writes: Alex Sargent* will have been a happy man after his beloved Manchester City went to St Mary’s and made the gap between our respective results at Southampton a whacking 11 goals. We could counter with Schalke (0-5 Chelsea) followed by Sunderland (0-0, Chelsea arguably riding their luck). But Wednesday brings a new game, a new challenge. Can we keep up the frankly astonishing sequence of 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 1-0? Can we carry on where we left off last April when Sunderland were desperately unlucky not to win the game that ended 2-2 – they’d already been fortunate at Wembley (no way back, I’d suggest, if Borini had buried that second chance)? We’ll see. Now let Alex – who has family links with Wearside – speak for himself …
Salut! Sunderland: From a bumbling hit-and-miss team to the world’s elite. Do you ever miss the old days?Alex Sargent:I think most blokes of a certain age miss 20 years ago, when they went to the match with their mates, had a laugh and went on to a club in the evening, but no, I don’t miss watching rubbish football played in the mud, often in the air, versus the skill levels of what we see today. So long as we try to avoid arrogance or complacency, then I’m happy. City also do a lot to keep some of the wry humour of the old days and there’s a lot of fan interaction, which there wasn’t in the old days.
Do you take any particular joy in being able to lord it over United>
Yes, a vast amount, is the short answer. We may be (rightly) accused of being obsessed with them but the whole 34 years banner at The Swamp and associated stuff means it’s been great to see them fall away for a bit. Plus, isn’t that what it is about?
Hand on heart, and I know we all want rich saviours, is all that money good for football, however good it may be for City?
From a City viewpoint, there’s a lot more money in football full stop and the Sheikh’s money was only new in scale rather than cash injections being new in themselves (and even then Roman’s money was bigger as was Moratti’s at Inter Milan). The Matthew Harding money was game-changing for Chelsea back in the day and then Sky coming in has changed it for everyone. On an overall basis, I don’t think the money helps in itself but it does permeate the whole game.
From the rich choice before you, who are the standout players among the current crop (I could probably list nearly all of them as contenders)?
In the first team, Aguero, Silva and Kompany stand out as different class but, then again, on a ball playing basis most of these guys are head and shoulders above the players we used to watch.
And where do weaknesses remain, to explain your imperfect form?
World Cup tiredness from some players, Playing too adventurously at times, being undermanned in midfield against the bigger teams and not recognising that YaYa doesn’t tackle back. Also, in a game of fine margins at the top, sometimes individual decisions make a big difference. Having said that we are two points better off then the same stage last season so…
Have you written off the title this season or is it still logically all to play for?… it’s all to play for.
Guess the Sunderland vs Man City score and – whoever you support – win a pair of mugs reflecting your allegiance
So name the top four in order. And if you can bear to lower your gaze, the bottom three
Having said the above, I don’t do predictions other than Arsenal to win the fourth place cup again. I would like someone to break the top four this year tho’ Spurs don’t look likely and Southampton may not have the squad. The bottom three are looking tight but I do expect Burnley and Leicester to be in the mix there plus Hull as I think the Tigers are suffering from the tendency to play more openly after surviving a couple of seasons in the top flight and spending money on attacking players.”
Who are the best players you have seen – or wish you’d been around to see- in City blue?Looking at footballing ability rather than just fan favourites who try hard, Georgi Kinkladze was a cut above as was Paul Lake. Aguero and Silva are now as well. It would have been good to see Bell, Lee & Summerbee in their pomp, or Bert Trautmann, Roy Paul, Ray Clarke or even Billy Meredith in their various days but the game was different then and what’s on offer now is as good as it ever has been.And the worst?
Looking back there have been a legion of mediocre players but I wouldn’t really single anyone out. If you are comparing Tony Grealish to Samir Nasri or Jamie Pollock to David Silva they are always going to seem less skilful. Not their fault it was different times and different requirements.
What have been your own highs and lows as a fan? In a yo-yo club you do get a lot of each. Recently both FA Cup finals were memorable. Beating Stoke to win a trophy was what set us on the way to winning the league. Losing to Wigan reminds you that there are no givens in this game, and in all truth we deserved to lose as Wigan were better than us. Watching us lose to Luton and Bury at home and York City in the ‘Third’ division was depressing but winning against Gillingham was a real high. Beating United 4-1 last season and playing them off the pitch for the first 60 minutes was the most recent high. Fantastic when world-class players get it together.
Does being called Citeh bother you? Nah. It’s amusing that United fans use it as an insult when it is based on the accent of people in their “home town” but so what really.
What thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region, Poyet?
With a grandmother from Sunderland and a great Grandfather who was in the shipbuilding industry, I’ve always kept an eye on the results though not really been a visitor. The link via Niall Quinn’s post City career also kept the interest. I’ve always known a few Sunderland fans and always had a bit of laugh with them, never any issues. Maybe from living and working in London there’s a bit of Northern solidarity in it. I like Poyet in terms of the way he wants to play the game and always seem articulate and considered in his speech – found the alleged Brighton dressing room thing a bit odd in all honesty. Sunderland are definitely a club you want to see in the top flight and have a good game against win, lose or draw. It was my boys’ first away game with three generations of family (Grandfather, Uncle and them) and the last time we won, the day before the takeover – the main family impression is that we think you have the loudest set of home fans in the EPL, usually easy for away fans to make a lot of noise but not generally the home fans due to less concentrated, more families etc.
And how do you rationalise all those 1-0 home wins we’ve chalked up against you (four in a row)? Stuff happens, just not always as often as that. We’ve been outrun/outplayed a couple of times, missed an open goal, had a loss from an offside goal. These things happen and, as I say to my children, if you always won there’d be no fun in winning. Having said that, from my side it’s getting a bit boring, from your side the three points banker must be good value.
Diving still worth trying to banish or so prevalent we are as well give up and stick it and other forms of cheating in the coaching manuals? Diving is cheating in my book so we should still be trying to stop it if we can.
What single step, by City or the authorities, would improve the average supporter’s matchday experience?
– Standing sections.
Will you be at our game and what will the score?– Nope, as it’s too busy at work to get up for a midweek game. 1-0 to you if history anything to go by.
Alex Sargent on himself: I’m a London based economic migrant with a wife and three youngish boys. We all have season tickets and travel to Manchester mostly by train for the home games. Living in Highbury this is cheaper for us than walking round the corner to the Arsenal so there are some upsides to being owned by the Sheikh. I’ve been going to City games since 1986 when I got hooked on the atmosphere, the humour and, in fact, the whole thing despite City being relegated that season. As your questions above indicate, there’s been a lot of lows, highs and mediocrity but I still enjoy the atmosphere and humour at football as well the actual games – also, children grow up very quick so having a shared interest when they become grunting teenagers is no bad thing.
Interview: Colin Randall
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