Monday, February 28, 2011


And so it came to pass. City's annual wash-out against Fulham, as unwholesome as City's annual washouts against Tottenham, the annual washouts v Everton and the annual cup quarter final cave-in, ended in acrimony, hoots of derision and a happy slappy between the managers. As wash-outs go, this one was pretty painless, anaemic even. Anyone managing to sit still long enough to take in the full 90+ minutes, would not be capable of feeling pain, numb from the elbows out by the time Yaya Touré stumbled deliberately into an indelicate attempt at an 89th minute back-heeled flick through ball (slightly maladroit in its purchase, more or less completely inappropriate given the urgency and precision required at that particular moment). If you had stuck a toothpick in my calf, I might not have noticed, a knitting needle in the thigh, not a flinch.

Kolarov: boxer short fashionista
But, then, what had shuffled before Yaya's buffalo pirouette had also been the last word in clumsiness and disinterest. Where Chelsea have the unerring fullback accuracy of Ashley Cole (ping...oof), City rejoice in the lumbering boxer short brothers, Boateng and Kolarov. Boateng runs like an old lady falling down a flight of stairs, whilst Kolarov's inadequate take on how to defend is matched only by his undoubted wish to score a goal like Maradona before he passes from this mortal coil.

Ah well, the clean Manchester air seemed at least to be to Mark Hughes' liking. He was frisky and stern and, when finally presented with an opportunity very late on to drop the Sparky for Spiky, he took it with a flamboyant upward gesture of dismissal to Mancini that would have looked great in a spaghetti western. Evidently Roberto had given him the old Sampdoria Fake Shake and we don't take kindly to a lack of respect in the Sparky Household.

With head throbbing, heart pounding and legs aching, City face Villa, Wigan, Dynamo Kiev, maybe Everton, certainly Liverpool. If we are to survive this little lot, it will not be with the team put out today. So get out your prayer mats, I'll get out mine, let's pray to the West for David and Vincent, Nigel too, for a City without its spine is truly a spineless City.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DESERT DISPATCH - February Issue

Travel DispatchFAR OUT EAST: Rooney’s Shot Still Travelling To Mongolia! The Rest of Us Are Already in Goal Heaven!!!! By Arthur Slather in the Sky Studios
“Let’s just look at it one more time shall we. Oh go on then, roll the tape”
Derby Match Hero and, indeed, clear and obvious Sky Man of the Match Wayne Rooney, stood like Jesus Christ himself (at least a modern day minted sort of messiah with a potato head and a Chloé-clad Mary waiting at the stable with the four-by-four), back arched theatrically, arms adrift and a tell-tale bulge in his back pocket. He had deservedly won the game for Manchester against their noisy neighbours, Bastard manchester city, with a goal that journalists will not tire of talking about for some fifteen to twenty years from now. These are the moments for which one staggers into a profession like this one. Not the over-sugared tea, the slightly too old fig rolls, the occasional unwanted glimpse of Daphne toiling over the malfunctioning photocopier in her slightly-too-short ra-ra skirt, the deadlines that creep up, the beery breath of one’s colleagues, the terrible trouble with adverbs, the need for one last cliché before bed. Then this. A moment of pure pleasure, of bliss, of joy. It’s just so good to know that the goodies have won again AND THE NOISY ONES HAVE BEEN SILENCED FOR EVER!
TACTICS TRUCK - Picking balls from strange places
New balls, please
Manchester City’s stunning 4-2-3-1 formation, using a deep-lying accordianist, Tony Henry and a North Atlantic walrus pup certainly did for Aris Salonika. The Greeks looked bewildered by it all. No reverting to Pythagoras or Plato could dam the gaps that had been created by Mancini’s stunning tactical variations. All hail the Chicken tikka taka. The old 4-2-3-1 is such a weapon of destruction in tight matches of this kind that it becomes more than just a formation. It transcends everything, becoming shapely and divine like Natalie Portman, a kind of serene Black Swan with overlapping fullbacks and very nearly bare buttocks. It is feline, fluid, and figure hugging. It is not just Aleksander Kolarov swishing his left foot like a Serbian scythe and Micah ploughing the line like a runaway trans-Alpine freight train. It is the music of Shostakovitch playing whilst Maria Sharapova attempts to fetch a florescent yet pleasantly furry tennis ball from her underpants. When Mancini switched again in the 2nd half, deploying a sudden and devastating 0-0-4-1-4-1-0 dramatic results were so nearly to hand. Balotelli, playing the withdrawn role and Dzeko, playing the badly drawn Bosnian role, could almost smell Aris, they were now so close to it. If only Shaun Wright Phillips had been asked to go run the baths a bit earlier.
Mike: doing his talking on the pitch
From Our Own ex-Sky Soccer Pundit: This was clearly Mike Summerbee’s Galipoli. He sat quietly watching James Redknapp and Tobias Borthwick eulogize The Second Coming of Christ, the backdrop to his pain, millions of little red bucket seats still warm and steaming from the excited antics of foreigners’ bottoms. He looked at his co-panelists with the expression of deflated resignation sometimes etched on the face of an axe murderer before the first cathartic swipe. It has come thus far and must go no further. Words welled up in his throat and finally when he coughed them all out, they appeared in the wrong order, with the normal ones due for the middle of the sentence completely missing. “64%, must have had, total control, I’ll say it again, over his shoulder goes one, Sir Alex 60%...” he spluttered, axe heavy in his sweat stained hand. Borthwick grinned a toothy grin. Teeth everywhere. Redknapp, dapper in kilt and sporran, suspenders and Indian head-dress, mocked “Cam orn, United deserve this. United deserve everything they get”. Mr Summerbee flinched, the late sun winding itself down over the cranes shone in his left eye, making him visibly recoil. His axe hand quivered. Sweat lined up on his creased forehead and began to drip. Clocks ticked. Pundit land steadied itself. A grim silence whispered like the breeze. A little voice to the side could be heard saying “Did he smash it? Did he smash it?”. There could be only one response left.
"Over ere, Shaun, I'll show you me sprinklers"
House & Home -  This month Steven Ireland shows us his unrivaled Ottoman silk worm underpant collection, his saphire and steel renaissance garden shed (with ruby crusted rake and cinamon flavoured authentic Alaskan water sprinklers) and walks us around his palatial new crinoline faux-bedouin tent four-poster bed.

Monday, February 14, 2011


During the weekend I devoted a great deal of my time to drinking Amantis Reserva and strolling around in tiny tight anticipatory circles. I let my ill-advised steps carry me to the remote and sat, nay perched, on the sofa to take in the Manchester Derby. These occasions always tug at your stomach and shred your thought patterns, but in these heady days of challenge, there is not quite the same feeling of impending disaster that washed over us all before, say, Brian Horton led his troops out for a tactical masterclass with the red brethren. Then you didn't know whether you would survive the ignominy of it all

Don't look now

These days, City's tight little triangles (vegetable samosas) and chicken tikka taka pass and move will keep the most well-balanced and aggressively set-up host thinking about his next move. And so it came to pass in the Theatre of Prawns, that a visiting side, looking for all the world like liddle old citeh in their sparkling sky blue tops, managed to pass with aplomb whilst their neighbours, and the less than agile Paul Scholes in particular, kept parping the greasy spheroid into row 6 by the half way line.

A more frequent sight in the future
I took a little look at Micah Richards, a boy built like a Sherman Tank, who, on previous occasions would give the impression of a Rhino stamping to get into a Devonian scone shop full of dawdling pensioners, but on this one gave a performance of honed athleticism, lung-busting willingness and a delicious balance of poise and power. If he played like that every week, there would be nobody to shift him from the England right back spot, let alone the City one.

The two other star performers in this well-oiled City team, were the little metronome Silva, whose early miss was one of the few smudges on a copybook that read "excellent and thoughtful" throughout the proceedings. It has been said in many quarters that his eye for a pass emphasises his worth to this City side. Nobody picks out a runner like David Silva. He was followed into city's hall of fame by the resolute Kompany, yet again revealing himself to be one of the players of the season in the Premier League. It would seem trite to pick out one tackle -there was so much that was top class about his performance- but his block on Rooney was a masterclass of timing and accuracy in a split second where anything can go wrong and, for City at Old Trafford, usually does.

Silva: chicken tikka taka
Only the one-eyed would not want to mention the input from the other side: United, whilst looking cowed by City's precision passing, could thank Smalling for a complete lack of the nerves that the Blue half had so hoped would materialsie. Alongside Vidic, he hardly put a foot wrong. Whilst Giggs once again belied his advancing years, the same could not be said for Scholes, who contented himself with a series of chipped sideways passes into the crowd. Until the goal that will have melted the collective press' hearts this morning, Rooney too had spent an unfortunate afternoon skanking passes with his shins and misdirecting what little anger he could muster. Yet again, as the story of this eason will surely testify, United weathered the storm and, without playing very well, ran home with the points. This may have been an outstanding season for surprises and twists but the eventual winners will not have excelled themselves.Too many games have been lost, too many performances have failed to convince, if, as now begins to seems likely, either United or Arsenal lift the pot.

Flared nostrils
There are 11 league games left. It is a lot to ask for, along with a snowdrift of cup commitments, to claim City are still in there fighting. Now the stampeding herd behind us can be heard, nostrils flared and saliva flying. Chelsea and Spurs can both pass us by with their games in hand, but that would be both cruel and unlikely. For City these days are made of pretty solid stock. They were good for a point on Saturday and they will be good for quite a few more if they maintain this level of performance through to May.

It is all still to play for and, as Mike Summerbee was moved to say in amongst the pond of swaying kelp on Sky, as the world and his dog salivated over the one piece of precision in Rooney's workday, "they'll be looking over their shoulders now". Taken to its logical conclusion, one day soon, it will be City looking over their shoulders and the likes of United will be looking forwards. At us.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Read it and nod knowingly. We live in a hall of warped mirrors, where time shifts, tells lies and accelerates:

Unknown old people bash a pigs bladder in the fields of Rugby school circa 1879


Saturday  5th February 2011

A woman of medium height, my friend Madame Charvet wore grey hair in a bun above a narrow mouth and always had on a tobacco-coloured headscarf and (except when there were evenings demanding her presence as a cloakroom attendant at the old Hacienda) a black pinafore with bright blue flowers. She watched over the cleanliness of her building and the patch of tarmac in front with as much care as Carlos Tevez preparing himself to take a penalty kick in the middle of a tempestuous downpour.

She had married a delivery man working for the Menton Wine Company, who used to travel around the Place d'Etoile on his sky blue tricycle, his cap slanted jauntily over his brow, a Gitanes stuck out the side of his narrow mouth and who was sometimes to be seen - at the tail end of the day - swapping his beige leather jerkin for a Manchester City top, always worn under a quilted jacket left to him by Capitaine Dreyfus of the Vendome Brigades. He would years later -when they had swapped the primroses of the Jardins des Tuileries for the red brick toilet facilities at the Heaton Social Club - parade around Piccadilly Gardens crunching on a pear or a tomato, reciting the bits he could remember of Raymond Queneau and Simone de Beauvoire, whilst Madame Charvet stayed at home knitting him ever-longer blue and white scarves to take to the match.

The big ornate mirror in the entrance hall revealed robust good health in the pair of them. This was to be a good day. The streets were thick with people, all walking hither and thither, hats askew, streaks of tomato and mustard on their chins. "Ahoy!" shouted Signor Barterelli, from behind a small kiosk. "Is today to be another Day of Three Sergeants Syndrome?". We ate avidly of pots of fresh redcurrants, cold fresh cream, soda bread with goat's cheese and a robust Bulgarian wine, squeezed lemons over each other for luck and entered the shrine by way of a curling staircase.

The thin boys from Bromwich, smaller and less comely in their obscure blue-black stripes, were no match for our unarmed men. No need for a knife, fork, spoon for this facile feast as Carlos dispatched a ball to the right and a ball to the left, one to the post and yet another one for the slathering crowing crowd. I wished to throw him a beautiful wide-brimmed sombrero and a cloak, but he was too quickly away, light in his treading of the sodden turf, the scampering prince Silva by his side.

Someone made a joke about a party out west, a May celebration, some anniversary, cock robin and his troop, whilst others claimed to be holding tickets to the only party in town, a farewell to Monsieur Young. A celebration of a band of brothers for one of their own. Even amongst tribes, there are those who behave with aplomb and dignity, others who provoke blushes.

Afterwards, soaked by the rain and exhausted by the excitement we stood and watched a pack of acrobats, no bigger than racoons, performing somersaults around a round-faced dwarf wearing crinoline and a banana-motif on his trilby. He flipped his hat and produced a tiny radio set. A voice was shouting from within "United have fallen, United have fallen" in shrill falcetto. Someone at the back, with a voice like a cement mixer, shouted "And The Arsenal lost a four goal lead!" It had been a beautiful day.

A ball for your birthday

Thursday, February 3, 2011


You won't find too much YouTube footage of Neil Young, nor many scintillating interviews. You'll have to look hard to find many meaningful backpage articles about him and you'd be making it up if you found any tabloid titbits of domestic detail but, rest assured, the part he played in City's greatest ever team is writ large, in capital letters, embossed with red and black ribbons and tagged for posterity in the annals of this proud club. Alongside the pomp and bluster of Big Mal and Franny and the bare faced cheek of Mike Summerbee and Tony Coleman, Neil Young cut a quiet, sometimes lonely figure, reticent with the press, retiring when the cameras flashed, always ready to slip quietly away and let the others bask in the limelight.that his own hard work often created.

Today, at the age of 66, he has slipped quietly away for the last time. No fuss, and, for heaven's sake, no fanfare. Here is one man for whom a minute's silence would almost be as apt as the standing ovation he will surely get at Eastlands this weekend.

The irony of this elegant, shy athlete is that, whilst shunning publicity was a major priority for him, his exploits in the sky blue (and most poignantly in the red and black stripes) of City made this activity almost completely impossible. This must have made City's successes quite uncomfortable for the man from Fallowfield, with the ever intensifying spotlight on City's exploits making escape ever more difficult. There is a touching interview conducted by a dicky-bow wearing David Coleman with Neil at the Grosvenor Hotel, where the smash and tinkle of knives forks and wine glasses in the background betray a Cup Final celebration banquet in full raucous flow. Young, looking a little startled and slightly giggly from the champagne, is asked to describe the winning goal and he embarks on a meandering self-effacing tribute to Mike Summerbee, who had set him up for the shot. In that black and white snapshot, you get the feeling he would almost have been happier had someone else got the goal and the attention that came with it. For Neil Young, brought up a City fan from his earliest days, just being there must have been the greatest thrill.

Quiet he may have been, but there was no mistaking the accuracy of the left foot, the balletic, gliding  movement up the inside left channel, the upright stance and the superbly prolific goal-scoring, 107 in all in just over 400 appearances for the club and top scorer in the championship side of 68. There was no ignoring the fact that his left foot steamer was the last goal to bring the FA Cup to Maine Road, nor that his close-in goal set City on their way to their only European success on that rain-sodden night in Vienna's Prater Stadium, nor that his two goals helped bring the last league title back from dizzy, glorious Tyneside. 

This quiet man’s gargantuan contribution speaks loud and proud in City’s patchwork history. He was a thoroughbred in a spectacularly well-balanced team. A team packed full of fight and artistry, of lung power and delicacy, a team as deadly as ever was seen in Moss Side over three quarters of a century of football there. And in amongst the flying legs, ducking the flashbulbs and microphones was the man who made the net bulge more often than any other in that never-to-be-equalled spree. 

Enjoy the peace and quiet, Nelly, but forgive the rest of us if we fail to keep quiet about the unforgettable part you played in City's rich history.


So, dear City, this is where you have transported us now: to a land of bent leafless trees and parched grass, where birds croak and frogs limp, where a point at St Andrews feels like a slap in the face with a wet flannel. Thanks ever so much for that.

We've been here before of course
It has taken an unedifyingly short amount of time to transform our Blues from pantomime dromedary into equine beauty. This thoroughbred with its nostrils flaring and its tail up, chomping at the bit but still dropping the odd steaming dollop here and there. Well, last night that tail was planted firmly between the legs as City's players trudged off the pitch in Birmingham and the recriminations began. Divers, cheaters, bottlers, sleepers. Mancini's stubborn English, still refusing to come out of Grade 4 repeat year, bubbled and frothed with indignation and misplaced irregular verbs. City had fallen asleep, not for the first time in this new, young year and cast away the three points again. This is becoming a Second City of woe for the Blues this season, full of missed chances and Bent dreams.

So, we stand in 3rd place, now only two clear of a suddenly resurfacing Chelsea with the forever unpredictable Tottenham just behind them. One can truly hear the gnashing of teeth and thumping of hooves behind us and - if you sneak a look - that dustcloud of stamping feet is inching closer week by terrifying week.

A murkier place
A closer look at the balance thus far, however, tells us that we are still in the Europa League, favourably paired with the average Aris with the less appetizing Dynamo Kiev or, God forbid, Besiktas, to come if we prevail. We have a fifth round home FA Cup tie with Villa dangling in front of our noses if we can dispatch Notts County whence they came. In the new order of things, this should translate into a 6th round appearance, even taking City's idiosyncracies into full and painful account.  Thus, panic can be put back in the cupboard for another few days. West Brom limp into town next. Never were three points more necessary, one might say, but then one would be doing City's topsy turvy past a gross injustice. We have been in far murkier places after all.

So, that glass is still half full or did somebody just take another giant slurp out of it?

Other Tedious Stuff

Poets and Lyricists