SALUT! SUNDERLAND WISHES ALL CONTRIBUTORS AND READERS, WHOEVER THEY SUPPORT, A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS
Doug Higgingbottom is a one of those people we should salute as mainstays of the game of football. He has always supported Manchester City, not just now with desert gold to make success probable but back when they descended into the third tier. He watches the Under 18s, the Under 21s, the first team in training and shares his thoughts with fellow supporters on a City forum*. His answers to Salut! Sunderland‘s questions ahead of the Boxing Day match between our club and his were a delight to read …
Salut! Sunderland:After the exciting finale to last season, does this season – CL exit, United lead at the top – feel a little After the Lord Mayor’s Ball?
The CL exit definitely as we were expecting to get through the 1st stages irrespective of the tough group. Very very disappointing performances but in the league it feels right. For me personally I wanted to win the league again more than the CL and although we mostly have not played great we are still very much in it even despite losing the derby. I know some fans have wondered about whether the players/management have relaxed a little after the achievement last season but if that was the case I think the attitude is now back where it should be.
If not covered in that answer, can City find the strength to overhaul United just as you did last season – and do you sense any threat from Chelsea?
Yes we can definitely catch Utd and no I don’t think Chelsea are a serious threat.
Has the Abu Dhabi money for you, Russian money for Chelsea etc been good, on balance, or bad for English football?
It has to be good. Times have changed and it’s now incredibly difficult for a team to move into the top group without big money being put in. Without teams getting this money and thus challenging the league would be much less competitive at the top and maybe start to lose it’s worldwide appeal. But it’s not just about that at City, with the money going into the academy and the area surrounding area it’s about regeneration as well. It’s almost unbelievable to see what has happened and is happening to the area around the Etihad stadium.
In any case, what a transformation in the life and times of the City supporter; do you ever miss the times when you were, er, not so good?
Not really although during some of the tough times there were some great times and great memories. In it’s way the games against the likes of Lincoln, York or Macclesfield away just help to develop the attachment to the club.
Loads of Sunderland-City connections over the years: Dave Watson, Dennis Tueart, Tony Towers, Peter Reid, Claudio Reyna, Tony Coton, Stephen Elliott and, of course, the great Niall Quinn. Your thoughts on any of these and anyone important I’ve overlooked?
Watson and Tueart were great players with City and we should have achieved more when they were here but it came at the time we were self destructing. But these connections did tend to mean City fans generally had a soft spot for Sunderland which might well have started when you beat Leeds in the FA Cup final to the great delight of all football fans apart from Leeds. A bit like Sunderland fans celebrating at the last match last season when City won the title.
Loved Niall Quinn and we played some great football when he was here with some good attacking players around him. Not sure about him as a pundit commentator though.He seems to try to be neutral but to me actual sounds negative about City at times.
I imagine you enjoyed Ji’s offside winner a little less than we did. But do you have any good, bad or amusing memories of past encounters between our sides?
A little less would be an understatement!! Can’t think much past last years 3.3 draw at the Etihad. How we made Bentdner look a class player I do not know!
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
Given that we took four points off you, and very nearly six, last season, what do you make of our awfulness this time?
Back to the first question you asked. Is it a case of the Lord Mayor’s Show for Sunderland? O’Neil had such a good immediate impact when he arrived and the final position was safe and solid so was there an automatic expectation to just get better? I actually don’t think Sunderland are an awful team but just not getting enough of the basics right so far.
Fletcher is good at what he does but the 3 key players behind him are a little inconsistent. I like all 3 but would not bet my house on any of them delivering. (Sessignon, AJ and McClean). There are some signs of improvement and I hope they keep showing. I do like O’Neil and I think he will recover things and for starters that’s defensively. I think the team has to play on the break with 3 quick players behind a good striker but those 3 also have to do a good job in the defensive formation as well. Clearly not AJ’s forte and I am not sure either about the other two.
Are you happy you got AJ? (I was thrilled, Roy, but he has not yet fully delivered and we can only hope his performances improve massively in the new year – ed)
Best players you’ve seen in City colours – and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
I go back to the ’68 league winning side. A brilliant side with truly great players. I could be totally boring and list plenty here but just one will do pre the current side and that’s Kinkladze. The lad was a genius and we will never know quite how good as he didn’t have enough quality around him. Not as good as Messi but Messiesque and worth the entrance money on his own.In the current side I would name 3. Silva is pure quality, Kompany a world class defender and a great leader and then there is Zabaleta. He might not get all the headlines but epitomises what fans love. Not just a top class player but a warrior.
Maybe too many also that shouldn’t have been allowed near us but as we were going up and down, and as far as the 3rd tier, you can’t always expect the highest quality players. Two worthy of mention though would be Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, both well past their sell by dates.
Highs and lows of watching your team?
The highs are clearly title and cup winning performances and maybe beating Gillingham in the play off final competes for top spot. Where would we be now if we hadn’t won that game. And 2 of the biggest lows were also the Gillingham game and the last match of last season. I cannot remember feeling lower than I did in those games with just a few minutes left. That of course makes the high a few minutes later so unbelievably special.
Beating Utd 5-1 at Maine Road wasn’t bad either.
What is your view of Balotelli? Is he so valuable to the club that his eccentricities should be tolerated?
He is a talented footballer but in my view nowhere near as talented as some fans would have it. What he does off the field doesn’t really interest me and of course most of what he is alleged to have done is simply untrue. If his eccentricities affect his performances of course they should not be tolerated. If they include breaking curfews pre games of course he should be disciplined but it’s what he does in games that should matter most. Sadly in that respect he hasn’t done much and too often just doesn’t seem that arsed either.
There will be games to point at where he has helped a lot (Sunderland at home being one) but they are rare. His discipline on the field has improved but not his game and he really doesn’t seem to fit the way Mancini wants the team to play which makes it all the more surprising that he keeps faith with him and even plays him in vital games.
Is it time to stop bothering about cheating and accept it as part of the modern game? If not, which form annoys you most, who is/are the worst culprit(s) and what would you to to stamp it out?
I have to say as an older fan it staggers me how much today’s footballer looks to cheat. In really small ways like stealing ground for throw ins and free kicks through to the blatant diving and shirt pulling in the area at free kicks and corners. Something does need to be done about it and it’s down to the FA and referees to get things going.
It seems to me they have started re diving and although some mistakes are being made it can only be a positive as players will start to realise they will get punished. The hard one will be the defending at free kicks/corners. Defenders do it and get away with it but the attacker breathes on a defender and it’s often a foul. It’s not easy as both are tugging at each other much of the time but something has to be done. Maybe Fellaini has helped by head butting Shawcross!! It was a reaction to Shawcross manhandling him and getting away with it and maybe that will get highlighted when the case is reviewed and discussed. More penalties for such manhandling has to be the answer.
The club versus country debate: who wins for you and why?
Club always for me. I will always want England to do well and will always watch (on tv) but if they don’t it doesn’t bother me much whereas with City it really matters.
Which single step should Man City or the football authorities generally take to improve the ordinary supporter’s lot?
Safe standing I think with the emphasis on safe.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Sadly I won’t be at the game but I will go for 2 nil for City and hope that Sunderland get defensive stability in 2013. It would be nice if O’Shea gave us an assist like he did for RVP last weekend.
* Doug Higgintottom on himself: Just an old school fan, now retired, who loves the games and loves the club. My retirement hobbies include watching City train on a daily basis and feeding back regular training reports to the fans via the fans’ forum. Not contentious stuff of course but updates on fitness and who is looking good, the team spirit coming through and other items of interest. I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in the dug out for the training sessions for a while which was a real privilege and gave me a great insight into the players and management.
Also I look to watch as much of the youth teams play from 18s upwards and the last game was the youth cup v Sunderland where we won, convincingly I thought, 3-1. I feed back updates on these teams to fans as well via the forums. Mancityfans.net is the forum and whilst it doesn’t have the highest membership it has great banter and debate. Maybe it benefits from not having a “massive” membership?
Illness prevents me from watching too many 1st team games nowadays after being a season ticket holder for longer than I care to remember but it hasn’t diminished my love for and hopes for the club. Off to a 21s game now v Fulham at 2pm.
Interview: Colin Randall