Friday, 25 November 2011

City's unique College partnership.

City are just buying a 1st team. Why don't City bring through youth like United? Why would any young player want to join Manchester City?

How many times have we heard those statements in recent years? I've spoke about City's youth policy time and time again on here and in conversation along with thousands of others but they never listen. It still gets mentioned on an almost daily basis by some brainless idiot who lives their lives believing everything they read in the tabloids. However the notion that City pay no attention to their Academy becomes increasingly moot as the evidence continues to mount up.

Such evidence is the reason for this post. Manchester City have publicly announced their partnership with St Bede's College, a rather distinguished local educational establishment, which began last September. "What's the big deal?" I hear you say.

Well this new and unique partnership dramatically changes the way City's Academy works for the players in the 14-16 age group. Previously, they were taken out of their schools one day a week for training with City's coaches, as well as additional training in the evenings at Platt Lane.

Now they are all at the same school receiving a quality level of education, and get to work with City's coaches on a daily basis whilst they are there. No other club in Englsih football has developed a partnership of this kind. City's head of the Academy, Mark Allen has spoken on a number of occasions about the changes being made by City at youth level and the desire to help the boys develop into well rounded individuals both on and off the pitch. 

“It's a pre-scholarship football and education programme, and we worked in partnership with St Bede's to give the boys a timetable that gave them appropriate education for their age with access to the right number of GCSEs.

"We have married that with a full time football programme that works towards our plan to create the elite players that we want at Manchester City in the future."

One way in which this programme is benefiting the players is that they are not only getting to spend more time learning about and playing football, they are also able to spend more time with their family because they are no longer having to go back out in the evening for training. It's a more stable and structured set up for the Coaches, the players, and just as importantly, their parents.

City's U14s coach Jonathan Hill, who also spoke to, is pleased with how the boys have taken to the new set up and how they have developed.

“Integrating at the school has been good for their discipline, and that has transferred into the football.

“The boys have really got into the programme, and while daily training has been hard on them we have found that they have had very few injuries.

It’s been really positive, the boys have matured and I can already see a big difference in them.”

The fact that Hill has seen improved character and application in such a short space of time is excellent news for the club as this is almost a trial run for when City's new training complex is built. When that comes around the Academy players will be taught in-house under a similar education and training system.  

So are City only focusing on buying their 1st team? That has never been the case despite recent spending.

Why don't City bring through youth like United? They do, and the 'bring through youth' tag at United is largely a myth (as you can find in a link below).

Why would any young player want to join Manchester City? Because they putting in as much effort as, if not more for the all-round development of young players than any other club in the football league.

Other articles you might like in connection with City's Academy are;

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Thursday, 24 November 2011

    Liverpool v Manchester City

    This weekend City fans will be looking for what's described in football as 'bounce-backability' when they travel to Anfield on Sunday. Although City's European form has been very hit and miss (mainly miss), they have been powerhouses in the Premiership.

    Anfield is always a difficult place to go and pick up points, as City found out last season, however Liverpool's current form at home isn't exactly outstanding at this moment in time. Out of the 6 games played there in the league they've drawn 4 (Sunderland, Manchester United, Norwich and Swansea) and won 2 (Bolton and Wolves). Of course this means they're unbeaten at home so far but they have only picked up 10 of a possible 30 points.

    'King' Kenny will be without Steven Gerrard once again but there are now other major injury concerns for him to worry about. Last season Liverpool's fortunes took a dramatic turn for the better when Dalglish took the reigns again, and they managed to reasonably recover what was potentially a disastrous campaign. The purchase of Luis Suarez turned out to be one of the buys of the season however Andy Carroll was possibly the most overpriced lump of uselessness other than Chelsea's splurge of £50m on Torres.  

    This season has been somewhat mixed with them currently sat in 6th place having won 50% of their games so far. None of their strikers have made a fantastic start to the season either. Suarez has is their top scorer with only 4 goals to his name. Carroll and Adam share 2nd place with 2 goals each. In fact when it comes to home form, Liverpool have scored fewer than each of the top 8 teams in the league on home turf as well as Norwich and Fulham also hitting the back of the net more often.

    In contrast, City's form home and away has been, well, awe inspiring. They've won 5 and drawing 1 away from home as well as scoring 23 goals in the process. 5 of those goals coming against Spurs and 6 against United. The only down side is that City have also conceded 8 goals on their travels, only keeping 1 clean sheet against Blackburn, and although the squad has raised its game when up against bigger teams in the league this will be something Mancini will be astutely aware of and looking to rectify.

    Aguero was rested during the week, only making a 9 minute appearance from the subs bench so I would suspect he will be in the starting 11. Which one of Balotelli and Dzeko makes way for the Argentine is any one's guess, although with Mario suffering from some form of illness in the Champions League it could be him. Micah Richards, Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri are all also likely to find themselves back in the squad.

    So from what I've said so far, it may look like an easy game but that is certainly not the case. I expect a tough game at Anfield and considering we lost there last season I will be willing to take a draw as an improved result.

    Ian Cafferky: Building a sustainable club whilst keeping core values.

    Ahead of the most recent financial report from Manchester City, chief brand and commercial officer Ian Cafferky gave an interview to SportsPro. The Full interview is to be published in the December/January edition, however they have released part of the interview and it makes for some interesting reading.

    “At a very high level we see ourselves as a media entertainment company, not just a football club. Obviously there’s 800 million people watching us on television, there’s 50,000 in the stadium so you really have to understand that mechanism: you’re not just about people turning up in the stadium any more, even if your [media] rights are owned by Sky."

    Ian was appointed as chief brand and commercial officer in October 2010 after previously serving as head of strategy. His current role puts him at the head of a complex and wide ranging operation that goes from the club's sales and services department to international marketing and brand development and quite a few things in between.

    “We’re trying to build a sustainable football club for the future. Now, within that we think along multiple axes – so what’s the infrastructure required, what’s the team, who are the people required? We run ourselves along six strategic objectives over a five-year plan period. We’re trying to double our revenues approximately by 2017."

    Last season the club's annual turnover was £153.2m, up from £128.2 the previous year which in turn was up from £87m the year before that. Despite the quite obvious big steps the club has taken since Sheikh Mansour took over, doubling the current turnover is going to be no mean feat.

    However, having said that, the 2011-12 turnover is looking to be around the £218m mark, and if reports are to be believed about a re-negotiation of Umbro's contract with City, it will increase to a basic £238m the season ending 2013. Increasing beyond that may be more difficult though. Thankfully, you know everything behind the scenes is being run with the same vigor and attention to detail as what the public are openly able to see.

    "It’s quite a tightly run machine – five-year plans, one-year plans, 90 day objectives – so it’s probably not typically what I would say most sports entities are. Most probably have an inherited way of behaving; ours has definitely been driven by best practice in business. A lot of people have been hired from outside the sector so you get a real mix of people from across sports and across media – even outside of media and sports.”

    Some have said the club sold its soul when the "oil rich Arabs" to over and we became an "Arab's play thing". When I say some, I actually mean almost every single fan of teams that either felt threatened or were jealous of the fact that City could be regularly challenging for major honours in the near future.

    In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth;

    “We’ve been very careful to look at what the DNA of the club actually is and we’re building that brand story step by step rather than jumping out to the world saying, ‘This is who we are’. We’re being very clear about what has been there for a very long time and how we hold on to it. At the core of that is that it is a community club. It has been by definition for an incredibly long time; it hasn’t been a club about trophies. It’s been about people turning up and participating. This club has been living on that since zero but particularly in the last 20 or 30 years."

    Yes that last sentence is a polite way of saying we've been crap for a while but the point remains, Manchester City has always been a community club and hopefully always will be. The award winning City in the Community (CitC) Foundation is living proof that those who now run the club have worked very hard in keeping true to the ethics of the club they inherited.

    The CitC scheme was launched in 1986 and has never been stronger than it is today in helping local Manchester businesses and organisations.  

    And of course the real soul of the club is found in its fans and the club has never worked harder to involve and envelope the fans within the club;

    “The identity of the club in the eyes of the fans – which is the brand; the brand isn’t something I announce to them, this is their perception – is tightly aligned with the idea that they are a community club. The pillar right in the centre of it that keeps kids right through to adults understanding what this club is is the fact that it is alive in the city of Manchester. A lot of the stories that people tell make up the identity of the club. Part of the identity of the club is sharing those stories and storytelling.”

    And there you have it. Not quite the club that sold its soul after all, as though any Blue honestly thought that in the first place. It just confirms again that City isn't this obscenely rich entity hell bent on ruining football, but the club is now an extremely well run, forward thinking, community based club with the opinions and feelings of the fans firmly in the foreground... hell bent on ruining the established order of an elite clique that have sat safely in their own little bubble for long enough.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Wednesday, 23 November 2011

    The end of the world, apparently.

    The sky is falling, the apocalypse draws near, the end is nigh, blah blah blah. The papers were waiting for us to slip up in an important game and must have been rubbing their grubby little phone tapping hands together with glee at the thought of City not qualifying for the knock out stages. City still do have a chance of qualifying of course, but it means City must beat Bayern at the Etihad and Villarreal need at least a draw when Napoli visit.

    That oracle of insight the Daily Star even hinted at Mancini facing the sack with their headline! Absolutely laughable after the record breaking start to the Premier League season City have enjoyed. It's not as though we were played off the park either as City had more chances and the lion's share of possession. Here are the match stats.

    • Corners: Napoli 3 - 5 City
    • Shots: Napoli: 13 - 17 City
    • On Target: Napoli 5 - 8 City
    • Fouls: Napoli 10 - 11 City
    • Offsides: Napoli 1 - 2 City
    • Possession: Napoli 30% - 70% City

    We weren't exactly run off the park were we? Both sides could have scored more, but both keepers did well to keep the scores down as much as they did.

    So it wasn't our night, along with a few other nights in Europe this season, hardly an incident of apocalyptic proportions. Yes mistakes were made by a few players and many will question the team selection but what is done is done. Whether Mancini got it right or wrong, he's the one being paid to make those decisions and after what he's delivered so far I think he's earned a little slack from the media and over-excitable fans. But looking at those match stats it doesn't appear he got anything all that wrong.

    So what if City don't qualify for the knock out stages? Well I'll be disappointed, as will the squad and everyone else at the club, but I wont be decrying the team a failure and demanding the resignation of the manager in the morning.

    Lets have a little perspective here, we didn't get rinsed by some unheard of backwater team from the middle of nowhere comprised of players that make their main earnings from being butchers and plumbers. I hate to mention 'them' but look at United's group, and have they qualified yet? The self professed "World's greatest club" have struggled to get a foot hold in the easiest group in the whole competition and could still fail to qualify if they don't get a result against those Swiss 'giants' Basel, who they only managed to draw against at the swamp.

    Although the Champions League is important it is not the be all and end all. Winning it was never the priority this season. Ok we might fall short of projected achievements but so what? That's happened before and we've come back stronger and more hungry to succeed the next time.

    Keep calm and carry on.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Saturday, 19 November 2011

    City Stats: Manchester City v Newcaslte United

    Joe Hart
    • Distribution: 13/24 - 54%
    • Saves: 3/4 - 75%
    • Minutes: 90

    Micah Richards:
    • Shots: 1/1 - 1 goal - 100%
    • Passes: 47/56 - 84%
    • Interceptions: 2
    • Tackles: 3/4 - 75%
    • Minutes: 90

    Vincent Kompany
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 45/50 - 90%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 4/4 - 100%
    • Minutes: 90

    Joleon Lescott:
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 47/55 - 85%
    • Interceptions: 5
    • Tackles: 2/4 - 50%
    • Minutes: 90

    Gael Clichy
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 76/84 - 90%
    • Interceptions: 6
    • Tackles: 4/6 - 66%
    • Minutes: 90

    Nigel De Jong
    • Shots: 0/1 - 1 blocked
    • Passes: 66/70 - 94%
    • Interceptions: 3
    • Tackles: 4/5 - 80%
    • Minutes: 90

    Yaya Toure
    • Shots: 0/1
    • Passes: 60/68 - 88%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 4/4 - 100%
    • Minutes: 85

    Samir Nasri
    • Shots: 0/2 - 2 blocked
    • Passes: 58/66 - 88%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 2/2 - 100%
    • Minutes: 90

    Sergio Aguero
    • Shots: 2/3 - 1 goal - 66% - 33% goals/shots
    • Passes: 31/37 - 83%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 2/3 - 66%
    • Minutes: 76

    Mario Balotelli
    • Shots: 2/4 - 2 blocked - 1 goal - 50% - 25% goals/shots
    • Passes: 19/25 - 76
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 4/7 - 57
    • Minutes: 69

    David Silva
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 22/25 - 88
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 0
    • Minutes: 21

    Adam Johnson
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 9/11 - 81%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 2/3 - 66%
    • Minutes: 14

    Gareth Barry
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 10/11 - 91%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 1/1 - 1--%
    • Minutes: 5

    Team Stats
    • Shots: 5/14 - 7 blocked - 3 goals - 35% - 21% goals/shots
    • Passes: 564/658 - 85%
    • Interceptions: 23
    • Tackles: 34/49 - 69%
    • Possession: 64%
    • Fouls: 11
    • Corners: 4

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Friday, 18 November 2011

    Big loss, big deal?

    No doubt over the coming days many Blues will get texts, emails, tweets and messages regarding City posting a record loss of £194.9m over the 2010-11 financial year. No doubt many of those will include references to the financial fair play rules that stipulate that a club can't make more than a £38m loss over the next 3 years and that we'll be banned from European football etc etc. I'll probably get a few myself, but am I really bothered? No, not really.

    Now I'm no expert on finances but it's quite clear to me that this figure isn't anything to be overly concerned about. Why not? I'll explain why this record loss is not going to be a trend for City.  

    First of all, this is not a surprise to the hierarchy at City, they were well aware that the 2010-11 financial year was going to be the largest hit the club would take. Speaking to at the end of the 2010-11 season, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak described that we would not see spending in 2011 on the scale we saw in the summer of 2010.

    "It wont be like last summer, or the summer before. What you will see this year is strengthening the squad in areas that we feel require more depth."

    And that's exactly what happened. City purchased Pantilimon (loan), Hargreaves (free), Savic (£6m), Clichy (£7m), Nasri (£24m), and Aguero (£38m) for a combined fee of £75m.

    Compare that to the season before when City signed Boateng (£10.5m), Kolarov (£19m), Balotelli (£24m), Toure (£24m), Silva (£26m), Milner (£26m), and Dzeko (£27m) for combined fees totalling £156.5m. So City have spent less than half the amount this year, just as Khaldoon said we would.

    Graham Wallace, Manchester City chief operations officer, also stated after the announcement that "Our losses, which we predicted as part of our accelerated investment strategy, will not be repeated on this scale in the future." Once again we see that those in charge at City were fully aware and prepared for these losses before the spending was ever authorised.

    So we've looked at recent spending City have done as far as transfers go, but what about income? With regards to outgoing transfers, it's no secret that City struggled (and still are in some cases) to offload several players (on a permanent basis) that were purchased under Mark Hughes' tenure and before. Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Bridge, Bellamy and Jo are the main players in the list that Mancini has been trying to sell on since taking over, partly due to their wages eating away at the coffers while they're not part of his plans.

    Emmanuel Adebayor spent 6 months on loan at Real Madrid last season and is on loan again, this time at Spurs for the whole 2011-12 season. Miraculously the loan fee is covering the percentage of wages Spurs aren't copping for. This means we don't have to worry about him until the summer when we can hopefully get a transfer fee for him.

    Roque Santa Cruz was also on loan last season (Blackburn) and is once again on loan this season (Real Betis). As with Adebayor, we will hopefully get a transfer fee for him next June-July.

    Wayne Bridge (a.k.a the new Danny Mills) spent January onwards with West Ham and turned down a move to Celtic in the summer transfer window so he is still with us, unfortunately. I suspect that despite him clearly not getting enough game time enabling him to walk away from his contract here and find another club, he's more likely to swan about with his missus doing clothes shopping until his contract runs out.  

    Craig Bellamy spent last season with with Cardiff at City's expense as the bluebirds could only afford a fraction of his wages. Liverpool took him off our hands in the recent transfer window for, albeit on a free transfer, such was the demand for his services.  

    Jo Alves de Assis Silva, or just Jo, featured a few times last season, mainly in the Europa league and Cup games. There are many ways to describe his time at City; crap sums it up nicely. He was offloaded to Internacional for a whopping fee of absolutely nothing.

    The 'sale' of the likes of Jo and Bellamy among others are actually included in the financial report in the sum described as "additional exceptional charges". In other words, because the club let these players go for nothing they have added the players' valuations onto the loss the club has made. This total comes to £34.4m. Quite astute accounting really as for the purposes of proving to UEFA that City are working towards FFP they have actually increased their losses to make any future improvements factually greater than they would be otherwise.

    There are other players that have been sold or loaned, and I'm not talking about for development reasons, but the point is City aren't just buying and buying, they're also selling the players they don't want. I've lost count of the times I've heard someone say "City have got x number of strikers and there's not enough room in the squad blah blah."

    Yes there are now what you would class as 6 'main' strikers registered to City, but only 3 of them are even wanted. City were willing and trying to get rid of the rest throughout the summer but were unable to get what they deemed were reasonable transfer fees for them. 2 of them are now on loan with their wages covered. I'm not mentioning the other one. Obviously the transfer fees for any player will be knocked off any losses incurred in the future.

    Clearly trying to make a sustainable business model dependent on the sale of limited resources isn't going to work, so what are City doing to increase their income from other areas?

    The fans are, and will always be the main factor in the viability of any club. The more fans there are, the more tickets are sold and the more demand there is for the club to be shown on TV and since Sheikh Mansour took over, whether some fans like it or not, City's global appeal has shot through the roof for various reasons.

    It's just a fact of football, the more successful a team is the more fans it gets. The longer it stays successful the more fans will stick around if the club hits a sticky patch. There are always going to be fair weather fans who change teams depending on trophies won, just as there are fans who only support a team because of a certain player.  

    City has greatly benefited from its recent exposure resulting in more league games selling out quicker than in previous seasons (every Premier League game has sold out home and away so far this season, often several days or even a weeks in advance), as well as increased average attendance for Cup games. The increase in fans also means greater income from merchandise sales.

    TV revenue is set to be at club records due to increased numbers of matches being shown live on various channels. It's not only the league games, but now City are in the Champions League the revenue from TV deals is far far greater than without it.

    Along with ticket sales and TV revenue from league games we can also add earnings from the various competitions City are now competing in, again most notably, the Champions League. If City reach the quarter finals of the competition, the earnings before their share of domestic TV deals and gate receipts would be in the region of £15m, and would obviously increase even further if they got any further in the competition.

    All of these basic increases are likely to continue throughout the season and beyond as City now have a team that can compete for top honours in the long term.

    Of course on top of the increased ticket sales, increased TV revenue, increased merchandise sales, we also have sponsorship deals.

    I don't think I need to go into much detail regarding the Etihad deal do I? Around £40m a year for the next 10 years is being paid into the clubs coffers with this deal alone. City have also recently struck multi-million pound deals with EA sports and Mansion who now stand alongside a number of other companies such as Jaguar, Heineken/Amstel, Thomas Cook and more, as partners and sponsors. None of these new deals are represented in the 2010-11 financial year.

    The media will no doubt focus solely on the loss made by the club, which despite being record levels for any English club, isn't any more of a trend than me going out and decorating the main rooms in the house and then cutting back spending while a add the finishing touches.

    City can take great positives away from the 2010-11 financial report. The overall turnover increased by more than 20% pushing above the £150m mark for the first time. Ticket sales increased by 8% to £19.7, TV revenue by 27.4% to £68.8m, and commercial revenue by 49.7% to £48.5m.

    I'll say it once again, ALL of these figures are set to dramatically increase in the 2011-12 season. The commercial revenue alone is set to almost double with the new sponsorship deals in place. I'm not saying we'll be in the black, or even break even by the end of the current financial year. What I am saying is that the financial viability of Manchester City as a business is in very capable hands and any losses reported this time in 12 months will be vastly reduced. All City need to do is show a definite trend towards conforming to the financial fair play rules, and this is exactly what they shall be doing.

    So don't believe the hype when you hear things like "City will be worrying as to how they can comply with UEFA's financial fair play rules" as by the time the those rules actually come fully into play in the 2014-15 season, City shouldn't have any trouble at all.

    You can see a basic overview of the financial report on You will also find a link on there for the full report.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    Manchester City v Newcastle United

    Thank the lord, the international break is over and we can rest in the knowledge that no one is worse than when they left. Just as well really as City will no doubt face a tough test when the only other unbeaten side in the league visit the Etihad Stadium.

    Newcastle have shocked everyone with their early season form as they now sit 3rd in the table, just 1 point behind 2nd place Manchester United. Although you could argue that the fixtures they have won have been against teams in mid table or lower, the Arsenal team they faced was less than stellar, which then only leaves Spurs who they managed a draw against at the newly named Sports Direct Arena (or St James' Park to everyone but Mike Ashley.

    This really is their first big test away from home, so how will they approach the game against City? Alan Pardew quite rightly says there is little point in parking the bus against City as you're likely to come away with nothing. With that in mind, they're going to come and attack.

    Newcastle's organisation and consistency at the back have been a big factor so far this season, having only conceded 8 goals in 11 games. Ryan and Steven Taylor, Danny Simpson, and Fabricio Coloccini are the most consistently chosen back 4 in the league this season.

    Newcastle have quite a potent threat going forward too, in the form of Demba Ba. Ba has 8 goals to his name in the Premier league so far this season. Leon Best (3) and Ryan Taylor (2) are the next highest scorers in the league for Newcastle. So you might say they have been quite dependent on Ba so far.

    Talking of strikers, City have 2 strikers who have both scored more than Ba so far this season; Edin Dzeko (10) and Sergio Aguero (9). Funny that Dzeko has so many considering Danny Simpson labelled him as 'absolute pony' isn't it? Lets see how the 'terminally average fullback' (described by several Newcastle fans, not me) fares against him or any other City player.

    The media of course like to make something out of nothing so the De Jong - Ben Arfa 'story' has been doing the rounds. Meh, not bothered, they're both professionals so will/should just get on with it if they do meet. Personally I'd rather see Simpson put on his arse after being torn to shreds by several City players tear-arsing past him with the ball.

    City also see the return of Vincent Kompany, having served his 1 game suspension so fully expect him to take up position alongside Joleon Lescott, who has been in imperious form. They're certainly one of, if not the best centre back pairing in the Premier League at this moment in time and just exude confidence.

    As usual, no game is easy and there are no gimmes in the Premier League, but City will certainly be odds on to end the game being the only unbeaten side in the league this season.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Monday, 14 November 2011

    What a difference a summer makes.

    Last season he was almost everyone's favourite pantomime villain, hounded by the press with numerous stories fabricated to negatively impact on the public's perception of him. Even his time on the pitch saw him pick up more cards than goals, partly due to Mario and partly due to his reputation. Certain things he said in answer to interviewers were twisted and misquoted to make it sound like he wanted to move back to Italy at the drop of a hat.

    What a difference a summer makes eh? A few months into the season and he's the new media darling, no longer on the receiving end of vitriolic rants by journalists, opposition fans, and (sad to say) certain sections of City fans who were all eager for him to be shipped off back to Italy on the earliest possible flight.

    As the season started there were questions as to whether Balo would feature much for City with the signing of Aguero making him effectively 4th choice at the time. Some journalists thought he would end up causing a scene and throw a strop etc etc. but that never transpired. Instead Mancini openly praised him for his attitude in training and his patience in waiting for his chance on the pitch which instantly put him ahead of a certain other person who will not be mentioned in this article. Since that chance came in the Carling Cup against Birmingham and then as a second half substitute against Everton in the Premiership he (and the media) hasn't looked back.

    Evidence that public perception had quickly swung in his favour came when we had the bangers out of the bathroom window incident (which Mario says was his brother's friend) which was greeted with amusement rather than frustration and anger. And in true City irony, Mario was then announced as a spokesperson for firework safety! You really couldn't make it up.

    But thankfully that is the only real headline Mario has made off the pitch this season, despite a couple of lame attempts otherwise by some journalists. No, most of the headlines concerning Mario have been borne from his performances on the pitch, and rightly so as every part of his game has improved from last season.

    He has so far scored 7 goals for City in all competitions and has even scored his first goal at full international level. Not only are the goals coming thick and fast, they're quality goals. Sure there's been a few tap ins but when you look at his 1st against Manchester United, the overhead kick against Aston Villa, amongst others including his first international goal against Poland you see the kind of ability he has. Not only this, but you will not find a cooler penalty taker anywhere in the world.

    One of the people outside of football that we have to thank is his adoptive father, Franco Balotelli. The man that (along with his wife) nurtured and encouraged a young Mario through his early years of his career which started at the age of 11. Franco, talking to Gazzetta dello Sport, told us he was the first person Mario spoke to after Italy's game against Poland;
    "Mario phoned me straight after the game and his first question is always: 'How did I play, Dad?' I replied: 'This time I give you 8 out of 10. Not for the goal, but because you played for the team. Well done.'"

    And in that very short quote we see what drives Mario. He thrives on the approval of those he loves and is closest too. I don't doubt for one minute that he couldn't care less if most people think negatively of him, but that is a very different story when it comes to those closest to him and who are most important in his life.

    As for who has guided Balotelli on the pitch, we only have to look in one place, Roberto Mancini. Bobby has stuck by him through thin and thinner but Balo is now starting to repay that in a big way. In the past and indeed recently, Roberto has been labelled too austere, arrogant and autocratic in his approach to management, although I feel that may be more of a reflection on today's pampered prima donnas within football and managers that pander to their needs.

    But what does Mario think of the strict Italian?

    "Mancini is like a dad to me. Mancini wants me so I have to be one of the best in the squad, so I don't disappoint him."

    And there it is again, Mario wants to be better so he doesn't disappoint someone who has invested a lot of time and faith in him. Not quite the selfish and egotistical reprobate the media would have had us believe last season is it?

    From being a young child, Mario has loved Italy and dreamed of playing for them at international level. But at one time it may have appeared that he would never be accepted as a true Italian due to the colour of his skin. Balotelli was subjected to racist chants on several occasion by fellow Italians, most notably Juventus fans. Juventus were even forced to play matches behind closed doors because of persistent racist chanting directed towards Mario. In the particular incident that got them banned Juventus were playing Napoli at the time

    Another notable case which gives you more of a sense of what Balotelli was up against was when he was fined €7000 for "provoking" Chievo fans by clapping to them as he was substituted. Throughout the match Balotelli was subjected to racist chants and picked up what Mourinho called a "naive yellow card". Chievo Veron were never questioned regarding those chants.

    This kind of racism it quite blatantly obvious, although when he was younger he was subjected to it in a more furtive manner. In one of the very few interviews he gave whilst at Internazionale he describes; "Two things were close to my heart, like all boys at a certain age: girls and getting attention.

    "But it was like I was transparent. I'm no Clooney but I couldn't explain it why I was ignored. My friends explained. They told me people didn't like blacks."

    As a young football player, Balo had the opportunity to play for Ghana due to the nationality of his natural parents, but he considers himself to be Italian having been born in Palermo in the South of Italy. Despite his birthplace and due to Italian law ,Balotelli was denied Italian citizenship until he was 18 years old which meant that he was never picked for any of the national Italian U17 sides. Although this is nothing to do with racism it would be easy for a young boy like Mario was at the time to feel ever more rejected by the country he loves.

    After a general feeling of being invisible as a child, potential feelings of rejection from his own country as well as lingering animosity towards his natural parents who Mario feels didn't want to know him until he made it as a footballer which has also been documented, is it really any surprise that he now has a bit of an eccentric character? As much as he likes his privacy, some of the crazy things he's done in the past have perhaps unwittingly been done out of a desire just to be noticed by others.

    It appears all Mario needed was convincing he was wanted. His family have always provided that, but on a professional level it has been Mancini who has provided him with the most stability. Those City fans who stuck with him through his first season will no doubt be feeling a sense of satisfaction that their own affections for striker are being repaid. It's no secret that Mario loves the 'Balotelli Song' as he has said so on more than one occasion and as I mentioned in another article it is one of the things that has helped Mario feel more at home here.

    Despite his obvious love for Italy, perhaps unsurprisingly the same can't be said for Serie A. He has recently told the press "I don't miss Seria A at all. Zero.

    "The Premier League is beautiful, and I play for the strongest team in England. I want to remain at City. I don't see a return to play in Italy in the future."

    He did say that if conditions were right in the future such as "calm fans, and people who don't want to smash my car in the city centre" then a return to Inter may be possible at some point in the future. But Mario reiterated "For now, though, I'm not thinking about leaving England."

    Despite this sudden change in application on the pitch, I'm not sure I'd ever want Balotelli to become 'normal' like every other player as he just wouldn't be the same player City fans have become attached to. I'm not actually sure he could become like everyone else even if he wanted to.

    Balotelli almost provides a link to the 'old' or 'typical' City way of doing things. The City where you didn't know whether they were going to turn up and play their hearts out or capitulate and fall apart like a digestive biscuit dipped into a cup of tea. To some extent a lot of fans still have that typical City mentality, old habits die hard so they say. But more and more fans are growing in confidence that the boys will walk out onto the pitch and put in a shift, no matter what; win, lose or draw.

    I absolutely adore Balotelli, he's a wonderfully enigmatic character with huge talent and almost unlimited potential. Yet no matter how well he's been playing there will always be that part tucked away in the back of your mind that will suddenly awaken when you look at the team sheet or see him ready to come on that says "God I hope the right Balo has turned up."

    That's the beauty of Mario, he excites and exhilarates like no other player in the squad because he always carries that element of risk and danger. Football as a whole would be a much duller place without him. Hopefully he'll be sticking around Manchester for many years to come.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

    Wednesday, 9 November 2011

    Just when you though it was safe to look back in the papers...

    Is there something mentally wrong with Tevez? Seriously, no one can be this stupid and not have some deficiency upstairs. In case you weren't aware, it has been reported that he has gone back to Argentina without getting permission from the Club.

    Carlos was given a full three weeks to recover from the Copa America, unlike Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero who both returned early to training after City's American tour. Needless to say, when Carlos did eventually return he wasn't match fit and there was the whole "I've got an eating disorder" thing going on in the press at the time.

    There was no secret that he was overweight (for a footballer of his physical stature), and he had been so since the back end of last season. So the natural and right thing to do for City was to reintroduce Carlos gradually, and to put him on a strict training plan, which they did. That training plan has not yet been completed.

    A club spokesman informed the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail "Carlos returned from his trip to Argentina and was not match fit. The coaches therefore devised a training plan to return him to full match fitness. Carlos is part way through that plan and is due to resume training this morning (09/11/2011) at Carrington following a rest day."

    It looked as though everyone might be able to draw a line under the Munich episode, but this fresh twist in the Tevez saga comes after the player decided not to appeal his fine, which was reduced from 4 weeks to 2 weeks by Gordon Taylor of the PFA. However this is now likely to land him with yet another, and automatic 2 week fine on top of that for breaking club rules yet again.

    I can only imagine what Bobby Manc is thinking now after offering Carlos a way back into the team as yet again his and the club's efforts to help the Argentine have been thrown back into their face. But what is the reason for the sudden return to Argentina? It must be a good one, surely. Carlos wanted, and I quote, to "rest a little". The less said about that the better I think.

    I know I said Carlos had to be mental to do this, but let's not pretend that this is all his doing. Of course it isn't. Where there's Cash Cow, I mean Carlos Tevez (an honest mistake), there's always Kia Joorabchian riding coattails behind him. I suppose that description of Joorbollockchin is a little unfair, he's not just a passenger in all of this, he's more like the ring master of the Cirque du Carlos, controlling his every move in order to get maximum publicity and get what 'they' want is quick as possible.

    Make no mistake about it, this is a cu.. (stop it), a stunt designed to reduce Carlos's stock in world football even further than it already has. This in turn will allow potential suitors to be able to afford him and will force City to accept a reduced fee for a player they are desperate to get rid of.

    And who are interested in him the most? I'd have to say Corinthians, and if I was a betting man I'd put money on them releasing another statement in the next few days saying they're still interested but worried they wont be able to afford him. Just like they did after the Munich debacle.

    Carlos made no bones about wanting to return there once they showed a little interest, however Corinthians just couldn't afford the asking price, and even that was reduced for their benefit. Now however, especially if Carlos keeps up these ridiculous stunts, City are more likely to accept a knock down fee for him just to get rid of the aggro he's causing.

    Expect him to be playing in Brazil by the end of January. But do I really care where he goes? No, as long as he's not in Manchester.

    Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
    Facebook: David-Silvas-Left-Foot

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    City Stats: Queens Park Rangers v Manchester City

    Joe Hart
    • Distribution: 20/30 - 66%
    • Saves: 3/5 - 60%
    • Minutes: 90

    Micah Richards
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 23/34 - 67%
    • Interceptions: 0 
    • Tackles: 7/11 - 63%
    • Minutes: 90
    Stefan Savic
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 37/41 - 90%
    • Interceptions: 2
    • Tackles: 2/5 - 40%
    • Minutes: 90

    Joleon Lescott
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 25/30 - 83%
    • Interceptions: 2
    • Tackles: 3/3 - 100%
    • Minutes: 90
    Aleks Kolarov
    • Shots: 0/2 - 1 blocked
    • Passes: 24/39 - 1 assist - 61%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 1/1 - 100%
    • Minutes: 90
    Yaya Toure
    • Shots: 1/2 - 1 goal - 50%
    • Passes: 51/60 - 85%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 4/4 - 100%
    • Minutes: 90
    Gareth Barry
    • Shots: 0/1
    • Passes: 50/63 - 79%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 3/7 - 43%
    • Minutes: 75
    James Milner
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 29/41 - 1 assist - 70%
    • Interceptions: 2
    • Tackles: 3/4 - 75%
    • Minutes: 90
    David Silva
    • Shots: 1/3 - 33%
    • Passes: 31/38 - 81%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 1/2 - 50%
    • Minutes: 90
    Sergio Aguero
    • Shots: 1/4 - 25%
    • Passes: 10/18 - 55%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 6/9 - 66%
    • Minutes: 68
    Edin Dzeko
    • Shots: 2/4 - 1 blocked - 1 goal - 50% - 25% goals/shots
    • Passes: 26/38 - 1 assist - 68%
    • Interceptions: 2
    • Tackles: 6/9 - 66%
    • Minutes: 88
    Adam Johnson
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 6/8 - 75%
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 0
    • Minutes: 22
    Mario Balotelli
    • Shots: 0/2 - 1 blocked
    • Passes: 2/2 - 100%
    • Interceptions: 1
    • Tackles: 0
    • Minutes: 15
    Kolo Toure
    • Shots: 0
    • Passes: 0
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Tackles: 0
    • Minutes: 2

    Team Stats
    • Shots: 5/18 - 3 blocked - 3 goals - 27% - 16% goals/shots
    • Passes: 334/442 - 3 assists - 75%
    • Interceptions: 11
    • Tackles: 36/55 - 65%
    • Corners: 1
    • Fouls: 14
    • Posession: 48%