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A mixed week for City, with some positive activity on the pitch and in the league table. This week also saw the passing of a City legend, Neil Young, who died at the age of sixty six.

The week started with the closure of January transfer window. There was no high drama in Manchester as the deadline approached on Monday night. Chelsea and Liverpool, however, flailed around vast piles of cash on the out of form Fernando Torres and the inexperienced, injured Andy Carroll respectively. A welcome rest bite from media scrutiny for City who, for once, did not grab the headlines with a big money buy at the close of the transfer window. Nonetheless, City youngsters Andrew Tutte and David Ball left the club. Tutte headed for Yeovil Town on loan until the end of the season and Ball joined up with Peterborough United on a permanent deal.

City’s first challenge of week fell in the mid-week clash away to Birmingham City. City started excellently after David Silva ran rings around the Birmingham defense before laying the ball off to Carlos Tevez inside the penalty area. Tevez took the ball wide of the goal and managed to squeeze the ball into the far corner of the goal with the aid of a slight deflection off Martin Jiranek. A great start inside four minutes which signaled a potentially great evening for City.

However, City threw away their advantage with some atrocious defending on what seemed to be a rather standard free kick routine from Birmingham. David Bentley’s free kick was crossed into the box and eluded a sea of bodies before the faintest of touches by Nikola Zigic fooled Joe Hart which allowed Birmingham a way back into the game. Birmingham, on this occasion, taking advantage of the seemingly increasing soft centre to City’s usually solid defence.

City fought their way back into the game after Aleksandar Kolarov sublimely converted a free kick on the edge on the penalty area. The powerful, curled effort left Birmingham ‘keeper Ben Foster with no chance of saving it. Yet, it was City who were left ruing their defensive shortcomings and lack of a killer instinct as Birmingham finished the game with a point. Patrick Vieira clumsily gave away a penalty which was confidently converted by Craig Gardner. Ultimately, the night ended in frustration as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all picked up three points in the Premier League clashes the night before whereas City left Birmingham with one point.

Come the weekend, City were looking for three points and perhaps more importantly, a clean sheet, against West Bromwich Albion in Manchester. Before the game the crowd gave a minute’s applause to pay tribute to Neil Young, the City legend, who passed away earlier in the week.

City started the game at a frenetic pace with Tevez hitting the post after a fine Kolarov cross. City were soon rewarded a goal after Kolarov was brought down inside the penalty area by Steven Reid. Tevez stepped up and confidently put the ‘keeper the wrong way. A relief for Tevez, I’m sure, as he missed his previous two spots kicks against Leicester City and Blackpool.

City continued the onslaught and found themselves two goals to the good after Silva played a neat one two with Tevez, who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. In all honesty the game could have finished as a cricket score due to the ferocity and frequency of City’s attacking play. However, in the end City had to settle for only three goals, the third goal came from a second Tevez penalty which was rifled into the top of the net. A fine day for Tevez who completed a hat-trick on his twenty seventh birthday and a fine day for City who ended the day with three points and a clean sheet. At the end of the week City look in a more positive position in the league table after Manchester United lost to Wolves, Arsenal drew with Newcastle and Chelsea lost to Liverpool.

Next week: the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Saturday which is sure to be a hotly contested game, as always. In the meantime be prepared for the onslaught on verbal diarrhea from the media as the excitement builds to the big day.

Words by Rob Toole

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Good news! Emmanuel Adebayor is no longer a Manchester City player. So, a good start to the week but it ended on a slightly dejected note with the one-all draw with Notts County on Sunday.

I imagine that the City management team and some of the players breathed a collective sigh of relief when Adebayor packed his bags for Real Madrid. Albeit, a loan move until the end of the season, with an option for the move to be made permanent should Madrid wish to buy.

It has been an action packed City career for Adebayor. After his £25 million move from Arsenal in 2009 he had a dream start with goals in each of the first four games of the season. This culminated in the now infamous Arsenal game in which he taunted the Arsenal fans and scrapped his boot across Robin van Persie’s face. All good work you may think, until the retrospective red card and three match ban which followed. Which in turn lead to one of the many Manchester City witch hunts in which Adebayor was hung out to dry by much of media. They had a point, for sure: it is not right to stamp on people’s faces but the extent to which the situation was blown out of proportion was absurd. Nevertheless, Adebayor’s form never fully recovered.

When you consider the atrocious terrorist attack on the Togo national team as they traveled to African Cup of Nations in Angola in January 2010 it is hardly surprising Adebayor’s form took a dent. Adebayor witnessed a team mate die in his arms as a result of the attack. One cannot begin to imagine how this affected him and it would be unfair to speculate. City duly gave Adebayor as much compassionate leave as he required.

Adebayor, later on in the season, received a second red card of season which resulted in a four match ban. In total Adebayor was banned for seven games and missed roughly a month on compassionate grounds. This surely would not have helped his form.

For me, it is good news that he has left the club for two reasons. Firstly, his apparent lack of effort. Secondly, his attitude.

At the beginning of the season he kicked up a fuss about not being in the starting eleven every week. In my opinion, his football does not justify a starting eleven place and this kind of moaning attitude does no one any good.

A lot of the time when I have watched Adebayor play he walks around the pitch giving the impression that he is putting in 40% effort. What is frustrating is that I sometimes feel that if he put in just 80% effort he could be a world beater, yet he doesn’t. If you take into consideration the other strikers at City it is hardly surprising he did not get selected much this season. Take Mario Balotelli. He gives the impression, on occasion, that he is putting 40% effort but is twice the player Adebayor is and Carlos Tevez is simply a goal machine. The fact that Jo gets picked ahead of Adebayor speaks volumes about Adebayor’s effort and commitment in training and on the pitch.

It seems as if Adebayor has forgotten how good City have been to him during his time at the club. City allowed him as much compassionate leave as necessary, and he got himself banned for seven games as a thank you. Let’s just hope the “special one”, Jose Mourinho is stupid enough to cough up the reported £17 million for him in the summer.

Anyway, onto the fourth round FA Cup tie away to Notts County on Sunday. City made several changes to the team allowing Jo, Jerome Boateng, James Milner, Patrick Vieira and Micah Richards a chance to impress. The game started slowly and perhaps the best chance of the first half fell to Yaya Toure after a fine piece of attacking wing play by Richards who powered a low cross towards Toure who could not get enough power or direction of his sliding shot from six yards.

Notts County more then held their own in the game and early in the second half capitalised on some poor defending from a corner allowing Neal Bishop to head into the top of the net. County were in dreamland and the game picked up to a more frantic pace.

The introduction of David Silva, in place of Jo, seemed to turn the game in City’s favour. The Spaniard provided a more attacking edge to City’s play and as a result City were able to hold up the ball more easily in the final third. City were saved the embarrassment of losing to County after Dzeko powered in a low Richards cross ten minutes from time. Richards had a fantastic game, after returning from injury, and it was a shame to see him limp off the pitch at the end of the game. After a good, competitive cup tie City will host Notts County in the fourth round replay in Manchester on Saturday 19th February.

In other news this week, it has been revealed Adam Johnson will be out for three months after injuring his angle ligaments during training. This is a big blow for Roberto Mancini and he has suggested that Shaun Wright-Phillips will be staying put, for now, to act as cover.

Next week: City return to Premier League action with an away trip to Birmingham on Wednesday followed by a home tie against West Brom on Saturday.

Words by Rob Toole

So, as we enter 2011 the race for the Premier League title is hotting up with as many as five teams realistically in with a chance of being top of the pile in May. As a Manchester City fan I am thrilled to see my team’s transformation from Division 2 Play-Off Finalists to serious contenders for the top prize in English football in just over 10 years. However, whilst I am enjoying the, on occasion, brilliant football and the stars on show, I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by the intense, negative media coverage that City receive.

It’s important to stress  I wholly acknowledge that due to vast sums of money that have been, and continue to be invested, into the club, inevitably brings pressure to succeed. And rightly so. Yet, it seems that since the beginning of the season the media coverage and scrutiny of footballing “professionals” and the sporting media has become increasingly vicious, unfounded and ultimately pathetic.

Of all of the scorn poured on City the most feeble trend that has emerged is too attack the clubs’ team spirit. I use the word trend carefully as there is no doubt in my mind that cynics will take another angle of attack when the “team spirit” tactic has run its course. Examples being, the Nigel de Jong witch hunt of October, the Carlos Tevez saga of December.

Now, exactly how does one define team spirit? Is there a measure to calculate this? Perhaps performances on the pitch would be the best indicator? No! Seemingly the opinions of certain footballing “professionals” such as Tony Pulis, Tim Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Alan Hansen carry more weight in the eyes of many. Darren Fletcher has been quoted as saying “I think maybe the team spirit and the togetherness is still to come”. What do you mean Mr Fletcher?

Fletcher and said professionals have made no bones about lambasting City alleged lack of team spirit suggesting a team cannot be successful without it. Surely, performances on the football pitch would be a more reliable indicator of team spirit than opinions of so called professionals. Take Tony Pulis’s definition of team spirit. Does that result in mid-tbale mediocrity along with a consistent dose of dull football? I am not sure I want team spirit  at City if that is the result.

Couple these types of attack with the newspaper hype and footballing pundits “expert insight” (namely Alan Hansen- seemingly a spiritual leader for all of those who love to hate Man City), the effect suggests City are on the brink of relegation, riddled with debt and heading for non-existence. On the contrary, City sit second in the Premier League (at the time of writing) and as a result are genuine title contenders for the first time in my life.

Not that I profess to be an expert on team spirit, in fact far from it, as I am not privy to the internal workings of Man City but I suggest that due to City’s league position and performances this season that team spirit is good, if not excellent. That is if such a thing exists. I suspect most footballers, managers and pundits that have made of point of criticizing City do not have the intellect to pass comment on something concrete, like performances on the pitch, but have instead jumped on the bandwagon which is driven by some moron from the Sun newspaper, I suspect.

Of all the negativity directed towards City I take most of it with a pinch of salt. Yet, the ‘team spirit’ tactic is the most irritating and pathetic. It is such an abstract argument with no weight whatsoever which is evidently born out of envy and cynicism. Quite frankly it is getting boring. It is like a broken record and the bandwagon is full.

Therefore, I suggest to you who have read my, I suspect, outspoken opinion to appreciate City for what they are: a team of good players, who play attractive football (on occasion) and are looking to finally break the tiresome ‘Big Four’ era of the Premier League. It is time for a change.

Only time will tell, but I have a strong suspicion that once Man City do break through and start winning trophies again, they will become media darlings (like Chelsea 2005) which will just go to show how pathetic sports journalism has become.

Words by Rob Toole