Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

I was present at the Etihad on Saturday night for the latest Soccer Aid fundraiser. It was my first experience of attending Soccer Aid, although I have watched it each year on television of course. It was also the first time it was staged at the Etihad after previously being held at Old Trafford, Wembley and Stamford Bridge.

It was a great event and it was wonderful to see some highly successful former Premier League players like Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Rooney on the same pitch as entertainers, musicians and reality stars. 

Inevitably the crowd was also mixed with many regular football attendees present together with others who came to perhaps their first match as they were fans of one of the celebrities, or maybe they simply wanted to support the charity appeal. It actually created a good atmosphere with certain stars getting great support. The Manchester rapper Aitch was certainly popular, as was singer YUNGBLUD, YouTuber Chunkz and singer Olly Murs.

YUNGBLUD

Due to chance I ended up in a great place to see the Rest of the World players as they arrived at the stadium and you could see the delight on the faces of many of the players as they arrived at the Etihad. Line of Duty’s Martin Compston seemed to be taking in every moment – as he did during the game.

Ore Oduba & Martin Compton

Obviously, the quality of football varied but it was great entertainment. I thought singer James Bay played well. Chelcee Grimes seemed to set up Lee Mack for significant attempts on three occasions – a couple of which Mack fluffed – and she did some of the work before Mack finally scored. The other goals were both scored by Love Island’s Kem Cetinay and the Rest of the World won 3-0.

There are videos and match reports out there so I won’t go through any of that but I do want to say that it was a somewhat surreal experience at times. Most will know that ITV did a Masked Singer like reveal for the Soccer Aid mascot. Before the second half started his head was removed to chants from the crowd of ‘Take it off’ and it turned out it was entertainer Stephen Mulhern. He then played a few minutes in costume (without costme head) and it did seem odd seeing footballers like Paul Scholes in the same team as a costumed sidekick to Ant & Dec. However the majority of children – and many adults – in the stadium loved the pantomime of it all and his name was chanted at times.

For me the whole night was about raising funds and providing some entertainment. It wasn’t meant to be a major clash between two of the world’s strongest footballing teams and, for those reasons, I think anything that adds to the entertainment value of those in the stadium is fine. 

When we watch these things we want to see if the former footballers have still got it; whether that reality star or the people who talk about the game really can play; whether the comedian is doing it for laughs and so on. 

At the end of the game the players did a lap of honour and by the end of it YUNGBLUD and Olly Murs had given away their shorts to fans. Earlier, during the match, there was a great moment when Aitch was substituted for Max Whitlock. Aitch took off his shirt and handed it to a boy in the stands. He then signed it for the lad and the boy was delighted. He put on the shirt and Aitch took his place on the bench. Within only a few minutes Mo Farrar had to come off through injury and they decided to send Aitch back on. He shouted across to the lad to give him back his shirt but fortunately another shirt appeared and Aitch could get on the pitch. It was one of those typical testimonial style moments.

Soccer Aid is of course a worthy charity and can be supported via donations here:

https://donate.socceraid.org.uk/?_ga=2.269079862.631569536.1630922634-761543484.1630922634

Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved. This was a nice, positive and well supported event. Important work too!

On a personal level I thought the Etihad stadium looked fantastic on the night and it certainly added to the occasion. Hopefully, Soccer Aid will return there next year. As well as the entertainers on the pitch there were also several ‘faces’ in the stands including, a few rows behind me, Shaun Ryder. It was great to see the event supported in this way.

Manchester City at Home but Away!

When the Champions League home game for Manchester City was played in Budapest on 16th March 2021 due to the Covid situation some asked ‘have City ever played a home match away before?’ Well, yes City have and the first time this happened in European competition was on this day (July 31) in 2008. Co-incidentally City take on Barnsley tonight (6pm, July 31 2021) at the Academy Stadium. I wonder how many there will even know about this oddity of City history in 2008. Here’s the story of the 2008 game…

The close season of 2008 saw several behind the scenes changes at Manchester City. One of these was the arrival of Garry Cook, who would eventually take on the title of CEO, and another was the appointment of former Manchester United star Mark Hughes as manager. Both seemed pleased with their welcome from fans but behind the scenes the two men were surprised at how the club acted at times.  The first surprise of the season was that City’s initial home UEFA Cup tie of the season had to be played away from Manchester.  The stadium, as was often the case during the close season, had staged a concert.  The Bon Jovi concert prevented the ground from recovering in time for the Streymur return and so the decision was taken to move the game to Barnsley.  Some supporters felt the game could have been staged in Greater Manchester or at least in Lancashire, and so the trip to Barnsley was not viewed particularly positively by fans.

This game made history as it was the first occasion the Blues had played a home European tie outside of Manchester.  Previously City had played home European games at Maine Road and at the City Of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad), but work following a concert by Bon Jovi prevented the club from staging the game at home.  The decision was taken to stage the match at Barnsley.  

Subscribers can read about the first leg here:

Subscribers can read about the first leg here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/09/manchester-city-in-europe-2008-09-v-eb-streymur-at-home-in-barnsley/

Incidentally, that first leg (played on July 17) meant that City had played a competitive game in every month of the year (not the same year obviously but the Blues had played in the usual football season August to May plus June 1947 and now July 2008). Covid also resulted in games during June and July in 2020 and 2021.

City comfortably won the second leg 2-0 with goals from Petrov three minutes into the second half and Vassell in the dying seconds, however there was some criticism in the media.  Graham Chase, writing for The Times, claimed:  “Another European win in July, but as with the first-leg victory over this amateur team from the Faroe Isles two weeks ago, Manchester City again looked very much a side working their way through pre-season as they overcame EB/Streymur at Oakwell last night through goals from Martin Petrov and Darius Vassell.

“This tie has only ever been an inconvenience to Mark Hughes and, while his team again failed to shine, the new manager is pleased to be in today’s draw for the UEFA Cup second qualifying round with no new injuries to concern him. 

“Not that opportunities were in short supply. City had 36 efforts on goal, but their finishing was poor and René Torgard, the EB goalkeeper and a garage mechanic, was in impressive form, making fine saves, particularly from Vassell and Daniel Sturridge. Even when Torgard was beaten, the woodwork denied Vedran Corluka and Petrov.” 

For some fans the game raised the concern that football seemed to play second fiddle to other activities.  It was understandable that financial considerations had played their part, but supporter Sean Riley was not impressed:  “This is why there is no other club like us.  What club can have a high profile owner and a new manager in Mark Hughes, and then his first game in charge at City is played at Barnsley because four rockers have messed the pitch up!  That can only ever happen at City as Noel Gallagher would say.  It was a total lack of professionalism and planning.  It suggested that other activities were more important than football at a club that liked to think of itself as a major club. 

“I know these things take organising, but we knew we’d be in the UEFA Cup in May and we’d hoped we’d be in it much earlier than that, so we should have thought about this.  Mark Hughes and Garry Cook must have thought, ‘what the bloody Hell have we come into here?’  I know the ground had to have UEFA accreditation or something so that would have limited options, but to be in that situation was poor.”

Looking back on 2008, it seems an alien world to today.

Match details: 

31st July 2008

Qualifying Round 1 Leg 2 (at Barnsley)

Attendance: 7,344

City 2-0 EB Streymur 

City Goalscorers: Petrov & Vassell 

City: Hart, Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Ball, Fernandes (Hamann), Johnson, Elano, Petrov (Etuhu), Vassell, Sturridge (Evans)

Manchester City’s 2011 Homecoming Parade

The night (May 23 2011) after beating Bolton 2-0 in the final Premier League game of the 2010-11 season, Manchester City staged their first official homecoming victory parade since 1976. Here’s the story of what happened in the stadium for fans who couldn’t be there.

Here for subscribers is the story of that parade and City’s celebrations… 

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

The First Manchester Derby at the Etihad

The first Manchester derby at Manchester City’s new stadium (then called the City of Manchester Stadium, now the Etihad) occurred on this date (14th March) in 2004.  For pride’s sake it was important Kevin Keegan’s side did not lose that fixture, but with United some 13 places above the Blues pre-match Ferguson’s side were clear favourites.  It was time for City to upset the form book.

On a wonderful day, perhaps the best the stadium had enjoyed in its inaugural year, a terrific atmosphere helped Keegan’s side achieve a memorable victory.  Fowler opened the scoring in the third minute and Macken made it 2-0 after 32 minutes.  Scholes made it 2-1 three minutes later.  

In the second half goals from Mancunian Trevor Sinclair (73) and Shaun Wright-Phillips made it 4-1 to the Blues.  You can hear my interview with Trevor Sinclair about this game here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/03/14/trevor-sinclair-interview/

Matt Dickinson (The Times):  “Humiliated by Manchester City last season, Sir Alex Ferguson and his men used the pain to fuel their drive to the title.  Humiliated again yesterday, they are condemned to live with the despair for months – perhaps even years.”  

Keegan felt the win was thoroughly deserved:  “We had played better against Chelsea and lost.  But against United we got that important early goal which gave us something to hang on to.  We had personnel problems because we had players doing jobs that don’t come naturally to them and also had to make two enforced changes at the interval.”

Chris Bailey explained the significance of the match in the Manchester Evening News:  “Maine Road saw some pulsating derbies in its time but few could have matched this first-ever neighbourly spat at Eastlands.  And how satisfying that Kevin Keegan’s side should choose this day of all days to win their first home game since October 18 and banish all thoughts of the drop.”

In 2012 Dennis Tueart, who was a director at the time of the stadium move, told me his memories of that derby match, believing it was an important moment in the stadium’s inaugural season:  “When we moved to the stadium Kevin Keegan worried about whether the atmosphere would be the same and I told him that fans would take a bit of time getting used to it because they were no longer sat with the people they’d been with for years.  The dynamics were different.  He felt we should try and get fans in the ground earlier, but I said that performance on the pitch would be the most significant factor.  

“When we beat United 4-1 in the first derby at the stadium the atmosphere was incredible.  Kevin came to me afterwards and said ‘I see what you mean’.  That then set the tone of the place.  The place was rocking – people were singing as they walked down the spirals at the end of the match and the atmosphere was absolutely superb.”

If you would like to read about other Manchester derbies then check out this:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-derbies/

Subscribe to get access to the entire site

This was a brief taste of the material on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com If you would like to read all the in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Manchester City’s Support: The Facts

Over the last few years there’s been a growing tendency by rival fans to mock the support of Manchester City. It’s an extremely odd thing to do, especially as for most of the period between 1981 and 2011 they talked of the loyalty of City fans. It seems, once the Blues started winning trophies again, rival supporters had to find something else to focus on. 

Recently, this myth about City’s support has been used by some in extremely strange ways, for example following the Blues 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool at Anfield (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/07/the-last-time-mcfc-scored-4-or-more-at-anfield/ ) some Liverpool fans (and even some journalists!) started to make the point that City’s recent form is down to the fact that ‘they’re used to playing in front of no fans’ with the suggestion being that if Anfield had had fans present then City wouldn’t have won. They go on and suggest that Liverpool would have gained more wins in general and that City would not be top of the League and that Liverpool would be. 

This is an extremely strange view, especially as the 2019-20 season (which included some games without fans of course) was the only time Liverpool have won the Premier League since its formation in 1992. In each of those seasons prior to LFC’s first Premier League title crowds were allowed at Anfield. During that same time City have won the League on four occasions. It’s a preposterous idea that ignores the facts.

So for this article I’ve decided to produce evidence of City support in recent decades along with a few comparisons with other leading sides. It makes interesting reading and may embarrass the supporters of certain clubs who constantly ridicule City’s fanbase, despite the evidence. The following in-depth piece can be accessed by subscribing to this blog below.

Subscribe to get access

If you would like to read this in-depth article and all the others on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 220+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

First MCFC Goal Using Goal Line Technology

On this day (18th January) in 2014 Edin Dzeko netted Manchester City’s 100th competitive goal of the 2013-14 season.  

The goal was City’s opener against Cardiff and was also the first Premier League goal to be awarded after the use of goal line technology.  The Blues became the fastest team in history to reach 100 goals.

Manchester City Season – 1996-97

Previous Season

The Blues were relegated from the Premier League at the end of 1995-96.

Manager

The season started with Alan Ball as manager, but ended with Frank Clark.   In between Steve Coppell had been appointed (7 October) but resigned (8 November) while Asa Hartford and Phil Neal both had long spells – or at least longer than Coppell’s permanent period – as caretaker managers.

If you would like to read the full article and other pieces like this then please subscribe below. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 100+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.