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Competition: Win A Retro Manchester City Shirt

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Howard’s Blog and Campo Retro have come together to offer all Manchester City fans around the world a fantastic opportunity to win a Man City retro shirt with any name & number on the back.

Campo Retro has a wide range of Manchester City retro shirts available. With classic shirts and track jackets ranging back from 1969 to 1999, not only that, but Campo Retro will also print any name and number that you want on the back of the shirt to make it extra special.

Man City 1999 Wembley

This competition is open to entrances from all over the world, so whether you live in Moss Side or Melbourne, you still have a great chance to win this fantastic prize.

It couldn’t be simpler to enter this competition, all you have to do is answer the simple question below and email the answer to competitions@camposports.com

‘Who famously scored the equalizing goal against Gillingham in 1999?’

It’s that Simple.

Manchester City 1996 Home

The competition closes on 5th May 2014 and the winner will be announced soon after. The winner will receive an email from Campo Retro to request information on shirt size, personalization and delivery address. All entries will also receive an exclusive discount to use at http://www.camporetro.com

GOOD LUCK!

Manchester City 2 Sunderland 2: Some Thoughts

How painful was that? For all the talk of bogey teams and teams fighting for their lives, I did not foresee significant problems with last night’s match, even less two minutes into the game. In the end, City had to scrape a draw due to a keeper howler and the title campaign appears to be on its last legs.

And so to the team-line up on a balmy sunny evening, which saw a return of Aguero and Negredo upfront and Milner in place of the semi-injured David Silva. As is always the case when we underperform against “lower” teams, the team put out was more than good enough to win the game comfortably.

One beautiful dummy by Negredo later and City gained an early lead via Fernandinho and we all sat back to enjoy a feast of football.

Which never transpired of course. Sunderland should have been level within a quarter of an hour as City laboured for virtually the rest of the match. The whole team looked jaded, the passing was always a yard out and the fight was lacking. The second half brought little improvement and it was little surprise really when Sunderland scored two quick goals. That Nasri miss at the end is another key moment in throwing this title away, but as the equalizer was rather fortunate and Sunderland had spurned good chances themselves, no one could really argue with the result.

Still, as the crowd didn’t seem arsed by the match, many not even bothering to turn up, it seems harsh to criticise the team. I’m no better so include myself in all of this, but it cannot help to have such apathy flowing down from the stands. We just expect to see the team win then go home happy it seems. Of course the players are paid rather well to do a job come-what-may.

James Milner, who I and many others would have been happy to have in the team was the poorest of the lot. He dovetails beautifully with Silva, less so without him and now with hindsight is there an argument that Navas and Milner were selected for the past two games the wrong way round? It’s easy this management lark, but City missed pace last night against a dogged deep-lying opposition. Again.
(though I presume Navas was injured? I have heard nothing about his exclusion)

What has really done for this team is that at the crucial stage of the season the team resembles a bunch of hung-over Sunday League players. The fitness of too many players has deserted them at the worst possible time and the squad depth is not sufficient to paper over the cracks. Pellegrini deserves criticism for many things, but he hasn’t had many breaks either. Losing your world-class striker for half a season does not help, and the other absentees are too many to mention. Every team has injuries of course, but City seemed to have timed theirs badly, and the resultant fall-off thus resembles your average Arsenal season.

To add to all of this, City are still over reliant on a key spine of players and seem incapable of functioning without them.

Psychology:. Manuel Pellegrini admitted after the game that the players were mentally tired after the Liverpool game. This isn’t really good enough and will predictably attract much ire from City fans. We had hoped that the defeat at Anfield would bolster a fighting spirit in the squad, whereas the opposite seems to have happened. The players must take some responsibility for this, they are paid well to overcome adversity, but Pellegrini too is responsible for firing this team up and on this occasion he failed. The accusations will continue to fly that he is “too nice” etc…
The other angle is that the team on a roll in the league and looking like clinching their first title on a generation sought help to deal with such matters. Ronnie O’ Sullivan, a man with many demons, successfully sought help from the same man. That man is the psychologist Steve Peters. No doubt many will dismiss using such avenues as lunacy, the sort of thing needed for people with serious problems, but other sports have already realised the importance of psychology and if our manager cannot fire up the players then he needs to hire staff as he would in other areas to help himself out. There is no stigma involved in hiring a psychologist, it should be the first signing of the summer. Of course the odd red-top may see it differently as Roy Hodgson found to his cost recently, but who cares?

It needs repeating, but this title challenge was essentially lost in the early months of the season, not now, when City suffered a number of away defeats as the new manager bedded in. City’s form since then has been Championship-winning form, but the early defeats have left little room for error. Chelsea on the other hand can lose at Crystal Palace and Aston Villa within a fortnight and still be in the race.

What really grates is the now daily harking back to our glorious leader Roberto Mancini. I am disappointed and down about the team’s performance last night and the week as a whole, but what is actually frustrating me more is some of our fans, not the players or manager. We all let off steam and say stupid things after a poor result and we all have the same right to an opinion. If you are a regular on social media you will be used to sifting through some ridiculous viewpoints by now, so it is hardly worth regurgitating some of them. What I cannot stay silent on though is Roberto Mancini.
The claims that Mancini would have done better this season or would have won two trophies by now or whatever is speculation that cannot be proven and has little basis in fact anyway. It is an argument that conveniently ignores last season and more to the point ignores the rather important fact that a year later some City fans still have trouble grasping – Roberto Mancini was not sacked due to results, so what he would or would not have done this season is irrelevant. And if you still pine for the Italian, do you not think it’s time to move on, because he is gone now, he isn’t coming back and our owners who put a billion pounds into the club and made all this possible did not want him at the club anymore. He will always have a place in our hearts, but what is done is done. If you are a City supporter, then support the new manager-he deserves time to bring more trophies to this club. If next season follows a similar trend then I will admit we have real problems.

There is one thing worse of course – and that is the tedious calls from a minority for Pellegrini to go now. It feels like I’ve spent the majority of the past five years defending whoever our current manager was. Looking back through the archives, I found three articles defending Mancini against the “out brigade” from his first two years in office, including this time two years ago of course. Nothing changes. There is clearly a section of our fan-base so utterly spoilt by the last few years they now think we have a divine right to win multiple trophies each season. They have learnt nothing from history and think changing the manager will fix everything, and will then start moaning once more when the new manager doesn’t start playing perfect football within six months. Anything less than capturing the big trophies is abject failure, fuelled by the media-led myth that our squad is so much better than everyone else’s and heads must roll and serious questions must now be asked.
Football thankfully doesn’t work like that. If the best team always won then no one would watch the games. I’m not trying to argue that this means criticism is not allowed, that’s ridiculous, just that the reaction when things don’t go our way is absurd from a select few. We’re no better than THEM.

The lines are too fine in football to write-off Pellegrini or do the opposite. If David Silva had finished an easy chance on Sunday or if Nasri had not missed an absolute sitter at the death last night we’d still be right in the title race. If both had scored as expected, we’d be the favourites. As Mancini might say – is football.

Now it is truly out of our hands. We need Steven Gerrard to succumb to dehydration from all his crying this week, Mourinho’s mind-games to confuse his own team so much they implode and for City to win their final 5 games. Stranger things have happened, but not many. As unlikely as it may seem (and it is unlikely), that scrambled point at home to Sunderland may prove crucial in a few weeks, as it did two seasons ago. Unfortunately, that time we were only up against one team, not two.

The Bumper Bundle of City Slurs: The Journalist Files (Part 2)

In Part two of City Slurs: The Journalist Files, it’s time to look at more recent years. City had re-educated many a journalist over the first couple of years of the Mansour reign, but there were still plenty of dissenters.

A good source was always the Sunday Supplement, a relaxed forum for croissant-eating ill-informed opinion and general prejudice. One episode in particular stands out:
(don’t click on the link, it will only give you indigestion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqjQLBuwOZk)

In it, moral arbiters and Chelsea supporters Rob “Jose’s my bessie mate” Beasley and Paul “Dracula” Smith went to town on classless City.
Smith: “£220 grand a week for Yaya Toure? . Someone must be out of their mind there. The thing is about Manchester City is…that whole structure there is an absolute load of nonsense.”
Beasley: “They’ve got so much money, but morally they are bankrupt,” said the Chelsea supporter.
Chelsea supporter Smith: “They’ve got a manager who is clearly arrogant in his ways..it’s a typical example of a club who think they can go and buy success. You wouldn’t have Mourinho, a good manager, doing this, buying left, right and centre,” added the Chelsea supporter.
“I don’t think they’ll win anything under Mancini,” added the Chelsea supporter Smith.
Chelsea supporter Beasley then added: “They’re the richest club in the world, but for me they are morally bankrupt. Any man who brings in the new manager, and sits him in the stand, while they’ve still got a manager, and any manager who agrees to that, to sit in the stands while they’ve still got a manager, knowing he’s going to be unveiled after the match, it’s just moral bankruptcy.”
“And I hope City pay the price,” said the Chelsea supporter, “I’ve used this word two or three times – about DIGNITY,” said the Chelsea supporter.
“There’s no dignity there..the posters they put up..it’s not dignified,” added Chelsea supporter Beasley.
“They’ve got loads of cash, but no class, I hope it all implodes.” added Chelsea-supporting Beasley.
“Where is the structure there?” asked Smith
“There isn’t,” says Brian Woolnough.
Beasley added (Chelsea supporter): “Hughes knows he’s up there..I mean, if that had been most people they’d have gone ‘you can stick your job’..Hughes must have been absolutely fuming…”
“Football wants Fulham to win,” added the Chelsea supporting Beasley.

Beasley was forced to apologise live on the show the next time he appeared for claiming that Roberto Mancini was in the stands during Mark Hughes’ last game as City manager. Rob skilfully worked his apology to be under 5 seconds long.

Speaking of which, there was great criticism for City’s owners at the disgraceful way they got rid of such a bright, promising young manager in Mark Hughes, who has since gone on to distinguish himself globally at various clubs. This prompted the Manchester Evening News’ Pete Spencer to ask the questions none of us were asking, the best few of which are listed below:

Pete Spencer’s 12 Questions To Garry Cook.

6: IF Mancini doesn’t do as well as Hughes – and his appointment is a huge gamble as he has never worked as a manager in this country – will he go at the end of the season? Is he really a stop-gap until there is a better chance of landing Mourinho?

7: ON reflection was it a mistake to sell Richard Dunne to aspiring rivals Villa? I accept hindsight is a great thing but his replacements have hardly been on top of their game and, while I’m on this, how close were City – truthfully – to signing John Terry?

11: YOU want City to be a brand as well as a football club don’t you? Well that brand is tarnished now so what can you do about it?

12: AND finally, the relationship that you have done so well to develop with the most important people of all, i.e. the fans, is now strained. What are you going to do to address this?

He had nothing on Michael Calvin though, who got a bit giddy after FCUM defeated Rochdale in the FA Cup.

By Michael Calvin

His Highness, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wooed the wrong noisy neighbour.
Instead of blowing £1billion on Manchester City, he should have donated £1million to FC United.
He wouldn’t have been able to shape a club owned by the fans, for the fans.
But, for a relative pittance, he would have become a folk hero.
He would have helped expose the hypocrisy of the Glazers, the unfair burden of leveraged debt.
In so doing, football’s richest man would have discovered what football is all about.
The empowerment of a community, rather than the enrichment of opportunists.
Faith, defiance, and the credibility of commitment.
Passion, unprocessed and deliciously unrefined.
Joy, rather than empty rhetoric, and massaged opinion.
You don’t need advertising copywriters and simpering apologists to make a statement of intent.
Alienated Manchester United fans did that, when they formed a football club to give a human dimension to a protest movement.
Equally, the League pyramid cannot adequately measure the difference between City and FC United.
On paper it is seven Divisions. In essence the clubs are separated by a chasm, which separates constructive outrage and graceless vulgarity.
I defy anyone to watch a re-run of FC United’s FA Cup win at Rochdale without a smile. Players were stripped to homemade Superman underpants by euphoric fans.
They cavorted for the cameras in the dressing room, and promised not to turn up for work on Monday.
Their manager was wide eyed, and about to be legless. “We’ll have a couple of sherberts, here and there” he promised.
I’ll take Karl Marginson, before Roberto Mancini, any day of the week.
The FC United boss does need a personal website that is beyond parody.“Roberto Mancini,” it croons. “The football. The class. The champion.”
Strange how it didn’t mention the cautious coach, the closet politician, and the cry baby.
Marginson used to be a milkman, reliant on boot money from the likes of Salford City and Bacup Borough.
You wouldn’t catch him posing for soft-focus photos, like a 10th-rate George Clooney.
Blue Moon Rising?
I prefer the red flares of class warriors, which illuminated Spotland’s Willbutts Lane Stand.
Money has siphoned innocence from football.
City’s purchasing power is intimidating, and intoxicating to outsiders.
I came across a caricature of a marketing executive late on Friday night.
He was worried my views would compromise his commercial relationship with Eastlands.
His type – swivel-eyed networkers who couldn’t spell the word integrity, let alone grasp its meaning – are everywhere.
I loathe what they represent, why they genuflect at the feet of the City hierarchy.
They are prepared to overlook the positive aspects of City’s problems.
Three successive defeats remind us that wealth is worthless, if used unwisely.
Briefings, and counter briefings, tell a cautionary tale of unchecked egos and unseemly ambition.
But, with apologies to the vast majority of City fans who will understand my disillusion, let’s light the bonfire of the vanities.
I hope Mancini crashes and burns.
I pray FC United realise their impossible dream, a third round tie at Old Trafford. And that someone, somewhere, has the courage to inform His Highness that he needs to act. Now!

Apropos of nothing, Mike too has his own website – check it out at michaelcalvin.com. This is ok though, as Mike has had a far more illustrious career than Roberto Mancini, as you are about to find out.
His biography reads:

Hello.

I could go all corporate on you, and describe myself as an award-winning sportswriter who developed a significant secondary career in performance management, strategic communications and socially-responsive sports programming.

But, truth be told, I’m a hack, down to my scuffed trainers. I’ve been lucky, working in more than 80 countries, watching the great, and not-so great, events of world sport.

That’s propelled me the wrong way around the planet, as a crew member on a global yacht race against prevailing winds and tides. It has pitched me into politically incorrect car rallies, around the Amazon basin and Arctic circle.

My Mum will tell you I’ve twice been named Sports Reporter of the Year, and have collected the Sportswriter and Sports Journalist of the Year award. I’ve featured at the British Press awards on seven occasions, and been honoured for my coverage of sport for the disabled.

Back to City though.

Mario Balotelli was back in the news as he grappled with manager Roberto Mancini in training. It made headline news, but no one really cared any more. Wild speculation ensued that Balotelli’s time at the club was over, and that Mancini was losing the plot. For once the speculation was right. Balotelli exited first to Milan and not surprisingly ended the year back on sale.

One Daily Mail commenter had strong views on the matter:

So the Arab ‘benefactors’ have brought shame and pity to football, an unflattering, unprofessional, nasty, pantomime, an embarrassing antics roadshow to Manchester.
Whatever words we chose, it’s just not right. Like all human endeavour, sport should earn its awards through striving, consistency and dedication over a period of time. Sugardaddy demands for immediate, unearned purchase of success, brings nothing but embarrassment, shame and yes pity to a small but once decent club like City.

Last season though, the club did something unspeakably bad. Something so appalling, so pathetic, so cowardly, that they deserved all the criticism that came their way.
What did they do I hear you ask? Change the club name? Change the kit colour? Move the stadium to a new town? No, much worse than any of that. They failed to retain their Premiership crown. Here’s what James Lawton thought of it all over at The Independent:

Has the Premier League title ever been surrendered so pathetically?

In the long and not always glorious history of football there may have been more disgracefully gutless performances than the one put in by the champions of England at Southampton on Saturday. There may also have been a more bizarre series of utterances than those which came from the mouth of the man who carried the most direct responsibility, the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, but if compelling comparisons are somewhat elusive there is one thing about which we can be certain.

It is that never before can such a miserable example of broken down professionalism, of abandoned self-respect and a total failure to deliver a sliver of value for money (the transfer value of City’s starters was approximately £206m, with substitutes James Milner, Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon representing another £48m), have provoked less in the way of red-blooded outrage.
Another truth was much easier to grasp this last weekend. It is that City have become a parody of a club who might be anywhere near taking their place at the heart of European football.

Their dismissal from the Champions League was one shocking development. The tolerance of the Mario Balotelli situation was an affront to professional standards. The reinstatement of Tevez after his Munich mutiny was another compromise to make the flesh crawl.

When Gareth Barry scored his tragi-comic own goal at Southampton he displayed the body language of a zombie. It was also a reasonable way of defining the performance of most of his team-mates. It wasn’t a defeat. It was a submission. It was a terrible statement about what happens when a team is separated from any sense that it can still achieve its most basic ambitions.
For many, it was almost entirely the fault of players grossly overpaid and seriously under-motivated…..

To be fair, he was right about that Southampton performance….

To be honest, there was something EVEN WORSE that City had done prior to that – changed the name of their new ground. As sure as night following day or a Phil Jones gurn, Ollie Holt tweeted his disgust:

There are many ways in which the current owners of Manchester City have shown class. Renaming the stadium after a sponsor isn’t one of them.

I know part of the answer is FFP but if City have got so much cash, why do they have to sell a piece of their soul for stadium naming rights?

Many City fans saying they don’t care about stadium renaming because new stadium never had an identity anyway. Sad comment on the game.

Is it acceptable then to change name of team too? Presumably all in favour of Etihad Stadium would be fine with Etihad City as name of team.

If you defile the stadium by prostituting its name, you destroy part of the experience.

I said this at the time: Last night I watched a documentary on the Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna. When Senna crashed his car and died at Imola in 1994, as the helicopter carried him away from the track, Jeremy Clarkson commented (in a rare moment of sensitivity) that it really illustrated Senna‘s soul departing. A nation mourned over a lost soul. It has never mourned over the name of a stadium or the wages of a football player.

But of course we have to leave the best to last. You all know it, you’ve all read it, you’ve all sent him an abusive e-mail. So put your hands together and give a warm welcome to the one and only Brian Reade!

Take it away Brian:

(ah f**k it, the whole lot’s going in bold)

How Barca reserve Yaya Toure was seduced by the whore of world football

I’ve read many frightening stories about footballers in the Sunday papers.

But no tale has scared me as much as the one I read in a sniffy broadsheet, last Sunday, which could have come from the business pages:

“Manchester City’s new £24m signing from Barcelona, Yaya Toure, is being paid £220,000-a-week. His initial wage of £185,000 will rise to £221,000 when the 50% tax rate comes in next April. He is due to receive £4.1m a year after tax, an image rights payment of £1.65m a year and a bonus of £823,000 each time City qualify for the Champions League and £412,000 if they win the competition. He will also get bonuses if the club win the Premier League and the FA Cup. The deal including his transfer fee, wages and bonuses, totals £79.6m.”

Holy. Mother. Of. Jesus. Where will that leave the price of everyone’s season ticket in five years time?

Even more frightening was what that report didn’t say. Toure is not actually that great. He’s not a creative genius who will get backsides off seats but a defensive midfielder who stops players who can.

He wasn’t even a regular at Barcelona, having lost his place to Sergi Busquets. He may not even get a game for City, who already have four highly-rated players to fill that role – Patrick Vieira, Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany.

And scariest of all, Toure says he only joined City because his agent “told me I had to leave Barcelona”. To add insult to injury the best he could say about his move was “it’s an honour to be playing with my brother Kolo,” before telling Barca that he’d love to go back there if they’ll have him.

If you’re a City fan, I’m guessing you’ll have no problems with the story. It’s proof the Sheikh is more determined than ever to land you the big prizes, and after all those years in United’s shade who could blame you licking your lips at the prospect.

But how do outsiders begin to describe how depressing the implications of this transfer are? I can understand luring the sought-after David Silva to Eastlands for £140,000-a-week, but giving a quarter-of-a-million quid every seven days to a defensive squad player who no other club would have touched for that kind of money and whose name won’t sell shirts, is insanity on a previously unimagined scale.

See how those figures play with Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor’s agents, or the leeway it gives Fernando Torres’s and Didier Drogba’s advisors if they decide to listen to a City offer. What do you reckon, half-a-million-a-week minimum? See how it impacts on other clubs trying to keep pace with wage demands.

See the shaking of parents’ heads when City scouts ask to let their little fella join their academy. See the disillusion on the faces of the City youngsters who won the Youth Cup two years ago.

City aren’t alone. Most Premier League clubs will invest the bulk of their summer spending abroad. They’re just the most extreme example of why England’s national side continue to fare so badly at the big tournaments.

Our clubs sent 106 players to South Africa, and the number has already soared past 110 while the contest is still on. Serie A sent 75, La Liga 57.

Spot the link with England’s woeful performances which showed the lack of quality throughout the squad. We just don’t have the players. Mainly because they’ve had their way blocked by average, over-paid foreign mercenaries.

An objective outsider would look at the obscene amount paid to seduce Toure to England, look at the country’s lamentable showing in the World Cup, and conclude we deserve our misery because we’ve become the whores of world football.

THE END

(apart from a few tweets and quotes).

Stewart Gardner – Makes a nice change for Kompany and Aguero to appear in front of a full house…

Piers Moron – And you know what @SamNasri19 ?Arteta’s a better No8 for us than you ever were. #Arsenal

Neil Ashton: City 4 United 1. Could be the day English football died after City start with ten overseas outfield players.

Oliver Holt: Ok, ok, I know City fans think I banged on too much about Mark Hughes but irrespective of that, surely you deserve better than Mancini.

Barry Glendenning’s player of the year – Kompany. “One of very few reasons that neutrals might warm to Manchester City.”

Manchester United coach Rene Meulendteen, April 2012: “Manchester City don’t have a well-balanced team. They only have individuals who play for themselves. You can see that they lack the right team spirit.”

Mark Ogden article title, April 2012: Is it all getting too much for Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini?

Pete Gill, football365.com : “City, reborn by a cash rejection from a man who has only seen them play twice in person,are a club without history.”

Ollie Holt: Aguero will be highest profile signing of summer.. still think Charlie Adam to Liverpool could be best though.

Martin Lipton: Aguero is a gamble, and the wrong man to replace Tevez.

But as Liverpool triumph over Manchester City, the last word must go to Ian Herbert at the Telegraph:
“It felt like the triumph of a development club over a spending club. Millionaires over billionaires.”

PART ONE can be found here: http://howiehok34.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/the-bumper-bundle-of-city-slurs-the-journalist-files-part-1/

Liverpool 3 Manchester City 2: Some Painful Thoughts

Ah, that horrible feeling waking up the day after an important defeat. A Monday morning and a league title slipping away. Wonderful.

I had tried my hardest to stay off the internet last week, the tidal wave of Liverpool sycophancy from the media unbearable. It barely seemed worth City turning up. My work colleague said he watched the hour leading up to the match on Sky Sports and you wouldn’t have known who Liverpool were playing. City were gate-crashers to a private party. And as much as the title may have slipped away, it grates me almost as much at missing out on stopping this avalanche of sentimental, mawkish bull****. Oh I wanted a win SO much.
(and just to make it absolutely clear, as sadly it is necessary nowadays, all the above is not an attack on Liverpool fans, but media coverage).

Eventually the day was here though, with the accompanying butterflies. This was not the title decider being portrayed by many, but it could tilt the race hugely in one team ‘s favour.
The club had done well to keep out of the media spotlight in the days preceding the match, as Brendan Rogers speed his usual pseudo-bollocks. Let the football do the talking and all that.

Unfortunately mini-hysteria erupted the day before the match as Vincent Kompany limped off the training ground. Bullets were sent in the post to Micah Richards (u r waste off space Micah please go now #gudriddance). Why do things like this never happen to the opposition?
The negative 93% of me thought this was just part of the Liverpool story that would see them sweep to glory. No injuries, everyone fit, on a roll. Meanwhile we are sweating as usual over key players. I was right.

The team line-up was announced, late, no doubt due to a coin-toss over whether Kompany played, and as it turned out he did, though the elation at this was in the end misguided, his inclusion proving decisive for all the wrong reasons. Just as decisive was the inclusion of Navas over Milner, something every fan in the land could see was risky if not outright wrong. This was not Navas’ type of game. It was certainly Milner’s. It was one of those team selections that just seemed obviously wrong.

The minute’s silence was impeccably observed, as I knew it would be. A time to remember is often tainted by the anxiety that someone will break the silence and there has been a recent trend to clap instead of remaining silent. For many occasions this is fine, but I think silence is appropriate for the anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy.
There is of course a rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool which often crosses a line. Football is also tribal and we basically hate each other for whatever spurious reasons we settle on. We portray scousers as over-sentimental souls who would lay a wreath next to a dead chicken (true story).
The Hillsborough tragedy transcends all rivalries. What happened that day should never be forgotten by any football fan. For any match-going fan over 35 or so, it could have been you or me that day. Liverpool fans’ persistent references to that day in 1989 ever since is not only acceptable but necessary, because as tragic as the day itself was, what happened afterwards is despicable beyond words and crucial to why coverage is on-going. To see your loved-ones never return from a football match (including many children) is unbearable on its own, but to then have their names smeared for years afterwards is beyond the pale. Until the reputation of every one of the 96 Liverpool fans is totally clean and the whole truth about what the authorities did thereafter, then the fight must continue. If you want to moan about the lack of coverage of Heysel or the Bradford fire then I cannot stop you, but the Hillsborough story is not just about the tragedy itself but about justice.

And so to the match. The supporters were “unleashed”, which basically meant booing every time City got the ball. How twee. This seems to have wound up a lot of City supporters, but I didn’t have a problem myself, though it all seemed a tad pointless. It was hardly intimidating, but the fans were trying to ram home the advantage of playing at Anfield, so they can do as they see fit.

All week the tactic seemed obvious – see out the first twenty minutes or so and we would be in a great position to win the match. That went well. Quite simply, City were appalling for the first half hour. The defence was all over the place, players being pulled out of position at will, the team could not keep hold of the ball and all the best-laid plans went out of the window. It was frustrating to see the team succumb to what was an obvious tactic from Liverpool (not that I have all the answers on how to combat it), and City were soon two goals down, and it could have been more. Kompany and Hart share the blame for the first goal, Kompany for the second. At a crucial time our captain had a nightmare day, making you wonder if he was fit to be on the pitch. You need runners, stamina and work-rate to combat Liverpool, not a player running on a jarred knee.

To add to the woe Yaya Toure limped off, possibly ending his season. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. In a way it could have helped us as that first half was not “his type of game” and at least Garcia could help protect the back four, but he could have had such an influence in that second half. The only question is why Milner didn’t come on then and when he did come on, why was it four minutes into the second half? Very strange.

After half-an hour I was ready to go home and hibernate until the World Cup. But City edged their way back into the game and should have reduced the deficit before the break. A blatant penalty was of course ignored by Clattenburg, Fernandinho’s weak shot was well-saved and a ball was cleared off the line.

And that trend continued into the second half. City’s first goal was the goal of the day, and whilst the equalizer was rather fortuitous, it was reward for City’s dominance. There and then, City were in control. Liverpool were as shambolic as we were at the start and control of the title race was there to be grasped.

And then…

I can always excuse a shanked clearance or an individual mistake. It happens, and it happened for City at the worst possible time. But the key moment was what should have been an easy pass to David Silva to complete a remarkable comeback and put City 20 minutes away from a glorious victory. Silva stabbed the ball wide when it seemed easier to score, not helped by an over-hit pass from Aguero and the rest is history.

Soon after City were behind to complete Kompany’s misery and sadly could not come back strongly and exert any significant pressure, though Skrtel still found time to get two players in a headlock and punch the ball away. We were never going to get a penalty.

As for Suarez, he did what he did best, which is basically cheat, dive and fake injury. If he ever signs for City I will be in a very difficult position about supporting him in a blue shirt. His dive behind Demichelis’ back was pathetic, only outdone by him writhing around on the floor, and then berating the referee, who of course was never going to hand out a second yellow card. I haven’t seen 100 replays and have seen it claimed there was contact or that he was just evading the lunging Demichelis, but for pretending he was seriously injured alone he is a cheat so deserves no sympathy. I haven’t seen a single replay of his later penalty appeal, but perhaps that was one penalty that Liverpool themselves should have had. I wasn’t sure at the time, and am not now.

With defeat though comes so many annoyances:
We all knew how Liverpool would fly out of the block, so why weren’t the team prepared?
Why allow Kompany to play if not 100%? You can’t carry players in games like this.
Why Navas over Milner?
Why is Skrtel allowed to do what he wants at corners?
Why has the Premier League’s worst diver never been booked for diving?
(maybe he has?)
How did we lose a game we were in complete control of?

But at least we know for sure that this City team has pedigree. Few teams from the past would have had the fight, skill and nous to come back into this game and take control.

The decision to bench Aguero proved correct. He did little once on and would have struggled even more from the start.

For a team that has been widely labelled as lucky we got none in the biggest game of the season. From our captain injuring himself the day before the game, to our powerhouse midfielder going off injured early on, to Aguero not being match fit, to the refereeing performance and so on.

The result opens the Pellegrini debate again. It seems only other managers are allowed transition periods, but those early away defeats always looked likely to come back and bite us on the behind. Greater criticism is directed his way for some of his team selections, one in particular this weekend. I have been happy with what Pellegrini has brought to the club, but he has been far from perfect. Let’s hope he grows with time. Many have opined that with Mourinho we would be winning the treble this season, but the argument is irrelevant. Our owners ditched Mancini and hired Pellegrini for very clear reasons that some seem still tot his day incapable of grasping and our owners who have invested over a billion in the club do not want “his sort” as the club’s figurehead. They made the club what it is, so it is their call – they are not just concerned about results.

This is what Matt Stanger over at football365.com has to say about him:
There appears to be a consensus that City will have underachieved should that prove to be the case, but I would vehemently disagree with that position.
Firstly, there has been enormous improvement across the board at the Etihad – notably in the club mounting a much more convincing league challenge than last year, winning silverware, and progressing to the knock-out rounds of the Champions League for the first time – which included beating Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the group stage. Were it not for City’s investment in the summer, it would be agreed that the club have enjoyed an excellent campaign.
However, just because City spent significant funds in the summer, it doesn’t mean we should have expected them to walk the title. It takes time to build a team and fashion a playing style – especially one so different to the previous regime – and Pellegrini has taken huge strides in this regard. When City play at their peak, there is no-one better in the Premier League, and the frequency of their top performances is only going to increase as the manager has more time with the squad.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of Pellegrini’s tenure is that the biggest problems for City – namely the lack of back-up in defence and a significant drop in quality from Sergio Aguero to Edin Dzeko – are now more apparent than ever before. With City forced to play at their attacking limits – which wasn’t always the case under Roberto Mancini – theses issue have become more obvious. The first is likely to be solved by further recruitment in the summer; while Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo will offer more variety in attack if they can remain fit for a full campaign.

Demichelis was superb. Just remember that.

And so onwards. This title race feels lost, but it far from being so. City must now just take stock and concentrate on two highly winnable home games. And pray.

Too harsh over the Liverpool love-in? Over to you Ian Herbert (Telegraph):
“It felt like the triumph of a development club over a spending club. Millionaires over billionaires.”

Football In The Bible

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Genesis

  1. In the beginning God created the Premiership and BSkyB
  2. And God said, Let there be light entertainment: and there was light entertainment.
  3. And God saw the light entertainment, that it was good: and God divided the light (Division 1) from the darkness (Divisions 2-4).
  4.  And God called the light THE PREMIER LEAGUE TM, and the darkness he called THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
  5. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, synthetic and real and also creosote markings.
  6. And God said, Let there be floodlights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night. And let them be to give light upon the pitch: and it was so. And let not Malaysian betting syndicates remove this light; but it was not always so.
  7. And God created in his own image Richard Keys and Andy Gray, though he made Richard with great hair, even on his hands.
    Andy, less so.
    For many years the two reigned in paradise, but wisdom was gained through disobedience at severe cost. And the lord saw that misogyny was their forbidden fruit and their downfall was a snake.
  8. But before all could progress, new laws were set in place for the citizens and the devils and the pensioners and the toffees and the canaries and the Geordie tribe and the Mackems from the north and the gunners and their neighbours the spurs and more.
  9. And God spoke all these words, to all, but mostly to the citizens:
  10. The Eight Commandments

  11.  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Moss Side, out of the land of debt.
  12. You shall have no other gods before me, not even David Silva.
  13. You shall not murder Sloop John B songs, even if the city is yours.
  14. You shall not commit adultery, unless you are a footballer or Russell Brand.
  15. You shall not steal, unless it’s a leverage scheme and a loose Fit & Proper test has been passed.
  16. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour by pretending they have lots of empty seats.
  17. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife unless you are Ryan Giggs, or his male or female servant unless you are Ryan Giggs, his ox or donkey unless you are Ryan Giggs, or anything that belongs to your neighbour, unless you are Ryan Giggs.

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  1. Then hear thou in heaven, and of thy people Manchester, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk (with a swagger), and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance and also as a curse. And a great plague was sent down on Manchester, and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and then another 40 days and 40 nights, and so on and so forth for all of eternity. And yet still when the rain did relent the lord said until his people that there would be a hosepipe ban. And further plagues were sent down on the people, first swarms of glory-hunters then Monday night football then Jim White.
  2. But before all this came a man with false hair to rule over the Citizens. And at first all was well and Peter (Swales) doth say this is easy, but it was not easy.
  3. The people did lose heart and rebelled, refusing to enter Maine Road and crying for a new leader who would take them back to the promised land.
  4. During these years of wandering in the wilderness, Swales’ patience was continually tested by the murmurings, grumblings, and complaints of the people. At one point, Swales’ patience reached its breaking point and he sinned against the Lord, in anger against the people, by signing Steve Daley.
  5.  When hence he did depart, their saviour arrived, but nothing was well still.
  6.  The citizens turned and took a journey into the wilderness by the way of Division 2, as the LORD spake unto them: and they compassed administration many days and many months. And the LORD spake unto them, saying, “Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”
  7.  Now rise up, and get you over the black burn. And they went over the black burn.
  8. And the space in which they came from York, until they were come over the black burn was two years;

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  1. And Jesus provided many miracles, not least the return to the Premiership. And he did feed the 5000 (Fulham (H)), yet still they did run out of chicken balti pies by half-time. And Jesus said: “I have compassion for these people: they have already been with me 90 minutes and have nothing to eat, and they have been with Stuart Pearce for three years and have no goals to see.”
  2. And Jesus expelled the money changers from the temple, accusing them of turning the temple into a den of thieves, especially those ***** at Viagogo.
  3. Thaksin was expelled into the wilderness, and he fled to the east. And all the while Sven begat Ulrika and Nancy and Faria and begat anyone who moved.
  4. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which were in Moss Side and now Beswick, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
  5.  And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Shinawatras, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Mansours, and the Sheikhs, and the snazzy F1 race, and the desert, and that appalling Michael Owen helicopter video on Youtube.
  6.  Seriously, look it up. It’s terrible.
  7. If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the Citeh which thou hast chosen, and toward the council house that I have built for thy name. And my followers will not care about defeat, both now and the previous week, because of inebriation. And that shall be OK.
  8.  And so it was noted in Leviticus (19:27): “ You shall not round off the side growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard, and to maintain the strength of your bitterness and lies your moustache should never diminish.”

rob

  1. Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at the theatre of dreams, which belongeth to Trafford, and was pitched between Manchester and Salford, in the north.
  2. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Alex, of Govan, whose height was six cubits and a span.
  3. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a nose as red as the blood of the citizens of Bethlehem;
  4. And he had by him Wayne of Rooney. And Wayne had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And this brass was as old as the hills of Mezualeb.
  5.  When Graham Poll and all referees heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. And all the men of the FA, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
  6. Now Roberto was the son of that Aldo and Marianna; and he had two sons, who he placed in the reserves. And he asked what shall be done to the man that defeateth this Philistine, and doth knock him off his perch?
  7. And the people answered him after this manner, saying, so shall it be done to the man that killeth him, thou shall be inducted by Garry Cook into the Manchester United hall of fame.
  8. And Roberto put his hand in his bag, and took thence a billion petrodollars, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.
  9.  So Roberto prevailed over the Philistine with silva and more, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of Roberto. And during this period did all witness the Exodus.
  10. And so it was only 3-1, but the crowds did depart. It was only 4-1, yet more had left. It was only 5-1, yet the empty seats were plentiful. And then it was 6-1, and the land was bare. And so it came to pass that it should have been 10. And they did thank themselves that it was not 10, and considered the good fortune of the illegitimate.
  11.  And it came to pass in the eighteenth year after the children of England were come out of the land of the football league, in the fourth year of Mansour’s reign over the Citizens, in the month May, which is the fifth month, that Roberto finished building the house of the champions*.
  12. And the City had no need of the sun, neither of the blue moon, to shine in it: for the glory of petrodollars did lighten it. And the people did say Agueroooooo. And the word of the citizens came to Roberto, saying, “Blessed are the owners, and may all their teas be chippy teas”.
  13. And the lord did say “Drink it in. Go forth and celebrate, for you will never see anything like this again.” And they did drink it in and they continued to drink it in and some are still drinking it in.
  14.  But the rejoicing did wane as a great curse returned on the team. Roberto was betrayed by one of his apostles, probably the kit-man, who did travel to the Sun and tell of his master’s tyrannical ways.
  15.  And so from a cold land came a holistic man who brought with him many goals.
  16. And the knight finally departed, not only because he was of great years and his powers had waned, but also because he transgresseth by wine. But the fear of his followers, who numbered three billion and ten, were assured not to worry, as on the mountain of Sinai in the summer of the 14th year of the millennium the chalice which no one yet knew was poisoned was passed to the chosen one: David from the town of Glasgow in the north. And they did proclaim that the legacy did live on.
  17. And so it came to pass. But they couldn’t, because they were English, so the chosen one led his followers back into the wilderness. But behold! There was great rejoicing in the west as it came to be that they now had an official drinks partner for America and Asia.
  18. And a star rose in the east, and the Lord called him Adnan. And he came from the land of Albania and the land of Belgium and the land of Kosovo and the land of the English.  And he told the Lord that he did not know from whence he had come. But the Lord and all around him saw that he shone brighter than any other star, and he guided the wise men to Bethlehem and beyond, into the realm of the cusp of the Europa Cup.
  19. Blessed is the war chest for it shall break open and restore the power of those in red. And the growth begins and it shall be organic, both through history and success, in the west and especially in the east, where their star shines brightest. And it will be so as is it is in their DNA. And the chosen one went forth once more and he proclaimed “we are back!”
  20. But then they were defeated at home to Swansea.
  21.  And David did proclaim (Psalms 3:6): “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” And he had by him the holy trinity, so all was well in the kingdom.
  22.  But more support was coming in the dark. For, lo, David did raise up the Men In Black, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.
  23. They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. And they shall force Rio Ferdinand to sign a new contract. But they shall not force Nemanja Vidic to stay as he leaves the chosen ones.
  24. And having slain some families on Wembley Way they doth proclaim: our work is done. And it had to be so, as they did not return to the land of the twin towers for a long time.
  25. Numbers
  26. But the blue tribe had become too powerful, and the other tribes doth protest at this power, which had not been earned how they wanted it to be. And thus Michel pushed for new laws, for he was angry as he had a woman’s name.
  27. And one man who protested hard was Arsene Wenger, but to no avail, as in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And the weight of Arsene’s coat was five thousand shekels of gold.
  28. The special one did also speak, and he did speak some more, then some more and the lord said to the people “please shut up this interminable bore” but the special one was not for shutting up and he doth speak some more.
  29. Jesus, crosses, blah blah…..

The Bumper Bundle of City Slurs: The Journalist Files (Part 1)

A long time ago, in a place not very far away, some wise men came from the east to transform an ailing football club. City fans couldn’t believe their luck, and thanked every fictional god for their change of fortune. Not everyone took it so well though. Rival fans were predictably none too pleased as the death-knell was rung on football as we knew it, but plenty in the media took an instant dislike to the blues too. Here’s the first part of a selection of buffoonery from Her Majesty’s press over the past 6 years. Sit back and enjoy.

All excerpts in bold are my favourite bits…..

It starts with a match report. I wouldn’t wipe my backside with the Sun newspaper (it would be impractical anyway), but this was the sort of coverage you could expect in the early days of the new regime. Neil Custis took a particular dislike to all Brazilians (the players at least)…

Neil Custis Match Report

Robinho was left on the bench and as for that waster Elano, the sooner Hughes gets him out the better. A sub once again, Elano pranced around like a pop diva as he warmed up. He even kissed a young fan on the head, causing more little ones to queue up in the hope of the same. Who on earth does he think he is? When he and fellow Brazilian Robinho saw Ireland put City ahead on 28 minutes, they just stood still and clapped. Would you really want this pair in the trenches fighting alongside you? When Robinho finally came on just past the hour mark, he responded with one weak effort on goal. Pathetic.
It is a shame he and Elano have not got the passion that Ireland displays.

Others though have spent six years praying for City to fail. Bless ‘em.

Ian Winwood, Daily Mirror

Dear Santa Claus,
Santa, my request this year is quite simple: I was wondering if it might be possible for you to ensure that Manchester City are relegated from the Premier League?
….Basically, I would like Manchester City to be relegated for the good of football itself. I have nothing against the second team in England’s third city, apart from the fact that they are the latest club to believe that the recipe for football greatness contains just one ingredient: money.
Down at the City of Manchester Stadium – the Middle Eastlands, if you prefer – there is crazy money – and with it, crazy talk. There’s mindless chatter of triumph and glory, of capturing every great football currently playing the game, just like those cartoon aliens did with basketball players in the film Space Jam.
There’s talk of £200,000 a week contracts, maybe more. It might not come to this, but you can bet your offshore holding account that Frank Lampard’s £130,000 a week at Chelsea will soon be eclipsed.
10 years ago, would you have believed that some players would be making a million pounds every eight weeks?
No? Well, what’s to say that these things won’t continue to defy belief?
I want Manchester City to be relegated simply because no one really believes that it can happen. Relegation doesn’t happen to the rich clubs, so it seems; it’s for the Stoke City’s and West Brom’s of this country.
But most of all I want City to go down because they are the just the latest bad example football is setting for a whole new generation of fans. They spread the idea that being a football fan is only about one thing, and that thing is success.
Worse still, it seems that the only thing that can buy this success is money.

United fans took a similar different viewpoint, their argument somewhat at odds with the fact that the football club they tried to deride was founded in the 19th century. They weren’t very big on irony either, as the following shows:

Rick Boardman of the band Delphic said in a interview, talking about City fans:
“They care more about us losing than winning games themselves – I just don’t get that. It could all change but I’ve got confidence in our club. And whatever happens, we’ll always have the history.”

But it’s not just about history where United dominate City of course. It’s also about the most important factor in any club’s standing in the game – global popularity. This gem appeared on manutdtalk.com in July 2009:

Man Utd are bigger than Man City ever will be.
(carefully selected excerpts)

My recent trip to Malaysia to watch Manchester United’s pre-season friendly against a Malaysian XI highlighted why this club is so great and why Man City are decades away from usurping Manchester United – and there is only a small, tiny, improbable chance of that happening.
Arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Friday morning, my mates and I bumped into fellow reds, who promptly redirected us to the Bunga Raya VIP complex. There we met Man Utd fans from all over Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Vietnam.
Fans of all ages and backgrounds were there to greet our heroes. Some waited for hours just to get a glimpse of their heroes. Luckily for me, we were late and so only had to wait a short while before seeing Giggsy and co. How many fans would turn up to greet Man City at an airport in Asia?
Does Man City even have an Asian fan cub outside of Thailand?
The next stop was to book in at our hotel and rest before heading for the training session that afternoon. An estimated 40,000 people showed up just to watch the reds train!
How many people would turn up to watch a Man City training session?!
The next day, a whopping 100,000 people showed up to see their heroes in action!
As former British colonies, there are really only two teams that matter in Malaysia and Singapore – Manchester United and Liverpool. The same pretty much applies for most of Asia.
Bitter rival fans simply cannot comprehend how deeply the love for these two clubs runs in the veins of Asian fans.
This kind of passion is built up over decades.
Fans from all over the world have been taking Manchester United to their hearts for decades. They have done so because of the swashbuckling football, because of the heroic players, because of Sir Matt Busby’s ability to turn the nightmare of Munich into the fairytale of Wembley and because of all the amazing moments in the Theatre of Dreams.
Modern day rivals like Chelsea and now Man City still have to earn that right. That honour of being truly established in the hearts of fans around the world. United has a rich history of iconic players like Best, Law, Charlton, Whiteside, Robson, Bruce, Keane, Cantona, Giggs, Scholes, Cleverley, Beckham and more recently Rooney as well as Ronaldo.
Who do Chelsea or City have?
Even if Man City have the financial clout to buy a star-studded squad like The Galacticos, it doesn’t guarantee success and it doesn’t guarantee a loyal GLOBAL fan base like United has, because United earned that fan base with its history, legendary players, attacking football and yes, clever marketing. But unlike Chelsea and now Man City, United were not bank-rolled. No, United enjoyed the fruits of their own labour and foresight.
I do not begrudge Man City fans the right to be positive about the future and I do think it’s reasonable to say that they will be challenging for honours soon, but what I take exception to is the exaggerated statements about Man City nearly being a bigger club than Manchester United.
Boys…. You are decades away from even getting close to Manchester United!
Man City supporters are simply kidding themselves if they think they are going to magically become bigger than United or even a top four club overnight.
Man City will do well to get into the top 6 this coming season and they might well challenge for honours in the near future, but please, please spare me the nonsense that you are a bigger club than Man United.
You are decades away from usurping us – and there is a very slim chance of that happening.
You do not have the players, nor do you play the kind of football that captures people’s imaginations and most of all, you cannot buy class or an identity.
The little shred of identity that Manchester City had went out the window when you decided to bend over and remain silent when Thaksin bought your club and then sold it to the Arabs.
Who are the real glory hunters?
Contrary to popular belief Manchester United built their success on good policies and good management. Man City spent £180million more than United and still were a mid-table club last season. You can buy mercenaries, but you cannot buy class.
Decades, boys. Decades….
Author: RedForceRising

(oh ok, I admit I added the Cleverley bit…)

But with things progressing nicely, there was still plenty to criticise City over, and not just off the pitch. Emmanuel Adebayor’s ASSAULT on Robin Van Persie (he could have been killed) for example made the headlines for over a week. The fall-out from his goal celebration against the same time rumbled on for even longer:

Former Met Police commander John O’Connor said: “I am sure the police will want Adebayor to be made an example of. From a police perspective, Adebayor could have been arrested and then charged with actual body harm for the incident with Van Persie. He would then have faced the prospect of standing trial in court.”

Simon Hattenstone said “If even now all he wants to do is take out his revenge with his studs and provoke crowds into riots what’s he going to be like when things go bad?”

Alex Stepney said, “I seem to remember George Best got a six-week ban in 1970 for knocking the ball out of a referee’s hands so I think Adebayor did get off lightly. These incidents are more noticeable nowadays.”

Henry Winter: “So whose emotion do you want most in football? A multi-millionaire itinerant footballer crowing in the face of erstwhile employers who nurtured him, paid him handsomely and cherished him until he was tempted away by riches elsewhere, or fans momentarily allowing their passions to run away with them in defending their club? Thursday’s decision by the Football Association not to punish Emmanuel Adebayor for inciting Arsenal supporters at Eastlands on Sept 12 is devoid of logic, defies police evidence and makes a mockery of its chief executive’s stance.
In every sense, Adebayor went too far. A one-game ban would have reminded him and his immature peers of that. It’s not difficult.”

Oliver Holt compared it to Cantona’s kung-fu moment. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s spokesman said Des had called for “an end to thuggery on football pitches” (ok, I made that one up). Alan Green said the book should be thrown at Adebayor – having admitted he hadn’t seen the incident. Stan Collymore said he should have got a 2 match ban for the goal celebration alone. Bobby Gould said that the whole affair would cost England in their bid for the World Cup.

If he’d done that in the street, etc etc……

Over at the Guardian, there was one journalist that kept providing little nuggets of gold. Step forward Paul Wilson:

“They (City) keep trying to throw squillions of pounds at marquee signings who plainly prefer staying where they are…”

“Younger players who could give City some of their best years and still have a trade-on value….that is the very blueprint United are now following, while City seem to have abandoned the notion…”

“Throwing suitcases full of bank notes at a new trickster…”

“They (United, in the transfer market) accept defeat with dignity and look elsewhere.”

“It is not United’s style to lay siege to rival clubs or try to wear down their star players with repeated offers..”

“City could learn a lesson or two in humility from their illustrious neighbours.”

“None of the top-four managers seem unduly concerned by project Eastlands…”

“City have just paid top whack for a United reject…” (Tevez)

“With Ferguson you can be pretty sure you will get one an answer. He answers questions directly – at least when in a good mood and away from the immediate stresses of the season proper. Get Fergie to chat and you are bound to end up with something interesting…”

“The first is that he (Ferguson) enjoys talking about football, and will happily deal with sensible questions instead of regarding press conferences as an unpleasant chore…”

“Fergie even has City fans hanging on his every word….”

“….the Everton chairman must realise that sooner or later City will come calling for Moyes. Being City, they will probably aim for José Mourinho first, yet top Champions League managers tend to go to top Champions League clubs and City have never kicked a ball in the Champions League.”

And then the big news began to filter through. A little nondescript club called Manchester City had bid over £100m to buy a footballer. They were going to offer him half a million pounds a week, and lots of other stuff too. The transfer amount changed during the day. It went up to £150m, back down to £120m, back up again, and so did the wages. At one point he was rumoured to be earning almost as much as a mediocre film star or a racing driver. Football was being read its final rites. This club weren’t in the Big Four. They weren’t in the epic Champions League every season, weren’t part of the G14 (R.I.P.). They didn’t even have members on the FA Board. They certainly didn’t usually feature in Sky Sports’ Special Super Grand Slam Spectacular Sunday.

So back to the Sun we go and another piece of award-winning journalism.

WHERE ARE THE A-LISTERS AT CITY?

STEVEN HOWARD

(Steven is the Sun’s CHIEF SPORTS WRITER. The crème de la crème. This guy has muscled his way to the top past quality writers like Neil Custis, or that other Custis ( the one who wanted David Beckham as England manager)).

THEY were the club who announced they intended to sign Lionel Messi, Kaka, Cesc Fabregas and Juventus keeper Gigi Buffon.
Oh, yes, and Cristiano Ronaldo was also on his way to Manchester City – in the January 2009 transfer window for £135million.
As the Manchester United fans waiting for the tram that would take them back into the city centre after the 3-0 win over Newcastle last Monday chanted: “They wanted Kaka and got Bellamy – City are a massive club.”
To date Sheikh Mansour has splashed £355m on transfer fees, including £130m in the close season alone.
Throw in £488m in wages, the £210m cost of the takeover and a further £20m capital expenditure and we’re already up to an incredible £1billion.
Kamikaze spending.
Yet City still can’t get the mega-stars. Instead, they have been forced to settle for second best. It’s David Silva not David Villa. It’s Mario Balotelli not Fernando Torres.
The same David Silva who will remember Spain’s World Cup-winning triumph in South Africa as the time he lost his place in the starting line-up.
There are also massive question marks over holding midfielder Yaya Toure (£24m) plus defenders Jerome Boateng (£10.5m) and Alexsandar Kolarov (£16m).
Yet the key to buying the title is an out-and-out goalscorer.
As Blackburn proved when they broke the British transfer record by signing Alan Shearer for £3.3m in 1992-93.
As Chelsea confirmed in 2004 when they paid a club record £24m for Didier Drogba, the hottest young striker in Europe.
City are paying through the nose for supporting cast players.
Top of the bill headliners like Messi, Kaka and Ronaldo remain as elusive as ever.

Mark Lawrenson questioned how City could be throwing obscene amounts of money in trying to sign Kaka:
“At a time when people have been left devastated by the credit crunch, football is in danger of shooting itself in the foot. It would be bad enough during a boom time, but during these tough economic times it is sick. If City do this then they will lose the sympathy and support of fans who will begin to question the morality of how someone can spend that sort of money on a player rather than build a new hospital or pay for some lifesaving medical care. People will turn round and say: ‘The world has gone mad. I’m not sure about football any more’. How would you feel if you can’t pay the bills while a player at your club is on mind-boggling money?”

Lawrenson was right. I lost count of the number of fans that came up to me in the street in 2009 and said to me, “the world has gone mad. I’m not sure about football any more.”

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor then told the world of his disapproval of City’s bid for Kaka.
“It is a bit bizarre that, in these times of credit crunch, we are talking about a club paying £100m for one player,” he said.
“One of the things we have to ask is…is football sending out the right signals given the current financial climate? Football needs to set a good example to the rest of the world, as we do with our anti-racism programmes and community projects. Football cannot be immune from the credit crunch and whilst City are an exception to the rule, the game has a duty to show financial propriety at this moment in time.”

(Apropos of nothing, Gordon Taylor is the highest paid union official in the world. Taylor earns a £1million yearly salary – five times the remuneration of the second highest-paid union official and around ten times that of the average League Two player.)

Andy Gray had an opinion, naturally.
“If Manchester City’s pursuit of Kaka suggests one thing it is that football is losing touch with the real world and the genuine supporter. Don’t get me wrong. I am excited as anyone about the prospect of seeing the Brazilian in the Premier League BUT it has to be for the right reasons and at a sensible price of £50m-£60m.”
What Andy was saying was that if City signed him for £60m, it was a sensible deal. But if City signed him for £100m, football was dead.

The time had come for Simon Hattenstone to enlighten all City fans.
“Arsène Wenger says Manchester City are not in touch with the world, that we’re destroying football and the global economy by creating inflationary pressures in deflationary times, that we lack values and have no sense of reality. How dare he?
Very easily, in fact. And any true Manchester City fan, however hungry for success, would agree with the Arsenal manager.
For years I despised Chelsea for bringing the crass loadsamoney culture to football. Now City, my life-long club, are making Chelsea look positively Shylockian. City have been a comedy club for years, but people used to laugh with us rather than at us. Not now. A billion quid a week for Kaka and it looks as if he might be coming. And he calls himself a Christian. Jesus.
Ah, but these are exciting times at City, enjoy, friends tell me, roll with it, as those Oasis boys would say. Pardon me? Being knocked out of the League Cup by Brighton, hammered in the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest and perilously close to the drop zone is exciting?
No, exciting times were doing the double over Manchester United last year, and challenging for a top-four slot for half the season with a hybrid team of homegrown kids and foreign imports. But let’s not be rose-tinted.
So to yesterday, and our Abu Dhabi saviours who announced they were going to sign up a 20-strong squad of £30m plus players as if that were a guarantee of success, and that they were going to break all records in terms of transfer fees and wages, as if that in itself was a measure of success.
I still can’t believe Kaka will sign. I don’t want to believe that one of the world’s leading footballers would stoop so low as to join us. But say he does, and just say we go on to buy up the entire Brazil squad for a few trillion quid, and they did gel, and we did win the league with the most expensive team ever assembled, would it really feel like a triumph? I hope not.”

Matt Hughes went further. By even entertaining the notion of moving to Manchester City he said the Brazilian was jeopardising his reputation as a high-class footballer consumed by chasing the biggest prizes and risks cheapening his status to that of a mere mercenary. It would be a tacit acceptance that his earning potential was more important than his achievements. It would be sad to see him effectively abandon his professional aspirations in his mid-twenties.

Strangely, such worries were absent when Real Madrid were rumoured to be paying £100m for Ronaldo, or when Chelsea themselves bid 100m euros for Kaka in 2006.
Another concern that had the nation frothing at the mouth was the sad demise of the club’s youth academy, which was definitely going to decline now, as City would never play a youth player again and the England team, which contained no City players and had had no success for over 40 years, was now going to suffer as a result.

Bobby Robson had his say (disgusted), as did Alan Shearer (dismayed), Dave Whelan (shocked), Ian Wright (outraged), Joe Royle (upset), Martin O’ Neill (quizzical), Paul Merson (confused) and of course Alex Ferguson (dismissive). In fact, Sky Sports News asked every Premiership manager for his opinion.

Gordon Waddell was furious, as shown in his article entitled “Football will die if Manchester City sign Kaka”.
“When Manchester City sign Kaka, stick it in your diary as the day the people’s game died forever. When a footballer is paid enough to keep a factory of 1000 people in wages for a week? In this economic climate?
Kaka’s good – great, even – but the Brazilian is human.
That’s why his signing has nothing to do with football.
And why it will spell the beginning of the end for a lot of punters.
I rarely wish failure on anyone but in this case I’ll make an exception. For the sake of the beautiful game.”

Kenny Burns was ill with revulsion.
“I CANNOT get my breath with all the talk of Manchester City paying more than £100m for AC Milan’s Kaka.
And paying him £500,000 a week.
The world and this country has gone completely mad. It is disgraceful, embarrassing, stomach-turning really.
This kind of money should be saved for throwing around to make star-studded teams on those computer games, not for the real world.
The owners should wake up and smell the coffee. There is a credit crunch on and the country is in meltdown.”

Martin Lipton in the Mirror was next in the queue.
“The snub could not have been more public, a bruising of Dubai pride that will take many months to ease.
But as Kaka last night effectively told Manchester City they may know the price of anything but understand the value of nothing, it may have been the best embarrassment the club will ever undergo.
And it could be the best thing that has happened to English football in years.
City were close to becoming the wealthiest laughing stock the game has ever known.
Trying to run before you’ve really learned to walk is an elementary error, the sort of mistake immature clubs with immature owners make.
City have tried to build a glittering palace before they even started to lay down the foundations.
Last night City looked what they are, jumped-up, arrogant and out of touch. But it could be the most important night of the new era – if they learn their lessons.”

And then along came “freelance journalist” Michael Henderson, to make an abject fool of himself.

“They might not be chortling in Miles Platting right now but everywhere else people are roaring. At a time of global uncertainty you can always rely on ‘Cit-eh’ to don red noses in the noble cause of cheering us all up, and they have not disappointed.
Being a laughing-stock in England was never enough for a club of such overwhelming ambition. Now, after a week of buffoonery unparalleled in the history of football, they have finally achieved the international recognition they craved for so long. Manchester’s little-regarded other team is now a laughing-stock throughout the world!
Comedians to the world! Even the great Morecambe and Wise couldn’t pull off that trick. Yet, by reducing Mark Hughes, a manager of some promise, to the rank of errand boy, endorsing a transfer policy that values Craig Bellamy at a cool 14 million smackers, and now, after the humiliation of Milan, hurling insults at one of the world’s grandest clubs, the former sportswear salesman (Cook) has won the gratitude of millions.
When the mouthpiece of a club synonymous with high-spending failure accuses Milan of lacking ‘sophistication’, it is surely time to start counting the spoons. To demean the club you represent so shamelessly in public does not merely insult Milan; it insults the game itself.
The mood may be changing because it is clear that a growing number of City fans are deeply ashamed of their club’s conduct.”

That was City told…….

To be continued…….

Manchester City 4 Southampton 1: Some Thoughts on a Game of Two Halves and a Dozing Linesman

Job done. The hardest home game remaining this season and a 3-goal victory procured, though not without difficulty and controversy. But three points was all that mattered to be honest.

A miserable day and the frustration of an early kick-off to go with it. There was little to surprise with the line-up though, except perhaps Jesus Navas once more being preferred over James Milner or even Jovetic, who seems condemned to the bench for the rest of this season.

And with the dull weather came a dull atmosphere, not helped by the underwhelming first-half performance and the time of day. I’m hardly the most vociferous of people so am not one to criticise, this is Premiership football nowadays.

City started very brightly, and helped settled the nerves with an early goal from the penalty spot. It was a penalty, but one of that are just accepted in the modern game without thought of how times have changed.
Nasri could easily have made it two and City looked in charge. But then they lost their control of the game and Southampton excelled with a wonderful exhibition of passing football that put us to shame for a while. We’ve been here before with Southampton of course, City once more struggling against a passing team that harries the City players, a worrying sign for next week at Anfield.

Thus when the equalizer came, also from the penalty spot, there could be few complaints. Though having said that, it was a rare shot on target for the visitors.

The second goal was clearly an illegal one, David Silva so far offside you wonder if the linesman was even watching the game. I must presume he did not see Dzeko’s flick-on, but clearly City got lucky and it was a good time to do so. The flick-on completely changed the direction of the ball though, so it was a bizarre one to miss.
Still, the narrative of City being lucky/buying referees blah blah can now continue unabated. The Southampton manager claimed that it changed the course of the game, whilst the ever-neutral Mark Ogden reported that City were clinging on at the time. As already mentioned it was certainly well-timed as it came close to the break, but to say it changed the course of the game is simply unprovable. We have seen time and time again insipid first-half performance from City, followed by the team turning the screw in the second half. I have little doubt that this game would have followed the same pattern with or without the goal. For all Southampton’s possession and pressure, they created few chances in either half. Away from the goals, City created all the best chances.

More to the point, City won by three goals. To claim one wrongly allowed goal has somehow handed us the game is frankly ridiculous.

And such relief to get another goal before half-time, the cross from an off-the-boil Kolarov outstanding.

And so to the second-half, where City dominated and created numerous chances, though Mark Ogden couldn’t bring himself to describe any of them in his MATCH REPORT, still fuming from the incorrectly awarded goal. Apart from one half-chance for Lambert, City were rarely threatened and should have added more than one goal to their tally.

Credit once more to Javi Garcia, who came on and once more did his job, stifling Southampton’s attacking intent and allowing City a greater foothold in the game. Like Demichelis, who only made one rash dive-in this time round, he improves like a fine wine week-by-week. Thankfully for the whingers amongst us, there is another play to direct our ire at.

Oh boy does ~Negredo need a goal. Any goal, off his arse, head, knee, it doesn’t matter. His confidence seems shot and it is baffling how much he has gone off the boil since he came back from his shoulder injury.
But for David Silva, the opposite is the case. He is simply untouchable at the moment, another magical display from the diminutive Spaniard.

Less so from his countryman Navas. I did not think he was as bad as some others have said and I felt he was much more involved and lively in the second half, like most of the team, but the lightning-fast dashes down the wing followed by a pin-point cross have been rather less frequent than I had hoped for. He is a frustrating player but still a great player and a hard worker.

Does Yaya Toure not want to play against Liverpool? His histrionics at the end of the game were bizarre and rather stupid for a player who had already been booked for a pitiful dive. He did not cover himself with glory yesterday all-in-all, though take a mean penalty.

I didn’t see clearly the first of Toure’s two penalty-area falls, but a friend who sits at that end said it was a clear penalty. Sadly Match of the Day didn’t deem it worthy of any coverage.

And so to the big one. By the time many of you have read this Liverpool will undoubtedly have defeated West Ham and the race for the title will remain as tight as ever. It may be defeatist of me, but a draw at Anfield will be no disaster.

Kudos to the Sun for putting Wayne Rooney in their team of the day, despite him not playing. Still, if you read The Sun, you get what you deserve.

A LOOK AT THE PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE RUN-IN

It’s the worst phrase in the English language (unless we consider “banter-bus”), but it appears it is squeaky bum time once more in the race for the Premier League title.

It also seems that some of the City fans’ bums have already gone past the squeaking phase, despite what was a good week for the team. Chelsea imploded for the second away match in a row, so in comparison to them the week has been overwhelmingly positive. After all, which of us City fans would not have taken four points from two tough away games? I would have bitten off your hand for that and perhaps the odd extra limb too.

The reason for negativity in some quarters is of course Liverpool, the juggernaut rolling on fuelled by their history and destiny and the Kop sucking the ball in the net and all that. City can’t compete (#sarcasm). The thing is, their week has been much, much easier. They had two home games, one against a team utterly out of form near the foot of the table and one against the most shambolic team in the league right now, a team whose league position could not be more deceptive. It is no surprise that Liverpool gained on City this week, nor is it a disaster. In fact, it could have been much worse.

Liverpool fans seem to think it’s in the bag, bravely singing about winning the league without fear of superstition/jinxes/other occult occurrences derailing their bid by predicting they may win something. City fans have been rather more negative, never wanting to express the possibility of a league title via the medium of group songs. Even when City won the league, I was horrified at the Champions scarves being proudly adorned by many outside the ground prior to the QPR game. This was a level of cockiness and bravado in fans that I had not witnessed before and I will admit – I didn’t like it. As it turned out, it was their fault we almost messed it up. Liverpool fans would do well to take this on board.

But back to the run-in. The fact is that City have got through two of their really tricky four away games remaining resulting in the situation that they will go clear at the top if they win their two highly winnable games in hand at home to Sunderland and Aston Villa. The problem is that City are always playing catch-up. Some might argue it is better to have the points on the board and what’s more, Liverpool are certainly on a roll.

But for defeat at Anfield to be really disastrous there is the assumption that Liverpool are to continue winning every game until the season-end. They are capable of this, but it would mean pulling off the longest run of consecutive victories in Premier League history, fourteen in total. If they do that, then good luck to them, they deserve the title, especially as it will include defeating their two title rivals along the way. It only takes an injury to the likes of Suarez though for the whole picture to change once more.

The bookies see things rather differently to the pessimistic minority of Citizens. City are still odds-on to win the title, with Liverpool 15/8 and remarkably Chelsea can be backed at 8/1 despite the fact that yesterday afternoon they headed the table. The most important factor of all though is that you can’t predict these things, thus making this whole article redundant. No one could have envisaged that Chelsea would sandwich a 6-0 hammering of Arsenal with defeats to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

You can over-analyse too. At the weekend I found myself considering how Crystal Palace’s victory over Chelsea was a double bonus as it could mean they are safe from relegation by the time they play City, thus meaning they may not try as hard. Likewise, if West Ham could somehow defeat Liverpool next week. By defeating Sunderland this week ,West Ham are virtually safe from relegation and thus can play with more freedom and less pressure, which by my calculations makes them 7% more likely to defeat Liverpool. When looking at City’s fixtures though, by worrying about the “big” games like Liverpool and Everton away, there is a danger of overlooking the threat posed by the aforementioned Crystal Palace or a dangerous Southampton next week.

This race to the line was fairly predictable. It was widely acknowledged at the beginning of the season that this could be a very interesting season indeed. City and United would be title-contenders once more (ahem), Spurs had spent £100m strengthening the side after the departure of Gareth Bale, Arsenal and Chelsea would fight for the title as always, whilst Liverpool and Everton would be looking to push on and challenge for the Top Four. It hasn’t panned out quite as we all probably expected, but it has certainly been a fierce fight for the title and there will be further twists – that is guaranteed.

So in conclusion, let’s take it one game at a time, try and remain calm about something over which none of us has any influence over and enjoy the ride. Simple eh?

The Bumper Bundle of City Slurs – UPDATED

The sheikhs will get bored. This was the default setting for the anti-City brigade in the early months and years of the new regime, but you may still see the odd straggler pop up every now and then with the same claim, their desperation tangible. The construction of one of the world’s premier academies has rather scuppered this argument, as has the announcement this week of the club-backed plan to build 7000 homes on wasteland near the ground.

How can City spend so much money during a recession? My personal favourite this one. Never mind that every second, City players’ wages are making the government money, every ticket sold makes the government VAT, never mind that owners from Abu Dhabi aren’t responsible for the British economy, never mind that they are regenerating a swathe of east Manchester, the bulls**t mountain peaked soon after the takeover when Mark Lawrenson commented that City’s money could be used to build hospitals, whilst Mike Calvin opined that the Sheikh should take over FCUM.

Spent a billion pounds on the team. Textbook figure-spinning here, as repeated by prize buffoon Brian Reade this week. You will have read 100 times about City’s billion pound team. It is nothing of the sort of course, as a billion pounds is the total investment in the club by the owners, including huge building projects and naturally the figure ignores income from sales and suchlike. But it’s such a nice, big, round figure for the world’s dimwits to quote.

City are the Sheikh’s “plaything”. As a kid I had a lego fire station and Subbuteo. Sheikh Mansour clearly moves on different levels. To be fair, I do recall that the rich kids at my school all owned football clubs.

The oil will run out. When it does City will be royally screwed, goes the argument. When City’s owner makes a couple of billion pounds in one afternoon from selling his shares in Barclays, the argument falls down somewhat.

City have bought success. Remember football before City came along and killed it? I particularly remember United’s band of plucky part-timers, loanees and free transfers that swept all before them in the 1990s. Simpler times. We will all be reminded of City’s buying power should Liverpool win this season’s Premier League, whilst their spending, good and bad, will be consigned to history’s dustbin.

You can’t buy success. Some argue the opposite of the above point. Yes, yes you can, as demonstrated by United and Chelsea over the past 20 years. Repeatedly breaking the transfer record suggests otherwise doesn’t it United? Paying a player £300,000 a week might not be quite successful however. Now that United have had a bad season, what will they do? Spend of course, and spend BIG.

Emptyhad. TOP BANTER KLAXON. Yep, City never sell out, apart from all those games that they have sold out, and woe betide if anyone goes to the toilet during a match as the watching nation will seize upon your naked seat in an instant. This is an argument that has transcended social media and is parroted by MEN, Guardian journalists and beyond. As news filters through that City’s ground expansion will start imminently, prepare to be bored senseless by witty comments on not selling out.

City fans are bitters and liars. As shown by the previous point, the rest of this article and the season as a whole for the team across the city, I think we can now all say with some conviction who the bitters and liars are.

Most City fans used to support Chelsea. Back to the playground we go, for a claim so puerile and stupid it’s hard to dissect. The sad thing is that the people who come out with this think they are actually being funny. Think about that for a moment. #Megalolz.

You can’t buy class. Well indeed. Can’t really argue with this. You can’t buy class such as Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, players who ooze class and humility on and off the pitch, but you can buy a striker banned for racist remarks, a defender banned for racist remarks, a compulsory cup scheme, owners leeching hundreds of millions out of the club, owners who change the colour of the home kit or the name of the team and you can buy £1000+ season tickets or Marione Fellaini. So yeah, spot on. If only City fans could demonstrate such vast reservoirs of class to fly a plane over the ground during a match calling for our manager to be sacked because we couldn’t cope with six months without success.

All City fans have moustaches. A ridiculous claim. I know at least two City fans who don’t have moustaches (hello Karen and Clara).

All City fans live in Stockport. Yet somehow we are all glory-hunters, supported Chelsea until 5 years ago and the ground is full of day-trippers, because as we all know…

Where were we when we were s**t? Nothing to say on this. Embarrassing.

City players are all mercenaries. Unlike Wayne Rooney.

City fans will ruin the minute’s silence for the 50th anniversary of the Munich tragedy.
One journalist demanded one policeman on the touchline for each City fan in the ground. Every other journalist demanded severe sanctions before the inevitable had even happened.
As the minutes’ silence was played out impeccably, Sky turned the volume up to 11, so that you could hear a tramp shouting at a pigeon in the city centre. All to no avail. The City fans refused to play ball and give the media the story they desperately wanted and then the team made things worse by winning.

With the money they’ve spent….
A favourite refrain of Barry Glendenning on the Guardian podcast, after which another guest usually posts a more balanced view after which Glendenning gets tongue-tied by his own flawed arguments.
Anyway, with the money City have spent, they should:
1) Have the league sewn up by Christmas
(subsection point: “If Ferguson or Mourinho were in charge of this team”, etc)
2) Win every trophy
3) Be a match for Barcelona et al
4) Be nurturing the future England team
5) Be able to sell out the occasional match
6) Not be playing Martin Demichelis, ever.

Ok, I’ll give them that last one*.

*not really.

Harry Potter & The Theatre of Dreams

Little Eric Remi Jesper Busby Choccy Charlton Jones lay in bed, waiting for his father to say goodnight.
A Pete Boyle CD played softly in the background, containing all his favourite terrace anthems. His Phil Jones curtains had been drawn.
“To keep the monsters away,” his dad joked as he ruffled his hair.
His bag was packed for school the next day. He had his Tom Cleverley pencil case, containing his Wayne Rooney rubber, Vidic pencil set and Van Persie fountain pen.
He snuggled up under his Ryan Giggs reversible duvet. His dad set the alarm on his Alex Ferguson clock.
“What time is it daddy?”
He looked at the clock.
“Anytime you want, son.”
“Can you read me a story please?”
“Of course I can son. Now, which one would you like? We’ve got Harry Potter and the Theatre of Dreams. Or maybe The Day Eric Cantona Saved The World. Or this one, Remi Moses: 1997 Annual ?
The little boy looked pensive for a moment.
“Harry Potter and The Theatre of Dreams please!”
“OK, son. Though I should point out for copyright reasons, there is no mention of Harry Potter or spells or Hogwarts or invisibility cloaks in this book. It’s full of magic though…”
He cleared his throat, and began……

Once upon a time, in a stadium far, far away….

The boy Potter entered the stadium, wide-eyed in amazement at the sights before him. His dad had managed to get him a ticket! They were like gold-dust, but thankfully his father had managed to get a couple off Bobby Charlton. What a nice man.
Fans hurried to their seats. Tourists took photos. Supporters threw down their pre-match noodles, thanks to Mamee, United’s official noodles partner for Asia, Oceania and the Middle East.
His dad took a long swig of the nectar-like liquid in the bottle in his hand.
“Hmm, nice,” said his dad. “The cool, refreshing taste of Singha, Manchester United’s official beer.”
“Here son, have a Mister Potato snack – they are the official savoury snack partner of Manchester United.”
“What time is it daddy?”
“It’s 3:52 and 30 seconds,” said his dad.
“That’s very precise dad!”
“I can be that precise, thanks to Bulova, United’s official timekeeping partner.” His dad shook his wrist to accentuate his shiny watch.

It was time to squeeze into their seats. Soon the game began. The passionate crowd swayed from side to side, the noise incredible. The opposition team looked petrified. It was an honour for them to be playing in this cathedral of football, but for now their only concern was repelling wave after wave of incessant attacks from the red-shirted heroes.
They couldn’t resist for long though. No one ever could.
Rio Ferdinand swept the ball majestically out of defence. It landed perfectly at the feet of Ryan Giggs. The crowd gasped in anticipation. You could hear a pin drop.
Giggsy shimmied inside, passed it to Clevs, who fizzed an inch-perfect pass to Wellsy, who back-heeled it to the rampaging “little pea”. He dinked a delightful reverse ball into the box, which was headed on by Roo. The crowd knew what was coming next.
He rose like a salmon. A manicured, tanned salmon, with gel in its gills. Some say he was on the edge of the area. Others say he was 30 yards out. Many will swear that on that fateful day, he headed the ball in from his own half.
The crowd rose as one. Cameras flashed, badges were kissed. The ball hit the back of the goal with such force that the netting was ripped from its moorings, the woodwork close to collapse.
The stadium announcer was close to tears.
“Van Persieeeeeeeee!!!!”

Two minutes later, more of the same.
Ashley Young soared beautifully, ten feet into the air, before crashing back down to earth. A triple pike. Forward roll. Reverse somersault. Full salko.
Penalty. No doubt about that.
Rooney took the ball. The opposition keeper tried to save it, but he knew it was a futile gesture. 2-0.

The crowd rose as one to salute the best-player-in-the-world-except-Messi as he milked the adoration flowing down from the capacity crowd inside this majestic theatre of football.
The ball was zipped around the pitch with a mystical majesty. The opposition players couldn’t get close. They huffed and they puffed, but all in vain. They knew they couldn’t compete with this amazing collection of players. Some of them couldn’t even see the ball, such was the speed it was moved from player to player, from flank to flank. This was how the team always played, as it was in their DNA, part of their glorious history, some other guff, blah blah.

Wayne Rooney was given offside, and he joked with the linesman’s assistant as he politely enquired as to whether he thought he had made the correct decision. The linesman’s assistant replied that he thought he had, everyone laughed and continued about their business.
The United fans sang songs for the full 90 minutes, and for many hours after too. They were songs about their proud history, and their great players, and that night in Barcelona, and none about ManchesterCity because they were irrelevant and City fans sang songs about United on the rare occasion they made a noise because they were all obsessed and liars.

The vanquished manager David Moyes walked meekly into Sir Alex’s office. A glass of Chateauneuf du Pape awaited him.
“Sorry I am late, was just doing some interviews.”
“I don’t. They disrespected me once. Get that wee drink down ya, make the day feel a bit better.”
SIR Alex laughed heartily.
Moyes took a sip.
“You were magnificent today. We were lucky to only concede eight. You’re definitely the best team I have ever seen, you will dominate the game for many years to come. I also love the way you give youth a chance and play football in the right way. You are everything that is right about football.”
“Aye, that’s kind words indeed, We try our best. I like to stick to my Socialist principles.”
“I’m just glad we only have to play you twice a season!”
Both managers laughed until their noses went purple, and agreed that United really were the best team ever…
“David, I’m sorry I had to put your fine Everton team through such an ordeal. I need a wee favour though.”
“Anything sir. Just name it.”
“You see, I want to be remembered as the best.”
“No danger of that not being the case!” exclaimed Moyes, as he looked on with awe.
“Hold on, son. I want more than the trophies. I want my achievements to be realised AFTER I leave. For them to be rammed home to everyone, week by week. I want everyone to realise just how good I was and teach a few that are still here a damn good lesson.”
“I see. And how do I come into all of this?”
“Well, it’s funny you should say that. How do you fancy a change of scenery?”

And so it began…

Little Eric had a huge smile on his face.
“That’s a great story, dad. I hope I can play for United one day!”
His father forced a smile.
“To be honest son, that shouldn’t be too difficult…”
”So what happened after that. Did the legacy live on, like the big man Eamonn Holmes said?”
“Well that’s a story for another time son. Maybe when you’re a bit older, eh?”
“Ok dad!”

The father kissed his son on his forehead and tucked him into bed. He would sleep well with his head full of tales of derring-do. As he slipped out of the room, he turned off the light. But as he went to put the book away, he felt the need to see what did happen after that.
He sat down in his favourite chair with a single malt and opened the book.

EPILOGUE

It had been a tough six months for David Moyes. Another Monday morning had drawn round and he had no intention of reading the papers after United’s gritty 1-1 draw at home to Hull City. Reluctantly he dragged himself out of bed and went downstairs. There was a solitary letter on the doormat.
He opened it tentatively. It was from Sir Alex Ferguson. His heart skipped a beat. There was no message, but simply a poem, on the finest quality paper. As he wandered, dazed, into the kitchen, he began to read.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait for three points and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look any good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream of 4th place—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think of winning a game—and not make thoughts of winning two your aim;
If you can meet with Young and Anderson
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the inspirational team-talks you’ve spoken
Twisted by the press to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your 6th place winnings
And risk it on one turn of cross-and-head,
And lose (of course), and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your losses;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your owners long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except Phil Neville who says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with dwindling crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Glazers—nor lose the common touch,
If neither City nor every other visiting team can hurt you,
If all men count the crosses with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving, depressing final minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and every sponsorship deal that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man United manager, my son!

David rested his head against the fridge door. A solitary tear rolled down his cheek and dropped to the floor.
With only the sound of the fridge buzzzing and his own heavy breath, he whispered;
“You b**ard Alex. You b***ard.”

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