Thursday, 22 May 2008

UEFA Champions' League Final 2008

That was the best sport I have ever seen.

On a purely footballing level, it was exceptional. The two best teams in world football of the past three or four years (certainly since Ancelotti's team lost their legs and Rijkaard let Barca descend into a guapa circus) each played the best football I have seen this year. I've grown rather weary (although never bored) of seeing United thump poor Premier League teams. Against Barcelona they did enough but no more. This evening they combined the two: scintillating football against serious opposition.

Chelsea were the perfect match. Combining the long ball with the short, characteristic grit with all too rarely seen grace, they grew into the game over the two hours. Increasingly sharp, but still on the back foot when Lampard scored, they dominated the second half of normal time. In extra time the famous Chelsea fitness showed and they threatened to kill with every attack. The Cole brothers were awesome: Ashley out Evra-ed Evra, Joe out-Scholesed Scholes.

Deep inside every City fan is a core of bitterness. Some show it more than others. I would never sing 'Who's that dying on the runway?', but I do have that intuitive distaste for Manchester United shared by all City supporters. I've mellowed, and cut it down as I've grown up: the semi-final defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 left me as happy as I ever was as a thirteen year old. The part of everyone that is reserved for the purely tribal, the adversarial, the nostrism, is realised in flashes of glee when United lose. But I can't get past the fact that they deserved it. Chelsea may have scraped the better of the play this evening (yes more shots, but also less possession and fewer passes), but this is a remarkable United team. I know it's not a fair comparison, but I'm sure they would thump the 1999 team. And in that sense I'm pleased for football that it wasn't a domestic also-ran; Liverpool, Milan or even Barcelona who won the Champions' League. It is a competition for the best in Europe, after all.

More writing will follow more reflection.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ils sont les meilleurs

Ce sont les meilleure equipes
Es sind sie allerbesten mannschaften
The main event
Die meister Die besten
Les grande equipes
The champions!

Une grande reunion
Eine grosse sportliche veranstaltung
The main event

Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die besten
These are the champions

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes equipes
The champions!


Sorry for not doing my season review yet. I've got quite a lot to write but haven't fully decided how to present it yet. Hopefully by the weekend.

I've almost given up trying to figure out what's going on behind the scenes, although that doesn't stop me spending all my time on NewsNow, Bluemoon and ManCityFans hoping to pick up some shard of fact or insight.

My intuition (always a good thing to base judgements on) gives Sven 20% likelihood of staying on at the moment. Dont' expect me to justify this with facts.

The playing staff is more important to me than the manager at the moment, although I'm not sure why. I'm more worried about Richards leaving than Sven - because I've accepted Eriksson's departure but haven't faced up to the possibility of Micah going. But it's not like there's a choice one can make between the two. If Sven stays hopefully the players stay, but the opposite is probably also true.

But I don't want to consider a choice between Sven AND all of our current players PLUS shiny new editions OR no Sven, no Richards, no Johnson, no Dunne but maybe Ronaldinho and probably Figo on a Bosman.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


  • A scoreline that will stay long in the memory. Not the result of a team at all at ease with itself or its future.

  • I am as 'pro-Sven' as any City fans, but I think there is a case to be made that he has been so undermined by recent events that he ought to be let go. The players don't seem to believe in him any more and the Chairman clearly doesn't (even IF he is forced to change his mind). Remeber Jol at Tottenham - a manager wrongfully undermined has still been undermined.

  • The Jol case is one cause for optimism. Sometimes, popular managers are controversially sacked and it all turns out ok. Another good example is Ranieri: Chelsea fans were furious when he was dismissed but it led to the most successful period in their history. We don't know who'll be managing us next season. It could turn out well.

  • I'll do some sort of season review later this week.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Fair Play

A rare piece of good news: England has won the UEFA Fair Play competition and as such gets one representative into the UEFA Cup. Give the recently updated Premier League Fair Play table, we are almost sure of the place.

The only thing stopping us would be if Everton overtake us on Fair Play and lose to Newcastle, whilst Villa win their remaining game. If that happened, Villa would finish fifth and get the UEFA Cup spot, Everton would get Fair Play and Blackburn would get Inter-Toto.

A few weeks ago I was hoping we'd get into Europe, and preparing to spend some time and money going to see City on the continent. Recent events, however, have dampened my enthusiasm for this.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Players leaving

Increasingly persistent rumours about possible departures: Dunne, Richards, Johnson seem to be the most likely, followed by Hart, Elano, Petrov. (I'm writing about players I'd be sad to see go; I hope Eriksson's departure won't stop Dickov, Sun, Bianchi, Corradi, Mills and Samaras from leaving).

I guess this depends on how strong a bond the players developed with Eriksson. Intuitively you'd think that the British academy players would be more likely to stay in that they have a long standing connection with the club that predates Sven. And those players Sven brought to England would now feel rather stranded by his departure. Elano, Petrov, Corluka and Fernandes' presence at City is contingent on Eriksson in a way that Johnsons etc is not.

So does that mean the English players will stick and the foreigners will leave?

I'm not sure. The argument could go the other way: the foreign players, having established themselves in City are here to stay now and would not want to uproot themselves again to go and play in Spain or Italy or wherever. This presumes a primacy of non-footballing reasons in players' movements, but I think that might be legitimate. Many of them might be enjoying their high wages, house in Cheshire and children in English schools; therefore inclining them against moving to continental Europe where socio-economic opportunities are limited. Equally, it would not be much of an upheaval for Richards or Johnson to move to Arsenal or Liverpool or United -and so for them footballing factors would be more powerful than non-footballing ones.

So it could go either way.


The Times this morning and BBC Sport this afternoon both report that we've gone for Scolari. I'm not enthusiastic.

Scolari has never worked in European club football. He has never been involved with English football in any way. He has never had to deal with a multi-million pound transfer budget (Cruzerio and Palmerias are big clubs in their own way, but don't operate on the same financial plane as a Premier League team). Some managers make the transfer to the EPL successfully (Wenger, Benitez, Mourinho), some don't (Gross, Houllier, Perrin) but they're all coming from at least comparable backgrounds.

Another thought: won't his temper produce problems? Shinawatra clearly wants someone who accepts boardroom influence on transfer policy, and, if you believe some rumours, selection. Isn't Scolari too much his own man to allow this? The same problem appears with rumours of Slaven Bilic or Martin Jol (both of whom I would prefer ahead of Scolari). Surely Scolari is smart enough

The one possible instrumental benefit is that he will bring with him some Portugese players. In between the ageing Hamann and the still green Gelson'n'Johnson we could do with someone like Tiago, Petit or Maniche. But, as the strongest argument in favour of a manager, this is staggeringly insufficient.

Can't we just stick with Sven?

Friday, 2 May 2008

Thursday, 1 May 2008


I have emotionally invested more in this City team than any other I can remember. I spend almost all of my time thinking about them: the next match, the last match, Ireland or Vassell on the right, European qualification, new kits? etc etc. I've always been a City fan; but this team has meant more to me than any.

And it's all gone. Shinawatra has sucked all the hope out of City, and I don't care any more.

Bozhinov's comeback?
England overtaking Norway in Fair Play?
Corluka at right back or centre back?
A new bid for Chiellini?
The other £3.87m for Benjani?
Dunne's new contract?
The trips to Middlesbrough or Liverpool?
Wright-Phillips or Lennon?

I don't care about any of these any more. I know I should - as much as City is bigger than Thaksin it's also, for the same reason, bigger than Sven. But none of this seems to matter now. Without Sven nothing really matters.