Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mario Balotelli Out for Six Weeks

Devastating news to come out of the club overnight — rising star Mario Balotelli is to have surgery on his injured knee, and will be out of action for up to six weeks.

Mario hobbled off in the dying moments of the win at FC Timisoara, with what at the time looked to be a rather harmless knock.

In typical "Typical City" fashion, three of our most anticipated new additions to the squad — Jerome Boateng, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Balotelli — have mustered just over an hour of football in all competitions between them. Combined with the fact that Wayne Bridge is still not fit, as well as the perennially crocked Michael Johnson and Roque Santa Cruz, that's a good quarter of the squad unable to play, and it's only three games into the season!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

City's 25-man Squad Announced

Roberto Mancini has named his 25-man Premier League squad, and as a result, will have to play with the cards he's been dealt until January.

There are no major surprises or omissions, although Michael Johnson could consider himself lucky to have made the cut, considering his ongoing injury situation.

Whilst it would have been possible for Roberto to nominate a squad that featured big names like Robinho, Craig Bellamy, or Stephen Ireland — it was just not feasible from a man-management point of view.

Unfortunately, the real world is not like FIFA10, where you can buy as many players as you fancy and they don't kick up a stink when they sit on the bench. I know we fell into this trap when we chose our 25-man squad around a month ago.

Overall, it's a strong squad, but I do worry slightly about the amount of creativity in that line-up, and the amount of players that can come on and turn the game on its head.

The full squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers
1 Joe Hart
2 Shay Given
3 Stuart Taylor

Defenders
4 Kolo Toure
5 Vincent Kompany
6 Jerome Boateng
7 Aleksandar Kolarov
8 Micah Richards
9 Pablo Zabaleta
10 Joleon Lescott
11 Wayne Bridge
12 Shaleum Logan
X Dedryck Boyata
X Greg Cunningham

Midfielders
13 Yaya Toure
14 Gareth Barry
15 Nigel De Jong
16 Patrick Vieira
17 James Milner
18 Adam Johnson
19 David Silva
20 Shaun Wright-Phillips
21 Michael Johnson
X Abdisalam Ibrahim

Forwards
22 Carlos Tevez
23 Emmanuel Adebayor
24 Jo
25 Roque Santa Cruz
X Mario Balotelli
X Alex Nimely-Tchumeni

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Deadline Day: Robinho Gone (For Good)

As the 2010 transfer window slams shut (watch your fingers), City have made just a few changes to the squad — which is understandable considering the magnitude of spending already embarked upon by the club this summer.

The major protagonist in transfer deadline day proceedings two years ago to the day, Robinho, has been involved in another last-minute deal — this time signing for AC Milan in a deal thought to be worth around £20million.

The skill of Robinho cannot be questioned — his complete control in the 6-0 win over Portsmouth is one of the best individual performances ever witnessed at Eastlands.

It's ironic that at the time Robinho was playing his best football (August to December 2008), was actually when as a team, we were at our worst. After crashing to a 2-1 defeat at West Brom in late December, City sat 18th in the League. Conversely, when Robinho failed to score for the next few months (and with the assistance of January signings), we made a late charge up the table.

We have seen this all before as City fans. Georgiou Kinkladze was arguably the most skillful player on the ball to have played for Manchester City, however, we were relegated twice with him in the team — but after he was sold, we soon earned successive promotions. Having a big fish in a small pond does not make for a good football team.

Robinho may well thrive at AC Milan, along side fellow Brazilians Ronaldinho and Pato. He'll also be given an age on the ball in Serie A, compared to the Premier League. As long as he doesn't have to play away games, or at night, or in the cold, he'll be a success I'm sure.

His career will always be blighted by the fact he was unable to make it at Real Madrid, or under two separate managers at Manchester City. If he was truly world-class, he would have stuck it out and earned his first team place back — not disappeared to the sunny climes of Santos to play kick-about with his mates.

An amazing footballer, but a coward on and off the pitch.

In other news, occasional footballer and wannabe rapper Felipe "Xzhibit" Caicedo, went out on loan to Spain for the second time in as many seasons, signing for Levante UD (who looking at their club badge, are a merger between Valencia and Barcelona).

Asamoah Gyan, who scored four goals for Ghana in the World Cup (but missed a penalty in the dying seconds against Uruguay), joined Sunderland for £13million. It's a shame he didn't sign for them a week earlier — we might have picked up a point on the weekend if he had!

That old wheeler-and-dealer Arry Redknapp (oh come on Arry, I didn't mean it like that!) got up to his old tricks, and may just have snagged Real Madrid midfielder and World Cup runner-up Rafael Van Der Vaart for the cut-price fee of £8million — despite Bayern Munich close to signing the player for over twice that amount the day before.

For that price, he could have got half a Roque Santa Cruz (I assume you'd want the top half, as the bottom half is knackered), or one homeless Portuguese third-division player, so it's a good bit of business from 'Ol Twitcher if true.

So, no Dzeko, no Torres, and no Luiz, but a successful transfer window nevertheless. If we're there and thereabouts in the League come January, I can see another addition or two to get us over the line.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Carling Cup Third Round Draw

We've drawn West Bromich Albion away, with the tie to played around the date of 20/21 September. While it doesn't seem too difficult tie on paper, it should not be forgotten that the last time we travelled to the Hawthorns we suffered a 2-1 defeat in December 2008.

The match also falls at an awkward time in the fixture list for us. In the space of nine days, we play Red Bull Salzburg away, followed by Wigan Athletic away, then this Carling Cup match away at West Brom, and finally Chelsea at home. So we'll need to rely on all of our 25-man squad to get us through that period.

The rest of the draw is very interesting indeed. There are five other all Premier League ties, and the fact that either Tottenham or Arsenal will not be in the next round is a definite advantage.

Brentford v Everton
Portsmouth v Leicester City
Stoke City v Fulham
Chelsea v Newcastle United
Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers
Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
Millwall v Ipswich Town
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Notts County
Burnley v Bolton Wanderers
Birmingham City v MK Dons
Liverpool v Northampton Town
Scunthorpe United v Manchester United
West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City
Sunderland v West Ham United
Peterborough United v Swansea City
Wigan Athletic v Preston North End

Friday, August 27, 2010

Europa League Fixtures Announced

The fixtures for the Europa League group stage have been announced, and appear below. They should also be televised on ESPN in Australia, but as always, check local guides.

Red Bull Salzburg v Manchester City
Thursday 16 September 7pm CET/ Friday 17 September 3am

Manchester City v Juventus
Friday 1 October 5am

Manchester City v Lech Poznan
Friday 22 October 6am

Lech Poznan v Manchester City
Friday 5 November 5am

Manchester City v Red Bull Salzburg
Friday 2 December 5am

Juventus v Manchester City
Friday 17 December 5am

There are a couple of things you want in a Europa League draw.

To minimise disruption, you want to be playing teams this side of the Iron Curtain. An away day to Germany or Italy seems a much easier prospect than travelling to some barren, bleak and windswept outpost on the edge of Europe to beat a mob of Ukrainian plumbers or Latvian milkmen.

Secondly, you want the big names. Not big names as in Borussia Monchengladbach, but names with a little bit of history. Teams that most people with a passing interest in football could identify. Unlike the Champions League, where almost every participant is a big club (Rangers and Tottenham being the obvious exceptions), the Europa League throws up some fairly "exotic" fixtures. There will understandably be a larger crowd and a better atmosphere when we host Juventus, than if we were to play say Karpaty Lviv, Levski Sofia, or Bronski Beat.

[UPDATES from Gav - A key attraction of European competition for fans has to be the opportunity to go and watch City play in somewhere more exotic than Grimsby, ideally after imbibing a healthy volume of hard-to-pronounce lager and struggling to decipher a menu resulting in you ordering 'pigs trotter with beetroot' for desert. If this sounds like your version of a European away day, you're in luck.]

Using this criteria, we have a somewhat favourable draw.

Red Bull Salzberg (or FC Salzberg as they're known in this competition) are not to be underestimated. They are the reigning champions of the Austrian Bundesliga, and drop down to Europa League after losing their Champions League qualifier to Hapoel Tel-Aviv. [They also have an artificial pitch to contend with - expect City to have a practice game at Woodley Sports beforehand, as the England squad did before playing on artificial pitches] We have to be careful of their wide play — I've heard they are good down the wings... you know, 'cos it gives you wings... is this thing on?

[Taxi for Crouchy! Salzberg is one of the best places to watch football. It's a great city, top nightlife, and the Red Bull Arena has an atmosphere not to be missed. At night games it more resembles a basketball stadium, with the lights dimmed, searchlights scanning the crowd and pitch, flashing lights and music pumping out, even during breaks in play, from memory! One not to be missed if you can get there - flights are with Jet2 from Leeds or you can fly to Munich from Manchester. Local brew is the fantastich Steigl.]

Juventus, whilst not the powerhouse of European football they once were, will still throw up a stern test. 27-time Serie A champions, and twice European Cup winners, they definitely fall into the category of "big name". Outside of Atletico Madrid (and I guess, City) they are one of the biggest threats in this early stage of the Europa League.

[A hard away fixture to resist for European football-starved City fans. Turin isn't the most attractive city in Italy, but it does have the advantage of being within 40 mins of superb skiing. Given that the fixture is on the 17th December, it makes this away trip much more appealing. No direct flights, but from Luton, or Manchester-Madrid. Beer is likely to be the Peroni/Morretti kind of average stuff.]

Lech Poznan are from Poland and apparently play football. They failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, losing to Sparta Praha. That's about it.

[Another good away trip. If you don't mind unfashionable, dodgy people in shell suits with a completely impenetrable language making even getting directions without getting spotted as an outsider and mugged a difficult task then you can brave the trip to Liverpool (see what I did there?) and then fly to Poznan with Ryanair. In Poznan you'll find a great little city, lots of bars in the old town from what I can remember, and in Żywiec or Okocim some of the best beer you're ever likely to drink anywhere in the world. I didn't get to a game when I was there, but the locals were the kind of crazy-friendly set, and loved their football.]

Whilst we should have no problem advancing to the knockout stages of the tournament, the real test comes when the Champions League rejects drop down into the competition and beat the pants off everybody.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Stephen Ireland

Back in May we mused about the curious character that is Stephen Ireland, and what future he had at Manchester City. Well now, not only does Ireland no longer have a future at City, he seems intent on burning every bridge he crossed as well.

As part of the aftermath to his move to Aston Villa as part of the James Milner deal, Stephen Ireland has taken the extraordinary step of slagging off all-and-sundry at Manchester City, from the manager right down to the youth players. He comes across as a little bitter. And a massive tool.

Here's what Ireland had to say:
"I'm not really a highly-self-confident person... But I can honestly say Manchester City have tried to replace me for the last three or four seasons and it's never happened. I can easily say I've got, if not more ability, as much ability as any player they have signed this year."

"Without a shadow of doubt the situation I found myself in will happen a lot at Manchester City with all the high-profile players they have at the club. At Manchester City sitting on the bench I didn't feel part of the team. I was neither happy or sad if we lost."

"The young lads (at Villa) are so polite. At City they're not like that. They're coming in with £10,000 watches on their wrists and walking around as if they have played 200 Premier League games. I can really see myself having a good time here."
Footballers spending lavish amounts of money is nothing new, nor is it something for which to begrudge them. But for a player who is only turning 24 today, to criticise other young players for buying big on bling is the height of hypocrisy. Those in £5million mansions shouldn't throw stones...

However, the most startling comment is the one where he simply didn't care how the team performed, when he was relegated to the bench. That's a slap in the face to every City supporter that got his name on their shirt, or ever belted out "Ireland is Superman". A lot of fans spend a lot of money travelling up and down the country (and around the world) to see City play — and to discover that one player was not really fussed about the result borders on treason.

If Ireland was as good as he claims, he would have used any opportunity he could get to prove the manager wrong. Rather than reflect on his own shortcomings, he has decided to blame the manager. It's a familiar theme with Ireland...
20 August 2010: "Did I talk to him? Not at all. Mancini does not build relationships with players."
12 February 2010: "I was being played out of position... Maybe as a holding midfielder, left wing, right wing. It is not me... But the last six months under Mark Hughes was very frustrating for me."
20 November 2008: "(Hughes) is a proper manager, the kind which I have always wanted to play under and who covers every aspect of preparation and training. I have got more confidence this season and that is because the manager has shown his confidence and trust in me."
Whilst it's easy for Ireland, and those with an anti-Mancini agenda, to criticise the manager for not playing him at the end of last season, it should also be carefully noted that he didn't get too many starts whilst Hughes was still here at the beginning of the campaign.

It's amazing how a player that spent a good eight years in our youth and first team systems can have such negativity about City when he's left (or in Ireland's case, when he was still at the club!). Thankfully, he's Aston Villa's player — and problem — now.

Some of Stephen Ireland's purchases. A pot and a kettle aren't amongst them, presumably.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FC Timisoara v Manchester City Preview

Manchester City kick off their Intercities Fairs Intertoto UEFA Cup Big Vase Europa League campaign 5am tomorrow morning AEST, against Liga I side FC Timisoara from Romania. This match is not available on Fox Sports or ESPN, so you'll have to resort to "other methods" to watch the game.

We dare not treat Timisoara lightly — it was in the same stage of this competition two years ago that we almost suffered an embarrassing elimination at the hands of FC Midytlland. It was only through an injury-time own goal and a penalty shootout that we were able to remain in that season's UEFA Cup.

Let's not forget a couple of days ago in the Champions League, Tottenham were expected to beat Young Boys quite easily (oo-er), but will have to come from behind against Young Boys if they're to progress (ok, that's enough). Point is, we should treat our European opponents with respect.

Last season, Liga I was ranked eighth on the UEFA Coefficient — suggesting that it is a more competitive league in European competition than those in Portugal (9th), Turkey (11th), and Scotland (52nd, just above San Marino).

Roberto Mancini has named a strong squad to fly to Romania — after all, it would be humiliating to exit the competition at this stage, after all the talk of having a big enough squad to fight on four fronts.

Joe Hart will start between the sticks for the second match in a row, which is somewhat surprising. It could be argued there was a case for selecting the Shay Given in our Europa and Domestic Cup campaigns, and keeping Hart for the League. By sticking with Joe, he ensures consistency in defence, but may also bring Given's time at the club to an end.

Aleksandar Kolarov picked up an ankle injury in the first half against Tottenham, and won't be fit, nor will the other new defensive signing, Jerome Boateng. James Milner will also be unable to play, signing too late to be named in the squad.

Joleon Lescott will likely make his first appearance this season at left back. Mario Balotelli, Patrick Vieira and Adam Johnson are likely inclusions to the side that drew at Spurs last Saturday.

Fearless Prediction: FC Timisoara 1 - Manchester City 2.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meanwhile... Milner and Ireland Swap Agreed

It's all change at City at the moment — no sooner had Craig Bellamy left the club, the James Milner/Stephen Ireland swap deal (with about £18million chucked in of course), has been agreed and will be completed shortly.

This is the best deal City could have hoped for. Milner is a brilliant signing, an equal mix of versatility, creativity, and trackbackability. He fits perfectly in the right of midfield in Mancini's planned 4-3-3 system. Whilst he doesn't attract a lot of attention, due to the rather unattractive role he fulfils, he does his job very, very well, and he'll improve the team significantly.

As for Ireland, it's a real shame he couldn't replicate the performances of the 2008-09 season. But he wasn't going to be selected in the Premier League 25-man squad — and nor did he deserve to — so it's only fair that he moves to a club that will play him. Much like the transfer of Bellamy, the fact that Ireland promised so much yet ultimately delivered so little makes it a little hard to take. I'm not particularly thrilled in the manner that we've pursued Milner and forced out Ireland either...

The signing of Milner is the one that completes the puzzle for City, but whether this is the end of our summer spending remains to be seen.

Craig Bellamy Loaned to Cardiff

There's been much speculation over the future of Craig Bellamy last week, and now the club can confirm that he will go on loan to Championship side Cardiff City for the rest of the season.

I guess this move suits everyone, although I would have much preferred a six-month loan. Bellamy gets first-team football in his homeland. Cardiff get an exceptional player, with subsidised wages assumably, to push for promotion. And of course, Roberto Mancini gets his wish and rids his team of a cancer — and sends a strong message to the rest of the squad that loyalty is placed above ability.

It's the correct thing to do, but it's not really a cause for celebration. I'm really disappointed by Bellamy. He could have had real success at City, or even Liverpool before it. His commitment and dedication on the pitch could never be faulted — but I'm afraid his career will be remembered mostly for bad knees and an even worse attitude.

Don't mess with the family...

Friday, August 13, 2010

OFFICIAL: "Super" Mario Balotelli Signs!

After one of the most protracted transfers since last season's Lescott saga, Mario Balotelli is now officially a Manchester City player.

It's been a tough week for Mancini, but he couldn't keep the smile off his face:
"I think that Mario is one of the best players of his age in Europe, and I very happy to be working with him again. His style of play will suit the Premier League, and because he is still so young there is a big chance for him to improve. He is a strong and exciting player, and City fans will enjoy watching him."
To me, this signing trumps them all. Robinho, Carlos Tevez, David Silva... the lot. A kid, who by the age of 20, has three Serie A titles, a Champions League medal, and the footballing world at his feet. He could very well be our Cristiano Ronaldo, or at the very least, our Wayne Rooney.

Very, very happy days indeed.

Balotelli and his entourage arrive at Eastlands. What Marlon Harewood was doing there, is anyone's guess...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bellamy's Future in Doubt?

Craig Bellamy has been left out of the 25-man squad to play in the Europa League qualifier against Romanian side FC Timosoara, on 19 and 26 August.

The full squad is as follows: Given, Hart, Taylor, Richards, Boateng, Zabaleta, Kolo Toure, Lescott, Logan, Bridge, Kolarov, Wright-Phillips, Adam Johnson, Yaya Toure, Michael Johnson, Barry, Vieira, Kompany, De Jong, Silva, Adebayor, Robinho, Santa Cruz, Tevez, Jo.

The squad conditions for the Europa League are even more confusing than the Premier League ones. Each team can consist of 25 players - eight of which must be "locally trained". These locally trained players must have spent three years between the age of 15 and 21 at an academy system at and English club.

Out of these eight, a minimum of four must have been trained by Manchester City, which is why outsiders such as Shaleum Logan and Michael Johnson appear in this squad, despite the latter not due to return from injury until December. Also, this squad does not require us to name players under 21, such as Vladimir Weiss or Alex Nimely.

This squad had to be submitted to UEFA by 9 August for the play-off round, and if we successfully advance, we will choose another squad (before 1 September) that will serve as our Europa League squad for the length of the competition.

However, it's highly unlikely that Bellamy would have been a constant feature in our European campaign regardless of his relationship with the manager. With his injury record and dodgy knees, he finds it extremely difficult to play two games in a week at the best of times.

Having said that, if Bellamy wants to remain at the club, he's not going about things the right way. He's been quoted in the media a few times this week, speaking out about how he has no contact with Mancini, and how he might leave the club should he not be selected in the final 25. Retirement's even been suggested.
"I feel strongly that I can offer something at the club. But if I don't get in the 25-man squad, I don't know what I will do. I might finish, full stop, or look at every option I get."

"This game is as ruthless as any. I sort of feel I am not going to be part of it (at Manchester City). I can see it from a distance. I find that very difficult to take because I really enjoy playing for Manchester City. I think I have shown that with my commitment this year."

"I've had a few options. I've turned down Wolfsburg. I don't fancy Germany, it's not somewhere I see myself playing football. I have to see what options I have. I am here to play football."

"With this 25-man ruling, it doesn't matter how well I train or how good my attitude is, I might not be registered to play. So do I go without playing football until January, or do I find myself a club where I can play football?"

"I am committed to stay where I am. I feel I deserve to be part of it, but I don't pick the 25 or the team. I have to wait on their decision."
Rather than knuckling down and proving to the manager just how good a player he is, and making it impossible for him to be left out of the squad — Bellamy all but wants out. And it has the stench of a Redknapp-tap-up all over it...

Does it come as any surprise that a player, who famously fell out with Newcastle, Liverpool, and West Ham, is now on the outer at City? I, like a lot of City fans, thought that Bellamy had realised that this was his last chance to really achieve something in the game, his last real big club.

Once Mark Hughes was moved on however, Craig reverted to type. He was seen to take David Moyes' side in his spat with Roberto Mancini, and perhaps the final straw, that handshake with Harry Redknapp after Tottenham knocked us out of Champions League contention.

And just like the battles between Hughes and Elano — if there's a bust-up between a player and a manager, there is usually only one outcome.

We'll only truly know until the Spurs match on Saturday what the future holds for Bellamy. If he's left out of the starting 17 at White Hart Lane, we may well have seen the last of Bellers in a blue shirt.


Mancini and Bellamy in happier times — can they repair their fractured relationship for the betterment of the team?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nedum Onuoha Poised To Join Mackems on Loan

According to reports, Nedum Onuoha will join Sunderland on loan for the 2010-11 season. I think that this is an excellent piece of business for everyone involved.

Nedum will get the consistent Premier League game-time he needs to improve his confidence, which is something that he wouldn't get here, behind the likes of Toure, Lescott, Kompany, Richards, Boateng, and maybe even Boyata at centre-half. But if he goes and shows marked improvement, he can slot back into the 25-man squad, or if not, then he can stay at Sunderland.

It is a little disappointing to see him depart though. Nedum is a life-long fan of City, and currently the longest serving player at the club — he's our Bryan Riggs (spit) or Gary Chuckle (double spit). Although, unlike the forementioned players, he's very smart and articulate, and it's refreshing to see a player interviewed without giving a slew of "errs" and "yerknows"...

But in this case it may have worked against him. His cards were marked after this interview on Soccer AM, where he was less than complimentary to Roberto Mancini.

Regardless, I had included Onuoha as part of our 25-man squad, so this will free up a spot for another player. I have the feeling now that Jo, on the back of a very good pre-season in which he scored almost every time he played, will now force his way into the manager's plans — something that would have been considered impossible a month ago!

All the best Ned, and it'd be great to see you back next season.

Friday, August 6, 2010

FourFourTwo Season Preview... Starring Us!

As previously posted here, we were asked to provide our thoughts on the season ahead by FourFourTwo magazine. And here's the result! Hopefully it appears in Australian newsagents soon. It looks a good read — even without my input!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Liverpool and Arsenal Matches on Free-To-Air...

Australian broadcaster OneHD has struck a deal with both Liverpool and Arsenal to show content from the club's television stations — including replayed matches. Which is fantastic news for City fans four times a season, and means you can can a repeat of the City win on usually the Tuesday.

The first of these matches is 10pm Tuesday 24 August, where you can see Manchester City take on the Dippers.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Playing For Keeps – The Great Goalkeeper Conundrum


Roberto Mancini has a few tough decisions to make over the coming weeks about the composition of the 25 man Premier League squad. But probably his toughest dilemma is managing our goalkeeping situation.

And with reports that Sunderland have officially approached the club about loaning Hart for the season (it's somewhat fitting that they're looking for us to help them out with a goalkeeper crisis, after they were kind enough to let Marton Fulop come to City on emergency loan), it seems this problem is about to come to a head.

The manager already appears to have made his mind up. The fact that the squad list has Shay Given as number 1 and Joe Hart wearing the number 25 shirt probably gives a clear indication of his intentions.

There is no doubt about his Given's ability as a shot-stopper, where he is possibly second only to Pepe Reina at Liverpool. Some of his reflex saves over the years have defied belief. Who could forget his debut against Middlesbrough, where he denied Afonso Alves on four separate occasions? Or his heroics in the home win over Chelsea?

However, Shay has his shortcomings. He's 34, whilst still in good form, is nearing the end of his career (although, Schwarzer is attracting the interests of Arsenal at 37 years of age, and Van Der Sar at Vermin Towers is old even by Rag standards, nearing 40). Also, he has just returned from the dislocated shoulder suffered against Arsenal, and for a keeper, that's a fairly serious injury – both physically and mentally.

The most frustrating thing about Shay's game is his unwillingness to come out for crosses, even those only a couple of yards off his goal line. This led result in us conceding some pretty preventable goals last season, namely the Carling Cup semi and the FA Cup tie against Stoke – which is often followed by his trademark vaudevillian-fall-to-the-ground-in-disbelief routine.

And then you have Hart, who was named by his peers as the best goalkeeper in the league last season, all the while behind a defense he had never played with previously.

There is a possibility that if selected, he could be our first-choice keeper for the next decade, much like Given himself was at Newcastle. And of course, Joe is no stranger to the fight for the number 1 shirt — at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, he was Sven's third choice keeper, with Kasper Schmeichel and Andreas Isaksson the preferred options.

So does Roberto stick with the proven option in Given, or the long-term option in Hart? For me, it's Shay, but only just.

Looking at the long-term, and blooding youngsters used to be a successful policy for City. Many of our academy graduates, such as Micah Richards, Joey Barton, Stephen Ireland, and Michael Johnson, all got an extended run in the first team before they were ready – although it could be argued that they were thrown into the deep end because we simply had nobody else! However, things have changed since the Pearce days, and we can no longer afford this option.

If we are serious about challenging for Champions League qualification, or dare I say, the League, we need to have the best XI on the field, regardless of age. It doesn't matter if that player is 19, like potential signing Mario Balotelli, or 34 like Uncle Pat Vieira. This is precisely why Bryan Riggs and Paul Scholes, at the combined age of 84, are still playing week-in, week-out for the Rags.

Hopefully, there will be no reason to sell or loan either player, with Hart in goals in the Europa League and Cup competitions, and Given to focus on the League. However, Hart has so far indicated that he is not prepared to sit on the bench, and another loan may be the best option for all parties.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Home and Away Kits Available to Order (Australia only)

This season's home kit is now available to pre-order, and as a result, we will be placing our own order for both the Home and Away kit.

We'd prefer PayPal, as it's just a lot easier to keep track of, but you can drop us a bank transfer if need be. To ensure that they arrive as quickly as possible — hopefully before the first match of the season — we will be placing the order as soon as the home kit is available for general purchase.

Please
ensure you know your size, and inform me of it. I can't refund or exchange, I'm sorry.

All orders must be made and paid for by midnight Friday 6 August.

The cost for the kits is listed at £45 for short sleeve, and £50 for long sleeve. Thus, they will be priced at $80 and $90 respectively, inclusive of all postage and handling.

To order a shirt, please head to the Lesson In Pride Shop.


Friday, July 30, 2010

The Sv-end of an Era

With the announcement that Javier Garrido is to join Lazio — ironically as a replacement for recent signing, Aleksandar Kolarov — the last of the eight players brought in by Sven Goran Eriksson in the 2007-08 pre-season will leave the club.

They were certainly interesting times, as the club narrowly avoided relegation the season before, and had already lost two of our better players in Joey Barton and Sylvain Distin. Before the takeover, the signs of us staying alive as a club, let alone staying in the Premier League, weren't great.

Whilst the magnitude of spending is nowhere near that of today, it was still exciting to see so many players brought into the club, even more so by the fact that most of them were unknown to the Premier League.

Garrido was the sixth player signed that window, joining the club from Real Sociedad for the knock-down fee of £1.5million. He was Sven's first-choice left back for the opening stanza, however he eventually lost his place to Michael Ball on the back of some woeful defending in a 6-0 loss to Chelsea. He scored two goals for the club, both of which came from free kicks — against Liverpool in 2008-09 and against Wolves last season.

It has been suggested that Javier was instrumental in attracting David Silva to the club, and if that is true, he was well worth the transfer fee for that alone!

Despite his limited appearances, he was nothing but a model professional, who never moaned or threw the toys out the pram when on the bench. And when he did get his chance, he took it with both hands.

A good squad player, but with Kolarov, Bridge, Lescott, Barry, and Cunningham, left-back is a place where we have a few options. I genuinely wish Javier all the best for the future.


Sven's Class of 2007
Rolando Bianchi
Sven's first signing, Bianchi joined for £8.8m from Regina. Despite scoring the team's first goal in the season opener at Upton Park, he never really took to the English game. Was loaned out to Lazio in January, and had the indignity of being sent-off five minutes into his debut. Bianchi and his neck scarf was last season playing for Torino in Italy's Serie B.

Gelson Fernandes
Didn't get many games under Sven, and less so under Hughes, where the aging Dietmar Hamann was preferred in defensive midfield. Will forever be known for scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Spain at the 2010 World Cup.

Geovanni
Geo signed as a free-agent, just days after scoring in a preseason friendly for Portsmouth. Best known for the long range effort in the 1-0 win over the Rags. However, there was always a question mark over his commitment in training, and that relegated hm to the fringes of the squad. Subsequently moved to Hull City, where he bagged their first ever Premier League goal.

Martin Petrov
One of the 2007-08 season's best players, Petrov was scintillating down left flank for the Blues. Scored the only goal in City's 1-0 win over Barcelona in a 2008-09 friendly. Between the arrival of Robinho and niggling knee injuries, Petrov struggled to secure constant game time under Mark Hughes. Moved to Bolton on a free transfer this off-season.

Vedran Corluka
Vedran, along with Garrido and Elano, was part of the famous triple-unveiling. Despite his languid style, "Charlie" was quite comfortable on the ball, and was one of the most consistent performers that season. Soon moved to Tottenham in the hours before the Abu Dhabi takeover, not before scoring a key penalty in the UEFA Cup qualifier against FC Midtjylland.

Elano
Set the Premier League alight in the first few months of the season, including that free-kick against Newcastle. However, as the weather blew colder, so did his performances. He was the player who clashed most with Mark Hughes, and as a result, was moved on at the end of the 2008-09 season — despite City having insufficient cover in the playmaker role.

Valeri Bojinov
Was injured just five minutes in to the aforementioned 2007-08 derby, and failed to return that season. Suffered an Achilles injury in warm-up in the 2008-09 seasoon opener at Aston Villa. Accrued less than an hour's game time in the two years he was at the club.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mark Hughes Unveiled as Fulham Manager

Our previous manager, Mark Hughes, has been confirmed as the new boss of Fulham. He is also allowed to bring the "Taffia" of assistant coaches, Mark Bowen, Kevin Hitchcock and Eddie Niedzwiecki.

It's a signing that works for both parties — Fulham are a club with a somewhat limited budget, but the potential to grow on the back of some thrifty transfers. This is something that Hughes was noted for in his Blackburn days at least, and in the time before the the takeover (Kompany, Zabaleta, and Wright-Phillips spring to mind. I conveniently left out Tal Ben Haim of course).

However, once he had access to the cash he went mad, overpaying quite ridiculously for players such as Joleon Lescott and Roque Santa Cruz. Which is something we should have all seen coming — here's a quote from an old Telegraph article with Garry Cook from August 2008:
"We told Mark not to come if he thought we didn't need a superstar. Mark wants to challenge himself to manage the best footballers in the world. But Mark is from the old school. He would rather overpay for the player he knows than for the player where he's relying on scouting reports. That's an endearing piece of what Mark is all about. We can't have Roque Santa Cruz, which means Mark's now back in an uncomfortable zone where he will have to bring in someone new."
Anyway, without going over old issues, it will be good to see Hughes back in the Premier League, and hopefully Fulham will "ask more questions" of their opposition, and are more "dynamic" as a result...

Hughes with his first signing at Fulham, Roque Santa Cruz? Please?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

38 Into 25 Just Won't Go — Is there room for Johnson and Ireland?

We’ve already signed Jerome Boateng, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Aleksandar Kolarov this transfer window, and we could still add a few more — names such as Mario Balotelli, James Milner, Edin Dzeko, and Fernando Torres have all been heavily linked to the club, with at least two of those transfers expected to take place.

However, chances to the rules this season state that no team can assemble a squad of more than 25 players, eight of which must either be English or Welsh, or be "home grown"— that is, they spent three seasons before the age of 21 developing at an English club. Any player under the age of 21 is exempt from being included in the squad.

As it stands currently, we have over 38 players on our books, according to the OS. Admittedly, some of these are youth players, and some will undoubtedly be loaned out to clubs in the Championship or Football Leagues.

Even with this reduction, there are still some big names that are on the cusp of making the squad or not — and some of these players were brought in for big money under Mark Hughes less than 18 months ago. Players like Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz are no certainties to make the final 25.

Bear in mind though that this 25-man squad is only in force for Premier League fixtures — any player outside of this can be named in an FA Cup or Carling Cup match. There is also a separate 25-man squad for UEFA fixtures, which may or may not include the same players as the Premier League squad.

Some tough decisions need to be made this summer, and the biggest is to cut one, or both, of Ireland and Johnson.

Stevie’s issues have been well-documented, in the media and on this very website. Mancini, and Ireland himself, has to decide whether the real Stephen Ireland is the one that we saw during that 2008-09 season, where he was by some distant our player of the year — or the one that struggled to impart himself on any match last season.

Ireland has always blown hot and cold. He is definitely capable of some sheer brilliance, such as the last-gasp volley against Reading in the 2007-08 season, or a handful of goals in his breakthrough year two seasons ago. However, unless he is played in his exact preferred position of in the hole behind the strikers, he has little to no impact on the game, and has gone missing on many occasions.

But in modern football, players have to be versatile and play different positions if the game suggests. Jerome Boateng may be a right-back or centre-half, but during the World Cup for Germany, he found himself playing left-back, where he was exemplary. Steven Gerrard often plays on the wing for England, when Lampard and Barry play in his usual position in the centre of midfield.

The fact is that Ireland is almost 24 — around the same age as James Milner and David Silva. He’s no longer a kid. On his day, he is as good, or in fact better, than either of those two players. But how often is it "his day"? City are no longer in a position where we can carry a player in the hope that he comes good.

As it stands, Ireland is my 25th player picked — but if we do sign Milner, then I’m afraid it’s time to let go of the Emerald Prince.

Michael Johnson is another City product that has been touted as "the next best thing" for City, even earning comparisons to the great Colin Bell. However, these comparisons were made when he first broke through to the first team in the 2007-08 season. Since then, he has lurched from injury to injury. He won’t be fit until December at the earliest — but even that’s an optimistic prognosis.

Johnson was perhaps a good young player for the places we wanted to go three years ago. But with hardly any first team football in that time, combined with the increase in City’s ambitions, I don’t believe that Johnson does, nor should, have a future at the club.

We all love to see academy products go on to achieve wonderful things but there comes a time when we need to accept that they just aren't going to be good enough to achieve the goals we’re aiming for.

Craig Bellamy has been linked with a move away from the club ever since Hughes was sacked, however I fully expect him to be a City player at the start of the season. Despite his brilliant performances for the club in the last 18 months, it must be remembered that he is still 31 years old, with dodgy knees and a chequered history. I can't see too many clubs paying more than £5 million for his services, nor can I see them picking up his wage bill. So why not keep him? I think he still has plenty to offer the club.

Barring any new signings, this is how I’d expect us to shape up for the upcoming season.

Goalkeepers
Shay Given
Joe Hart
Stuart Taylor

Defenders
Kolo Toure
Joleon Lescott
Jerome Boateng
Aleksandar Kolarov
Vincent Kompany
Pablo Zabaleta
Wayne Bridge/Javier Garrido
Micah Richards
Nedum Onuoha

Dedryck Boyata
Greg Cunningham

Midfielders
Yaya Toure
Gareth Barry
Nigel De Jong
Patrick Vieira
James Milner/Stephen Ireland
Abdisalam Ibrahim

Wingers
Adam Johnson
David Silva
Craig Bellamy
Robinho
Shaun Wright-Phillips
Vladimir Weiss

Strikers
Carlos Tevez
Emmanuel Adebayor
Roque Santa Cruz/Felipe Caicedo/Jo
Mario Balotelli
Alex Nimely-Tchuimeni

This means that there are no positions in the squad for: Javier Garrido, one of Felipe Caicedo, Jo or Roque Santa Cruz, Kelvin Etuhu, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland, David Gonzalez, and Shaleum Logan.

Players in grey are under 21, and therefore are exempt from the squad.
Players in blue are "home grown". There must be a minimum of eight in the squad.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mancini Unveils His Most Recent Purchase, Kolarov...

Meanwhile, Baconface is spotted outside Vermin Towers with his latest purchases — Karloff and Eristoff...

OFFICIAL: Aleksandar Kolarov signs.

What was that we said yesterday about deals dragging on? Well City go and make fools of us all, and announce that Aleksandar Kolarov will join the club from Lazio. Tentative details are here.

Roberto Mancini said:
"I first saw Kolarov in his Lazio debut back in 2007... I was impressed by the speed and strength of someone so young. He was composed on the ball had an excellent delivery with his left foot and was technically very able."

"I have watched him a lot since then and so have the Manchester City scouts. His attacking capability is very good. He is fast and can shoot with power and accuracy."

"He also has the ability to play in numerous positions and is very good in midfield. This is an additional benefit to the team. He has a fantastic international career ahead of him. I am looking forward to working with him."
This signing is an extension of our current policy of not just having back-up players, but two quality players fighting for each position. It's a long season ahead with a (hopefully) a lot of games in different competitions, so we need to have a squad strong enough to compete on all fronts. Ideally, players in our Second XI should be able to walk into most other teams in the league.

Well done to all involved!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rumoured Signings — Kolarov, Balotelli and Milner

It's been an unusual week for City in the fact that we've expected to secure a number of signings, but for one reason or another, we are yet to officially sign any of them.

In the mean-time, I've been putting off ordering the new City kit with "Balotelli 45" on the back, and I've got a cracking Photoshop starring Aleksandar Kolarov and Alex Ferguson ready to publish... and yet nothing!

So where exactly are we at currently?

Aleksandar Kolarov: £17m from Lazio
Despite being reported as a done deal in most media outlets, including the BBC, this time last week, the deal seems to have hit a bit of a snag. It has been suggested that his agent has been busy with another client, Martin Jol, in securing a possible deal with Fulham. Hopefully now that situation has been resolved, his attention returns to this transfer.

Haven't seen much of the lad play in fairness, I don't remember him having much of an impact in the Serbia v Australia match in the World Cup, although I was mostly focused on another target of ours, Milos Krasnic.

So I'm relying on YouTube for clues — and remember Georgios Samaras looked amazing on YouTube, so take it with a pinch of salt. But he reminds me a little of another Serb who played for Lazio, Sini Mihajlovic.

Kolarov gives us something that we don't currently have, an overlapping winger to give us that extra width in attack. Chelsea have Ashley Cole, the Rags have Patrice Evra, and Liverpool use Glen Johnson in this role. This also allows the central midfielders (for instance, Yaya Toure and Nigel De Jong) to drop back into a defensive four without the ball in a 4-2-3-1.

For periods last season, we seemed to have 6 in defense and 4 up-front, with no-one in central midfield. I imagine the signing of Kolarov will allow Silva or Johnson to play a little more central than they were previously.



Mario Balotelli: £20m+ from Inter Milan
Nothing I could say about the kid could be better summised than what this chap here has written. So take it away Paul:
I watch the Italian football every week, mostly on streams to be honest, but I catch the odd game on TV when I can. I always get the highlights, so take that for what you will.

Anyway, I'd swap anybody in our team for this kid. He has a terrible attitude, mainly because he was racially abused from the year dot over there so now doesn't give a fuck about Inter, and although he plays for Inter though his heart is at AC. The thing that people don't remember though, is that he has never put anybody under any false illusions. In the past, he has said that AC was his boyhood club, and while it was certainly a great honour and respect to be playing for Inter, he will always retain a special place in his heart for AC. This is where everything kicked off and got progressively worse. The Inter fans then pretty much gave him stick every time he put on a shirt, so like most teenagers, he reacted by trolling them and putting on an AC shirt in a press conference.

He's a daft kid, who has a very poor relationship with his current fan base (which to be honest is mainly his fault because he doesn't know when to shut up), he isn't Anelka who gets bored and moves on; different player, different circumstances.

Balo has the potential to be the best Italian striker for decades. If the guy was English, he'd be worth £80m.

Such an exciting player to watch, a really honest kid with a lot of fight inside of him. He refuses to be bullied by anybody though does know when to show respect to people. I can't see him having a single problem once he leaves Inter, and he is definitely the next big thing in football. He wouldn't be our Rooney, he'd be our Ronaldo.

Terrific player, and I'd love to see him here.
Whereas Robinho has spent most of his life being told just how good he is, and is therefore probably less hungry as a result — Balo is the complete opposite. His attitude comes from a desire to prove the haters wrong.

I believe once Balotelli reunites with Mancini, the manager that had so much faith in him — and of course, if we don't sing racist chants towards him every game — he'll be a much happier person, and a much better player than he already is. And he's already the best player in the world for his age.

I've never been more excited about a potential signing than I have with Mario.

James Milner: £20m+ from Aston Villa
We've courted Milner for a number of months, with our interest in the Villa midfielder reported all the way back in May. There appeared to be some negotiation between the clubs before the World Cup, with offers said to be anywhere from 20 to 30 million pounds.

After Milner and his English teammates failed to set the world alight in South Africa, news of this transfer seemed to drop off the radar.

Then amazingly, a day after Roberto Mancini declares his interest in Landon Donovan, a somewhat similar player to Milner, representatives from Villa are tripping over themselves to announce that James Milner is in fact available for sale — and the player himself has indicated his desire for a move away from Villa Park.

So we have an interesting situation on our hands where we have an unsettled player, and a manager who is keen to sell, but only at the "right price" of course. But now we are now the ones in control of this transfer — we have "hand".

I think at the £20 million quoted, Milner would be a top, top signing. He's versatile, filling in at either the right-wing or the centre of midfield, and could even drop back into defense in an emergency.

He's one of those players that does not get a lot of headlines for what he does, and therefore, a lot of people's response is: "Who? Why are we paying so much for him? He's shit". Here's just how shit he was for Aston Villa last year.
37% - James Milner either scored or assisted 19 of Aston Villa's 52 (37%) Premier League goals last season. Fulcrum (courtesy of OptaJoe on Twitter).
So... hopefully we have some concrete news about signings in the next week or so. But maybe not. As we've discovered, it's not like those deals on FIFA10 where you simply throw lots of money at the player and the club and they sign up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya?

There's a great new little app just launched on the Manchester City site - Be a Part Of It | http://bepartofit.mcfc.co.uk/fans/map

Here you can register and see where your local fans are - seems pretty cool! We'd love to see a few more Aussie faces on there, people keep coming out of the woodwork, and we're always happy to have new members.  Jump on, add your details and we'll keep an eye on it.

If anyone is coming out to Australia backpacking, then why not drop us a line while you're in town and watch a City game with us?  If there's no games on, we're always available for a few of those little beers they're so keen on out here.

So... Where the Bloody Hell are Ya?



Though it must be said, LessonInPride prefers The Chaser's version. (Not suitable for those offended by four letter words, or Germans!)

New Manchester City Away Kit Pic


Now available at the Umbro shop here.

First impressions I guess are: "is that it?". It doesn't appear in this photo, but the kit features the same mini scarf on the inside collar as the home kit, which is probably it's best feature.

It's to be worn with navy shorts, and sky blue/navy hooped socks, New South Wales-style.

It's a fantastic looking shirt, but it just doesn't say "City" to me. Won't stop me buying one though.

Here's one thing I will definitely be getting though, and that's the "Mercer" jacket. A classic design, named after one of our heroes from yesteryear.


Of course, as soon as any of these become available, you can order it from the club or even better, through us.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Well, That's One Beer I'll Never Drink Again...

Singha.

It appears that the Thai beer has done a "reverse-Tevez" and signed for Manchester United in a three-year deal. There is also mention of this on the Rag's OS (click at your own peril).

However, as of this morning, the company still appears as a sponsor on our Official Site (right down the bottom of the page). It will be interesting to see whether Singha will continue their association with City as well — considering there are still plenty of City fans that refuse to deal with Sharp, Vodafone, or AIG.

Anyone who has ever been to the stadium and sampled the lager can hopefully look forward to a new brand this season... thankfully.

EDIT FROM GAV: It should be noted that other authors of this blog who have the slightest idea about marketing will point out that it absolutely makes sense for a brand to sponsor both teams across a rivalry, just to stop such a "boycott" situation occurring.  E.g. Rangers and Celtic always have the same shirt sponsor, and there are many other similar cases.  By all means don't drink it because you may think it's pish, but that's it.  It also should be noted that the original author of this piece does indeed have a phone on Vodafone :)

Nigel De Jong... Finish Him!



Monday, July 12, 2010

Torres and Garry Cook's Financial Troubles

Now, usually I'd treat anything that 'Arry Redknapp says as being about accurate as my shooting with a Jabulani.
However, when he claims to know some inside transfer gossip, you should probably listen. (here and here)
"Manchester City could quite easily win the Premier League. If they get the players in now, they've already got the nucleus of a good team," the 63-year-old told Talksport.
"They're in for Torres - and if they end up getting him and one or two others then they can do anything.
"It's going to make it even harder to make the top four again next season, that's for definite."
Torres is a fantastic player, and would be an asset to any side in the world. At the moment, however he is looking like a shadow of his former self - if you believe that he's got the class to come back (as I do) then now might be the perfect time for Liverpool to offload him. It's very unlikely that he'd move to us, let's be honest, but the signing of his compatriot, fellow Spanish bench-warmer David Silva, might just be an incentive. That and Sheikh Mansour getting Khaldoon Al Mubarak to point his money hose in El Niño's general direction and opening the tap.

In addition, his injury in the World Cup Final UFC tag-team match between Las Tarjetas Amarillas and De Gele Kaarte have put a further twist into the tale. Who would sign an injured player? I don't think Roman Abrahmovic is quite so free and easy with his cash these days. It didn't seem to stop us signing RSC...


We at LessonInPride have been unable to confirm or deny sightings of a man matching Garrrrry Cook's description at the Manchester branch of the First Gulf Bank, frantically attempting to cancel a cheque with "at least 15 zero's on it", according to reports...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nigel De Jong v Shabby Alonso

Commiserations to Nigel De Jong and the Dutch, going down to Spain 1-0 in the World Cup final. But the midfield hardman sure left his mark on the match (and Alonso's chest no doubt...)




Funnily enough, this is remarkably similar to an incident involving City and Liverpool — Xabi Alonso's club at the time — where Martin Skrtel decided to launch an assault on Jo... however on this occasion the Liverpool defender escaped without punishment. And since that incident, Jo has been unable to play football well (although, he barely able to before-hand...)

Friday, July 9, 2010

MCFC Player Reviews: Benjani

If you haven't been keeping up with the 2009-10 Player Reviews on the Official Site, you really should. The Adam Johnson one was a great look back, and the Javi Garrido one wasn't bad either.

But I think the quality is starting to drop off... check out this one of the "Offside Smiler", Benjani...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

21 Players Who Will Be Joining City This Season (according to the press...)

Manchester City are a dream subject for journalists at the moment. It seems we're blamed for just about everything wrong in the game. Buying success, ruining the Premier League, England's failure at a major tournament, global warming... you name it.

Alternatively, every newspaper and second-rate blog fills column space by randomly picking a player from Football Manager and suggests that they're nailed-on for a move to City. Sure, we could afford any and every player we want, but the sheer amount is bordering on the ridiculous.

Here's 21 players who may (or most likely, may not) be joining the club by September 1.

Edin Dzeko
Mario Balotelli
James Milner
Fernando Torres
Yoann Gourcuff
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
David Luiz
Maicon
Mesut Ozil
Pedro Leon
Didier Drogba
Lucas Polodski
Aleksander Kolorov
Richard Wright (!)
Mikel Arteta
Kwadwo Asamoah
Gregory van der Wiel
Milos Krasic
Per Mertesacker
Giampaolo Pazzini
Landon Donovan

I have no doubt whatsoever that City will strengthen again before the season kicks off... but I'd rather sit back and let it happen than get all giddy over internet rumour.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Yaya Toure Joins the Blue Revolution

Announced on the Official Site.

Toure is more of a classical box-to-box midfielder, who is as competent in attack as he is defense — which contrasts nicely with the slightly more defensive traits of De Jong, Barry, and Vieira.

Much like David Silva, he has won trophies and played in long campaigns in which the team has had to fight on both the domestic and European fronts.

Bobby Manc had the unfortunate task of revealing yet another signing: "This is another fantastic signing for Manchester City, and I am very pleased Yaya has joined us, he is a very good player.

"Everyone knows Yaya is a player that we have admired for a long time, and we would like to welcome him to Manchester City. He has played at the top level with Barcelona and I am sure he his experience and ability will be very important for us."

I just hope he fits in quicker than he brother Kolo, who earned the nickname "Toure-ttes" among Sydney fans due to his inconsistent performances at the back...

We're definitely starting to assemble a side that can not only challenge for the top four, but dare I say it, the League as well... happy days.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Conversation With FourFourTwo

We were fortunate enough to have James Martin from FourFourTwo.com (isn't that a little bit outdated? Shouldn't they change their name to FourTwoThreeOne?) swing past Lesson In Pride, and he asked us a few questions about what's in store for City in the upcoming season.

Here's what we had to say — and you can have yours too by submitting a comment below. Do you agree with our assessment?

Hopes for the season?
This used to be "I hope we don't get relegated", although that has certainly changed in the last few years... But really for City, this is our best chance in many a year — top four and a domestic cup would be fantastic, and is more than realistic.

Fears for the season?
Losing yet again to United in injury time...

Unsung hero? (A terrace favourite who might not get that much outside recognition but who the fans really value)
Vincent Kompany barely rates a mention outside of Manchester, but he is now an integral part of the team. When he finally got his chance in the side, he proved a much better defender than both big-money transfers Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott, and kept his place in the first team when they returned from injury. He's the first defender I'd pick.

Keep an eye out for... (Emerging youngster, somebody who might finally come good)
Adam Johnson. He has gone from playing in the Championship to just missing out on the World Cup squad in the space of six months. As good on the ball as Robinho, but without the attitude.

Waste of space?
His name popped up there, Robinho — although if he knuckles down and works hard he can still play a role in this club, preferably in a role behind the strikers, rather than on the left wing.

Make a wish... (Something about your owners, who you most want to beat, ticket prices)
I think we've used up all our wishes as City fans recently!

Other fans think our club/team is...
A team full of money-grabbing mercenaries, who probably thought they were going to join Manchester United when they signed. We're "buying success", you see. Because City are the only club to have spent lots of money on a player, ever.

Others fans think our fans are...
Bandwagon-jumpers who bought their first ticket at the same time they bought their shirt with "Robinho" on the back. But it was the fans who pitched in to fly an Australian (Gordon Love) over for a game, and also funded the large "Thank you Sheikh" banner. It's still a family club.

Best away fans at your ground?
Hamburg in the UEFA Cup. But domestically, I liked Portsmouth, even if they did have that bloody drum... After the vuvuzelas in the World Cup, I don't think anyone has a right to complain about the drums and bells again!

Best away ground to visit? (Can be about pies, atmosphere, friendly stewards)
I liked Craven Cottage. A lovely stroll along the Thames takes you into a old-school football ground, and you’re not treated like a leper by the stewards.

Opposition player you secretly admire?
Peter Crouch. Despite his goal knocking us out of the battle for fourth place. A criminally underrated footballer who can win the knock downs and has a decent shot. A better option for England that Heskey was, anyway. (Honourable mention to Aruna Dindane as well...)

Your manager's popularity out of 10?
9. But it would probably be a 7 if he didn’t wear that scarf every game...

Where will you finish?
Runners-up. Behind Chelsea, and ahead of United. You heard it here first.

Can money buy success?
Can you ask that again in twelve months time? Maybe not, but we're going to enjoy trying...

Are you worried that your spending power will see you overtake Chelsea as the most hated team in the land?
No — because it already has! And to be honest, that's much better than just being "poor likkle Citeh" that everyone felt sorry for. But we're here, we're cashed up, and we've got 35 years of catching up to do...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

2010-11 Fixtures Released

Here are the Manchester City fixtures for the 20010-11 campaign. Please note that the times and dates may be subject to change, mainly due to Europa League, and of course the wishes of Sir Alex Ferguson...

This post is fluid and will be updated throughout the season, so click "Fixtures and Results 2010-11" in the Search by Category box to view the results in one click. Alternatively, select the date to be taken to the relevant match report.

Aug 14 v Tottenham Hotspur away
Aug 23 v Liverpool home
Aug 29 v Sunderland away

Sep 11 v Blackburn home
Sep 19 v Wigan Athletic away
Sep 25 v Chelsea home

Oct 03 v Newcastle United home
Oct 17 v Blackpool away
Oct 24 v Arsenal home
Oct 30 v Wolverhampton away

Nov 06 v
West Bromich Albion away
Nov 10 v Manchester United home
Nov 13 v Birmingham City home
Nov 21 v Fulham away
Nov 27 v Stoke City away

Dec 04 v Bolton home
Dec 11 v West Ham United away
Dec 18 v Everton home
Dec 26 v Newcastle United away
Dec 28 v Aston Villa home

Jan 01 v Blackpool home
Jan 04 v Arsenal away
Jan 15 v Wolverhampton home
Jan 22 v Aston Villa away

Feb 01 v Birmingham City away
Feb 05 v West Bromich Albion home
Feb 12 v Manchester United away
Feb 26 v Fulham home

Mar 05 v Wigan Athletic home
Mar 19 v Chelsea away

Apr 02 v Sunderland home
Apr 10 v Liverpool away
Apr 16 v Tottenham Hotspur home
Apr 23 v Blackburn away
Apr 30 v West Ham United home

May 07 v Everton away
May 14 v Stoke City home
May 22 v Bolton away

Daylight Savings Time in NSW begins on 3 October 2010 and ends on 3 April 2011.
Daylight Savings Time in England ends on 31 October 2010 and recommences 27 March 2011.

David Silva is a Manchester City Player...


Wow.

With most of the world's attention on the World Cup (although not really for the football — mainly dodgy goals and vuvuzelas of course), I wasn't really anticipating new signings. There has been an awful amount of rumour surrounding Yaya Toure, which would have been the more understandable announcement with Cote d'Ivoire knocked out of the tournament.

However, we have signed a player still in the tournament, and with a great opportunity to add "World Cup winner" as well as "Manchester City player" to his resume. Welcome to the club Lionel Messi David Silva.

So much about this signing makes sense. Silva is just 24, and has already played at the highest levels for club and country. He's played in the Champs League with Valencia, and was part of the Spanish side that won Euro 2008. He can play as a winger or attacking midfielder, and gives us that creativity that we were so lacking in the latter half of last season.

He's been a long term target for Chelsea and less believably, Manchester United (yeah, and where would they get the funds to buy him?!)

For mine, this is as significant the acquisitions of Robinho and Tevez. Roberto Mancini said of the signing:
"I think that David Silva is one of the best midfielders in Europe, and I hope he will be a very important (well he would say that, wouldn't he?) player for Manchester City.

"I am so pleased he is coming to us, I think he can make a big, big impact for Manchester City. In signing David, we are showing the World that we are bringing the best players here and that we hope to compete to win the Premier League. When players see what is happening at Manchester City and the ambition they are attracted to what we are building and want to be a part of it.

"I hope he does very well for Spain in the World Cup and then joins us for our pre-season, ready to compete in the Premier League. I am very excited about seeing him playing for Manchester City."
And so are we, Roberto...