Monday, February 26, 2007

Gentleman Joey

It just so happens that some friends of mine were on the same flight home from Dubai with a certain Mr Barton at the weekend.

Although they're Liverpool fans, even they commented on what a gentleman he was and how he was great with theirs and other folks young kids during the flight.

I just thought I'd mention it, as this side of Joey is rarely reported by the press who only seem to want to report negative news in relation to him.

Let's hope the break in the sun has done Joey and the rest of the players good and they're up for the scrap against Wigan on Saturday.

I'm looking forward to seeing Mpenza after all the glowing reports from Pearce; surely he has to start.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Gift of Flowers to Pearce

Alas, farewell to Tim Flowers who has joined Coventry City as assistant manager, the club he supported as a lad, and from one sky blue to another, we wish him well.

It's very clear that Stuart Pearce rates Flowers highly, saying that in his opinion, he is the best goalkeeping coach in the country and was desperately disappointed to let him go.

However, with every set-back, comes an opportunity and Flowers departure could prove to be very fortunate, as it gives Pearce the opportunity to shake up his backroom if he so wishes. The club have said they are in no particular rush to appoint a quick, permanent replacement, so he would be well advised to take a step back and consider the wider picture.

I've felt for quite a while now (since the KK days) that City's backroom could really do with a major overhaul as despite changes in managers, we have by and large, been inflicted with the most dire and uninspiring football and it is no wonder that crowds are significantly down.

Even for the bluest of Blues, watching City is hard work with very little to commend it in terms of excitement and entertainment. Yes, I know we're in the FA Cup Quarter Final and Ball and Ireland's goals were spectacular, but these are exceptions and we shouldn't kid ourselves about the standard of football City usually serve up.

I've nothing personally against the current backroom, but we're crying out for a bit of flair and creativity to replace the ultra defensive and excitement stifling performances that City grind out week after week.

There's been a lot of debate about formations.... the whole 3-5-2 v 4-4-2 thing has been argued about in nearly very pub, club and online forum. Personally, I think too much is made of formations. The main problem is the seemingly underlying negative football culture that focuses too much on not losing as opposed to actually going out to attack and win a game.

It wouldn't be so bad if we played cautiously and didn't lose, but that doesn't happen. That's why I believe now is the time to bring in some fresh and positive ideas and produce a more entertaining brand of football. If it's fun and exciting the fans will come back.

Let's hope Pyscho has the courage to take a step back and use the loss of Flowers to his advantage and grasp this opportunity to transform the Club's culture and fortunes - he may not get a better one.

Footnote: Tim Flowers gain was another City old boy's loss, as Coventry parted company with Andy Dibble as goalkeeping coach, having only relatively recently taken up the position. I enjoy my chats with Andy at our local junior soccer club and hope he finds another position quickly; he's a top man !

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just Two More Wins And We're There !

I'm just beginning to wonder whether, at last, this could be our year for the Cup?

Today's visit to Deepdale was not a journey many Premiership teams would have relished, and I'm sure most neutrals ( and perhaps some seasoned Blues), would not have been surprised if City had crashed out of the competition..... but we didn't !

Nugent's predicted goal came as expected, but perhaps for Preston it came a bit to early in the game, as it allowed City to re-group and attack. For a 21-year old, he sure looks old, but he is an obviously talented striker who I'd love to see in a City shirt.

City need a bit of credit for this win. For sure, we had to grind it out at times, but it was a steely performance, without ever being spectacular.... apart from Ball's and Ireland's goals.

I have to say that I thought Corradi was good today and really unlucky not to have scored. His workrate was of Vassell-like proportions and he took a lot of stick without much protection from Mike Riley. What a contrast to Samaras, who for 99% of the game was in-effective and just doesn't look up for a battle when leading the line. I know he got the (soft) goal, but a lucky deflection isn't really enough from a £6m striker and I'm looking forward to Mpenza's arrival.

I would have liked to have seen Sturridge have another run-out, and I'm surprised that Abdoun didn't even make the bench - he looks a much better prospect that the lightweight Beasley. I was also surprised to see Weaver back in goal and wonder whether that could be one of the final nails in the coffin for Isaksson - I hope not.

But what the hell, we've made it into the quarter finals and are only two games away from Wembley...or Cardiff...or wherever. I couldn't give a stuff where, as long as we make it.

It's going to be a nervy lunchtime tomorrow and it's a cliche I know, but give us a home draw for a change! I will be at Confession early tomorrow and praying for Chelsea v United, Spurs v Arsenal, City v Plymouth and I couldn't care about the other one.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Barton's Week That Was ........

Well there's never a dull moment being a Blue; that's for sure !

I don't really enjoy being negative towards City - honest I don't, but I have to say that Saturday's performance at Pompey wasn't just bad because we lost, it was more disappointing because once again, it's not the football that's particularly grabbed the headlines, but a certain Mr Barton is once again at the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.

What is it about Pompey that seems to bring out the worst in some of our players? The infamous Thatcher incident doesn't need any more comment here, but how ironic that it was the hapless Mendes on the receiving end of what looked to me to be a horrendous and indefensible challenge.

I know Mendes keeps scoring irritating and outrageously spectacular goals against us, but let's hope the poor lad hasn't sustained long-term damage to his achilles. Was it accidental or was it deliberate? Only Joey knows the answer to that one, but the ex-player pundits on Sky TV, (i.e the old pros who know better) seemed to be unanimous in their view that it was no accident.

Whatever way you look at it, it was bad .... unacceptably bad, and I for one don't want to see the players in my team putting in potentially career-ending challenges. Rightly or wrongly, City are beginning to get a reputation for on-field thuggery if the comments I've had recently are anything to go by. I do however, expect our lads to play hard, but fair.

I'd like to see Pearce nip this one in the bud and leave our players in no doubt that future, similar transgressions will not be tolerated. In fact, all team managers should do the same, it's not just a City thing, but once again it's us in the spotlight at the moment.

The other matter that Barton seems to be embroiled in, namely being the subject of potential Police action for alleged gesturing, in my opinion is a total waste of everyone's time and should be halted immediately. What a waste of Police resources, and in this instance, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Joey as he, admittedly mainly of his own making, has become an easy target.

Whereas I'm glad City have come quickly to Joey's defence over the gesturing incident, I'm disappointed they haven't given out the right messages over the Mendes tackle. Whatever moral high-ground can be taken from the aftermath of Saturday needs to be grabbed with both hands, and quickly!

It's been a roller-coaster of a week for Joey. One minute, he's newly capped and the answer to England's misfiring midfield and then all of a sudden he's a football's public enemy number one again. It will be a very short England career if he can't sort this part of his game out.

In conclusion, I just wish I had something positive to write about the football :-(

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What Was The Point ?

Great seeing a couple of City players in the full England squad and with all the media hype about the Barton/Gerrard/Lampard thing, it was all a bit of an anti-climax in the end.

However, having said that, what was the point of Joey really being there in the end, as he was only on the pitch for 11 minutes; what sort of opportunity was that?

As soon as I saw the teamsheet I was tempted to run down the bookies and stick a few quid on an away win. The Neville brothers at full back - what was all that about? What could McClaren possibly learn from that has-been brotherly pairing? What made it even worse was that Micah and Gareth Barry (a naturally left sided player) were left on the bench - what's going on?

Lamps and Stevie G failed as a midfield unit yet again, leaving the onlooking Barton to freeze on the bench in complete bewilderment as to what he was doing there. SWP flattered to deceive again and just always looks like he's trying too hard all the time to prove he was right to join Chelsea, which we all know he wasn't.

At best, the England performance was lacklustre and at worst pathetic. At least when Micah came on we looked more threatening with his pace and power. Joey was given all of eleven minutes in a hopeless cause and looked comfortable without really getting into the game. We did however see one of his trademark through-the-back tackles and was a bit lucky to get away with it.

On a positive note, nice to see Stevie Ireland grab a late winner. He's played well since the start of the year and deserves a decent run in the City team and a new contract.

What then about England? Last night confirmed yet again it was a case of wrong team, wrong formation, wrong manager.

Israel must be shaking in their boots !

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Gerrard And Lampard's Pal Joey

Love him or hate him, you've just got to hand it to Joey Barton, that his inclusion in the full England squad England has confirmed his re-rehabilitation and transformation from villain to hero.

Many non-City fans may not realise just how close Joey was to having been shown the door following his notorious Christmas party incident and fracas with an Everton fan on a pre-season tour. It's one of the few high points from the KK era that the club kept faith with Joey in those dark times and Pearce also needs a bit of credit for how he has nurtured and developed Barton from potential outcast into the heartbeat of the City team. I guess Joey also needs a bit of credit too.

It's been well documented that Joey ruffled a few feathers amongst the "Galacticos" in the England squad when he criticised their performances and questioned their priorities when it seemed selling books was more important than performances on the pitch. They didn't like it, but Barton was really only saying what most ordinary fans felt; Joey was spot on.

Narturally the press are making a lot of the Gerrard-Lampard thing; it makes great copy, but in reality it is overstated. I'm not a big McClaren fan, but he needs a bit of credit for not giving into player and press power and including Joey in the squad. Joey deserves it; it's as simple as that and he will, if given a chance show a lot of people that he can mix it at the top level.

It's no real surprise that Lampard and Gerrard allegedly don't like it. This England midfield combination, despite many opportunities, has just not worked. Lampard has taken much of the flak, and his World Cup performances didn't do himself or the team any favours. Similarly Stevie G is carving out a JohnBarnes-like England career where despite awesome club performances, the majority of his international games are frustratingly below par - remember Euro 2004?

Barton's inclusion should introduce much needed creative and positive tension into what has become a stale and stagnant midfield. If nothing else and even if he doesn't get on the pitch, his presence should give the midfield incumbents, who have become far too comfortable and complacent, a much needed kick up the backside. The same would apply to Kevin Nolan, who is desperately unlucky to miss out again, but having said that, three Scousers in the midfield may be a step too far :-)

I didn't think I'd ever say this, but good on you Steve McClaren !

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Windows Block City's New Vista

There's been a lot of spleen-venting in the aftermath of yet another transfer window farce, but was it really such a surprise City were not able to attract some much needed quality?

Judging by the volume of mania and depression on the MEN website, it seems to me that some supporters' expectations of City splashing the cash on top quality players in the positions we really need were way off target - just like our current strikers. The reality is that City are never going to set the transfer market alight and for the really top-class players we are simply not a club of choice; it's just the way things are.

Even so, January was nevertheless a particularly underwhelming month. We're in dire need of a proven goal-scorer and creative midfielder and we end up with a defender and a winger. I had a feeling the Mido deal would fall through and I can't say I'm that upset for the reasons I outlined in a previous article. Shame about Collins John though as he's always impressed whenever he played against us.

So where does that leave us? Well pretty much in the same situation at the end of every transfer window; massive fan disenchantment and a squad of players that's poorly equipped to compete properly in the top flight. None of this came as a particular surprise to me - it's exactly as expected, so I'm not quite as depressed as the seeming majority.

Once again, and it's no bad thing, we'll have to rely on the academy to produce the goods for City's future; they've done it before and they'll have to do it again. However, before everyone jumps on the Sturridge bandwagon, he's still a kid and a long way from the finished article. Yes I know he scores a load of goals in the reserves, but his introduction to the 1st team needs to be properly managed, although I don't think it'll be long before we see him on the bench. Personally, I think Etuhu should get the nod over Sturridge at the moment, as he just looks a more rounded striker, although young Daniel is certainly destined for super-stardom.... but not quite yet.

In the meantime, Pearce has no option but to persevere with Corradi and Samaras and just hope they can find some form and confidence.... and a few goals would also be very handy. Pearce will need to prove that his (part-time) coaching and management skills are capable of turning a toothless frontline into a fearsome strikeforce - no I don't believe it either!