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!

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