Sergio Aguero became Manchester City’s club record signing and emerged after signing his contract to an excited crowd of supporters at the Etihad stadium yesterday. MCFCfans caught the mood with exclusive footage of Kun making a point of dealing with every single request from fans to sign autographs and take pictures, with two delightful junior Blues over the moon at securing his signature.
Sergio has his picture taken with a junior Blue
City fans demonstrated their excellent command of Spanish, though Sergio was clearly briefed to not respond to questions. However, when City fan Norman Burkitt asked,"how are you?" in Spanish, a smiling Sergio replied, "bien!" Life-long City fan Burkitt is now on his way to Dublin hoping to see Sergio play for the first time in a City shirt, whilst his daughter Jasmine appears in the BBC3 documentary series,"Small Teen Bigger World," on Monday at 9pm.
Aguero remarked on his Twitter feed some last night,"I'm already a City player. I'm happy to be in this club and in this town. Thank you all for the welcome and the reception!!!"
Comment below with your ideas for a Kun chant !!
The respect handshake prior to the City match against Arsenal
What a fantastic victory against Arsenal. We really did Sheikh up the Gooners. But what a shame it has been over-shadowed by reporting that can only be described as totally un-balanced.
City have reluctantly accepted the FA charge for the stamp on Van Persie, almost certainly the right decision in the circumstances. The situation that remains with the goal celebration is an altogether harder one to judge from the club's perspective. Can City really expect a fair hearing at appeal in light of the totally un-balanced reporting in the press?
It's a mystery why there has been so little coverage and comment of the behaviour of a small section of Arsenal fans at the front of the away end. Their reaction was of the kind I have never seen at a match in my life, with the exception of a fairly large riot at a derby match in
No mention in the press reporting of Van Persie's celebration in front of the City fans when Arsenal equalised. Not one that I have noticed. City fans, impeccably behaved in recent history, watched aghast at the reaction in the away end to Adebayor's celebration. When Van Persie trooped over to the home-end corner of the Colin Bell stand did you see objects and chairs flying towards the pitch? Not a bit of it. No crowd rush, barely even a reaction and yet this has been nowhere in the reporting of the Adebayor celebration. No mention either of Henry's unpunished celebration in front of Spurs fans in 2002.
If any readers have in fact found a balanced report of this incident, please could they post a link as we would like to congratulate the reporter involved.
City fans are fair-minded supporters with a passion and love for the game. We're light-hearted and full of good humour. We don't believe in player hate campaigns. We don't take life so damn seriously that we need to rush to the front of the away end and knock a steward out. Sure, Adebayor's celebration was perhaps over-the-top and most City fans would probably accept that. What we don't accept is the relentless attack against our football club. In this particular case, the un-balanced reporting of this incident has the real potential to make idiotic so-called fans of clubs everywhere to think that a reaction like that is completely acceptable. We appeal to quality reporters everywhere to stop and think before getting caught up in the anti-City hysteria that your industry peers seem intent on whipping up. Our time has come, let us enjoy it.
MCFCfans (see poll on our home page)
In the final part of a two-part series (Part One is at this link) of articles reflecting on the Kaka transfer saga, MCFCfans looks forward to the ultimate remedy: let it all out on the terrace. Fans are ready to put the papers in the bin and make some noise on Wednesday night.
Journalists whizz down to the lowest common denominator
City may well have been running before they could walk, as Mark Hughes suggested to Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail on Friday. Interestingly, Hughes also chose this interview to pick out Sulaiman al-Fahim, ADUG's first spokesperson, as being the root cause of City’s uphill PR battle. He’s probably not far wrong. Talk of signing Cristiano Ronaldo was naive, and not just because it wasn’t what City fans wanted to hear.
Hughes went on to comment, “A lot of people at this club are new to the football business and maybe we need greater knowledge of what makes deals happen.” Are these comments part of a positive group hug-like learning experience for club management? or is it really the beginning of a power play of different agendas between Hughes and Cook, as suggested by this week’s Guardian Sport Blog post by Paul Wilson? Lets hope the former. Just going back to the Guardian blog post, did I really just read, “City were right to go for Kaka?!.”
Most wouldn’t disagree with City's need to sharpen up their deal-making and PR efforts. But the article by Michael Henderson in The Telegraph entitled, “Send in the clowns – it’s another episode in the sad saga of Manchester City,” tested City fans’ patience to the limit. Marina Hyde in The Guardian was yet another example of how journalists, faced with the need to stand out when a big story breaks, jump on to the slide in the reporter’s playground and race down to the lowest common denominator. These folks have already moved on to their next 'holier-than-thou' feeding frenzy, happily passing on the opportunity for intelligent and reflective debate.
We don’t have space here to discuss all of the debatable points that reporters had an opportunity to discuss. However, the most obvious discussion on the table is the one concerning salary and transfer caps. One that has been quietly mentioned by the odd random football club chairman, but one that in reality the Champions League cartel would rather not discuss.
The Champions League has arguably done more damage to domestic football competitions in Europe than the arrival of wealthy foreign owners. The clubs at the top of the EPL have moved in line with the increased number of places in the Champions League. The approach taken by Aston Villa and Manchester City to mount a challenge seems quite different. But both clubs are backed by significant wealth, and both clubs intend to gatecrash the ‘big four’ party.
What will this mean for such money-spinners as ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ on Sky Sports? Is the football fan not much better off with six, or eight, or ten competitive teams versus the original boring and dominant one? In fact the EPL has advanced to a point where the gulf between the clubs is smaller, and competitiveness has greatly increased. But how long will it be before the European G16 (or whatever number it is!) decide that the little Ciddies and Villas of this world are becoming too big for their boots, and begin proposing European or Global leagues? Again, none of this broader debate about the systemic issues in football was apparent in the recent reporting on Manchester City.
‘You can’t spend £100m on one player’ – yes you can
It is totally understandable that all football fans should look at the £100m sum and immediately consider what this same sum of money could do to solve some of the world’s real problems. However, it is of no immediate benefit to do so. Manchester City should not be made to suffer for participating fairly, and within the rules, in what is a transfer fee-based system.
Before the advent of satellite television, the top division of English football had an audience mainly limited to within its’ own borders. Record British transfer fees were still four or more times the value of buying a house, but the exponential growth potential was constrained by the size of the television audience.
The English Premiership now has one of the largest global sporting audiences of any other sporting league. This audience carries a market value, just as royalties are received by music artists according to how many people listen to their music. The sudden and dramatic increase in the global audience is the reason for the sudden and dramatic increase in transfer fees and wages.
If football decides to constrain fees and wages, then all it does is transfer the audience income from the performers (players) and the producers (clubs) into the hands of broadcasters, football authorities, and other vested interests (well back to the fans would be nice too but what chance!). Why should the players not be remunerated according to their global appeal, skill level, and huge audience? Why should clubs not be compensated for releasing a player, who they have discovered and nutured, from their contract? The revenue stream has to find a home somewhere. It would be far more productive, and morally appropriate, to have a debate on securing a larger contribution from the top clubs to develop football at grass-roots level, at home and abroad.
The attraction of the EPL throughout the world is the quality of the players and the football on show. In remote parts of Africa huge crowds of hundreds gather around the smallest of televisions desperate to get a glimpse of a big EPL game. Is there a sudden consensus that we don’t want to see the likes of Kaka play in the EPL? No, there is a view that Manchester City doesn’t deserve such players in a blue shirt.
Daring to dream
In spite of Harry Redknapp’s free spending, the huge debts of many football clubs, the renewal by RBS of their Six Nations sponsorship, some balance in the reporting of Manchester City was in short supply last week. When it finally arrived it did so from an unlikely source, The Daily Mirror. Oliver Holt’s subtle prose in his article, “Don’t gloat over Manchester City Kaka-ing things up...all they’ve done is dare to dream,” hit the nail on the head. “They [Manchester City] were the devils sitting on Kaka’s right shoulder, whispering temptations into his ear, while the angels [AC Milan] on his left shoulder told him to follow his heart,” Holt wrote.
In the meantime, Mark Hughes and City fans can look forward to the contribution that three new signings will make on the pitch. Wayne Bridge, Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy are all good signings who will make an impact. Shay Given is looking increasingly likely to follow, there may well be another striker in the mix before the window is out, and we shouldn’t miss out on Miguel Veloso. He's a hot prospect.
Mark Hughes reports that the recent press barrage has brought the team closer together. If you believe McGarry from The Sun then you’d think the dressing room is an anarchic free-for-all. What nonsense. You can put money on there being a collage of press articles on the dressing room wall on Wednesday night.
Of one thing there is no doubt, the press bruising has left City fans in defiant mood ahead of the Newcastle encounter. Mark Hughes has seen a huge surge of support in our “Should he stay or go” fans poll on our home page, which is due to close at the end of the transfer window.
What better way to put the deafening roar of ‘ignorant and predictable pap’ to bed than to raise the roof on Wednesday night.
In the first of a two-part series of articles reflecting on the Kaka transfer saga, MCFCfans makes no apologies for broadening and balancing the debate. In part two we find fans desperate to put the papers in the bin and make some noise on Wednesday night.
What has been most disappointing about the recent press speculation and coverage of the Kaka approach, and Manchester City’s ‘project in general, is the narrow range of debate that has tended to dominate. It is currently in vogue to ‘bash the rich kids,’ and there are so many parallels to the narrow coverage of the credit crunch. Find a simple target and blame it for the world’s ills.
The word ‘obscene’ was used generously
In what one BBC Radio 4 presenter called, “the biggest made-up story in history,” the use of the word ‘obscene’ to describe City’s approach tells you all you need to know about the propaganda trap that City walked in to.
Simon Caney, Editor-in-chief of Sport Magazine, rightly pointed out that the generous use of the word ‘obscene’ was missing the point. Sheikh Mansour does his share for good causes, but in any event this was a fair and legal approach in a transfer fee-based market. If Jo and countless other players can transfer for £18m, then Kaka can transfer for £100m.
“We recognise the need to ensure that our sponsorship activity reflects the process of restructuring that the bank has under way,” a Royal Bank of Scotland spokesperson said in reaction to reports (BBC Wed 21 Jan) that RBS had extended its’ title sponsorship of the Six Nations Championship for a further four years to the tune of £20m, a figure denied by RBS. This is the story of arguably one of the biggest contributors to the UK’s credit crunch putting up what is arguably taxpayers’ cash at a time when they are laying off staff. Is this not ‘obscene’? Not if the relative column inches are anything to go by.
The credit crunch – upside down thinking
“It is a bit bizarre that, in these times of credit crunch, we are talking about a club paying £100m for one player,” wrote Gordon Taylor, Chairman of the PFA, in his exclusive column on givemefootball.com. Virtually all of Gordon Taylor’s comments are worth challenging, but this notion that Manchester City are going against the grain during the credit crunch is utterly absurd.
David Conn, writing in The Guardian in May of last year, reliably informed readers that Manchester United’s accounts showed the club’s total creditors at £764m. £666m owed to financial institutions, including £152m to hedge funds. Reports stated RBS joined Deutsche Bank in arranging securitisation for the acquisition finance. Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool are no different with The Financial Times reporting on Friday that their RBS loan extension of £350m lasts only until July. If you’re looking for contributions to the credit crunch then look no further. Was all this debt labelled as ‘obscene’ by Mr.Conn or the wider press?
Manchester City has no such debts and therefore does not contribute to the UK’s possible bankruptcy. Indeed it offsets the UK’s leveraged position. The investment by ADUG constitutes new investment, a fresh injection of cash, and a removal of debt. Does that not sound like good news during a credit crunch?!
The boost to Manchester and the UK of having a new investor with capital to invest will not be quantified until specific development projects are announced. However, the circulation of new money within the game at a time like this could indirectly end up being a lifeline for some clubs. That it may give Manchester City a short-term advantage is open to debate. In fact it may give the club a short-term disadvantage, something that most reporters chose to ignore.
One City fan recently wrote to David Conn at The Guardian to question the, “unanimous opprobrium.” He went on to write to Mr.Conn,” I have always felt that, amongst the ignorant and predictable pap emitted around the world of football, The Guardian is a voice of reason.” Conn had the decency to reply, but the damage to City was done.
Part two of this article will be published at the same time tomorrow. In the meantime why not add your vote to our Mark Hughes poll, "Should he stay or should he go" on our home page.
Breaking news: The re-arranged Portsmouth away fixture will be played on Saturday 14th February at 3pm. As if travelling all the way down for the cancelled fixture wasn't difficult enough, now you've got to fight the missus to go to the replay!
Breaking news: New signing Nigel de Jong will wear the number 34 shirt, while Craig Bellamy has taken number 39.
Istanbul, Istanbul, we are coming........
Greetings from Hong Kong. I'm sloshed, it's 4am local time. Where is the local City supporter's branch so that I can watch the Brighton game?
The Sun newspaper article. Just an easy place to start. My last post few posts have banged on about how City have got the talent to challenge at the top. We don't need to buy loads of quality because we've got loads of it already (strength in depth excepted). We've got Cassell's babes coming through like magic. Witness Stevie Ireland's magic balls today. Ok I only saw highlights but his distribution was excellent. I take it all back if he wasn't as good outside the highlights, but here is a man who has shut the critics up. Young players can falter in a dodgy team but it's amazing what being a baldie can do to your confidence.
City has one of the best passing sides it has ever had. [Emphasize this point was true prior to SWP and Robinho arrival] Actually I've stolen this idea from our man Ads, who has watched over the years that the players coming through the youth team are creating a first team that in future will take the league by strorm. But I believed in it myself. That's the benefit Ads has had boycotting senior games and watching the juniors, he's seen it coming. The media always misses the long game. We've been buildng this side for a while.
Thaksin, Cook, and the new owners witnessed a six goal thriller today. Do you think they got the message that the result came from a City team that has been slowly developing over the years? Do Richard Dunne, Ched Evans, and Gelson sound like palatable names that can transcend the chase for global profile that Cook so desires? They were all on the score sheet against so-called top 4 contenders. So too right.
I got the general vibe right about our new-found fire-power up front pre-kick off, but I got the result totally wrong. I thought up front we would produce, and something in me thought loads of goals, but I chickened out. 2-1 was a rubbish prediction. I received five text messages from people at the game today, and each and every one of them had the same word in them,"sensational!" It's just a shame Europe didn't bring back the Ryder Cup.
And so back to Stevie Ireland. I only got to see the highlights. Here is a man that deserves more praise. GBP 5m to Sunderland. Sod that.
I've seen loads of headlines here in HK. All saying that Robinho was the difference. "Robinho stars in City's romp," declared the Straights Times in Singapore. ".....they could be top-four contenders this season. Thanks largely to Robinho." OK he's brilliant and I love him. BUT. Time to differentiate ourselves from Chelsea. Imagine a lonely Robinho joining Chelsea all those years ago back in the days when we were singing Rocky Rocastle's name in the away end. Chelsea were nothing then and had to build an entire team. We've got one already.
Don't let the media ever lose sight of the fact that what Robinho has done is give a team of young talent the confidence to push on. City were on the brink of success anyway. Cassell is a hero. Maybe it's too early to say, but let's reserve Jim Cassell in the back of our minds as the man who in spite of all of City's prior 'Cups for cock-ups', was the man who produced Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Danny Sturridge, Shaleum Logan, Michael Johnson, Stevie Ireland...the list goes on. He is the man who should be credited with giving City the continuity that it now has. He is the reason why a player like Robinho can slot in as if he's been playing for City for years (as the commentators keep repeating...now starting to say same about PZ)...I propose a motion to make JC not just employee of the season, but an employee who has given his all to City. A man who deserves to be up there with the greats. But perhaps he would prefer to wait before he picks up the accolades, until he sees his Academy graduates winning a trophy in the first team (winning the Youth Cup was just the beginning.)
Remember the days of Gio...."Give it the genius!" I remember my drunken season ticket neighbours shouting in the Kippax when we were scraping the bottom of the barrell losing at home. The likes of Stevie Lomas (long called my look-a-like unfortunatetly) would pass the ball to Gio and the entire team would stop dead, waiting for him to jink past the opposition and score. He often did, but really the rest of the team were out of their depth when it came to Gio.
Enter Robinho. Into a team full of passing talent. It's as if all they needed was the knowledge that a man with pure quality is on the end of their pass. I remember when I saw Ireland for the first time as sub. Making slide-rule passes that smacked of someone who didn't feel pressure. Then the whole national team debacle, superman, possible Joey Barton scenario (well ok point over-done but best 5m? we ever made), some fans were on his back, but look at him now. Robinho has unleashed Ireland as he will Johnson, Petrov, actually forget this listing thing....we're going to become one of the most exciting teams to watch in the world....we already are.
City are back, City are back !!! See you at Mary Ds for the Liverpool game. Lets do our first 'top 4' scalp. COME ON!!!!
P.S. I think we've proved that GBP 32.5m is better spent on a superstar than a general run around at GBP 20m for Liverpool. The only decent signing Liverpool have had for big cash is Torres. If you've got the money then why not spend it on the best, that was the message with Torres, but not with Keane. City look miles better than Liverpool. About time we beat them more regularly. OK Wigan first. CTID.
P.P.S. I've just remembered why I started writing this article. Wenger. Guardian article. Hence the headline! OK Wenger lets put this into perspective. I have relative respect for you as a manager. But your club's commercial enterprise, being as it is in the 'about-to-go-down-the-drain' London banking hoo-ha, charges GBP 7,000 for an executive box to see City. City charge a mere GBP 3,000 to see Arsenal at home in a box. In fact most of City's hospitality is very accessible, unlike the Club Level at Arsenal, which is full of people who have never seen an Arsenal game in their lives. Bottom line, ADUG looked at Arsenal and didn't want it. Shame. But I will enjoy sitting in the theatre-like seats in the away end in North London and hopefully see SWP score a blinder against his old man's team. CTID again. Loving it.
As the excitement surrounding City’s new ownership reaches dizzy heights, today MCFCfans launches a new page called, “Middle Eastlands.” A page for MCFCfans members to keep up with the latest news sourced from Abu Dhabi about City and our new owners. The page has all of the latest articles, relevent news feeds, links and we've even dug out the best of the latest video interviews.
In tandem with the page launch, we attempt to provide guidance on some of the noise flying around on talk shows, message boards, and in the press.
David Pleat on BBC 5 Live: “The deal was done so quickly, how do we know they are a ‘fit and proper person’?”
A fair question when considering an individual but the club has been purchased by The Abu Dhabi United Group, an investment vehicle. The Group is a private equity group fronted by Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim, CEO of Hydra Properties. Hydra Properties is a subsidiary of Royal Group, which belongs to the ruling family in Abu Dhabi. This is somewhat incidental as the Group is effectively backed by the ruling party in Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is seen as the main player behind ADUG. He is a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. They control over 10% of the world’s oil reserves (90% of the oil reserves of the United Arab Emirates).
How do we know they will stick around for the long-term?
The culture of Arab investment in general is to forge long-term relationships. A good example of this is Arab investment in horse racing around the world. Companies and businesses are often seen as personal possessions rather than separate entities. It is unlikely that short to medium-term returns will be seen as a top priority over club success, pride, and global profile.
Why have they invested in Manchester City?
The key reasons are to: increase the profile of the U.A.E. and Abu Dhabi around the world; develop sport and football in Abu Dhabi by having a direct interest in a Premiership club; and quite possibly to upstage their rival family in Dubai. But this isn’t just being done on a whim. Abu Dhabi has been developing its’ involvement in sport through European Tour golf, Formula One, the World Rally Championship and more. No sporting portfolio is complete without Premiership football. But why City? Well Newcastle quoted a £400m price tag (is deal failure with ADUG any connection to the current Keegan affair by any chance?) and Arsenal was apparently too complicated. But I prefer Amanda Staveley’s quote today, “Manchester City sells itself.”
Who is Amanda Staveley?
She works for PCP Capital Partners and was hired by Thaksin Shinawatra to broker a deal to sell the club. She is better known for her ongoing involvement in trying to tie up the Dubia Investment Corporation with Liverpool. She is a former Businesswoman of the year and apparently dated the Duke of York. She's not bad looking either. Amanda is a mere 35 years old and you can bet that her pockets have become somewhat deeper having completed this deal.
Does Abu Dhabi in general have any other outside footballing interests?
Yes, via Hydra Properties. Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim, the public face of ANUG, is the CEO of Hydra Properties in Abu Dhabi. Hydra Properties and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council signed an agreement with Italian football club Inter Milan earlier this year to build the Inter Milan football academy in Abu Dhabi. Dr Al Fahim is quoted as saying, “Sport, whether it be football or something else, is something that is friendly and brings countries together."
Are there more potential investors that might invest in Premiership clubs?
Yes, this might be the tip of a very big iceberg. ADUG is a private investment vehicle, even though it is thought to have the backing of some in the ruling royal family. However, there are well over 20 sovereign wealth funds (SWF) around the world backed by governments. Not all are likely candidates to invest in a Premiership club by any means.
The next widely-tipped candidate to invest is the well-publicised potential investment by Dubai Investment Corporation (DIC is a SWF) in Liverpool. Commentators expect this investment to be speeded up following the ADUG’s investment in Manchester City. Amanda Staveley, who brokered the deal on behalf of Thaksin Shinawatra, was quoted as saying today that DIC were still interested in buying Liverpool. However, she also stated that several other gulf states were interested in buying City. Other possible candidates for investment in a Premiership club include Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain. But don’t rule out some of the Asian countries’ funds also considering investments in the long run.
How will the new owners treat the fans?
This may not be as worrying as it may seem on the surface. In the Arab world hospitality is seen as essential. It reflects the depth of a relationship and is a matter of pride and honour. The press in Abu Dhabi has made a point of highlighting the need for the new owners to be sensitive to City fans. “Manchester City is a club with a passionate local support base long resentful of their more glamorous – and successful – neighbours, Manchester United. So parading a Manchester City shirt with “Abu Dhabi United” inscribed upon it might not have been the best way to introduce themselves to the supporters,” worried The National in Abu Dhabi. But the cultural background and the objective of promoting Abu Dhabi globally will require ADUG to stay in with the fans, otherwise a reputation of respect and cultural understanding will suffer.
Where can I follow more news, information, and views about our new owners?
Become a member of MCFCfans and click on our new Middle Eastlands page. Here you can vote in our poll to give your reaction to the ADUG takeover, review related news, and post your views in the chat section.
Is there any article you can suggest that may help to put other concerns at rest?
Yes the article with the headline, “Abromovich will be a hard act to follow,” in The National in Abu Dhabi published last night quotes Falim saying some reasonable things about the fans, Mark Hughes, and transfer policy. The latest video interview with Al Fahim also appears on our Middle Eastlands page and mentions working with Mark Hughes.
What can I expect the atmosphere to be like at the Chelsea game?
Should I be excited?
Thaksin points at biased Chelsea fan at Stamford Bridge last season!
Manchester City’s game against Villa on Sunday was largely one to be forgotten for City fans. But it was pleasing for one reason in particular. Both fans and players appeared to leave off-the-field issues aside, and focus on supporting and playing respectively.
City now have a home game against West Ham on Sunday. As we pause for breath in between games, MCFCfans has been trying to gauge City fans’ feelings over the Thaksin situation.
In trawling blogs and chatting with fans it’s obvious there are divisions of opinion. Generalising completely, there seem to be broadly two groups of fans' opinions, with a long list of subtle variations thereafter.
There are those fans who were against Thaksin taking charge all along and who now feel that their worst fears are beginning to materialise. Most fans in this category are not taking an, “I told you so,” stance right now. They are genuinely worried about the future of the club based on their interpretation of the situation.
Then there are fans who can see a funny side to Thaksin’s decision to go ‘on the run.’ It brings back memories of Nick Leeson in a City top! Joking aside, fans before the Villa game interviewed by Al Jazeera English showed their support for Thaksin. (Al Jazeera is clearly taking an active interest in this story and their latest video along with others can be viewed on our new Thaksin Watch page).
Somewhere in the middle there are fans who can’t make their mind up, who feel that they don’t have enough information to make their mind up, or who are slowly travelling from the supportive group to the concerned group as they learn more of the facts.
One thing is certain: nothing is certain. There are simply more questions than there are answers and since the team need to get winning some games that is probably a good thing for now. It’s conceivable that quite a few of the open questions on fans’ minds will probably never be answered.
Our view, based on the average lay attempt to brush up on Thai politics and the Premiership rules, is that much depends on the UK government’s interpretation of how legitimate any court decision to convict Thaksin is. The stance they might take is far from clear. The Premier League seems certain to follow the UK government’s lead. The Premier League must be pooping themselves at the possibility of having to enforce the rule and make Thaksin sell.
Thaksin’s next moves now, in relation to City at least, must surely rest on his judgment as to how this will all turn out. If he thinks he has a chance of being forced to sell because everything goes against him, then surely he’ll be looking for a buyer now so that he doesn’t have to sell at a knock-down price. But that’s before we’ve thought about all of the other permutations. Could he find new investors, dilute his stake, and do a deal or wangle a pass with the Premier League, which would allow him to continue as chairman? A loan in the meantime starts the bank-rolling debt cycle off again (Times article just out)
Whatever the outcome, MCFCfans has setup the Thaksin Watch page in an attempt to help fans find information, facts, reporting, and commentary about the Thaksin situation, and to create an area where members can air their views. The page is intended as an information centre and sets out to be neither anti-Thaksin nor pro-Thaksin (@ City that is!). A poll is also on the page asking for your current view on Thaksin.
Keep the faith.
August 17, 2008
The football has started and the first game of the season is out of the way. Manchester City lost 4-2 to Aston Villa and the train journey home is somewhat depressing. But don’t let the doomsayers and biased media fool you into thinking this was a drubbing.
It was a game of two halves with City playing much the better football as the first half wore on, even though Villa had the better chances early on. Joe Hart denied a couple of chances and others went wide, but City were beginning to show fluent passages of play.
City started the game without Bojinov who was injured in the warm up. He now looks to be side-lined for six months adding to the current striker crisis. But on paper this was always going to be an uphill struggle for City even with Bojinov. That City got to half-time at 0-0 was an achievement.
Ched Evans started up front as lone striker. Kelvin Etuhu, inexperienced as he is, lacked the confidence to push onto the by-line. One could only feel sorry for him at times because senior support failed to arrive. Petrov was the attacking outlet, and Elano and Johnson tried to fashion attacks from his distribution.
Where did it all go wrong? Well City gave the ball away in dangerous positions and allowed Villa players out wide to put crosses in to tall, unmarked danger men up front. In seven minutes Agbonlahor struck a hat-trick. It was extremely poor for City to concede as they did. But it was no capitulation. However, we’ve now conceded 12 goals in our last two league games.
Villa’s tall attack served by unchallenged crosses was a threat to a new central defensive pairing, who suffered from players in front giving the ball away too easily. We maybe missed Hamman’s clean-up operations. That said Tal Ben-Haim looked far more comfortable in central defence than he did at left-back on Thursday.
The City crowd was impressive and it didn’t feel as if the gloom that has surrounded the club for the last two weeks was the reason for the poor result. It felt like we lacked squad depth, midfield aggression, and up-front firepower. We’re desperately short of the right players in certain positions. But these are things that hopefully we can resolve given time. It also feels as if we’re in something of a transformation from Sven to Hughes in terms of tactics and regime. It will take time but sure it’s a far cry from the optimism of the first half of last season.
The game’s most humorous moment came from the front of the City end by the pitch. A City fan dressed in a maroon golf shirt had extended negotiations with stewards about one thing or another. Anecdotal evidence suggested the stewards may have sworn in front of his kids when addressing him, which didn’t go down too well. Villa fans monitoring the situation in the neighbouring end cottoned on to the maroon golf shirt before chanting, “Who’s that in a Villa shirt? Who’s that in a Villa shirt?...”
It was not the best start to the season but we’ll take issue with Claran Baynes, reporting for Setanta. “The Villans dominated the game from the first whistle with City on the back foot until they were awarded a dubious penalty as Michael Johnson fell in the box under the close attention of Luke Young.” Claran obviously wasn’t watching the same game.
Drop the expectations. It’s going to be a tough season. But this game was not necessarily the barometer we thought it would be. There was renewed promise following Thursday’s defeat, the players clearly need to adapt to the Hughes era, and the odd signing wouldn’t go amiss. One thing is certain, we won’t be ordering the new orange shirts.
P.S. Our 'Thaksin Watch' page has now been launched. We're keen to attract opinion about our owner, the current situation, and how it will play out for City on the page. Please let us know if there is good quality commentary elsewhere that we can add to the page.
What a big test we face in our first premiership game of the season. Martin O’Neill achieved 6th in the league last season and proved that his slow and careful squad building based around hard-working English players is paying off. Holding onto Gareth Barry so far will also be a boost to the rest of the team even though the saga seems set to continue.
We can only look on with envy at an owner who keeps himself to himself most of the time and seems to have footballing interests at heart (Randy Lerner: A Case Study on Foreign Ownership, Footballing World, Nov 2007). We’re already craving the stability he has brought to Villa.
City go into the match having avoided defeat on their last six league and cup visits to Villa Park but there is much to be concerned about, starting with the lack of fitness. I didn’t see the Villa match on Thursday for obvious reasons, but how our fitness and match sharpness compares to Villa will be key to this game.
Nowhere more so than in defence. With Richard Dunne suspended, Ben-Haim and Richards will have to be well enough versed with each other to cope with the pace Villa have up front. Young making his debut for Villa may keep Corluka fairly pinned back, which leaves Ball (probable left back) and Petrov as our most likely source of success out wide.
The remaining question is whether to start with two up front with Sturridge and Bojinov, or to leave Bojinov up on his own with Elano playing off him. Given the lack of striking replacements if things go wrong, I would tend to agree with Danny at ‘Bitter and Blue’ that it seems more likely Hughes will opt for safety first and keep Sturridge on the bench.
If there is any thread of light to go on then it will be the nature of the defeat on Thursday night that should jump the players into action. How the players approach this game and how the manager’s body language plays out throughout the match will be a strong indicator of our potential performance this season given off-the-field issues. We have the quality to match Villa on paper but it's whether that quality is 'switched on' or not. I’d be happy with a draw in our first game but happier still if the players put up a solid fight and show some real potential.
Villa : best Evens; Draw : 12-5; City : best 3-1
Betfair @ 13:44, Sat August 16
Villa 1.88 - 1.89
Man City 5.3 - 5.5
Draw 3.5 - 3.55
Selected Morning Articles
(put that headline up in the dressing room!)
Sturridge vs. FC Midtjylland - Hands off Chelski
I spent much of Thursday mulling over whether to write a match preview on the Uefa Cup game and ultimately decided against it. Sometimes it’s damned if you do damned if you don’t when surmising things before a match.
The constant media speculation over the last two weeks has been tiring. In fact there was so much noise that we decided to ‘keep stum.’ Why add to the media and cyber frenzy of speculation. More on that in later blog posts. But all the same, most fans would probably agree it has softened the usual beginning-of-season excitement considerably.
Compounding concern about the game, Danish friends and clients were calling me Thursday to report that we should be worried. Members and fans will not be heartened to hear that this worry was most pronounced when discussing how comfortable FC Midtjylland is when playing at home. The return leg will not be easy.
A beginning-of-season re-union with a City mate and member of MCFCfans.com did nothing to help matters. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” he said before going on to report recent FC Midtjylland successes. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ though was reading a betting prediction in a newspaper that boldly recommended its’ readers to back both City and Villa to be leading their respective opposition at half time and full time. “In fact it’s so much a dead cert you might as well put them in a double as well,” it finished. Well if either team was going to spoil that double it was going to be City!
City started as if they were in a friendly game. Not just any friendly game. The first friendly game of the pre-season when players’ minds are still on the beach, the pool, and the beer. The body language was noticeably lackluster. Passes went astray and the defense was disorganised.
Olsen’s finish (video on our home page) was top quality but it was gifted by poor defending. It was City’s wake up call to get some attacking going and there were some positive moves around at times. We could have scored when hitting the bar twice but it always felt as if we lacked a real threat to the Danish goal.
Petrov stood out, Kelvin Etuhu’s pace is something to look forward to, and we know Sturridge has real potential. But Elano seemed distant, Caicedo was pointless, and too many moves needlessly broke down, sometimes to fruitless show-boating.
Hughes has since pointed to the real lack of fitness in the side. "We are trying to get a group of players up to match fitness and that was evident the other night in the Uefa Cup," Hughes said. "It will not happen overnight. Maybe we will have to wait because our training is different from what they have been doing. It is about making players able to cope with the demands of the Premier League. To compete in the Premier League you have to be athletic, dynamic and sustain that performance from the first game to the last." He went on to point out that the new regime may be a shock to some of the players.
What is a big positive now is that the football is starting in earnest. The off-the-pitch concerns are very real but there were there a year ago. The time to protest was back then. There may be a suitable time to protest again in future but only once we've observed more events and facts. There is much to the situation off the pitch and we will try and cover this in a later post. The team itself is in tact. We’re chasing strikers and new players albeit with cash that is possibly not available (see Telegraph story of 13th August). Arguably we have a better manager in Mark Hughes, even though the messy episode to replace Sven did our reputation no good. Hughes probably has what it takes to see us through a possible future change in ownership. Whether he judges that sticking it out is in his best interests only he knows. It is likely that he has seriously considered his position, but let's hope he's prepared to wait and work on the team in the meantime.
What is most important now is that we back him and the team. We must get playing well on the pitch and as fans we play a part in that with the tone of our support. We're in a difficult situation, but for now it's probably best to keep the terraces focused on the pitch.
PS. Check out the profile and new photos of the MCFC Babies in Ghana on our MCFC Babies page. We’ll be following the team’s progress with the help of team coach and member of MCFCfans.com, Peter Amoabil. The Under 12s recently won a trial game against Kanvili FC 4-2 and will play them again away from home this Sunday. Here’s hoping the application to the league is successful.
Manchester City's fans showed loyal support to Sven Goran Eriksson at Anfield today, with many holding up the "Save Sven" back page of the Manchester Evening News, Sven masks, and Swedish flags.
The City players hardly helped their manager's future, however, giving the ball away far too freely in a game that Liverpool should have won by more than the 1-0 scoreline. Liverpool allowed City to come back at them in the latter stages of the game and were denied more goals by Joe Hart's excellent goalkeeping.
The weak City performance was a blow to those backing Sven, but MCFCfans believes the support being shown for Sven should continue into the final game. Whatever Thaksin's final decision turns out to be, he should be made aware of the way the fans feel. Reports that Thaksin has been surprised at the impact that club ownership has had on his wallet add to the farce. We all know that sacking Sven won't be cheap.
Eriksson refused to be drawn on his future but everything in his body language suggested that the end of his short managerial career at City is just around the corner. “I have been told nothing regarding that. At my age I do not need to be told these things, I have my own ideas." And it's these ideas that most City fans believe in. Building a team around talented young players. A long-term strategy that happens to reconcile with sensible financial planning. But no, that would be too straight-forward.
We have one of the country's most successful Academies, one of the world's best club managers, and have made significant progress this season. Fans should continue to show support for Sven is so that Thaksin Shinawatra understands the gravity of the decision he is making. Manchester City is a football club with a beating heart - lets continue to show Sven our support - even if we believe the decision is made. Fans may be irrelevent in today's Premier League, but that shouldn't stop us from having our say.