From Morrison to a mega stadium – CDZ 005

Now at our fifth edition, there is only player we could turn to, to start our edition off; Andy Morrison. A cult City number 5 of years gone by, we look back at a player who was idolised by City fans at one of the club’s lowest points, and not too far in to the past either.Corazon Heroes I

Andy Morrison’s journey through football has been a long, eventful one. This blog is named after Pablo Zabaleta for his heart on sleeve attitude that he embellishes every single game he plays, but as we issue our fifth edition, we take a moment to look back at the career of another defender who earned, deservedly, cult status, whilst playing for City.

Can you believe the Scot got a caution for this?

My most recent memory of Andy Morrison is actually meeting him, the day we lost the FA Cup to Wigan earlier this year. We were in The Green Man, just less than a mile from Wembley, and Andy was in there with his son, meeting up with Kevin Horlock.

It was plain to see that Andy was enjoying mixing with the fans, the vast majority inebriated, whilst he didn’t touch a drop himself, now nearly 15 years sober. He endeared himself, if a player of his style can do such a thing, immediately to the Maine Road crowd. City, at their lowest ebb in English football’s third tier, desperately needed a leader, and Morrison was signed by Joe Royle to be just that man.

1999 is a very famous year for football in Manchester; the season City pulled off a resounding comeback at Wembley to beat Gillingham in an unforgettable play-off final. It was Morrison who “dragged us kicking and screaming” not just to Wembley, but out of the division to quote then manager Joe Royle.

Morrison struggled with injuries from there on in, but Royle’s team was inspired by the Scot, winning successful promotions to the Premier League. Whilst Morrison battled with fitness, he also battled with the bottle. He went out on loan to Blackpool and Crystal Palace as City finished second in Division One, then returning to hopefully secure City’s Premier League status. Unfortunately Morrison could only manage three appearances, and injury finally put paid to a 14 year career that saw him play under Peter Shilton, Kenny Dalglish and Joe Royle, however he never won an international cap.

One story Morrison has recounted in several interviews, as well as his autobiography, is a trip home during a suspension. En route to his town of origin Kinlochbervie, he stopped off in Inverness, ended up drinking, fighting, and waking up in a cell. Morrison, oblivious to what he’d done, only learnt of his offence as the sergeant read the charge sheet to him.

After getting in to a fight with a doorman, causing damage to a bar, Morrison paid for the costs of repair then pursued a four day binge. The next evening, as closing time approached, Morrison ordered eight cans of lager and a half litre of vodka. When the barmaid asked him if was sure, he took it as concern from her as to whether or not he had enough supplies. Upping the order to 12 cans, Morrison drank through the night behind his car steering wheel.

Andy Morrison is almost 15 years sober now, having battled with the bottle and seen the bottom of one countless times, he knows he went to his lowest ebb. At a time he faced a three way decision; to keep drinking, to take his own life, or to sober up, he fortunately took the latter and attended 90 AA meetings in the following 90 days.

Andy Morrison’s drinking didn’t stem from the pressures of football or fame, but an incident during his time in Plymouth, an adopted home for him, where he started his career. But this has allowed him to have a perspective on players who battle with alcoholism or depression. At a time when still, talking about Gary Speed remains uncomfortable for a lot of football fans, Morrison can see that although football is a joy for most, it isn’t always the answer for those who battle with drink or depression.

Empathetic of Stan Collymore, who Morrison once stuck his tongue out leading to a red card, John Gregory, Collymore’s former manager, couldn’t comprehend how a player earning £20,000 a week could suffer from depression. And that’s the point, the on field battles can only distract players from off field ones so much, and when a players career ends, in the case of Paul Gasgoigne, football leaves a void that alcohol fills.

Andy Morrison faced his demons and now looks to have come out of the other side. The Club have invited the former captain to take up a Fan Ambassadorial Role, to which he has duly obliged. I arrived early to the recent Wigan game in the League Cup, and although the not the most high profile of matches, the previous game, City’s dismantling of United was much more eventful. Morrison speaks about the game with ease, less rigid and forced than most who grace a BBC sofa or Sky studio, and it is this demeanour, as well as his memorable playing days for City that cement not only cult status, but legendary status too.

Ground Expansion

How the Etihad will look following expansion completion
How the Etihad will look following expansion completion

Around 10 years ago, City were playing in front of crowds just over 30,000. Within another few short seasons from now, they could be playing before double that number. A couple of months back, the club announced their desire to expand the Etihad, first of all behind the goals, one end at a time. In recent weeks, the story has developed, we take a moment to see what it means to the club, fans and community.

Fans can get information on the proposed ground expansion outside the Etihad
Fans can get information on the proposed ground expansion outside the Etihad

In City Square, you can visit a micro-exhibition that runs until November to view information on the proposals. City, also want your views. Do you as a fan support the proposals? Where should the away supporters be situated? How do you travel to games? What additional facilities could be considered to enhance the stadium further? And for the female demographic, what could improve your match day experience?

For me, a member of all three cup schemes, the proposals beg different questions. The club are seeking the views of the attending fans, and most would, I imagine support the expansion. City had 99.1%  average occupancy for Premier League games during last season, and on those numbers, it’s needed, but in the cups, those figures will be a far cry away.

What sort of revenue will it bring City and what will they do with it? Phase one would be an additional 6,750 seats that could be added both during the season and summer, and priced across all budgets. Is the expansion because of demand to watch City, or is it because of pressures of Financial Fair Play. Infrastructure, as outlined in Corazon De Zaba 001 is allowed expenditure under FFP rules, but the revenue will only be realised if City can fill those seats?

One question the proposals answer is how much pressure is the manager under to win trophies? That success will attract more fans, no doubt, but City should be selling out in virtually every home game the Etihad hosts.

There’s no getting away from the hard numbers, but they should be higher still. Empty seats for visits of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Ajax, all European powerhouses, isn’t acceptable.

City have around 35,000 season ticket holders (and had around that amount when we moved to the Etihad – you may remember the season ticket holder only curtain raiser with an attendance around that level, due to insurance purposes. Some of the additional seats are at £299 for the year too. I understand that modern football is more expensive, but if demand for the Premier League games is high and affordability is a problem, is it not an option to sell your ticket the odd Saturday, to attend on Champions League Tuesday?

I rarely see people from Premier League games at Champions League fixtures – and it’s a mystery. Most domestic games, given our new found attention, are televised. It’s what we wanted isn’t it?

Back to the inquiry though. If construction can take place during the season, will there be no roof? This is Manchester you know.

Very much my view of the ground
Very much my view of the ground

How much of a say are city fans really having in this? If it is FFP driven, then put plainly, it’s happening.

Does it have any benefit for the local area? It would appear so. Each phase would generate 160 jobs in the construction sector, and 110 match day jobs.

It would be remiss of me to discuss the stadium expansion without noting the developments just up Alan Turning Way. The Football Academy also created 160 local jobs, which will be followed by 95 permanent positions – where the club target an 80% majority as local residents.

In order to hurry planning along, City have donated 5.5 acres to the Council to build a new VI Form College, which will include public leisure facilities, subsidised by the club. Who needs a government?

(We’ll look at the facilities when we review the EDS next month)

City, however, aren’t the only team to have issues with attendances in Europe. Sporadic competitors, annually, have shown shortfalls in numbers across the continent. Whilst we’ve had poor attendances historically in Europe, figures show from last year’s competition that City had the 15th highest percentage capacity in the tournament, and this was over 85%. Still not good enough, but food for thought.

For me, I’d like to see the atmosphere improve, and I don’t thin another 12,000 seats will achieve that. Filling them is the clubs concern, as they are inviting people to join the waiting list now, with rumours fans could be entitled to four extra seats also. Looking at the Munich game, and trips abroad, we hardly have famous European nights. And this for me is the problem that needss addressing.

Exacting Vendetta’s, Claiming Revenges, Exorcising Demons

September’s tale begins with a bull, a matador, a beast and a cockerel; who all had a hand in a September of mixed fortunes for City. Despite a stuttering start at the Britannia, where Stoke were the better side and City failed to re-assemble after a fortnight off with players away on international duty, City won the derby and progressed in the League Cup.

Negredo is adjusting to life in Manchester as well as could be hoped for
Negredo is adjusting to life in Manchester as well as could be hoped for

Former City manager Mark Hughes doesn’t really have the inside scoop on City anymore; only Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta from the line-up, remain at the club since his tenure, but the Potters were by far the superior side – in the air and on the ground. Hughes has got Stoke playing, with Kenwyne Jones keeping Crouch out of the side, he’s the focal point for a midfield to aim for, not a defence. If Stephen Ireland  can reproduce the form that earned him Player of the Year at Eastlands, Stoke will fair much better.

City were poor, whichever way you cut it and the void left by Vincent Kompany was chasm sized – we had nothing to play forward from, and no outlet as Navas was omitted from the side. The captain’s return in the following European game was a welcome boost. I’ve been calling for Alvaro Negredo to start following his impressive displays during August and whilst City were poor overall, he can’t be blamed for not adding to his two goals so far this season. His cameo in Plzen and the Derby keep him at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts.

From thereon in though, September has been a mixed month in contrast to what we hoped for, looking back to Corazon 004. City won their only home game in the league, progressed in the League Cup as Wembley defeat to Wigan was avenged, and had a perfect start to life once again in Europe. On the contrary, City still look vulnerable on the road.

Concentrating on our European exports for a moment, City, for me, looked nervy for the opening 25 minutes in the Czech Republic and for the opening exchanges, the game had a David and Goliath flavour to it. Plzen, who’ve only over won the Czech league twice and play second fiddle to the local hockey side came out the brighter, and under Mancini, we have got beaten. 38 year old pavel Horvath was the stand out performer until Sergio Aguero carved out a solo chance and struck the foot of the post – only then did the tide start to turn.

Manuel Pellegrini gave Edin Dzeko the nod, and whilst I wanted to The Bull continue to partner The Matador, we had to wait until Derby Day to see Aguero and Negredo link up. But the manager has got the striker rotation spot on this month. Dzeko has scored four of his five goals in the Champions League for City away from home, and his fifth came on our travels with the sweeping move he completed in Plzen to open the scoring.

Dzeko and Toure get amongst the goals in Plzen
Dzeko and Toure get amongst the goals in Plzen

Yaya Toure continues to cause despair and amazement in equal measure. His wonder strike is UEFA’s front runner for goal of the season – but too often, he’s been anonymous. A criticism last year, of the midfield overall, was it didn’t produce enough goals. Yaya has five to his name already, and I’m hopeful the performances, like his domination of Marouane Fellaini last week will follow. For me, the beast is still to be unleashed, but the free kicks are simply tremendous.

Aguero is looking much more the player he was two years ago. Great technique on the edge of the box saw him open his account in Europe, and also open the scoring in the derby, with an improvised finish as he peeled away on the edge of the six yard box.

Although we’ve not seen the free flowing football we were promised on a weekly basis just yet, with dismal displays at Cardiff, Stoke and Aston Villa, as well as at home to Hull, Pellegrini will be satisfied his midfield are scoring goals in addition to his front line personnel. Toure, Silva and Nasri have 8 between already game. Whilst they are scoring, James Milner and Jack Rodwell are going to struggle for match time.

Pellegrini adapts to life in the City hotseat

It was good to see the team keep the tempo up, and take advantage of a Wigan side who sustained 10 changes for their visit to the Etihad. City themselves made nine and we were finally given a glimpse of Stephen Jovetic, who scored a brace to see us progress to the next round (v Newcastle, 30th October).

Villa was the backlash, a hangover, an afternoon of complacency? Pellegrini reverted back to his strongest side and Joe Hart came under scrutiny again, first beaten by a splendid Bacuna free kick, the England keeper remained rooted. Then losing out to Andreas Weimann, as he dashed passed Hart to roll the winner in to the net before The Holt End.

City currently lie 5th in the Premier League table, heading in to a tough October, with two Champions League trips, including the visit of European champions Bayern Munich, our old adversary of two years ago. Domestically, Newcastle stand in the way of a quarter final place in the League Cup. But in the league; we have matches against Everton, the league’s only unbeaten side, and two trips to London in the shape of West Ham, followed by Chelsea.

On the positive side, City have risen to their big tests during the last few weeks (the Munich horror show aside). Winning convincingly in the Derby is a vast understatement, but the team must build on this, and the early result in the Champions League as the season grows older and older.


Five Things We Learnt as City got Ribberied, Robbened and Mullered at home to Munich

1.     City look scared in Europe.  Despite the win on match day one, against sides of a similar calibre to Munich (few that there are), City appear to freeze. We’ve won four of our 14 games in the Champions League; two against a rapidly deteriorating Villareal, one against an already qualified Bayern two years ago, and the win over Plzen. Pellegrini’s agenda is to instil confidence in Europe. There’s work to do. As CSKA nears, the pressure is mounting.

2.     City fans must adjust their views on how far we’ve come, how far we’ve got to go. I can remember the Arsenal sides of 10-13 years ago, who came to Maine Road and dismantled average City sides, at best. Bayern schooled us; a side assembled at no lesser cost than £150m. They put together 20, 25 passes with ease. It looked like training for them. A total canter.

3.     Are we that much safer with Kompany in the side? Nastasic often thrives off Kompany’s stellar leadership. In the last two games we’ve conceded three each time, often through the middle. It’s not good enough for a side looking to challenge on all fronts.

4.     Pellegrini got his tactics wrong. When we thought the away form was a concern and at least the Etihad would be a fortress, nothing could be further than the truth. It’s the manner of the defeat that’s the issue, and it stems from the selection. Richards and Navas have no bond yet, Ribery and Alaba destroyed them. Philip Lahm looked like a reinvented Beckenbauer in a five man midfield that raped Yaya Toure and Fernandinho. Although I’ll try to back any player that pulls on the blue and white, the game was screaming out for Negredo, not Dzeko. The team looked far better for his, and Silva’s addition.

5.     Will we ever be that good? Its early days for Guadiola in Munich but his sabbatical has done him no harm. Is there a better way to play? Somehow, he’s managing to improve the world’s best team. The Bayern front three were superb. City were Robbened, Riberied and Mullered as Bayern pressed high and completely unsettled the back four. Yaya Toure couldn’t hold down a place in Pep’s Barca side, as he lacked the tenacity that characterises his teams’ style. As good as Toure is and has made City, can we ever be better with him in the team?

City 4-1 United

Kompany celebrates before the fans
Kompany celebrates before the fans

Sorry, but there’s no other headline. Aiming to steer away from individual match reports, it’s ridiculous to even consider omitting the 166th Derby from this edition. Reader, you are forewarned; Fleet Street struggled to remain unbiased after City owned United for 90 minutes in mid-September, so this write up will be blue tinted to say the least.

Speaking of newspapers, what the devil is going on at the Mail? First Martin Samuel published an article to illustrate Marouane Fellaini had a better game than Yaya Toure – then Paul Hayward gave Vincent Kompany a 7/10.

Yaya Toure and co dominated the midfield in the 166th Manchester Derby last month
Yaya Toure and co dominated the midfield in the 166th Manchester Derby last month–stats-revealed.html

For the record, my ratings are at the bottom of this piece.

More and more we are going to see teams sit deep to combat Jesus Navas’ pace. David Moyes got his tactics terribly wrong in his maiden Derby, and it allowed City to play football for the opening exchanges in United’s half.

Although Samuel’s column shows Felaini had more successful passes in the opposition half than Yaya Toure, the Ivorian did his advanced work early whilst City established a lead before he dropped deeper and his Belgian counterpart moved more up field.

Although the stats favour the Belgian, Yaya was superb against United
Although the stats favour the Belgian, Yaya was superb against United

The longstanding joke about Manchester United and Howard Webb had new life breathed in to it as Matija Nastasic was booked in the early part of the game. Meanwhile, Rooney escaped a caution for kicking the ball at a fallen Sergio Aguero.

I’m not a bitter, I’d rather have some sensible banter so I’ve no issue in saying this – for every bit United were poor; in dealing with City’s midfield, in retaining the ball, getting a physical grip of our front pair, getting forward in enough numbers; Wayne Rooney was outstanding. Disgruntling as the kick at Aguero was it looked as though Pablo Zabaleta’s post match comments about the United forward were true, he did try harder.

The only problem for Rooney was Vincent Kompany had a superhuman game. We all breathed a sigh of relief after he came through midweek unscathed, and whenever Rooney came near him, he fell in to his pocket. The average position map from the Mail shows how Kompany reassured the rest of the team allowing City to pack the midfield and dominate.

The average position of the teams in the derby
The average position of the teams in the derby

City pressed high and I believe they would have beaten any team that day. The only reason it wasn’t more than four, was City couldn’t sustain that level of performance for more than an hour. I don’t think any team could.

The second goal was downright poor defending from United. Fellaini was tasked with marking Toure, who were ten yards apart when the Ivorian flicked home at the back post to double City’s lead. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for United – moments before half time, just as they were looking to finally establish a foot hold in the game.

The move for the third was probably the best, bot to take anything away from Kolorov’s assist for the opener. It was fast, sharp and flowing all at once. Aguero earnt a few City fans fantasy football points that day.

Redemption for the little Frenchman Samir Nasri was finally delivered as City grabbed their fourth. City looked dangerous from wide areas and Alvaro Negredo’s crossed sailed to the back post where Nasri, with that deflection last year, flashing before him, volleyed the ball home past De Gea.

Amazing how far the Frenchman has come over the last year or so
Amazing how far the Frenchman has come over the last year or so

It was the circle complete for Nasri, who at the back end of last season began to show some promise, a great display in the FA Cup Semi, followed by some career best form so far this season. Nasri is a shoe in for player of the month.

Where City fans will be most impressed is the post-match attitude of the players and manager, in so much that the camp was staying calm, with an eye on next week. After the game the players were simply content with another three points, and refusing to get carried away.

It shows the change in mindset for both clubs in terms of this fixture, 166 meetings old, with City responding in a relaxed and grounded manner. Contrast this with Wayne Rooney’s display, evidently playing at full tilt to try and get the result.

City were successful in sharing the spoils eventually last season, winning the return fixture at Old Trafford. March 1st can’t come quick enough.

Those ratings for you (I made no promise not to get carried away, unlike the players) Hart 10; Zabaleta 10, Kompany 10, Nastasic 10, Kolorov 10; Yaya 10, Fernandinho 10, Navas 10, Nasri 10; Aguero 10, Negredo 10.

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