We put the same questions about Man City v Sunderland to a good pal, Iain Burns*, who flies high in commercial aviation but has been conditioned by experience not to allow his expectations for City to rise too far above ground level. But he’s a fan of Sparky, sees Sunderland as the sort of team that simply doesn’t turn up when they play at City and believe the Blues will easily be strong enough to see us off…
This has been an extraordinary six months in the life of Man City.
How do you rationalise all that has happened?
It’s hard to rationalise in some respects. One minute you’re being thrashed 8-1 by Boro with Sven at the helm, the next you’re dubbed the richest club in the world and snapping up Robinho for a record British transfer fee. To say that’s a quantum leap is putting it mildly. But what’s happened has happened and the new club owners, well not so new now, do give City fans some real hope after years in the doldrums and a vision that we can realistically – but not anytime soon – start to compete with the big boys of the Premier league. But the reality is that Abu Dhabi looked to invest in the greatest league in the world and saw that City had a good number of benefits to offer.
Are you surprised that there has not already been a much greater effect, in terms of performance?
All City fans are resilient and pragmatic and even with players like Robinho, Given and Bellamy moving to Eastlands we all expected the ubiquitous marathon not a sprint. It’s a huge disappointment though that we’ve not won away from home in the league since August when we danced in the rain past SAFC and losing to Brighton and Forest in the cups was really poor. Mark Hughes said at Christmas that his teams tend to grow stronger in the second half of the season so I’m hopeful that we’ll get a grip and start to dig out some better results. But I’m not too disheartened by the season to date. We will get much better, I’m sure, in the years ahead.
Is Mark Hughes the man to lead the club forward in these new circumstances?
Sparky has his critics but I’m not one of them. Just listening to his interviews shows he’s in touch with the Abu Dhabi owners and I think he’s terrific. If we tank for the rest of the season I might change my views but I can’t see my crystal ball being that cloudy.
Where did you expect City to finish a) before the season began b) at the point the takeover was announced and c) now?
15th, 9th, 7th.
And what did you make of Roy Keane’s decision to walk out of
Where will SAFC finish the season? If you don’t think we’ll go
down, who will?
16th. To go down I’d plump for West Brom, Boro and either Hull or Newcastle.
Do you think of Man United in much the same way we think of Newcastle? Or are you too grown up for such things?
As a Mancunian it’s a tad galling to cheer on Gerrard, Torres and co but their demolition of United at the weekend was a glorious spectacle for all to enjoy, unless you’re from Surrey or Singapore.
What have been the highs and lows of supporting City, and who for you are the City greats?
December 1998 was a month to forget. Losing at York City in the league – the old third division – and being dumped out of the Auto Windscreens Shield by Mansfield Town at Maine Road in front of a meagre crowd 3,000 was a shambolic low. But from that adversity we dusted ourselves down and barnstormed our way from 12th in the league to get to Wembley via the playoffs to beat Gillingham in the final when we were 2-0 down with just minutes left on the clock. Sadly everyone remembers Bayern Munich capitulating in a similar manner to the Kent coast club just days before when they were beating United 1-0 with a couple of minutes before the final whistle in the European Cup final. But our victory at Wembley was a huge turning point for City and a real high for me. It goes without saying that blitzing our neighbours 5-1 in 1989 at Maine Road is another day that City fans won’t ever forget. Although in recent years we’ve been far from shabby in our derby matches, especially at home.
City greats? For me – although in no particular order – its Colin Bell, Joe Corrigan, Georgi Kinkladze, Paul Power, Francis Lee, Shaun Goater, Paul Lake, Richard Dunne and Uwe Rosler. Paul Dickov must get a mention though for his efforts against Gillingham!
Dennis Tueart, Tony Towers, Peter Reid, Niall Quinn, Tony Coton, Claudio Reyna….and there’ll be many others – players and staff – linked to both clubs. Are any of them special, for any reason, to you?
Dennis Tueart for his overhead and kick against Newcastle in the 1976 League Cup final which won us our last piece of silverware is, for obvious reasons, unforgettable. Peter Reid was a terrific player and an even better manager for City but unjustly dealt with by the then management. Tony Coton blotted his copybook by moving to Old Trafford en route to SAFC and Claudio Reyna seemed a decent enough bloke but sadly was pretty prone to injury. Nicky Summerbee had his moments at Maine Road but comparisons to the achievements and success of his dad Mike made his time at City somewhat difficult and I think he enjoyed a better time at SAFC. But the main man has to be the big Irish fella, Niall. There’s not a great deal I can say about Quinn that I’m sure hasn’t been felt and said by SAFC fans. He was superb at Maine Road and I feared, like many City fans, that this fringe player from Arsenal would be a disaster when we signed him. Thankfully, and not for the first time, I was hopelessly wrong.
How will you follow the game on Sunday and what will be the score?
I’ll watch the game live on TV in Abu Dhabi where I live and work. The Abu Dhabi and Man City connection are for me, in fact, totally unconnected, sadly. One of the great aspects about being in the Middle East is that every Premier League match is on the box. I think we’ll win the game quite easily, if previous encounters are anything to go by. This season some teams just haven’t turned up at Eastlands. Portsmouth, West Ham and Stoke spring to mind and that’s a generalisation I have about SAFC in previous years. This will be our first opportunity for a double and I don’t think the Blues will disappoint. 2-0.
* Iain Burns on Iain Burns:
Born in Urmston, Manchester which is spitting distance from Old Trafford. For the first 11 years on planet earth I lived in hardcore red territory and to be honest, football almost passed me by. And then my Falkirk born dad took me to a game. It could have been, and it should have been, Old Trafford but for some bewildering reason which he still cannot explain he took me to Maine Road to watch City brush aside Palace 4-0 in a midweek game. And dear old dad’s endearing memory is of me eating onions for the first time in my life – fried, in a roll and accompanied by a sausage – rather than the romance of the floodlit match itself. That was nearly 40 years ago and although I’m proud to be a Blue, I’m ashamed to admit that there’s been occasions when I harboured secretly a wish that the old man’s geography of Manchester hadn’t been so wayward.