Monday, 22 August 2011

Blast from the Past: The Greatest Comeback?

On Wednesday the 4th February, 2004 City pulled of one the greatest comebacks of all time. It was an FA Cup tie, away at Spurs. The teams were pretty equal heading into the game, both on reasonable form in the league and it was expected to be a close game. I was 10 years old, sat in my living room with my Dad in anticipation of an exciting game. And boy did that live up to expectations.
City lined up as follows: Aarson, Jihai, Distin, Dunne, Tarnat, Wright Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sinclair, Fowler, and leading goalscorer Nicolas Anelka.

Disastrous start, Ledley King put Spurs up inside 2 minutes, with I have to say, an excellent curling effort after a stray City clearance. City looked shell shocked, and on 19 minutes, Robbie Keane doubled Spurs lead with a striker's 'dink' over goalkeeper Arni Aarson. Taking it down with his right and finsihing with his left. City still yet to manage a shot on goal. 

Ziege free kick. 3-0 Spurs.
On 27 minutes, Nicolas Anelka hobbled off due to a groin injury and had to be substituted by Jon Macken, the blues now without their main goal threat and top scorer. Yes, Spurs added to the City misery right on half time. This time Ziege with a brilliant curling free kick from the edge of the area. City went in 3-0 down, and without star man Anelka.

Que Joey Barton. Hes good at making things a whole lot better, Barton received a second yellow card for dissent seconds after the half time whistle and City were down to 10.
Away from home, 3-0 down, 10 men, top goalscorer injured, we were out of the cup..surely?

City came out for the second half with the fans pretty much accepting the end of the their FA cup season was inevitable. Some fans had already left, the remaining were left bewildered at how the game could possibly get any worse. The answer is, it couldnt, and that's when it got better. 

City had nothing to lose. They came out the blocks at half time at full pace and Sylvain Distin pulled a goal back for City just 3 minutes after the restart, getting his head on a well worked Tarnat free kick, straight off the training ground. The blues managed to get another goal back through a huge slice of luck (it was about time!), Bosvelt got it, he fired in a shot that looked to be going wide before it took a huge deflection off Anthony Gardner and landed in the Spurs net. 3-2 and somehow, City's numerical disadvantage was out the window and we were in with a shout. Still 20 minutes to go!

City tails were up, they smelt blood and it took half that time, and then came the equaliser, Shaun Wright Phillips the man to latch onto a hopeful ball down the right channel, Shauny's blistering pace put him with only Keller to beat, before the little man delightfully chipped it over the American and into the net. City fans in the corner of the ground went crazy, and that wasn't the end of it. 

90 minutes, seconds to go. Jon Macken grabs a sensational winner, undoubtedly the most memorable moment of his career, he climbed above the Spurs defender and sent a terrific header looping over the goalkeeper before charging off to the corner flag to be molested by hundreds of blues . I did the same, only it being me and my dad in our living room. The game finished 4-3 to City. God pity those who left at half time. 

"They'll talk about this game long after we've all gone" - Kevin Keegan. Yes - every player and management staff to start that game, bar one Shaun Wright Phillips, has now left the club. And yes, every blue still talks about this epic 90 minutes like it was yesterday.

The game symbolises so much for City, the passion and grit we've shown for so many years. And as the song goes, "The boys in blue will never give in!"

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The City Career of...Elano

Brazilian playmaker Elano signed for City under Sven Goran Eriksson. It was the time of Thai owner Thaskin Shinawatra and City had begun to see a little bit of investment of late, Elano transferred to Eastlands along with Vedran Corluka, Javier Garrido, Martin Petrov, Geovanni and Rolando Bianchi. But the £8 million signing from Shaktar Donestk was the first to catch the eye of the City faithful. With impressive displays in the Premier League and FA Cup, we began to see a growing number of the crowd sporting the Elano 11 shirt.

His passing and set piece ability is unquestionable, he took a large number of City's penalties, and scored every one. Elano scored his first goal at home to Newcastle in the Premier League. A sensational free kick hitting what some like to call 'the postage stamp' of the goal. Unstoppable. He also scored in games against Boro, Bolton and Birmingham and his creative mind had cemented him a place in the heart of Sven's midfield. He finished the season with another goal...albeit the only 1 in a humiliating 8-1 defeat at the Riverside Stadium. However, City's mid-table finish saw Sven's position as manager but in doubt and he was later replaced by Mark Hughes on the 5th June 2008. 

Many believe this was the turning point in Elano's city career as he failed to impress the new boss and was rarely in his starting 11. Mixed appearances from the bench meant City fans were losing faith in his commitment to the club as he often looked like he really didnt want to be there. An appalling show in the 3-0 cup defeat to Nottingham Forest was the final nail in the coffin for the Brazilian. He was sold to Galatasaray in 2009.

Elano's final record stands at 14 goals in 62 appearances. He also has a respectable 48 caps for his national side so his talent is unquestionable. However despite a promising start City fans just got the feeling his heart was never at Eastlands and  City just wasnt the team for him. In my opinion I dont think he was even given a chance under Hughes, but he's one of those players, if they're happy with the manager, the fans, the stadium, the training ground, the kit, the kit man, the tiles in the showers, the weather, their car parking space in the training ground car park, then they will play well and excite people. Otherwise, a sulking uninterested figure begins to emerge. 

Saturday, 6 August 2011

City Favourites: Shaun Wright-Phillips

Shauny Wright Wright Wright. A Manchester City..legend? In more than one City fans eyes, certainly. Shaun is an exceptional product of the City Academy, something that is quite hard to come by in the global growth of the Premier League. His first spell at City came back in the Maine Road days, 1999, making his début agaisnt Port Vale as he played a bit part in City's promotion to the top league of English football. Only the blues were to suffer the heartache of relegation the following season, SWP again a squad player.

It was after the change of manager that Wright-Phillips really established himself in City's first team, Kevin Keegan believed he could make a difference in a sky blue shirt, and time only proved him right. Shaun went on to score 26 goals in 153 appearances over 5 brilliant seasons for him, winning games for City virtually on his own. There became an outstanding sense of anticipation when Shaun had the ball at his feet, he had the ability and explosive speed to take a player out of the game with one touch. Head down, and run, from then on its a game of catch him if you can, the opposition probably couldn't, and the fans knew it. Shaun's high points in Manchester include an incredible FA Cup comeback from 3-0 at Spurs and a stunning strike to seal a 4-1 win over rivals United. The outstanding form claimed Shaun City's Young Player of the Year award on 4 consecutive occasions, more than any other player. 

SWP never got going at Chelsea
2005, saw the star man of the moment depart for the Jose Mourinho Chelsea revolution, City received a record £21million for his services. Shaun Wright-Phillips was never a Chelsea player, not from the heart anyway, his move was widely thought to be pressured by foster father Ian Wright and he failed to settle at Stamford Bridge. He scored just 4 goals in his 3 seasons at Chelsea was never part of the first choice 11.

Shaun Whright Phillips was city through and through and 2008, and the new found wealth in Manchester, saw him return home. Signing for City, a second time for around £8million (not a bad bit of business there). City fans were joyous the little man had returned, and he picked up where he left off, as if Chelsea had never happened, grabbing a brace away to Sunderland on his second début. His first season was again, a great success for the blues under Mark Hughes. But now, with City challenging for greater things... 

Shauny Wright was back, but has he ever really been back..for good? Shaun never really set the world alight the second time round in Manchester, and transfer deadline day saw him seal a move to newly promoted QPR. Shauny made it clear he never wanted to leave, that was made sure of in the interview he had just minutes after signing, he was bursting with enthuisasm put it that way. 

As for me, I would have loved to see Mancini give him another chance. His performances in pre-season proved he wasn't afraid to stay and fight for his place, in my opinion, Shaun Wright Phillips at his best is among the top 5 wide players in the league, his passion and love for the club is obvious. And I don't think there's a blue in the country who would have turned him away from spending the rest of his career here. 

All the best at QPR Shauny, and if his debut is anything to go by, the best of Shaun Wright-Phillips may just be on the horizon again. And I for one can't wait for that.

City Favourites: Richard Dunne

As a youngster, growing up with City in the dark days of relegation battles and mid table finishes being a success, it was a rarity to develop a love for an individual player. But around the ages of 11 and 12, Irish centre back Richard Dunne became one of my favourite players to wear the sky blue.

The towering centre half signed for City from Everton in 2000 for a fee of £3million.

Dunne in his first season at City
His life in Manchester got off to the worst possible start, City were relegated to the second tier of English football in Richard's first season with the club.  In 2003, Dunne was one of several City players charged with disciplinary problems and his future at Eastlands looked to be over. 

Richard Dunne thought otherwise, over the summer of the 2003/04 season, he underwent an intense fitness regime; he returned to City for the new season stronger, faster and fitter than ever before and was ready to prove he belonged in Manchester. 

And he did exactly that. It was from then on, a run of outstanding heroic performances from Dunne meant he became one of City's most valuable players, the same guy who had practically wasted his chances with the blues, had come back to fight to the death. 

Yes he made mistakes, every player in the world makes mistakes, but to City fans, he was known as indispensable. The ability to carry the team forward with incredible determination, grit and solidity earned him 4 Player of the Year awards at City, more than any other player ever. The fans weren't the only ones to recognise the love Richard showed for City, in 2006 manager Stuart Pearce appointed him club captain, taking over from Sylvian Distin.

By this time, the fans proudly sung his name to any visitors to walk through the sky blue turnstiles,

“He's here, he's there, he's every fucking where, Richard Dunne, Richard Dunne.

In 2007, Micah Richards said:
"Ever since I’ve come to this club Richard has just been quality. I play with him week in, week out and I think he’s one of the best players I’ve played with. I’ve played with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in the England squad but Richard is right up there with them.”

He went on to captain City for another 3 seasons, and single handedly, holding on to vital points in the battle of the lower ends of the Premier League. 

However, the City takeover in 2008 signalled the beginning of the end for Dunney, unfortunately, Richard never really captured the hearts of the new owners like he did with the fans. In 2009, following the signings of other central defenders Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure, Dunne was told he could leave the club. 

Aston Villa were the team to take him in, and what a fine player they were in for. Richard's remarkable final tally for City - 256 games, 7 goals.

Many fans were distraught to see him go, and the most disheartening thing is, i believe if he had a choice, he would have stayed. But he has settled well with Villa, and has recently been joined by international team mate Shay Given, who also fell out of favour at Eastlands.

Sometimes, its not all about who’s the best player or who can score the most goals, its about the passion for their club shown within their play, and for that, Richard Dunne was of the highest order. Growing up, his commanding figure was something I couldn't see a City team without. So now City are high flying with the cream of the crop, it's sometimes nice to remember who kept the lava for the City volcano brewing all these years.  Now its erupted, and we’ve parted ways, but he will be remembered. Not to mention the only time my dad would not punish me for swearing, would be shouting Richard Dunne's chant at the top of my voice. And even that reason alone, means he's one of my, City favourites.