Pleased to report that all the subscription copies have all been sent out. here's an article that we couldn't fit in to KK 195 :
And we start with the big one, the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to the Blue Camp, and boy did it feel good to stick it to the media’s darlings for the second time this season. I don’t know at what point my antipathy towards Spurs reached its current level, but I think it’s certainly true that of all the clubs in the Premiership, jealousy and bitterness has been highest not amongst the dippers, the rags or Chavski (albeit that they have been consumed with varying degrees of envy and spite), but rather amongst those of comparable size and dearth of success that we left behind, the two most glaring examples being Spuds and Stokerton. All of a sudden City has become a veritable cup final for the denizens of White Hart Lane and Goodison Park, and supporters of both seem to infest the internet and the various phone-ins after every City defeat, with endless jawing about their ‘history’. In Everton’s case this is particularly laughable when you consider that this great ‘history’ of which their fans are so eager to boast, manifests itself in the shape of just 8 major honours since the 2nd World War (a mere one more than City who have 7)! Spurs have fared undeniably better with 14, until you consider that is, that they haven’t won the league, or even finished runners up, in the last 51 years, and that 6 of those 14 triumphs were recorded before the Beatles made the Magical Mystery Tour 44 years ago. Either way, both seem to have massively over inflated opinions of themselves, and particularly when you factor in their average attendances as well.
Another feature of my own personal disregard for both clubs concerns their respective managers. Gollum Moyes has been a watchword for pathetic bitterness ever since City eschewed the monkey for the organ grinder in their approaches for Joleon Lescott, but greater contempt just has to be reserved for Redknapp. There’s plenty more on the subject of Harry the Spiv elsewhere, but for the sake of this particular match in isolation we’ll concentrate only on the transparently desperate mind games he chose to play in the build up, the most laughable of which was portraying Spurs as the footballing equivalent of a plucky single mother, struggling to make ends meet in Netto, whilst City’s butler popped down to Harrods to pick up the caviare and Dom Perignon 64, and drove the Roller into puddles to drench the hoi palloi just for kicks en route. As ever though, the truth and Harry Redknapp are strange bedfellows and uniting them is only usually achievable via the administration of large quantities of sodium pentathol, and in the absence of any visible drip lines in the press conference anyone with half a brain would have immediately made a mental note to examine the veracity of the statements being made at a later date. Sure enough then, perusal of the gross spending figures for all Premiership clubs between 2006 and 2011 reveals, to no great surprise, that City top the charts at £531m, but who’s that lurking not far behind in 4th place? Yup, Tottenham Hotspur at £243m!
But whatever, after a month solid of being told that Spurs could win the title and that Spurs play the best football and that Spurs are a great example of how you don’t need to spend obscene sums of money to be successful and so on and so on, guess what? Yeah, that’s right, they were shit! Not that you’d have guessed it from the commentators and TV pundits of course, who all but tugged themselves blind over Harry’s Boys’ magnificent comeback. Great teams play for 90 minutes though, not half an hour, and until Stefan Savic’s latest piece of kamikaze defending gave them an ill deserved lifeline, Spuds weren’t in the game at all. Fair play in respect of the chimp’s goal mind – if he played for us we’d be absolutely unstoppable.
As it was then, last word on the day went to Super Mario. Personally I’m not convinced the lad isn’t borderline autistic when it comes to pressure situations, as whilst I was sitting there all but having a heart attack, up he ambled like he was taking a penalty against a 2 year old keeper in a net 100 foot wide, paused to catch his own reflection in the North Stand scoreboard, adjusted his hair, lit a cigar, and then tucked it away without batting an eyelid.
However, there was no chance of our being able to savour a well deserved victory of course, as an immediate inquest into Balo’s alleged stamp on Scott Parker involving 57 different camera angles and endless slow mo’s and freeze frames began. Did he do it on purpose? Doubtless we all have an opinion and mine is that he probably did (I base this on Mario’s penchant for similar acts of petty stupidity in Italy as much as anything else), although courtesy of a CSI style crime reenactment in my front room involving the cat, I can tell you it’s virtually impossible to generate any kind of power downwards and backwards when you’re falling forwards. However, the very reason it’s difficult to generate any power is because that particular motion is completely unnatural ie you’d have to have done it on purpose. The cameras made it look far worse than it was though and it was telling that for all Redknapp’s ranting about Parker having sustained a big gash on his head, the player himself was never wheeled out for anyone to verify this claim. Whatever, regardless of the fact that room for doubt existed there was no way anyone was going to listen. The opportunity to hang a City player out to dry was never going to be glossed over. The camel eyed spiv was allowed to allege, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that Mario had done it before, Dogger Collymore and the rest of the Talkshite boys did their bit for the witch hunt with a 2 hour phone-in that comprised almost entirely of foaming Spurs fans calling for life bans etc, and Merson’s mob duly followed suit on Sky. The aim of course was intentional, to find the player guilty before any hearing could take place, and to whip up such a high profile frenzy that the FA would charge Balo regardless of the subjectivity of opinion involved, rather than face a media backlash themselves. Whatever, a 4 game ban duly followed after Howard Webb opted to follow in the footsteps of Wiggy Clattenburg in implementing subsection (2), paragraph (g), clause (vii),of the footballing disciplinary rules, which states that if a referee admits to having seen an incident at the time (and, ergo, dealt with it) no retrospective charges shall be applicable, unless the player concerned belongs to Manchester City, in which case the referee shall be free to make it up as he goes alon…. erm, I mean reassess his original decision, so that the little blue basta… erm, player, gets what’s coming to him. Needless to say, a 4 gamer was not severe enough for some, with one popular argument I heard encouraged on Talkshite holding that City should be docked points as they had benefited from incorrectly having an extra man on the pitch when they scored the winner. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. If every team that had a player commit a red card offence that was missed by a referee at the time, was subjected to this kind of “justice”, then the eventual champions would probably have a finally points tally of about 20 and the ensuing arguments would probably go all the way to the House of Lords!
“But it’s not fair” squawked Collymore, fanning the flames on his radio phone-in for the terminally dense, “Man City have got loads of great strikers on their books, so it makes no odds to them if Balotelli gets banned. They’ve got Aguero, Silva, Dzeko, Nasri. There must be a stronger, more effective punishment!”
Nice to know that our list of “great strikers” includes 2 lightweight central midfielders eh? It was just a surprise that layby lovin’ Stan didn’t try and pass Lescott and Zabaleta off as forwards as well in his quest to portray us as an arrogant stinky rich bottomless pit of talent.
As to Balotelli then, well only he knows if he did it on purpose or not, and if he did (and, as stated, my own inclination is that he did), then he needs to have a serious look at himself and Mancini needs to give him an industrial strength carpeting. The stamp itself is one thing, but the damage it could have done to the club’s title aspirations is something else again.
Last word on the actual game? Chris Coleman. Is he the thickest commentator of all time? The evidence, in the form of “Julian Lescott (sic), Mario Balochelli (sic), Roberto Manseeni (sic), Dayvid Da Silva (sic) and Gael Clichay (sic), suggests that ‘yes’ he is. As was suggested in one of the broadsheets, we should be grateful that Jason Cundy’s footballing career is long since over, or Sky would be forced to screen all their games after the 9pm watershed.
Whatever, Tottenham done and dusted, we should have been in a great frame of mind for the Carling Cup semi, 2nd leg, 3 days later. Alas we turned in a performance only marginally less pathetic than our effort in the 1st leg, and it was inevitable that Craig Bellamy should score the goal that knocked us out. Of all the players we have parted company with under Mancini, Bellamy is the only one I genuinely regret. Adebayor was a lazy lightweight who needed a slap, and his comments about not trying when he didn’t feel loved spoke volumes for why we were right to toe end him out of the door, Shaunny was nearing the end of his shelf life, Given was surplus to requirements courtesy of Harty’s brilliance, and Neddy was only ever a bit part player in a position where we had bags of other options, but Bellamy, for the sake of a little emollient and flexibility regarding his training schedule, was foolishness. Sure, he was never a world beater, but in a squad bereft of width and pace, here was a player that offered both, not to mention a never say die attitude, yet we allowed him to walk. True enough we had enough about us to twice take the lead on the night and true enough we were on the receiving end of Phil Dowd’s customary uselessness, but in all honesty we got what we deserved. Nothing. The manager picked a negative team, with a midfield quintet containing two blockers, Barry and De Jong, and two full backs, Zabaleta and Kolarov, inevitably ensuring we never got forward in sufficient numbers to really trouble Liverpool as a result, and several of the players just didn’t seem to want it badly enough. Perhaps they caught their complacent attitudes from some of the supporters, who seemed to think our exit from the competition ‘not that important’ the following day on some of the websites. Well, yes, the league is a far more prestigious competition, but have we really become so up ourselves that we are now too grand to bother with a Carling Cup semi final, with pub standard opposition awaiting the winner at Wembley?
One final comment. Stefan Savic. It’s been as plain as a pikestaff since that torrid debut at QPR that he just isn’t ready for the first team, and if his performance against Spurs wasn’t sufficient further evidence then heaven help us. As it was RM went and picked him again instead of switching Micah to centre half and the results were catastrophic. 45 minutes of near calamitous incompetence saw the lad withdrawn, confidence destroyed, transfer value reduced to nil. The only way back now perhaps is via strategic use as a substitute, to try and boost those confidence levels, slowly but surely, up to something vaguely approaching normality.
Next up then Goodison, where we welcomed back Vinny and surely this season, with Everton reduced to a centre half pairing of Heitinga and Hibbert, we would overcome our daemons? Yeh, would we fishsticks! Losing to this shower of bitter no marks is bad enough when they kick us off the park, but when they play shit and still beat us, then it’s time to start asking some questions. You couldn’t even find reason to blame Peter Walton, even though his selection (yet again) for this particular fixture rightly induced a level of paranoia amongst Blues not seen since Cary Grant went on the run in North by Northwest. Again, we dominated possession, again, lacking the pace and width that routinely sees the rags triumph over such bus parking oafs, we tried to tippy tap our way through a central corridor of the pitch measuring about 10 yards across that could not have been more tightly packed with Everton defenders if they’d all been sewn together beforehand by Idi Amin’s chief surgeon, and again we created absolutely nothing. Since we rode out the storm at Loftus Road 3 months ago, our away day performances have comprised fail after epic fail. Any team that’s up for it either turns us over or, as a minimum, frustrates a draw out of us, and it’s worth noting our two lone victories have come courtesy only of truly abject surrenders by the home teams concerned (Wigan and Villa). Throw our customarily inept crossing into the equation as well, and we don’t even look like scoring, never mind winning.
Whatever, a truly desperate performance made worse by the fact that events unfolded exactly as most Blues knew they would. In the best traditions of the Special One, Bobby fell on his sword afterwards to deflect attention away from the players, which was a smart move albeit a fairly transparent one. The idea that Roberto Mancini, a man legendary for being more ruthlessly driven and meticulous in his planning than Rommel, should have not bothered to do his homework properly on Everton in all honesty was risible.
Fulham were up next, and to judge by the empty seats yours truly was not the only one put off by the weather. Considering the game took place in a sub-arctic blizzard then, City played some excellent stuff, revelling in the Etihad’s wide open spaces against a Fulham side that suicidally opted not to match our numbers in midfield. AJ won a decidedly iffy penalty of the type that Ruud Van Nistlehorse used to specialise in without anyone passing comment (needless to say AJ’s prompted a phone-in), trailing a leg out sideways for a defender to hit to start the ball rolling, Chris Baird finished off a flowing move for us by hoofing the ball into his own net to make it two, and Dzeko tucked away a third after a great run by Sergio. Were it not for our new found penchant for trying the walk the ball into the net, we could easily have doubled that tally, but all in all a welcome return to form. Sergio got man of the match, and Edin Dzeko had his best game in months as well, but perhaps we would have been better served by giving it to young Savic, who was back in the side following a knock for Vinny at Stokerton. It might all have reeked of a MacDonalds ‘Employee of the Month’ award (ie everyone gets a turn no matter how shit they are), but it wouldn’t have done his confidence any harm and, Fulham’s general toothlessness notwithstanding, he did ok.
A trip to our absolute favourite whipping boys, Aston Villa was next. Again, the team selection seemed unnecessarily negative, with Kolarov, Zab, De Jong, Milner, Barry and Johnson potentially leaving us with bugger all in the way of pace or creativity, and just Aguero ploughing a lonely furrow up front, whilst Nasri and Dzeko, both of whom had looked like they were starting to run into a bit of form, inexplicably dropped. Fortunately, Sergio and Silva were both excellent, and with Villa obligingly pathetic, one goal was always going to be enough. Be honest though, despite dominating the game from start to finish, can anyone remember Given actually having a save to make? We got in behind them several times in both halves, but on the odd occasion we did try and lash the ball across the 6 yard box rather than attempt to walk it in as usual, there was never anyone in there to get on the end of it. My heart wants to believe we will win the league, but my head tells me we will not finish within 6 points of the rags unless we start to adopt a far bolder approach away from home. Of the battle of the old boys, Gaz Baz had an excellent game, but Milner was well below par, and for Villa, well Dunney gave his all (and best wishes for a speedy recovery), but did anyone even notice Ireland when he came on?
Finally then, just a couple of quick words on our outstanding win in Porto tonight. It looked like we were in for a long evening the way they pressed us into going backwards first half, but we stuck with it, created the better opportunities and thoroughly deserved the victory. The defensive performance was one of the best of the season, with Harty having next to nothing to do, and it was pleasing to see De Jong back to doing what he does best and great to have Ya Ya back. Based on that display, I can’t imagine anyone will fancy playing us, and even though the competition is widely regarded as a ‘B’ lister and is an undeniable drain on resources, it would be good to go all the way as the rags’ co-presence in it, combined with Arsenal’s Chimps League humiliation, should ensure that any press sneering will be kept to a minimum.
The next 2 or 3 weeks will be crucial. City should pick up maximum points from Bolton and Blackburn, but a win at Swansea may prove far harder. However, win we must and pray for Spurs to turn the rags over at the same time. With trips to Stoke, Arsenal, Newcastle and Norwich still to come after that, I reckon we’ll need at least a 6 point lead after the Swansea game in order to hold the rags off, given that the fixture list computer has handed them their customary doddle of a run-in. Fingers crossed and onwards and upwards.