Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Could City's "tiredness" and "defensive crisis" been avoided?

The rather meaningless international break — or 'Interlull' as it's more appropriately called — is usually looked forward to as a chance to recharge the batteries towards the end of a busy campaign (especially in days gone past, where we didn't exactly have a whole host of international stars... we might have sent Paulo Wanchope to a CONCACAF qualifier occasionally).

But with today's City consisting almost entirely of full-team or Under-21 internationals, there is always the possibility of one or two coming back crocked. Last season, it was Robinho and Tevez, now apparently it's Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng.

It's a big blow for Maicon, who is arguably our most improved player from the season before. He'll likely be out of the game for a month, but has even resorted to setting up a Michael Jackson-esque oxygen tent in his house in a bid to speed his recovery.

"It is not what I wanted to hear at all," lamented Richards, in a quote we lifted directly off the Official Site.

"I felt sick when I was told. I knew from experience when I did it that it felt like a bad one but I was hoping for the best."

City's defensive options were weakened further with the news that Jerome Boateng suffered a knee injury breaking into a jog for once training with the German squad.

Coupled with the absence of Pablo Zabaleta (who had returned to Argentina to visit his gravely ill father) and Kolo Toure (who is now the face of Subway's 'six sandwiches with six grams of fat or less' ad campaign in the Ivory Coast), City are down to the bare-bones defensively. It is suggested that Derrick Boyata and the uncapped Reece Wabara will join the squad for the next match against Sunderland.

Exiled-blue Chief Ned Onuoha is currently on loan with the Black Cats, and thus is not allowed to play in the contest.

In football injures are to be expected, and a to a degree, planned for (although drug suspensions and family bereavement certainly aren't), perhaps some questions need to be asked about Roberto Mancini's loan policy.

What would we give to have Onuoha lining up at right back this weekend? Or Bellamy giving us some fresh legs (well, as fresh as those 31-year-old knees could be) in the last twenty minutes when we desperately need a goal? Or Emmanuel Adebayor getting caught offside for the tenth time in the match? Or Wayne Bridge... doing whatever Wayne Bridge does?

There's almost a full team (a total of ten players) plying their trades at other clubs — many of whom at City's expense — who could at least be giving us another option instead of Yaya Toure slogging his guts out for 90 minutes every single match.

It could well be the difference between third and fifth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Etihad Coming Home: We (well, you) did it!

As you may or may not have noticed (I'm going to go with the former, considering we've been flogging it like a Flemington favourite for the past six weeks), we were finalists in the Etihad Coming Home competition, in which two fans could win a trip back to Eastlands for a match.

We're still waiting on the final word from the Official Site, but by all accounts (ie. email confirmation), we did it!

We haven't got exact details yet, but the game that we will 'come home' to is the clash against Spurs, which has been rescheduled for 10 May.

We thought we were in a with a chance, considering our visible our campaign has been, but never did we think we could actually win. Especially when last years' winner, David and Steve Salt, accrued over 20% of 8000 votes. How were we ever going to get two-thousand-or-so votes?

Thank you to everyone who voted and campaigned on our behalf, and commiserations to the other entrants — it's just a shame Ol' Sheikhy can't put his hand in his pocket to send them all

Now for the Academy Award-style speech... feel free to leave now...

We'd like to thank:
  • The fellow members of the Sydney Blues, and especially Brendo The Jet, for without whom there would be no club.
  • Sydney Blues-in-exile Andeh, Adam, and Bri for getting behind the bid — we need to catch up for a pint of Coopers (if they have it) in Manchester.
  • Fellow City bloggers Jack from TLDORC and Danny from Bitter and Blue for giving us a shout-out.
  • Christian and the team from The Football Sack, as well as Lee from Footy Fans Down Under.
  • The two sexiest men in Australian television, Ricky M and Frank (you're wasted on 513 Ienco...)
  • Ricardinho and Damo from the Bluemoon forum for letting us campaign there, as well as Dave Mooney from the Bluemoon Podcast for plugging us mercilessly.
  • Rozzi and the crew from Bluewatch forum — pints will definitely be distributed at Mary D's lads.
  • Members of the 'Send Blue Roo Home' facebook page, and the various Facebookers and Twittererers who voted or encouraged others to do so.
  • A very special thanks to Monnie and honourary Sydney Blue, Steve Kinsey, for their campaigning at various pubs and football matches.
  • Lastly, every person that voted, and especially the loyal readers (all twelve of you) of the Lesson In Pride blog.
And of course, it wouldn't be an acceptance speech without thanking the academy, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and God Bless America!

Monday, March 21, 2011

[VID] Archive footage: Tottenham Globetrotters v West Ham

LiP has managed to get our hands on some exclusive archived footage, believed to be of one of the most cavalier sides of their era — the Tottenham Globetrotters.

The Globetrotters were said to be a breath of fresh air, at a time where dour, scarf-wearing foreigners were boring the pants off spectators. With Gareth Bale, the bestest left-back come left-midfielder in the world to call on, Tottenham were soon banging in goals for fun with their ultra-attacking, devil-may-care attitude.

Punters at the time simply could not get enough of their revolutionary new style of football, in which a pacy winger would try to land crosses on the head of street-light masquerading as a footballer, who would then knock them down for Rafael van der Vaart.

Enjoy this piece of history!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Etihad Coming Home competition: Voting closes Sunday!

If you didn't know already (and it's hard to see how, considering we have been absolutely flogging the life out this on Facebook, Twitter, the blog, and various forums), but the Etihad Coming Home competition — in which two City fans from around the world will be flown back to Manchester for the match against Spurs — is closing soon. Like, very soon.

Two of the Sydney Blues regulars, Matt and Gav, are a one-in-eight chance of going back home. But we need your votes to make it happen!

So if you like what we do at Lesson in Pride, please drop us a vote (if you haven't done so already). To do so, click the link below and vote for Matt Coleman.

The Sydney Blues are a proactive organisation — no matter the opposition, or if the kick-off is at daft o'clock, we meet up to cheer the lads on, just as we would if we were at Eastlands. To see an example of this against United last month, watch the following vid (and watch out for flying beer!):

To see the entry that got us into the final eight, and was shown on the big screen against Blackpool, watch this one instead:

As much as we love watching the games and making droll observations from Down Under — it's not the same as watching it in the flesh. So please help us to make a dream a reality!

For more information on how you can send us home, like the cause on Facebook.

City 'til we die,
Matt Coleman (Crouchy).

Friday, March 18, 2011

City 1 Kiev 0: More "Waluigi" than "Super Mario"...

Manchester City limply exited the Ropey League at the Round of 16 stage — despite winning 1-0 on the night — after failing to overturn the two-goal deficit inflicted from the first leg by Dynamo Chicken Kiev.

It was a valiant effort by those ten players that could be bothered staying on the pitch, dominating the game for long periods despite the numerical shortfall.

For not the first time this season (or even not the first time against Dynamo Kiev), Mario Balotelli has let down the club, and probably more concerning than that, the manager that has defended him so vehemently. He was only on the pitch for 35 minutes, but even it that time managed to miss a gilt-edge chance, and throw his toys out of his pram on a regular basis.

At his wit's end, Mancini has turned to Super Nanny Jo Frost for inspiration, and relegated Balo to the naughty chair before Sunday's game at Stamford Bridge.

"I don't think he'll be in the squad," he mused.

"If Mario thinks, he could be a fantastic player. But this is his problem. When he does stupid things like tonight it's difficult for him, for me and for the team."

Whether City would have worn down Kiev to at least force extra-time we'll never know, but Mancini certainly seemed to think that they were a chance against a team that never looked like scoring an away goal that would have killed the tie.

Defenders of Joey Bartelli (if there are any left) will suggest that his petulance is due to 'his tough up-bringing'/'being racially abused his whole life'/'his homesickness'/'being just a kid'/'not being tucked into bed as a child' or a combination of the lot. But this constant defending and mollycoddling of Balo is part of the problem.

It's probably the same excuses he used, or people used, to explain his attitude when he was six. And twelve. And sixteen. And now at twenty, with the potential and the talent to be absolutely anything, he is still a little boy. An arrogant, petulant, ill-tempered boy who may wear a Blue shirt, but does not play for City.

I'm not sure if he can play for the club again this season, unless he has a complete attitude overhaul. His cards have been marked. Opposition teams are going to goad him into a reaction, and referees are going to penalise him knowing he has a reputation for doing so.

Maybe Baliability would benefit from some time in the reserves, but you'd get the impression he'd just stink up the pitch for the whole 90 minutes.

I try to like him, I really do. I found him quite refreshing at first. I even bought myself a Hatotelli... but it's extremely difficult to defend a player that has such disdain for the club that pays his wages.

Say what you like about Jo's shitness (and believe me, we have) at least you get the impression that he actually tries to not be shit.

Baliability needs the assistance of an adult to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as dressing himself, or going pot-pot.

It's still the wrong way around Mario! Oh forget it...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'Council House' no more: Manchester City to rename stadium

Manchester City have been granted permission by the Council to sell the naming rights to their (well, the council's) stadium.

The Blues hope that not spunking millions of pounds on footballers like Roque Santa Cruz a sponsorship deal at the City of Manchester Stadium will help the club to become more financially self sufficient as new UEFA financial "fair play" rules kick in next year.

The ruling means that football clubs who want to take part in European competition have to be funded by the Spanish government break even over a three-year rolling period, starting from the 2012-13 season.

The move mirrors that of Premier League rival Arsenal, which sold the 15-year rights of its stadium to Emirates airline for nearly £100m in 2006 — however it is believed that particular deal was heavily front-loaded to pay for the construction of the stadium.

The most ideal candidate for naming rights would be rival Emerati airline and club sponsor Etihad — although calling the ground "Etihad Stadium" would lead to some confusing conversations for Melbourne-based fans.

At any rate, a naming rights sponsor would not only help to balance the books for City, it will also end the clunkiness around the City of Manchester Stadium/COMS/Eastlands debate that still hasn't been decided upon since moving from Maine Road seven seasons ago.

As long as the club doesn't go down the same egotistical path of Wigan's DW Stadium (HRH SM Arena?) or sell the rights to the highest bidder at the expense of a half-decent name like many American stadia (Minute Maid Park, Petco Park, Consolidated Transnational Stadium, Preparation H Arena et al), then I think it's a great idea.

Manchester City to play all home games at Etihad Stadium? Result! Oh...

Monday, March 14, 2011

City 1 Reading 0; Micah's head gives City fans a semi...

Manchester City set up a mesmerising, tantalising semi-final with Them Lot Down The Road, after edging past Reading in a now customary less-than-inspiring performance.

Lack of depth has been a recent concern for City, however Mancini was able to call on the fit-again Nigel de Jong, and Subbuteo Wright-Phillips for this match — the latter of which showing a glimpses of the form that made him a terrace favourite for many years. It was fitting that the by far the best two players on the pitch were involved for the goal, with Maicon Richards nodding home a David Silva corner to ensure progression.

"It felt amazing," he declared, thankfully managing not to swear unlike last time the defender scored a header from a corner in the FA Cup.

"To come through the youth academy and to get us so far in the competition is an unbelievable feeling. We have United in the semis, which makes it more special. We can't wait."

"It makes it more interesting. If we want to win the competition we have to beat the best." Richards whooped, whilst wearing his favourite sequined fur robe.

Richards wasn't the only one getting all giddy about the prospect, with the club releasing a range of Wembley-inspired merch just minutes after the final whistle. There's nothing that says "small-time" like a piece of cheap commemorative tat to celebrate the fact that we're not quite as shit as we used to be.

It's foam hands this season, next we'll be shouting "DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!" when the opposition has the ball. An oversized thumbs down from me.

Man City are my favourite soccer ball team. We're number one! USA! USA!

The (over) commercialisation of the game is not something limited to clubs of course. The fact fans of two teams from Manchester (and surrounds) will have to spend an inordinate amount on tickets, as well as an inordinate amount on train/fuel to travel all the way to Wemberleeeeeee for a cup semi-final is ridiculous.

I mean, if we have to travel miles from Manchester to a soulless dump full of cockneys and day-trippers, couldn't they just have held it at Old Trafford? (Insert obvious joke about 'it may as well be a home game for them if it's in London' here).

The semi-final will be played on the weekend of 16/17 April, which is when the match between Manchester City and Tottenham is due to take place.

And in an amazing piece of segue and a disgraceful piece of shameless self-promotion: voting is still open in the Etihad Coming Home competition, where two Lesson In Pride contributors and Sydney Blues regulars, Matt and Gav, have a one-in-eight chance of seeing that aforementioned City/Spurs game live at Eastlands. But we need your votes to make it happen!

So if you like what we do, we'd really like you to vote for us (if you haven't done so already). You've wasted five minutes reading the rest of the post, so please waste another minute of your time clicking the link below and voting for Matt Coleman.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kiev 2 City 0; Allergies, excuses, and media blackouts...

Barring an extraordinary turn-around in form in the reverse fixture, Manchester City look likely to crash out of the Ropey League at the Round of 16 after a limp 0-2 loss to Dynamo Chicken Kiev. And by failing to score a vital away goal, the Blues will now need to score at least three in the return leg to progress.

I haven't seen Mancini's post-match interview, but I imagine that it will be along the lines of "we are tired", "we're playing every three days", "it was cold", "the pitch was not good" or some other ham-fisted attempt to justify a flaccid City performance (does Kolo Toure have a pill for that too?) by almost everyone on the pitch — and that includes the referee. UEFA ban coming for LiP methinks!

And not for the first time this season, Mancini is having to defend the performance of Mario "Top Deck" Balotelli, who had to be taken off early in the second half after suffering an allergic reaction to cold weather hard work the grass. He still had plenty of time to pick up a now customary booking, of course.

"He had an allergy, I don't know what, his face was swollen. He wanted to come out for the second half but he had this problem 10 seconds before coming out for the second half. I came out one minute before the players and I didn't see Mario" Roberto explained, without actually explaining anything. Like how he got through the first forty-five minutes just fine.

Mancini opted to start with a midfield three of Zabaleta, Gumboots Gaz, and Yaya Toure...

Speaking of managers speaking, or rather not speaking — earlier this week, Slur Alex Ferguson from That Club Up The Road came under fire for enacting a strict policy of blanking every media outlet possible — whether that be the BBC, Hale Preparatory School's monthly newsletter, or seldom-updated and overly-wordy Manchester City blogs. This blackout even extended to said-club's own television station, leaving a gap in programming that had to be hastily filled by repeats of Bargain Hunt, where two teams scour the lower leagues of Europe to find "value in the transfer market".

As easy as it is to describe Ferguson's bully-boy attitude to the media as "petulant" and "deplorable" (that's because it is), I sometimes wonder whether that would be a better alternative to what Manchester City are doing at the moment.

There's no doubt that City's Official Site is fantastic. There's plenty of fresh content, and most importantly, it doesn't look like a dog's breakfast compared to some other football websites. Watching the kitman going the gurn and doing some bit about the Oscars? Fine. Eating like your favourite Manchester City player? That's okay too. (Or if that doesn't take your fancy, you could always eat like your favourite Manchester City supporter...)

But then on the eve of one of the most important games in the context of this season, the club posts this video on Facebook, showing the team piss-farting about in the hotel before the match — and right in front of the manager too! Maybe if Mario had shown that kind of urgency during the match, the side wouldn't be in the predicament they're in now?

Sure, the friand-eating, square-framed-glasses wearing types that usually work in "Social Media" think this kind of publicity is the greatest thing since bikes came with fixed-gears, but can you imagine this happening at another club? Do you think Ferguson would have stood for that? Is this the kind of thing teams with "winning mentalities" do?

I don't mind the side losing occasionally, but when it seems the team can't be arsed, it winds me up no end. Especially when I then can't be arsed to turn that into 600 or so words of "witty" prose...

#UkraineFact: The national anthem of Ukraine is the Tetris theme Type B.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

City 1 Wigan 0; goals on Silva platters, and you can't spell Tourette's without Toure...

The man with the sexiest feet in world football, Asian Dave Silva, underlined just how important he is to Mancini's City (although to be fair, everything is important to him), scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Wigan that was at the same time, a hell of a lot closer than it should have been, as well as a lucky three points.

No matter that it owed so much to hapless Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi, who produced a howler of Massimo Taibi p
roportions. But City could easily point to the several other chances they had in the first half to kill the game.

It's important to note that this match was City's forty-fifth of the season, just shy of the 48 last campaign. This means that by the time we play Dynamo Kiev in the Ropey League next week, the players will have played the same amount of fixtures by midway through March as they had through the entirety of last season. Let's just hope that tiredness is not an issue and City don't chicken out of a competition they have a decent chance of winning. Chicken out against Kiev... Chicken Kiev... is this thing on?

With City still in the hunt in three competitions, Mancini is probably lamenting his decision to send a total of ten first-team players out on loan.

"Every other team has 20 or 22 players to choose from and you need that if you are playing every three days," Mancini said. "We only have 15 or 16 at present. When we recover all our players it will not be a problem but since January we have been unlucky with niggling injuries".

This situation is definitely not helped then by Kolo Toure's suspension from the club, for taking what is only described as a "specified substance". What the specified substance is, has not been er, specified. But it is thought that it was a slimming pill belonging to his wife. Not too dissimilar from the "my Mum gave me a fluid tablet to get rid of the double-chin" excuse offered by Shane Warne when he tested positive for a diuretic on the eve of the 2003 ICC World Cup, then.

Joleon Lescott's massive forehead must be pulsating at the thought of getting more game time for City, as Toure could face a ban of up to two years as a result.

Where Kolo sits amongst such "luminaries" as Ben Johnson, Adrian Mutu, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and a monthly rotation of continental European road cyclists, remains to be seen.

As it turned out, Arsene Wenger leaped to Toure’s defence, offering that the player merely took a diet pill and had done the same at Arsenal, also, due to weight problems. While that’s far more harmless than injecting steroids or choking down pain-killers like you're on the set of Two and a Half Men, it’s still against the rules — even if the offense is somewhat comparable to jay-walking.

Meanwhile, City will face Reading in the FA Cup quarter-final, leaving the side just one win from Wemberleeeeeee. And despite his side having precisely fuck-all to play for, Gerard Houllier has defended the side he put out in the 3-0 loss to City in the last round, saying "I told the boys you don't have to be ashamed of the performance, you've done well". Proving that the man who thought that a 37 year-old Robert Pires could still play Premier League football is a liar, as well as an idiot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

[VID] Sydney Blues v Liverpool

Here's the highlights and penalty shoot-out from the recent Supporters' Club 5-a-side tournament in Sydney. This is the quarter final between Manchester City and Liverpool.

Don't forget, some of the best players of all time have missed penalties. Ronaldo. Team Beckham. Roberto Baggio. Not all of them from three yards, however...