Sunday, 5 July 2009

Departures

The most interesting thing to happen while I was away was not news of possible megadeals for Samuel Eto'o and John Terry but the departures of five senior players from the club: Danny Mills, Michael Ball, Dietmar Hamann, Darius Vassell, and of course Danny Sturridge.

As I've written before, one of Mark Hughes' central tasks as City manager has been to do what Sven-Göran Eriksson could never quite achieve: the overturning and purging of all aspects and remnants of the John Wardle/Stuart Pearce era at MCFC. Hughes has often spoken of the need to replace a losing mentality with a winning one, has introduced significant improvements to the medical and training facilities, has brought in experience and leadership in Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Shay Given, Craig Bellamy, Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry.

And the departures of Mills, Ball, Hamann and Vassell mark a key, almost a final, point in this process. Ball, Hamann and Vassell were all bought by Stuart Pearce - Mills was actually bought by Kevin Keegan but remained a regular under his successor - and they came to encapsulate some of the worst aspects of the aspects of the Pearce era: the sense that experience was seen as a good in itself, the 'one final payday' attitude which started with Keegan's McManaman and Fowler experiment, the lack of pace, the stifling mediocrity of it all.

The detail that Ball, Hamann and Vassell made a total of 81 starts in 2007/08 betrays the fundamental fact that Eriksson's changes at City were fundamentally cosmetic. Even last year under Hughes the three played some part in the opening months. Appropriately, they all made their last ever City appearances in the traumatic and cathartic FA Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in January 2009. That game, before the signings of de Jong, Bellamy and Given - and before the debut of Wayne Bridge - represented the final outing of, and final judgement against, Stuart Pearce's Manchester City. In cutting the cord with Hamann, Ball, Vassell - and Danny Mills, who last played in August 2006 - Mark Hughes has made a crucial break from our recent past, and a clear statement of future direction.

2 comments:

Pete said...

I, for one, will miss Hamann. While playing for City, it was obvious he'd lost a step (or six!), but his understanding of the game allowed him to be in the right spot before more physically gifted (read that: faster) players.

Best wishes, Didi.

Blue Roo said...

It's no coincidence that those three played last against Forest, especially Hamann and Ball.

I have a strong feeling that those two were the main culprits in undermining Hughes from the start.

Both players refused to warm up v Hull, and interestingly they both picked up "season ending" injuries soon after the FA Cup match.

With this in mind, perhaps the efforts of the two on the night (and especially one particular throw in) were deliberate by the players.