Vital Points in the 2012 Title Race

People often talk about last game of the season title winning goals (and we do love the drama and memory of those) but often goals in games earlier in the season can be decisive too. On this day (22 January) in 2012 a clumsy challenge in the dying moments from Tottenham’s Ledley King on Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli gave City a penalty and the chance of three points. You can read about the game and see highlights below:

The game was played on Sunday 22 January 2012 with a 13.30 start in Manchester. City’s match stats were:

City: Hart, Richards (c), Savic, Lescott, Clichy, Milner, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko (Balotelli 67)
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Onuoha, de Jong, A Johnson
Goals: Nasri (56), Lescott (59), Balotelli (pen 90+5)
Booked: Clichy, Balotelli

Referee: Howard Webb

A tight and nervous first half ended goalless and it felt as if the game could well end in a 0-0 draw, however the second half brought 5 goals and plenty of drama.

After 56 minutes Silva found Nasri with a brilliant through ball. The Frenchman was through on goal and he fired the ball past Friedel to make it 1-0 to the Blues. Three minutes later from a corner, the ball fell to Lescott at the back post who sent the ball the yard or so needed to increase City’s lead.

2-0 and we thought City were home and dry but then, within a minute, Spurs scored. Defoe pushed forward around the onrushing Hart to score a fairly easy goal.

As was the case at times during 2011-12 the nerves set in and it wasn’t long before the visitors equalised. Bale picked up the ball from 20 yards out after City had struggled to clear their lines. His stunning effort found the top corner.

Both sides looked for the winner and the general mood around the stadium was one of missed opportunity. It felt like this was going to be one of those days, especially as Spurs had a great opportunity around the ninety minute mark. But then with less than a minute of added time to play, a Clichy clearance fell nicely for Balotelli to run on to. As he moved into the box a clumsy challenge from King brought Balotelli’s run to an abrupt end. Inevitably, referee Howard Webb awarded a penalty. Balotelli stepped up and scored to give City the points.

I know we will always talk about the final day of this 2011-12 season (and rightly so) but without Balotelli’s penalty v Spurs and the resultant three points the title would not have made it to City. There are plenty of these moments in title winning seasons.

Subscribers can read what I said about this game in a piece I wrote in 2012 here:

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Highlights here:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/match-highlights/2012/january/city-v-spurs-22-jan-extended

I was sat in the North Stand that day. Were you also at this match? If you were why not leave your memory as a comment or email it to me for possible future use on this website?

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The Blue Ballet

On this day (9 December) in 1967 a remarkable game took place at Maine Road that became known as the Ballet On Ice.  Manchester United supporter Bobby Greenroyd watched the game on Match of the Day and wrote to City afterwards:  “I am a regular Manchester United fan, but after Saturday’s game your next home gate will be increased by one.”  High praise, particularly as United themselves were on the verge of European Cup glory.

Why and how did this happen and which leading MCFC figure sneaked out to buy a bag of chips while the club celebrated its 1968 League title success? Here for subscribers is an article that explains all….

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City 2 Spurs 1

Ten years ago today (11 November 2012) League Champions Manchester City defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 with goals from Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. The game. was played before a sell-out 47,208 crowd at the City of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad). The City team was:

Hart; Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Barry, Yaya Toure, Kolarov, David Silva, Tevez and Aguero with Maicon, Dzeko & Garcia coming on and Nastasic, Tevez and Aguero substituted.

A Shock Transfer From Spurs

Today (5 November) marks the anniversary of a shock transfer of an England international from Tottenham to Manchester City only a few days before an England game. The player even travelled on the Tottenham coach to Manchester as the two teams were about to play each other. You can read the story and match reports here:

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A City-Spurs Classic

Today (22 October) in 1994 Brian Horton’s Manchester City defeated Ossie Ardiles’ Spurs 5-2, with goals from Walsh (2), Quinn, Flitcroft, and Lomas.  This was a very memorable and popular match and when it was shown on Match of the Day that evening the BBC also chose to re-screen highlights from the December 1967 ‘Ballet on Ice’ meeting between the sides.  The game was later described by BBC commentator John Motson as one of his all-time top three classic Maine Road matches. Subscribers can read more on the 1994 classic below:

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The 2021 League Cup Final

On this day (25 April) in 2021 Manchester City defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 thanks to a Laporte goal in the League Cup final at Wembley. The game was played in front of a Covid restricted crowd of 7,773.

Here are highlights of that game:

https://www.mancity.com/citytv/mens/city-1-0-spurs-carabao-cup-extended-highlights-63754978

Manchester City v Tottenham, FAC Semi 1956

On this day (17 March) in 1956 a solitary goal from Bobby Johnstone was enough to see Manchester City beat Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. Here for subscribers is the story of that day…

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San Francisco Blues

Recently I’ve been in San Francisco and was there when Manchester City played Spurs. I was invited to watch the game at Maggie McGarry’s with the San Francisco Blues. It was a great experience (we’ll ignore the result!) and here are a few thoughts and a bit of film from the day….

Firstly, I want to pay tribute to ALL the City fans who were there and who made us feel so welcome. It’s clearly a great supporters club and we really enjoyed our time there.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that MCFC has been a welcoming club over the decades and fans of the Blues have tended to be welcomed no matter where they are from or who they are. The San Francisco Blues are just as welcoming with wonderful hospitality too.

The branch contained several exiled Mancs, British and Irish members, as well as many, many US born City fans. This was great to see and I enjoyed listening to their stories of how they became City fans, or of how they came together to watch games at the bar. Two Mancs actually went to the same school (1 year apart) but didn’t know each other until they met in San Francisco through their City support. One was a history teacher in the States and asked me ’Was Billy Meredith guilty of the bribery charge?’ Hopefully, US children will now hear the rights and wrongs of FA investigations into perceived nouveau riche clubs, as City were called back in 1905 (I know!).

Some had travelled a couple of hours to get to the bar for the 930am kick off (California time of course!). from what I heard the same happens for earlier kick offs – some feat when you consider a regular 3pm UK kick off would be 7am local time. The landlord, who is also a Blue, opens the bar early for City games.

A few of the branch members had travelled to the Champions League final last year and others told me of their plans to get to the away games at Everton and Peterborough. The atmosphere on Manchester Derby Day is always special there – I think we’re all looking forward to next weekend. I’ll be in my regular seat by then of course but if you are a Blue in San Francisco get yourself down to Maggie McGarry’s.

I often get angry when rival fans or some in the media criticise football supporters for their loyalty, or when some state that ALL City fans are this or that when the truth is that we’re varied and have come to support City in lots of different ways. We live all over the world and show our dedication to the cause in ways that some don’t understand. Fans spend a considerable time, amount of money or put themselves out in lots of different ways to support their club.

I could go on but I’d just like to say thanks again to the San Francisco Blues. Their facebook page is here:

Here’s the scene at the bar when City equalised:

David Humphreys from the branch is heavily involved with a football club called San Francisco Vikings, formed in 1922. They focus on bringing kids through from age 3 onwards to adult leagues and to sponsor kids who can’t pay to play.

It may be some time before I’m in San Francisco again, but when I do make it I’ll aim to get back to the San Francisco Blues. Thanks again for making us so welcome.

Premier League Domination?

Recently it has been fashionable for some to talk of the Premier League being dominated by a single club or that the competition is no longer as entertaining as it was because the same old club(s) win the League. Well, this is absolute balderdash of course, but rather than simply say that I thought I’d look at the facts and the supporting evidence. So, if you’re someone who thinks football is more one sided today than it’s ever been, or someone who wants to challenge those who do, then please read on…

The idea that the League is a one club competition is usually stated in relation to Manchester City these days and recently, as City have increased their lead at the top, the view has been expressed over and over again by rivals and some journalists. Yet, the evidence shows otherwise. 

Firstly, at the time of writing Manchester City are 10 points clear of second placed Chelsea. However, if Liverpool win their game in hand then City will be only 8 points clear. I say only because 8 points is less than 3 victories difference and City still have to play both Chelsea and Liverpool, plus of course other potential rivals including Manchester United. 

I also say ‘only’ because we can all come up with seasons when one club has been eight points or more ahead and still lost the League – Manchester United fans will not need reminding about how far ahead they were in the 2011-12 title race as it entered its final weeks, only to see City snatch the title in dramatic fashion. 

Eight point leads are great to have but, at this point in a season, they do not mean you will be successful. Personally, I hope City are successful but no one seriously believes the title race is over and if they do then they really have not watched enough football!

Alongside the ridiculous view that the League is over there has been a frequently aired view that the League title is less competitive now than at any other time in history. Again, this is a ridiculous view that does not match with the evidence.

Much has been said by City’s rivals and others about how having one team dominating can be boring for English football. Whether that’s true or not is debateable but it’s worth pointing out that since City first won the Premier League in 2012 then five different clubs have won the competition (three of these being first time Premier League champions too!).

Five teams in a decade may not sound like much variety to some but it is better than the 2000s (1999-00 to 2008-09) when only three clubs won the League. Even worse between 1995 and 2004 either United or Arsenal won the title and their duopoly was only broken up when Chelsea became a force following their investment. Even then only those three teams won the League between 1994 and City’s first PL title in 2012! 

Had Chelsea not come along would United and Arsenal still be the only teams winning the League? The investment in both Chelsea and City has helped open up the League and, with a greater variety of clubs challenging, the League is now much more open. At the start of each season there are more teams perceived as potential title challengers than in the 2000s.

Did anyone say back when United and Arsenal had a duopoly at the top that the League was boring because it was the same old champions? I don’t remember leading journalists say that then so why now when the PL has had more variety of winners?

Even if City’s rivals or those critical of City’s success accept that United and Arsenal dominated the League back in the 2000s until the ‘new money’ of Chelsea and City came along they tend to suggest that previous decades had enjoyed more variety. Well some did but not all. The 1980s are perceived as an era when the League was varied yet only four clubs won the League during that decade (1979-80 to 1988-89). 

So the last decade has not been such a one-sided race after all and is better than the 1980s and 2000s for a start.

Those figures may surprise or shock some who believe City’s rivals or those who promote the view that City dominate the League like no other club ever has. However, I’m sure some will say ‘but it’s not just about League titles, it’s about trophy hauls too!’

Well, as a Manchester City fan I am proud of the success City have achieved during the last decade and I also recognise that they have not dominated in a way that other clubs have in previous periods. 

In terms of the most successful club of each era, well, Chelsea and City have clearly been the most successful during the 2010s (2009-10 to 2018-19). Their trophy hauls during this time are (excluding one-off competitions like the Community Shield or European Super Cup):

Chelsea: 10 major trophies (includes 3 major European trophies).

City: 10. 

Thinking of domination, it is worth highlighting that neither side has yet won as many trophies in a single decade as Manchester United did between 1989-90 and 1998-99 when they won 12 trophies. They also won ten trophies in the decade that followed. 

Again, I don’t remember negative coverage of United’s domination but somehow it seems fair to say Manchester City dominate today yet their trophy haul has not reached the heights of United yet, plus their trophy haul during the 2010s was the same as Chelsea’s anyway (and since then Chelsea have won another European Champions League of course!).

But what about earlier decades and domination? Well, the 1970s (all trophies won in 1969-70 and 1978-79) – an era generally regarded as one of great variety with several clubs challenging – Liverpool won three times as many trophies as their nearest rivals (Manchester City were actually joint-second most successful English club during that period!). 

Those who have claimed in recent seasons that having one team dominating is boring may want to think back to how they felt during previous decades. 

Each era has its own successful teams but these vary over the decades with no club being regarded as a dominant club throughout its entire history. We’ve all experienced fallow periods or times of struggle, though some may not want to remember that.

Today, no team dominates English football (who remembers all those voices earlier this season telling us how open the League would be or that Liverpool/Chelsea/City/United/Tottenham would be victorious? All of whom could still win the League this year of course!).

There are plenty of issues with English and European football but can we all please remember that football domination has happened in the past and that the situation today is not as one (or two) sided as it was in some past decades. 

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Historic Name That Ground – Week 23 Answer

On Monday I asked you to name this ground. I said: ‘This is from the 1920s and is a ground that’s been featured before but this is a different photo and a different decade. The only other clue I’ll give is that this was a Premier League stadium into the 2010s.’

Well, did you get it?

It was Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane Stadium photographed in 1928.

There’ll be another ground to identify on Monday.