Pep Guardiola wins LMA Manager of the Year award

Latest press release from Manchester City…

Pep Guardiola wins LMA Manager of the Year award
• Pep Guardiola has been named LMA Manager of the Year for the second time in four seasons
• Guardiola’s team has already completed a League and Cup double and now have their sights set on Saturday’s Champions League final
• The Catalan manager acknowledged the importance of sharing his award with the players and staff who have guided City to success this season
Pep Guardiola has been named Manager of the Year by the League Manager’s Association.

Adapting to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Guardiola guided Manchester City to a third Premier League title in four seasons and a fourth consecutive League Cup.

On Saturday, Guardiola and his players will compete in a first Champions League final in the Club’s history.

Voted for by fellow managers, it is the second time the City boss has been awarded the prize, having previously done so in recognition of the 2017/18 Centurions season.

Pep Guardiola: “I am delighted to win this award for the second time, but an award like this is only possible if a manager is surrounded by top professionals.

“My players have been fantastic – their dedication and professionalism never waver, even in a season that has been the most challenging we have ever faced.

“And my staff are also deserving of the highest praise. I am so lucky to have a team of people who give everything they have every single day to make sure Manchester City are the best we can be.

“This award is dedicated to and shared with them.”

Director of Football Txiki Begiristain added: “Pep deserves this award, absolutely. To win the Premier League and Carabao Cup, as well as reach the final Champions League final, in the most trying season we’ve ever seen, says everything about his quality as a manager.

“He has shown an outstanding ability to constantly innovate. With the challenges presented by COVID-19, he’s had to adapt to a new way of working. He’s done it brilliantly and our results say everything you need to know.

The Noel Gallagher interview Part one

Last Thursday (May 20) I interviewed Noel Gallagher about his support of Manchester City, the Champions League and more. Here is the first part of the interview. This clip lasts about 15 minutes.

Obviously, when two Mancs of a similar age get together to chat about City, particularly when thinking about the 80s and 90s, there can be a lot of, shall we say, ‘industrial language’. As I know there are some younger listeners to my interviews I have tried to edit out certain words but, of course, a few may have slipped through. Apologies if they have and you don’t like them.

Anyway, here’s part one. This will run for five days with a section added each day.

Thanks to Noel and the staff at his studios & office for making this happen.

Watch this space for the rest of the interview over the next few days. The interview will be free to listen to.

The Best of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is released on June 11. Details here:

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Starting tomorrow: the Noel Gallagher interview

Last week (May 20) I interviewed Noel Gallagher about his support of Manchester City, the Champions League and more. I’ll be posting it here a section at a time over the next few days, with the first 15 minutes posted tomorrow.

Thanks to Noel and the staff at his studios & office for making this happen.

Watch this space for the interview over the next few days. The interview will be free to listen to.

Subscribe to get access

Fancy subscribing to my website? Subscribers get access to all the 350+ articles, interviews etc. that have been posted so far on my site and all those posted during your subscription period. It costs £20 a year (works out about £1.67 a month) or £3 a month if subscribing a month at a time. Whichever method you choose you access everything in the archive and posted during your subscription.

Agüerooooooooooooooo! Premier League Legend

Today we formally say goodbye to a Premier League legend – Sergio Agüero. Legend is an overused word by many within football. Personally, I’m a little more restrained than most and like to compare players from every era and to think about how a player will be viewed decades from now. So, it is not hyperbole when I describe Sergio Agüero as one of Manchester City’s – and the Premier League’s (and world football) – greatest legends.
He is without doubt the greatest goalscorer ever to grace Manchester City but he is also the greatest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history. He is an absolute legend!

So, the last few months since the news that Sergio Agüero will be leaving Manchester City at the end of the 2020-21 season have been highly disappointing (that’s an understatement!) to those of us who have watched his career in England since his arrival a decade ago.

In the 1960s the great City manager Joe Mercer often described Francis Lee as the ‘final piece’ of his jigsaw – and it was Lee’s goals and arrival that helped to transform the 1967-68 season in to a title winning one – and Agüero should be described in a similar fashion. City had won the FA Cup in 2011 but it was Agüero’s arrival that ultimately led to the title in 2011-12. He was the final piece of that title winning jigsaw.

To understand why Francis Lee was called the final jigsaw piece you can read an in-depth of his career here:

Personally, I’m extremely upset that Sergio is leaving City. As with Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, it will be a major loss. These guys became legends (as I indicated earlier I never use that term lightly!) at City and they thrilled and delighted us. As fans, we had a chance to formally say goodbye to Pablo & Vincent but, due to Covid, we haven’t yet been able to say farewell to David and today (May 23) only a limited attendance will be in the stadium to say goodbye to Sergio (there will be around 10,000 in a 54,000 capacity stadium).

Hopefully today provides Sergio with the right kind of send off despite the limited attendance.

Here’s a profile of the man who became Manchester City’s greatest ever goalscorer. Back in 1997 I researched and wrote Manchester The Greatest City, an in-depth history of the Blues containing over half a million words. Sadly, the opportunity to update that and publish an epic history of the club is now unlikely due to changes in the publishing world, cost of production and more but if I did ever get the chance then a significant section would calmly, rationally and factually, explain the significance of Sergio to Manchester City’s development.

So many major stars have appeared for, coached and managed the Blues over the last thirteen years or so that their story really deserves to be told in-depth but, as I’m denied that opportunity these days, we’ll have to make do with features appearing on this website. Hopefully, these words will do justice to Sergio and, over the coming years, his colleagues.

Sergio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 2, 1988 and was given the nickname ‘Kun’ by his grandparents due to his likeness to an anime character. In 2008 he explained to the BBC: ‘Kun actually represents a Japanese cartoon character from my favourite series that I used to watch as a child. I coined the nickname Kun because of my resemblance to the character, who was actually named Kum Kum. My grandparents were the first ones who gave me the name. I think my nickname is different in comparison to most athletes and so I have grown to appreciate it because it’s unique. It’s not every day an athlete is nicknamed after a cartoon character!’

From the moment he could walk, or toddle, football meant everything to the young Sergio: ‘Football surrounds you in Argentina and so I began playing at a very young age. The truth is that I had always lived with the ball at my feet. As soon as class ended in Quilmes in Buenos Aires, my friends and I would start up a game. In Villa Itali, the neighbourhood where I was raised, there was also a pitch where we used to gather with the local kids and organise games. At any moment of the day we could have been playing, when the sun shined or when dark fell. I would spend hours and hours out there, sometimes even coming home late.’

At the age of 15 and 35 days Sergio, playing for Independiente, becoming the youngest player to appear in Argentina’s highest league (beating Maradona’s record). Looking back he explained in 2008: ‘There were some difficult times at first. I was a lot younger and smaller than most of the players, so I had to learn how to avoid and dodge aggressive tackles. At times, especially in the beginning, I think I became a target for malicious tackles and so referees were forced to look after or protect me, or at least pay closer attention to intentional rough hits. But eventually I learned to avoid these rough tackles and improved so that I was able to anticipate and dodge injuries.’

Sergio’s form from the moment he made his debut in 2003 through to 2006 was enough for the media to suggest the 17 year old should play for Argentina in the 2006 World Cup.

On April 29, 2006 the Irish Independent highlighted him as a face to watch and a few days later journalist Stuart Condie wrote: ‘At 15, Agüero became the youngest player in Argentina’s top league and this season has eight goals in 16 league matches for Independiente. Cesar Luis Menotti, Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach, said he has “something of Romario about him.” Romario helped Brazil win the 1994 championship in the United States.’

Condie quoted the then Argentinian coach Jose Pekerman who said: ‘Kun is playing out of his skin at the moment. There are many players who didn’t get to play at the World Cup until they were 24 or 25. I’m not saying that’s going to be the case with Agüero. I remain hopeful that he can still make it.’

Sadly, Sergio did not appear at the 2006 World Cup but he did make his international debut that year (September 3) against Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. A year later he netted his first international goal in a 2010 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia and was ultimately selected for the Argentinian World Cup squad of 2010. Sergio scored in his first finals game – he came on for Carlos Tevez in the 75th minute v South Korea and scored a minute later. Sergio, Sergio!

Often described as ‘the new Maradona’ around this time, Sergio had already won the World Junior Championships twice (2005 & 2007 – he won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in 2007) and an Olympic Gold Medal (2008 – Argentina won the men’s football tournament of course!). He had also joined Atlético Madrid, signing in May 2006.

When asked about why he had left Argentina and Independiente Sergio explained in 2007: ‘The reason I left Independiente is because I care for the club so much. If I hadn’t been sold for so much money there would not be an Independiente. Their debt problems were so bad they could have gone under. I couldn’t let that happen. I felt sorry for the fans and I understood their anger. But they realise now it was the only solution. It is a great feeling to know they have not forgotten me and chant my name – I will never forget them.’

It is clear that the club continues to mean a great deal for the player and that his comments, back in 2007, were sincere. His move did ensure the club could survive but it added to the focus he received. 

Inevitably, delivering so much at such an early age would have put Sergio under immense pressure at times. The comparisons with Maradona (Sergio married his daughter as well); the focus in Argentina and then playing in the Spanish League… all of this could have affected him, like the pressure has so many other young footballers, but Sergio always seemed to keep level headed. When asked in 2008 he commented that he did not feel pressure, adding ‘football comes to me so naturally it’s more like having fun than a job. For me, having a kickabout with my friends is as important as playing in the final of the World Cup.’

It’s worth remembering he was still only 20 when he made those comments. The pressure of life at a top Spanish club and playing for Argentina was intense, especially after he was described by the Atlético president Enrique Cerezo as ‘the most important player to arrive in Spain since Maradona.’ There was also the small matter of Sergio punching the ball into the net – according to those who supported clubs other than Atlético of course! He didn’t, but the goal was scored off his hands. Sergio explained in January 2007: ‘The goal I’m famous for here is the one I scored against Recreativo when the ball hit off my hands and ended in the net. People say it was another Hand Of God goal but if the referee doesn’t disallow it, I’m not going to complain! I didn’t mean to punch the ball past the keeper. I just threw myself at the cross and it went in, although it was definitely off my hands. It’s forgotten now and I’m just concentrating on helping Atletico climb the table.’

In 2008 there were a number of features on Sergio in the media suggesting an English club may try to sign him. They talked of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with journalist Glen Moore saying ‘He would cost €60m, but that could be cheap for a talented 20-year-old.’ The following year the Irish Independent described him as ‘a player all of Europe covets and one with the skill to unlock any defence.’ 

The Daily Star claimed that Alex Ferguson had Sergio on his wish list behind Dimitar Berbatov in July 2008 – it’s worth remembering that Berbatov eventually signed for United on transfer deadline day that year when the Reds were seemingly in a battle over transfers with City. It’s amazing to think of what might have happened if United hadn’t made such a determined attempt at getting Berbatov and City had signed him, not Robinho, that day. Would Sergio have ended up at Old Trafford? How different could Manchester’s football story have been over the following decade? 

Similarly, in July 2009 Jason Burt, writing for the Irish Independent, claimed that City were trying to lure John Terry away from Chelsea for £28m plus and if that went ahead then the London club might prepare a bid for Sergio. Fate, it seems, played its part in ensuring City’s early spending following the September 2008 takeover did not lead to a rival Premier League club capturing the Argentinian.

In February 2011 it was reported in the Telegraph that Harry Redknapp had tried to sign Sergio for Spurs – leading to Atlético extending his contract – and then on July 17 that year the same newspaper reported that Sergio’s then father-in-law, Maradona, had given his blessing to the player moving to City. Blues’ boss Roberto Mancini was quoted as saying: ‘Agüero is a player that can play for Manchester City because he is young and he is a good player like Carlos [Tevez]. He can score a lot of goals and can play with Mario, with Edin … it could be [that he joins us].’

On July 28 2011, after City chair Khaldoon Al Mubarak allegedly took the highly unusual step of getting directly involved in the transfer, Sergio officially joined City for a fee reported as £35m – an absolute bargain when you consider what he has achieved since BUT also a bargain compared to the amounts that other teams were alleged to have been prepared to spend to capture him at various times in the previous few years.  It’s worth remembering Liverpool had paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll in January of that year! I know which player I think offered the most value for money.

The great Argentinian former Spurs star Ossie Ardiles gave his view of Sergio at this time: ‘Agüero’s a wonderful player, only 23, and with a lot of potential. If you compare him with Tevez, I would say he is more of a proper striker, a traditional centre-forward. He is very skilful, strong, two-footed and he has the number one thing that all top frontmen have, and that is an ability to make scoring look very easy.’

Ossie was right and so were many others who recognised that Sergio was the signing City needed to push forward. There were some who, for their own personal reasons, wrote negatively about Sergio’s arrival (maybe they’d have written differently had he joined certain other clubs?), but overwhelmingly it was clear that Sergio was that ‘final jigsaw piece’. 

David Maddock, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly prophesised: ‘City are not just getting one of the most exciting strikers in the world… they are also, apparently, getting a talisman who can provide the impetus for them to take the final step into the elite… The signing ofAgüero promises a huge impact, as the crowds in Manchester last night suggested. By signing a similar player to Tevez, but one who is younger, quicker and with far more potential, City are upgrading.

‘The fact the Argentina striker has replaced Tevez in his country’s forward line and is rated more highly back home adds to that sense of moving onwards and upwards for the club’s supporters.’

Inevitably Sergio was quoted in most of the national newspapers over the days that followed with the Sun carrying several quotes, beginning with whether the weather in Manchester would cause Sergio problems: ‘Firstly I don’t like very hot weather so on that side of things I will be OK. I’m sure I am going to enjoy myself here and life will be fine.’ He added: “My style has always been to fight to the death for every ball, to give 100 per cent in every game, be concentrated to the maximum in everything I do. I think we are a team that in the future will be fighting every year to win trophies. And let’s hope that it is a quite a few major trophies.’ Well, Sergio, you certainly did challenge for trophies (quite a few) every year!

Sergio’s competitive City career began with a 59th minute substitute appearance against Swansea in the Premier League on August 15, 2011 (the first Premier League meeting with Swansea). Within nine minutes he’d scored his first goal (a tap in from a cross by Micah Richards) and in injury time he netted his second (a 30 yard strike). In addition, he also set up David Silva to score (he’d hooked the ball off the byline and passed it to Silva).

You can read about the game here:

Oliver Holt, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly reported how it felt to those of us in the stadium that day: ‘City fans should be entitled to think a forward ought to be a bit special. But to be at the Etihad Stadium last night and to witness the Manchester City debut of Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero felt like being in on something momentous. It felt like a landmark… Of all the superstar arrivals that have happened here in the blur of transfer activity that has taken place since Sheikh Mansour bought the club three years ago, Agüero’s feels as if it has the power to transform the side. There was an electricity about the place when he came on for Nigel de Jong after an hour. There was a feeling that something special was about to occur.’

And something special did occur. We all know about the Agüeroooooooo goal that brought City the Premier League title but the player has always been something more than that goal.

Over the near decade that has followed his arrival incredible success has come City’s way with Agüero usually playing a significant part in each glory. Surprisingly he’s never been awarded either the PFA footballer of the year or the Football Writers’ equivalent (lots of City fans have theories why!) but he has won a whole host of personal awards including the Premier League Golden Boot 2015; Manchester City Player of the Year 2012 & 2015 and the Football Supporters Federation Player of the Year 2014. 

Sergio also, of course, became City’s record goalscorer of all time. In fact he holds most of the Blues goalscoring records: Overall goalscorer 257 goals (next best Eric Brook 177); League goalscorer 181 goals (next best Tommy Johnson & Eric Brook 158) and Europe 43 goals (next best Raheem Sterling 21). He’s second in the list of FA Cup goalscorers for City on 20 goals, two behind Fred Tilson – but Tilson played 28 FA Cup games and Sergio has only played 20.

At the end of March 2021 when he announced he was leaving I calculated his League record. At that time (it will have changed slightly since) his League record was incredible: 181 goals in 232 (plus 39 as sub) appearances. That’s a ratio of 0.66789 goals per game, ignoring how many minutes he’s actually been on the pitch. Johnson’s City League record was 0.4817 goals per League game and Brook’s was 0.3511. If we consider all strikers to have made 100 or more appearances in the Premier League only Thierry Henry (ratio of 0.67829) and Harry Kane (0.67510) have a better ratio and neither man has played as many games. In January 2018 I did a profile of Sergio’s goalscoring for the Manchester City match programme and in that I calculated that his record was 0.682 goals per League game. Since then injury and less actual game time has made that figure reduce, otherwise he would still have had the best goals to game ratio in the Premier League. 

Of course, goals per game totally ignores how long the player was actually on the pitch and in the last year or so Sergio has often been brought on as substitute, sometimes at a stage where City have been content with a result or with too little game time for Sergio to make an impact. When analysis of goals per minute played City have rightly claimed him as ‘the competition’s most lethal goalscorer in terms of goals scored per minutes played.’

He is the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and holds the record for the most Premier League hat-tricks.

At present Sergio is the 16th highest appearance holder for City. As of May 23 (before the game) he is six games behind the club’s earliest legendary figure Billy Meredith.

No wonder the City chairman has said: ‘Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated. His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the Club and maybe even in those who simply love football.

‘In the meantime, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be commissioning an artist to create a statue of Sergio to live at the Etihad Stadium alongside the ones under construction for Vincent and David. And we look forward to the opportunity to bid Sergio a fitting farewell at the end of the season.’

Manchester City have had many great goalscoring figures over the years, including World Cup stars and international heroes but, in terms of records, emotion and trophies, Agüero’s record eclipses all that have gone before. Inevitably it is difficult to compare heroes from one era with another, but whenever comparisons are made between Agüero and the modern era’s greatest strikers the evidence is clear.  Sergio Agüero’s statistics speak for themselves with few Premier League legends able to compare to the record of City’s Argentinian star. For me Agüero is the best.

Today is going to be emotional for us all as we bid farewell to City’s – and one of the Premier League’s – greatest ever goalscorer. Sergio, we will miss you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this profile. As I said at the start it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to update my epic Manchester The Greatest City (last edition was Manchester The City Years published in 2012) and a profile of Sergio, alongside all the other legends, would be something I’d have sought to include. From now on material like that will make its way on to – some will be free to read for a period while other content will be only available to subscribers. Currently, there are almost 300 articles posted to this site including the entire Manchester A Football History and exclusive audio interviews with Trevor Sinclair, John Bond, George Graham and Malcolm Allison (it is my intention to publish some of my historic interviews alongside new content). Subscribers get full access to all of this.

Apart from occasional books, this is now my only writing outlet. My last article for a match programme was published before the first Covid lockdown and so if you want to read more content like the above or would like to access historic articles/interviews/recordings then please subscribe. It costs £20 a year (it works out about £1.67 a month) and you get full access throughout your subscription period. You can subscribe below. Thanks for reading. It is appreciated. Gary James, March 30 2021.

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Coming soon: Noel Gallagher interview

Earlier today (May 20) I interviewed Noel Gallagher about his support of Manchester City, the Champions League and more. I’ll be posting it here in the next few days.

Thanks to Noel and the staff at his studios & office for making this happen.

Watch this space for details of the interview over the next few days. The interview will be free to listen to.

Subscribe to get access

Fancy subscribing to my website? Subscribers get access to all the 350+ articles, interviews etc. that have been posted so far on my site and all those posted during your subscription period. It costs £20 a year (works out about £1.67 a month) or £3 a month if subscribing a month at a time. Whichever method you choose you access everything in the archive and posted during your subscription.

Ruben Dias – FWA Player of the Year

This press release from MCFC has just arrived (great news)… Ruben Dias wins Football Writers’ Player of the Year award

• Ruben Dias has been named Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 2020-21.
• The 24-year old becomes the first defender to win the award since Steve Nicol in 1989.
• Dias also becomes one of only three players ever to win the award in their first season at a club, following Jurgen Klinsmann (1995) and Gianfranco Zola (1997). Ruben Dias has been named Player of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association.
The centre-half topped the poll of a 400-strong FWA membership, following in the illustrious footsteps of team-mate Raheem Sterling who won the award in 2019.

Only the third player ever to win the prestigious honour in his first season at a club, following Jurgen Klinsmann and Gianfranco Zola, Dias has quickly established himself in the heart of a defence that has conceded fewer goals than any other in this season’s Premier League [32].

Joining from Benfica only last September, the 24-year-old has made 48 appearances for City across all competitions and played an instrumental role in the club securing the Premier League title, lifting the League Cup and in reaching a first ever UEFA Champions League final.
The Portuguese international becomes the first defender to win the award since Steve Nicol, over three decades ago.

Ruben Dias said: “It’s a huge privilege. I’m very, very happy. It’s the same as always: obviously, I could not have done it without the success of the team – everyone in the team being able to deserve this award. Only by that was I – as a defender – able to be here to receive this prize.

“It means something special because normally, the ones who finish the plays are the ones getting the spotlight but me receiving this prize is a major example of our team and the way we work – the way we build our game. It reflects all the togetherness we have on the pitch, the spirit in the team and how we perform.

“With these players, for me to be receiving this award, it shows how we play like a family.”

Congratulations Champions City!

Today (May 11 2021) on the anniversary of Manchester City’s 1968 title triumph the Blues have become Premier League champions again. City have won the League after nearest rivals Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester City.

It is the Blues seventh League title with their first coming in 1937. Congratulations to Pep, the squad and everyone associated with Manchester City.

It has been an astonishing season with City already winning the League Cup this season, plus they’ve reached the Champions League final where they will face Chelsea. They also appeared in the FA Cup semi-final this season but sadly lost to Chelsea. This means that City have won six major trophies in three seasons and still have chance of another, the Champions League, of course. 

City’s trophy success today means that domestically counting the League, FA Cup and League Cup only United, Liverpool and Arsenal have won more English major trophies. Similarly, only United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have won more League titles than Manchester’s Blues.

It has been an odd season with Covid and no fans in the stadium (though some clubs, including those on Merseyside, were allowed a limited number of fans in earlier this season), but the football City have played has been breathtaking. Apart from a difficult opening period and a few odd results recently as Pep has rotated his team, City have delivered week after week (or should that be weekend after midweek after weekend after midweek – it’s been a busy season!). They thoroughly deserve the title. Well done!

City have now won the following major honours:

European Cup Winners’ Cup (1)


League/Premier League (7)

1937, 1968, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019 & 2021

(runners up: 1904, 1921, 1977, 2013, 2015 & 2020)

FA Cup (6)

1904, 1934, 1956, 1969, 2011 & 2019 

(runners up: 1926, 1933, 1955, 1981 & 2013)

League Cup (8)

1970, 1976, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021

(runners up: 1974)

In 2019 the Blues became the first English men’s team to win a domestic treble. This season City have achieved a domestic double of the League Cup and the League (a feat they also achieved in 2014 & 2018). Back in 1970 they achieved a European and domestic cup double when they won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

City’s trophy haul makes them the fifth most successful English club of all time based on major domestic and European trophies won (United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are ahead of the Blues). In addition only Liverpool and Blackburn have a greater span between their first English trophy and their most recent. See:

Don’t forget you still have time to subscribe to my forthcoming biography of Peter Barnes. Order before May 20th and you’ll get your name (or someone else’s if you’re buying this as a gift) plus your book will be signed by me and Peter Barnes. For details see:

Congratulations Manchester City

Last night Manchester City reached the final of the Champions League for the first time in their history. Manchester has now become only the second non-capital city to have had two teams reach a European Cup final. Manchester was of course the first British city to have two teams competing in the European Cup in the same season (1968-69).

Last night was a remarkable night and other records were established:

  • City broke the record for longest winning run by an English club in European Cup history (7)
  • They became the first English side to win 11 games in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign (they are one off equalling Real Madrid’s record of 12 games)

This Champions League win is an important step in the club’s journey and to celebrate I’m going to make my special 1 hour audio recording commemorating an earlier important step in this journey free to listen to until May 12th.

This audio recording was made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final victory over Manchester United at Wembley (April 16 2011). To me that game was a crucial step towards the success that came over the ten years that followed, just like last night’s feels like a major step in the club’s development.

The audio recording looks at the years between the 1976 League Cup success and the FA Cup glory of 2011. The 2011 semi-final was a crucial step in City’s journey since the 2008 takeover and I felt it was vital to do a special marking this.

So what’s in this special recording? Well, I’ve included exclusive material from interviews and recordings I’ve done over the years with Garry Cook, Brian Marwood, Roberto Mancini, Peter Barnes and Peter Swales.  Why Swales? Well, have a listen and you’ll hear why. Basically though I’m trying to set the tone for why the 2011 FA Cup semi final victory was so significant.

On Mancini… I include a few words from him recorded in 2011 and at one point he talks about the view that was then being expressed that City were ‘trying’ to buy success (now they say City ‘have’ bought success!). His words are a reminder that City have been having that particular criticism thrown at them for over a decade! Oh well, I wonder how long those criticisms were laid at other clubs who had seen major investment which propelled them forward?

Anyway, get yourself a brew and be prepared to be transported back in time. Here’s the recording:

If you enjoy the recording then please let me know, comment or subscribe to the site. If it’s of interest then, over the coming months and years, I’ll produce others like this highlighting key points in Manchester City – and Manchester’s – footballing history. It costs £20 a year to subscribe (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (you can always try it for a month). It’s worth bearing in mind that the 2010 Manchester A Football History cost £24.95 and all subscribers will be able to access all of that for as long as they are a subscriber (plus all the other stuff of course). You can subscribe below.

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The Span of Success

Following Manchester City’s victory in the League Cup last Sunday (April 25 2021) I’ve updated the table showing the span of success (above) – i.e. the number of years between a club’s first major success (FA Cup, League, League Cup, European trophy) and their most recent.

Despite the win City remain third behind Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers, though the gap with Blackburn is narrowing year on year at the moment.

Tottenham missed out on not only winning a major trophy last Sunday but also on leapfrogging City, Blackburn and Liverpool to take top spot! I doubt it would’ve made national headlines if they’d topped the span of success table though.

Okay, the span of success does not show how many trophies each club has won or how frequently that club has experienced great eras of success, but it does demonstrate how wrong those people are who believe certain clubs were unsuccessful until recent years, or those who think certain clubs have always been giants. The column on first major success helps to show when some first became significant (often after transformational investment).

While you’re here… You can now order my new book, Peter Barnes: The Authorised Biography, and get your name printed in it (if ordered before May 15 2021). All orders before May 15 will also have their copy signed by me & Peter Barnes. To order see:

Peter Barnes Biography – Order Now

2021 League Cup Final – The Fan Experience

Sunday April 25 2021 brought the first League Cup Final played during any form of Covid lockdown in England. The 2020 final had been the last major final played in the country before the pandemic led to various lockdowns and then the continuation of football without fans.

Some football clubs, including Tottenham, had been allowed to have a limited number of supporters at their home games during the early stages of the 2020-21 Premier League season, but Manchester City had not as they were in a regional tier that prevented crowds. So, for many of us, the last physical game we attended was the 2020 League Cup final (some City fans did of course attend the 1-0 FA Cup victory at Sheffield Wednesday on March 4 and the Old Trafford derby of March 8).

In the period between our last ‘live’ match and the 2021 League Cup final we had to sit at home watching City’s games played in empty stadia or, occasionally, at grounds with a small number of fans in but never with any ordinary City fans in. Former City star Mike Summerbee, the club’s ambassador, would often be seen, masked-up, at games when TV camera crews recognised him and it was always nice to know there was at least one person steeped in MCFC history there.

When the announcement came that the delayed League Cup Final (it was postponed until April in the hope that fans could attend) was to have up to 8,000 fans at Wembley there were then several dilemmas for fans. This was to be a test event and almost 2,000 tickets were to be issued to each competing club, which fans would have to pay for, and 4,000 would be given away to residents around Wembley and some NHS staff. 

Many fans felt it was unfair that Wembley residents would be given tickets (each could apply to bring a guest too) while fans paid and there were the usual concerns about balance of support – would the fact that tickets were to be given to local residents benefit Spurs for example? 

Most fans had no issue with NHS staff being given tickets with some Blues suggesting that NHS staff (and other key workers) who were season ticket holders of the two clubs should be offered the tickets. Lots of other suggestions were made plus, of course, some fans felt it would only be appropriate to attend a major game like this when ALL fans would be allowed back, though that still seemed some way off in April 2021.

To attend the final Manchester City used their loyalty points system and cup scheme as usual but then there was an added layer where fans had to live in certain postcodes: M, SK, BL, OL, WA, WN, PR, FY, BB, LA, CH, CW, BD, HD and HX​ and Greater London. In addition we had to have covid tests in the build-up to the final, including a lateral flow test that had to be performed at a test centre after 1.30pm on the Saturday before Sunday’s final. 

This was difficult for many to arrange as, for example, some of the councils within the postcodes allowed did not have test sites available at weekend. Some booked to have tests close to Wembley, which caused some logistical issues on cup final day, and others had to travel in to Manchester on the Saturday. Inevitably, some did not get negative tests back in time and missed out.

Those lucky enough to get hold of tickets also had to state their method of travel with a limited number of car parking spaces meaning that option simply was not available for some fans. Specific coach and train travel was set up but the costs were prohibitive for some. Others pointed out their concern that once the trains arrived at Euston (or Watford) there would still be a need to travel to the stadium itself. To some this negated the need for travel on specific trains or coaches, but of course the conditions had been imposed by the Government and footballing authorities, not by the competing clubs.

At the stadium on match day the surrounding area seemed full of shoppers trying to pick up a bargain at the retail store but fans seemed few and far between. The photo above (Wembley Way looking towards the stadium) was taken about one hour before kick off. This would normally be packed at this time.

Close to the stadium the Wembley Way ramps that used to carry people up to the stadium have been demolished and a series of steps have been erected instead. Fans had to show their lateral flow test results, tickets, and photographic ID before being allowed up the steps to the stadium. They had to queue at these checkpoints and then, once they’d been allowed through they could make their way up to the stadium turnstiles. They were discouraged from waiting outside the stadium and were encouraged to go to the turnstile.

In previous years drinks had been allowed into the stadium if they were in plastic bottles and the lids were removed. This year no drinks, not even water, were allowed in the stadium, but staff did allow fans to carry in plastic bottles (without lids) as there were water fountains inside (typically positioned near the disabled toilets) and these could be filled up there. This is well worth remembering if you need to have drinks for medical purposes but do not want to pay Wembley’s expensive prices.

In the stadium bars and catering outlets were open as usual and while there was a considerably smaller number of fans within the concourse area, social distancing was not particularly in evidence. Having said that all fans had been tested but supporters were unclear whether Wembley staff, security, stewards and so on had been tested. 

In the bowl of the stadium all fans had been positioned in the same stand plus the corners. This was the stand containing the Royal Box and directly opposite the TV cameras. The cynic would suggest that this demonstrated, as always, that some think the TV spectacle is more important than those in the stadium. Surely congestion in the toilets and other areas could have been eased had fans been spaced out in a wider area, or even if they’d have chosen blocks around the stadium with perhaps Spurs fans on one side or end and City in the opposite stand? If it’s pure safety then that would be the logical thing to do.

In the seats we were positioned predominantly in alternate seats with the row behind and in front of us following a pattern which was supposed to mean that there would be no one directly in front or behind of you. As some fans were in groups/families who had travelled together they sometimes moved next to others in their group on the same row – officially we were told that wasn’t allowed but inevitably it happened (we all wanted to be next to the people we’d gone to the game with and didn’t want the seat gap) and no one tried to stop it. 

During the game stewards regularly reminded fans that they had to wear face masks throughout – from the moment we had shown our test results and tickets through to leaving the stadium after the presentations we had to be masked up. Of course, when eating or drinking masks were lowered.

Throughout our time in the bowl of the stadium fans would be moving along the rows to their places, and so social distancing was not possible at those times.

After the game we were free to leave en masse if we wanted. As City won the cup most City fans stayed for the presentations and left at various points during the celebrations, meaning there wasn’t a crush to get out. Spurs fans seemed more keen to leave of course, but whether this caused any issues I do not know. Presumably, social distancing is impossible to manage when an entire section chooses to leave at the same time.

If you were one of the lucky ones who had managed to get a car parking space it was refreshing to travel away from Wembley without the huge traffic jams we normally experience. There were roadworks and a few problems on the motorway but nothing like normal.

So, that was the general experience of attending as a Manchester City fan at the first game we’ve been allowed to attend as City fans in over a year. It’s not the story of the game but I hope it gives an idea as to how the crowd management happened.