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.