Thursday, November 29, 2012

EVERTON

"If we are honest with ourselves, Everton come closer to how we see ourselves, or at least saw ourselves before recent unforeseeable developments, than most other top flight clubs. There has always been a kind of thinly stretched affinity with the Blues of Merseyside despite the scratchy accents and the omnipresent danger to the contents of your pockets. Living in the shadows of the local behemoth is a sad fate that befell both our clubs from the late 60s onwards, plus we have long shared both an instinctive hatred of the colour red and a hair-trigger, morose sense of humour born out of a million and a half wretched disappointments. As Liverpool and United have grown into all-consuming megaliths for the hordes of Sky neutrals, it is tough not to grow a little bitter and develop Rhinosaurus skin."

 

These words dribbled out more than a year ago. Today Everton are much the same as they have ever been: a club with true traditions, fervent support and down-to-earth principles, just how many City supporters have viewed our club over the many years of trials and tribulations before we fell headlong into that gigantic pot of honey. 

The atmospheric stadium, the dark old church, the heaving paddock, the swaying Glwadys Street, scene of a thousand and one hyperbolic Gerald Sinstadt commentaries ("...and Whittle's done it!!!!"..."Latchford at the far post, oh my word!"). Too hemmed in by the crumbly tenements of the Scottie Road, none of this can be redeveloped into glistening executive boxes and corporate lounges. The Z Cars theme that still blasts out on match days, the girls with baskets of toffees, the perimetre advertising shouting things like Hafnia and Pukka Pies. 

What do modern day Evertonians think? Here are three generations and their ideas about City, City and Everton and this weekend's game:

Gerry Gow shows how in 1981

Luke O'Farrell writes ESPN's Everton blog and sees it thus: 

"For many years, Everton and City were two peas in a pod. The poorer relations within their cities, both tried to upset the established order with Everton making a slightly better fist of it over the years. However, a lot has changed in recent times and City now possess the sort of wealth that Everton can only dream about. The money has skewed the similarities with recent City managers doing their best to sour relations; few Everton fans would speak positively on Hughes or Mancini. The Lescott departure was acrimonious, to say the least, and Hughes irked a number of fans with his behaviour. Mancini has failed to endear himself to Evertonians with the Italian throwing sour grapes about whenever Everton get the better of his Manchester Millionaires. In spite of all that, and I'm using some kind of twisted logic here, Everton fans may think of City in a more favourable manner at present The reason for that would be Jack Rodwell. More than a few eyebrows were raised when Mancini came in for him. Despite showing glimpses, Rodwell's injuries were grabbbing more headlines than his football prior to his transfer. His progress had stalled and the money allowed Everton to sign the brilliant Kevin Mirallas; Everton easily got the better deal in this case. The money threatens to drive a wedge between two once similar clubs but the fact that you aren't United probably still applies for many."


A rare day of fun in 1999
Simon Hughes harks back to the Holy Trinity of Ball, Kendall and Harvey and has seen more Everton-City clashes than he cares to or indeed is able to remember: 

" Everton visit Man City at the weekend in a fixture laden with nostalgia for fans of a certain age. Everton and City sparred entertainingly throughout the late 60s and 70s, fielding some great players, but ultimately falling short of sustained success. We left that kind of monotony to Leeds and Liverpool. For City and Everton disappointment lurks around every corner. Recent years have seen an unexpected upturn in City's fortunes due to the sudden influx of Arab money, whilst Evertonians have become used to the club trading to survive. Fortunately, under Moyes we have one of the few managers able to make continued progress under such constraints. This season City have looked fairly ordinary so far, but have the knack of winning, often late in games which I guess marks them out as champions. Everton, whilst playing well and creating chances aplenty, have failed to see out games they should have won. This makes the weekend's game particularly intriguing and will be a key test of whether the Toffees can challenge for the top four places. In order to get a result - and a win is possible - Everton will need Gibson back to patrol in front of the back four and Jelavic to find his shooting boots. Midfield looks well matched, with Fellaini versus Yaya Toure being top of the bill. Mirrallas back would also be a significant boost to the Blues and he should enjoy the space available at Eastlands. Unfortunately, the loss of Baines to a hamstring strain reduces Everton's progressive play considerably and a draw might be the best we can hope for. Expect to see City's strikers rotated again from the start and during the game, until they find a way through. Lescott and Rodwell are likely to remain absent friends, which seems particularly tough on the former. Everton to score first, with Dzeko netting a late equalizer for City. Or not. Who knows? I'll be thinking of those dark terrace streets outside Maine Road and whether footy really was better in the 70s"

Losing to Everton not a new thing: here's one we made in 1993

Chris Dottie was brought up on a solid diet of 80s successes in the blue half of Merseyside. Then it all dried up. Everton-City means this to him:

"I think Evertonians feel a bit bereft nowadays, that they used to have brothers in arms. It helped that we normally felt like the big brother in my life time, that for all we had in common life was still that little bit worse for you. So we could share in the hatred for the famous reds that had stolen our cities in the popular mind and bitterly rant about how much better we deserved and how spawny and horrible and patronising they were. But at the same time we could feel a little bit patronising towards you, because you hadn’t often been much higher than us and you’ve often been quite a lot lower.

There were many shared players and managers, never any bitterly painful or violent games that stick in the memory – maybe because neither club had anything positive to play for during much of the past 30 years and we were never the ones to send you down. Away trips were a positive date in the diary because it was a short journey with little risk of physical harm and a possibility of getting points. The fans always very similarly minded as well – maybe a mixture of nature and nurture. The geographical proximity provides the natural link, that the fans are likely to be more similar in socio-economic and personality terms than 2 clubs from the other end of the country (especially during the 80’s when the North/South divide seemed widest). And we were both nurtured by a traditional, respected, historic club that was perennially unsuccessful and so held no appeal to glory hunters. No surprise that we felt that the supporters of both clubs were cut from the same cloth.

Paul Power part of a shared legacy
So until City attracted investment there was a lot to like and little to dislike. After that, things have changed to a large degree. Our erstwhile wingman has found he can get into the high-end nightclubs and flirt with the Champions League totty, leaving us with our pint of mild in the social. There's a bitter element to the jealousy because it seems down to luck. Why buy City and not Everton? Because City have a stadium. Why do City have a stadium? Because the Commonwealth games was in Manchester. Not your fault but not our fault either, and a real “Sliding Doors” moment, almost up there with the impact of Heysel on Everton’s recent history. Neither club seemed to get a break, then you won the lottery.

I still think there is a lot more affection from Evertonians for your club than for the rest of the rich and famous because the feeling is that most of the fans haven’t changed. But power corrupts and your managers have really driven a wedge sometimes, not just with signing our players but with comments about styles of play and sizes of clubs. Sometimes it feels like the club is forgetting quickly where it came from.

Your best mate wins the lottery and you celebrate like hell while he’s sticking it to “the man” and flying the flag for the previously ignored. If he then becomes “the man” and acts like winning the lottery was down to good judgement, the distance starts to grow. That’s where are paths are diverging and the brotherhood is becoming a pleasant nostalgic memory."
Thanks to Luke, Simon and Chris. May there also be a pot of honey at the end of the rainbow marked "Toffees" one day, for as sure as many football fans wished us well when our luck turned, I can't imagine too many begrudging the blues of Merseyside a go on the ride as well at some point.

PEERING INTO THE FUTURE

Wed. 28th Nov 2012 - Wigan Athletic 0 City 2
There was so much Spanish being spoken around the icy ramparts of the DW Stadium as City strode into town, one could have been forgiven for expecting the night's menu to feature -- writ large in pleasant script -- a large appetising portion of tiki-taka.

- Balotelli, Milner keep City in second


There were four Spaniards alone, plus a Spanish manager, a host of Argentinians and a bevy of others whose mother tongue may come with an accent, but is also most certainly traceable to the Transatlantic jaunts of Senor Cortes and his cohorts. What we got instead was commitment, tackling, visible clouds of hot breath from heaving lungs and a great deal of dash and hope.


We had a Spaniard on one side, Jordi Gomez, auditioning for a part as Camacho the Killer, and on the other side in the maroon of City, Javi Garcia doing a passable impersonation of a Morris Minor. Some called his performance understated, while others labeled it subtle in its efficient use of time and space, yet others said it was off the pace and inaccurate. Whatever the truth -- and it almost certainly lies somewhere in between all of these descriptions -- the ex-Benfica bulwark has not yet found his feet in the English game. 


You can read the rest of this article on ESPN's Manchester City pages 

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

TO ABSENT FRIENDS

Dave Sexton brought Chelsea success in the early 70s

October 1971. 52,000 people watched Dave Sexton's Chelsea draw with 2nd placed Manchester City. Then as now the immediate reaction to exiting Stamford Bridge with a point should have been positive and upbeat, but left a sour taste in the mouth. Almost exactly 41 years later, the point gained on this frenetic, mistake-pocked afternoon, felt strangely like two less than City might have secured.

For a side that, until very recently, could count 0-5 and 0-6 thrashings as the sort of things that "happen" when visiting the King's Road, surely a point is a rare thing of beauty? True, it represents the fifth draw of the season already, matching last season's grand total. True it came on the back of quite a lot of solid defending and not much else, but it also came against a Chelsea side badly out of sorts and still adapting to this month's manager. City may have had the edge in possession and in shots on goal and also, for that matter, in decent goal-scoring chances, but the ball did not look remotely like going into Cech's net, even when dispatched plum off Aguero's head towards the goal from six yards.

You can read the rest of this article on ESPN's Manchester City pages here

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A GAME OF IMPATIENCE


All snuggly at The Bridge, 1980s style
"When the dust settles...", a football phrase the great and good of the game enjoy employing when another of those little problems has arisen without warning, scattering good sense and decorum to the four compass points. In the case of Chelsea, Manchester City's illustrious yet suddenly ramshackle opponents this weekend, waiting for the dust to settle might need the patience of Job, such is the cloud of detritus constantly flying around the polished chrome and steel of Stamford Bridge. Despite the well-meaning hustle and bustle of a veritable army of hoover-wielding flunkies, City fans rich enough to entertain the trip to West London on Sunday might well be advised to take their own cloth and dusters on the long trip south.

There is, of course, still some "dust settling" over the Etihad too and all those tea towels are no doubt being put to good use to waft away any malodorous gusts still clinging to the portals. This then is the mangled wreckage, the contorted mess that our Blatter-Platini-Scudamore sculpted football juggernaut has wrought on Chelsea, a great footballing institution, awash with instability and rumour, pickled in unsustainable desire to be top of the tree, kings of the pile, barons of all they survey. And of all people to have to welcome to their tumbling fortress at the weekend, but the Premier League's other "wealthy failures", City. 
You can read the rest of this article on the Manchester City page at ESPN here


You can see the story of how Jim Tolmie smacked home a classic 1983 winner at The Bridge here

You can read the story of City's titanic struggle with Chelsea in 1973-74 here

The 1973 clash







Thursday, November 22, 2012

FOREST CUT DOWN

Season 1979-80 
Neil King remembers a classic defeat of Forest that left him unable to celebrate in time honoured style:

Manchester City 1 - 0  Nottingham Forest    

13th October 1979 : ko 15:00pm

"The fellow whose mischievous wit prompted him to send up City in a local newspaper advertisement, offering a set of "clockwork clowns" for sale at £5, must number among the world's biggest fools this morning" - Richard Bott, Sunday Express, 14/10/79 

 At the time, as a fresh faced 17 year old, I was living at a friends house in Reddish and was looking forward to the match ahead against "Old Bighead's" Forest. Our form to say the least at that time was "patchy". However my first decision of the day was to decide how I was getting to the game. There were no buses running; if memory serves me right they were on strike. A situation in those days that was not uncommon. I decided that i would walk to the game, after all Maine Road is not that far from Reddish! Remember I was 17 and naive. As it turned out I would not have the same predicament about getting home!
 
I think it took me about an hour and a half to walk to the match. I headed down Longford Road, onto Levenshulme and into Dickenson Road. The sights and sounds have not changed much to this day in that area. As multi-cultural then as it is now.
 
If I remember right Forest were flying at the time (they may even have been top?) and the match was a close affair.I had taken up my usual position in the Kippax near the back and close to the away fans. Then my day was about to take a turn for the better (and worse) with assistance from the late great Kazimierz Deyna. The Pole scored what turned out to be the winning goal and the crowd erupted. As one we leapt in the air celebrating but as I landed I stumbled on the steep Kippax steps. To say my ankle/leg hurt would be an understatement, but being young and foolish i decided I would not show my pain (too much!). For the remainder of the match I spent most of it trying to usher people away from pushing me, which for those familiar with the Kippax was easier said than done. 
 
The final whistle came and everyone headed for the exits, abusing the Forest fans on the way out obviously!
 
I remained where I was though as by now i could not even walk, and I sat on the Kippax steps. The police and stewards from those days would sweep across the stand moving fans away (and picking up the coins that had been thrown). They reached me and asked me to leave, I explained I could not as i had hurt my leg. Sympathy was not a strong point of the local Constabulary so it was left to 2 of my friends to carry me down the steps. We were told to go to the first aid point at the corner of the North Stand. My mates made sure i was ok and headed home. Ambulances, like the buses were also in short supply, and I was "transferred" to Manchester Royal in the back of a Police van. A splendid experience given that my foot was resting all  the way on the ridged floor of the van!
 
It transpired that I had actually broken my leg when Deyna scored. So I can say with pride " I broke my leg at Maine Road". As mentioned earlier, it took the decision on how to get home away. I was given a lift by the Greater Manchester Ambulance service.
 
One final thing, the crowd that day was over 41,000 and considering there was a bus strike 
(i think it was all over the Manchester area) was fantastic. In fact Brian Clough in the papers the following day said it was an amazing attendance. More proof we have the best fans in the World.
 
Neil King
 
Follow Neil on twitter - @cityneil51 
 
 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MADE IN MANCHESTER

Setubal is a scruffy little fishing port twenty miles south of Lisbon, where – on a good day – you can inhale the smoke of the barbecues and wait for the grilled sea bream to arrive fresh out of the sea and onto your plate. On a bad day the funk from the paper mills south of the ship building sinks carries all these pleasant aromas away and replaces it with a curtain of mist that smells like Brian Kidd’s socks. It was in this town in 1981 that the late great Malcolm Allison landed. The one and only City manager to gain a European trophy spent time in Portugal resurrecting his career after his disastrous second coming to Maine Road in 1979.  Having won Sporting Lisbon the double, he fell foul of the dreaded drink, and drifted to this small town to revive both the local club’s fortunes and his own.
 
Big Mal in the bath at Crystal Palace: soap suds +2 up front

Allison was a man of loose morals but tight, well drilled football principles. He took City all the way to a rain drenched Cup Winners’ Cup Final in the Prater Stadium in Vienna with a brand of football based on his upbringing at West Ham’s school of pass and move, plus his own hankering for the delicious diagonal patterns of the magnificent Magyars from Honved in the 1950s. Allison was one of the first to enthuse about the Hungarian national team that would some time later come to Wembley in their old fashioned kit and lightweight “carpet slippers” to wipe the floor so comprehensively with Billy Wright’s tittering England troops that it fair brought tears to the eyes.

You can read the rest of this article on ESPNs Manchester City page, here


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

LOSERS AND LOSING

Reading 5 Arsenal 7

Chelsea 5 Man Utd 4


The theatre and the drama of it all. What dizzy heights can football not traverse? What uplifting current can this new age of froth and blather not produce? The power to surprise and to rejuvenate is beyond astonishing sometimes, leaving old lags and sceptics light on oxygen and bathing in little carbolic bubbles. Sometimes this old sport can still raise a smile and force out a giggle.

Ajax 3 Manchester City 1

Then there are the other days when your team has just sunk without trace in a vital Champions League game, when your hopes head upwards into the ethereal ink sky and the world looks at you and emits a deep belly laugh. Days when football belts a curver right into the family jewels. When the last umbro diamond of sky blue slides inevitably behind a mass of black smoke and foul smelling rain begins to tumble out of its engorged belly. When your brains curdle at the thought of another descent into the Europa League.

On long dark winter days like this, Roberto Mancini must feel like Giacomo Casanova on a swift dart across the sloping lead roof of the Doge's Palace. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of Platt and Kidd,” he might want to wail as he slides off into the night, hot bodies in hot pursuit. They chase him here and they chase him there.

Criticising Mancini after what he has achieved with Manchester City in such a short space of time smacks of a callousness that only football can eek out of normal people, but a pattern that has been developing in his Champions League career deserves at this juncture, at the very least, our deeper scrutiny. The dust from Ajax's successful operation to scythe through City's tactical forest in Amsterdam has settled. The return is now upon us, a match so laden with importance, given City's precarious one point at the foot of the four-team group and Mancini's own Trial by Wapping this week that you dare not consider the fall-out from another Dutch victory. The added spice comes from Daniel Taylor's Guardian article that claims Mancini spent some of the crucial closing weeks of last season negotiating a million dollar contract with AS Monaco as a possible escape if City's season petered out into tears and sawdust. The Italian is never far from the headlines, be it for inter-manager altercations, heinous card waving antics from the sidelines, eerily bare press conference responses or tactical manoeuvring (née tinkering) to the umpteenth degree. Whatever the truth or the reasoning behind City's well-paid manager finding it plausible to move to the French second division from the top of the English Premier League, the news comes at a time when Mancini's Midas Touch is coming into question once again, owing mainly to the shortcomings of his side in continental combat.

Let us start in the present - where sweat and rumour are hard at work - and work steadily backwards: this season's Champions League campaign is beginning to look strangely reminiscent of last year's efforts, where City ended up with ten points, only to find a poor start had scuppered chances of progression. So far we have the poor start nailed. If nine points are to follow from Ajax at home, Real at home and Dortmund away, there won't be a dry pair of trousers in the house. I for one will be available for interview at the top of Mount Fuji wearing an alan ball shell suit and an empty jar of family sized pickled onions as a hat.

What has befallen us so far? City have managed to...

  • lose a nerve-shredding game 2-3 in Madrid, after leading one-nil and two-one with three minutes left to play. Shots 20:8 in favour of the home side.
  • draw a game at home to Dortmund in which the visitors pummelled us for almost the entire match and we got off a very uncomfortable hook with a last minute penalty. Shots 20:12 in favour of Borussia; Joe Hart the clear and obvious man of the match.
  • lose in Amsterdam against a vastly less experienced Ajax side. Shots on and off, 14:14
These three games have rendered one solitary point, seven goals conceded and more shots towards our goal than any other side in the tournament, including the likes of Lille, Nordsjaelland and other so-called "punchbag" sides in reasonably difficult groups.

Last season's campaign has been well documented. The Champions League panned out thus in 2011-12:
  • a home draw with Napoli where the away side surprised us with its powerful fluid counter-attacking, making it necessary to come back from a goal down
  • a 2-0 defeat in Munich, after a lively, bright opening 20 minutes, but eventually 17:6 shots ratio and a ratio on the bench of One Reluctant Argentinian:One Steaming Furious Italian
  • a last gasp 2-1 win over Villareal, the group's whipping boys, who still manage 13 shots on our goal and to hold out at 1-1 until the 93rd minute.
  • an easy 3-0 win away to Villareal against a side whose confidence is beginning to slip away, as they were rooted to the bottom of the group and struggling surprisingly in La Liga.
  • a critical 2-1 defeat in Naples against a fiery, punishing home side, backed by a volatile crowd made up of 65,000 torch bearers. Difficult place to get the result we needed, but scored only one (from Balotelli) from 14 chances.
  • a 2-0 home win over already qualified Bayern, who played a quasi-reserve side 
The  totals under Roberto Mancini are thus: Played 9; Won 3; Drawn 2; Lost 4; For 13; Against 13

Some of this can be put down to bad luck, some of it to beginners nerves, inexperience, a dodgy UEFA coefficient, dogs barking outside the hotel windows all night and some oddly shaped and less than fragrant southern Italian gnocchi, but not all of it. When we add Roberto Mancini's distinctly ropey record with Inter, debate becomes a little more lively.

Before doing that, it is worth noting, whilst albeit not pertaining to Mancini's Champions League record, he did take Lazio to the semi finals of the UEFA Cup in 2003-4, beating Sturm Graz, Besiktas, Red Star Belgrade and Wisla Kraków before going out to the eventual winners, José Mourinho's Porto. However, when the nitty gritty of the UCL hoves into view, something odd happens. His Inter side never got going in this tournament, losing a steamy match with Valencia that led to sightings of Mancini trying to mask a tv camera's view of an ensuing "melée" between his players and those of the Spanish side. Reverses at the hands of Milan, Villareal and Liverpool followed in the years that came.

Much is made these days of the Mancini, who seems lost in European competition. The man, who -when confronted with the European game's big thinkers and big hitters- ends up with cioccolato dripping down the old Dolce e Gabbana slacks. With the British tabloid hyenas barking down his every word, the frayed edges of Mancini's silky smooth media appearance are beginning to show. Threads are unravelling gently around the sides to reveal a bare Italian bottom. 

The sky over East Manchester
The ever-growing band of intrepid Mancini followers watch his every managerial step, convinced they are witnessing a man on the brink of implosion, who continually suffers in Europe’s premier competition, a serial failure, the guy who got lucky in the league. They see a guy, who often cuts a frustrated figure on the touchline, his scarf knotted loosely, his arms not sure whether to point or fold, wave a card or point at Brian Kidd. they see all this and they prepare to pounce.

Let us not forget that, after the Inter loss to Liverpool, Mancini blurted a hugely premature resignation speech before presiding over a jittery end of season where his Inter did all they could to allow Roma to overtake them. In scenes almost as dramatic as City's summit with QPR last May, Mancini's Inter only secured the big gong on the final day by beating Parma. Mancini, then, is no stranger to emotionally charged crisis periods, life-sapping end of season run-ins, nor, sadly, continental collapses.

The fact remains that no man, be he English, Italian or neither one thing nor the other, deserves the public whipping Roberto Mancini is currently undergoing. The atmosphere sours with every outrage, every spat response, every sarcastic dig about a hair dryer or, as a Manchester Evening News hack  laughably complained last week, a lack of eloquence when using English. We are watching the gradual erosion of a man's dignity in a very public arena. Alex Ferguson would always resolve such matters quickly and without fuss: banning orders here, gagging order there and Mike Phelan for the rest of you. City, for the time being and for reasons that only they will know, continue to allow their manager to be flash fried on live television. It is beginning to make uncomfortable viewing. For Roberto Mancini, a man of some considerable pride, it is turning him slowly but surely into a sulky, wounded animal. He will not put up with this sort of circus, you imagine, for very long.

About Me

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Victim of great Winona Ryder trouser theft; bitter, confused and maladjusted. Watching City since 1974 with fluctuating amounts of disbelief.

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