On this day (31 July) in 2008 Manchester City played a home game at Barnsley. 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, but work at Eastlands 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 both legs of the European tie here:
The Blues ended 2007-08 in ninth place, five places higher than the previous season. However this was not good enough for owner Thaksin Shinawatra who dismissed manager Sven Goran Eriksson in the close season. His replacement was former United star Mark Hughes, but few fans were impressed as they had loved Sven’s brief period in charge and were uncertain what to make of the summer’s changes.
By the time Mark Hughes managed his first League game the Blues had already started their UEFA Cup campaign with victory over Streymur from the Faroe Islands. The first League game saw Hughes’ side defeated 4-2 at Aston Villa – all six goals came in the second half – and it is fair to say that fans were not particularly enamoured with the position the Blues were now in when compared with twelve months earlier.
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Here’s a flashback to a difficult period on this day in 2008…
City conceded twice in three consecutive League games during this period, dropping to 13th after a 2-1 defeat to Spurs on 9thNovember. It was a difficult time, especially as manager Mark Hughes felt aggrieved with some refereeing decisions. Most notably, Hughes was unhappy that Middlesbrough on 29th October had been awarded a highly debateable penalty by referee Lee Mason. Replays showed that there had been minimal contact between City’s Sturridge and Boro’s Wheater as the player went down outside the area. That goal switched control in the game. Hughes: “Wheater was not in full control of the ball, he was outside the box and the linesman did not give it. The shape of the game changed… All night the referee took it upon himself to make decisions that were quite frankly disappointing.”
After defeats at Bolton and at home to Spurs the media began to speculate that Mark Hughes’ position was in doubt. City, a point above the relegation zone, had suffered seven defeats in 12 League games causing journalist Daniel Taylor to comment: “Hughes is now at a club where the high expectation levels make him vulnerable…[Hughes] did not sound entirely convincing as he tried to pass some of the blame for this defeat to the referee Mike Dean for ‘not taking into account the [rainy] conditions’.”
It should be noted that City had ended the Spurs game with only nine players following the dismissals of Fernandes (26 min) & Dunne (83) and that Tottenham also had a man sent off.
29 Oct Middlesbrough (A) L 0-2 25,731
2 Nov Bolton Wanderers (A) L 0-2 21,095
9 Nov Tottenham Hotspur (H) L 1-2 Robinho 41,893
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.
31st July 2008
Qualifying Round 1 Leg 2 (at Barnsley)
City 2-0 EB Streymur
City Goalscorers: Petrov & Vassell
City: Hart, Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Ball, Fernandes (Hamann), Johnson, Elano, Petrov (Etuhu), Vassell, Sturridge (Evans)
The City of Manchester Stadium, as it was then known, staged the UEFA Cup Final in 2008 and this presented Manchester City with all the evidence the club needed that European football was something the Blues had to strive for. Fortunately they didn’t have to wait long for the chance to prove what they could do.
Qualification for the final season of the UEFA Cup (the competition was to be rebranded Europa League for 2009-10) was achieved via the Fair Play League and, as with 2003-04, City had to progress via qualification rounds. This time however, competition started much earlier for City with games played in July. It is also worth noting that the Blues had to travel to the remote Faroe Islands for their first match in the tournament.
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