Thursday, April 28, 2011

The M-word Debate: Tin Hat Time

It's important (and the done thing, reading other blog posts) to preface this post by saying most certainly do not agree with or sing about Munich — especially the 'Runway' song, and I tend not to refer flippantly to the Rags by that particular term either. Of course, calling them Munichs is just about as geographically accurate as calling them Mancs...

But unlike many others, I don't see how the now-infamous song belted out on Monday night at Ewood Park has manage to cause an international incident.

There is a section City support who refer to fans of Manchester United as "Munichs". There are many City supporters who say they would never chant anything unpleasant or inflammatory about Munich but see no issue with using the word itself as shorthand for United and their supporters. On Monday night, there were several thousand of them. If the 1958 disaster is not being mocked, or directly referenced, then is the term in isolation offensive? Certainly distasteful, but no more so than racist/homophobic chants towards opposition players or fans?

Manchester United fans have sung about Hillsborough. They've mocked Marc Vivien Foe. They've mocked the Leeds fans who were stabbed in Turkey. It's not a valid argument to justify any form of offensive chanting, just because they're the ones wot done it too — but there is more than one guilty party in this equation.

Most curiously, I have witnessed (with my own eyes) United fans almost goading City fans into singing about the disaster, by themselves making aeroplane gestures — undoubtedly in the hope that they can claim pantomime outrage when a City fan returns the favour.

Perhaps when United cease using the disaster to their advantage, and City fans cease referring to a Bavarian beer-loving town in an unnecessary wind-up, the chants will stop. And then the perished can finally rest in peace.

Hopefully, that day will be soon. City fans who are against the references to Munich can do their bit and not sing about it. There will be some that do — but ultimately, that's their choice.

I'd prefer if we didn't though. We cop enough unnecessary and unsubstantiated flak in the media as it is — let's not give anyone anymore ammo. Be impeccable.

Manchester Remembers — brought to you by AIG.

Spotted: Sydney Blue at Wembers!

The inside back of yesterday's Daily Telegraph (the Australian one), featured Fox Sports commentator, Sydney Blues hall-of-famer, and all-round top bloke, Simon Hill, giving his all from the stands at the semi-final of the FA Cup Sponsored By Ian.

Simon will be one of the several Australian Blues making the pilgrimage to London for the final, so if you spot the man at The Roundabout/The Green Man/Wembers (and he's not hard to miss, with him being 6'4" and all), buy him a pint.

Nice one Si!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bobby Manc: World's Sexiest Athlete?

No, not Roberto. Although he is fairly dapper. And those flowing locks... *swoon*

Anyway, here is Roberta Mancino, who I'm assuming is either a relative of Roberto, or the alias he uses at 2am on Canal Street...

Mancino is a BASE jumper/sky-diver. And I know what you're thinking. Yes, she's done it in the nude. Wow!

Some fairly NSFW links are below

This eez important!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Race For Fourth (Or Third?) — 6 games to go.

Whilst many people have talked about the unpredictability of this season, there have been some elements that have been painfully too familiar.

United cantering to another title, despite being written off as "not that good" and "past it" — a mistake people have been making for years — and unfortunately, players such as Bryan Riggs and Paul "I got there as soon as I could" Scholes are still able to have an impact, despite their combined age of 104.

Arsenal playing the best short-pass-tippy-tap-tippy-tap-olé-olé football this side of Barcelona (and Brisbane Roar), but finding ways to throw away points that even Manchester City haven't thought of yet. It's amazing they're still anywhere near the title race, considering they've thrown away a four goal lead at Newcastle, conceded a 102nd minute equaliser against Liverpool, and lead by two goals in both fixtures against Tottenham, only for the games to finish 2-3 and 3-3 respectively.

And as for City... after spending more on new players this year than the entire GDP of Kiribati, we find ourselves in the exact same quagmire that we did last season — a battle for fourth place with Spurs, including a ding-dong winner-takes-all home play-off in the final days of the campaign.

Using a bit of statistical analysis and plain old guesswork, we've tried to predict how the season will turn out.

4. Manchester City
Games played: 32
Goal difference: +20
Recent form: 2 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. 7 points from the last 18.
Points: 56

Upcoming Fixtures:
A Blackburn (16th)
H West Ham United (19th)
A Everton (7th)
H Tottenham (5th)
FA Cup Final: Stoke City
H Stoke City (13th)
A Bolton (8th)

Predicted points total: 66 (10 more)
Trying to be as realistic/conservative as possible, Manchester City should pick up at least ten points from the final six fixtures.

Winning the next two matches would mean that City would be in the box seat for qualification to the Champions League. However, Blackburn and West Ham are both in danger of relegation — and of course, matches against relegation threatened teams are notoriously tough at this stage of the season. And West Ham have the same results as City over the last six matches (2-1-3 for seven points), so they're not to be taken lightly. Having said that, with the Blues on a high from their recent FA Cup semi final win, these two teams should present little danger for City.

The games against Everton and Tottenham however, may present a problem. Both are teams that we City struggled to beat in recent seasons — we've lost four on the trot at home against both clubs. There is also a short turn-around between the two games to consider (the Everton game is on Saturday, the Spurs game just two clear days later on the Tuesday), which means that Mancini may be forced to rest key players like David Silva and Nigel de Jong ahead of the clash against Tottenham. City may only take one point from these two fixtures — if any.

The game against Stoke, just three days after the FA Cup final against the same opponents is an interesting prospect. Especially when a Manchester City win could inversely help Stoke qualify for the Europa League by virtue of being the Cup runners-up and the winner (City) qualifying for the Champions League.

Conservatively, we've predicted that City will only win one of the last two fixtures — a win against Stoke and a defeat at Bolton (most likely on the back of goals to Daniel Sturridge and Martin Petrov). Even so, City should manage enough points to sneak ahead of Spurs, even with a defeat at the Reebok.

There's still a slight chance that City can even overhaul Arsenal and claim third place. The Gunners have drawn five of the last six games, with the only winning coming against the hapless Blackpool. But ultimately, success in the FA Cup, and reaching the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot should be the main focus for the team and the fans.

And I'm sure we'd all take that if offered.

5. Tottenham Hotspur
Games played: 32
Goal difference: +8 (12 worse off than City)
Recent form: 1 win, 4 draws, and 1 loss. 7 points from the last 18.
Points: 54 (two behind City)

Upcoming Fixtures:
H West Bromich Albion (11th)
A Chelsea (2nd)
H Blackpool (18th)
A Manchester City (4th)
A Liverpool (6th)
H Birmingham City (15th)

Predicted points total: 65 (11 more)
For the second consecutive season, an away match against Manchester City will be key in deciding fourth place — and we know what happened last time. But wins against West Brom, Blackpool, and Birmingham, with draws at City and Liverpool, should see Tottenham fall one point short.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rags in Sydney — They Do Exist!

I usually leave the "merciless slagging of opposition supporters" to the tosser at Republik of Mancunia (don't visit the site, it's bad for your health), but I couldn't resist on this occasion. I stumbled upon this on Saturday night... it's a membership form for the Manchester United Supporters Club of NSW.

Until now, it was only rumour that this organisation still existed — considering they can't even get a team together to play in the five-a-side tournaments anymore. After a quick perusal at this membership form, it's no wonder why they're so anonymous.

Now at the Sydney Blues, I know we've always tried to be as inclusive as possible and it's never been about making money. It's about getting as many people in Blue shirts yelling at a television screen as possible, and spreading the word about City in a country infested by Rags.

We offered scarves this season (which went down a treat apparently, considering we ordered thirty and have none left), as a way for fans to spread the word all over the globe. They've been sighted in Manchester a few time since, and even popped up in Ukraine and Greece.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Rags supporters club apparently has the hide to charge $60 a season for a membership card, and er... a t-shirt. And a monthly magazine.

Unfortunately, we don't offer a snazzy membership card, but you do get a lifetime subscription to this fine website. And the pleasure of our company, of course.

Next season, we will most likely have "proper" membership (yes, you can get a card if you like), and that will also entitle us to a place in the queue for tickets, in case we feel like a pilgrimage to Wembers again.

Rest assured, it won't be $60. How obscene.

[Edit by Gav - we weren't going to link to their site, but this is too good to pass up - have a look at the final photo of the set. Check out Sydney Blue stalwart, Brendo doing some awesome photbombing!!!]

City 1 Rags 0: We're the famous Sydney Blues and we're going to Wembley!

Normally, we'd do some kind of post-match postmortem, using big words and ham-fisted analogies to make some sort of judgment or comment about the game.

We won't do with this game for a number of reasons — the most pertinent of which is that I don't actually remember that much about the game. I know Berbatov missed a couple of sitters in the space of a couple of seconds. I think we did actually score a goal (that happened, didn't it?), and I remember Wigan winning away at Blackpool because I had them on my multi. Apart from that, nothing.

The one thing that will always remain with me was the sheer unbridled ecstasy of Yaya Toure's goal. I don't think anyone there has celebrated like that in their lives! I had a half full beer at the time, where that went afterwards is anybody's guess. Rohan probably wore it, most likely.

We've had countless nights at Cheers in the past, and this was probably the biggest yet. I would say most memorable, but again I (and I suspect many others), don't remember that much about it.

So to everyone who joined in with the laughs, the songs ("Can you hear United sing? No, noooo.... shooooooooooooooooooooosh"), and the many renditions of the Poznan, thanks for coming down. I know there were some new faces I've never seen before, I'll try to remember your names next time you're down there and I'm more sober. Especially "Troy Dann" in his bloody big hat.

You're all legends.

More photos from the night are on the Lesson In Pride facebook page, here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Liverpool 3 City 0: You build me up, just to tear me down...

You would have thought after all these years of supporting City, we'd have learned by now.

How many tiiiiiiiimes (Sydney Blues in-joke right there) have we thought "maybe, just maybe, this is the end of Typical City™".

All we need to do is beat Middlesbrough and we're in Europe. Bring on the trophies.
We've been taken over by a Thai Prime-Minister, we're set for life. Bring on the trophies.
We're in the top four at Christmas, sign Sven up for life. Bring on the trophies.
We've been taken over by rich Arabs and they've just bought Robinho. Bring on the trophies.
We've just smacked Sunderland, get past Liverpool and we'll smack the Rags in the FA Cup. *This* time, we'll take home a trophy.

We fell for it. Again.

So just when we'd thought the Blues had turned the corner after the 5-0 demolition of Sunderland, Mancini's men put up one of the meekest displays seen this season, as they were beaten like a Southport DJ who refused to play Phil Collins convincingly by three goals to nil.

However, a sight more heart-breaking than any opposition scoreline was that of Carlos Estevez trudging up the tunnel with a hamstring injury that almost certainly will keep him out of the FA Cup semi final on Saturday.

In situations like this, it's important to try and keep a sense of perspective about things, and not over-react. Many of the same City fans that were calling Mancini a tactical genius last week are now calling for his head.

"We did not play for the first 20 minutes, when Liverpool played very well. But tonight I made some mistakes, so it is my fault. The players could do better, but I made mistakes."

"I’m sorry for the fans, because we only started to play after 20 minutes. It’s for me to know what I did."

"Liverpool started quickly, they are strong at home and we conceded a lot of chances to them early. After that we played, but not in the first 20 minutes. With all the other teams having won at the weekend, it was important to win this game but it is important we forget this and prepare for the semi final." said Mancini, conveniently overlooking the fact that we played shit in minutes 21 through 93, as well.

Although it was nice to see him admit that defeat was his fault (although there were not many players who could hold their heads up after that performance either), how about accepting responsibility for the fact we're on track for a lower points tally than last season despite spending over £100 million?

I really don't want to turn this into a slag-the-manager/slag-the-players post. Because that's not what this website, or indeed the Sydney Blues, is about. There's enough people out there tripping over themselves to put shit on the club as it is — and some of them even claim to be City fans. But there is I one burning issue I have with the manager — and it would be interesting to see if I can ask him this in the flesh (without hearing the words "important", "strange", or "this is a football").

How come every crunch game, every must-win game, every game where something big is on the line — we fuck it up? And it can't be chalked off as another occurrence of Typical City™.

I can't think of him winning an absolutely critical game. I know loads that we've lost. Carling Cup semi second leg, Rags at home, Tottenham at home, Everton at home, Rags away, Kiev away and home, Chelsea away, Liverpool away and etc and so forth.

The manager has this weekend to prove us wrong. Save your job Roberto — and more importantly, save our season.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Carlos Tevez Nominated for Player of the Year Award. Rightly so?

City's talismanic captain Carlos Tevez has been nominated for the prestigious PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) Player of the Year gong. The rest of the players on the shortlist are:

  • Charlie Adam (Plucky Little Blackpool)
  • Gareth Bale (Tottenham Globetrotters)
  • Samir Nasri (Arse)
  • Scott Parker (West Ham United)
  • Nemanja Vidic (Rags)

Whilst Tevez's contribution has undoubtedly been instrumental in this season's campaign, I find it hard to agree that he's been the most influential member of our team, let alone the entire Premier League. He has contributed nineteen goals in the league, but is in a bit of a rut recently (by his standards anyway), having just scored twice in the last ten appearances in all competitions.

I also have some questions about other members of the shortlist — namely Charlie Adam — who started the season with a bang (great for those of us smart enough to pick the lad in fantasy football), but it's no coincidence that as Adam has faded over the course of the season, so have Blackpool.

Additionally, the nomination of Gareth Bale (on the back of THREE GOALS IN MILAN!!!11!! LOL TAXI FOR MAICON!!!1!!) proves that the Tottenham Globetrotters circle-jerk is still alive and well, despite Spurs losing by four goals in Madrid this morning. Of course, it would be no great surprise if he did win, considering Bryan Riggs won the award two seasons ago on the back of twelve appearances and one (!) league goal.

So in response, our completely non-partisan and unbiased nominations for the LIP Player of the Year, are as follows:

  • Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
  • Nani (Manchester United)
  • Kevin Nolan (Newcastle United)
  • Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
  • Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur)
  • Javier 'Chickenburrito' Hernandez (Manchester United)
  • Honourable mention: David Silva (Manchester City)

Have we got it even more wrong? Let us know.

Monday, April 4, 2011

City 5 Sunderland 0: Blood on the dance floor...

There's something magical about a big Manchester City win. You just can't beat it. On the back of one ninety-minute display of "totale calcio" by City, the dark clouds of an deteriorating 2010-11 season quickly disappeared, to be replaced by a glorious, intense double rainbow.

Last week, fourth looked a million miles away. Now, with that win, plus just about every team in our vicinity failing (draws to Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham, plus defeats to Liverpool and Bolton. Unfortunately the Rags won, but annoyingly, they've been nigh on invincible all season). We have a big chance to make history, and it's time for City fans to keep the faith.

Yes, it may have been a five-nil thriller — but it was only Sunderland. A team that has been in free-fall since selling Darren Bent in January. A team that has not scored in seven hours of football since February 12, and has collected one point in the last twenty-one available. It's not that impressive a result, really.

Not everything is black and white in football — indeed, the scoreline sometimes does not tell the whole story, and can often unfairly flatter or shame a team. In this case, the winning margin was not so much of importance, rather the manner of victory was. We looked dangerous every time we had the ball. It's very difficult to remember the time we dominated a match so convincingly.

You are not alone if you believe that Roberto Mancini and his tactics are too defensive/negative/Italian. There have been occasions this season where he has definitely told players to keep it in the closet, rather than go all out for the win. However, it's a myth that is easily believed by the tabloid junkies — just like the one about the Tottenham Globetrotters being some bastion of good old-fashioned attacking football, despite scoring less goals than all three promoted clubs this season.

Now that the team is back from an international break — and the manager can no longer peddle the tired "we are tired" excuse — we saw a different Manchester City. And it's no surprise that we looked so good in the first match of Adam Johnson's return (scoring nine minutes in was definitely not a bad way to signal it either), plus with Yaya Toure in a slightly deeper role in defensive midfield, and dare I say it, without Gumboots Gaz to slow everything down.

Mancini is now in a bit of a jam. Does he stick with the tactics that have so far led the side to third in the league and the semis of the FA Cup Sponsored By Ian, or does he go with this new cavalier attitude that we saw against Sunderland against the better sides like Liverpool and United? Seven games left in the league (one of which we'll be there in the flesh), and it's already shaping up to be a grand finale. I have butterflies already!

In honour of Mohammed al-Fayed's curious decision to build a statue of Michael Jackson at Craven Cottage, this post is littered with MJJ song titles. How many can you find? Leave the answer in the comments. Shamone!