This morning's reports quoting Richard Dunne's comments while on international duty have left City fans feeling uncomfortable. The recent squeeky clean media effort has seen the first blot on its' copy book.
The week started so well with Oliver Holt's report in the Mirror entitled, "Why Kaka might regret choosing Real Madrid over Manchester City." Finally, it seems the media is beginning to believe in the City "project."
However, City's official website report on Richard Dunne's departure seems to conflict with his own comments in the press this morning. Mark Hughes said in that report, "It would have been difficult for Dunney to stay given his standing at the club and I understand that. I wasn’t going to stand in his way. I could have tried to stop him going and said I wanted him as a squad player but out of respect for what he has done for City I wasn’t going to do that."
But Dunne himself suggested that he was forced out of the club speculating that it was a decision taken by the club to balance the books. This morning's Times article reports that Dunne was led to believe that the club were busy selling him behind his back. Dunne is reported as saying, "From the day after the Bulgaria v Republic game in June, I was getting phone calls from people saying Garry Cook has been trying to sell me behind my back. That was two months after me going to him and saying if he has any problems to come and deal with me."
As discussed on other blogs this morning (Lonesome Death of Roy Carroll), these reports sit uneasily with City fans who appreciate the years of service that loyal servant Dunne gave to City. Most fans agreed that it was time to make changes in central defense. The club has been making credible efforts to reach out and be a more supporter-facing club. City fans and players alike will be keen to know that this effort extends to loyal playing staff. However, the conflicting reports suggest that it may not all be a one-way street. The Independent suggests that City dispute Dunne's claim that he was promised a testimonial. They also reportedly argue that they compensated Dunne adequately by giving him a £600,000 golden handshake and agreed to reduce the transfer fee with Villa down from £6m to 4.8m. As is so often the case, we may never know the real truth.
City forced to defend early in the first half
A well-deserved one-nil victory (City Official Match Report) but an expensive three points for my wallet! The foundations of my goal-fest prediction were all there. But when I turned up and realised we were to be playing in white I thought the entire strategy might be undone. I’m a strong believer in third kits being a bad omen.
I’ll exchange a dent in the wallet for three points any day. City dominated for a lot of the game but it's fair to say Pompey gave us some cause for concern in various areas. It was a great atmosphere and we roll on unbeaten in the league, unbeaten away from home, the only side to have not conceded a goal. As one fan bellowed out in reply to Pompey’s cheating chant aimed at Adebayor, “Same old City, always winning!” Yeah, steady on...
Any fans who weren’t at the game will know better as it was televised on Sky, but I hear the disallowed goal should have stood on the grounds that Barry was offside and not Richards. Was Barry interfering with play? There were also two big penalty shouts. I thought both were penalties, but the Tevez penalty shout was probably the most blatant I have ever seen. Again Sky may have already proven me wrong. Either way, had a couple of all of those chances gone in the 3-0 correct score and total goals call might have looked a little more sensible. I hope readers didn’t wager too much on similar outcomes. I heard one fan on the way out say he had Adebayor to score first and City 3-0. Gutted.
Adebayor's goal brought about rapturous scenes in the City end with Adebayor's newly adapted song being bellowed out to a silent Pompey crowd (see home page for video). If Adebayor can keep up the steady trickle of goals then our away form might just continue.
As it was many City fans were sweating like Aussies in a spelling test for a period during the second half when Pompey pressed for an equaliser. Shay Given’s call for composure in seeing games out was not entirely heeded, as the gut instinct for many City players is still to rampage up the pitch in search of another goal late on. But the 1-0 held and City fans celebrated to avoid the riot that would have unfolded had Pompey equalised after the Tevez penalty shout.
City fans celebrate the final whistle...let the good times roll!
With readers having watched the game on television it leaves me to point out a few subtle nuances picked up in the terrace. Firstly, the terrace banter is getting better and better. The production line of imaginative and humorous songs that used to be the reserve of standing in the Kippax is on its’ way back. If you’ve not been to an away game yet this season then I can highly recommend it.
On the player front Tevez looked a bit tired as the game neared the end. More match fitness is required. I guess I have to break my protective silence on Wayne Bridge as well. He must close down potential crosses quicker than he does, or at all. If we’re vulnerable anywhere it is down the flanks. Finally, an observation on Petrov. I spotted it at the Blackburn game and noticed it again at half-time at Portsmouth. His body language seems to be saying, “what am I doing here,” like he would be more interested staying at home pairing his socks up. Head down and no enthusiasm. I hope I’m wrong and he wins a place to prove his attacking worth.
After the international break, City have two huge games in the form of Arsenal at home and United away. The Chairman’s recent interview with the official site suggested the Sheikh could be in town soon. Arsenal at home would represent a fine way to greet an adoring and grateful City faithful.
Bring ‘em on!
The Grand Master Plan takes shape
Firstly, a warm welcome to all of the new members of MCFCfans, supporters of Manchester City from all over the world who have been signing up to be a part of a growing global City community. There are many great City fan blogs, and it is the sign of a club with real heart and substance that we should be blessed with so many not-for-profit, well-respected, unofficial sites.
The form book certainly reads in City’s favour today. WWWWW, our form back to the Celtic friendly, is not a sight we have seen for a while. Added to this is the fact that City has not conceded a goal in the last four games. There are certainly some small issues around the edges about one aspect or another of the team, but I would take that start any season.
As Hughes himself has confessed, Pompey presents a somewhat unpredictable challenge. Playing a struggling team away from home, that has just had a major organisational change, is always perilous. In the spirit of light-hearted banter, I think that predicting a tight affair today is the easy option. City should trounce Portsmouth today, make no bones about it. Pompey’s new owner has yet to make an impact at Pompey, and it could be said he needs to prove himself after his outbursts during the City takeover. A lot of quality has left the club and not a lot has come back in the other direction.
There were several aspects that impressed me watching City from the stand on Thursday evening. The one that really stood out though, was the condition of the players. Very few players looked to be lacking match fitness even though we’re at the start of the season. When a ball was being chased by any City player, it was chased with a burst of pace that demonstrated a rigorous pre-season training routine. No longer does Stephen Ireland look like the only player who can run for 90 minutes.
Stephen Ireland’s description in the Telegraph yesterday about a walk in the hotel grounds with Micah and Nedum was enlightening. “We were on a walk at the hotel, me and Micah and Nedum. And we were just saying – Richard Dunne had just left, just before we went on our walk – and we were saying there’s just three of us left, this is mental you know.” It’s happened so fast and yet, so far at least, the manner of the execution of the plan has been excellent.
It’s not difficult to pick out the new players who have made an impact so far. All of them. Adebayor is scoring and has slotted in nicely up front. Barry’s command of midfield is a cut above, although there is more to be done to gel the midfield together. Tevez showed signs of real class on Thursday night. His vision and ability to join up passages of play is something akin to a chess player. Toure and Lescott looked relatively assured. The niggling wing-back concerns persist, and there is a real need to find a way to get the best out of Robinho as the formation takes shape. But these niggles take time.
This is a team that is enjoying playing football together as the grand master plan is implemented. There is a real buzz around the club and the players are feeding from it. The feel good factor could create a big result today. The betting certainly indicates a strong City showing (Betfair: City 1.59 – 1.6, Pompey 7.0-7.2, Draw 4.2-4.3 @ 09.57am, 30th Aug). So I’m long total goals, but have capped my correct score optimism at 3-0 to City (Betfair: 13.5-14.0).
Let’s hear a big noise in the 2,000 strong away end today Blues: COME ON CITY !!!
Manchester City got the season off to a great start by scoring the first competitive goals of the new season (City’s goals). What was more notable than the result was the effort made by the some 200 City fans to get to the game.
Thomas Cook got the bidding off to a depressing start with an £885 price tag put on the match package tour. We requested a price quote from Atlantic Airways to charter a plane and it was rejected due to a lack of aircraft. Hmm somewhat sceptical, read on.
The most daring and City-esque travel itinerary was put together by the group of City fans who decided that boarding a 72ft fishing trawler from The Shetland Isles would be their best bet to under cut the air fares. This was an inspirational plan. To succeed would result in hero status. To fail would result in hero status. Either way it would be a damn good laugh! This is the stuff of legends (BBC Story)
They set off from Manchester making their way to Aberdeen. From there they took a ferry to the Shetland Isles, where they met the shrewd Scottish islander who has converted his 72ft fishing trawler into a Faroe Islands shuttle service for British football fans. Clever stuff. Scotland is forever getting drawn against the Faroes.
There is one major catch though. The Atlantic Ocean and a multitude of challenging weather systems stand in the way. Bad weather prevented the trawler from leaving port rendering the fans stranded. Enter The Sun newspaper and suddenly the airline with no spare aircraft is falling over itself with Thomas Cook to seize the marketing opportunity. They make it to the game and get to meet new manager Mark Hughes into the bargain!
The story is fantastic and reminds us that City’s cult following is alive and well. MCFCfans.com this month adds a video of the last day at Maine Road to the History Channel that brings a tear to the eye. If you are struggling to get enthused about the new season simply watch this video.
We have also started our push for an MCFC-based charity (MCFC Babies link) aimed at sponsoring youth teams around the world, inspired by the MCFC Babies in Ghana. Get in touch if you would like to be involved.
Can’t wait for the season to start. We're in for a corker.
PS. Message for Magni Arge, President of Atlantic Airways, “Where did the spare plane come from?!”
There we have it. After weeks of speculation, when most of us got tired of watching out for news, Sven makes his departure with the usual lorry load of cash that seems to follow him around. It was a PR disaster but it has now finally been concluded, Sven is history.
Waiting for all of this to pan out, having the head buried in Gary James’ book, “Manchester – A Football History,” has maintained a sane state of mind (book review and opportunity to win a copy will follow later this summer.) In many respects the club was fortunate to get going in the first place but did so thanks to a combination of luck, geography and believe it or not, some good decision-making.
Fans’ patience is being tested to new levels now. But this is a broad Premier League trend that is making football history today. It’s just that City’s way of entering into a new phase of football history must, by historic definition, be more comical relative to our rivals.
Enter Mark Hughes. Welsh chappy isn’t he? So the 72 caps suggest anyway. We all kind of knew that one of the big big names such as Mourinho were beyond our reach. So who better to turn to than a man who left school and joined Manchester United. Lets put the United thing to one side for a second.
He’s a young manager. He became Wales manager in August 1999 and managed the team fairly well for 5 years. He then took over Blackburn Rovers on a miniscule budget, survived relegation, made an FA Cup semi-final, and then managed a top 6 finish in the Premiership having made some good value purchases in the transfer market. The subsequent UEFA Cup performance was reasonable given the resources available. A 10th place league finish was followed by a 7th this season. All in all not bad.
He is someone who we can expect to put the fire in the belly of our players. Most fans point to the second half of the season when we dropped off after the derby game, and we can speculate that this would not have occurred under Hughes. His knowledge of the Premiership is better than Sven having played and managed in it for longer. His transfers have been good on a low budget, but he may not have much say in the bigger names being targetted anyway. There is an argument for saying that Sven could attract big name players, but there’s a counter-argument for saying that Hughes would have avoided some of the players who don’t always put the effort in. Sven has a much more distinguished club career behind him plays the counter-argument that he may not be appropriate for today's Premiership where some of the younger, grittier managers seem to be succeeding outside the top 4.
In short Hughes looks like the best choice we have right now and actually could be an interesting choice given a bit of cash to spend. We need to get on with it though because time is running out before the new season starts. We need to lock down the uncertain players and get the new management in. Another frantic pre-season beckons.
In the meantime, it remains to be seen that worrying about Hughes is really the burning issue of the day.Sure it’s a concern that if things don’t go too well under his management for a while then he is more vulnerable to a fans reaction because of his past. However, it is clear that Dr.Thaksin’s “learning-on-the-job” will be of much greater importance to the club’s success as the next few years roll on. He must give the new manager a chance, and not give in to the temptation of becoming the man making all of the signings.
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