Welcome to the April edition of the official City Magazine and as always, it’s packed with original interviews and features to keep you entertained as we approach the ‘business end’ of the season.
Riyad Mahrez is our cover star, with the Algerian talking about his season so far and his goal-scoring feats.
With a huge Premier League clash against Liverpool on the horizon, there’s a distinct Merseyside theme running throughout this issue.
Kevin Cummins recalls his photoshoot with Liverpool legend John Barnes and Lightning Seeds lead singer Ian Broudie from 1990.
Also, our Best XI is a City team made up of players who have played for both City and Liverpool.
Staying on west end of the M62, we then hop over to the Wirral to talk with Tranmere Rovers goalkeeper Scott Davies and his sky blue connections.
Karen Bardsley, Cieran Slicker and Nick Cushing also speak to City Mag, and we’ve our regular Fantasy Premier League round-up.
Elsewhere, former City favourite Gary Owen takes part in our ‘Then & Now’ feature – answering the same set of questions he was asked in a 1980 Match Magazine Q&A to see what has changed over the years.
One of our most popular columns is Andy Morrison’s ‘The Month Ahead’ – with our former skipper predicting the upcoming games and Marc Riley is back with his Mixed Grill Q&A. What does he reckon to City v Liverpool? Find out how he sees that one panning out…
All the above plus Trevor Sinclair, Ben Wilkinson and a couple of excellent galleries and that’s about your lot!
Riyad Mahrez admits he is always pushing the bar when it comes to goals...
Whether Riyad finishes top scorer or not this season remains to be seen, but going into the last two months of the campaign, he has kicked for home early and is leading the pack.
The Algerian’s previous best was 18 during Leicester City’s famous 2015/16 title-winning campaign.
This season, he’s added penalties to the goals he is scoring from inside or around the box and if he continues at his current rate, he is likely to smash his old record.
"I have improved in the box, improved my runs, when I arrive in the box and then as a team, it’s down to the way we play – a bit of everything in fact."
So, what does he put his prolific campaign down to?
“Luck, confidence and experience,” smiled Mahrez. “I have improved in the box, improved my runs, when I arrive in the box and then as a team, it’s down to the way we play – a bit of everything in fact.
"I’m feeling good and think we are doing well so far this season but there is still a long way to go. But it’s always good to score goals and help the team.”
Mahrez admits that, even at 31, he is always learning and striving to improve his game.
He is a competitive individual in a competitive team, but it is always the team that comes first and if he isn’t scoring goals, he just as happy if somebody else is.
"I’ve always set my bar higher and try to get more than 18 which was my best ever."
“I always work on my finishing but it’s about being there in the box, runs in behind, getting to the back post into six-yard box – the more you are there, the more chances you have to score.
“I set my targets to always improve. I always think I have to score more than last year – this is something I’ve done since I scored 18 goals a few years back. I’ve always set my bar higher and try to get more than 18 which was my best ever.
“Last year I got 14, and I set my target to get more this season and now I have 21 so far. But the truth is, I’m not here to be the top scorer – none of us are – we’re just here to do the best for the team.
"There has always been competition for places since I arrived four years ago - it’s always been there because we have top players but it makes you improve your game and the team."
“There has always been competition for places since I arrived four years ago - it’s always been there because we have top players but it makes you improve your game and the team.
“Of course, there is a lot of satisfaction because everything you do in the week and all the years you are working, it is to try to do what I am doing at the moment, which is scoring goals, making assists and trying to perform well to help the team.”
City fans will recall Mahrez’s first penalty in October 2018 with great clarity as he blazed a late spot-kick over the bar away to Liverpool with the score at 0-0.
It seems that had a lasting effect on his confidence from the spot, but a change of mindset and confidence in his own ability has seen him arguably become one of the best penalty-takers in the Premier League this season.
"I changed my mentality. Before, I was trying to think too much – now, I just use my quality because I have good quality when it comes to shooting."
“I changed my mentality” he said. "Before, I was trying to think too much – now, I just use my quality because I have good quality when it comes to shooting.
“I just choose one side and I go strong. It was just a psychological issue before I changed my thinking,”
Inevitably, his current return has people wondering if this is his best season in English football yet?
In 2015/16, he was voted the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, so he has some going to repeat that success – but is more than capable of doing exactly that.
Mahrez says he feels his standards have always been good but , on a personal level, admits that Premier League-winning year with the Foxes will be hard to beat in terms of form.
“Last season, people said the same (that he was having a wonderful season) when we were winning all our games and I was scoring regularly, but the fact is I am always relaxed and happy," he said.
“In terms of statistics, this year is the best of my career, but in terms of football, I don’t know because the year when I won the Premier League with Leicester, I was playing every week and I felt I was playing really well then, too.”
Whatever the truth is, Mahrez has been a huge part in City's title drive this season and if he reaches 30 goals by the end of May, don't be surprised...
Former skipper and cult hero Andy Morrison continues to predict City's upcoming games, covering three competitions and including a huge clash with Liverpool…
Last month – so far - Andy got two results correct out of six and four wrong. How will he fare this month?
Southampton v City
Sunday, 20 March, 3pm
You never know which Southampton you are going to be up against. One moment they are breathtaking, disciplined and hard to break down, the next they are being beaten heavily and look like relegation strugglers. We won't change our ways and we'll do what we do – we lost our rhythm for a short time and go into the game on the back of successive 0-0 draws, but I think we’ll have too much energy on the day and book ourselves a FA Cup semi-final spot.
Mozzer's prediction: Saints 1-3 City
Burnley v City
Saturday, 2 April, 3pm
Burnley came with a very good game plan to the Etihad earlier this season. They stifled us with a high press, played two up top and it was an impressive performance by them. They will try the same again and though we’ll have to work hard, I can only see us heading back from Turf Moor with three points.
Mozzer's prediction: Burnley 1-3 City
City v Liverpool
Sunday, 10 April, 4.30pm
If results go the right way leading into this game, I think a draw will be a decent result. It’s a game we must not lose for obvious reasons as we want to keep our destiny in our own hands. It’s so hard to predict without knowing games preceding this match, but our rhythm needs to be there. It will be wide open and they will come and have a go for sure – but we always turn up when it matters most.
Mozzer's prediction: City 1-1 Liverpool
Wolves v City
Saturday, 16 April, 3pm
We could be under massive pressure deepening on the Liverpool result – if it doesn’t go our way, we have to win at Molineux. Wolves lost their way a little but have improved again and his could be difficult as they may also be under pressure to get a result for their own aspirations. They are organised and disciplined, but we should just edge it on the day.
Mozzer’s prediction: Wolves 0-1 City
Watford v City
Saturday, 23 April, 3pm
Under Roy Hodgson, Watford haven’t looked that bad recently - they play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but they could be in big trouble by the time we play them because there will only be a handful of games to play. We always do well at Vicarage Road and while they might have a spell, it’s too important for us not to win.
Mozzer's prediction: Watford 1-3 City
It’s fair to say that Elite Development Squad goalkeeper Cieran Slicker will not forget the experience of the past few months in a hurry...
As well as shining with our exciting EDS side, who are pushing to secure what would be a second successive PL2 title, the 19-year-old has also become a regular presence with our first team squad for the past couple of months.
A shoulder injury to American international number one Zack Steffen early in the New Year has meant Cieran has been a regular both in training under Pep Guardiola and his squad at the CFA, as well as on the bench for a host of recent first team matches.
That means he was also part of the City squad that flew out to Lisbon for our Champions League last-16 first leg tie away at Sporting as well as also being named on the bench for the return leg at the Etihad earlier this month.
For a player immersed in City and who has been at the Club for more than a decade now, it has been the stuff of dreams.
And, even more importantly, Cieran admits it has served as the ultimate learning opportunity, with the prolonged exposure of working alongside world-class goalkeepers Ederson, Steffen and Scott Carson leaving an indelible impression.
“The experience of the past few weeks for sure has been great. I’m not sure many words could properly describe it,” Slicker reflected.
"The experience of the past few weeks for sure has been great. I’m not sure many words could properly describe it."
“Been around the first team so much and then coming back for the games with the EDS, it has been amazing.
“I am learning so much from all the guys… Eddy (Ederson), Scott (Carson) and Zack (Steffen). Even though he has been out (with his injury) I’ve still spoken to him.
“And it has been great being part of the squad and being on the bench. Those sorts of experiences have been memories that will last forever.
“It has been amazing, and it is stuff that I will take with me for the rest of my career.
“It has been an amazing opportunity to learn so much. I’ve tried to absorb as much as I possibly can every single day and learn as much as I can.
“And that’s not just about football stuff but even things off the pitch as well.
“Scott, Eddy and all the boys help with that side of things too so its not just on the field but off it, too.
“In the dressing room they are all great guys and it’s an amazing group to be a part of.”
Being embedded with the first team group for such a concentrated period of time, has also given Cieran a unique insight into another vital aspect of City’s collective make-up - our unique togetherness and unquenchable team spirit.
Pep Guardiola has regularly referenced the powerful togetherness and unity which binds the City squad together as one cohesive unit.
And Slicker says being part of the group on a daily basis over the past six weeks or so has brought that home to him as well.
"I want to be at that level, I want to be starting in the first team eventually, so I just need to keep learning and everyday come in with an open mindset."
And he says being immersed into the group has only intensified his own desire to add to the brief first exposure he was afforded in a pre-season friendly against Preston before injury curtailed his opportunity.
“Stepping into (the first team environment) you kind of see why the boys win so much,” the 19-year-old added.
“They are just a team of winners.
“I think everyone has got the same mindset and goals which is so important, and I think that kind of translates onto the pitch and why they get the results that they do.
“I’ve had amazing steps like training with the first team and been on the bench on several occasions and the next one is playing.
“I’ve kind of almost had that last summer (against Preston) and been on the bench when Scott got on (against Sporting), that was close.
“So I’m hungry for that opportunity and hopefully it comes and when it does I’ll be hungry to take it.
“You see with CJ (Egan-Riley), James (McAtee), and Luke (Mbete) there are a lot of boys involved.
“The boss has handed out debuts which has been great for us Academy lads seeing that there are those opportunities, and it makes us all hungry.
“So hopefully there is an exciting few months ahead.”
Away from his first team duties, Slicker has also played his own important part in our march to the top of PL2 with our EDS side seeking to retain the title we won in such style last year.
Though there have been a number of new faces added to the squad from last term, our commitment to a brand of vibrant, attacking football has gone from strength to strength and again paid handsome dividends so far this term.
And Cieran believes a lot of credit deserves to go to head coach Brian Barry-Murphy for the way he has galvanised the squad.
Having succeeded Enzo Maresca last summer, Slicker says the former Rochdale manager has helped inspire the very best out of his young charges.
“Brian’s an amazing guy and what he has brought into the squad has been great,” Slicker revealed.
“Having that experience of working in a first team environment, he’s kind of made that feel for us like a first team environment which has been great.
“And just adding on to what Enzo got into us last year it’s been great, and I have really enjoyed working under him.”
Last month, we caught up with New York City Assistant Manager and former City women’s team Head Coach Nick Cushing, as he shared his incredible City Football Group journey from Platt Lane to Portland, following NYCFC’s incredible trophy success.
For this month’s edition of the City Magazine, we find out what inspired Nick’s love of coaching, which players he has helped to develop from starlets to superstars and what distinguishes ‘good’ players from ‘great’ ones…
“My father has always watched football,” Nick explains. “He’s actually an Everton fan and he still goes now – he’s been a Season-ticket holder for many years. I used to watch every game and I played at grassroots level. Although I was never at the level to get into an Academy or a Club, I just loved football. In fact, my 10-year-old son reminds me of me when I was his age – all he wants to do is play football and I was the same. I just really loved the game.
“I don’t remember being disappointed that I didn’t make it as a professional but I do remember that when I got to 16 or 17, I knew I wanted to work in football. I’d accepted I wasn’t going to be a player so I just started coaching, trying to develop a skill in the game which meant I could work at a professional level. I started coaching at grassroots level and really enjoyed it, and I realised I was quite good at it: I had good energy and enthusiasm and I was getting results – not just in terms of wins but that the players were enjoying the sessions.
“When I went to City’s Academy and started to work my way up the age groups, other coaches, including some ex-players, were telling me the sessions were good – lively with a good intensity – and that the players were enjoying it. For me, it wasn’t about people telling me I was good but I realised those people were spending time investing in me and developing me to improve me in different areas and I appreciated that.
“I was learning from them and they were learning from me – we were bouncing off each other. It was a really good environment to be in but I was also really conscious I wanted to work at a professional level: playing to win. I liked the pressure of being in a situation where the work begins on a Monday morning and you prepare everything for the game at the end of the week, and you’re judged on the work you put in – if you prepare the team well, you have a good opportunity to win.
“If you then develop players and the team, you have an opportunity to win consistently and that brings trophies. We all know, working within the CFG, that it’s the best feeling in the world when you win trophies. It’s so hard to win and not everybody does so if you go and do it – and then again – it’s amazing.”
Having started his City career at Platt Lane in 2006, coaching our boys’ teams, Cushing is proud to have worked with some of our homegrown heroes, who are now household names carving their way into senior football, such as Phil Foden, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Tommy Doyle, Rowan McDonald and Cole Palmer, as well as our women’s team stars.
While many believe successful coaching ability to is determined by a person’s tactical nous, the player-management side is equally as important and Cushing has been praised throughout his career for his ability to encourage and motivate.
“One thing I’ve learned about football players is that if you can inspire them and they enjoy working for you – playing in your sessions and working in your teams – you can develop them,” he adds. “I’ve bene really fortunate to work with some really good people first and foremost – the likes of Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, James Sands at New York, Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, who are all really good people. My first Under-9s team had Tommy Doyle, Cole Palmer, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Phil Foden. Although winning comes secondary to development at Academy level, I loved that job and I’m so proud to watch those players now and see how they are doing, as well as the players we worked with in the women’s team.
“I remember going over to France to watch the 2019 Women’s World Cup with my Assistant Manager Alan Mahon. In the England team, we had Ellie Roebuck, Karen Bardsley, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Abbie McManus, Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Nikita Parris… all players who had played for us and we got to watch them play for England, which was an incredible experience.
“The CFG has an amazing environment and a family feel, and one of the best things about the group is that I still see and speak with those players, and they are always really respectful. I remember the lads used to take an interest in the women’s team, asking me how the games were going, talking about it being a good win at the weekend, and it’s the same with Steph and Jill now, who follow New York’s results and text me asking how everything is going, telling me they’ve watched the highlights...
“One of my favourite things about coaching is the relationships you build, and they’re unbreakable. I came back to England for Christmas and my family and I went to Jill Scott’s coffee shop because we have a relationship that will last forever, having been through so much together. We won the FA Cup at Wembley in front of 45,000 people, she won the league title with City after 14 years trying… Those things are really important and I’m inspired by those stories.
“Look at James Sands, who was a homegrown player who always wanted to play for New York. He’s from the area – a boy who won the MLS with his local team. I’ve watched his development and now, he’s moved onto the next stage of his career with Rangers – and that’s something this Club is really proud of. You invest a lot in developing those people who are talented and have a real desire to learn, and equally, they help you to develop as a coach, challenging you to become better too.”
So, having worked with so many incredible players across various age groups, and having achieved so much success along the way, what does Cushing identify as the key traits that stand a ‘great’ player above the rest?
“I think when I look at those players at six, seven, eight, they have a real work ethic – and I don’t just mean working hard – but also a passion for the game,” he concludes, “and they still have that passion when they’re older. They train the same way they did when they were young because they just really enjoy training, and when they’re 18, they still have that same feeling when they run onto the pitch.
“When I think of players like Steph Houghton and Jill Scott, they train exactly the same way as they did when they were seven – just enjoying the game they love, wanting to play all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes, you come across players who don’t really want to put the work in and don’t want to open their mind to learning and improving or go onto that development path – they just want to play but that doesn’t improve you.
“As a coach, you know who will be successful and continue to be successful because you can spot the players who push themselves, investing in themselves and in you. And it’s about good people – every top player I’ve worked with across our Club has always been a really good person with respect and good personal skills, and I’m so grateful to have been able to play a part in so many of their journeys.”
As the business end of this season’s Champions League approaches, we take a look back at some magical moments we’ve experienced in the competition so far.
Here’s hoping that, by the end of the current campaign, a similar list would feature a couple of new entries…
An incredible fightback in the reigning champions’ back yard…
Goals from David Silva, Aleksandr Kolarov and James Milner completed an unlikely fightback at the Allianz Arena after the hosts had stormed into a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes.
Our first real statement victory in the competition, and the first time we progressed into the knockout stages.
Cometh the hour, cometh Sergio Aguero.
A hat-trick from the Argentine, including two late strikes, once again saw City come from behind to beat the German giants, under the guidance of a certain Pep Guardiola!
The visitors were reduced to ten inside 20 minutes but still headed into the final five in front. That was until Aguero breathed life back into our Champions League campaign with his decisive late contribution.
A rousing performance at the Etihad Stadium ensured Pep Guardiola came back to haunt his former Club.
An Ilkay Gundogan brace and unstoppable Kevin De Bruyne free-kick cancelled out Lionel Messi’s opener to hand City all three points.
Barcelona were run ragged at the Etihad Stadium, as City once again demonstrated that we could rub shoulders with Europe’s elite.
An eight-goal thriller under the Etihad lights.
Guardiola’s men twice came from behind to register a first leg win against Leonardo Jardim’s exciting Monaco side, containing a certain Bernardo Silva among their ranks!
3-2 down with 20 to play, goals from Sergio Aguero, John Stones and Leroy Sane completed an unlikely comeback in a classic Champions League encounter.
A record-breaking night in Naples.
Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Raheem Sterling were all on target as City secured passage to the knockout stages for a fifth-successive season, but it was Sergio Aguero who stole the headlines.
The Argentine raced onto a loose ball after good work from Leroy Sane and slotted home his 178th City goal, surpassing Eric Brook’s 78-year record as our record marksman in the process.
Sane and Sterling sink Schalke!
City entered the final five minutes of our Last 16 first-leg a goal behind and a man down after Nicolas Otamendi was sent off midway through the second half.
But a sumptuous Leroy Sane free-kick hauled Guardiola’s men level in Gelsenkirchen, before Raheem Sterling pounced on a defensive lapse to poke the ball past Ralf Fahrmann in stoppage time. Yet another rousing fightback from City in the Champions League.
A red card, a missed penalty and Kyle Walker in goal!
Everything seemed to be going to plan in Milan when Raheem Sterling smashed home the opening goal after seven minutes, but City squandered a chance to double our lead when Gabriel Jesus dragged a penalty wide of the post.
Mario Pasalic brought Atalanta back on level terms soon after the restart and the game was turned on its head with ten to play when Claudio Bravo was given a straight red for bringing down Josip Ilicic.
With the Chilean already brought on as sub goalkeeper at the break, Kyle Walker stepped up between the sticks to help guide City to a 1-1 draw.
A memorable win at the Bernabeu.
City took control of our last 16 tie with the 13-time champions thanks to late strikes from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne.
Isco gave the hosts the lead on the hour, but Jesus beat Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos in the air to head home the equaliser with 13 to play.
And De Bruyne completed the turnaround from the spot just five minutes later, sending international teammate Thibault Courtois the wrong way after Raheem Sterling was brought down inside the area.
The win that secured City our first ever Champions League final berth!
Riyad Mahrez had grabbed the winner in our 2-1 first leg triumph in the French capital and was at his instrumental best once again at the Etihad; sliding home an early opener to put Guardiola’s men in control.
And with PSG pushing bodies forward in search of a route back into the game, the Algerian rounded off a swift counter attack – and the tie – with our second just after the hour.
The visitors were reduced to ten when Angel Di Maria was given a straight red for kicking out at Fernandinho as tempers flared, but City’s professional display was enough to secure passage to Porto.
A record-breaking performance in the Portuguese capital.
Goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and a Bernardo Silva brace saw City take control of our Round of 16 tie by half-time, becoming the first side in Champions League history to lead an away game by four goals at the break in the knockout stages.
Raheem Sterling added a fifth with a sumptuous curling effort before the hour as Guardiola’s men ran riot.
England’s most-capped goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley is a true Lionesses legend...
Having made her international debut in 2005, the shot-stopper has witnessed first-hand (quite literally!) the incredible transformation of women’s football in England.
With a new chapter about to upfold with this summer’s Women’s Euros, it is hoped the impact of a home tournament will help to propel the sport to a new level, emulating the transformative effects of previous competitions to drive further interest and engagement.
With a new manager at the helm in Sarina Wiegman, a new playing style and new ambition, the Lionesses are entering a new era and have already tasted success with Arnold Clark Cup glory in February.
Though Bardsley is currently side-lined through injury, she has played her part in the remarkable rise of the game throughout the years, featuring in three World Cups, two Euros and the 2012 Olympic Games.
"One of the good things about being a goalkeeper is that when an opportunity comes up, you get your chance to take it."
Also sitting on the Manchester FA’s Board of Directors – the first professional footballer to do so – she is heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes planning and delivery of this year’s Euros tournament, playing her part in helping to ensure a lasting legacy is created.
Deeply passionate about inspiring the stars of the future, the 37-year-old is always looking to raise the bar, carving opportunities for the game to aid the country’s next generation – and she need not look too far from the City Football Academy to see the fruits of those labours within her own position.
The 2021/22 campaign has thrown up unprecedented challenges for City’s goalkeepers with injuries to all three senior shot-stoppers Bardsley, Ellie Roebuck and Karima Taieb throughout the season.
The silver lining of the situation has shone the spotlight on two of our Academy starlets: teenage duo Khiara Keating and Grace Pilling, who have both gained valuable first-team experience as a positive consequence.
Keating made her senior bow aged just 17 in January, keeping a clean sheet in her first two appearances, while 16-year-old Pilling has also been named on the bench as part of the matchday squad.
With Roebuck having donned the gloves once again and Bardsley continuing her recovery with on-pitch training, our more experienced names are making welcome returns between the sticks but England heroine Bardsley has been impressed with our young deputies and how they fared under pressure.
“For the ‘Goalkeeper’s Union’, it’s been a really exciting year,” she reflected.
“Of course, it’s been unfortunate with all of the injuries but looking at it another way, it’s given lots of people a chance.
“One of the good things about being a goalkeeper is that when an opportunity comes up, you get your chance to take it.
“As a result, people have been exposed to different types of pressures: different elements and opportunities to grow – not just as a goalkeeper but as a human being and a teammate, and those sorts of things.
“It’s really cool to see someone like Khiara come in and work her way through, then getting the opportunity and doing really well.
“She’s shown what she’s capable of doing and we’re all really proud of her. The way she’s done it is even more exciting – she’s very calm and the majority of decisions she has made have been the right ones.
“For me, it’s really encouraging to see the future of goalkeepers coming through – and not just goalkeepers but young English players in general.
"I’m really excited for what’s to come in the next few years. If you think about what the game could look like in five or ten years, it’s really cool."
“I’m really excited for what’s to come in the next few years. If you think about what the game could look like in five or ten years, it’s really cool.”
As Esme Morgan professed in the March edition of our City Magazine, sometimes, the most valuable experiences are those in which you are thrown in at the deep end.
Facing those challenges and learning useful lessons early on can aid growth and stand you in good stead for the future.
Echoing those sentiments, Bardsley can draw from her own experience, highlighting the benefits of first-team exposure at a young age, and adds she is relishing the healthy competition between her teammates with a bright future ahead for the GK Union.
"Essentially, you just chase whoever is in front of you and try to close that gap"
“There’s something really special about being young in that situation,” she continued. “You have nothing to compare it to, so you are fearless.
“I can remember it myself. As a young kid, I got the opportunity to step into the senior team at an important stage and I just ran with it.
“There’s no looking back and there’s that element of excitement because the fearlessness allows you to play with some freedom.
“Essentially, you just chase whoever is in front of you and try to close that gap and it’s been really cool to watch from the touchline this season – it’s a neat little battle to keep your eyes on!”
Sunday 6 May 2012 was a landmark day in Scott Davies’ football career...
It was celebration time for the goalkeeper and Fleetwood Town, who were set to mark their promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history with an open top bus parade.
Davies had been instrumental in the Cod Army’s success, playing every minute of the campaign to win the first league title of his career as Micky Mellon’s side were crowned champions of what is now known as the National League.
The parade was the players’ reward, a chance to soak up the adulation of the fans, but Davies had a dilemma.
One-hundred-and-forty miles away at St James’ Park there was another momentous occasion in the personal part of his footballing life, as Manchester City faced Newcastle United in a must-win game in the Premier League title race.
Like Davies, City ended the season as champions and it’s a measure of the goalkeeper’s love for the Club that he was found in the away end on that unforgettable day.
“We’d just been promoted, but City were playing Newcastle away on the same day and I chose to go up to Newcastle instead of the parade,” he tells City Magazine.
“It was the week before the last game of the season, and we had to win to stay ahead of United.
“Yaya Toure scored a brace and that game stands out because I remember looking around and you could see in the fans eyes that they were thinking, ‘this is it, we’re actually going to get there’.”
There are other examples of City creeping into Davies’ professional life, like the time a former player joined him at Fleetwood.
“When Steven Jordan signed, I said, ‘get me a shirt’ and he got me one of his old City shirts,” he recalls.
“I have always loved City and no matter of whether I played football or not, I still remember going to watch players like him so I asked him to sign the shirt because he lived my dream. He played for City.”
"My dad took me to my first game at Maine Road against Reading in what will have been the Coca-Cola Cup. I loved the character back then."
Like many fans, Davies has a parent to thank for an allegiance that burns so strong it trumped attending a title-winning parade.
Born on the Fylde Coast, the 35-year-old grew up idolising Georgi Kinkladze and Uwe Rosler thanks to his father, who hails from a family of Blues in Middleton.
He was duty-bound to follow in his dad’s footsteps and it seems the City-first mentality he displayed on that fateful day in Newcastle is another thing which has been passed down the generations.
“I didn’t have a choice [over who I supported],” he explains.
“My dad took me to my first game at Maine Road against Reading in what will have been the Coca-Cola Cup. I loved the character back then. We weren’t setting the world alight, but the character of the players was a big thing for me.
“My dad has been going home and away since I was a baby. City is the priority in the Davies family, so no matter who I was playing, unless it was a big game, my dad was at City.
“He has obviously followed me, but City has been his life so I would never expect him to ditch that. He has watched City since he was young, and he’s still not stopped to this day.”
Having announced his retirement in January, Davies now has more time to watch City than he has done in the last 17 years, during which he turned out for Fleetwood, Morecambe, Accrington Stanley and Tranmere Rovers.
He hangs up his gloves with a plethora of happy memories, winning promotion on five occasions, including in three play-off finals at Wembley and, whilst a dream cup meeting with his beloved City never materialised, he has certainly felt the influence of the Club he grew up supporting.
Davies is certain Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad Stadium has had a tangible impact right down the English football pyramid, and, with managers replicating elements of the Catalan’s philosophy, he even experienced the requirements of his position changing.
“Managers are demanding you to play out from the back and to be comfortable with the ball at your feet,” he added.
“At the early stages of my career, I just didn’t do that. We were brought up to put the ball down and drill it as far as you can. If you got a back pass you took a touch and were playing the ball long unless there was an obvious short pass.
“In the six years Guardiola has been here, there is a difference in the way teams in League One and Two try to play. 100%.
“That’s stemmed from Pep and also from when Spain where winning trophies, but that was from Pep’s mould at Barcelona.
“I think in England we have tried to copy that a little bit, but his influence can be seen at all levels, without doubt.
“My little boy is in the academy at Fleetwood and the way they coach is all geared towards Spain and what Guardiola has done at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.”
With double gameweeks aplenty and the ever-increasing risk of squad rotation, being ahead of the curve could make all the difference in the final furlongs of Fantasy Premier League.
As City and other sides continue their pursuit of silverware on multiple fronts, the Scout has provided five key tips to help you get those all-important selection dilemmas right, and hopefully finish the FPL season with a flourish.
Pep Guardiola’s side boast strong options at both ends of the pitch as the title race with Liverpool heats up.
In defence, Joao Cancelo’s (£7.0m) multiple routes to returns have taken him into third in the overall player standings on 153 points.
Aymeric Laporte (£5.8m), meanwhile, has recorded 26 shots in the box, more than any other defender this season.
In attack, Kevin De Bruyne (£11.8m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) have both hit top form recently.
The Belgian has produced 10+ points in three of his last six matches, while Mahrez has recorded all five of his double-figure scores this season in his last seven starts.
By remaining patient with their chips until more Double Gameweeks are confirmed, managers can maximise their chances of profiting from the schedule.
There are currently 13 Premier League matches still to be rearranged, while further postponements will be caused by the upcoming FA Cup quarter-final ties.
Teams such as City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are among those with outstanding fixtures.
The potential of big-hitters such as De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah (£13.2m) and Harry Kane (£12.3m) is clearly far greater when they have two matches in a single round of fixtures.
Whether it is the race for the title, the chase for European football or the battle to avoid relegation, managers should focus on those sides who will have plenty at stake in the run-in.
Historically, mid-table sides who have little to play for tend to lose form in the final Gameweeks and could also be more prone to rotation.
Target key players from those sides who have every incentive to succeed.
Mini-league leaders are more likely to adopt a risk-free strategy in the final Gameweeks in order to protect their advantage.
Those who are looking to chase down their rivals at the top of the table should therefore seek out low-owned gems who are capable of huge hauls in FPL.
Mahrez and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane (£11.7m) are fine examples, both owned by under 5%.
Managers should assess both the quality and quantity of each sides’ remaining matches when planning ahead.
The Fixture Difficulty Ratings (FDR), a tool used in FPL for identifying the strength of a club’s upcoming schedule, highlights Leicester City’s very favourable run of opponents.
Eight of their final 13 matches score just two in the FDR, more than any other side.
This indicates their form players such as James Maddison (£6.7m) and Harvey Barnes (£6.7m) can enjoy a successful end to 2021/22.
Indeed, Leicester, along with Everton, have 13 fixtures still to play, more than any other side.
Toffees’ winger Anthony Gordon could also offer excellent value at a cost of just £4.5m.
As City and Liverpool go head-to-head on three fronts in the final couple of months of the season, we’ve created a Best XI made up players who represented the Blues and the Merseyside Reds over the years…
Our evergreen veteran gets the nod for the combined XI with his leadership qualities ensuring there is no communication issues at the back.
The versatile Milner will have to slot in at full-back for this team.
Central defender Seagraves started out at Liverpool before spending three years with City between 1987 and 1990.
Kolo would take the armband and slot in alongside Seagraves.
Like Milner, Riera will have to play as a full-back in this side – something he did on more than one occasion during his career.
The tough-tackling McMahon will take on holding midfielder duties, with his combative style making him the perfect anchor-man.
A creative midfield role for Beardsley who matched skill and workrate to great effect.
Anelka will also have to take an unorthodox role for our combined XI – we’re giving him the No.10 shirt here and he has more than enough ability to do a good job there.
The No.9 shirt awaits Fowler who, at his peak, was one of the most natural goal-scorers this country has seen.
The former City Academy star worked his way into the City side before moving to Chelsea and, later in his career, Liverpool. What a talent he was.
Width, dribbles and goals – you get it all from Sterling who is a shoo-in for this XI
In the latest guest column, Trevor Sinclair expresses his excitement about the next crop of youngsters working their way through the ranks at Manchester City, spearheaded by the recent emergence of CJ Egan-Riley and James McAtee.
Focusing on the culture of the Club, the former City and England midfielder has explained the importance of attitude alongside talent and highlighted a legendary figure among our current first team who has set those standards impeccably for future generations.
I was really impressed with CJ Egan-Riley’s and James McAtee’s Champions League debuts against Sporting CP at the Etihad Stadium. There was one incident where the ball went over the top of the City defence and John Stones called over to Egan-Riley to clear his lines. Instead, he casually brought it down and recycled possession. It was immaculate, and I think you could even see in Stones’ reaction afterwards that he was looking at his teammate as if to say ‘fair enough, you’ve got a bit’.
Without getting carried away, McAtee reminds me a bit of David Silva already. In his early years at City, he’d find pockets of space and unlock defences with through balls but as he got older, I felt like he got fitter and started breaking lines himself out of possession. McAtee makes those kind of runs off the ball, he’s so composed and has a really good understanding of the philosophy at the Club.
That comes from the manager and from training with the first team. Your attitude and willingness to learn is vital when you first make that move up to senior football. When Nedum Onuoha came into the City squad for example, he was obviously a fantastic athlete but also very humble. Straight away, you could see he was a leader that also had a bit of calmness about him; he wasn't boisterous and just joined the group and integrated really well. If he’d come in screaming and shouting, trying to take four or five players on and not doing what he’d done to get himself that opportunity, then the lads wouldn’t have had him.
This current crop of youngsters at City reminds me a little bit of what went on at West Ham, when Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard all came through. Straightaway you could tell they were special players but, like Nedum, CJ and James, they had that humbleness to prove themselves by coming in and taking responsibility. Phil Foden has broken the ceiling now in this new era of Manchester City, he's been managed perfectly by Pep and is now one of the stars in the team. I think that gives a bit of inspiration to the rest of the Academy if you work hard and take everything on board, a pathway is realistic.
It's really exciting times for the Club. Since Pep’s come in, he's changed the way people look at and play football in England. It’s all about patterns, brilliant basics, movements and rotating. Everyone knows the style, we’re doing it from the under-7s all the way through the Academy and into the first team. If an under-15s player was physically ready, you could put them with our Elite Development Squad and I think they’d do the same job, and the opposition probably wouldn’t get near the ball either.
Talent is one thing, but you have to have the right attitude as well. And with Fernandinho at the Club, these young lads have had the perfect role model to learn from. I was lucky enough to interview him recently and he was on time, he was very courteous and just such a nice guy. For what he's achieved in the game you could have excused him for coming in with his flip flops on or being a bit casual, but he was a top pro, you know that whatever he does in his life he's going to do well.
For him to reach 100 Champions League appearances recently is an incredible achievement as well, it shows he’s not just an unbelievable athlete but also that he still has that mentality to be involved in the first team and to stay at the top. He’s a real icon and a great role model for any kid looking at the game, but also for the currents pros as well. They know the standards that he's set, so when Fernandinho does eventually either retire or leave City, it’ll be left to them to then pass those teachings on to the next generation. It's a beautiful thing because the Club won't change, this philosophy is here to stay.
Idle Hands Coffee
"I can’t remember not supporting City, I was born in St. Mary’s across the road from Maine Road and was in the Family Stand by the age of six. My dad’s from Leeds, and he always says he was going to let me support whoever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t Man United!
"The estate agent who helped us to get this place texted me saying ‘just about to show Georgi Kinkladze a property round the corner, do you want me to bring him in?’ And I was like ‘yes, but I’m also absolutely terrified’.
"He (Kinkladze) was such a nice humble guy. It felt a bit weird saying it, but I had to tell him that he was my childhood hero and I absolutely loved him! I’m nearly 40 but meeting him just took me back to being a kid!"
"I think I was seven when I went to my first game, and I’ve got two of my original tickets from Maine Road framed at home, the shirt, the programme with Shaun Goater on the front. You hear Blue Moon and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. You can’t walk away from it, it drags you back in every time.
"It’s a passion and a connection to the family. My great auntie Jean is 90 years old; she had a season-ticket at Maine Road, went to Wembley in the 70s, did it all. My dad was a massive City fan his whole life as well and because of those two I became a fan as well.
"The pub was built in the 2020 lockdown, it’s a really good place to grab a few drinks before we go out or to a match."
"City is very much in the family, my dad my grandad, being brought up knowing nothing else apart from City, I didn’t really have a choice, but it’s brought so many great memories over the years. Just going with your family and your friends, sharing those moments with the people close to you is great.
"Everything I’ve done in my life has revolved around City. Studying at UCFB Etihad, being a ball-boy when I was eight, playing for City when I was younger. City has always had a big link, it’s been a real journey and I’ve love it.
"My first game was the 2007 Manchester derby at the Etihad, Geovanni scored, we won 1-0, I’ve had a season ticket since then and I go home and away."
In the second of our new series, we are digging out long lost copies of Shoot! and other football magazines from yesteryear to find Q&As with some of our past stars.
This time it’s a 1979 interview from Match Magazine with former City favourite Gary Owen who reluctantly left for West Brom that same year.
The first answers were from 1979 (then), but the second answer (now) is what he thinks today. We don’t brief the players or give them clues as to what they said, so this is a fascinating insight into what has changed over the past 40+ years…
7 July 1958
5ft 9ins NOW: 5ft 8ins – I might have shrunk a little!
11st 1lbs NOW: 13st 8lbs
City, West Brom, Sheff Weds + others
Ford Capri Ghia (then)
Range Rover Vogue (now)
Liam Brady/Johann Cruyff (then)
George Best (now)
FAVOURITE OTHER TEAM:
City – because I’d left (then)
West Brom (now)
BEST AWAY GROUND:
Stadio Olimpico, Rome (then)
Goodison Park (now)
MOST DIFFICULT OPPONENT:
Alan Ball (then)
Liam Brady (now)
MOST MEMORABLE MATCH:
My City debut v West Ham ’75-‘76 (then)
City debut v West Ham (now)
My City debut & England U21 debut (then)
City debut (again!) in 1976 (now)
Every time I was dropped (then)
Missing out to Liverpool by one point for the title in 1976-77 (now)
BEST COUNTRY VISITED:
Spanish – El Rincon’s in particular (now)
Steak and beans (then)
Chicken and beans towards end of my career (now)
Being on holiday and good company (now)
Rude people and unfairness (now)
FAVE TV SHOWS:
Only Fools & Horses (now)
TV SHOW YOU ALWAYS SWITCH OFF:
Horse racing (then)
The Masked Singer (now)
Paul McCartney & Rod Stewart (then)
Rod Stewart (now)
Clint Eastwood/Susan George (then)
Tom Hanks/Helen Mirren (now)
Autobiographies of sportsmen (then)
The Celestine Prophecy (now)
Midnight Express (then)
The Shawshank Redemption (now)
Too many! (then)
Kevin Parker – my business partner of 20 years (now)
My Dad, Alf (then)
My Dad (now)
None - touch wood! (then)
Going into the Etihad on the left of security (now)
WORST THING ABOUT FOOTY:
Boring training and injury (then)
Feigning injury (now)
To be happy (then)
To be healthy (now)
England regular (then)
I have none! (now)
CAREER AFTER BEING A FOOTBALLER:
Too busy playing! (then)
Art dealer 20 years ago and Utilities Consultant (now)
PLAYER FOR THE 1980s:
Steve Kinsey (then)
Phil Foden is the obvious one but he’s established now, so Cole Palmer and James McAtee. And my son Jude who is six! (now)
Under-18s head coach Ben Wilkinson says that every member of the City squad will have a huge role to play as the season enters its defining final two months.
A superb run of form since the turn of the New Year has seen defending champions City move five points clear at the top of the Under-18 Premier League North table.
Meanwhile the same group of impressive young players have also guided the Club through to the final of the Under-17 Premier League Cup following a fine 2-1 semi-final win away at Sunderland earlier this month.
It’s a handsome reflection on both the quality contained within the squad as well as the fine work overseen on the CFA coaching pitch by Wilkinson and his backroom staff.
"Everyone has contributed and massively so."
And as he looked ahead to a pivotal last section of the campaign, the head coach praised the way that everyone in the squad had made their own significant contribution to help navigate City into such a promising position.
“Everyone has contributed and massively so,” Wilkinson asserted.
“We said that at the start of the season that's something we wanted the players to be clear on this year.
“Again, you look at the first team as an example.
“Because of the volume of games that they have to contend with, they can’t have the same players playing every three days, so every squad member is really important.
“For us, our success in the Under-17 Premier League Cup competition is a great example of that.
“I think in the group stages there were often games where we had an Under-17 Cup game on the same day as the UEFA Youth League with the Under 19s in action.
“Just naturally, by the volume of players needed across the two games, it meant that we were going to need everyone to play and to step up.
“So, this competition has been great for that keeping momentum going within the squad and keeping players getting regular minutes.
“And I think looking forward all the way to the to the end of the season every single player in the group will be needed for sure.”
The bedrock of City’s push to retain our league title has been an impressive run of form that has seen us win our first seven league matches of 2022.
Along the way, the City youngsters have also racked up 27 goals and impressed all with our attacking verve and dominance in possession and territory.
"I think we have been showing a good level of consistency since Christmas in the league."
Now however Wilkinson says the big challenge is coping the pressure and expectation with every match now carrying even greater significance.
“I think we have been showing a good level of consistency since Christmas in the league,” the head coach reflected.
“Performances have been good, we have been having to use the whole squad so everyone is playing.
“Game to game the teams changing as there are massively different circumstances, but we've got ourselves into a decent position for sure.
“And since Christmas there has been a real consistency in the league which is what we were asking for.
“Before Christmas we dropped a few points in games where we thought we were a bit disappointed with aspects of our play but they've got themselves into a good place
“Now we’ve got to get over the line over the last couple of months and understand what that takes in terms of mentality and intensity.
“And it’s about just playing with that pressure.
Now we’ve got to get over the line over the last couple of months and understand what that takes in terms of mentality and intensity.
“The pressure of knowing that you are going into every game really like with an expectation to win and need to win really to make sure you stay top by the end of the day.
“It's a great pressure to have and that's something that has also filtered down from the first team, but it I really like it.
“In terms of development football having that pressure and being able to handle that as young players is important because we don't have a competitive structure in this country really until Under 17 or Under-18 level.
“So, I think exposing them to that environment at this age and adding different strings to their bow from a football perspective is really important - especially at the elite clubs where is an expectation to win.”
In this edition of my Mixed Grilling, I would like to introduce a man who has the honour of belonging to one of the most desirable gene pools in the history of the United Kingdom. He has a DNA connection that puts him amongst the most revered bloodlines imaginable.
That's right…he’s my cousin!
Please welcome 'our' Mike. He is undeniably one of the most feverish of all Blues out there. Mike and his sisters Catherine, Julie and Helen are all also rampant City supporters. This despite the fact that their wonderful dad (my Uncle Denis - R.I.P.) was an equally rampant Manchester United supporter!
How did this happen!?
Over to Mike!
I am Mike Leahy from Manchester and one of the biggest Man City fans on the planet. I have made so many amazing memories throughout life with my great friends from City matches, both home and away.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GOING TO A FOOTBALL MATCH?
My earliest memory from a City match is from 1981, my Dad took me as a birthday treat, despite being a Man United fan!! (see above).
WHAT IS THE MOST PECULIAR OR MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU AT A MATCH?
The most peculiar thing to happen at a match was having Noel and Liam Gallagher sitting in front of me and not being able to watch any of the game due to everyone asking them for autographs and getting in the way.
WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
My least favourite opposing team is obviously United because I despise them and its always too nerve-wracking to watch the derby.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MAN CITY TERRACE SONG OR CHANT - AND WHY?
My favourite Man City chant is ‘You’ve had your day out, now, erm, *GO home’… because it’s so relatable.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CITY GOAL YOU HAVE WITNESSED (“Agueroooooooooooo…” aside)?
The most memorable goal I’ve witnessed is Yaya Toure’s goal against Stoke in the FA Cup final because I never thought in my lifetime I would see City lift the trophy.
HAVE YOU EVER MET ONE OF YOUR MAN CITY HEROES… IF SO - WHO, AND HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE?
I have been lucky enough to met quite a few of the players, however Peter Barnes in particular was such a nice bloke, also - Uwe Rosler - another great bloke.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY MAN CITY PLAYER - PRESENT OR PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
I would invite David Silva to my house for tea and biscuits because he’s the best City player to put on the blue shirt.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MAINE ROAD?
The thing I miss most about Maine Road is the walk to the ground, the pubs, the atmosphere… everything!
WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD WIN IN AN ARM WRESTLING MATCH - YAYA TOURE - OR KYLE WALKER?
Kyle Walker would definitely beat Yaya Toure in an arm wrestling match.
IF YOU COULD PICK ONE CURRENT CITY PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
I would have Scott Carson on my pub quiz because he has a wise head on him.
With a big game looming between City and our close friends and neighbours from up the Mersey, it seemed timely to feature a couple of Liverpool FC shoots I did for the NME.
Which non-musician appeared on the NME cover more often than Ian Curtis did in his lifetime?
And I was responsible for both.
The first in 1988 was to tie in with an odd record Liverpool FC had released called "The Anfield Rap", Craig Johnston’s attempt to find his inner Eric B or Rakim. He dragged John Barnes along for the shoot - which was at Anfield. It was quite exciting seeing behind the scenes back then and walking out of the famous tunnel, where only a few seasons earlier, Joe Corrigan et al had walked back up to the dressing rooms after a resounding 1-3 victory. Footballers weren’t as media-savvy back then and definitely weren’t used to being photographed for a music/style paper. Johnston seemed to want to point a lot, which a few years later reminded me of another Liverpool player (But I digress). Both he and Barnes were quite chatty and charming, and seeing as it was only a couple of days before their FA Cup final v the mighty Wimbledon, they were happy to spend time with us.
Two years later, I photographed John Barnes again. This time at their training ground at Melwood, where New Order’s World in Motion video was being made. My idea was to get Bernard Sumner in an England shirt and Barnsey in a New Order "Touched by the Hand of God" T shirt. However I wanted to get a sky blue shirt on the NME cover and even the FA couldn’t get hold of this elusive third change kit. I finally bought one at a sports shop and took it with me. I’m not sure John Barnes had ever heard of 'Touched by the Hand of God.” I had to tell him it was nothing to do with Diego Maradona. Bernard wanted to be photographed in an Elvis suit, but he finally agreed that a football shirt for a football song made more sense.
A year prior to this we again had a Liverpool themed cover. This time, a major feature dropped out later and we were scrabbling around for a cover idea. My editor thought we could chuck a load of football stuff in - seeing as it was FA Cup final weekend (Liverpool v Everton), so he went out a bought a Liverpool kit and an inflatable guitar and Derek Ridgers was commissioned to shoot it. I was the only other person in the office so I was commanded to wear it for the photo - which, to my eternal shame - I did. I insisted my face was kept off the photos, but secretly, I was quite pleased to be an NME cover star - even one so traitorously dressed. I had no choice though. It was either that or we wouldn’t have had a cover at all that week. At least it wasn’t an Everton kit nor were Man United in the final. Now that would have been a cause for resignation.