Welcome back to our digital matchday programme.
We'll know this week if we can have fans back in against Newcastle United on Boxing Day and we've all seen how even 2,000 fans can make a huge difference - so here's hoping.
West Brom are next up and it's been a tough start for Slaven Bilic's men.
They were 3-0 against Chelsea in one game and ended up drawing 3-3 and they were more than a shade unlucky to lose 1-0 to Manchester United having had a penalty given and then overturned - and then, after conceding a questionable penalty, Sam Johnstone saved it only for a re-take to be ordered.
The Baggies also gave Everton a close run for an hour and narrowly lost to Spurs, so they are more than capable of making this a very difficult game.
With no team running away at the top of the Premier League this season, it's turning out to be a fascinating title race.
It also means that, even though we haven't had the best starts to the campaign compared with recent seasons, a run of two or three victories is likely to propel any side in the top half towards the summit.
With Southampton to come on Saturday, the old cliché that there are no easy games in the Premier League has probably never been truer...
Enjoy tonight's game.
We will have full coverage of Tuesday’s game against West Brom right here on ManCity.com.
Our Matchday Centre will get under way at 6pm, with text updates throughout the day meaning you won't miss a beat.
Our We're Not Really Here live matchday show starts at 7pm, with Andy Morrison and Paul Dickov joining us in the studio.
And CITY+ subscribers can enjoy a full 90-minute replay from midnight.
Enjoy your first month of CITY+ free of charge. After that, CITY+ costs £1.99 a month.
Hello and a warm welcome to West Bromwich Albion coach Slaven Bilic and to his staff.
We are expecting another tough game this evening as Slaven’s team finds its feet in the Premier League after he guided them to an excellent promotion from the Championship last season.
As a player, he was a great competitor in England at West Ham United and Everton and he will have his side well prepared for tonight’s match which is the first of five games for us in a very busy 17 days that rounds of this extraordinary year, not just for football but for the world.
We come into the match in good form having lost just once in the last 16 matches in all competitions and having not conceded a goal in the last six of those.
The latest clean sheet came at Old Trafford on Saturday evening when we drew 0-0 in the derby.
Of course, we would have loved to have won and probably had the better chances to take the three points, but a draw was not a bad result. United made it hard for us. They are so fast up front and press well.
In most parts of the ninety minutes, we were really good. We lacked a little bit the chances to score but we were good in most areas. We controlled the game for long periods and were solid. We did not concede counter-attacks.
Everyone is contributing to the recent run of positive results and making team selection difficult. That is what any manager wants. When players are being given their opportunities, they are taking them and that’s important for the team to improve and progress.
Although we can forget the UEFA Champions League until February when we have the enticing prospect of playing Borussia Monchengladbach home and away in the round of 16, the Carabao Cup trip to Arsenal now looms and the FA Cup starts very quickly in the New Year. We are going to need everyone fit and on top form.
Although we are in December, the season is still quite young in terms of games played and the Premier League is very competitive and condensed. The next few games will start to shape it, but we have already seen in the first 30% of matches that it is unlikely that someone will run away with the title.
We must continue to stick to our principles and make sure our intensity is always there. Every trophy is still in our own hands.
As this is the last home game before December 25, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope you all stay safe and enjoy the game.
It was a strange Manchester derby and I think that the game – more than any we’ve played since lockdown – suffered because there wasn’t two sets of fans urging their team on.
The Crystal Palace v Spurs game showed the effect even 2,000 fans can have because I think without them, Palace would have lost that game. It made such a huge difference and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we move into a lower tier in Manchester later this week so our fans can return against Newcastle on Boxing Day.
I know there’s no guarantee that will happen, but let’s just hope it does.
I was at Old Trafford and it wasn’t the easiest game to watch. It wasn’t that one team was trying and the other wasn’t, it was just both teams played similarly and it didn’t feel like a Manchester derby.
It’s a game that won’t live long in the memory, but we got a point and came away with another clean sheet so we have to look at the positives.
Moving on, and tonight we take on West Bromwich Albion. I watched West Brom lose 2-1 at Newcastle at the weekend and I thought they played well.
I see this being another tough game, no matter where they are in the table at the moment. Slaven Bilic is a good manager and it’s never easy when you’ve just been promoted.
Fulham held Liverpool on Sunday and nobody saw that coming, so we have to approach this game as though we are playing Liverpool, because the most important thing is that we take the three points.
We’ve had so many games just lately, but I always think playing matches is better than training.
Then it’s off to Southampton at the weekend and yet another difficult away trip.
I’ve been impressed with how they have been playing this season and they’ve been something of surprise package this season, but it’s been based on hard work and a collective desire to get back to basics and good football.
I will end this column on a rather sad note with the news that Gerard Houllier has passed away aged 73.
He was a good manager and a nice man and I’d like to pass on my condolences to his family at this difficult time.
Take care and I'd like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy Christmas.
The Season So Far
It’s been a tough start to the 2020/21 season for newly-promoted West Brom...
While they are rooted in the bottom three going into tonight’s game, they can justifiably claim to have not had the rub of the green since their return to the top flight.
Their campaign began with a tough home game against Leicester City, with the visitors scoring twice late on to make their 3-0 win look more emphatic than it perhaps was.
A 3-0 Carabao Cup win over Harrogate Town offered Baggies fans some early season hope of a cup run and next up was an away trip to a rejuvenated Everton where the Baggies were very much in the game up to the hour-mark.
Though they trailed 3-2 and had seen Kieran Gibbs sent off, only the finishing of Dominic Calvert-Lewin helped the Toffees earn a 5-2 win at Goodison Park.
There was more disappointment with Carabao Cup home defeat by Brentford, with the game ending 2-2 and the Bees triumphing 5-4 on penalties.
The home clash with Chelsea proved to be a classic game of two halves, but should have ended in a first Premier League victory of the season.
West Brom stunned the Londoners with a superb opening period, leading Frank Lampard’s side 3-0 at the break after two Callum Robinson goals and another from Kyle Bartley had put Albion three up inside 27 minutes.
Chelsea fought back after the break, but it was only an added time leveller from Tammy Abraham that made it 3-3 at the death.
A 2-0 loss to Southampton was followed by a 0-0 draw with Burnley at The Hawthorns and Karlan Grant’s late equaliser at Brighton earned a 1-1 draw for Slaven Bilic’s side.
Next up was a trip to fellow promoted side Fulham, but it was Scott Parker’s side who recorded victory, with a 2-0 win at Craven Cottage leaving West Brom without a victory in their opening seven Premier League fixtures.
And there was more late heartache at The Hawthorns as the Albion were denied an impressive point against Tottenham after Harry Kane’s 88th-minute winner settled a closely-fought game.
Bilic must have wondered when his team’s luck would change after a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.
The Baggies saw a penalty overturned by VAR – then conceded a spot-kick which Sam Johnstone saved – only for VAR to order a retake which Bruno Fernandes scored from!
That's when you know your luck is out.
Finally, on Matchday 10, Conor Gallagher scored the only goal of the game as Albion edged home against fellow strugglers Sheffield United at The Hawthorns.
It was a desperately needed three points, but the Baggies failed to build in that victory in the next game.
Crystal Palace at home looked a decent fixture to follow the Blades win, but 10-man West Brom (following Matheus Pereira’s 34th-minute dismissal) came up against a rampant Eagles who won 5-1.
And last weekend, the Baggies conceded after just 25 seconds against Newcastle United and, despite a spirited fightback that saw Darnell Furlong level after the break, former West Brom striker Dwight Gayle scored on 81 to secure a 2-1 win at St James’ Park.
There is a long way to go, but Albion know they need to start picking up points in order to stay in touch with the clubs above them.
CITY V WEST BROM: THE STORY SO FAR
This is our 155th meeting with West Bromwich Albion, a fixture that has a long and colourful history.
Dating back to 1896, City have won 71 of the meetings and the Baggies have won 54 with 29 ending in draws.
That first meeting was a ‘Test Match’ in 1896 that ended in a 1-1 draw at Hyde Road, with City thrashed 6-1 at Stoney Lane in the return.
Our first win came in 1900, with a 4-0 home win for City setting the tone for an often unpredictable fixture.
Traditionally, there have always been goals when these two teams meet with City’s 6-3 win in 1903 the biggest aggregate score up to that point.
What is notable is the lack of dominance either team had over a period of time with no side recording more than two successive wins over the other until 1921 when the Baggies went on a run of six wins and two draws until 1926.
That included a first trip to Maine Road in 1923 and a suitably entertaining 3-3 draw.
The 1930s produced a ridiculous number of goals as City and West Brom continued to slug it out whenever they met.
No less than 73 goals were scored (42-31 in West Brom’s favour) in the 16 matches played that decade – that’s an average of 4.5 goals per game!
It included some big City wins of 7-1 and 6-2 as well as some West Brom romps, including a 7-2 win at Maine Road as well as 5-2 and 5-1 wins and another 3-3 draw.
After the Second World War, City fans must have hoped the 5-0 Division Two win over the Albion at Maine Road was the start of a better period – but it wasn’t.
West Brom won seven and drew two of the next nine meetings to record the longest unbeaten run in this fixture yet.
The 1950s were City’s worst decade against the Baggies who beat the Blues 13 times out of 19 meetings, drawing two and losing just four – and the 9-2 defeat at The Hawthorns remains one of City’s heaviest ever losses.
No wonder City fans viewed the Black Country side as a ‘bogey team’!
The 1960s weren’t quite as bad, but City still lost 6-3 away and were thrashed 5-1 at Maine Road in 1963 before things started to improve.
City beat West Brom 6-1 in the 1968 Charity Shield and then 2-1 at Wembley in the 1970 League Cup final – the latter being the start of our best unbeaten run to date against the Baggies with nine wins and three draws up until 1978.
However, between April 1978 and October 1980, a very good City side took on one of the best Albion sides of the modern era with the explosive talent that was Cyrille Regis leading the line for West Brom and the brilliant Laurie Cunningham on the wing.
City lost 3-1 twice at Maine Road and were beaten twice 4-0 at The Hawthorns during that spell – with two former favourites in Peter Barnes and Gary Owen having swapped sky blue for blue and white stripes – despite neither wanting to leave Maine Road.
But the Baggies’ ‘jinx’ tag was finally put to bed during the 1980s, when City went on a run on 10 games without defeat, drawing once and winning nine with eight of those games won by a single goal margin (five ending in 2-1 wins for City).
And City won all five meetings in the 1990s before Albion had something of a resurgence in the 2000s. losing just three of the next dozen fixtures.
City have, since 2010, completely dominated meetings between the clubs and in the eyes of West Brom fans, painfully so.
With 16 wins and one draw in the last 17 meetings, any hoodoo Albion did have over City, has most definitely ended spectacularly with a goals aggregate of 43-10 in our favour.
That past decade has swung the overall picture very much in City’s favour – though this is for the first time in an eventful 124 years of matches between the clubs.
Premier League Stats
Squad number: 18
Clubs: Chelsea, West Brom (loan)
International: England U17, U18, U19, U20
Strengths: All action, box-to-box midfielder with an eye for a goal.
Premier League games: 8
Hit woodwork: 2
Accurate long balls: 19
Yellow cards: 3
Red cards: 0
Strengths: All action, box-to-box midfielder with an eye for a goal. Highly rated at Albion where he will spend the 2020/21 campaign on loan from Chelsea.
There have been numerous connections between City and West Brom over the years - here are 10 of the most recent...
West Brom’s Asa Hartford was one of the most coveted midfielders of the early 1970s and had been on the verge of joining Leeds United when a medical revealed a hole in the heart condition that scuppered the move.
Tony Book wasn’t put off and after convincing the club to move ahead with the transfer, Hartford instead joined City.
Hartford had played 271 games for the Baggies, and would make more than that with City, during two spells (1974-79 and 1981-84).
Next up – Peter Barnes and Gary Owen - who both left City for The Hawthorns having been shepherded out of Maine Road by Malcom Allison during a reckless clear-out of established internationals and young talent.
Barnes cost the Baggies a record £748,000 in 1979 – and it would be 18 years before that fee was bettered by the Albion.
The left winger stayed just two years at the club, making 92 appearances and scoring 25 goals.
Owen joined West Brom around the same time and cost approximately £500,000. Also an England Under-21 international, the skilful midfielder was a popular figure among the City fans and his sale caused a furore.
Owen would spend seven years with Albion, making more than 200 appearances during his stay.
Steve Mackenzie was yet another talented youngster who swapped Maine Road for the Black Country.
Mackenzie had joined City as a replacement for Owen, with the Blues paying £250,000 - a record for a teenager who was then 17.
He stayed at Maine Road for two seasons, scoring a spectacular volley in the 1981 FA Cup final replay before joining the Baggies – ironically playing alongside Gary Owen.
Uwe Rosler spent four successful years with City from 1994 to 1998 and had only a brief spell with Albion in 2002, playing just five games.
Georgios Samaras also had a brief stay at The Hawthorns having had a more productive spell with City.
The Greek striker arrived at Albion on a free transfer from Celtic in 2014, but stayed for just six months having failed to hold down a first team berth.
Daniel Sturridge left City in 2009 and played for Chelsea, Bolton and Liverpool before spending a brief loan spell with Albion, failing to score in the six appearances he made.
Tosin Adarabiyo spent 12 years with City having first signed up as a young boy. He spent a season-long loan at The Hawthorns in 2018/19 and enjoyed a productive campaign, making 36 appearances for West Brom.
City's Premier League winner Gareth Barry ended his career with Albion.
After four excellent seasons with City, he moved to Everton for five seasons before enjoying three more years in the colours of West Brom, making 61 appearances.
Finally, Scott Carson made 118 appearances for West Brom between 2008 and 2011.
City became his tenth club when he joined as third choice keeper in 2019.
Other notable connections include Joleon Lescott, Nicolas Anelka, Paul Beasley, Scott Sinclair, Joe Corrigan (goalkeeper coach) and Ron Saunders (manager).
Just some of the many links between the teams.
HERE’S TO BRIGHT BLUE SKIES …
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Meet our mascot for the West Brom game...
Name: Florence Temple
Lives: Originally from Failsworth – Florence now lives in Spain
Favourite player: Gabriel Jesus
Florence’s story (via Mum): Florence has been a Blue since she was born. I almost threw her through the ceiling at five months old when Aguero scored against QPR.
She started going to the matches aged three and totally loved it.
She lives with her mum, dad (who’s a Red) and big sister Lily - plus our dogs Moonbeam and Silva!
Her favourite game was against Brighton 2018 when she got picked from the crowd at West Reception to go onto the pitch to be in the team photo.
Her current favourite player Gabriel Jesus closely followed by Sergio Aguero.
Past favourites are Zabaleta, Kompany and Silva.
She loves living in Spain, but misses going to the match. She is so excited to be the Junior Cityzen as it’s her birthday four days later.
Kevin cummins: teenage kicks
Steve Mackenzie was bought in 1979 by Malcolm Allison, for a record £250,000 from Crystal Palace - where he was yet to break into the first team. In typical Big Mal fashion, he talked him up so much, that we thought we were buying the equivalent of a young Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini combined.
Yes, Mackenzie was an excellent player, but I felt Mal chucked him in at the deep end and he found it tough at first.
He did however, indisputably score the best goal in the 1981 FA Cup final replay against Tottenham Hotspur.
However he didn’t seem to fit into manager John Bond's plans and he was sold the following season to tonight’s visitors, West Bromwich Albion.
A personal link with Mackenzie and West Brom happened on 14 March 1981 when City beat the Baggies 2-1 at Maine Road, with goals from Bobby McDonald and Dennis Tueart. I used to go most games with my sister, Julie, who was then 16/17. For a few seasons I’d also been commissioned to photograph the Man of the Match after every game. This meant waiting in a ‘hospitality’ bar and having a couple of drinks and talking to the players - tough job, I know. I took my sister with me obviously and she got to know a few of the youth team and younger players and would often hang out with them post game.
This West Brom game was a few days after Julie’s 17th birthday and she went out with them after the match to celebrate her birthday.
When I got up on Sunday morning at my parent’s house, I could hear snoring in the sitting room. I looked in and there was City’s number 9, Steve Mackenzie, asleep on my mum’s sofa. He’d wanted to make sure she got home to Salford safely and then clearly crashed out.
He seemed in no hurry to go and had a big Sunday lunch with my parents, then it was time for Kick Off, Granada’s equivalent of Match of the Day. It was City v West Brom and Steve sat there talking us through the game - with some spicy comments about certain players on both sides. I of course was in my element. Julie was pretty nervous because she was expecting an absolute rollicking from my Dad for bringing, not just a lad home, but an Essex wideboy to boot.
In the end, he won both of my parents over - who loved his cheeky chappy charm. After he eventually left, Julie told me that after they’d been out drinking, he decided he was hungry and took her to a burger van in Piccadilly Gardens and ordered seven burgers. He handed one to her and ate the other six himself.
I always liked Mackenzie and I was sorry to see him leave City, but probably not as much as the fast food vendors in Piccadilly Gardens were...
the life of riley
The musings of BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley...
In these days of adversity I reckon we need to dig deep and try to make the best of any situation that presents itself to us. And let’s be frank - we’ve been presented with far too many ‘situations’ over the last nine months or so as it is!
Masks are often a topic of conversation. Some people making a personal statement in wearing one - and some people making an even bigger statement by not wearing one.
I’ve got my ‘statement’ - it comes in the form of a Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ mask, which evokes much discussion when I’m out and about shuffling between one charity shop and another. But I was wondering… with the advent of us Blues returning to games in albeit depleted numbers, maybe I could start up a business running off thousands of bootleg, rival-baiting MCFC face-masks which could take the place of some of the more questionable 'merchandise' and vendors we see for sale outside the Etihad every home game.
I don’t know about you but I’ve probably got 30-plus City shirts at home most of which either celebrate a trip to Wembley or a victorious derby demolition (let's not go there).
I really don’t need any more!
I’m not only looking forward to returning to the Etihad - I’m also looking forward to away supporters being allowed in so the banter can resume. One can only hope this happens once I’ve already made my fortune with my branded masks on the pavements of SportCity and it’s safe to do so whilst not wearing a mask. Because I can see it being very problematic if not.
AWAY SUPPORTER (in face-mask): “FIM FEFFFIBY FOFFY…BOI FIFINT FITE WATCH WAT”
(“I’m terrible sorry…I didn’t quite catch that…”).
BLUE ; “ FI FEZ…PWHUFF WOF WOF PHOOM FIN FOM FUFFIN FAMFOOANCE”
AWAY SUPPORTER ; “FOE…FIM FOP FETTING FAT…FOFFY. PHUFF PHWOO FITE FIT FOWN FOR FE?”
(“No… I’m not getting that. Sorry. Could you write it down for me?”)
BLUE ; “FAAAA…. FOFET FIT…”
(“AH… FORGET IT!)
AWAY SUPPORTER : “OK…”
I was going to suggest rival supporters could use sign language to communicate with each other…though come to think of it…they already do!
UP THE BLUES & HERE'S TO A HAPPY CHRISTMAS!