Sixer’s Manchester City Gloatbox: post-charlatan Poyet era ‘up and running’

Jake was wondering: can we play Citeh every week?
Jake was wondering: can we play Citeh every week?

Don’t worry. The name of the column hasn’t really changed. It remains Sixer’s Soapbox. But what use is a soapbox if you cannot occasionally climb on it to gloat? Pete Sixsmith suffers with the rest of us when things are going badly or, as of late, not far short of catastrophically. So you can imagine the sort of mood we find him in after a third home win on the trot under Gus Poyet and a fourth against Man City – and he even found time for rugby league internationals and an FA Cup tie in his busy weekend …

There are some habits that should be kicked – smoking, spitting in the street, supporting Newcastle United – and there are some that should be retained forever, like drinking proper beer, watching rugby league and reading proper newspapers. Add beating Manchester City 1-0 at home to that list.

Four years running the world’s richest club have pitched up at the Stadium of Light with one of the strongest teams in Europe. Tevez, Toure x 2, Balottelli, Aguero, Hart, Kompany have all turned up, been beaten and gone home to their leafy Mancunian suburbs, metaphorical tails between their metaphorical legs.

Darren B£nt, Ji Dong-won, Adam Johnson and now, Prodigal Phil Bardsley, are all rejoicing in the title of City slayers, as the richest club in the world (although PSG may challenge that one now) seem to find it impossible to win at the Stadium of Light. Perhaps the place intimidates them, perhaps it is in City folklore that “we never win in Sunderland” – although I remember them hammering us 3-0 and a soaking for M Salut a few years ago – or perhaps they are just not that good a side when faced with opponents who do not meekly roll over a la Norwich and CSKA Moscow.

That they had most of the ball is incontrovertible. That they spent most of the second half in our half of the pitch is equally so. That we scored once and they didn’t is a hard and fast fact. That we played a brand of football that Sunderland fans have rarely seen over the years is equally so.

Two years ago, when we nicked it in the last minute, City should have walked it. Tevez & Co. missed a bagful of clear cut opportunities as we defended bravely and hoofed the ball away at the earliest opportunity and ratted around in midfield before Ji scored that sensational last minute winner that appeared to start the O’Neill revolution.

But this was a different approach altogether. Passes were played to feet, forwards, backwards, sideways, down, a bit like a Yardbirds single from the 60s. That the crowd were patient enough to refrain from urging players to “get rid of it” and “get stuck in” shows that the Poyet style may well find support from those who previously valued physical prowess above careful, thoughtful football.

Praise is due to each and every one of them, from Mannone, who looked a very confident and assured keeper who has now earned a run in the side, to Adam Johnson, so often an enigma, who worked and worked and who always looked dangerous. Three excellent crosses in the first half were begging for someone to be on the end of them.

In between those two, there were powerful performances and none better than Wes Brown. It makes you wonder what we would have done last season and earlier this with a fit Wesley. He was so assured, never lost his cool and surged forward like an ice breaker moving through a rapidly thawing ocean.

Jake asks: does anyone doubt it?
Jake asks: does anyone doubt it?

His partner, John O’Shea, looked almost as good and, apart from once when the hard working Aguero turned him, his game was bereft of the errors that sometimes creep in. The huge embrace that he gave his erstwhile United colleague at the end spoke volumes of their dedication to the Sunderland cause – neither of them wants a relegation on their cv.

In front of them, Ki played a master game, fetching and carrying, moving forward when needed and looking every inch the quality “water carrier” a la Didier Deschamps that we have been crying out for.

Whereas two weeks ago, Cattermole got right in the faces of Tiote & Co, Ki made sure that the ball did the work. He has the ability to get himself out of tight situations and rarely gives the ball away. One post on RTG said that he had a pass completion rate of 91 per cent. You can reverse the integers for Cattermole – and Ki is far more likely to stay on the pitch.

Around him Colback was quietly effective and much more so than the likes of the lumbering Garcia and the permanently disappointing Milner. Larsson might well have got a red but didn’t (had it been Cattermole we would have been down to 10) and made up for his reprieve with his best game in Sunderland colours. His tackling and distribution were consistently good – he needs to do that all the time now as he has a knack of playing well to impress a new manager. He has had plenty of practice in his time at Sunderland.

The crowd played their part as well. Even the oldies and not so oldies in the East Stand played their part in roaring the team on and showed that support is not just the endless singing of mindless songs about players with other clubs, but it comes from the heart. There are very few clubs in England where the support is so long suffering and so consistently good. Put a set of players playing to their maximum in front of a Sunderland crowd, and you get the best of all responses from people who genuinely care about their club. Poyet has begun to tap into this feeling and, as an intelligent and thoughtful man, he knows where it can lead.

A few words about City: disappointing, underwhelming, lacking guile will do for a start. Like Eric Morecambe when confronted by Andre Previn, it was “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. Toure was unable to swat Larsson and Colback away, Lescott and Demichelis never convinced as a pairing and were light years behind the former United pair at the heart of our defence and Nasri, who seemed to have more possession than our entire side in the second half, failed to make one telling pass.

Losing at Sunderland, Cardiff and Aston Villa is not title winning form. I thought Pellegrini was gracious in his post-match comments, far more so than Mancini was on New Year’s Day 2012.

It rounded off an excellent sporting weekend for me. On Friday, I watched a one sided but nevertheless entertaining Rugby League World Cup game between world champs New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Although the Kiwi’s gave their fringe players a run out, they still had the phenomenon known as Sonny Bill Williams. At 6’4” and weighing 17 stone, he is not the biggest player even in the NZ set up. But when he moves, it is like watching a shark going in for the kill: quite magnificent.

Jake: close, but no recount necessary
Jake: close, but no recount necessary

An almost full house at Headingley cheered PNG on but to no avail and the Kiwis are heading for a quarter final with Scotland (I’ll be there) and a probable semi with England.

On Saturday, in the company of Salut! Sunderland‘s deputy editor Malcolm Dawson, I saw a very enjoyable FA Cup First Round game at Victoria Park between Hartlepool and Notts County. Pools came out 3-2 winners with two of their goals being scored by Luke James, a 19 year old from Amble. He looks a good one so maybe Roberto Di Fanti could be having a close look at him.

So, the Poyet era is up and running. Two tricky away games followed by Chelsea and Spurs at home. Eight points from those four would be a real help and Fulham are already looking vulnerable. The Di Canio period is well and truly behind us and I thought that Martin O’Neill’s comments summed that up perfectly – “Paolo Di Canio – that managerial charlatan”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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27 thoughts on “Sixer’s Manchester City Gloatbox: post-charlatan Poyet era ‘up and running’”

  1. VM didn’t play a lot of football at Arsenal. From the games I’ve seen he seemed to blow hot and cold to some extent. Maybe an extended run, or the expectation of an extended run will suit the lad and bring the best out of him. That wasn’t going to happen under Wenger, and he probably never felt that he had a real chance to be the first choice. We will see in the coming weeks I suppose.

  2. No, I’ve not seen a lot of Mannone either, although I do watch a lot of football. The Hull City fans were raving about him after having had him on loan. Mind you they have a nowt to crack on about Scot and a bloke that was happy to sit on the bench at Sid James Park for most of his life, so can we trust their judgment?

  3. I thought the same thing about Mannone;s distribution Joan. He was precise and passed the ball in the same fashion as would an outfield player, very much in the style that Poyet has started to get the team to adopt. I don’t have a problem with keepers kicking the ball out as far as they can as long as you have wingers who can control the ball when it arrives fast and high, Keepers should never hoof the ball straight down the middle unless (like Mignlolet) you are going to reach the outer regions of the opponents box. I haven’t any problem with Westwood as a keeper. I rather like him but the apparent composure and commanding style (as well as his passing out) was impressive from Mannone.

    I’m not getting carried away btw just want to enjoy the sense of relief, however short it may turn out to be, and sorry that people seem to want to stifle the green shoots of recovery, as I sense this time they are very real.

    • I like Westwood too – I expect he’ll be doing more passing out when he plays, under instruction from Poyet. I wondered if it was something Mannone tended to do anyway. Not having any interest in football other than watching Sunderland I’ve got nothing else to go on…

  4. Since the Man City game I’ve had Nina Simone in my head singing “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”. Then I tell myself not to get carried away (though I accept Jeremy’s point that he’s entitled to). Stretching the metaphor I was thinking that Martin O’Neill was our false dawn (however much I like him, and wanted him to succeed) and di Canio was the darkest hour just before the dawn (cue Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young???)

    One of the things that pleased me most on Sunday, was the way Mannone was passing the ball out. I’ve often wondered why keepers constantly hoof it out – more often than not to the opposition who are facing the right way to start attacking again. Be interesting to see whether Westwood will do the same

      • Thanks Eric – the lyric I was thinking of was
        from Long time Gone – Crosby Stills and Nash.

        “But you know
        The darkest hour
        Is always, always just before the dawn”

        thank goodness for the internet…

  5. I often wonder about Clough Jeremy and I think O’Neill holds a lot of his ideals, maybe not in his treatment of players but in his approach to training and games and wouldn’t adapt. I think he proved you can’t manage with that style anymore and no one will do what Clough did ever again.

    Hopefully our ex managers will move on now and we can stop talking about them, though no doubt our friend Bruce will have more to say when we play them again.

  6. Plan B. The real shame about Di Canio was not his opinions or judgements about players abilities, attitudes or behaviours but more to do with his way of handling them or perhaps more importantly, “mishanding” them. He was something of a throwback to the 70s and earlier. I’ve often thought that people like Cloughie and Shankly wouldn’t have been able to manage in their natural manner with players of today. Sadly player power is now greater than ever and we have the same bunch of players plus some miscreant summer additions who have conspired to get not only Paolo but also his two predecessors sacked. I don’t think there was anything phoney or charlatan about Di Canio. If anything the man was punished for honesty and showing some integrity when he was surrounded by many people with neither attribute.

  7. Denial probably being the best way to sum up his attitude as Jeremy says is why I think it’s fair to question whether he was a fraud here. I’m not sure if I’d describe di canio that way, he’s obviously a few peperronis short of a full pizza but he gave his all, unlike O’Neill. They both deserved to be sacked however, regardless of how the current manager fares.

  8. Mr Graham is currently being outdone by Messrs Elmo and McShane.

    It’s not difficult to be outdone when you are a centre forward with a tally of 0 and we can’t crow as Bardsley has two more than Altidore, but McShane!!!

    I sincerely hope that Hull don’t have a clause to cancel his loan and send the useless bugger back early.

  9. Absolutely William. His idea of changing things was to resort to the same thing which had failed consistently over the previous weeks and months. He doesn’t mention spending 5M on Mr Graham in any of his interviews. I was forgetting about him myself. I’ve reconsidered my position on this and tend to agree with CSB’s idea that he really is a charlatan or just insane. I don’t believe that he has even scored for Hull yet has he Martin?

    • In the above CSB’s Idea should read PlanB’s idea.

      As an aside I don’t regard O’Neil as a Charlatan, but rather he was so completely out of touch with modern football and more importantly modern footballers.

      His latest utterances are unfortunate in that he is obviously still trying to come to terms with his departure from the SOL and has not really learnt anything from the experience. I had hoped that someone of his stature would have shown more dignity than Doubtfire, but there you go.

      I wish him well with the Republic, but Martin move on son no one is really interested anymore.

  10. O’Neill is engaged in complete denial about his time with us. His comments are intended to convince the Irish that they aren’t being led by a dead duck of a manager. He left us in a mess and the fact that PDC also left us in a mess does not and can not detract from the fact that we were going down under him and PDC kept us up. If O’Neill really thinks that we were going to accumulate another point under him then he’s a fool rather than a charlatan I think. He’s even more of a fool to come out with this nonsense and sound like Doubtfire. I’ve never seen anyone look as completely clueless as O’Neill did in his last 6 months.

    • Jeremy –

      I don’t think many would argue with your comments. His press interviews in the latter stages of his time at SAFC were sometimes quite bizarre. You wondered if he had been watching a different game, until it became obvious that he had frankly lost the ability/desire to alter anything.

  11. Read his managerial CV, enough promotions and trophies to treat that question with the contempt it deserves. Don’t condemn his entire career because it didn’t work for him here.

    • I was referring to his time here, his overall record has never really been in question. Particularly in his last year here he rarely sounded like he could be bothered but still won’t accept there was anything wrong with his management. A lot of fans have very little time for him to be honest and won’t be fooled by his outburst.

  12. I wish people would stop talking about others “getting carried away.” We have a right to feel a spring in the step, a sense of optimism in the recognition that all may not be lost. There’s been precious little for us to enjoy. There’s a lot of work still to do of course there is, but there are at least some signs that the capacity exists to get the job done! H’way the lads!

  13. We need to wrap Wes Brown in cotton wool. Its not just his performance on the pitch, but his influence in the dressing room and positive effect on O Shea. Lets do a Ledley King and not push him to hard in training.

    I think we’ll keep the same starting XI away to Stoke next. Away games are our weakness. We don’t tend to show up. This next one will be a real test for us. I think we’ve got what it takes to beat Stoke, but … set pieces… Stoke’s strength, our weakness. Ugh.:s Still, hope the lads have been practicing!

  14. Confidence is everything, but it needs to be earned. Newcastle , Hull 2nd half, Southampton and now City have got the team and the fans’ growing . From seemingly dead and buried a month ago ( ridiculous for so early in the season, but that’s what getting beat every game does for you) to now being in with a real, fighting chance of beating the drop.Hopefully our traditional mid season nose dive came early this year and we’ve got through the otherside of it,while others have theirs to come. We’re going to suffer some setbacks on the way but if we can summon that endever and self belief we’ll stop up.

  15. Poyet is quietly impressing Sunderland fans, belief that we may finally have found a good all round manager is being whispered around Wearside, the way it should be.

    Our remaining home games have to be looked at as cup finals. We’ve certainly had a fantastic start at home under Poyet, giving us a platform for them. However a quick look at the table reminds you how precarious our position is, and the fact is we need to start getting points away from home too. Can’t think of a better place to start than Stoke.

  16. Good summary Pete. I’m not getting carried away, but I am feeling better about Sunderland by the day. You can already see the results of what Gus has clearly been spelling out on the training ground.
    The midfield, in particular, was impressive. This has been our main weakness in recent years. The closing down was superb and you could feel the frustration creeping into City’s players as the game progressed.
    A team with so many great players is bound to create chances, but we restricted them to very few.
    Bardsley’s goal was top class, and we might in fact have added to that, if Ki had got his shot on target.
    Wes Brown was magnificent. I have always rated him – one of the coolest defenders I’ve ever seen. What a pity his career has been so blighted with injury?

  17. While I agree with CSB that we shouldn’t get carried away (we’ve definitely learned that lesson), yesterday’s performance was qualitatively different. Even when we were defending it was a pleasure to watch. The players looked composed and knew what they were meant to do. The only glitch for me was the linking up of the midfielders with the forwards – a couple of times good balls weren’t quite anticipated. I’m sure they’ll be working on that and maybe a 2 week break will help – though not sure who’ll be away and who’ll be around. Was also pleased to see on MOTD how much the training staff were celebrating when we scored and applauding Ki’s shot.

  18. I like the idea of this proper three man midfield of Larsson ,Ki and Colback. And best of all if one is missing Cattermole,Gardner,Ba or Cabral can slot into the new system …..or maybe even Alfie if we bring him back from Turkey.

    Mavrias and Moberg – Karlsson to slot in for our wide men when needed, and a choice of Fletcher, Altidore, Mandron or Borini up front.

    Looks like we now have a system to suit the squad and vice versa……and one which might just let us bring on some of our youngsters later on in th season.

    Just need another left back in the January window and we should be Ok.

  19. Well written Pete and not really any gloating more just basking in the all too unfamiliar limelight of a very good day for SAFC.

    Gus may not need a magic wand after all, but lets not get carried away we have seen this before (four times with City) and each time it was fleeting resurgence.

    But first half how we used the ball, intelligently getting our selves out of tight situations, no panic, no mindless panic punting up the pitch, perhaps a little taste of what may come.

    We saw some of Poyet’s football philosophy on display today and this just after four home games in charge with a team that many, including myself, thought incapable of this type of expression, ability, skill or commitment.

    Green shoots, a new dawn who knows but backup this victory with a solid performance at Stoke and I’ll start to believe again.

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