Spyin' Kop: Manchester City (Home)

Posted by DK on February 22, 2006, 06:57:39 PM

Liverpool v Manchester City
Sunday 26th February 2006
12.15pm Kick Off
Referee: Dermot Gallagher

After 3 weeks that included battles against Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Benfica we now turn our attention to a visit from Manchester City this coming Sunday.  After jumping out of the gates early and staying in or around the Champions Lge positions until October, City have now settled to lie tenth in the Premiership.  Over the last 6 league games their results have followed a typically City formula - LWLWLW - ensuring that their fans have no idea what to expect from them in the coming weeks.  They also left it fairly late on Sunday night to keep their name in the hat for the next round of the FA where, if they get past Villa, will face either Bolton or West Ham.  The BBC just hope that anyone but Micah Richards scores.

Liverpool have recovered from taking only one point from league games against Manchester United, Birmingham, Chelsea and Charlton by taking full points against Wigan, Arsenal and a victory in the FA Cup against some mob up the road.  However, due to that 'blip' it is now more important than ever to focus on all games in the league, even amidst the glamour of the European Cup nights.

Formation to 1950s
Manchester City were founded as West Gorton (St. Marks) in 1880 by two wardens of St. Marks church in Gorton, a district in south-east Manchester. In 1887 they moved to a new ground at Hyde Road, in Ardwick in the east of the city, and were renamed Ardwick A.F.C. to reflect their new location. Ardwick joined the Football League as founder members of Division Two in 1892. Financial troubles in the 1893-94 season led to a reorganisation within the club, and Ardwick were reformed as Manchester City, with Manchester City Football Club Limited formally becoming a registered company on April 16, 1894.

City gained their first honours by winning the Second Division in 1899; with it came promotion to highest level in English football, the First Division. They went on to claim their first major honour on April 23, 1904, beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at Crystal Palace to win the FA Cup, the most prestigious knockout tournament in English football; City narrowly missed out on a League and Cup double that season after finishing runners-up in the League. In the seasons following the FA Cup triumph, the club were dogged by allegations of financial irregularities, culminating in the suspension of seventeen players in 1906, including captain Billy Meredith. A fire at Hyde Road destroyed the main stand in 1920, and in 1923 the club moved to Maine Road in Moss Side.

In the 1930s Manchester City reached two consecutive FA Cup finals, losing to Everton in 1933, before claiming the Cup by beating Portsmouth in 1934. The club won the First Division title for the first time in 1937, but were relegated the following season, despite scoring more goals than any other team in the division. 20 years later, a City team inspired by a tactical system known as the Revie Plan reached consecutive FA Cup finals again, in 1955 and 1956; just as in the 1930s they lost the first one and won the second. The 1956 final, in which Manchester City beat Birmingham City 3-1, is one of the most famous finals of all-time, and is remembered for City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann continuing to play after breaking his neck.

1960s and 1970s - the glory years
In 1965 the management team of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison were appointed. In the first season under Mercer, City won the Second Division title. Two seasons later, in 1967-68, Manchester City claimed the League Championship for the second time, clinching the title on the final day of the season with a 4-3 win at Newcastle United. Other highlights of the season included a televised 4-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur, which became known as The Ballet on Ice due to the snowbound pitch on which the match was played, and a 3-1 derby win at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Further trophies followed: City won the FA Cup in 1969, before achieving European success by winning the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970, beating Gůrnik Zabrze 2-1 in Vienna. City also won the League Cup that season, becoming the first English team to win a European trophy and a domestic trophy in the same season.

1971 brought a change in the nature of the management partnership, with Mercer taking the title of general manager, while media-friendly Allison was promoted to team manager. The 1971-72 season saw City challenge for the championship, and in mid-March they were four points clear at the top of the table. However, City's season petered out with a poor run of results at the end of the season and a fourth place finish. Many blamed on the signing of crowd-pleaser Rodney Marsh, who despite his talent was regarded as disrupting the balance of the team. Marsh himself later agreed, writing "I have to hold my hands up - I cost Manchester City the 1972 League Championship." The close season saw the break-up of the Mercer-Allison management team, with Mercer leaving for Coventry City as his relationship with Allison soured. Allison left the club less than a season later, with the team in mid-table.

Over the next two years, Manchester City underwent several changes both on and off the field. Businessman Peter Swales gained control of the club, and two managers, Johnny Hart and Ron Saunders, came and went in quick succession, the latter sacked just one month after City's losing appearance in the 1974 League Cup final. Former club captain Tony Book took charge of first team affairs, restoring some stability. City's final match of the 1973-74 season was against arch-rivals Manchester United, who needed to win to stand a chance of avoiding relegation. Former United player Denis Law scored with a backheel to give City a 1-0 win and confirm the relegation of their rivals. City were moderately successful during Tony Book's five year tenure, winning the League Cup in 1976 by beating Newcastle United 2-1 in the final, and finishing runners-up in the League in 1977.

1980s to present - decline and recovery
A long period of decline followed the success of the 1960s and 1970s. Malcolm Allison rejoined the club to become manager for the second time in 1979, but squandered large sums of money on unsuccessful signings. One such example was the signing of Steve Daley, which broke the British transfer record. A succession of managers then followed - seven in the 1980s alone. City reached the 1981 FA Cup final but lost in a replay to Tottenham Hotspur. The club were twice relegated from the top flight in the 1980s (in 1983 and 1985), but recovered to finish fifth in Division One twice in succession under the management of Peter Reid. However, this was only a temporary respite, and Manchester City's fortunes continued to fade through the 1990s. City were founder members of the Premier League upon its creation in 1992, but were relegated to Division One in 1996. After two seasons in Division One, City fell to the lowest point in their history, when they became the first ever European trophy winners to be relegated to English football's third tier.

Manchester City's home colours are sky blue and white. Their traditional away kit colours are either maroon or red and black, however, in recent years several different colours have been used. Through the 2004-06 campaigns the team will wear an all-navy away kit. The third kit is yellow.

Club Crest
The current club crest was adopted in 1997, a result of the previous crest being ineligible for registration as a trademark. The badge is based on the Arms of the City of Manchester, and consists of a shield in front of a golden eagle. The shield features a ship on its upper half, representing the Manchester Ship Canal, and three diagonal stripes in the lower half. The bottom of the badge bears the Latin motto Superbia in Proelio, which translates as Pride in Battle. Above the eagle and shield are three stars.
The previous crest was round and used the same shield as the current crest, inside a circle bearing the name of the club. A variation of this crest used the red rose of Lancashire in the lower half of the shield.
On occasions when Manchester City play in a major cup final, they do not use their usual crest, and instead wear shirts bearing a badge of the Arms of the City of Manchester as a symbol of pride in representing the city of Manchester in a major event. This practice originates from a time when the players' shirts did not normally bear a badge of any kind, but has continued throughout the history of the club.

League Division One Champions (New)
League Division One Champions (Old)
1936/37, 1967/68
League Division One Runners-up (New)
League Division One Runners-up (Old)
1903/04, 1920/21, 1976/77
League Division Two Champions (Old)
1898/99, 1902/03, 1909/10, 1927/28, 1946/47, 1965/66
League Division Two Runners-up (Old)
1895/96, 1950/51
F.A.Cup Winners
1904, 1934, 1956, 1969
F.A.Cup Runners-up
1923, 1933, 1955, 1981
League Cup Winners
1970, 1976
League Cup Runners-up
European Cup Winners Cup Winners
F.A.Charity Shield Winners
1937/38, 1968/69, 1972/73
F.A.Charity Shield Runners-up
1934/35, 1956/57, 1969/70, 1973/74
Full Members Cup Runners-up

Spyin' Kop
So, for our Spyin' Kop preview for this week, I tread the well worn path from Liverpool to Manchester City (sometimes best approached via Leeds, Madrid or Birmingham) and checked out what www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk thought about the build up to this match and all topics City.  My thanks to Ric and our three contributors, Matty, Blue2112 and Stonerblue for their thoughts.

Spyin' Kop: How would you rate your season so far?

Matty:Our season so far is a lot like Chantelle from Big Brother, it looks good from a distance, but when you get up close itís slightly disappointing. Since September our away form has been, to put it politely, abysmal, 4 points from 9 games is even worse than Sunderland have managed over that period!

Blue2112: I could be over critical and say we should be doing better, we had a good start to the season but then lost our way on our travels in some games where we should have at least picked up a point. Other games we gifted the opposition easy goals (Tottenham at home springs to mind) and if we had been a little more stronger, committed and confident we would be now sitting in a top six position. That said this is Manchester City and so I suppose I should be happy with the progress we have been making under Pearce. The F.A Cup gives us a great chance of our first final since 1981 should we overcome Aston Villa in the replay and then the home Quarter Final tie against either Bolton or West Ham. We have seen an increasing number of youth and reserve team players break into the starting line up and hold down their positions this season so it would be fair to expect some of the inconsistencies we have shown. Overall so far I am very pleased and itís a credit to everyone at the club that we are no longer everybodyís favourites for a relegation spot.

Stonerblue: Like a pair of cheap socks, up and down

SK: What are your expectations for the rest of the year and have they changed since the start of the season?

Matty:This is a heart versus head question. My heart says we can push on and try to pinch a UEFA Cup spot, however my head says mid-table mediocrity is looming. At the start of the season I thought weíd finish about 10th as weíve got an inexperienced manager and a very young squad, so I guess my expectations are pretty similar.

Blue2112:On the back of last seasonís final game disappointment of missing out on a U.E.F.A. place with Robbie Fowlerís last minute penalty save it would have been easy to expect us to go one step further this campaign and qualify. Personally speaking last season was a season of two halves with the first being inconsistent under Kevin Keegan and the team losing their way. Following Stuart Pearceís appointment the team was spurred on and almost achieved what appeared the unthinkable only months beforehand. The inevitable happened this season and that for every peak there is a downturn and our form hasnít been consistent enough to warrant a top six place. My realistic expectations were a top ten finish and if we found some luck Ė and we still can Ė then we may just land that last U.E.F.A. spot. Weíve punched above our weight in some games and shown some great potential and if we can harness that then next season I would hope for better. City are on course for what I had hoped for in August, a fifth Premiership term, the emergence of some great young talent coming through our academy and a top half of the table finish and that is something the club as a whole should be proud of considering our recent history.

Stonerblue: With City, you have to expect the unexpected from the start of the season until the end.

SK: What are your thoughts on Pearce and the England job?

Matty:Too soon, way, WAY too soon. Plus I couldnít give the smallest of ratís behinds about England if itís detrimental to Cityís chances. Allardyce for England I say!!

Blue2112:Mixed emotions. Iím not the best of England fans and my club always comes before my country. I believe he has not achieved any tangible success worthy of the call yet. However I can see why he is in the front running. On paper he has all the credentials and fits the bill perfectly. I would hope he stayís with City for a while yet and practices what he is preaching to the likeís of Joey Barton, that loyalty to the club for giving him the opportunity and support is worth repaying back. I think he would do a fine job as an England coach at present and this would further enhance his and Manchester Cityís reputation as a whole. He would be privvy to other training methods and get to see some of the young talent across Europe that in turn can only enhance our club. Should he continue to improve he would then be in an excellent position to become the next England manager following this appointment.

Stonerblue: I don't think he'll turn it down if they offered it him. Let's hope Fat Sam gets the nod

SK: Where do you stand on the Joey Barton situation?  What should he and the club do in the summer?

Matty: Barton is a greedy little git who doesnít know just how good heís got it. Heís been poorly advised by his agent (who shall remain nameless as I find I have to swear uncontrollably if I mention him), but heís a big boy and can make his own decisions. The offer we made seems fair and I donít think we should increase it to pander to the overly inflated ego of one average footballer. I think heíll eventually sign for us, and if he does weíll keep hold of him for another season or so. If he doesnít sign then he should be sold in the summer.

Blue2112:If I had been asked this question two weekís ago Iíd have probably given a different answer. Then I would have told him to go home for the next 15/18 monthís that remain on his contract and not to come near the club, pay him his basic salary and see who would be interested in signing him at the end of that period. Thankfully Iím not the clubís manager and Pearce and the board handled this situation quite impeccably. Yes I booed Joey against Newcastle, it was my only opportunity to let him know my feelings and I doní t regret it. His performance that night spoke volumes for his character and yet it didnít alter my thoughts. However a few weekís later and like the old addage that a weekís a long time in football and the waterís are now much calmer and weíve all had our say a hundred timeís over Iíve reconsidered. I detest this fickle football fanís tag, football is about emotions and passion and without it the game would be lost. I hope the club comes to an agreement and both parties meet somewhere in the middle. Joey could well be a future captain of City and if he goes onto break into the England squad, win Cityís player of the year and continue to show the improvement he has then his rewardís will come. Last night at Villa Park as he left the pitch bare-chested and applauding us the fanís after Micah Richardís last gasp equaliser I watched Barton and knew then that he and City are suited to each other.
Stonerblue: Very similar to the Gerrard saga you lot had but a few more thirty yard screamers and he'll be a hero again.

SK: I'm sure you would have witnessed the general euphoria on Merseyside of the 'Second Coming'.  What would your final words to Robbie Fowler have been - good luck or good riddance?

Matty: Somewhere in between. He never really made it at City, and I have a feeling it was more about lack of motivation than lack of ability due to injuries. Heíll be up for it every game for Liverpool, at City he only seemed to care when we were playing the Greatest Team in the World TM. Hope he gets everything he wants from Liverpool, Iím just pleased he canít play against us, our ex-players ALWAYS score, I think itís in the contract when we sell them!

Blue2112: This might not be a popular answer with Liverpool fanís but and itís a big BUT, should Fowler go on to be a success in his second term then I will only be left with a bitter taste in my mouth. To use Robbieís own words he had ĎBad Vibesí about joining City and it was only Keeganís persistence that eventually won him over. Looking back over Fowlerís career with City it has to be said that bad vibes was putting it mildly. He was rarely fit enough for premiership football and returned after the close season generally in a much worse looking state than when he signed off. Yes he is/was undoubtedly the best natural goal scorer the premiership has ever seen but that was then and not now. There were many timeís when he showed flashes of his former brilliance but overall it has to be said he flattered to deceive. Therefore if he does get himself fit and in shape for top flight football then I will only be left thinking that he could not be bothered enough to do it for City and maybe even Leeds and as a professional footballer earning a large amount of money from my club that just isnít acceptable and good enough. Fowler left City in the best way possible signing off with his derby goal but instead of running to the City fans to celebrate he preferred instead to gloat about Liverpoolís five European cups to the Rag fans. I suppose that showed where his heart always lay. Good luck to him and he leaveís City with not too much ill feeling at all considering he never really belonged here. He is not the Robbie Fowler you once knew, though I do wish him good luck.

Stonerblue: Good Luck and lend us a tenner

SK: Has there been a similar outpouring of emotion for any former City players arriving back at the club over time?

Matty: In my memory it hasnít happened too often at City! Once they escape they generally donít come back! Now if Shaun Goater were to return that would be different. Heís an absolute legend at City, not the best player around but he had that knack of scoring, whether it be foot, knee, head, or backside!

Blue2112: I remember Malcolm Allisonís return with Crystal Palace back in the early 80ís. Malcolm of course had been sacked from a second term at City and it was his team along with the three additions of Gerry Gow, Bobby Mcdonald and Tommy Hutchinson that took City to wembley in 1981. That was a one off game and Malcolm wasnít returning with us so itís a little different but still the emotions ran high that afternoon. Denis Law returned and his famous backheeled goal helped relegate the rags back on 1974. Colin Bell's emotional return from injury will forever be etched on mine and any other City fan attending that game and his return lifted the team to a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United. Dennis Tueart returned from New York Cosmos and later later Joe Royle, Willie Donachie and Francis Lee all returned to City in roles off the pitch as manager, coach and chairman amidst great scenes of joy and expectations.

Stonerblue: The final game at Maine Road saw a host of City old boys paraded round the pitch. Colin Bell, Shaun Goater and Uwe Rosler got the loudest cheers

SK: It's been a well worn path for Liverpool players to end up at City.  From our current squad, who would you most like to be Nintendo buddies with David James in the future?

Matty: Well, the obvious one is Gerrard. Heís the best midfielder in the country (anyone who says Lampard simply doesnít understand football, or is Cockney which is tantamount to the same thing!). Aside from him, I wouldnít mind Riise, weíve got limited options on the left (donít even start me on Ben Thatcher, there arenít enough expletives in the English language to describe how bad he is!).

Blue2112: Robbie Fowler....

No seriously of course the likes of Gerrard and Alonso would be great additions to any side and were no different. Your defence is solid and I do like Riise, Carragher and Finnan. There had been rumours about Cisse but I think we managed better potential with our signing of Samaras.

Stonerblue: We'll swap you Barton for Gerrard !

SK: What is currently the most hotly debated football topic on Bluemoon?

Matty: Standing up at the stadium. For the Charlton game they shut two rows in the South Stand (on Council orders I believe) and Iíve heard rumours there will be four rows shut for the Sunderland game. People are getting thrown out (and their season tickets taken from them) for standing during matches; itís all a bit of a farce to be honest.

Blue2112: The recent weekís at Eastlandís has seen the club taking a stance against a certain section of the South stand supporters whom prefer to stand rather than sit. Whilst this happened at Maine Road and certain other games this season, the derby being one in particular where no action was taken a large majority of fans feel the club are picking their games to target the fans. I sit on the edge of the standing section and prefer to stand myself and so sympathies with their cause. However the clubís position is rather different and they are having their hands forced to do something about it. The last home game against Charlton saw a number of fans ejected and season cards removed causing further animosity between the club and itís supporters. This has been hotly debated on Bluemoon where Iíd say currently itís 90% in favour of a return to standing. This oneís caused a few arguments and itís easy to see both sides and hopefully at some point in the future football in general may see a compromise of an allocated controlled small standing section allowed in each ground if so desired. Iíve taken my two daughterís in these sections both at Maine Road and Eastlandís for the past seven seasonsís, as I wanted them to feel the passion and desire of what it is to be a football fan. If I didnít want them to stand up Iíd have found seatís elsewhere in the ground. What I find amusing is that there is currently a waiting list of fanís to get into the South standÖI think that tells itís own story.

Stonerblue: The standing issue. There have been some heavy handed tactics employed to stop standing during the match

SK: Who are your most important players?

Matty: Unfortunately Joey Barton is probably our most important player, he gives us the drive and energy in midfield that we need, and heís chipping in with a few goals this season, 6 at the last count. Distin and Dunne are probably pretty important too; itís always good to have a steady pairing at centre half.

Blue2112:I would say the spine of the team. David James, Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin at the back have formed a solid (at timeís) partnership that has helped City progress the last three seasons. In the middle of the park Joey Barton has improved year on year and is now our main driving force. He profits more when he has Claudio Reyna alongside of him but, as Claudio is injury prone Joey has taken up the mantle with both hands. Up front Darius Vassell has impressed me from day one. His willingness to work for the team and chase and tackle lost causes have often resulted in goals for us and his pace always frightens defences. A little more composure in front of goal and Vassell would be knocking hard on the door of the England squad. Andy ĎFuckingí Cole (can I say that) [DK edit: Fuckin' oath you can ;) ] has proved to be a great goalscorer over the years and his vision has been a major asset to the side. Iím sure he offers so much more on the training ground and has proved to be a steal for us. Iím old school though and didnít want and still donít want any ex-rags at City although I begrudgingly can acknowledge his presence in the side has improved us this season.

Stonerblue: All of them. When we play as a tight unit we break teams down and then rip them apart. The 3-1 demolition of the 'plastics' being a prime example.

SK: Any players that you wouldn't mind seeing exit in the summer?

Matty: Have I voiced my opinions on Ben Thatcher yet?!! Stephen Hawking would make a better left-back, he canít pass, tackle, head the ball or mark. Heís absolute gash. Antoine Sibierski can go too; in fact Iíll willingly assist in packing his bags for him. Unfortunately heís just signed a yearís contract extension so thereís more chance of Ronaldo staying on his feet for 90 minutes than Sib leaving.

Blue2112:Andy Ďfuckingí ColeÖ

No I canít really think of anyone at this moment in time I would wish to leave. Pearce is building a decent squad and for now the playerís he has will take us forward. In twelve monthís time I would hope we might be looking at losing the likes of Sibierski, Reyna and Thatcher replacing them with younger and more talented players. Cole will be retiring by that stage and maybe Danny Mills might be one other I wouldnít be bothered about losing. We canít afford to lose too many too soon and three or four leaving over the next 12 monthís is as much as Iíd like to think possible with quality replacements in the current climate not all that readily available to come by and more importantly at the correct price as far too often large transfer fees have been paid and the players coming in have been no better than those going out of the club.

Stonerblue: BWP ?!!

SK: Are there any youngsters pushing through that we should keep an eye out for?

Matty: How long have you got?!! If thereís one positive to be seen at City itís the youth development. At one point this season we finished a game with 5 players on the pitch who had come through the ranks in the last year. Thereís Stephen Ireland whose a creative midfielder and looks extremely promising, then thereís Nedum Onouha, a centre-half/right-back (although heís done a knee ligament and is out for the season now). Add to that players such as Lee Croft (think David Dunn after a trip to the chippy for pie and gravy, twice), Bradley Wright-Phillips (all together now Ďyouíve bought the wrong Wright-Phillipsí), Willo Flood (so lightweight he has to have lead weights in his boots to stop him getting blown away), Micah Richards, Ishmail Miller, Kasper Schmeichel and Stephen Jordan and the future is looking bright.

Blue2112: No theyíre all crap that way hopefully we will keep them.

The next 12/18 months will see the likes of Nedum Onohua stake a regular first team spot in the back four. Stephen Ireland will hopefully be fulfilling his potential in the center of midfield as a creative playmaker. The new Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton for his first taste of international duty has just called up Stephen Ireland and itís a measure of how far and how quickly the academy boyís are progressing. Micah Richardís whom you all should know for his efforts at Villa Park in the F.A.Cup has all the necessary requirements to make the grade as a midfielder at City. He has fitted in for his debut at right back and looks as though he has been playing theyíre for Seventeen years and not the Seventeen years his age is. Stephen Jordan, Joey Barton, Lee Croft, Willo Flood and Bradley Wright-Phillips have all come through the ranks and made the first team and following on should be others like Ishmael Miller and Daniel Sturridge.

Stonerblue: Loads of 'em. One to watch is Micah Richards. He made his first -team debut last week and looked pretty good

SK: Liverpool are edging towards giving the final go ahead for a new stadium in Stanley Park.  Now that the dust has settled on the City of Manchester stadium, what are you views on your move from your spiritual home to a modern stadium?  Do you still yearn for the history of Maine Road or is your new stadium beginning to feel like home?

Matty: The new stadium, in terms of facilities, view and prestige is far and away better than Maine Road. What has happened due to the move is a loss of the legendary Maine Road atmosphere, people used to talk about the noise and the support that we gave our team at home, now with the added fans and the separating of supporters who used to sing together, it isnít as good. We need to get back the ambience that we had before. And throwing out fans for standing up ISNíT that way to achieve this!

Blue2112: Eastlandís will never be home for City fans of my generation. I/we have far too many memories left in that place and if I drive by I still get it all flooding back from when I was a kid in 1972 going theyíre for the first time and days spent playing truant and going to get the likes of Marsh and Bellís autographs. Three years on and it is getting better, itís a fantastic stadium and the time was right to move on and for the first time Iím now driving past Eastlandís on purpose if Iím heading anywhere near that direction just to feel the place like I used to with Maine Road. Itís not the end of the world moving it just takeís some getting used toÖabout four
years Iíd say.

Stonerblue: I ache for the good days at Maine Road. Most new stadiums are pretty soul-less places that feel and look more like a High street than a football ground.

SK: Have you been to Anfield before?  If so, which game and what were your thoughts on the crowd, songs and ground?  Did you try your luck with a Scouse pie?  If you've never been, what would you expect of an afternoon at Anfield?

Matty: Never been to Anfield, although I have been to Goodison (Iím sure youíll be happy to know I thought it was a terrible ground and wonít be hurrying back!). Iíd imagine that Anfield has a good atmosphere, especially in the Kop, and that your pies are probably a damn sight warmer than the crap they sell at City! Although if you do head over to the City of Manchester Stadium I can heartily recommend the Chicken Balti Pies!

Blue2112:Iíve had the pleasure of many trips to Anfield for City games and an international between the Republic of Ireland v Holland. Itís always a great atmosphere and Iíve had a few corporate days in your Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly suites due to some good Liverpool fans I know. I sat in the Anfield road stand surrounded by scousers when Anelka score the winner for us a few years ago and had to sit there and suffer in silence on the only occasion ive seen us win at AnfieldÖTypical bloody City. Iíve never had scouse pie and maybe next time Iíll force myself to try it.

Stonerblue: I went a couple of times in the early eighties when you were never given a warm greeting by the home fans at any ground and you lot were slightly less 'hospitable' than most of the others!

SK: What are your most vivid memories of past Liverpool - Man City clashes?

Matty: That we lost! We havenít got a great record against Liverpool, certainly not at Anfield. Weíve managed a couple of good results more recently, but overall my most vivid memories are of disappointment and the need for a pint!

Blue2112: My earliest memory is of a game at Maine Road on 29th December when on an icy pitch in the 88th minute a Dave Watson own goal gave you an equaliser to snatch a 1-1 draw and earn a point...You won the title that season with City finishing second...by one point. I remember David Fairclough's ginger mop vividly in that game. My dad used to rave about your defender Chris Lawlor. Most of my early memories after that were of Graeme Souness, Terry mcdermott and Craig Johnstone always inflicting what seemd to be 4-0 defeats on us...We was robbed in the league cup semi final in the late 70's and I remember George Courtney at Maine Road giving you a penalty and some other dodgy decisions in that game. You relegated us in a game you tried best not to win and still we couldn't avoid it....All in all i'd prefer to keep my memories of past games with Liverpool locked away.

Stonerblue: Unforunately, none of my memories are vivid.

SK: What do you make of Benitez and the Spanish style he has introduced to Anfield?

Matty: Benitez seems to be a decent bloke, and anyone that can make Unitedís Cup win in Barcelona seem like ancient history is fine by me! Some of Benitezís signings have been unusual, Morientes hasnít worked, although he canít be blamed for that, Josemi wasnít up to much, and the jury is still out on Crouch and Cisse as far as Iím concerned. Overall heís doing a good job, Iíd say you were back in the top three for keeps, hopefully at the expense of United!

Blue2112:There's no denying he has made a major impact on your club. He's come in with a plan and he's stuck with it and used players he know's and who know what system he wants. This has obviously achieved instant success and has bought him the time to shape things as he see's fit. Personally speaking and I have family who are Liverpool fans so I will have to be careful what I say but every time I watch you play I just find it uninspiring and boring. Sorry but a club with your history and pedigree should be more flambouyant. Maybe that will come in time as Benitez progresses but as for now as a neutral I dont find you at all exciting to watch. Its been successful though so maybe that counts for far more.

Stonerblue: I think your team plays much better in early and late kick off's as half your players seem to nod off in the afternoons!

SK: Where do you expect both Liverpool and City to finish this year?

Matty: I think Liverpool will finish 3rd, behind Chelsea and the Scum (a lack of goals will be your undoing Iím afraid) whereas City will finish in 9th or 10th which for the first full season under Pearce is acceptable.

Blue2112: Your going to finish either second or third that much is obvious. I think the rags aren't strong enough and have a very poor midfield and if you don't get sidetracked with just winning the European Cup you should make the second spot your own. As for us we could finish anywhere between 16th and 6th spot. If we hit a bit more consistency then we should finish top eight and if we get a little of the lady luck we may finish sixth. Ask me what do I want more an F.A.Cup final the win not guaranteed or sixth spot i'd take our chance with the Cup Final....Pass me the pills

Stonerblue: 2nd and anywhere in the top 10 respectively

SK: What team will Pearce put out against us on Sunday?  (We promise we wont tell Rafa)

Matty: Weíve had a few injury worries recently, Cole is out for a month, Sinclair has a fractured cheekbone, Thatcher (good God I hope heís still injured), Reyna, Sun and Danny Mills are all injured or on their way back to fitness. I would imagine your guess would be as good as mine (Pearce picked a 17 year old for his debut at right back against Charlton so ANYTHING is possible!). However if I had to pick Iíd say James, Jordan, Dunne, Distin, Sommeil, Sinclair, Barton, Musampa, Riera, Vassell and Samaras.

Blue2112:If he doesn't give some of the kids a rest after the Villa game then i'd reckon we won't be far from this starting eleven.
James, Jordan, Distin, Dunne, Richards, Riera, Musampa, Barton, Sibierski, Vassell and Samaras.
The only change I could envisage would be if Sinclair returns from his injury or Lee Croft is given the nod ahead of Sibierski.
I bet your terrified now aren't you.

Stonerblue: Your guess is as good as mine but expect new boy Samaras to start.

SK: What songs will we most likely be hearing on Sunday?

Matty: íStand Up if you Love Cityí (I canít stand this particular one), potentially ĎFeed the Greek and he will Scoreí, Bluemoon is a given, and the ĎFans of the Invisible Maní song is a regular (donít ask me to explain, please!).

Blue2112:This annoys me because we have such a rich history and diversity of songs and yet we seem to have slipped into the same old familiar ones week in week out. So expect Bluemoon, Were not really here just like the fans of the invisible man were not really here, city city best team in the land and all the world, feed the greek and he will score (new one), we all live in a Robbie Fowler house will probably get aired before the game and if you hate man united clap your hands. Obviously there will be the typical anti scouse/manc songs going both ways and la la la la la la la la CITY (to the tune of Hey Jude).

Stonerblue: 'Pondin'-Doves and 'The back of Love' by Liverpools finest.

SK: Who is the Liverpool player you will fear the most?

Matty: Gerrard, he can win the game on his own. Heís the player Barton thinks he is!

Blue2112: Gerrard can hurt any team and Riise's shooting ability has already been demonstrated against us this season. To be honest there isn't one single player I fear will hurt us as I think your more of an all round team capable of that. Whereas you might say keep Nistleroy and Rooney quiet and United have nothing else I believe you have a more all round team effort capable of doing that. Keeping Gerrard quiet wont neccessarily get us a result.

Stonerblue: Riise. If Sinclair doesn't play he'll have lots of space to utilise his cracki' left peg.

SK :And now to completely make a fool of yourself...go on, what's the score going to be on Sunday?

Matty: Heart versus head time again! If we can keep it tight at the back and play on the counter-attack/break I can see us getting a point, we might be able to battle out a 0-0 draw. Seeing as weíve failed to score in 6 of our last 9 away games, and our top scorer (Andy Cole) is out injured until mid to late March, I canít see Reina having too much to do! Realistically I think, given our scoring issues and your lack of a prolific striker, itíll be low scoring, but youíll probably take it 1-0.

Blue2112: 2-2 and i'm being kind to you....well you've got to be optimistic being a blue

Stonerblue: I'll be watching the game on a beach in Goa with a cocktail in my hand, 2-3, Result !!

SK: Thanks again to Ric, Blue2112, Matty and Stonerblue

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