Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sydney Blues' Team of the Decade

It's certainly been an interesting past ten years as a City fan, with a number of relegations, promotions, managers, and takeovers. We've been days away from administration, and we're now the richest club in the world. Manchester City go through more turmoil in a season than most clubs do in a decade.

But to celebrate the past ten years, we've picked our Team of the Decade. It's not the most skillful XI, or the longest-serving, but it includes a host of players that defined the era.

Playing in a 4-1-3-2, wearing the kit in which their finest moments occurred, we have chosen,the following squad:

GK: Shay Given
January 2009 to Present

I was loathe to give any player a spot in a Team of the Decade, when they've only been part of the lineup for such a short amount of time. But in a decade where we've had quite a few good keepers on our books, such as David James, Peter Schmeichel, and um, David Seaman, Shay is in a different class again.

Right from his debut against Middlesbrough, where he saved our arse time-and-time again, it was clear to see Shay was something special. Has single-handedly saved more points for us than any other player in this past twelve months.

Classic City moment: Was the first man to save a Frank Lampard penalty in three seasons in the recent 2-1 win over Chelsea.

RB: Micah Richards
October 2005 to Present

Often criticised for being an athlete rather than a footballer, however it is interesting to note that Richards has been the first choice right-back or centre-half for four different managers now (Pearce, Eriksson, Hughes, and Mancini). Wile not at his career best form of 2007-08, he has made over a hundred senior appearances for the Blues, as well as becoming the youngest ever defender to represent England.

Classic City moment: Dropping the F-Bomb on live television after a last-minute equaliser against Aston Villa in the 2005-06 FA Cup. "This is just amazing. Fucking hell, I just can't believe it. It is a brilliant experience and a great feeling to have kept us in the Cup.

RCB: Richard Dunne (c)
October 2000 to September 2009

The easiest selection of the lot. Until recently, Dunne was the only constant in my City-supporting career. We may have been in another division again, or changed manager again, but I could always rely on Richard Dunne being there come-what-may.

Despite giving away more own goals and red cards than you could care to mention, Dunne was the solid foundation on which our defense was built. Four consecutive Player of the Year awards pretty much tell the whole story. Unfortunately didn't get the chance to see out his career when he was sold to Villa for £6million.

Classic City moment: Played so many games it's difficult to narrow it down to just one, but his performance in the 2007-08 Manchester Derby was one of the best seen by a defender in any match. The constant goalmouth attacks by Tevez, Rooney, and Ronaldo were no match for Dunne that day.

LCB: Sylvain Distin
2002-03 to 2006-07

Big Syl was the other half of a centre-half partnership that saved City from certain relegation in the Pearce Era. He won the Player of the Year award in his first season with the club.

However at the end of the 2006-07 season, with City facing an uncertain future, with no manager and no takeover, Distin decided against signing a new contract with City to advance his career with, um, Portsmouth.

Classic City moment: The breathtaking counter-attack and goal against Villa in a 3-1 away victory in November of 2006. Watch it here.

LB: Michael Tarnat

Unfortunately, much like the current City side, we have a lack of real quality at left-back. Names like Niclas Jensen, Wayne Bridge, and Michael Ball aren't exactly those of standout performers.

As a player, Tarnat falls into a category that was very common at City, which is "I wish we bought them five years ago" (for example: Weah, Fowler, Bernarbia, McManaman, Bosvelt...)

A world-beater at Bayern Munich, he struggled to recapture his form, but was good for the occasional free-kick, if nothing else...

Classic City moment: ...such as the 35-yard thunderbolt in a 3-2 win at Blackburn. Hit with the outside of his left boot, it swerved around the right of the wall before nestling inside the left-post. Amazing.

CDM: Nigel De Jong
January 2009 to Present

Again, it's hard to include a player who has only been at the club for ten percent of the last decade, but Nigel De Jong's effect on the side has been incredibly important. Not since the days of Danny Tiatto have we had such a tough tackler, although thankfully Nigel has a much better temperament. When in form, can nullify the midfield threat of any opponent.

Classic City moment: A wholly dominant performance in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool earlier this season. Gerrard has never been kept so quiet...

RM: Shaun Wright-Phillips (vc)
1999-2000 to July 2005, and August 2008 to Present

The prodigal son. His diminutive frame belies his ability to shoot with amazing power. A gorgeous player to watch when on the ball, he is near impossible to contain when running at defenders, especially in his first spell at the club.

He left for the bright lights of London in 2005, earning City a handy £21million in the process (at a time when we didn't have a pot to piss in, ta very much Ambramovich). However, he struggled to recapture his form at Chelsea and was brought back to the club by Mark Hughes for less than half that fee.

Scored two goals in his return at the Stadium of Light, and I'll happily admit I shed tears of joy after each of them. City through and through, and deservedly gets the armband if Richard Dunne were to suffer an injury (or more appropraitely, be suspended...)

Classic City moment: The final goal 4-1 Derby win in 2003-04. "Pick that one out!"

CM: Stephen Ireland
September 2005 to Present

Last years' Player of the Season, but has struggled to find consistency in his early years at the club. He always showed glimpses of the player he has now become, but these moments were few and far between.

His progress has been hampered by managers continually playing him out of position. He has featured on the left wing and at defensive midfield under Hughes, and was on the right wing under Sven — when played in the 'hole', he has the ability to unravel any side with precision passing when on the ball and incisive lung-busting runs when without it.

Classic City moment: Ran the show on his own in a 5-1 massacre of Hull City last season, scoring one goal and setting up the other four.

LM: Trevor Sinclair
2003-04 to 2006-07

This is a difficult selection. I could have put Robinho there, not so much for his efforts on the pitch, but the impact that his signing had on the club, and dare I say it, world football.

Craig Bellamy also makes a case for inclusion, espescially on current form. However, he's another player who's been at the club less than twelve months.

There was also the possibility of squeezing one of Ali Bernabia or Eyal Berkovic into the side, however this would have meant playing Ireland out of position, and the poor lad has already dealt with that enough in his career. I'm also not comfortable in including too many players that made their mark predominantly in Division One — it has the ability to make average players look like world-beaters.

So Trevor Sinclair gets the nod, a player with the ability to play either wing, but unfortunately his time at the club was dogged by injury. However, he gets extra points for being a life-long Blue, and publicly stating that scoring a Derby goal is "better than sex".

Classic City moment: Skinning Silvestre in the 2003-04 Manchester Derby, just like Goater did a season prior. You can see this goal, and also the Wright-Phillips effort, here.

RS: Shaun Goater
1998-99 to 2002-03

Even Shaun would admit that he is not the best striker of all-time. He had the uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time, poaching most of his goals from within the six yard box. Could not only score with his left and right foot, but with his knee, thigh, back of head, and arse as well.

An amazing career that saw him climb the ranks from the team promoted from Division Two in 1998-99, to the side that finished ninth in the Premier League in his last season. He always gave the impression that he loved every single moment spent on the pitch. An all-time City great.

Classic City moment: Of course, being fed by Gary Neville in the last Manchester Derby at Maine Road, and scoring his 100th goal for the club in the same match would be right up there. But scoring an amazing 33 goals (in which the club scored over 100) in the promotion season of 2001-02 gets the nod.

LS: Nicolas Anelka
2002-03 to January 2005

Whereas Goater seemed to enjoy every moment on the pitch, most days Anelka could hardly look bothered. A complex character — you get the impression that he likes to be a winner having played (and excelled) at some of the greatest clubs in Europe, such as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea. This doesn't however explain why he signed for Fenerbache or Bolton, however...

He has scored more goals for City than he has for any other club, and scored more times in the decade than any other City player. So he deserves his spot for that, at least.

Classic City moment: Scoring 14 goals for the club on our way to our equal best Premier League finish of ninth in the 2002-03 season.

David James, Sun Jihai, Ali Bernarbia, Joey Barton, Paulo Wanchope, Robinho, Glauber Berti.

Happy Blue Year to all the City fans around the world, let's hope the next ten years are just as fun, if not a little more successful!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mancini's first press conference (and Cook's last?)

Roberto Mancini was officially unveiled as Manchester City manager in a press conference at around 4am Tuesday our time.

The purpose of the conference was obviously to introduce Mancini, however there was only one thing on the minds of the assembled media pack — the dismissal of Hughes.

Garry Cook began proceedings by asserting that he would not answer any questions, only reading out a lengthy prepared statement.

Cook was adamant that the target had now shifted from sixth place to 70 points (The improved target was alluded to in a previous post, but is often overlooked. Sixth place is unambitious considering out squad). He also believes City were not on a trajectory to reach that target, nor can he see that changing. Hence, the decision was made to appoint a different manager.

The only problem with this is that does it not take into account the possibility of success in the Carling Cup (our first semi final since 1981 of course). And if City were to defeat both Stoke and Wolves in the coming week, we would sit on exactly 35 points from 19 games — bang on target, with a transfer window to come.

Mancini did his best in the conference, and his weakness in English was preyed upon by the media in the room (especially this specimen). Barely a question asked about his ambitions, just petty snipes about our owners and the sacking of Hughes. By the time Cook found it necessary to intervene (and bang the table for emphasis), it had descended into a farce.

In between all the crap however, it gave us a good insight into Mancini for the future. He believes we can make top four this season, with a view to win the league next year. And if he can stay as cool under pressure as he did in that conference, he'll have no problem in the pressure-cooker that is the managerial post of Manchester City. Forward with Mancini.

You can watch Cook make a fool of himself here, or watch Mancini answer some questions about football here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas time at the Super Sky Four

I don't usually like lifting images from other websites, but I couldn't resist sharing this piece of Photoshop brilliance. Originally posted on Bluemoon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

No seriously, this is Mark Hughes' final interview...

This is the official statement released by Mark Hughes, via the League Managers' Association. If you get time, have a bit of a poke around that site — it's a good read.

I do think that Hughesy is telling a few fibs though...
"I was informed after yesterday’s match against Sunderland that my contract with Manchester City was being terminated with immediate effect. Notwithstanding media coverage to the contrary, I was given no forewarning as to the Club’s decision. Given the speed with which my successor’s appointment was announced, it would appear that the Club had made its decision some considerable time ago."

"I am extremely disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to see through my plans at the Club. At the beginning of the season I sat down with the owners and it was agreed that a realistic target for the season would be 6th place in the Barclays Premier League, or in the region of 70 points. All of this was communicated to the players and we all knew where we stood. Whilst everyone at the Club would obviously have wanted to see more wins, we were absolutely on target at the time of my dismissal. Only recently we had terrific victories against both Arsenal and Chelsea."

"I am very proud of the fact that I steered the Club through the most significant period of change in its history."

"I have always been aware of the responsibility that comes with being afforded the luxury of a significant transfer budget, and I was grateful that the Club supported me with significant investment in players. I very much regret, however, that I will not now be able to enjoy the success that would undoubtedly have followed in the light of that investment."

"I believe that I have handled with dignity the recent pressure placed upon me by press speculation."

"I would like to thank the fans for their support throughout my time at the Club and particularly at this difficult time, and I wish the Club every success in the future, particularly in relation to the forthcoming Carling Cup semi-final, the Club’s first semi-final for 28 years."

Mark Hughes' Final Interview?

"Obviously, it is very disappointing to be leaving Manchester City at this time. I am delighted with the job that I have done and am satisfied in that respect."

"We've come through a difficult period, when I first arrived we lacked ability in key areas. We've obviously benefited in terms of resources, but the key factor is that we've been able to improve not only the team, but the long-term future of the club, which is what we were trying to do here."

"This season, we've obviously improved the quality throughout the whole squad, but often we weren't dynamic enough for long periods. On occasions, we were missing a number of key personnel, and because of this we failed to kill off teams and to ask enough questions of the opposition."

"It's disappointing because I've always felt my teams are stronger in the second half of the season."


Sunday, December 20, 2009

More on the sacking of Mark Hughes

It's now the morning after the night before, and the news is starting to sink in that Mark Hughes has been replaced as manager by Roberto Mancini.

How will this decision affect Manchester City and our season?

Hughes' Appointment

Mark Hughes, it should be remembered, was hired at the end of the Thaksin regime (I think it's fair enough to describe Shinawatra's tenure at City as that). At the time, we were skint. Hughes was brought in to transform City into a hard-working, high tempo team, all the while working on a limited transfer budget. It was hoped he could emulate his feats at Blackburn, where he was able to unearth some gems in the transfer market (Roque Santa Cruz), and perhaps qualify for Europe again.

The start of Hughes' appointment certainly followed the script. Apart from Jo, who to be fair was hardly his responsibility, he made some astute signings, such as Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, and the returning Shaun Wright-Phillips. The start of the season was fairly subdued, as City stuttered through the UEFA Cup qualifying rounds and picked up some solid points in the league, the most impressive a 3-0 win at Sunderland. And then, the world changed forever, for everyone...

The Takeover

Hughes, and Manchester City, had suddenly won the lottery. In the eighteen hours between the takeover and the close of the summer transfer window, City broke the British transfer record, signing Robinho for £32million. Overnight, City were transformed from mid-table battlers to the most talked about club in world football.

Sheikh Mansour to his credit, stuck by the man from the previous regime, even after a 2-1 defeat at West Brom in December saw City slip into the relegation zone. After this particular match, it appeared that Hughes' position was now untenable. Many City fans, myself included, thought that this would be the end for Hughes.

To the credit of the owners, he was retained. He had access to a transfer kitty in January, his first real chance to make an impact on market and to buy the players he wanted who would play in the style he wanted to play. And his purchases were certainly inspired, as Shay Given, Nigel De Jong, and Craig Bellamy combined to salvage City's season, eventually finishing in tenth, but still failing to qualify for Europe.

More Recently

It has been referred to a number of times that the owners are all about "stability", however less than twelve months after the takeover, the only constants from the Thaksin regime were Hughes, Garry Cook, Stephen Ireland, Micah Richards, and Les Chapman. Just about every other player who was at the club before the takeover (including many of Sven's signings) were transferred, loaned, or released.

A more logical scenario would have seen Hughes moved on at the end of last season, and ADUG's own man brought in. It is strange that the owners were prepared to allow Hughes, a man that they did not appoint, access to an open chequebook, and back him without question in the transfer market. And it is commendable that they had such faith in the manager, and were prepared to build a whole club around him, his management team (the "Taffia"), and his priority for fitness and work-rate. There was a sense that Hughes would build a Baconface-esque dynasty at the club.

Clear targets were set for this season — top-six or bust. However, that target soon became obsolete, due to the changed transfer strategy. The owners saw a favourable marketplace, where Real Madrid aside, there was very little transfer activity. The Rags were even reduced to buying players from Wigan and the Championship. Hughes had the opportunity that no other manager in the history of football has had before — the chance to sign virtually any player and amount of players of his choosing. It is for this reason that so much was expected of this season.

This original sixth-place target was now upgraded to Champions League football. It has been alluded to by players, the staff, and the Chairman himself. Despite being on record as saying that the top-six was still a target, behind the scenes it was a different story. Assuming every player is fit, there is no reason that the current City squad should not be challenging for the League. The sacking of Hughes whilst City sits in the top six is evidence of this.

The Right Decision?

The sacking of Hughes brings unnecessary disruption to a season that has already been tumultuous to say the least. Yes, our form has not been great, the run of draws has hamstrung our season, and we have played poor on too many occasions. But will changing the manager, and with it the dynamic of the club, translate into a higher position in the table? And what of Hughes' buys, such as Santa Cruz, Bellamy, and Tevez? Will their form be affected?

Whilst we're not progressing as we should be, I don't think changing the manager was the answer. But what is though? Can Mancini fix our leaky defense for instance?

I don't agree with the decision, as personally I think it's poorly timed. I do see the reasons for it though, and at least it gives Mancini a couple of games to see where we need to improve and strengthen during the January window.

I do feel sorry for Sparky. He was a divisive character, partly because of the club he played his football with, but also because of perceived tactical weakness and lack of real personality. But hopefully, now that the future of Hughes has been decided, City fans can once more unite behind the team and the manager.

City were here a long time before Hughes, and we'll be here a long time after. Our support will continue — no matter who the players are, who the gaffer is, or what division we are playing in.

I am behind Mancini 100% as he takes us into a new era, and I wish Sparky all the best in his next post.

Breaking News: Hughes OUT

Official club statement:
Manchester City FC can confirm that it has today terminated the contract of Mark Hughes.

In giving reason for the termination Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said:

"Prior to the current season beginning, with significant investment in players and infrastructure in place, the consensus between the Board and coaching staff was that appropriate agreed targets should be set for the 2009/2010 season.

"The targets were agreed as a result of the player acquisition strategy of the club being radically accelerated in the summer as a result of very favourable conditions for any buying club. It was also based on the fact that the infrastructure of the club had been overhauled completely at great cost in order to create the best possible environment for the team.

"A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set. Sheikh Mansour and the Board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change. This is a particularly difficult announcement given the personal investment over the past 15 months on all sides and we would like to put on record our respect for and thanks to Mark Hughes and we wish him the best in his future career."

Manchester City Football Club can confirm the appointment, with immediate effect on a permanent contract, of Roberto Mancini and are also pleased to announce that Brian Kidd will join Roberto as assistant manager.

Commenting on the appointment, Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: "Roberto is a hugely experienced manager with a proven track record of winning trophies and championships. His experience and track record speak for themselves. What is absolutely clear is that Roberto believes in Manchester City’s potential to achieve at the highest level and importantly in his own ability to make this happen. My hope is that our incredible fans will join us in welcoming Roberto to the football club."

Mark Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Kevin Hitchcock and Glyn Hodges have also left the Club and further appointments will be announced in due course.
We'll allow the news to sink in first before passing judgement on the decision. However, we wish Sparky all the best for the future.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Andy's trip to Australia — P: 27, lost only 4...

Having been pretty pleased this season to only lose one game up until Wednesday's smashing by spurs, I started to wonder how many games we had actually lost since I arrived mid-April. It's only 4, and these games were against only 2 teams (Spurs and United) and 2 grounds (you should know now...).

We have played 27 competitive games (including the last leg of the UEFA Quarter Final against Hamburg, still a technical win) and also beaten Barca 1-0 at the Nou Camp whilst also beating Arsenal twice, Chelsea once, point from Liverpool, and made it to a semi-final.

So if there are any Sparky critics reading this, just consider how far we have come in a few years, and take comfort in the fact that we are having far less heart attack endings and suicide inducing performances than a few years ago.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Adz on the current situation

Sydney Blues member Adam McKnight takes some time out of his World Tour Of The World to share his thoughts on the dilemma at City. Use the comments page to have your say.

The Positives

We are owned by the most generous football owners in the world. For me it’s not a matter of if, it’s when. They have upgraded the club completely from the basics in infrastructure, to the talent within the squad. They have a winning mentality and they want us to become a powerhouse in world football. They would be watching our reactions and making their opinion on Mark Hughes like the rest of us. They are patient business people with realistic goals. Until they can acquire the services of someone more suited to the role then Hughes won't be going anywhere (at least til seasons end). You take a look at Pompey, Notts County and whoever else to see that our owners are the real deal, we should be so ever grateful.

We are into our first semi-final in years and could be lining up at Wembley. The sheer prospect of another date with Wembley is mouthwatering and at the start of the season if you said you can have a cup final and a top 6 finish (which our owners outlaid) I would have taken it in a flash.

The squad is the most talented we have had in years and the potential they could reach is that of the top 4 standard. The game vs Chelsea was one of the most inspiring performances I've seen from city outfit in a very long time and if Hughes can find a bit more winning stability, the one that he has found in drawing then we could be onto something special and long term.

The Negatives

I won’t comment on the money but it’s a lot, luckily for us our owners have long pockets. Mark Hughes has done a ‘ok’ job and guided us into a position to challenge the top 6, but is he capable of doing any more then that? His tactics at times have been awful and when people come out and blame Sylvinho for being caught out vs Spurs, we all must remember that he was a signing of Hughes… and not the right one.

The biggest frustration is all the draws. So many "wastes of two-points" and if we had somehow got a goal or killed of the games then we would be right up there this year (which is the most weakened league for years). If we had won these games then people would be calling Hughes a masterstroke, but we are not.

The other negative is the sheer negativity of supporting Hughes. I for one am not his biggest fan, nor do I think his the man to take us forward. However if the owners support him, then we should support the owners. They have pumped a lot of money into the club and let us dream of bigger and better things.

At The End Of The Day

We are sitting nicely in the league and over the Christmas period we can notch up some points against some weaker teams. Beat United at home then we will be sitting pretty again. The season is not even half way through yet and people want to make conclusions.

Our owners will be watching patiently and they will make the right decision, at the right time. Yes I’d love to be playing Champions League football and holding up some form of silverware, but I know if it doesn’t happen this year, then it’ll happen next year.

Keep the faith lads, and lets sing our hearts out til the seasons end. Then make our conclusions.

City 'til we die,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tottenham Hotspur preview

Big game Thursday morning against Tottenham, who harbour similar ambitions of breaking the top four. This could well be a match that defines the season of both sides.

Cheers Bar will be open for this clash, so you can join us at the eye-watering time of 7am. Apparently they do coffee and toasted sandwiches, if a schooner is too hard to stomach that early in the day.

Tottenham are coming off a shock home 1-0 defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton, and City had their eighth draw in nine games on the weekend at Bolton.

Nigel De Jong is still a doubt with swine flu, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is doubtful with an ankle injury. Sylvinho will most likely play again in place of long-term injury Wayne Bridge.

We have a simply disgraceful record against Spurs, with a 2-1 win in Sven's season the only time we've taken three points since that remarkable FA Cup tie in 2003-04. Looking back over recent clashes at Shite Hart Lane, there's a clear trend that should appeal to those punters amongst us.

2004-05 v Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 1-2 (Reyna)
2005-06 v Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 1-2 (Samaras)
2006-07 v Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 1-2 (Mpenza)
2007-08 v Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 1-2 (Bianchi)
2008-09 v Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane 1-2 (Bojinov)

So, there's a few options for some cash here, $3.30 for the draw on current form is nailed on, and the 2-1 loss is value at $9. Or, if you're more confident than I am, a City win will pay $3.15.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 1
Statistics courtesy of, odds courtesy of

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bryan Riggs' latest undeserved award...

Carling Cup semi-finals LIVE at Cheers

Just a heads-up that I spoke with Gerrard from Cheers about the possibility of staying open for the Carling Cup matches on the mornings of January 7 and 20 respectively. Not only will Cheers be open, he has also offered the possibility of a full breakfast if we can confirm decent numbers.

So come down before work if you must — it'll be an absolute cracker. Kick off is at 7am for the first leg, and 6:45am for the second.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Breaking News: City v Rags in Carling Cup Semi!

Oh my lord this is going to be truly massive, Manchester City will face arch-rivals Manchester United in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup!

At this stage, the games will be played on January 6 at Eastlands, and two weeks later at Vermin Towers on the 19th.

You can rest assured we will be showing the both legs live at Cheers. Four Derby Days in the one season... I don't know if my heart (or my hand) will be able to take it!

Bring it on you Rag bastards!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A new way to connect with the Sydney Blues

Our mascot, Blue Roo, is now on Facebook! You can now visit the Sydney Blues on by going to

From there, you can visit the Sydney Blues group, see upcoming events, and photos from nights out. It's just a much simpler way of grouping everything under the one banner.

Add him as a friend today!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Carling Cup Quarter Final on TV

Just a reminder to all City fans that the Carling Cup fixture will be broadcast live in Australia on Thursday morning. Tune into Fox Sports 2 or 2HD from 6:45am for the clash.

Unfortunately, Cheers Bar is shut between the hours of 6-9am when the match is on, so watch it in the comfort of your own lounge room, as City look to break our semi-final curse.

Come on you Blues!