Manchester City vs SAFC Who are You?: Sunderland’s demise a ‘real shame’

Jake demands answers
Jake demands answers

Mark Barber*, secretary of the Manchester City Disabled Supporters’ Association and our ‘Who are You?’ interviewee ahead of Man City vs SAFC, still reckons we’ll score first through Adam Johnson. If you want to know how often he thinks they’ll reply, you’ll need to read on. Check out the Q+A at and you’ll see it’s come down by two without being good news. Nor is his assessment of whether we can bounce straight back from relegation. Here is a mixture of Mark’s latest thoughts and those he expressed before the postponed game ….

Salut! Sunderland:
You cautioned before the postponed game that only the press was really talking about a possible City quadruple. It wasn’t to be but at least you joined the long list of Premier League teams that have beaten us this season! Looking back over the season, what is your view of the balance sheet as it now stands?


Well we have won the Capital One Cup which we will have at our next meeting on the 29th April, got beaten by a very good and experienced Barcelona in the Champs league which didn’t surprise me, knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan which was a very poor result and are still in contention for the Premier League, so reasonable happy but a team of our strength should not just finish the season with the Capital One Cup in the cabinet… so the Premiership is a must, anything less will give the press an excuse to turn on Pelligrini like they did with Mancini.

Now that it seems probable Sunderland are going down, does it surprise you we collapsed so wretchedly after Wembley – and do you think we have a chance of bouncing straight back?

I am stunned at the way your season has gone. There are some very poor teams at the bottom of the league and I expected you to survive on the basis that the others were simply too poor to stay up, but since Wembley you have been in freefall which is hard to explain. Is it down to loss of confidence having been beaten at Wembley, poor management or the team just not being strong enough? Whatever the reason it is a real shame, there are certain games that should always be in the top league and the Sunderland v Newcastle games are right up there as highlights of the season.

Returning at first attempt is not an easy task, much will depend on who misses out on promotion this season. Wigan are looking really strong so if they miss out I can see them getting an automatic place next season, Bolton are improving and could push again, Leeds now have new investment and are another team that should really be in the top division, assuming Fulham go down I can see them pushing for immediate promotion, but would write off Cardiff. I think they have had their time in the sun. Relegated teams often lose star players where as those that narrowly missed out on promotion strengthen, so sorry but I think you will be down for two seasons.

Hey, but what about the thrill of being a City fan right now. What is optimism like as an experience?

Optimism..?? Have you never heard of Typical City… we never take anything for granted…

But do you ever miss the old days of the occasional good season surrounded by years of low achievement in United’s shadow?

Don’t miss the smugness of the United fans when we went through the 35 years of pain with no trophies, but football should be about two teams battling each other to win, so games where we beat a team 6-0 which their fans have travelled miles to watch and see how they can cope against our superstars makes me feel sorry for them. Don’t care though if we beat a supposed top 4 by a high score Smile

And to what extent does City remain a proper football club as opposed to a brand?

City is the team of the people in Manchester, always has been, always will be. Whilst the hospitality section is getting bigger and the sponsors sell products none of us can afford, the ticket prices are still very reasonable and City Square (our pre-game entertainment zone) keeps the club close to the working class fan and our web site is fantastic in the amount of information they share. The global brand is growing, especially with us buying an Australian team recently and setting up a new club in New York but all this will help increase our income without the need to put up prices.

City have had Francis Lee, Colin Bell and, to mention a couple of buys from SAFC, Dave Watson and Dennis Tueart, in good squads of the past. How do they shape up to the current megastars?

I started watching City in 1976 so Francis Lee and King Colin in his primes was before my time. Dave Watson was a superb player in his time and Dennis Tueart a real fans’ favourite as he would spend a lot of his spare time meeting with us fans and always performed on the pitch. To compare to today’s players is perhaps unfair but Kompany is such a skilful player for a central defender he has to be a better all round player than Dave and a great leader of the team. Silva v Tueart is not even a fair question, Silva is simply unbelievable in the way he can trap a ball and pass it in to space all in one movement.

Mark Barber with Dennis Tueart
Mark Barber with Dennis Tueart

Any abiding memories of others linked to Sunderland – Peter Reid, Niall, Claudio Reyna, Tony Coton and others, including – going way back – Tony Towers?

Not sure what we have done to upset Niall, he seems anti City in his commentary these days, he did very well for us in a team that wasn’t the strongest in the league. Reid was the leader we needed on the pitch to guide our youngsters and was a great manager for us, such a shame he could not get on with the owners…. For an American Claudio was certainly someone special and is now busy setting up our New York City Team a great choice by our owners to develop the Brand.. Tony Coton is one of many great goalkeepers we have had through the years, been ill in recent times so we all wish him good health for the future, sorry never say Tony Towers.

The title-winning season and now are clearly highs for any City supporter but have there been others, less obvious ones?

The biggest high for any City fan was Dickov scoring in the 95th Minute against Gillingham in the playoff final, another season in the third tear of English Football could have been the start of the end for our club, instead that goal was the start of the new beginning. Our current owners woulld not have bought a low league team regardless of how good their stadium was…

And what have been the lows in your time as a fan?

Last year’s loss to Wigan in the FA Cup Final was a real low, not because we just expected to win, but because our team of superstars just did not put in any real effort on the day. We can cope with losing as long as we try our best… Losing again this season to Wigan in the same competition was no better, but at least I didn’t have to pay to get to Wembley this time…

Tell us what it is really like to be able to be condescending about United.

It is actually causing me trouble, each time I drive past Old Trafford the police stop me and issue a ticket, apparently all visitors to there leave with three points nowadays…

And up steps Jozy to take the last-second penalty kick at 0-0 ...
And up steps Jozy to take the last-second penalty kick at 0-0 …

Do any games between our sides, home or away, stick especially in the mind?

No, Sunderland are a really bogey team for us, so never enjoy them, especially now you have Adam, he always ups his game against us.

I suspect you were hoping we’d stay up if for no other reason so that you could one day come to the Stadium of Light and avoid being beaten .

Looks like you are dead and buried now, which is a real shame. With so many close links to City as you have mentioned in previous questions, you are a team I look for when the results come out.

So what will be the top four in order and the bottom three?

Ok top four I am now going for City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton. I have written this before we face Liverpool ahead of the City v Sunderland game, so by time you are reading it – Liverpool three points, Jordan sees red – the top two might have switched round. Can’t see Chelsea finishing anywhere other than third. Fourth is between Everton and Arsenal and I just feel Everton are hungrier. Martinez is a quality manager and has really improved the team that Moyes built, United for me went for the wrong manager of the two.

Bottom three will be Fulham, Sunderland, Cardiff. You still have two games in hand but one of those is the game against us so don’t be expecting any points from that one. You are better than Cardiff though so will catch up a place on them, don’t suppose as a fan though you will find comfort in only being second from bottom.

What most inspires you about the modern game, and what appals?

The skills of the modern players are fantastic and the way they train to reach those standards can only inspire others… It’s such a shame that the atmosphere is so much quieter these days, without being able to stand with a fag in one hand, a pint in the other and a pie in your gob while watching the game. I just can’t see those days coming back…

Brazil: does City’s array of stars from overseas make it the World Cup more interesting or are you too much of a club man to be bothered much?

As a proud Englishman I can’t support any other team in the World Cup. We will supply the goalie and perhaps Milner in midfield, the rest of the English team will be United and Southampton players, so hardly inspiring.

Will you be at our game and what will be the score?

Yes I will be there at the second attempt. On the original date I was stranded in Wilmslow as all the trains were cancelled due to the weather, so had to take refuse in a pub and wait to be rescued by my wife. I will be sat at the back of Level one, in the corner of the South Stand and the Colin Bell Stand. Will be in City Square before the game too, make sure you try it out, very friendly area for both sets of fans to mix before the game. The score….?? We are on a good run and full of confidence (Mark added “just hope we beat Liverpool first” and we know what happened to that). I am going for 3-1 With Adam J scoring the first goal for you. If we have lost to Liverpool though we will be on a downer and could gift you the points I said earlier you have no chance of getting.

*Mark Barber on himself:

Mark Barber* Mark Barber on himself: I am secretary of the Manchester City Disabled Supporters’ Association. Been supporting the team since 1976 with my first season ticket being in the 76/77 season. I had to give up my ticket for a long time as worked in retail management for 18 years so could not get Saturdays off work, but am now committed to the 9-5 so I can be back there on matchdays… Having become disabled through ill health in 1997 I decided I wanted to help other disabled people live active lives. As such I have done a lot of voluntary work encouraging disabled people to get out of the house and if possible back to work. My work at the MCDSA involves me writing the web site and newsletter and organising our meetings. I promote our members voluntary and charity activities and get many of them in front of their past heroes at our meetings. It is hard work but very rewarding and how smug do I feel with numerous ex-players phone numbers now stored in my mobile… If you’re reading this Niall or Peter, we would love to have you along… The family and friends of many of our members tell me how they have come out of a shell of depression and loneliness now they get to interact with the new friends they have made through our association and have something to look forward to each month. For more info visit our web site

Interview: Colin Randall

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