Welcome to the official digital Manchester City monthly magazine.
The season is moving apace and our February edition reflects the buoyant mood of the Club with an energetic, eclectic mix of interviews, features and fantastic imagery.
All the City Mag interviews are exclusive – you won’t find them anywhere else.
Our cover star and main interview is the man of the moment – let’s be honest, the man of many, many moments – Kevin De Bruyne.
Watching De Bruyne in full flow is like a drive in a Rolls-Royce – smooth, no bumps and often a luxurious experience.
Also featured is our Ukrainian left-back Oleks Zinchenko, who looks ahead to the resumption of the Champions League.
Our resurgent Manchester City Women’s team is well represented with an interview with returning skipper Steph Houghton, and a Hayley Raso Q&A, too.
The Smiths legend Johnny Marr shares his all-time City XI, and we have a bonus XI as well with a nod to the AFCON tournament that’s currently underway with, of course, a team made of our greatest African stars.
The List for February is based on Valentine’s Day puns – and there’s more corn in there than the state of Kansas.
Elsewhere, Matchday Live commentator Ally Mann is our ‘5 Minutes With…’ guest and Joleon Lescott is our guest columnist.
We also have Andy Morrison’s predictions in ‘The Month Ahead’ – plus we reveal how our former skipper got on last month.
Kev Cummins revisits his archives to recall a trip with City to Lisbon and, as always, there is some stunning images to enjoy.
Marc Riley turns to a lifelong Blue in ‘Mixed Grill’ and Paul Power is interviewed at length as he recalls his long and successful City career.
And there’s more!
We have the second part of our interview with Danny Walker, our monthly Fantasy Premier League focus and a delightful Ilkay Gundogan gallery.
And all completely FREE.
It’s never hard to wax lyrical about Kevin De Bruyne. Here, the brilliant Belgian looks over the season so far, plus what is still to come…
Kevin De Bruyne is nearing a number of notable City landmarks as he shifts through the gears in this , his seventh season with the Club.
During that time, he has won 10 trophies, three Manchester City Player of the Year awards, been voted into three PFA Team of the Year XIs and won back-to-back PFA Players’ Player of the Year titles.
The list goes on. And On. And on.
At the age of 30, he is arguably at the very peak of his powers and after a season interrupted by a painful ankle problem and COVID illness, De Bruyne is back in the rhythm that has made him one, if not the best midfielders in the world right now, and over the past five years or so.
"Kevin is world-class player. And he has the humility and humbleness to do everything for the team. It’s not easy to find that."
He is also one of those unique footballers that seems to transcend tribal rivalry, earning the respect of opposition fans, players and pundits alike with his incomparable vision and artistry on the pitch.
People just watch love to watch him play.
Like David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero in the past few years, it’s fair to say that nobody has a bad word to say about KDB, who is every bit the humble superstar off the pitch as he is on it.
As for those City milestones, he should reach the 300-appearance landmark by the spring, and his 74 goals to date means he is likely to join a very exclusive club of City midfielders who have racked up a century of goals – something achievable maybe even as early as next season.
But all that is to come. Back the here and now.
"Like David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero in the past few years, it’s fair to say that nobody has a bad word to say about KDB, who is every bit the humble superstar off the pitch as he is on it."
City have steamrollered into the New Year with the win over Chelsea making it 12 successive Premier League victories. It’s a frightening thought for the teams around us in the table as the sky blue juggernaut powers on, but could this be the best City side KDB has played in?
“I don't know - how can you compare that?” said Kevin.
“If we win every title then yes, but we are not able to do that because we are out of the Carabao Cup - do points mean the best? Do titles mean the best ? We had the Centurions season, then we had the season when we won the treble.. . so it’s really hard to say, but I think it’s fairly similar overall.
“What I would say is that I've been lucky enough to play in all of them, so take your pick!”
“De Bruyne is deservedly regarded as one of football’s most intelligent players."
But even with more than 500 career appearances under his belt and 88 caps to date for his country, can a man often dubbed ‘The Assist King’ still be learning? He believes he is.
“There are always bits and pieces that you learn – it’s not big things - it can be everything,” he said.
“How you handle certain situations, how you handle things mentally and physically, because every time there is a different challenge.
“The challenge this season was my ankle because it was the first time I'd been in pain every day for almost two months - that was something I'd never experienced before and I had to learn how the best way to handle that was.”
One thing the football world is still learning about is VAR.
It continues to be a ‘Marmite’ topic among football fans who either love it or hate it - so what does Kevin make of it all? Has it improved the game, or perhaps taken something away?
"It's impossible to compare the City teams I've played in over the past five years. I've just been lucky to have played in them all!"
“Probably both,” he smiled. “Obviously, sometimes it's not nice because you score a goal and then you have to wait for a VAR check and all that stuff, but on the other hand, when the decisions are right, they are right. There is always a lot of debate, but I don't think the problem is VAR, it's the rules that sometimes make the difficulties for the referees.
“If the rules are clear, that makes it easier for everybody, but the fact there is still a lot of debate about VAR means the rules are not clear or they seem to be changed all the time - but that's just my opinion.”
De Bruyne returns to the current campaign and says City’s experience of leading from the front in the Premier League and also understanding what was needed to hunt teams above them down in previous years, as well as hitting the front early, could be invaluable for the defending champions in the months to come.
"We've been in a situation where we've been eight or ten points ahead, but also when we’ve been eight or ten points behind,” he said. “We know it can change very quickly. We know the gap is big at the moment, but we also know Liverpool aren't far behind if they win their games in hand.
“I know at the minute we are getting a lot of praise as individuals and as a team, but we need to keep going. The more points we can take, the tougher it becomes for the opponent. But it is only January, so we need to work hard, keep our heads down and then maybe good things will come.”
Former skipper and cult hero Andy Morrison continues to predict City's upcoming games…
Last month, Andy got five results out of six correct, though didn’t get any correct scores - here, he looks ahead to the five games up to mid-February
Southampton v City
Saturday 22 January, 5.30pm kick-off
Though we’ve kept our fantastic run going, we’ve just been getting through some of the games and Southampton have a habit of making life difficult for us. They got a 0-0 draw at the Etihad earlier in the season, but I think we’ll be better suited to playing on their home patch so I’m going for a win, but not a straightforward one.
Mozzer’s prediction: Saints 1-3 City
FA Cup 4th Round
City v Fulham
Saturday 5 February, 3pm
Fulham have enjoyed some big wins on the road this season and have scored seven at both Blackburn and Reading this campaign. They’re clearly a potent side and at the time of writing, they’d scored 34 goals in 12 away matches – that’s some going. But City are a different proposition and while I don’t expect a completely full strength XI, it’ll be somewhere near it and that will be too much for Fulham. I can see them scoring at least one, but I expect us to get at least four as well.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 4-1 Fulham
City v Brentford
Wednesday, 9 February, 7.45pm kick-off
Brentford are a funny team because they look wide open at times but their front two are capable of causing problems. It was a tough match at their ground towards the end of December, but I believe this will be a more comprehensive victory.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 4-0 Brentford
Norwich v City
Saturday, 12 February, 5.30pm kick-off
We lost at Carrow Road the season before last but it was just one of those games where everything went for Norwich and nothing went for us. Dean Smith’s ‘new manager bounce’ seems to be over and I can’t see anything but a comfortable win for us.
Mozzer’s prediction: Norwich 0-3 City
Sporting Lisbon v City
Tuesday, 15 February, 8pm kick-off
I’ll be honest and say I haven’t watched Sporting much this season, but I know they’ll make it as difficult as they can and their fans will be noisy and loud. Though I can’t see them being a threat to our overall progression, they’ll know their best shot is on home soil – so I think it will be close in the first leg.
Mozzer’s prediction: Sporting 1-2 City
City v Tottenham
Saturday 19 February, 5.30pm kick-off
Antonio Conte has set up Spurs well and they will look to hit us on the break with their pace. They will keep it tight and be well-organised, so it might be that just one piece of magic is enough to settle this for us.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 1-0 Spurs
Oleksandr Zinchenko and his teammates celebrated his vital intervention against Paris Saint-Germain as if he’d scored the winning goal...
With Neymar bearing down on the City defence, the Ukrainian expertly tracked the Brazilian’s mazy run, showing him out wide before sliding in to block his effort on goal.
Guardiola’s men were leading 3-1 on aggregate in only our second Champions League semi-final but, had Neymar got the better of Zinchenko, a result which ranks among the finest in a season of superlatives could have had a very different outcome.
"It’s the highest level in football. The Premier League is the strongest league in the world, but the Champions League is a special tournament"
The second half was barely ten minutes old, but the high fives and hugs between Zinchenko, John Stones and Ruben Dias in the Etihad Stadium snow encapsulated just how crucial the Ukrainian’s tackle felt at the time.
The Champions League is a competition close to the Ukrainian’s heart, and he featured in every round of last season’s tournament as Pep Guardiola’s men reached an inaugural Champions League final.
Indeed, some of his best performances for the Club have come in the tournament, including that 2-0 victory over PSG which secured City’s progression to last season’s showpiece in Portugal.
It’s been a similar story in 2021/22, with Zinchenko featuring in four of our six group matches this season after shaking off an early season injury.
The reward for City topping a group containing last season’s semi-final opponents PSG, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge is a two-legged Round of 16 fixture against Sporting Lisbon.
"Anything can happen, it’s the champions of all the European countries and it’s always tough."
The Portuguese champions are playing their first Champions League knockout match since 2009 and are aiming to reach the last eight for the first time since 1983, but Zinchenko and co. know victory in Europe’s elite competition is never a foregone conclusion.
“It’s the highest level in football. The Premier League is the strongest league in the world, but the Champions League is a special tournament,” the Ukrainian declares.
“Anything can happen, it’s the champions of all the European countries and it’s always tough.
“You need to be committed, you need to be fully focused, you need to work hard a lot and then maybe you can reach (the latter stages).
“But still, it’s so, so difficult because a lot of teams, they are so good.”
City broke new ground in last season’s competition, reaching an inaugural Champions League final and first major European showpiece since 1970.
Remaining unbeaten all the way to the final, Guardiola’s men overcame Borussia Monchengladbach in the Round of 16 and followed that success with thrilling triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and PSG to book a date with Chelsea in Porto.
And yet, the unforgettable journey didn’t conclude with a fitting finale.
Zinchenko insists that he and his teammates haven’t dwelled on our final defeat at the end of May, in which Chelsea’s Kai Havertz grabbed the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time.
While vital lessons were learned from that setback, the players’ sole focus when it comes to the Champions League is on what we can still accomplish rather than what we’ve achieved in the past.
“The final was so painful because we were so close, we did an unbelievable job but in the end, we fell (short),” he reflected. “But this is football, it can happen, you can’t give up from this. You have to get up and you have to try again, go again, push again and work hard again to try to win.
“It’s all about the next action, the next step and about never giving up.
“We’ve got that experience (now), but the new season is always a new challenge, I guess every season is tougher than the previous one because the other teams, they know more about you and try to adapt to how they play against you.
"The final was so painful because we were so close, we did an unbelievable job but in the end, we fell (short),"
“It’s never easy to find the way and find the key to score the goals and stuff like that.
“There’s also a lot of teams improving, they are not staying still, that’s why it’s always tough.”
A hugely popular member of the City squad, Zinchenko’s technical ability and tactical intelligence are complemented by a steely desire for constant improvement and a tireless work rate.
It’s attributes such as these that have led to Guardiola regularly expressing his trust in the Ukrainian as a dependable, consistent performer on the biggest stage.
“When you say something, he reads it immediately. He is always focused, always concentrated,” the City boss mused after May’s historic Champions League semi-final triumph over PSG.
However, typically humble in his response, Zinchenko once again points to the value of the group over the individual in our success.
"There’s also a lot of teams improving, they are not staying still, that’s why it’s always tough."
“I can say that about everyone here. Everyone has an unbelievable attitude,” he explains.
“In training or in games, everyone gives everything on the pitch, our fans deserve that.
“It’s a dream to be close to these kinds of players, you want to learn and try to get as much as you can, and still I’m trying to learn (even now).”
As the Ukrainian suggests, there is still plenty that this City side can achieve in the coming months, as we look to exorcise the demons of last season’s Champions League heartbreak.
While the ultimate aim will be a spot in May’s Saint Petersburg showpiece, Zinchenko's mindset suggests our sole focus is instead on negotiating a difficult two-legged tie against Sporting Lisbon.
With a collective attitude of that nature, those short-term gains could well provide the backbone for the realisation of a long-term goal.
"Oh City, we love you!" ♥
Roses are red,
Manchester is Blue,
It’s fun to watch City ...
And these puns are fun too…
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, enjoy this captivating(?) collection of romantic City names!
I LOVE UWE ROSLER
PABLO ZABA-LOVE LETTER
KOLO MILK TOU-RAY
BEN MEE-AL FOR TWO
GERARD WIEKEN-D AWAY
ROQUE SANTA ROMANTIC CRUISE
MIKE SUMMER-BEE MINE
WILLYOU MARRY ME? CABALLERO
MATIJA NASTASIGNIFICANT OTHER
EMMANUEL ADEBAYOURS FOREVER
GEORGE WEAH MEANT TO BE
LAVIA’S IN THE AIR
PAUL POWER OF LOVE
NOTHING COMPARES ETUHU
YOU’RE STILL THE WANCHOPE
HAYLEY RASO HAPPY TOGETHER
EYAL ALWAYS LOVE YOU BERKOVIC
TRULY BELMADI DEEPLY
MIKE SHERON AMOUR
The Mancunian guitar legend gives us his all time best City squad...
Entertaining, audacious and brave. Helped to invent a new way of goalkeeping.
Would give blood for the team. Often did.
Consistently good. Never had a bad game. The only footballer I know of who was into meditation. Cosmic.
There was nothing more important to the man than the No 4 City shirt. Disliked United with a passion
Vincent Kompany (Captain)
The inspirational leader of men.
Calm and composed no matter what. Could score a few, too.
The twisting turning Tornado. A nightmare on the pitch. A gentleman off it.
Class. Enough said.
Tenacious, tricky Kippax hero. Scored a League Cup Final winner with an overhead kick. Does it get any cooler than that?
Shaun Wright Phillips
City’s bright star in dark days.
Kevin De Bruyne
Off the bench at the 35 minute mark to give the opposition a bit of a fighting chance. A City all-time great, a world great.
Plays like a gifted kid, with a smile. Plus…that Liverpool guard of honour…now that was funny.
The man made history. Loyal. Thank you.
Great player, great guy. City fan.
Joleon Lescott was part of the last Manchester City side to face Sporting Lisbon, a two-legged Europa League Round of 16 tie in March 2012...
Ten years on, the two sides meet again with a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals the reward for the victors.
The former City defender is expecting an enthralling contest against the Lions and has also reflected on some of the lessons he took on board from his time playing in Europe’s elite competition…
I don’t have great memories from our last match away to Sporting Lisbon to be fair. I came on as an early substitute for Vincent Kompany but then injured my groin and was out for just over three weeks. It was one of those things where you’re unaware of what it was and two days later you tend to think you’ll be alright, but it was just getting worse. Naively, I should’ve come off, but you never want to come off if you’ve been brought on as a substitute.
In those early years when we first qualified for the Champions League, we were always in Pot Four. We were ‘the whipping boys’ as such. The year after we won the Premier League for the first time for example, our group was made up of Borussia Dortmund who had won the German Bundesliga, Ajax who had won the Dutch Eredivisie and Real Madrid who had won La Liga - that was our group! It’s a lot different now, we’re the team everyone wants to avoid. It meant a lot to be a part of the early stages for us but the Club’s come a lot further now.
The main difference that I noticed as a player between European football and the Premier League was that the movement and quality of the opposition was more instinctive. There was probably less vocal communication but a greater understanding of where the ball should be played and where the runs should be made.
You needed a higher level of concentration anyway because you’re playing against the best of the best, it’s exciting but also unforgiving, if you make any kind of mistakes, you get punished. To compete at that level you need concentration, a strong mentality, and a bit of luck through fixtures, injuries and situations in games which, without sounding like sour grapes, we maybe haven’t had. However, it’s a credit to Pep Guardiola and the team that we’re still always one of the favourites to win the Champions League.
"The main difference that I noticed as a player between European football and the Premier League was that the movement and quality of the opposition was more instinctive"
The spectacle of the Champions League is far greater than it was when I was growing up. To play in Europe wasn’t necessarily something I thought about or something that was a goal. It was more a case of as you get older and progressed it became the aim, but it still meant a lot to me to play in the Champions League. It also meant a lot to do with the Club because that was part of the reason we were joining, to contest at that level.
The Champions League now is a huge spectacle, a lot more than when I was a child. You associate it with the Ballon d’Or, the best players, the best teams and the best managers. It will mean a lot to all the players, and I know how important it is for the Club to win it… hopefully that’s the case this season!
But City have to get past Sporting Lisbon first. I’ve seen them more in the last couple of years because of the role I was doing as City’s Loans Manager, and we had players over there. They’re a very exciting side, similar to City in that they like to play progressive, aggressive football. The full-backs are also encouraged to get forward and contribute to the attack. They’re a good team to watch and it’ll be entertaining if they get it right on the day. It’ll be an exciting game but if we get it right, I expect us to win.
It’s important to try and get a result in the first leg but I don’t think that affects our mentality and approach to the game. It’ll be just to win both games regardless of where they are and who’s playing. Pep will pick a team who he thinks will beat them on the day and I’m confident that will be the case.
Paul Power is synonymous with Manchester City.
It is the Club he loves and where he made 445 appearances during an 11-year playing career, before returning to spend 16-years as a highly respected youth coach in the Academy.
A versatile left-footer, he captained City from 1979 until his departure in 1986, a period which included promotion to the First Division, three Wembley cup finals and two supporters’ Player of the Year awards.
Indeed, it is impossible to think about Power without thinking of City, though there was a time in the fledgling stage of his career when it felt like an association which stretches back to 1973 might never get going.
“That’s the longest start to getting into Manchester City I’ve ever heard,” laughs ex City winger Ian Mellor, who joined Power on behalf of the Former Players Association as he regaled City Magazine with his career reflections.
Mellor is not wrong. Power’s journey to the first team was somewhat of a long and winding road and his introduction to the Club is an interesting tale of patience and education.
Power was invited to train at City in his early teens after being spotted playing for Wythenshawe outfit West Park Albion, but slight in stature, his playing time was restricted and he would eventually leave the Club, though his exit proved only temporary.
“By the time I was 17 I had grown taller and, after playing in a match for Manchester Boys vs Ayrshire Boys, I was again spotted and invited into train,” Power explains.
“I had already applied to study law at university by then and when City invited me to get involved at the Club on an amateur basis, I decided that I would carry on doing my degree until I failed a year.
“If I failed, I was going to broach the subject of whether I would be signed pro or not, but as it happened, it suited me because I was a late developer.
“I didn’t have any lectures on a Monday morning, so I used to train at Wythenshawe Park and play for the reserves midweek and on a Saturday.”
At this stage, Power was still very much an amateur student footballer.
A professional contract would not materialise until 1975, when he made his first team debut as a 21-year-old in a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa at the start of the 1975-76 campaign.
It was the beginning of a long career that would end at Everton, where he won the First Division title in 1987, and he later learned the Toffees had a role to play in his early progression at Maine Road.
When the Merseyside club made an approach for the young Power, City were motivated to offer him semi-professional terms to ensure he couldn’t walk away for free and it proved a shrewd move as from there, his career really took off.
“I found out later that Everton had made an enquiry about me after I’d played against them in an ‘A’ team game,” explains the 68-year-old.
“Johnny Hart, the manager at the time, signed me on a semi-professional contract for which I was paid £25 per week to cover expenses for coming back from university.
“It was worth my while, but nobody had ever mentioned a full-time pro contract and I had decided as long as I was passing my exams at the end of each year, I would continue onto the end of the degree and then I would think about signing a contract if it was offered.
“That’s what happened. Tony Book invited me to sign a professional contract and there was a large press presence, but it turns out they were there to cover Rodney Marsh signing his second contract and because of that my signing was actually delayed!
“However, it all worked out and I made my debut from the substitutes bench against Aston Villa at Villa Park in 1975.
“Credit has to go to Glyn Pardoe who was a tremendous help to me. He was playing at left-back coming back from an injury he suffered in a collision with George Best and I was playing in front him wide on the left and he was talking me through games in my early days.
“And Dave Ewing was a fantastic coach who toughened me up and developed me physically so that I could compete.”
Everton’s initial loss was very much City’s gain as Power enjoyed a career defined by his exemplary determination and passion for the badge.
A sumptuous 25-yard curling effort to win the 1981 FA Cup semi-final against Ipswich Town was his most memorable moment in a sky-blue shirt and he won the first of two City Player of the Year awards at the end of that season, something he says meant the world to him.
Power left City for Everton in 1986, spending two years as a player at Goodison Park before embarking on his coaching career. After a spell working for the Professional Footballers Association, he returned to City as a youth coach and spent 16 years in the Club’s Academy.
Today, he lives in France with his wife Julie.
Paul Power was speaking to City Magazine on behalf of the Former Players Association, which brings together players who represented the Club over the years.
You can find out more about the Association on mancity.com.
Elite Development Squad boss Brian Barry-Murphy says the key influence and impact of James McAtee so far this season has served as the perfect example to the rest of the City youngsters...
Midfielder McAtee has been in magnificent form for our Under-23s so far this term with his progress also recognised at first team level.
The 19-year-old was afforded his senior debut in last September’s Carabao Cup win over Wycombe and he has gone on to make two more senior appearances from the bench in both the Premier League and FA Cup.
Meanwhile, a tally of 17 goals from just 18 appearances for our EDS across the PL2, UEFA Youth League and EFL Trophy illustrates McAtee’s enormous all-round contribution.
And with the second half of the season now underway after the festive break, Barry-Murphy has urged McAtee to seek to keep driving up his standards and improving even more.
“He is aware of how valued he is within the club and, I think for him, he has had a taste of what it looks like at the very top level,” Barry-Murphy asserted.
“Whenever he plays for us, it is with a clear plan of maintaining his match minutes, keeping his fitness levels up and trying to become one of the most dominant players in this league - and he has done that.
"He is aware of how valued he is within the club and, I think for him, he has had a taste of what it looks like at the very top level."
“It is great to have him play when he is available, and his level is of a very high standard.
“He has probably been one of the most outstanding players in the league in terms of goals and assists.
“It is a testament that he has produced that at a stage when it would have been easy for him to think he had outgrown this league.
“The challenge for him is to keep scoring, assisting and leading this team whenever he comes back down.
“He does that and carries quite a big influence on younger players and it is imperative he maintains those standards and takes them even higher whenever he plays for us.”
After a superb start to the season, a raft of injuries to key personnel halted the momentum of our EDS squad in late autumn with Barry-Murphy having to blood several of our Under-18s.
Though City suffered a number of frustrating results, the desire and application of his charges have given the lead coach enormous encouragement, with some of his older players thriving on the responsibility as City kept within touching distance of top spot in PL2.
"Whenever he plays for us, it is with a clear plan of maintaining his match minutes, keeping his fitness levels up and trying to become one of the most dominant players in this league."
And reflecting on the first five months, Barry-Murphy said the experiences – both positive and challenging - would only serve all of the players well in terms of their own long-term development.
“I think there has been loads of individual growth,” he asserted.
“Some of our football was breathtaking earlier in the season when we had a strong squad that was so potent and so dangerous.
“In the middle section we lost all of those players and became so much more inexperienced.
“That demands the more senior members of our squad to show real leadership qualities and to understand it is going to be really difficult in terms of some of the games we had to partake in.
"To come out of that and see them grow and take the younger players under their wing is significant for me and it is very important.
“It (also) meant the younger players got exposure to games they wouldn’t have done and that is a positive for them.
“It means that we have seen the likes of Nico Reilly and so many players from the Under-18s come on the scene and had such exposure to really tough and proper games.
“It can only speed up their progress."
He is the voice of our Matchday Live commentary, a regular on Match of the Day and a lifelong Blue.
We caught up with Ally Mann in our latest ‘5 Minutes With’…
When was your first City match?
It was a Boxing Day fixture in the late 70s against Newcastle United. I don't remember a great deal about it but I know that City won easily. The score though wasn't the story, it was the return of Colin Bell from injury. While I don't recall a great deal about the game, I do remember my Dad telling me what a special occasion I was at and how good Colin Bell was. I think he came on as a substitute and Maine Road erupted. My older brother was a United fan but my Dad was a City fan, so I'd always been a little conflicted about which team I preferred. That day made my mind up.
Who was your first hero?
Trevor Francis. I thought he was incredible at Birmingham City from the clips on Match Of The Day and he was the player I tried to copy (unsuccessfully!) when I kicked a ball about in the garden. He was then amazing at Nottingham Forest, winning them the European Cup. I couldn't believe it when he signed for City, it was like a dream come true! He didn't stay for long but I know he got City to the top of the table for the first time since I started to follow them. I still followed his career when he went to Italy and it actually got me very interested in Serie A. I really loved Italian football and when it was shown on Channel 4, it then led me to my second footballing hero Roberto Baggio, who, if I'm honest is still my all time favourite player along with David Silva.
What was your first City kit?
It was a blue Umbro home kit from the early 80s (as worn by Trevor Francis!). I distinctly recall the big white "V" that was the neck line. I had the blue shiny shorts, socks and everything! There was though, no "Francis" as an option in those days, to wear on the back!
Who is your commentator hero?
Martin Tyler. That's an easy one. I was lucky enough to work with him during my early career and he was just fantastic with me. I watched him, observed the way he operated and he would answer my many questions about commentary, with tremendous patience. He took me under his wing and I will always be very grateful for that. He helped me enormously. I think he's one of the best of all time. An amazing professional to learn from.
What’s your proudest commentary moment?
I am lucky enough to have had many. My first ever commentary felt amazing, my first City commentary was special, my first Match Of The Day commentary was the stuff of dreams and of course the Champions League Final last May, despite the result. To be honest I am incredibly proud every time I commentate, as it was always my ambition to be a commentator, so to do it for a living is a privilege which I never take for granted. If I had to pick one match, it would be the Gold Medal final of the Rio Olympics, when Brazil won their first ever Olympic Football Gold, in front of their own supporters at the Maracana. They won it on a penalty shoot out with Neymar hitting the winning kick. It was a genuine "one moment in time" and to be the BBC commentator for such an incredible occasion will live with me forever.
What’s the commentator moment you most admire? Without doubt Martin Tyler's "I swear you'll never see anything like that again...." when Sergio Aguero scored that goal! His words were just superb and his capturing of that moment was little short of perfection. As a fellow pro, you know when someone has hit the exact right notes and the way that Martin described that whole sequence was little short of genius. I sent him an email shortly afterwards to tell him how good a commentary it was and he was typically modest about the whole thing.
What’s your City high and low?
The 2011 FA Cup Final will live with me forever. I literally NEVER thought I would see City lift a trophy. I started to follow their fortunes in the late seventies a year or two after the 1976 League Cup, so I had waited for almost all of those 35 years to witness it. It was a special day and I was with my son, who was ten at the time, and thankfully hadn't had to wait too long to witness some silverware! The day City completed the treble against Watford was incredible, too - that whole season was phenomenal, pipping Liverpool to the title with 14 straight wins and the FA Cup Final gave everyone the chance to celebrate the achievement. I had hoped that the 2021 Champions League Final would top that but it wasn't to be..... maybe this year in St Petersburg!
For a long time there seemed to be a stack of lows! Too many to mention in reality. I think the one moment which stands out below all the others though is the 1-2 home defeat to Mansfield Town in the FL Trophy in 1998. I wasn't at THAT York City game a few weeks later, so I think that was the game that epitomised just how far down things had gone; it is a vivid memory for me.
Hayley Raso may have endured a stop-start opening to her City career but the winger is ready to show what she can do for Club and country.
The Australia international – a summer recruit from fellow FA Women’s Super League outfit Everton – made a fine start to life in sky blue, crafting an assist on her league debut, before suffering a shoulder injury that forced her to miss the next seven games.
Once back in contention though, she soon rekindled her form, bagging more assists and her first City goals, earning plenty of praise from her peers in the process for her blistering pace and ability.
Fresh from a Christmas visit back home to Australia, she netted her third goal for the Club in a 6-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, before jetting off on international duty with Alanna Kennedy to compete in the Asia Cup.
Between trips, we caught up with the winger, who tells us she’s back fully fit and eager to produce her best form…
Hayley, it’s been great to see you back in action. You’ve made a really positive impact since your return. How are you feeling now after your injury?
“It was nice to come back and get a few goals and assists.
“It was tough – you come to a new team and end up injured, while you’re still trying to find your feet…
“It was a challenging start but I’m really glad I’m healthy now and fit, and I’m ready to go and continue on with the season.”
Although it’s still early days, do you feel you’ve developed in your City career?
“I feel like I’m still developing. I am 27 but I’m definitely developing. I’ve spoken to Gaz about developing my final product – getting those crosses in, in attacking areas.
“That’s something that as a forward, I always want to contribute: goals and assists, so I’ll continue to work on that.”
You were one of six new faces to join the squad over the summer. Who have you made friends with in the squad? Has anyone in particular helped you to settle in?
“Honestly, everyone has been so welcoming. From the first day when people were showing me around. They’re a really good group to be around and we’re all friends – we hang out outside of the CFA as well.
“I’ve had a really warm welcome and I’m really enjoying it.”
How did you spend your Christmas break?
“I had flights home for Christmas to spend time with my family. I hadn’t seen them for a long time and I also had a new nephew to meet!
“I just spent time with my family and enjoyed being in the sun, which I definitely don’t get to do over here!”
After a difficult start, City enjoyed an upturn in fortunes before the Christmas break. What has the mood been like since the squad returned?
“It’s good. Training is really fun as well as competitive but ultimately, we know we need to get results. We’ve got a good run of games and the aim is to win them. Obviously, the aim for the end of the season is to finish in the top three.
“City is a team that competes for trophies and we want one of those spots. We’ve had a tough start with injuries but we’re looking to bounce back and get more wins.”
For millions of football fans around the world, Fantasy Premier League has become a regular topic of discussion… and it’s no different in the Matchday Live studio.
Away from the camera, the team often compare their FPL picks and engage in some friendly banter about each of their weekly performances.
After not playing the game for seven or eight seasons, regular host Natalie Pike is in the thick of those conversations having decided to make a long-awaited return to the popular game this season.
Speaking to City Magazine’s George Kelsey, she reveals her unique selection policy, which City stars she’s had in her team since week one and which former England international and regular Matchday Live guests is ‘useless’ at FPL...
So, Natalie, you’re obviously a big FPL fan, but you have a unique player policy?
That’s right, my team’s name is literally ‘No United Players’, so the clue is in the name! At the start of the season people were telling me I couldn’t do well without people like Bruno Fernandes in my team because he was one of the highest scoring players in the game last year. In the first week he got loads of points against Leeds United, but I still didn’t care; I’d rather not do well in FPL than have United players in my team! The point for me is you don’t ever want to be celebrating the success of a United player, I’m so bitter and I’m so happy about it.
Who else plays out of the Matchday Live guests?
The biggest fans are Joleon Lescott and Shaun Wright-Phillips. David James plays but I’m not totally sure he gets it… he’s useless! I remember doing a show with him and either Joleon or Shaun, and we were all looking at his team - we couldn’t believe some of the players he had! It’d be people having a shocking season or people who have been injured for about three weeks. He’s not one of those who updates his team, but he is getting into it. Maybe he’s either just a bit rubbish or trying to play it down?
With David James out of the equation then, who is your biggest FPL rival?
Joleon’s my main rival, I really want to beat him. He was above me the first time we talked about it but then the next time I saw him I was above him and have been ever since. He’s quite cocky with it in a jokey sort of way, so I definitely want to beat him and he knows it as well. Every time I see him now, I’ll ask ‘how’s your team doing Joleon?’… Imagine if in my first season back I beat two-time Premier League winner and former England international Joleon Lescott? I’ll have that in my Twitter bio!
Do you find yourself more interested in random Premier League games now you’re involved in FPL again?
Oh yeah, don’t we all! The one that sticks out for me was when Everton played Arsenal on a Monday night. I think it was the first week of the FPL Cup and I had Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale in goal. He was the last player I had to play that week and I needed clean sheet points to get into the next round, but Everton scored twice late on and I was furious at him! I’ve got Conor Gallagher in my team as well, so I’ve been watching a lot of Crystal Palace randomly this season. If you’re not a fan, why would you watch any other team all the time? That’s what Fantasy Football does to you!
At the same time though, has FPL helped improve your knowledge of the Premier League as a whole?
Totally. I present a radio show on BBC Radio Manchester called Talking Balls, so every night we primarily chat about City and United but obviously you do end up in different discussions when you’re playing certain teams. Players pop up all the time and I’ll say something about them, which often means people respond with ‘how do you know that?’… the answer is I had him in my FPL team at one point! At the same time though, I also have to keep myself in check because I’m becoming one of those people who constantly talks about FPL and I know if you don’t play it, other people don’t want to hear about your team.
In terms of City players, who has surprised you in FPL this season?
The main one is definitely Joao Cancelo. He’s been in my team since day one, and I’ll never take him out. He’s the second or third highest points earner in the whole game and I don’t think anyone expected that, regardless of how good he is. I think as well, this is going to sound silly, but Ruben Dias is a really high scoring player as well which, considering he doesn’t pick up many points for assists, is really good going. The fact we get so many clean sheets means any City defender is going to be worth having.
And which other City players have you had at different times this season?
I’ve also had Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne. As a City fan, I think you’re better placed than most to try and guess when they’re going to be playing, so if you’re comfortable doing a bit of rotation with those attacking City players, there’s definitely some points to be had.
We all have an FPL selection horror story, what’s yours?
I had Mahrez in my team against Arsenal, I really fancied him to get a goal before he went off to the African Cup of Nations. He scored so I was obviously really pleased, but I actually thought I’d captained him. I was in the Matchday Live studio showing off to everyone and then when I went to check my team, I’d left it open on the confirm page without locking him in! I was so gutted, you should’ve seen everyone laughing at me.
In the second of a special two-part series, Elite Development Squad assistant lead coach Danny Walker talks to Neil Leigh about his pride in helping nurture some of our brightest emerging talents – and why he is so excited when looking to the future of City’s Academy...
It’s fair to say that Tuesday, September 21 will be a date long remembered with enormous pride by everyone connected with Manchester City’s Academy.
A resounding 6-1 Carabao Cup third round win over Wycombe Wanderers at the Etihad, saw City Manager Pep Guardiola afford first-team debuts to SIX of our most promising young players on a historic night for the Club.
CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Josh Wilson-Esbrand, Finley Burns and Romeo Lavia were all handed starting berths with James McAtee coming on as a second half substitute.
It was a landmark occasion for the Club – and also served as fitting testament to the painstaking dedication and work undertaken day in, day out by the Academy’s coaching staff.
That night at the Etihad also served as a special moment of pride for Elite Development Squad assistant lead coach Danny Walker.
Currently in his second season working with our Under-23s, all told Danny has spent the past 12 years helping guide and mentor successive generations of City starlets across myriad age groups.
The course of that journey has seen the 32-year-old Yorkshireman work with countless youngsters spanning the arc of their City development journey.
And reflecting back to that historic night, he said seeing so many of the Club’s emerging youngsters given their opportunity on the senior stage served as the ultimate reward for everyone involved in the Club’s Academy coaching set-up.
“Ultimately, as coaches in the Academy we want to be competitive, and we want to be successful at any age group and when you see players coming through and getting exposure with the first team, that is what we are here for ultimately, getting players into our first team” Danny reflected.
"When you see players coming through and getting exposure with the first team, that is what we are here for ultimately, getting players into our first team"
“It’s finding the balance. Yes, of course as coaches we are here to be competitive in all games and competitions we participate in while trying to play our way, but ultimately, we are here to try to give as many young players as we can, not only the opportunity to play in our first team but opportunity to pursue a professional career for themselves outside of city. That is the main target.
“Looking back to that Wycombe game, it is something that was obviously amazing when you see players who have come through from the age 7-8, it’s a real privilege to watch them grow up through the ages and see them around the first team.
“One of the biggest things you witness through the ages is seeing them change physically, socially and mentally.
“I get the opportunity to watch them train with the first team which is the highest level any player could wish to operate at.
“And when you are seeing our lads up against first team players, the professionalism, attitude and focus, you see the young players switched on and you see them a little bit out of their comfort zone, it is so good to see that side of it as well.
“Thinking back to earlier this season, during the UEFA Youth League we have the opportunity to fly with the first team to our Champions League group games.
“It was Matchday 3 away at Club Brugge, our game was in the afternoon as we play before the first team. I remember we had a young side, struggled a little bit with the physicality of the game, but in the evening, we have the opportunity to go to the first team game as a group (staff and players).
“We witnessed Cole Palmer come on for the last 10-15 minutes and score his first Champions League goal which was just fantastic to see. And is such a clear reminder of what we are here for."
Reflecting further forward, Danny also believes there are huge grounds for optimism and excitement in terms of the potential of City’s current crop of Academy talent.
And he says that bears further testament to the work put in across the Academy coaching department stretching back over the past decade
“Looking ahead to the next two or three years, because I know the groups very well coming through, from the Under-23s, the Under-18s and the Under-16s, there is a serious pool of talent coming through,” Walker added.
“We witnessed Cole Palmer come on for the last 10-15 minutes and score his first Champions League goal which was just fantastic to see. And is such a clear reminder of what we are here for.”
“And this is not because of the work that has been done in the last 12 or 18 months. This is a result of work put in many, many years ago going back to our time at Platt Lane.
“I know City will recruit players to go within our groups to improve the overall level, But there are players coming through in the next two or three years who have been here for a very long time and that knowledge gives you a hairs standing up on the back of your neck kind of feeling.
“Before Christmas, I saw lads that I’ve been working with since the age of six or seven. The likes of Rico Lewis, Jadel Katongo, Nico O’Reilly, Matty Whittingham and others - these lads that are in the Under 18s - were training with the first team.
“That’s just fantastic exposure for these lads. To actually see that makes me feel really old because when I started working with them, I was a really young coach.
“And now to see them rubbing shoulders with guys like Ruben Dias, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Pep Guardiola, is really is crazy! It’s a bit of a proud moment.
“I’ve been lucky to have similar groups for 4-5 years, but the reason those lads are there is firstly because of their talent and attitude but secondly because they’ve bumped into really good coaches through the years, coaches who have really pushed them to continue to improve.
“An example is the current crop of Under-16s. I’ve known them since they were seven or eight years old and if I’m in the office and I see them training on the balcony or walking past I’ll pop out and I’ll go have a watch and I’ll say hello to them.
“I always take an interest in the other players in the Academy and see how they are getting on in their development. Occasionally when I have some spare time, I like to go out and watch coaches coaching and to see how the players are getting on.
“All in all, I’ve been very fortunate to of worked with some top-level staff and players since I first joined at Platt Lane to now, with some of those staff being strong mentors to me throughout my coaching career.
“I’ve also had the opportunity to take age groups for numerous years back-to-back which has led me to work at almost every single age group across the Academy.
“City has definitely helped me consolidate a strong playing and coaching style that I use now and will always use in the future.”
The New Year has already yielded cause for celebration with the news City and England captain Steph Houghton has committed her immediate future to the Club, signing a new contract.
Entering her eighth year at the Academy Stadium, the defender has witnessed first-hand our remarkable transformation from Ladies to League Champions and beyond – and has played a pivotal role in that journey, lifting seven trophies along the way.
Signed from women’s football heavyweights Arsenal, where she had enjoyed a glittering career, it was a huge leap of faith for the Lionesses star to make the move to Manchester. At the time, there were just five full-time professionals in the squad, which was largely made up of the original City Ladies side – many of whom who had to train and play matches around full-time work!
Reflecting on her City career, Houghton says she has loved every minute, growing as both a player and a person, and says the decision to take a step into the unknown all those years ago was one that has exceeded all of her expectations.
“I’m a lot different now!” she laughs. “There’s probably a few more wrinkles!
“I didn’t know what to expect when I first signed but I knew when I came here, I wanted to grab every opportunity with both hands.
"I didn’t know what to expect when I first signed but I knew when I came here, I wanted to grab every opportunity with both hands."
“It’s exceeded all of my expectations to be honest. It blew my mind really. I knew that it was going to be something special but I never expected the last eight years to be how they have been.
“I knew that we would be professional – being able to train every day – but then we move into this facility (the City Football Academy) and then we get more players coming in, we win the league, we win the treble, we play in the Champions League…
“You’re always wondering: ‘What is next for us?’ and we always continue to raise the bar.”
Looking back at photographs of her early City days, Houghton is almost unrecognisable. Today, she is the ultimate athlete and is widely regarded by her peers as one of the best trainers in the squad: one of the most hard-working and professional but also the most encouraging – natural traits of a true leader.
But it is not just on the pitch where she shows her commitment. Forging a career in sport brings sacrifices and it is those unseen moments that have helped Houghton to reach the top. She also says she has changed off the pitch, as well as on it, in a bid to become the best version of herself.
“In general, the Club has changed me as a person,” she declares. “I think obviously I've grown up, learning a lot from different people along the way and with experiences that I'll never, ever take for granted.
“From a football perspective, I’ve worked under Nick Cushing and now Gareth Taylor and I think they've developed me into someone I never thought I would be from a football sense (in terms of knowing the game technique-wise and being consistent) but also leadership-wise.
“I’d probably say the 2016 season was a period where I felt I’d reached a new level. I was settled in as England captain and Manchester City captain, and we were building a team where we could go and fight for trophies in this country.
“That season, we were playing the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea and beating them, and I was playing against the best strikers in England and potentially in Europe. When you have a good game in those games – and those are the ones that you thrive upon – I'm like: ‘Okay, this is what I want every single week. This is what I've come here to be: one of the best centre-halves.’
“And of course, when you play in the Champions League, that's when you are playing against the very best so to be given the opportunity to show consistency in those games and especially in that season, when we conceded just four league goals, was an unbelievable feat by everybody.
“There wasn't one specific game. At that time, I thought: ‘This is what I love and I enjoy’ but the way that the game’s going, it's about not only just football but being an athlete both on and off the pitch – and you sacrifice a lot. You sacrifice being away from your family, you sacrifice being part of family things – whether that's weddings, parties, birthdays… whatever it might be.
“I just said to myself: ‘Right, okay, just soak up as much as I can to be the best that I can be’ and that's shown that the dedication and work rate had paid off in a way.
“I'll never settle for just being at a level. I need to keep pushing and for me, that's what makes me the player I am: I want to win and I want to improve myself but also improve my teammates as well.”
It is that desire to inspire and motivate others that makes Houghton such a respected and outstanding leader. Asked of an example of when those qualities have shone most brightly, her thoughts immediately turned to City’s first silverware success.
“Probably one that stands out is the 2014 Conti Cup Final,” she recalls. “When I look back at that team, we had a lot of young players: the likes of Georgia Brougham, Natasha Flint and Keira Walsh, who had never, ever experienced a final.
“I felt as though it was important for them to know I had their backs. I gave them encouragement, they were positive and for them to go and perform the way that they did was amazing, especially in the last 20 minutes when we got the goal and we were hanging on! In those games, you have to put your body on your line and you've got to lead by example, and that's my type of game.
“There have been a lot of moments over the last few years, especially those you don't really see from the outside as media or fans. Behind-the-scenes, there are a lot of things that go on and it's all about communicating with players or with staff to make sure that we're actually okay and we can push and challenge.
“Ultimately, you want players happy because when players are happy, that's when they perform at their best.”
Perhaps the moment that epitomises Houghton’s incredible leadership ability is not one of trophy success but one of personal strength.
September 2018 had brought tragic news for the defender, as her husband Stephen Darby – a former footballer himself – was sadly diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and forced to retire. The pair had only married a matter of months earlier.
Eager to help others and to raise awareness, Stephen and close friend Chris Rimmer, who also has the disease, set up the Darby Rimmer Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Foundation and along with family, close friends and the footballing world, Houghton has aided the cause alongside her sporting pursuits.
Such is her unwavering dedication to her profession, she was back on the pitch a matter of days after the news had broken and in a game in which her family and friends were invited to attend as Guests of Honour, produced a moment that portrayed everything she stands for: strength, quality and a true fighting spirit.
“Ultimately, you want players happy because when players are happy, that's when they perform at their best.”
With City trailing 2-1 at home to Bristol City with just seconds left to play, the skipper collected Georgia Stanway’s cut-back and looped a stunning effort over goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley from 25 yards to snatch a precious point. Such was the brilliance of the effort, it bagged the Nissan Goal of the Season Award – one of two prizes Houghton received at the Club’s End of Season Awards, as she was also named the Etihad Player of the Year.
The celebration said it all: wheeling away towards the fans and her family, the centre-back jumped and punched the air. It was a truly special moment, as an emotional Houghton remembers. “That was a bit of a crazy week,” she says. “Obviously, it’s well-documented about my husband and when it came down to whether I would play that game, he didn’t want me to do anything else. I’d already missed the Atletico Madrid game and then I’d travelled to Everton. Then, when we played Bristol at home, I had a lot of family there because of what had happened.
“It’s weird how things do work out. Although it was 2-2, it was like it was meant for me to score – and it wasn’t a bad goal either! We’d changed the way we play – I think I was on the right of a back three – and I can always remember just telling Stanners: ‘Pass us the ball!’
“The goal itself was amazing but I think for me, it was how much everybody came together to show their support – not just from a family perspective but from the Club and my teammates.”
So, throughout her eight years in City blue, what has been the most important thing Houghton has learned?
“Not to take things for granted,” she replies. “I’m not the type of person who does that but I think football can change from day to day – there are injuries and events that happen outside of football but control what you can control.
“That's important for me as a person. You can sometimes get wrapped up in what other people think and when you're a captain of such a great football club, people are quite easy to shoot you down and throw negatives at you but I know that I've got the best people around me.
“I just try and bring me to the table every single day and work as hard as I possibly can for this Club and for my teammates to make sure that we win. I give everything and I just want to continue to do that.
“I'm so grateful for the last eight years and I'm excited for the next couple of years as well.”
As the Africa Cup of Nations is taking place this month, we have a bonus Best XI for you.
Based on City players who are either African or have African connections, here is our very own all-time Manchester City Africa XI…
Coach: Djamel Belmadi (current Algeria coach)
Goalkeeper: Gavin Bazunu
Our on-loan youngster may represent Republic of Ireland at international level, but his Nigerian descent qualifies him for this team. The talented keeper is currently enjoying a loan spell with Portsmouth and earning rave reviews.
Right-back: Alpha Dionkou
The Senegalese right-back may not have featured for City’s first team but he gets a chance in our African XI. Alpha has since moved on to Granada in Spain and has been loaned out to San Fernando.
Left-back: Kolo Toure
Our popular former Ivory Coast skipper has to fill in at left-back in this XI. It’s a role he’s played one or two times in his career and you just know he wouldn’t let you down.
Centre-back: Lucien Mettomo
Cameroon international Mettomo was part of the Kevin Keegan 2001-02 City side that swept all before them. Though his first team opportunities began to fade after Sylvain Distin’s signing, he gets the nod for this team.
Centre-back: Nedum Onuoha
Born in Nigeria, Nedum could have represented the Super Eagles had he so wished and was offered the opportunity to do exactly that, but eventually chose England and represented the U21s on 20 occasions.
Midfield: Ali Benarbia
Ali was born in Algeria, though spent most of his career in France. Disagreements with the Algerian federation meant he only won a handful of caps for his country, but he will be the creative genius pulling the strings for this team.
Midfield: Marc Vivien Foe
Sadly missed and a firm crowd favourite during his time with City, Marco would take the anchor role for our African XI. The Cameroon star was a towering presence who could tackle, pass and score goals.
Midfield: Yaya Toure
What possibly needs to be said about Yaya. A Manchester City legend and a player who is irreplaceable, Yaya would provide the drive and energy for this side.
Right wing: Riyad Mahrez
Algeria skipper Mahrez would be a shoo-in in this team, with his trickery and vision making him first choice for our right wing berth. He may have to battle Yaya for penalty-taking duties however!
Left wing: George Weah
Not exacty a left winger, but left of the front three, the former World Player of the Year and Liberian legend would have to take a place in this XI.
Striker: Emmanuel Adebayor
Togo’s most famous export, Manu was a talent who shone brightly for a time in sky blue. Tall, quick and powerful, he just gets the nod on this occasion over Kelechi Iheanacho – if for no other reasons than his celebrations were memorable!
Subs: Djamel Abdoun, Dickson Etuhu, Kelvin Etuhu, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Wilfried Bony, Benjani, Kelechi Iheanacho
In this edition of the Mixed Grilling I’d like to introduce Howard Gilby.
Recommended as a True Blue by a mutual friend, I know very little about Howard… or at least I didn’t until I read his self-constructed biog. What a story!
"I was born in Manchester in 1954
"Blue from the outset thanks to my Auntie Mollie who went to all games home and away and fed me all the programmes. I think that's how i learned to read.
"We lost our dad at a young age so basically raised by my mum and older sister. I was easy to look after -play football, watch football (City). That was it.
"We lived in Astor Road, Burnage and I went to Acacias Primary School where we had a great team aged 11 with David Threlfall (of 'Shameless' fame) as centre forward. We played in a City kit as there were more Blues than Reds.
"I went to Burnage Grammar in 1965.
"I also invaded the pitch with my sister (and 30,000 others) when we won the Second Division title in '66, Johnny Crossan and Colin were my heroes at that time. Kept my bit of Maine Road turf alive in our back garden for about 12 years!
"Won the league at Newcastle in 1968,but I was mugged in Leeds on way back...City fans had whip round and I returned home with no scarf but richer than when I left!
"For the European Cup Winners' Cup final in Vienna it was a case of my mum vs the head of Burnage Grammar.....22 guineas round trip with potted meat sarnies. I was soaked to bone, programmes all turned to mush, dancing in the rain, then back at school next morning.
"Early in the 70s I was part of a three-pronged team with Richard Sutton and Roger Reid to instigate the Junior Blues. We produced the fortnightly newsletter with regular meets at the social club on Sundays. I did all the artwork and the highlight of the first year was the first Junior Blues national rally at the Free Trade Hall. It became the biggest scheme of its type in the country and quickly became a model for others to copy. in the following years Dennis Tueart became president and the club began investing in the scheme.
"The early 70s was also all about Bowie, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars for me. I used to buy black and white photos of Bowie, Mick Ronson, Lou Reed, Jethro Tull from Kevin Cummins. I have a vague memory of chatting to him at half-time years later in the daytime match in the San Siro 1978 as City drew 2-2 in a hostile atmosphere as the match had been fogged off the night before - .not helped by Milan flares.
"Then Electric Circus and Punk, Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Jam and The Clash, Patti Smith, Ramones. It was.an angry time where every City away game was a challenge to make it back to Manchester unscathed.
"I then studied architecture at Manchester Poly from 1972-78
"After City lost to Tottenham in the '81 FA Cup final, I
went globetrotting to escape the pain and settled in Hong Kong to work for Sir Norman Foster on the Hong Kong Bank Project. Played part-time for Tsing Tao in the third division and 4 months after watching Tommy Hutchinson score at both ends at Wembley (first match) I found myself playing against him in a friendly match vs Bulova from the HK first division.....I was star struck, .but sadly when I tried a mazy run he shouted 'leave the wee man alone he doesn't know what he's doing!'. Cruel but true. By then it was clear I was an architect not a footballer.
"Then moved back to Norman Fosters London office in 1985 by now married and along came our two girls. Took the girls up to City when they were young but we always seemed to lose and they were always complaining that the hot dogs had sold out!. They both ended up as performers and had enough drama in their lives - they saw the pain City defeats inflicted on me so i guess they yearned for the theatre where it always turns out good?
"The Etihad years came and I finally got a season ticket after years of paying cash in the Kippax and filling in the voucher sheets and collecting away programmes and then sleeping all night outside the ground to get tickets for the big games.
"Now I've finally got a seat everyone stands!
"The football has been beautiful at times. When it was awful it became funny to mask the pain. Self-deprivation is in a City fan's DNA which makes these glorious times very sweet but difficult to understand how it all happened. It's the best football I've seen in my life. we have always had at least one ball wizard, but now we have a whole squad!
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GOING TO A FOOTBALL MATCH?
Just after my dad died ( I was about 6) he'd been bedridden for two years, a friend's father took us both to a night match at Maine Road...can't remember anything of the match but can vividly remember climbing the seemingly endless dark staircase, jammed with people, in the corner of the Platt Lane Stand where it meets the Main Stand. Then the stair opened up to a magical floodlit beautiful lush green pitch where there was the smell of cigarettes, Bovril and the roar from the Kippax as the teams came out. That was the beginning of life!
IF YOU GO GO BACK IN TIME AND CHANGE ONE REF DECISION - WHAT MATCH WOULD THAT BE - AND WHY?
It would have to be the champions league game against Tottenham at the Etihad where all the injustices leading up to the final minute would have been erased had City's injury time goal been aloud to stand. The consequences of that disallowed goal were huge.
WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR LEAST FAVORITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
Over the course of a lifetime probably United just because of the gut wrenching emotions leading up-to the game. I have become good at erasing the memories of defeats....and we have so many good memories now, but still don't enjoy the build up of fear and trepidation.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVORITE MAN CITY TERRACE SONG OR CHANT - AND WHY?
All the unique ones with a sense of despair, loneliness and self pity and self mocking... 'Blue Moon'....'We're Not Really Here', among many others."
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CITY GOAL YOU HAVE WITNESSED? AGUEROOOOOOO APART....
In my youth it was Tommy Booth's winner at Villa Park against Everton in 1969. Me and Steve Walsh were near the front, right behind the goal and I can still hear the ball hitting the net!!!! Plus Paul Dickov's goal vs Gillingham was huge but I would say the ground-breaking goal was Yaya Toure's winner at Wembley in the FA Cup semi final...when United were still at their peak. And in the League it would be Vincent Kompany's goals at the Etihad against United to win 1-0 and against Leicester when a goal seemed impossible - and a goal practically meant the Premier League title.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY MAN CITY PLAYER - PRESENT OR PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS - WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Not sure I'd enjoy that.....it'd be awkward! But I'd love to listen to a conversation over a cup of tea and biscuits between Joe Mercer, Big Mal, and Pep. I'd just sit silently and enjoy the magical visions they'd be plotting.
HAVE YOU EVER SHED A TEAR - OF JOY OR PAIN - AT A CITY MATCH?
Too many to mention, but Colin Bell's Comeback game after a long time out was emotional. and away at Leicester when everyone had black and red scarves after Neil Young's passing.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MAINE ROAD
I miss the Kippax of my youth. No other ground had that, all standing along one complete side of the pitch.
IF YOU COULD PICK ONE CURRENT CITY PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
I would say Nathan Ake is one of the brightest minds, but really they should all be at home sleeping and recharging their batteries!
What more could anyone ask on Valentine’s Day than a few days in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon? The fact that City are playing there too is erm, a coincidence – isn’t it?
In February, we get down to the business end of the Champions League; the last 16. It took UEFA’s draw specialists a while to understand their own system, but finally they worked out that we would play Sporting Clube de Portugal, or Sporting Lisbon as our media call them.
For those of us lucky enough to go, it should be warmer than Manchester, and the local beers are around £1 a glass (as ever, drink in moderation, you Blues).
For most of our fans, it’ll be a night in front of the TV. No shouting at that nice Mr Ferdinand please.
Here are a few photos I’ve taken on our previous trips to play ‘SCP’. I hope they give you a flavour of this beautiful city...
And here’s hoping we bring a lead back to the Etihad with us...
A look back to a time when finding out City’s result was much harder than just a couple of swipes on your mobile…
I had a rare match day off in January and it allowed me the time to reminisce a little.
I’d seen our game earlier in the day and was watching Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports with my son as the latest scores and results came in and, for some reason, it made me think back to when I was his age and how I’d go about finding out the results of the day.
If City were away, I’d religiously listen to Piccadilly Radio for Brian Clarke’s regular updates and race downstairs to tell my Mum if the jingle ‘It’s a goal!’ was played and it was City who scored – it could have been any one of United, City, Bolton, Oldham, Bury or Stockport County – and then race back up listen to reports which were played around music interludes and advert breaks.
It was magical.
Then, it would the teleprinter – basically an automatic typewriter that listed the results live – on either World of Sport or Grandstand.
Next, I’d walk to our local post office to await the Football Pink where the usual collection of people would be waiting for it to arrive.
Often, you’d be shoulder to shoulder with people waiting, until that black and yellow Manchester Evening News van would stop outside, throw a stack of bound Pinks on the pavement and somebody would go and fetch them in.
I sometimes wrote in and remember, with great pride, seeing my name under the ‘Tenner Letter’ title on the letters page. It was always about City.
Then I’d read an extensive report on how the Blues had got on, usually written by Peter Gardner, the MEN’s resident City journalist.
Over the course of the evening, I’d read other match reports, plus the central double-page feature section on City which also carried the results and fixtures.
I also recall that, in pre-season, it would be almost impossible to find out the result of a tour game until the next day when I’d scour the papers looking for a report on how we’d got on. That was literally the only way of finding out as this was pre-mobile phone and Internet days.
“It must have been rubbish, dad,” he said as I shared this trip down memory lane with him and while the immediacy of today’s world is undoubtedly fantastic, I told him it was actually a wonderful time.
The Football Pink has long since gone and I don’t think Piccadilly Radio cover matches anymore, but they did when I was a kid and I still miss those days.