With Arsenal running away with the title at this early stage of the season , the sad death of Brian Clough manager extraordinary and some weird refereeing decisions there was plenty going on. City's form was ...just typical City really. A poor home display against Everton was followed by an impressive home cup win against Barnsley after the away league win at Palace which was a must win situation. The game against Arsenal was a little disappointing given that we got nothing from it. I always had the feeling that if we had equalised Arsenal would have gone up another gear . They are way ahead of the rest of the pack at the moment.
Back in March 1954 when I was stationed with the RAF in the Hartlepool area I was a linesman in a 4-4 game between Middlesbrough and Leeds United juniors. Brian Clough would have been about 18 at the time but alas I have no recollection of him playing. At this time I used to watch Middlesbrough home games and their stars at that time were Wilf Mannion, Delapenha and Spuhler. Brian Clough didn't start playing for their first team until 1955 by which time I was enjoying the hot sunshine of Singapore.
When I checked my records I surprisingly found that I had never actually seen him play for either Middlesbrough or Sunderland on my return to the UK. His son Nigel played for City between 1996-98 but never alas never reached the heights attained by his father. Brian Clough alas only won a couple of caps for England (in 1959) but his style of management will ever remain in the memories of football supporters
I was staggered to see one game in which at a penalty kick the keeper was allowed to stand almost at the edge of the six yard box. It beggared belief. Why the referees assistant didn't flag is anyone's guess. I think sometimes they are told to flag for offside, throw-ins and dead balls and nothing else!
I hate to start these notes with yet another death but on November 9th there was the news of the sad loss of Liverpool and England favorite Emlyn Hughes from a brain tumor. He was 57 . In 1967 he signed pro forms for Blackpool and I first saw him play against City for the seasiders in Feb 1967 so it must have been one of his early games. City won 1-0 and he played at left back marking Mike Summerbee. I saw him play twice the next season by which time he had moved to Liverpool, in games at West Brom and United. He will be remembered for his infectious smile and total dedication to football.
I rarely comment on England games though over the years I have seen quite a few. However the match in Madrid against Spain must be one of the poorest efforts I have seen either live or on TV. I cannot remember when England were so outplayed from start to finish and as for the performance and behavior of Rooney ...Words fail me. He should certainly have been sent off. The referee from Greece was far too lenient and though it was supposed to be a 'friendly' he should have stamped down on some of the ugly tackles early on. Excuses are already been made for Rooney but his lack of control will be used by opposing players to get him sent off and I am sure sponsors are not going to be happy about his growing negative reputation. If this 'attitude' is part of his 'game' then God help football.
The racial baying by the Spanish home crowd aimed at SWP and Cole was disgraceful and I believe FIFA should close the Real ground for several games. This would help get the message through. Action is needed not words. English supporters can help by refusing to go to Spain on holiday.
City supporters watching the England game will be slightly heartened that an international side can pass so poorly and be so dismal creatively. The modern game in UK is so dependent on speed, workrate and accurate passing that when these fail there is no plan B . Very few players have the ability to beat a man and put through the killer pass. In their two home games this month City have failed to make and put away chances against inferior sides.
I attended the share holders meeting for the first time on the 14th of December and was surprised to find it was held in what appeared to be a long narrow indoor tent! As a latecomer I was stuck at the back and was only able to see the speakers via a video link. Fortunately the audio was OK so it was possible to follow the proceedings from the back of the 'tent'. It was an interesting morning with many questions from the audience answered honestly and openly by the manager KK and diplomatically by the chief executive
It is now unlikely that SWP will be leaving in the January sales unless an offer of over 20 million comes in and as for Anelka as we still owe Paris St Germain 6 million from the original transfer it would take an offer of over 10 million to tempt KK into letting him go despite the Frenchman's comments in a French magazine for which he has since apologized.
The City Christmas party was marred by the stupidity of Joey Barton and Tandy who have been since heavily fined by the club. Setting fire to a team mates' fancy dress can have dire consequences and although Tandy did have to go to hospital he escaped serious injury. I wonder why colleagues did not sort this out at the outset and surely someone should have been in charge. Perhaps the AGM should be held after future Christmas parties! In fact the future of Christmas parties for players must be in doubt.
On a personal note I had one of the images from the epic ballet on ice game against Spurs in December 1967 published in the December issue of the City magazine in a two page spread. I also had a couple of black and white images published in the Neil Young autobiography.
At the half way mark of the season City are just in the top half of the table and whilst the defence has improved on last season the inability to kill poor opposition off is a problem. There is too much reliance on SWP. When Shaun is on song then the outlook is bright but I think we are too predictable in attack and the lack of a left footed attacker reduces the options. Fowler is showing much better form and has improved 200% on his initial displays when he was signed. Anelka is missing too many good chances and Sibierski is often too labored and needs time to react to situations. Bosvelt has settled well in his midfield role and does his job well without being a shining star. Barton's passing is still poor and though his work rate is high with Reyna injured he lacks competition for a place in the team. The back four have done pretty well with only the odd blunder . Until his injury Jordan has been a good replacement for the injured Thatcher. Mills is still prone to yellow carding and occasionally his form has dropped below the level we expect from the ex-England defender. Dunne and Distin have generally done well in the centre of defence . Alas their odd mistake has cost us goals but I have been able to reduce the number of tablets I take before the opposition take a corner! David James has made few errors and has made quite a few good saves. A good signing after Seaman retired.
There was good news in the New Years honours list with the award of the MBE to Colin Bell one of the fnest players to have worn the sky blue shirt of Manchester City. His contributions both on and off the field earned him the affection of City supporters over many generations and all supporters will be pleased to know he has been rewarded for his efforts.
Providing he passes his medical it looks as though Kiki Musampa will be the first loan signing by Keegan in the January sales window. Kiki a left sided midfielder will be 28 in July and was born in Kinshasa, Congo. He first played for Ajax in 1995 and after three seasons went to Bordeaux for a couple of seasons before ending up at Malaga for 4 years. He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2003 and in his career has scored 35 goals in 205 games overall. His prolific years were at Malaga and both Danny Mills and Fowler will remember him from the day Malaga knocked Leeds out of the UEFA Cup back in December 2002. He has played at junior international level for Holland and could play for the Congo senior side if chosen.
With the move of Thatcher to Fulham being called off it is likely the move for Spanish International left back Juanfran will be halted. The original request by Thatcher to move to the South because of burglaries in Hale seemed a little odd . One would have thought soccer players would have been able to afford pretty good anti-theft measures.
By the time you read this the Anelka saga will have ended. The attempt by Fenerbahce to sign him for a bargain price appears to be failing as City would certainly want to clear their debts to Paris St Germain and make a bit on the side to get a replacement. 7 million pounds would be an absolute minimum transfer figure and the end of the month is rapidly approaching.
Another rumor circulating is the swap of Distin for the unsettled Bellamy at Newcastle United. If Anelka goes then this would be an interesting replacement. Would it be swapping a different kind of trouble I wonder. Bellamy would at least be pretty certain of a place in the team and his speed and aggression would be welcome.
The discussion on players doing a dive or cheating to get a penalty goes on . The blatant dive by a Bolton player the other evening and the lack of action by the FA to put a stop to it hit the headlines once again. Veteran City supporters will remember the efforts of Franny Lee who used to win regular penalty kicks. In those days there was not a same TV coverage from every angle as there is now. Referees often get the blame but they have to make a split second decision often running at speed and if a player gets in their line of view in that crucial moment its a tough decision. Managers will be unwilling to admit their players cheat so the only way forward to rid the game of this misconduct is to convict on video evidence and suspend the guilty party for two games on a first offence and double up on further offences. It would be a brave but necessary move by the Football Association and it would soon stop this increasing ugly trend in the game
It started with a home draw against Newcastle and ended with a good win at Norwich with the disappointing 'derby' game and a tough draw against Chelsea in the middle so there were mixed fortunes for City but the really bad news came at the end of the month with the blow that SWP was out for 6 weeks with a torn cartilage. No doubt it will give a chance to Croft or Flood to see if they are going to make it in the Premiership but it is a bitter blow for manager Kevin Keegan who has had his first team squad decimated by injuries.
However team spirit is excellent as I discovered down at Carrington just prior to the Norwich game. Below are a few images from the training session. Also visiting at the same time was Des Walker ex Notts Forest and England with whom I had an interesting chat. He was looking forward to some welcome sunshine in Dubai shortly. Des was there as a guest of Stuart Pearce.
Last season ended on a high with the 'new look' team under Stuart Pearce's leadership looking at last like a side capable of finishing in the top 6. KK left at just the right time to allow Stuart to show the board just what he was capable of and now we can look forward with much more optimism to next season. We will be without McManaman and Bosvelt who have not been retained but on the plus side Kiki Musampa has had his loan extended for 12 months.. Who will be bought to partner Fowler upfront now that Macken has been sold to Palace is guesswork at the moment. There has been plenty of newspaper talk but nothing definite.
Last season summary
David James 7.8 - made very few major errors and helped to form a solid defence.
Danny Mills 6.2 - a little flakey at times. His distribution often left much to be desired.
Nedum Onuoha 7.6 - has made an impressive start to his City career despite being out of position at right back
Richard Dunne 8.5 - has improved a great deal. Made the odd error but generally brilliant in defence.
Sylvain Distin 7.6 - pretty consistant throughout the season.
Ben Thatcher 7.1 - had a couple of spells out through injury and lost his place to Jordan but fairly consistant.
Stephen Jordan 7.2- took his chance well and gained a lot of experience.
Claudio Reyna 7.6 - came back strongly after his injury.
Shaun Wright-Phillips 8.6 - was City's most influential player for most of season - took time to return to form after injury
Lee Croft 7.4 - only had limited opportunities but shone when used.
Antoine Sibierski 7.2 - had a mixed season. Shoud have scored more goals
Joey Barton 7.6 - ran his socks off in midfield and passing has improved -a bit.
Kiki Musampa 7.4 - rapid improvement as he got used to the pace of the Premieship.Expecting better next season
Robbie Fowler 7.6 - improved dramatically as the season progressed as fitness improved. Shame about the penalty
Bradley Wright-Phillips 7 - only had short cameo substitute spells - very enthusiastic-- will improve
Bosvelt 7.3 - often an unasuming rock in midfield . He will be missed.
Jon Macken- 6.5.- very rarely shone - sometimes linked well but rarely finished.
Nicholas Annelka 8 - I wonder what he would have been like under Pearce. Now just some Turkish delight!
decision of UEFA not to allow City to sneak into Europe next season after Liverpool's
Champions win is a bit disappointing but with Pearce at the helm we now have the
crew to sail in next season.