Is City Headed For Yet Another Relegation Fight?

December 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Garry Cook, Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

While the above may seem like an attention grabbing headline, those of us who have supported this club for a longtime know that nothing is ever easy at City. Switching managers mid season has already led to a player revolt and the hiring of a manager with no Premier League coaching experience. (And only four matches as a player).

In other words, Garry Cook and Brian Marwood have begun the process of City rediscovering its recent history and becoming a relegation fighter again. City’s 29 points are only 12 clear of the relegation zone, which is a similar position to where the Club found itself in the 2006-07 season under Stuart Pearce.  That season, City escaped relegation by all of three points.

Cook and Marwood evidently want to tempt high profile Continental targets to Eastlands, but who is to say any would choose City over let’s say Inter or Lyon, and furthermore, how can Continental players be trusted to fit into an English team in the dead of winter? The acclimation to the English game is nearly impossible for a target brought in during the January window. That’s why Hughes wisely spent his time focusing on English based targets, who would play the game the right way.

City’s form prior to the Sunderland match 11 points from 10 league matches was almost relegation form. Included in that stretch were home draws against Burnley, and Hull as well as Derby draws versus Wigan and Bolton. All four listed teams are relegation fighters this season. Without Mark Hughes ability to rally his team spiritually, all four matches could very well have been loses which resulted in six point swings against City. Hughes may have been tactically inept at times, but his force of personality allowed City to escape several matches the side should have lost, with draws.

While Richard Dunne did not appeal to “fans” in China and India whom Cook seems to be concerned about, he certainly appealed to those in the Northwest that supported City have been through the relegation wars. It is highly possible that with a star laden team on big contracts, that City will simply wilt after this managerial change.

Roberto Mancini will need to use every trick he has in his management repertoire to keep this side afloat. Relegation may not be looming, but a bottom half finish is looking likely as the Cook/Marwood revolution takes the building blocks Sven Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes built, and trashes them.

Hughes Sacked

December 19, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini 

MCFC have sacked Mark Hughes with immediate effect. Roberto Mancini takes over with former City striker Brian Kidd becoming Assistant Manager.

The promotion of Brian Kidd to Assistant Manager is a safe move. Kidd served in the same capacity for Manchester United and England. Kidd is best remembered however by me, as a goal a game striker for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL after he had moved stateside. A Manchester native, Kidd played for both United and City.

Hughes did the best job he could with a club that lacks the continuity or stability to truly contend for major honors. This having been said, he made a number of mistakes on the job, and if City is as ambitious as the ownership claims, an upgrade was eventually needed.

Roberto Mancini is a solid hiring. Of the available names on the market he was in my mind the most qualified to manage City. Nonetheless, City’s season and future hangs in the balance and the side could either finish in the top four or flirt with relegation by making a change at this point in the campaign.

Hiring a manager from outside England is often times a disastrous move for Premiership clubs, particularly in the winter. A manager from Italy is unlikely to have any real idea of how to tactically cope with the brutal winter weather that grips traditional Lancashire. I also have serious concerns as to whether Mancini understands the English game, and knows how to work with players who are either British or have spent the bulk of their professional careers in England.

However, I still consider Mancini a better hiring than Guus Hiddink (who recently failed to qualify the most talented Russian team since the USSR’s breakup, for the World Cup), Jurgen Klinsmann (whose player moves with Bayern Munchen were as perplexing as some of Hughes worst moves) or just about anyone else that is currently availible.

We’ll have much more on the sacking, tomorrow morning UK time.

Hughes Should Stay

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mark Hughes 

Mark Hughes time at Manchester City has not been smooth by any stretch of the imagination. The side is currently underachieving after the manager asked his critics to judge him based on this season’s results.

Yet, City’s Arab owners need to be cautious in pulling the trigger. Hughes understands British football and the Premier League better than any manager currently available on the open market. Bringing in a continental manager who will have difficulty with English players is a recipe for disaster and could send City closer to the relegation zone than to the top four.

From a tactical standpoint, Sparky is trying to get the Blues to play with style, but has been forced to mold several disparate parts together. City has overspent on the attack, while neglecting the defense. The sale of longtime skipper Richard Dunne and the unwillingness to buy former City defender Sylvan Distain speaks loudly to the priorities of City’s board.

Gary Cook, the club chief executive made the infamous statement that Richard Dunne does not sell shirts. But what Richard Dunne did do is develop an abiding loyalty from all City supporters, one that continues even though he has left our club.

Mark Hughes transfer dealings have been far from pristine. City has over paid for among others, Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz, Garreth Barry and Carlos Tevez. The fact that each of the listed players former clubs seems to have not suffered from the loss of high priced players says a great deal about Hughes talent evaluation.

A case against Hughes can also be made based on players that perform well for other managers (like Dunne, Robinho and Micah Richards) struggling under him,

However, the time for a change is not now. Hughes deserves an opportunity to right the ship. City is in a full fledged, long term building mode and Sparky may not be the man to complete the job, I can think of no better option to keep it moving forward.

Mark Hughes: The Right Manager at the Right Time

September 21, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes 

Many pundits and self proclaimed experts have questioned the decision of City’s wealthy Arab backers to support Mark Hughes in the job. It has been said that City need a cosmopolitan, foreign manager to mold together a talented side bought with the riches of the Abu Dhabi economy.

But the new City ownership group clearly has a plan, and knows what they are doing. In a period between City fighting constant relegation battles and trying to assert itself as a top shelf club in English football, Hughes mentality seems perfect for the side.

City is not only fighting battles on the pitch, but also off the pitch against a skeptical press and hostile opposition supporters. The clubs good fortune in terms of ownership has resulted in an anger from opposing support- not unlike what Chelsea supporters and players faced earlier this decade.

Mark Hughes has always been a manager whose qualities lie in his motivational tactics. His ability to rally less talented squads to play at a high level has been admirable and apparent for many years. This was the case with the Welsh National Team and with Blackburn.

Now, Hughes has a more talented side, but one viewed with skepticism bordering on disdain throughout much of England. But with this situation comes the need for a manager that understands English football, and the mentality of supporters, the press and his side. Mark Hughes is uniquely qualified to deal with this situation.

The City Manager’s reaction to the derby loss to the club he featured so prominently for as a player should erase any doubt about Hughes competence for this job. Rather than soft peddling the controversy under which the match ended, Hughes indicated his team had been “robbed” and that the real fault for the much talked about post match incident involving Craig Bellamy was with the United supporting pitch invader. Hughes also made it be known that a coin was thrown by United supporters at the city team (probably intended for United villain Carlos Tevez) heading into the halftime team talk.

The City Manager also defender Emmanuel Adebayor last week after the City striker faced a fury of angry fans and even angrier media. Arsene Wenger may have found fault with Hughes’ defense of his player, but Mark Hughes is a fighter, a scrapper, and a manager that sticks by those he goes to battle with.

Hughes may not be the most tactically adept manager nor the most capable to soothe large egos, but he is the right manager for Manchester City at this time.



Has The Lescott Saga Cost City?

August 11, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes 

The long drawn out saga surrounding Joleon Lescott’s potential move to Manchester City, has taken a tool on the clubs preparations for this Saturday’s opening fixture against Blackburn. Lescott represents the most versatile defender not playing for an entrenched big four club in the Premier League, and City’s pursuit of him was thought to represent an opportunity for Everton to raise critical funds.

But David Moyes whose record of achievement with his Toffee side is second none among non “big four” clubs realizes no amount of money is going to offset the loss of such a critical component of his club so close to the start of a new season.

But where does that leave City and Mark Hughes?  Much of English Football has been abuzz this summer about the arrogance of Manchester City, not only because they are driving prices for players up to levels that other Premiership clubs cannot afford to pay, but also because City continues to struggle to sign any linked targets from outside England.

Now the drawn out saga over Lescott, whom we must believe Hughes thought he’s eventually land has costs the club two and a half critical summer months to identify other targets so close to the start of the new campaign.

Simply put, this saga has been for lack of a better term a debacle, and one which City is likely to pay for throughout the early weeks of the 2009-10 season.


Hughes Envy?

July 29, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Mark Hughes 

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It’s no secret Mark Hughes was a remarkable player. Not always the most likable fellow, his career spanned some of the biggest clubs in Europe: Barca, Man U, Bayern, and Chelsea. It was in particular at United and Barca where he made his name.

As a manager Hughes has been successful also. The Welsh National Team got closer to qualifying for a Major Tournament under Hughes than any other Manager. He also kept Blackburn in the Premier League and playing at a high level for several years even though their talent would indicate relegation struggles each season.

But now Hughes is facing the challenge of his playing or coaching life. He’s got a rapidly developing cosmopolitan side: with South Americans, Africans, and several English National Team player. Hughes’ temperament has always been the champion the little guy and to motivate his team to punch above their weight. How that he has a collection of world football superstars, will this work?

Questions remain prevalent about Hughes, but I sense a degree of Hughes’ envy among coaches including Sir Alex Ferguson who coached him and Martin O’Neil. Here is a player that was outstanding and got to play for big clubs now having the opportunity to manage a group of footballers who like it or not will make City a relevant “big club,” in due time. Obviously Sir Alex has the best team in England and one of the best clubs in the world. But his constant needling of City, I believe has less to do with Manchester City (Fergie hasn’t bothered with City for 23 years, why should he care now) and more to do with a former player of his who all of a sudden as a manager can rival his ability to buy top class international talent.

Hughes, has had the best of both worlds as a player and a manager. In England, we’ve seen a succession of good managers at top clubs while former players that were superstars like Tony Adams, Paul Ince  and Alan Shearer among others have failed as managers at teams outside the Top 4. Yet Hughes, another significant player of the 80s/90s generation in Britain now has an embarrassment of riches to work with.

All of this leads to, Hughes Envy. Watch for it all year long in the Barclays Premier League.



The Hughes Revolution: Barry The Latest Signing

Mark Hughes has seen the faith placed in him by City’s owners and some supporters rewarded with the signing of Gareth Barry. Barry has featured for England under Fabio Capello more regularly than any other midfield player.

Hughes is the right man to take City forward in a positive way. For all the clamoring from outsiders that City must bring in a cosmopolitan manager, Hughes has an ability to connect with players from the British Isles, the core of this City team better than anyone on the market.

In his role Hughes is learning how to better utilize Robinho and Elano two Brazilians that have made Dunga’s international side perhaps the most formidable on globe outside of Spain. Jo’s return to Manchester City will likely find the talented Brazilian striker more at home than he was in the first six months of Hughes tenure.

The City manager has learned to deal with talented foreign players and his managerial skills had clearly improved by the end of the 2008-09 season.

Additionally Hughes ability to sell top players with Premiership experience on City instead of a current big four club is critical.

Let’s look at the list of City signings from within the Premier League under Hughes:

  • Shaun Wright Phillips

An England squad player whose level of comfort in City colors is unquestioned

  • Wayne Bridge

England international whose relationship with Hughes dates back to Southampton in the late 90s. This signing solves City’s long term woes on the left side of defense and can push forward into the attack comfortably.

  • Shay Given

One of the top 10 goalkeepers in the world and arguably the best Premiership goalkeeper over the past ten seasons. An indispensible player for the Republic of Ireland

  • Craig Bellamy

Cultured Welsh international who previously had great success under Hughes with the Wales National Team.

  • Gareth Barry

After years on the fringe has become a regular for England under Fabio Capello.

Hughes has not only signed useful premier league players but players who feature regularly for the national teams of the British Isles. In City’s recent history attracting quality players of this stature who were not on their last legs as professionals has been almost impossible. With these signings Hughes has proven he belongs. Now the question is whether or not he has staying power.

Whose Next?

The injuries to Benjani and Bojinov now doubled with Bellamy and Robinho both set to miss significant time begs the question as to whose next among City’s attacking players to go down. City is left with thin options up front. Darrius Vassell could always be thrown into the mix as conceivably could Elano, but among pure strikers you are left with a  19 year old Daniel Sturridge and two 20 year olds Ched Evans, and Felipe Caiecedo.

Mark Hughes decision to let Jo leave on loan to Everton looked like solid business two months ago but now has to be questioned. Nonetheless, City should have Robinho back sooner than Bellamy.

Wednesday’s match against Aston Villa, a side whose away form has been outstanding presents a challenge for the youngsters. Will they be able to step up?

UEFA Cup: Mark Hughes Big Chance?

February 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mark Hughes, UEFA Cup 

City’s Premiership season is mired in mid table mediocrity. For longtime supporters of the club like myself that is just fine, so long as we are not eventually drawn into a relegation battle. But having been eliminated in the clubs first match of both domestic cup competitions has left a very sour taste in the mouths of many a City backer.

The UEFA Cup may not be glamorous for the top clubs in England, Spain or Italy, but for City it provides an opportunity. Following the January transfers of Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bridge and Shay Given who are not cup tied (Nigel De Jong is cup tied) the Blues can boast as good a squad on paper as just about any side left in this competition.

But City’s troubles away from home continue to manifest themselves in every away fixture leading many to question whether the Blues can in fact keep the European campaign going.

This may sound somewhat jaded and silly, but Thursday’s match against FC Copenhagen could be one of the biggest of Mark Hughes tenure. The UEFA Cup may be a second tier event, but winning the UEFA Cup has brought glory to managers such as Gerrard Houllier and Juan DeRamos.

We’ll preview the match itself on Thursday morning BST.

Hughes Gets Time

January 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mark Hughes, Transfer Rumors, Transfer Targets 

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Despite being criticized roundly in the British press when they bought the club, Man City’s new owners have proven they understand the English game better than many other ownership group. Resisting the temptation spurned by gamblers and newspapers to sack Mark Hughes following City’s embarrassing performance in the FA Cup on Saturday, the owners along with Chief Executive Gary Cook maintained that Hughes will be given time to rebuild the squad.

A year and a half after Sven Goran Eriksson remade City in his image, the signings of Summer 2007 represent dead weight for the club. Martin Petrov and Valeri Bojinov are perennially injured, while Elano cannot co-exist it appears with Hughes.

Saturday’s signing of Wayne Bridge is only the beginning of Hughes attempts to bolster the squad. With City eliminated from the FA Cup, the club can concentrate on the league and European qualification for next season. Additionally, elimination from the FA Cup could boost City’s opportunity to compete with enhanced depth in the UEFA Cup.

Hughes deserves the entire season to right the ship should relegation worries not persist. A fair evaluation cannot be done of the manager until May and City’s decisive statement supporting the manager are to be applauded.