Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Abdul Razak

It's great to see players from your club play their part in their national sides, and these days City have more than they used to. But however good it is to see Balotelli ripping apart a German defence or Silva picking up another winner's medal I would assume we're all thinking something along a similar lines while they're on international duty; "Please don't get injured".

Unfortunately that's just what happened to Barry and Richards, and although Balotelli and Silva are unscathed, they're highly likely to miss the season opener against Chelsea in the Community Shield and maybe even the first game against Southampton.

As City have had so many returning late to pre-season it has forced the club to basically have 2 training camps, those that didn't go to the Euros and those that did.

But what could have been seen as a negative by some, is undoubtedly a huge positive for others. Because there have been 2 camps, it has given a large number of young players to train and play alongside the players they one day hope to oust from the 1st team.

As you would expect, some players featured more than others. Denis Suarez (17), George Evans (17), and Marco Lopes (16) were amongst the most used but none more so than Abdul Razak (19) who was a key feature in the majority of games.

Razak has featured for City 5 times in the past with 2 Premier League appearances as a substitute and 3 in the League Cup (2 starts). The 19 year old Ivorian came to City as a technically gifted and strong attacking midfielder. However, since gaining his City debut against West Brom early in 2011 when he came on as a late substitute he has been used deeper in midfield.

Of all the positions at City, the average age of players in the heart of midfield (29 y/o) is significantly more than those in other positions (GK 25 - RB 25.5 - LB 26.5 - CB 26 - AM 25.5 - FW 24.75) and with Gareth Barry being only the 2nd player in the squad who is actually over 30 years old (Kolo Toure being the other), it is obviously him, or more correctly his position, that will need to be filled first should all players remain at the club due to the physical exertion needed to play in this position.

We've seen that Mancini isn't shy on playing players in new positions if he feels that they have the right attributes to do so, the prime example being Yaya Toure who came as a defensive midfielder but is now really known as a driving force in attack as well as a linchpin in the centre of the park.

In many ways, barring the physical stature, Razak is very much like a young Toure (who was an attacking midfielder/striker in his youth) and he has often been described as 'the new Yaya' because of this and his nationality. Although he has got a long way to go, it isn't outside the realm of possibility as Toure was described as being "completely average" during his trial with Arsene Wenger at the same age Razak is now. 

That's not to say Razak is 'completely average' of course, but as with every young player there are areas of his game that need improvement. His overall fitness needed to improve from last season, if you recall his starts for City he had cramp in both games while playing in a holding midfield role. It's difficult to judge whether he's managed this because the games during pre-season aren't any where near as physically demanding as they are during competitive tournaments.

The other area was his close range passing, which was often just a little lackadaisical, leaving the receiving player more work to do than they should have to get the ball as an opposing player threatened to pounce on a poorly-hit ball. This has quite noticeably improved as pre-season has progressed no doubt due to the strict and high standards Mancini sets his players during training. Work still needs to be done though.

Due to Barry's recent operation it is likely we will see Razak during the early weeks of the season. Although he will still have De Jong in front of him in the pecking order, he is unlikely to get a better opportunity to prove his worth as a member of the squad and he needs to grab it with both hands.

I would usually suggest he goes out on loan to gain that first team experience, but not this season. The 'Barclays U21 Premier League' starts this season which (fingers crossed) will provide a higher level of competition than the old reserve league and will give Razak and others the chance to impress amongst players of the same or similar age at Clubs with the best academies in the country.

The Premier U21 League also gives a player the opportunity to be included in the 1st team match-day squad and the U21 squad, fitness permitted, in the same weekend. I would like to see much more of that kind of thing this coming season even if it's just one young player on the bench at a time and with Lombardo's close relationship with Mancini I have my fingers crossed that there will be an increase collaboration between the EDS and 1st team.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Is Lombardo the right man for the EDS?

For those that like to follow the reserve and academy set up at City, you'll probably be aware that Andy Welsh is no longer in charge of the EDS set up. The news was greeted with approval, even from a player who has recently left the club, such was the standard of coaching during Welsh's tenure at the club.

Although the confirmation of a permanent post hasn't come from the club, Attilio Lombardo has taken over the reins in the EDS. This hasn't been met with jubilant approval but more of a cautious anticipation at best from the majority of City fans I've spoken with about it.

But what could the appointment of Lombardo to head of the EDS mean for City?

Well, I think it's widely agreed that the standard level of coaching will have improved, but judging from the things I've heard in the last few weeks I don't think it could have got much lower. Lombardo does have experience in coaching young players too, as he spent 4 years at the end of his playing career as a youth coach at Sampdoria.

His official coaching credentials have been questioned, and I'll admit, I have no idea what, if any, coaching badges he has. But as we know, qualifications aren't everything and they don't always make you better at the job. If you're a bad coach, you're a bad coach regardless of how many coaching badges you've taken.

What does concern some is that he doesn't have tried and tested pedigree of strong player development like some ex-coaches at City have had, namely Jim Cassell and Steve Eyre.

The connection Attilio has to Sampdoria also has other positive implications. Lombardo played alongside Mancini for 6 years at La Samp and once again for a brief period at Lazio. He again joined up with Mancini in 2010, this time as part of the coaching staff at City.

What I'm saying is that the two men are close friends and know each other very well. Mancini is known to be a relatively closed book when it comes to players and staff alike if they're not perceived to be pulling in Mancini's very specific direction.

What I think we will see is a greater flow of information and collaboration between the EDS and first team, one which wasn't there before. Although Andy Welsh could often be seen on match days but at no point did it look like their was any sort of relationship between him and Mancini. With Lombardo however, we know there is a personal friendship and trust there.

Although Mancini has given a number of players a chance, the vast majority only got the one chance as City pushed towards Champions League qualification and Premier League success. Would that have been different had Mancini had a trusted adviser in the EDS camp? It's a question that will remain unanswered.

Mancini's position within the club is also strengthened by Lombardo's presence in the EDS, and could be a sign of him exerting his greater influence within the club since winning the Premier League and penning a new 5 year contract. Bobby has a clear vision for the club and is clearly comfortable with Lombardo's credentials, so who am I to argue?

2-3 years ago, several players in this crop of players now in the EDS had the potential to push on to play in the first team. One of the major criticisms levelled at Welsh was that the vast majority of these players did not progress at the level expected of them and several have stagnated completely. While I admit it would be increasingly difficult for young players to break through, an indication of where a player is can sometimes be their national sides, and some have been overlooked completely for a couple of years at the 18-21 levels while Welsh has been at the helm.

What Attilio has to do now is drive these players back towards their potential, they need to be pushed and tested so they can make the next steps in their career at City. Undoubtedly for some it may now be (and probably is) too late while others may be caught just in time. But is Lombardo the man for the job? That's a question that will be answered soon enough.

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Near Brighton.

Waiting for the new season to start is like waiting for Christmas or birthdays at 5 years old, it just can't come soon enough. And after the sublime end to last season coupled with the stunning football we witnessed for the most part, it would be fair to say that City fans are probably looking forward to the new season more than most.

From the outside looking in, it appears the squad is pretty settled despite the massive egos that need constant attention according to Petr Cech. We might just stand a chance of winning the Premier League if they can be kept under control, he added. Oh if only that were possible Petr...

Thankfully City's interactive media team are providing us with some fantastic videos on a daily basis so we can get at least a small City fix until the season starts. For those who have been watching, one of the few changes to the squad that looks to be almost nailed on (pending a successful work permit application) is Nir Biton.

The Isreali midfielder had a trial at City in January but there were problems with attaining a work permit at that time, obviously he impressed Mancini enough for the Club to try again, and according to his agent, the deal looks set to successfully conclude before long.

Biton did feature in City's first friendly of pre-season against Al Hilal, and for those that managed to watch it you will have probably guessed where this blog was going from the title. The commentator was dreadful and was struggling with simple names, never mind Elabdellaoui (pronounced Elabdabooboo at one point).

But I digress. Nir has a similar physique to a young Yaya Toure and plays a very similar game to the Ivorian. With Yaya hitting the big 3 0 this coming season, Biton is likely seen as a potential long-term replacement in the next couple of seasons.

One thing is for sure, he doesn't look out of place on the training ground during high-intensity practise matches. We know they're at a higher intensity to a few Premier League clubs through Gael Clichy who stated that he was very surprised when he came to City at just how physical the training games are compared to that of Arsenal's.

Will he have the ability to make the massive leap from the Israeli Premier League to the English one? Who knows, but the initial signs are promising and at only 20 years old he has already impressed the manager enough to include him in this summer's pre-season tour despite not properly signing yet.

Hopefully we will be able to get to see more of him tonight, along with several other promising young players, when City take on Dynamo Dresden in the 2nd friendly of the Austrian tour.

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

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Pre-Season Prep Begins.

Pre-season training begins up and down the country, save those who went to Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012 and the players who will be competing in the Olympics. The media start to crank up the rumours even more than before, fans look eagerly towards the ones circling their own Club despite knowing full well that the vast majority of them are nothing but half arsed passages to fill a gap in a tabloid newspaper.

City, especially since Sheikh Mansour took over, has been no different. Dozens of players are supposedly being lined up "according to reports" or "we understand" or "(insert paper here) has learned".

Naturally, since Van Persie has said he won't be renewing his contract the reports of his arrival have tripled. This despite even more rumours of City losing interest just 7 days ago.

A quick look online and you'll see many Arsenal fans have already turned against him. One particularly vociferous, piece of human pond scum has declared that if RVP moves to City then he "will be dead" to him. Other have dubbed him Van P€r$i€, which is really witty, don't you think?

Have you ever known a set of fans that get quite so irate at the thought of losing a player to a club that isn't even one of their local rivals? It's not as though City have paid a pittance for the players we've bought from them either.

Another persistent rumour has been the interest in our little magician from Real Madrid. Silva has said he's staying, has spoke of winning more trophies with City and even more reports suggest that City are in talks with him over extending his contract which currently runs until the end of 2014-15 season.

Only today the oracle of insider knowledge,, has described Silva as being "tight-lipped" over their interest. I assume what he's said in the last few weeks doesn't matter then?

He's got 2 years on his contract, City don't need the money, are current champions of England and he has cemented his place in the Spanish starting 11 since moving here. I think we can safely say that David will be turning out in the sky blue of Manchester City next season.

In just over 7 days City step up their pre-season training with 3 friendlies in Austria. Hart, Lescott, Richards, Clichy, Milner, De Jong, Silva, Nasri and Balotelli returning to training at different times it would be a  good way of having a look at some of the younger players at City.

Rekik, Suarez and Guidetti (if fit enough) are nailed on to be travelling with the first team. Others such as Wabara, Rusnak, and Razak are also likely candidates to travel. On the fringes of that there may be Bunn, Helan, Cole and Henshall. All would greatly benefit from a little time in the first team even if it is just in friendlies.

Whether any of them get a decent look in this season is another matter. Hopefully they will, but the odd game here and there is no good for a young player striving to improve his own standard. And it's no good for a Club to have a player's progress stunted because they can't get sufficient game time to do so. So season-long loans for the older or more talented ones is on the cards.

If only there was a way of allowing the 18-21 year old players play regular competitive football whilst still under the umbrella of their parent club. Never mind, we have always got tradition, eh?

On that note though, the FA are piloting an U21 league this season and the had best make sure it takes off and doesn't become just another glorified reserve league. Otherwise their horrendously overdue efforts at reforming are for nothing. The potential of this idea is great, but it has to be done right, the FA and Premier League have to generate interest in it and make sure their is something substantial to play for.

So here's to the new season, and hopefully we can celebrate at the end of this as we did the last.

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

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An early look at 2012-13

After taking a a few weeks off from writing anything, I thought I had better do something, so I've decided to take a look at what City might, and in some cases what I hope they do between now and next season with regards to transfers in and out. 

Transfers - Out

The first thing City needs to do, and this almost goes without saying now, is find permanent homes for a number of players. Ade, RSC, and Bridge are the most important players to get rid of as they are the ones earning ridiculous money that is eating into City's wage budget. Depending on where you look their combined wages are an estimated £300k a week. That's £15.6m a year wasted on these 3 alone. 

I know City are reluctant to accept a pittance for these players but it may well be worth it just to get shot of them as I can't see anyone paying much for either of them. Seriously, what are we going to get for Bridge, a player who has barely kicked a ball for the last 2 years and is going to be 32 by the time the next season starts? Mind you, it's not for the lack of trying, City accepted an offer for him last season and he opted to sit on his arse and collect his wages. 

I'm guessing RSC is worth between £3m-£4m at the moment taking everything into consideration. And after the season he has just had, if (and this is a big if) he would lower his wage demands, Ade could fetch a decent price. 

Then we come to Michael Johnson, once the most exciting prospect of the last 20 years, his career has been dogged with injury and persistent rumours and stories of him just not having the right attitude to change potential into actual ability. The Championship, at best, beckons for him now. 

Several players have been linked with moves away from the club, Zabaleta, Kolarov, and D┼żeko, but unless a handsome offer is made, I can't see City parting with them.

Oddly, after all the fuss in January, there haven't been many more rumours about the potential departure of Tevez. With Carlos again saying he is happy at the club, it's a mystery as to what will happen with him in the coming months, if anything at all. 

Kolo Toure isn't likely to get back into the starting 11 very often, but is a decent back up to Lescott or Kompany so depending on whether he wants to stay or not, we could see him in Paris or Makhachkala if reports are to be believed. 

Last of all, Adam Johnson. Despite arriving full of promise, it just hasn't happened for AJ. He does have a good scoring record, but the goals are generally against weaker opposition and aren't usually important goals. Although saying that is a slight contradiction considering the league was won on goal difference. 

He just isn't what you'd call a 'Mancini player', he doesn't offer enough in his all-round game, and I strongly believe he wasn't a player Mancini would have signed had he not have to make a choice between AJ and Victor Moses at the time. 

If a good enough offer comes in from the likes of Sunderland or Newcastle, both who are rumoured to be interested, then I don't expect him to be turning out for us next season.

Loans - Out

Weiss will once again return from another season out on loan, this time from Espanyol. A recent interview from him suggests that he still believes he is potentially in Mancini's long-term plans and I would guess another pre-season assessment will be made before any decisions to loan, sell, or integrate him into the 1st team. There are several rumours of potential bids coming in for him before then, and Mancini may well be tempted to let him go if the right offer comes in. 

If Mancini does decide Weiss has improved enough, it could mean City save a tidy sum on purchasing a player with the ability to play out wide as well as having a home-grown player in the squad who has come through the ranks of our Academy.

I know he's been a bit of a tit in the past, especially whilst at Rangers, but if it's for the good of the squad and he applies himself then these 'minor' past transgressions can be overlooked. 

There are a number of other young players whose future is uncertain at this moment in time. Nimely, Cunningham, McGivern, Bunn, Wabara, and Ibrahim (currently on loan in Norway) all being close to the top of the list. Each of these players has talent, but can either of them make the transition to the first team this season? I doubt it, and with the current squad as it stands, some or all of them may have to move on in the next season or two, which is a real shame, and I hope to be proved wrong on at least some of them. 

I do think there will be plenty of other loans out next season, Scapuzzi, Razak, Rekik, Suarez,  Savic, Boyata and Roman amongst them. All are at different stages of their development but all in need of regular time on the pitch throughout a whole season to test them. It's a shame the Premier U21 League plans aren't being rolled out fully until 2013-14, because all of the above would have benefited from it next season, regardless of their ages in the case of those still under 20. 

As for players with a somewhat uncertain immediate future. Guidetti has to be top of that list. I know that sounds stupid after the season he's just had, but let me explain. 

At this moment in time Mancini has said he is happy to keep all 4 strikers from last season and doesn't need another. So if all 4 stay, who is Guidetti going to push in front of right now? As much as I would like to see him given a chance, my gut feeling is that he will be loaned out to a Premier League club to see if he can recreate the kind of form he showed last season for Feyenoord where he got 20 goals and 8 assists in just 22 games. That is impressive for a young player regardless of the league.

There are already a number of clubs reportedly interested in loan deals for the striker, several from the Premier League such as Sunderland and Swansea. However now Swansea are without Brendan Rogers I doubt he will be going there. We shall just have to sit tight on this one. 

Transfers - In

Now to the exciting, sometimes tedious, and most difficult to predict part, transfers in. Already the much talked about move for Eden Hazard came to and end with the Belgian agreeing a move to Chelsea but in the months after the close of the January transfer window, City have been linked with another 46 players. Obviously, unless you're an idiot, you will know that the vast majority of the rumours are just rubbish to fill column inches. I'll take a look at some of the high profile ones as well as some that may have slipped under your radar. 

There have been a plethora of strikers linked with moves to the Etihad this summer; Van Persie, Cavani, Falcao, Ibrahimovic, Llorente, Sturridge, Lavezzi, and Hulk all included. 

At this moment in time I actually think Sturridge is the player most likely of these to join for various reasons. Mancini has publicly stated that the decision to let Sturridge go was a big mistake, although I'm not sure he is fully aware of what went on at the time and just how much money we didn't have. Daniel is also a fast, very direct player and offers the option to play out wide or in the centre as a striker, the kind of player City are lacking. 

Ironically, Sturridge will probably be asking for less wages than the majority of the other players on that list too. And with the players that Chelsea have brought in and are looking to bring in added to the rumours that he was already unhappy, I wouldn't be surprised if he was playing in another shade of blue next season.

Whether he would be welcome back is another matter, although I would suggest before making judgement on Sturridge, each fan takes a look at how their feelings have changed towards Tevez since December. A lot appear to have totally forgiven him, others have grudgingly decided just to trust the manager's judgement on it and continue to support the squad as a whole, regardless of their personal feelings. Does a player's acceptance depend solely on his ability? I would hope not. 

With regards to the others, RVP and Lavezzi have definitely been enquired about in the past. Although with regards El Pocho, City have refused to pay his release clause of €30m in the past. And as for RVP, I doubt City will want to pay upwards of £30m for a player who is entering the last year of his contract, will be 29 at the start of the season, with a definite negative resale value and has only averaged 9 just over 9 goals a season if you take 2011-12 out of the equation (12.5 including it).  

Don't get me wrong, RVP was outstanding last season, but you wont get that from him again if he moves to another team. Some players just click with a certain team around them. RVP and Arsenal are one of those examples in my own insignificant opinion. 

I think I would be right in saying that there are a lot of fans who think the club needs another player who is capable of playing out wide. Although Mancini generally doesn't play with traditional wingers, he did start to play Adam Johnson on the left a couple of times towards the end of the season. The well documented pursuit of Eden Hazard is a clear indication that Mancini was looking at adding a player who could provide width and versatility to the squad for next season.  

As already stated, Sturridge may be that player, but he's a striker at heart and I know I've kind of contradicted myself with this one with Mancini saying he's happy with the strikers he has, but as I said, he does offer an option out wide, especially if AJ ends up leaving.

Talking of wingers, Bale and Ronaldo have been touted as potential targets, again. But the ridiculous money needed to bring either one of them to City puts them out of the question for me. Coupled with the fact I can't stand the sight of Ronaldo of course. 

There is a report of a possible swap deal for Bale though. Adebayor, who is so desperate to stay at Spurs, and AJ who is becoming more a bit part player each season, are the players rumoured to be used. Although I don't think Bale is quite as good as the media and saggy chops have made out, he is still a very good player. This wouldn't be a bad bit of business should the report be accurate, but I doubt it is. 

There have also been plenty of attacking midfielders linked with moves to Manchester, but I honestly can't see any more players in the Silva/Nasri positions being brought into the club at this moment in time. So that rules out the likes of Sneijder, Sessegnon,  Ander Herrera and several others unless they have the ability to offer something on the wings as well. Just my opinion though. 

An area that Mancini felt needed backup at the start of last season was in the centre of midfield. The signing of Hargreaves on a free was a a long shot at best and only done because City are conscious of what they're spending at the moment, and Pizarro on loan added a temporary string to City's bow with his range of passing. 

Hargreaves' contract was not renewed and Pizarro has expressed a desire to remain at Roma leaving a space to be filled in the squad. Javi Garcia and Javi Martinez are two players who have been mentioned. If I had the choice of either two, Martinez would be my choice as he has the ability to play as a holding midfielder and a centre-back. 

That kind of versatility is something of which Mancini is a great admirer and would set City back around £25m for the 23 year old Spaniard. It's certainly one of the more credible transfer rumours with City potentially looking for players to cover either role. This kills 2 birds with 1 stone. 

With a couple of players in each position already at or reaching a certain age, he could well be a good long-term replacement for someone in the future. He shouldn't have trouble fitting in either due to the number of other native Spanish and Spanish speaking players already at City. 

As already mentioned, centre-back is a position many feel needs strengthening at least as far as cover is concerned.

Chiellini, Coloccini, Radu, Sakho, Ranocchia and Thiago Silva have all had their names thrown in the hat by the papers. Silva appears to be staying at Milan, Radu is a left-back and unless Kolarov goes City don't need another one. 

Coloccini would undoubtedly be a great player to have in the squad, but Newcastle have got a good thing going on there at the moment and he is an integral part of that squad. I'm not sure he would want to move and be a bit-part player, even at the Premier League Champions. 

It's a similar situation with Chiellini at Juve, only they have been crowned champions of Italy. Him being left-footed and ability to cover left-back may tempt Mancini to offer good money for him, although I actually hope he sticks with the Kompany-Lescott pairing. At 27 he isn't going to improve that much more and will no doubt take a season to adapt. Would he be worth the £25m (minimum) it would take to get him here? I'm not so sure. 

Ranocchia and Sakho are the more likely options then, both young, tall, good in the air and both likely to chip in with the odd goal from a set piece. Ranocchia isn't a first team regular and would probably be the cheaper option, but Sakho is younger and with him being left footed it would provide more balance in the centre should Lescott be out and Kolo is still around. 

Despite being the PSG captain, he may be available for around £15m so wouldn't break the bank when considering the FFP rules. Whether he could make the change from Ligue 1 to the Premier League is another question, but it is one every overseas transfer has to answer anyway. 

There are plenty of other names to go at, including a handful of youngsters such as Nabay (13) from Birmingham, Powell (18) from Crewe, Magallan (18) from La Plata, Jules Ntcham (16) from Le Havre and Hughes (16) from Derby.

City usually play things close to their chest though and I would think the Euros will  no doubt fire out some more names for the papers to link City with, but there's my general thoughts on what may occur during the summer. Do you agree or disagree with any of that? Leave a comment and have your say. 

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

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A crazy end to a crazy season

Those are the words that have been used by all and sundry to describe what happened on Sunday 13th May 2012 and it's taken me 2 days to be able to even sit down and compose anything that resembles a coherent series of words to describe it.

I had to watch the game in the pub, and I sat there just wishing I could be there at the Etihad Stadium to share this momentous occasion with 47,000 other Blues. But in a way, it didn't matter where you were on that day as we were all there in spirit, willing the comeback of all comebacks to come to fruition, #Together.

In the room adjacent to mine was another screen showing the United game, obviously full of United fans. I could see through to where they were all sat, all looking as nervous as we were. That's something you don't see very often on a United fan's face.

One woman shouted through "Come on QPR!" before kick off, obviously sharing the sentiments of the other Reds that she was sat with. Not a single City fan asked for favours from Sunderland, we knew we had to do this on our own.

Kick off came and City totally dominated, the mood lifted as we saw that although this was going to be a game almost entirely of one their defence against our attack that very few teams had stopped us before and City were in fine scoring form added to their incredible home record since Mancini took over.

Despite this growing confidence there were a few nervous glances as the cheers game from the other room. Rooney had been gifted a goal by some Sunday league defending by Sunderland. But we still had the belief.

Then 6 minutes before half time, the only outfield player not to have scored in any competition this season popped up. Pablo Zabaleta. Silva knocked the ball into the box to Toure who instantly moved it on to Zabaleta as he stormed past him. Bang, straight at Paddy Kenny. But he didn't catch it. The ball looped into the air for what seemed an eternity, we held our breath, almost expecting the ball to loop over the bar, but it didn't.

Ecstasy, an eruption of joy exploded through the room, a mirror of the scenes at the Etihad. If there was one player who deserved a goal for his hard work and attitude, it was Zaba, and he got it.

Half time came, another drink was bought and a conversation with my uncle about how Lescott had improved under the tutelage of Mancini and playing alongside Kompany. I said "He's always been a good tackler, but his reading of the game and composure have improved a lot in the last 2 years."

I'm not superstitious but I wish we hadn't had that conversation as it was an error of judgement by Joleon that gave Cisse a clear run on goal to make it 1-1. I sat, stunned as my heart sank. The screen showing just what that meant to Lescott, he looked devastated.

7 minutes later though, City were given a boost as Joey Barton, well, was Joey Barton. Elbowing Tevez in the face in retaliation for Tevez climbing over his back to try and force his way fast him and catching him in the face.

I didn't even see it the first time round but the linesman did and the replays were clear. Then one of the most unsporting things I've seen in a long while happens. Bobby Zamora walks over to Bart, they have a little conversation and Barton points towards Aguero and walks back over to him and Tevez to have words of his own now. We later find out that Barton was told by a team mate to take a City player with him as it was clear he was going to be sent off himself. Looking at the replays, it would appear it was Zamora who said it.

The ref then returns, shows the red card, Barton walks behind one of the smallest guys on the pitch and knees him in the back of the leg, Kompany barges in to move him away and Barton, now being pulled away, tries to headbutt him. Words don't adequately describe this moron.

He doesn't deserve to be in the privileged position he is in. He's a bully, a thug, and claims to be a pacifist! A man who has been charged and convicted several times for assault claims to be a pacifist. What an absolute bell end.

The last thing I will mention about this little episode is how Micah Richards ran onto the pitch from the sidelines to pull Barton away. Possibly the only player who could have done so without escalating the situation even further. He showed outstanding maturity and composure and I for one am proud of the way he reacted to that situation.

Now QPR were down to 10 men, surely it was only a matter of time before City broke through.

But then it got worse. For all the huffing and puffing City were doing, nothing was coming off. Shots were wild, or Kenny was stopping them, crosses were inaccurate, and then out of nothing Traore breaks down the left for QPR and fires a ball to the back post, bypassing every City player and lands square to Jamie Mackie who duly obliges to break every single City heart with a well taken header.

I didn't even react, it was a surreal moment as those next door celebrated the news while I was in my own little bubble of complete despair. I think I even forgot to breath for a few minutes as I couldn't quite understand what was going on.

I said last season that the 'typical City' tag should have been consigned to history along with the '35 years' banner. But here I was trying to banish the thoughts of "is this club really cursed" from my head. City, who had topped the table for so long, and had worked so hard to get back into contention after falling behind were now going to fall at the final hurdle.

In the next 10 minutes Mancini went for broke, Tevez came off and Dzeko came on, Barry went off a few minutes later and Balotelli strode onto the pitch.

Mario looked to be in the zone, his work rate and desire was there for all to see and he seemed to act as a catalyst as City attacked with renewed vigour.

QPR were totally pinned inside their own 18 yard box, never mind just their own half. Wave after wave of attacks, crosses, and corners were fired in. Mancini looked apoplectic on the sidelines as he screamed out in a mixture of Italian and English every time an attack was stopped.

89 minutes gone. Yet another corner fired in by Nasri, tipped behind for another corner, Silva fires in the next. Balotelli! No! Saved again!!! My head dropped into my arms folded onto the table in front of me. Heart pounding in my chest, barely able to breathe properly.

The board was held up, 5 minutes of time added on. Largely thanks to Barton's antics. Those 5 minutes will go down in football history as the most extraordinary end to a season.

Another City corner, Silva once again swings it in. Dzeko!! GOAL!! "YES! YES! YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH" went my reaction, scaring my son half to death.

Is it possible? Can it be done? Aguero grabs the ball and the whole team just runs back to their own half. A signal that these players will not give up on this title.

Shortly after, I hear the final whistle go in the other room, United fans start to filter into our room to watch the end of the game, or more likely to gloat at the final whistle. The woman who shouted before, shouted again, this time with a slightly more desperate tone of voice. "Come on QPR!"

"F**k off" I thought to myself in a mental reply to her as QPR took their time in restarting, now with only 2 minutes or so of extra time left. This is absolute agony.

City easily repel a rare and half hearted attack from a QPR throw in and De Jong collects the ball and carries it just past the half way line. Aguero drops off and receives it 30 yards from goal, turns, knocks it to Balotelli on the edge of the area and keeps on running. Balotelli is nearly knocked off the ball but manages to knock it back into the path of Aguero.

Everyone stopped around me, time slowed, Aguero took one touch to take it past 2 defenders and shoots...

It's a GOAL! An explosion of elation, euphoria, a rhapsody of sheer triumphant exultation. The table nearly flew across the room as I jumped out of my seat. The room that got rather cramped with United fans suddenly felt empty as they evacuated.

Blue Moon began to ring out from the jukebox. I tried to breath, note tried. I couldn't. 44 years (27 of my life) of being 2nd best to United was booted into nothingness by the right foot of Sergio Aguero in the last minute of time added on of the final game of the season with City's 44th shot of the game.

The boldest of script-writers wouldn't have dared write that for fear of ridicule that no one would believe it. But here it was, Manchester City doing the unexpected once again leaving thousands with tears, but this time it was tears of joy.

The Sunderland fans celebrated City's goal as United were preparing to celebrate at the Stadium of Light. The QPR fans celebrated City's goal as they knew they were now safe regardless of the result. City fans celebrated, and boy did they celebrate.

I was totally dumbfounded, left speechless as it dawned on me that City were Premier League champions. After all the flack the club and the fans have taken, this was it thrown back in the faces of those who mocked and scoffed at the project that Sheikh Mansour started.

My son, Oliver (4), climbed up onto my knee  a few minutes later with me still sat in total shock at what had just happened, and hugged me. He said "They did it Dad, they won." with an innocence only a child could have, totally oblivious to just how enormous that victory was. It is up to us to teach the next generation of City fans just what it means to be a City fan and the years of torment we went through so they learn to respect what the club has now.

It is only a shame that some were not there to witness it, whose time stopped short of this magnificent championship. They will be forever remembered. But others from the class of 68 were there and it fell to Mike Summerbee and Tony Book to walk out of the player's tunnel with Premier League trophy. It was a changing of the guards, a handing on of one legacy to another, and a sign that City's past hasn't been forgotten despite what some may think.

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stated in his end of season interview that the tag of typical City has been consigned to the history books. And it well and truly has. This is a squad that has shown time and time again this season that they will fight to the very end, typified by the very final game of the season.

In many ways history repeated itself this season as well as history being made with a number of league and club records broken by City and this squad will go down in history as one of the greatest ever squads City have been blessed with.

There is one quote from our history that fits perfectly right now. The late City legend Malcolm Allison once said; "Four years ago... if I mentioned Man City, they laughed at me. Who's laughing now?"

I'll tell you who, Big Mal. Manchester City, the Premier League champions 2011-12, and all who support them.

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

Monday, 7 May 2012

One more game...

Just one more game. Forget the biggest ever and most watched Premier League game that was the Manchester derby, forget the FA Cup final, THIS is the biggest game of my lifetime, and no doubt many other fans' too.

If you thought Newcastle was a big game, and believe me it was, then the last game of the season against QPR is of gigantic importance for the Club.

We've been told that City would never be favourites in a certain manager's lifetime.

We've been told we have no team spirit.

We've been told our players just play for themselves.

We've been told we blew the title when we lost to Arsenal and Bet Fred paid out on United being league champions.

We've even been called glory hunters and been asked where were we when we were sh*t. Oh how we laugh at that one.

We've been told United have all the experience when it comes to the end of the season and our players don't have any. Although the excuses were coming out last night against Swansea about 'all the young players' at United who don't have the experience we have been told they have for the last 4 months.

Now we're being told we're only winning games because we influence the ref! Are you sure about that Alex? How stupid you look when you come out with things as hypocritical as that.

Well all of this can be thrown firmly into the faces of every single doubter we've ever had and make Alex Ferguson's nightmares of him losing the league on goal difference true. We could end 44 years of hurt and ridicule. We could make history by winning just one more game.

City have done most of the hard work, sprinting off into an early lead that was maintained for most of the season. Then losing pace and falling behind only to muster up an extra burst of strength and speed by exceptional courage and focus. Now the two front runners are neck and neck with City edging it, just.

One more push, one more cheer from the crowd to spur on one more lung-busting drive to the end. One more, just one more, we dare to dream, together we believe.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

This is how it feels to be City...

650 million people across the world tuned in to see United made to look ordinary by City once again this season.

In recent weeks we've seen current United players claim they would wrap up the title at the Etihad, while ex-players have banged on about Fergie and his mind games and how Mancini simply couldn't match him if he went toe-to-toe with him.

While Ferguson has tried to heap the pressure on City in the follow up to last night's game, Mancini has brushed it off with consummate ease and refocused the players into producing some fine performances. Last night was no different.

United started the better side but after an early shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany I can't remember a meaningful shot on goal and United were left without a single shot on target throughout the whole 97 minutes of game time. They only managed a total of 5 shots shots all together and 2 of those came from corners.

Apart from one very soft booking, and one needless booking for dissent (again), I'm struggling to find anything to complain about. Sod it, why try? It was a fantastic performance from the whole squad. Not a single one of them let us down last night. Each and every player put a shift in; Silva getting stuck into tackles as well as plaguing United's defence with Nasri, Aguero and Tevez, Zabaletta totally bossing the right flank with Clichy doing the same on the left, Barry grafting as hard as ever and so on and so on.

But of course, how could I not mention one of the best club captain's City has ever had. After being wrongly sent off in the FA Cup the last time the two teams faced off, he was the one who exacted some revenge by powering a header past De Gea, leaving him flailing around like he'd just dropped a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

As for signs of cracking under pressure, you just had to look at the sidelines after De Jong got entangled with Welbeck. Cut to scenes of Fergie totally losing it and United's kit man pulling him away as Mancini gestured to him that he talks too much. That in itself was one of the highlights of the match. Go on, I'm waiting for it, yes I'm a bitter blue, of course...

You had to laugh at the post-match interviews too. Mancini was calm and collected, still playing down the pressure on City and tactfully dealing with questions about the touchline spat with Ferguson without making a big deal of it. Ferguson on the other hand, face as red as ever, complaining that Mancini was pestering the officials throughout the game.

Ferguson moaning about another manager doing that is like Katie Price declaring the glamour modelling industry is cheap and degrading to women, or Rooney whinging about another player getting him sent off.

I didn't think the win could get any more pleasing but this morning, after seeing what Gary Neville had to say last night about losing the league on goal difference being Ferguson's nightmare did just that. What better way for City to win the league than doing it in a way that Ferguson feared the most? I'm not sure my nerves could take that though, but despite a couple of tricky games for both clubs yet to come, that's how it could end up.

We have the squad who have the desire. We have the manager who is beginning to best Fergie at his own game despite what United fans and the media say. We have everything in place when United set up to disrupt your game instead of imposing theirs, you know the tide is turning.

Come on City, finish the job and become Premier League champions.

Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

Thursday, 26 April 2012

As tensions rise...

The build up to derby day is in full flow. Despite Roberto Mancini playing it down, Alex Ferguson has described it as the biggest derby of his career. Sky Sports are obviously promoting the hell out of it and to be fair this game has turned out to be potentially one of the crowning jewels of the 2011-12 Premier League season.

Right from the get go this fixture was singled out as a potential title decider, and that's how it has almost panned out. It's not an actual title decider at this point because of the two tricky games both teams have to play after it, but it is as close to one as you will ever get.

Recent derbies, despite the official police stances, have been marred somewhat by off-pitch incidents either in the stands or on the approach and around the grounds. Flairs being set off, fights outside the stadiums, graffiti referring to dead players and so on and so on.  

With the tensions rising the closer we get to Monday I'm half expecting some moron (either red or blue) to do something to fan the flames of animosity between sets of fans. As a Blue I am fully aware that there is a section of our own support that are total idiots, every club has them. Hopefully they will keep themselves in check outside of the stands and likewise with the United support.

Let us all hope that this will be the spectacle it should be, no City fans chanting Munich songs, no United fans trying to goad them into doing so or singing about the death of Marc Vivien Foe. Both clubs have enough songs about each other without having to resort to such debase chants.

Sure there will be banter, that is all part of the fun, but it should be done in the right spirit.

This is a hugely important game for both clubs, let the football be the only thing the media is talking about after the final whistle.