chelsea 3-1 or lost to United 5-0 at home?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

'One Moment In Time'

'One Moment In Time' is a nostalgic look back at events and occasions in City's past that will no doubt resurrect many impassioned memories for most City fans. Written from my personal point of view, I am hoping that reliving these moments, whether they were good or bad, will prove to be an enjoyable read for all. This month...a visit to Old Trafford under the guidance of Kevin Keegan.

Our bounce back to the Premier League was showing City to be a lot more than just a mediocre team. Results were consistent and we hovered mid-table for the duration of the season. Undoubtedly, our best result had been against our Derby team, United, and we all hoped for a repeat of this success when we booked our tickets for the clash at Old Trafford.

Simon, Spenny and I were all really psyched up for the showdown. Obviously we thought that the game could swing one of two ways: Fergie would view it as a perfect opportunity for revenge and it could end up a mauling, or City could seize the chance of taking the maximum six points off the former treble-winners. Either way it would be a cracker.

Personally I cannot stand Old Trafford. It’s more of a tourist attraction than a football stadium, with Japanese tourists pointing their Nikon cameras in every direction and residents from down south travelling four hours to make up the majority of the numbers. All the oohing and ahhing outside and inside the ground makes me sick- that isn’t what football is about. Football is about supporting your local team- not just saying that you support them because of the glory.

As always, the travelling City contingency provided the majority of the noise. With it being a Derby, the atmosphere was intensified, even more so when City fuelled the fire by singing Blue Moon over their ‘Flowers of Manchester’ song (a song sung in memory to the victims of the 1958 Munich aeroplane disaster).

Spenny had smuggled himself in, minus a ticket, and was stood up throughout the game at the back of the stand. Our mate Andy Tolley worked on the United turnstiles and had let him pass through for free. But Simon and I were sat right next to the home fans, with only a small metal fence to separate us. The jibes between both sets of fans were relentless- and erupted when Ruud Van Nistelrooy netted to break the deadlock.

Oh no. The forecast of revenge looked set to be the correct prediction. Van Nistelrooy was celebrating like he had won a cup and the home fans next to us bombarded us with their goading and boasting. I didn’t even look at them though; I simply raised my fingers to indicate our previous score-line against them. My heart sunk though- City had to dig deep to fight for a result.

Fight they did. United pressed on more to attempt to consolidate their lead, piling on the pressure in the hope that City’s back-line would buckle. But it didn’t. Then- the masterstroke. Activity on the bench. With City’s manager Kevin Keegan sensing the possibility of a late equaliser, Shaun ‘goal machine’ Goater was brought on to penetrate the Reds defence, along with Ali Benarbia. Straight away the Blues won a free-kick; Benarbia’s first touch sent the ball into the area- and onto Goater’s head.

The net bulged- we had the equaliser. Within nine seconds of being on the pitch, Goater had brought City level and sent the travelling army of blues into a frenzy. Not it was our turn to taunt the somewhat solemn home fans. After a manic two minutes of jumping around, thousands of City fans raised their arms and sung Blue Moon to a crestfallen Old Trafford. But it wasn’t over just yet.

As we celebrated our potential point, Nicolas Anelka threaded the ball through to Goater, who did what he does best- he scored! My heart missed five beats and just as I began to scream with joy, I was promptly brought back down to earth. The goal had been disallowed, apparently due to handball by Anelka. Three points would have been incredible, but a point was still good for me. There had been absolutely no shame in how we performed, with Carlo Nash being a late replacement for Peter Schmeichel due to a calf injury.

Referee Alan Wiley’s whistle was met with a wall of noise from us- and boos from Fergie’s fans. We had pulled off a result yet again. Being in a Derby atmosphere is a unique experience- it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Your heart beats faster constantly and the 90 minutes are spent either perched on the edge of your seat or stood up shouting and singing. Proving your loyalty. Engaging in the banter that can only happen between two teams fuelled with so much bitter rivalry. Where a result divides not only a city but work colleagues, family, friends and even partners.

That Sunday afternoon, City had won the battle but not the war. Sergeant Keegan had marshalled his troops to securing a point- of course he loved it, just loved it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

It was cool, it was calm and it was definitely collected. I could be talking about Carlos Tevez’s first goal celebration or City’s overall performance during the 90 minutes. But surely the time is now to take the Eastlands outfit seriously after the sides’ comprehensive 3-1 victory against West Ham.

In fact it was far easier than perhaps had been forecast. Mark Hughes’ blues were looking to bounce straight back from their heartbreaking last-gasp Derby day defeat, Gianfranco Zola’s Hammers looking for only their second Premier League victory this season. City striker Tevez was facing a former team for the second league game in a row- and return to haunt them he most definitely did with a brace, sandwiched around a classy free kick from Martin Petrov.

The 3-1 score-line didn’t reflect City’s dominance throughout the 90 minutes. Tevez’s first goal, set up well by Petrov, was met by the Argentinian apologising to the travelling West Ham fans who had been so grateful of his goals that had saved them from relegation. That goal should have proved to be the precedent for City to move on and storm the match, but Carlton Cole had different ideas. A ball through from Radoslav Kovac set Cole up for a simple equaliser. The Irons then had a chance to take the lead but Scott Parker’s goal was disallowed after the referee had blown for a foul by Cole on Joleon Lescott.

It was all City from that moment on. A foul on the in-form Nigel De Jong gave Petrov a chance to find the net- an opportunity that proved too tempting to resist. The Bulgarian, disheartened at a lack of first-team football, seemed to channel his frustration and anger through his shot and drilled the ball low to give City the lead. He ran straight over to the dug-out and pointed vigorously at the back of his shirt. Point made.

Tevez, Lescott and Bellamy all had chances to extend the lead and it was Tevez who scored City’s third on the hour mark with a simple header. The one-way traffic continued with Gareth Barry and Petrov enjoying shooting practise. With 15 minutes to go, Hughes introduced Roque Santa Cruz to the City faithful for his debut. Michael Johnson, another graduate of City’s youth academy, was also brought on as a substitute as the minutes ticked away.

Although West Ham aren’t a club that are at a level that City see themselves competing at, it was a sublimely confident and assured performance by the Eastlands club. With Emmanuel Adebayor coming back from his suspension and Santa Cruz gaining match fitness, the current top four have every reason to be wary and afraid. The new-look City are shaking up the status quo and bringing a different dimension to the somewhat stale and predictable order of the Premier League. Next up is another test and one that should provide a more realistic challenge- Aston Villa away.