Filed: Saturday, 15th April 2006
By: Matthew Coker
Normal service is resumed this week as we face an Easter Saturday 3pm kick off in the Premiership away from the glare of the TV cameras. We welcome Manchester City to the Boleyn in what we all hope will be a repeat of the scoreline that took place in the FA Cup three weeks ago.
Our opponent’s season is in something of a slump, as their defeat at Shite Hart Lane last week was the fifth in succession. They currently sit 15th in the table, six points behind us, having scored 7 less goals. There are numerous ways to analyse their recent run of results including focusing on them not keeping a clean sheet in their last twelve games or that they have lost seven of their last nine games but it is clear that they are suffering something of a dip at the moment.
Their away form has been fairly poor throughout 2005/06; they have only managed 3 league victories on the road this season, two of them in August at St Andrews and the Stadium of Points and a 5-2 triumph at the Valley in early December. Their last six League aways have all resulted in losses.
Manager Stuart Pearce is coming to the end of his honeymoon period and has a real challenge on his hands over the next couple of seasons. This is not so much a reflection on Pearce, who remains a popular character throughout football, but more that he has to begin a fairly extensive rebuilding programme if City are going to move forward.
His predecessor, Kevin Keegan, did the job of re-establishing the side in the top flight but Pearce needs to clear out a few of players that remain from the last legacy and take the club onto the next level. The transfer funds to back this are not expected to be anything spectacular and he will need to hope that the club continues the recent trend of promoting academy players to the first team squad. To this end, he will be pleased to see the Man City youth team have reached the FA Youth Cup final where they take on Liverpool over two legs.
In goal is England’s number two, David James. He is well known to us all, his antics in goal in our relegation season were directly responsible for more than a few of our conceded goals. We all know that there are two sides to James, on the one hand he is capable of making world class saves and is particularly athletic at his best but this is balanced out by lapses in concentration or rushes of blood which often cost goals. His split personality led to mixed messages from the away fans in the league game, I was booing him surrounded by people clapping him while five rows ahead, the Nairnster was clapping him surrounded by people booing him. I suspect it depends which contribution you remember as to how you react.
The two wide defenders have Mitchellesque personalities about them, Danny Mills and Ben Thatcher have both been known for fairly thuggish on field behaviour in the past and neither are really rated by the City fans, Thatcher in particular is felt to be one of season’s worst performers. However both are likely to start with there being little option left after injury to Stephen Jordan.
The first choice centre back pairing of Frenchman, Sylvain Distin and Irishman, Richard Dunne have both been in good form to compensate are probably both contenders for City Player of the Year nominations.
The midfield has been missing Joey Barton for the last few games, though he may be fit enough to return on Saturday. Based on the cup game and the upper hand that Nigel had on him in that match, I have no real fears whether he plays or doesn’t. His most likely partner in the middle is the very left footed, Kiki Musampa. He is currently on loan from Athletico Madrid though his ability to put shots both extremely high and extremely wide have not helped his chance of going temp to perm.
Other options in the middle include youngsters, Micah Richards who has won plaudits for his energetic contribution, academy product, Stephen Ireland or the generally woeful “French Tony” Sibierski. The captain of the USA national team, Jose Reyna has struggled with fitness this season, a string of niggling injuries has meant that he has been unable to take his usual role of maintaining Ciddy’s tempo with his classy distribution. Young Spanish winger Albert Riera has won over the fans with his pace and decent crossing ability from the left hand side.
“Daniel “ Sun Jihai will be finishing off his three match ban on Saturday incurred after his disgraceful punching of Matty Ethrington in the FA Cup game. I use the word disgraceful in relation to the punch as he managed to get himself dismissed for a pathetic rabbit punch that failed to even knock over, let alone knock out our lightweight left winger. You’d think that being from China, the boy would know some Kung Fu or failing that perhaps a little restraint.
I am starting to get the feeling that Tricky Trev is avoiding us as he has been absent from both the clashes so far this season, despite being involved in most games this season (29). He has been in decent form throughout the season though has been a slight victim of the general malaise surrounding the team in recent weeks. You know what to expect, pace, a few tricks, decent touch and control with the occasional goal chucked in. A decent reception awaits you, Mr Sinclair, I hope you can make it.
Up front, the boy to watch is the £6m January transfer window signing, Georgios Samaras. The terrace ditty goes along the lines of “Feed the Greek and he will score” and so far he has managed this feat 6 times in just 10 starts including last week against Spurs. He has displayed very good movement, has the ability to shoot from distance and at 6’4 is a threat in the air.
Alongside him is the figure of Darius Vassell whose workrate makes Forrest Gump look like a statue. The less talented Wright Phillips brother, Bradley has been used as a substitute for the majority of his involvement this season and the club have missed the experience and poaching ability of veteran, Andy Cole since his season was ended by a knee injry. He is expected to sign another one year deal to keep him onboard for the 2006/07 campaign.
Well what to expect from Saturday afternoon. I’ve harped on about their poor run of form but our own league performances of late have hardly been the stuff of legends. Even discounting last Sunday’s defensive collapse, the minds of the players have clearly been in exactly the same place the fans thoughts have rested, Villa Park. Hopefully this week we can get back on track.
Our home form has not been that wonderful over the course of the season, we’ve won seven, lost six and drawn three to date and with the last two fixtures being against Liverpool and Spurs, we may need to win this one to tip the balance in favour of wins over losses.
If we can focus on the task ahead and play at the top of our game, this one is there for the taking. Their footballing style will suit us to the ground as I believe that we can out football nearly anyone when they come and try their luck. I’ll plump for a 2-1 victory to match the previous cup scoreline and to cancel out our league defeat at their place. I’ll also be tipping a welcome return to Tippy’s café for the Thai fishcakes after being forced down to Green Street to Ken’s last week due to Tippy’s Sunday closing policy.
Bon appetit and enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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