onwards and upwards

As disappointing as it is to lose a Manchester derby, we all knew our winning run couldn’t last forever.

But if somebody had offered that we would be 11 points clear at the top of the table going into the last 10 games of the season back in November, we’d have probably snapped their hands off.

The bottom line is that if we win seven of our remaining Premier League games, we will be champions.

Six would almost certainly be enough, unless there is a major goal difference swing among the chasing pack and that is six wins needed only if United , Chelsea or Leicester were to win all 10 of their remaining matches.

Pep and the players won’t be thinking along those lines, however – only our next game, which of course is Southampton.

If we can bounce back with a victory against the Saints, Sunday’s result will be quickly forgotten.

These digital programmes have been stacking up lately and the relentless schedule stretches back to June with little or no break in-between.

Yet we have just four home games left in the Premier League – this campaign continues to race by - but we are on the home straight now.

We hope you enjoy our latest digital edition of the matchday programme and fingers crossed we get back to winning ways against the Saints.

The manager's pre-match thoughts...


Hello and welcome to Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and his coaching staff.

Our visitors arrive on the back of a very good performance in their last game at Sheffield, a win that reminded everyone that they were at one point this season on top of the Premier League table.

They have shown that they have high quality players and we know their strength well after fighting so hard to beat them 1-0 in the reverse fixture at St Mary’s in December.

Of course, we come into the contest having seen our great run of wins come to an end in Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Now the response must be positive, and I am sure it will be. These players want to go again and start another incredible run. It is how they think and why they are such top professionals.

What we did between losing at Spurs and in the derby was amazing, but we must now make sure all that fantastic play and those results are not wasted.

It was disappointing to lose to United, but our aim is to win the Premier League and that has not changed after one ninety-minute performance.

We are now in the last ten games. It is when the run-in starts and when time seems to go more quickly and the games, too.

We still need to win most of those ten matches though having the margin we have at the top - of 11 points – means our destiny is in our hands.

What we must not do is dwell too much about one defeat against a very good side that has been unbeaten away from home for around one year.

Sometimes it is not all about the result but also about how you play and for long spells in Sunday’s match against United we played well. Certainly, we played as well as we had done in a few of the 21 wins in succession and for instance, better than we did against West Ham United. We kept going right to the end and created plenty of chances, but it was not our day.

The players should be upset but not down. They have been incredible this season and their character is not in any doubt. Now we must go back to what we do best and make sure we are ready for each challenge in the four competitions that we are still fighting to win.

That starts tonight with the game against Southampton.

Enjoy the match everyone and stay safe.

Our Club Ambassador's column..

I thought we played well against United on Sunday and created a number of chances but for whatever reason, we never looked like scoring.

United set up their stall well, but we had a team that was good enough to beat them and it just didn’t happen on this occasion.

Football is a crazy game and it’s a little bit of a kick up the backside but after so many wins and not losing for such a long time, it is inevitable that eventually things won’t go your way occasionally.

Pep won’t allow the players to dwell on the result, though – he’ll have them up and firing again for Wednesday’s game, don’t worry about that!

We want to win as many trophies as possible this season and we are well placed to do exactly that – United was just one game and now we move on to Southampton.

I like Ralph Hasenhuttl and I always think Southampton are a tricky side to play.

Last season we pitched a tent in their 18-yard box and still lost and I think they will set out to give us another testing 90 minutes.

To round off, I would like to again give credit to the players up and down the country playing to empty stadiums.

Imagine if it was a theatre and you walked on stage to see nobody there? That’s what it’s like for players – they entertain and feed off the crowd so what has been achieved this season is nothing shy of incredible.

If I could have one wish, it would be to allow people to go to games again in safe and limited numbers, reopen theatres and cinemas and let people be entertained again.

We’ve all been locked up for a year and I’m sure it could all be done safely – people need to have something to look forward to and watching matches is a big part of a lot of people’s lives.

I know we are hopefully nearing the end of lockdown, but perhaps it is because it is so close that it seems to be even harder at the moment.

We’ll get there, though.

Stay safe and enjoy the game.

southampton:
THE SEASON SO FAR

Southampton’s season has been, if you will, a game of two halves. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side enjoyed an excellent first part of the campaign but have struggled to maintain their fine early form.

They began with a 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace and a 2-0 home defeat to Brentford in the Carabao Cup, and things looked even bleaker after a 5-2 thrashing by Spurs at St Mary's.

But Saints showed character by ending the month with a disciplined 1-0 win away to Burnley.

They continued their good form into October after 2-0 wins over West Brom and Everton were sandwiched by a 3-3 draw away to Chelsea.

And November saw Saints beat Aston Villa 4-3 at Villa Park, with a 2-0 win over Newcastle seeing Hasenhuttl's men top the Premier League for the very first time.

A creditable 1-1 draw at Wolves then saw Saints take on Manchester United at St Mary's and go in 2-0 up at the break in their next game - but the Reds came back to win 3-2.

Again, Hasenhuttl’s side bounced back impressively, with a 2-1 win at Brighton and then a 3-0 victory over basement side Sheffield United leaving them just two points off the top.

Raheem Sterling's 16th-minute goal at St Mary's gave City a hard-fought 1-0 win on the south coast, with draws at Arsenal and Fulham either side of that game.

Saints ended 2020 with a 0-0 draw against West Ham United, with the dropped festive points seeing them fall to ninth. in the table.

Yet 2021 couldn't have started any better, with Danny Ings' second-minute goal enough to be champions Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary's - though that would be their last win in nine Premier League outings.

After a 2-0 defeat to Leicester, Southampton won successive FA Cup ties against Shrewsbury and Arsenal - only to then lose 3-1 in the league to the Gunners.

And Aston Villa avenged the loss at Villa Park with a 1-0 success at St Mary's.

February would see the decline continue.

An awful performance at Old Trafford saw Saints beaten 9-0, though two red cards hardly helped their cause.

Then struggling Newcastle United beat them 3-2 at St James' Park - but the FA Cup was proving a welcome distraction for Saints fans.

An impressive 2-0 win at Wolves meant a quarter-final berth was booked - but history then repeated (as had done in successive games against Arsenal) with the league clash against the same opposition a few days later ending in a 2-1 defeat.

Southampton arrested the slide down the table with a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, but then lost 3-0 to Leeds United at Elland Road, with Hasenhuttl's out-of-sorts side lacking their early season zip.

March had to better and, so far, it has been - a little.

A 1-0 loss to in-form Everton was followed by a first league win since the start of the year, with a 2-0 victory at Sheffield United, allaying fears that the Saints could get sucked into a relegation dogfight - they probably won't, but after topping the table earlier in the campaign, it has been a deflating past few months for a side that are far better than their current 14th league position suggests.

CITY V saints:
our history

It may or may not be a surprise to learn that City and Southampton's first meeting was 111 years ago with the Blues triumphing 5-0 on the south coast in the FA Cup.

The first league meeting wouldn't be until 16 years later with Saints winning 4-3 on their first visit to Maine Road and the return fixture at The Dell ending 1-1.

In total there have been 94 meetings in all competitions.

Between 1927 and 1950, City would remain unbeaten against Southampton, winning four and drawing three. That also included a record 6-1 win at Maine Road in 1928.

All the league games had so far been in Division Two, but Saints wouldn't lose any of the next six meetings in a run that stretched 14 years up to 1964.

The first top flight meetings came in 1966/67, with Tony Book making his City debut in the 1-1 draw at The Dell in August '66 - the return game also ended 1-1 four months later.

Between 1965 and 1971, the Blues lost just two of 12 meetings, winning five and drawing seven.

The Saints would enjoy their best run of results between 1978 and 1980, recording six wins on the bounce in league and cup.

And between 1978 and 1985, The Dell became something of a bogey ground for City who lost eight successive games there and between 1986 to 1991, Saints again went unbeaten, this time in six matches, winning four and drawing two.

In 1991, City ended a run of 11 games without success at The Dell - stretching back to 1974 - with a 3-0 victory on the south coast.

And from 1992 to 1999, City enjoyed an undefeated run of nine games in the fixture, winning four and drawing five.

And Saints were the ultimate party-poopers in May 2003, beating City 1-0 in the last game ever to be played at Maine Road.

Our more recent history against Southampton has put a much more balanced look at the overall stats, with City losing just twice in 16 meetings.

The Blues have won a dozen of those and drawn a couple more with a goals aggregate of 37-14.

But games against the south coast outfit are never straightforward...

KEVIN CUMMINS COLUMN

Celebrated rock photographer Kevin Cummins delves into his archives for more City gold..

On the morning of 1 August 1977, I was despatched to Manchester International Airport in a fast car, alongside Dennis Tueart and Junior Blues supremo and Cub Reporter, Roger Reade. We were going to meet top Southampton winger, Mick Channon, who we’d just signed in a Club record-breaking £300,000 deal. I’m not sure why Dennis came – maybe because he knew Mick from England get-togethers, or maybe as President of the Junior Blues or maybe because they’d both worn red and white stripes, albeit at opposite ends of the country.

Or maybe he was there as the public face of Manchester City. Nobody else from the Club came to meet him on his first day in Manchester – apart from Junior Blue Roger – although that didn’t seem odd at the time.

The previous season, City finished runners up to Liverpool by one agonising point. Looking to strengthen what was already a very good side, manager Tony Book, believed Channon, an established England international, was just the ticket. But already in his late 20s, he wasn’t quite what we needed at the time.

But was I going to say that? Of course not. I was too nervous to say anything. Two days earlier, I’d had my first piece published in the NME – The World’s Biggest Selling Rock Weekly. Now I was in a big shiny limousine, speeding towards the airport with The King of all Geordies.

I felt my time had come. The only drawback was that I was far too nervous to photograph footballers who I watched – and idolised - every weekend. It was much easier photographing my contemporaries. I was more comfortable with young musicians whose achievements were similar to mine, which added up to pretty much nothing - as yet. 

The top bods at Manchester Airport allowed us to go airside to meet Mick, and I took a photo of Dennis shaking hands with him in a ‘Welcome to Manchester’ kind of way. Then Roger asked him some questions, then Dennis and Mick had a bit of bantz - the type that can’t be repeated in a family publication and then we were on our way back to Maine Road.

And that was that. End of session.

I’d been hoping for a look behind the scenes, but I was just left outside the hallowed portals, on the forecourt car park.

On 25 March 1978, I was asked to take some action photos for the match programme in our game v Middlesbrough. Again, I really didn’t like shooting match action. As a fan I was always concerned that I’d join in a goal celebration, and that my career would be over before it’d begun. Channon bagged a brace in this game, but of course I missed both goals, as I was too busy watching the game and erm, sort of forgot that that’s what I was being paid for. I did however get these two nice photos of him, though I wasn’t invited back for a while. 

Then in late August 1978, I was photographing Buzzcocks in TJ Davidson’s Rehearsal Rooms when I got a phone call from City. Apparently, some guy had been in touch with them, saying he was the spitting image of Mick Channon and could he meet him, as they were clearly separated at birth? These days, lookalikes are ten a penny in football, thanks to Sean Dyche’s recent press conference, but back then it was quite an unusual request. 

No limo was sent this time, so I made my way on the bus to Maine Road to witness and photograph this extraordinary event. I’ve only recently found this negative and, well, . 

I’ll leave you all to make up your own minds. Obviously, I took a photo of them shaking hands as I didn’t know what else to do. But the fact that I only used six frames on a roll of 36 tells its own story...

james ward-prowse

Premier League Stats

Age: 26

Position: Midfielder

Squad number: 8

Games: 258

Goals: 28

Assists: 27

Hit woodwork: 6

Headed goals: 0

Right-foot goals: 24

Left-foot goals: 4

Penalties scored: 5

Free-kicks scored: 10

Shots: 269

On target: 114

Shooting accuracy: 42%

Yellow cards: 32

Red cards: 1

Clubs: Southampton

International caps (England): 4

International goals: 0

Club career appearances (all comps): 309

Club career goals (all comps): 31

City/saints:
10 Connections

City and Southampton have had a number of players who have played for both – plus at least a couple of managers – over the years...

Probably the most high profile switch from south to north was striker Mike Channon.

The Saints legend joined City for a record fee of £300,000 in 1977, staying for a couple of seasons before returning to The Dell in 1979.

Things didn’t work out that well at Maine Road for Channon, but he was a popular figure during his time at the club.

Dave Watson was a defensive rock along the lines of Vincent Kompany.

The strapping central defender joined City from Sunderland in 1974, making 188 appearances over four excellent seasons before being sold by Malcolm Allison in 1979.

Watson initially went to Werder Bremen, returning to sign for Southampton shortly after and staying at The Dell for two years.

Kevin Bond arrived at City from Norwich in 1981 and initially had an uneasy relationship with a section of Blues’ fans.

Signed by then-manager (and dad) John Bond, Kevin’s arrival meant crowd favourite Nicky Reid was occasionally dropped and as a result, Bond junior was blamed.

Bond battled it out and went on to play 124 times for City, scoring 12 goals before moving on to play for the Saints for four years.

Wayne Bridge began his life with Southampton and played five seasons, making 173 appearances before moving to Chelsea.

He arrived at City in 2008, but injuries hampered his four-year stay and he made just 58 appearances before a series of loan moves and a permanent transfer to Reading.

Bradley Wright-Phillips found first team opportunities difficult to come by at City.

The Academy graduate and younger brother of Shaun managed just two goals in 40 appearances before being sold to the Saints for £500,000 in 2006.

He enjoyed three productive seasons at St Mary’s before moving on having made 121 appearances and scored 25 goals.

Uwe Rosler’s stay at City was an unqualified success.

A bargain buy from German side FC Nurnberg, the cult hero striker stayed at Maine Road for five seasons where his passion and love of the shirt resonated with the City fans.

His 64 goals from 176 appearances was an excellent return and only relegation to the third tier forced his departure to Kaiserslautern.

He returned to England with Southampton, but his two-year stay saw just one goal in 29 games.

Angus Gunn was with City’s Academy and then senior squad from 2011-17, but the youngster had to go out on loan to find first team football.

He was initially loaned to Norwich City before making a permanent switch to Southampton where he has since been loaned out to Stoke.

Graham Baker played 113 league games for the Saints from 1976 to 1982.

The industrious midfielder then moved to City where he would stay for five years, playing 144 times and scoring 21 times before returning to The Dell for a further three years.

We end our connections with two managers.

Alan Ball played for the Saints from 1981 to 1983 and returned to manage the club in 1994 for 18 months – ending his tenure to become City boss in July 1995, but after being relegated in his first campaign at Maine Road, he was sacked 13 months later.

Finally, Kevin Keegan’s shock move to Saints in 1980 saw the club challenging for the title in his first season at The Dell.

Keegan had inspired Hamburg to the Bundesliga title during his three years in Germany and Southampton seemed an unlikely choice for a player who was regarded as a superstar in Europe and had won the Ballon d’Or twice.

He scored 37 goals in 68 matches but felt the club didn’t match his own ambition and left for Newcastle United in 1982.

He managed City from 2001 to 2005, taking the Club back to the Premier League and back into Europe during a memorable stay.

Here’s to bright blue skies… 

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Your wellness, our priority

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We’re here for you 24/7

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Freedom to fly when you’re ready

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If you’d prefer to travel at a different time, you can change your flight for free. Simple.

Our Junior Cityzen mascot for today...

Name:                  Lily Chapman
Age:                      11
From:                    Stockport
Fave player:        Phil Foden

About Lily...

Interesting facts - Lily has supported City since the day she was born and has been as seasoncard holder ever since. Her special memories are of meeting Aguero at his book signing and also seeing Phil Foden at her school. She enjoyed being on the pitch having her photo taken before the game against Liverpool, too. She has three Huskies (Disco, Indie & Roxy).
Lily has attended every home game since the age of 15 months, she also has every kit from every season since then, some of them have been signed by Mario Balotelli and Nigel De Jong.
She has also raised more than £1000 for City in the Community foundation when she completed the very first 5K Blue Run in 2017.

‘Junior Cityzen of the Match, presented by Cadbury'

“It's hard to put together a team from all eras, especially those who played before I came to the Club, but I know enough about the players I've included to merit a place in this XI…

“Based on his extraordinary performances on the pitch and his bravery on and off the pitch for so many years, I choose Bert Trautmann in goal. He battled hard to win the affection of the City fans and ultimately the whole nation but as a he keeper, he was among the very best.

“Zabaleta came to City as part of a new generation of players under the new ownership of the Club. He was a true competitor and very consistent in his performance levels. I admired his attacking style and remains a wonderful ambassador for City.

“Aleks Kolarov’s was an underrated left-back in my opinion – good on the ground and in the air, his ability from set pieces make him a player I’d want in this team.

“Ruben Dias and Vincent Kompany would be my central defensive pair – both outstanding defenders and a very modern centre-backs. 

“Colin Bell would be my central midfielder. His ability, speed and athleticism set him apart and for me he is one of the greatest players the Club has ever had, if not the best.“

Asa Hartford was a left-footed midfielder who was technically good and a hard, fierce competitor, too.  Asa was always a great team player and was a tough opponent nobody liked to face.“

David Silva, for me, is a complete footballer. He can also play centrally, of course, but I'd have him on the left in this team. He has wonderful ability, vision and technically excellent. Always available for a pass, I would have loved to have played alongside him.

“Carlos Tevez had the ability to lift a whole stadium and his team-mates on his own. His infectious, energetic style is sorely missed and alongside Aguero, we had one of the best striker partnerships in the world. A natural winner who never gave up and gave his all every time he played. It was a sad day when he left City.

“Sergio is a prototype striker, very explosive and capable of everything. He can dribble, run in behind, turn defenders and can score goals with his left, right or head - a complete striker.

MARC'S NEW Q&A SERIES FOR BLUES FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE - NEXT UP, MICK BILLINGS...

The spotlight  on this weeks MCFC Grilling is a certain Mr Michael Billings.. or Mick  to his  mates! I got to know Mick when  we were both season-ticket holders in the top  tier of the Kippax. A friendship was inevitable due to  the fact that not only are we Big Blues….but we also proudly wear the title of BOWIE-NUT.

I remember Mick once said to me “At two of the best moments of my life - I was stood next to  you." The first being the often mentioned Aguero nail-biter against QPR… and the other was when I introduced him to David Bowie at the MEN Arena on DB’s last ever tour. I took  him along to the sound check and we had an exchange with Bowie towering above us on the stage. “This is my mate Mick David”… “Hello  Mick…

”Hello David…”.

Believe me, .for a man who has a Bowie-shrine at home that brief encounter with The Artist Formerly Known As Ziggy  Stardust is tantamount to a life-changing experience.

We’ve been to Wembley together (football) and we’ve been to Hull and back…(a gig)…and  I’m looking forward to  the day I can take my seat next to this long-time member of the Blue Army in the Colin Bell Stand.

I’ll let Mick tell you a bit about himself…the let the grilling  begin!

I'm Mick Billings, 53 year-old mad Blue from Ashton-under-Lyne where I live with my soon-to-be wife (pandemic depending!), Sally.

I've been a season ticket holder since the early 80s and for the last 20 something years have had the pleasure of sitting next to Marc and his lovely Missus, Trace - watching the Blue boys! My two sons Joe and Liam are both City daft and I'm pleased to say that over the last few years I've added my step-daughter Mary to our City clan!

My City claim to fame is that I came up with the name 'Moonchester' when there was a Junior Blues competition circa 2000 to name him and I entered the name for my son Liam and we won!

Q+A...

WHAT  IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY  OF GOING TO  A FOOTBALL MATCH?
Season 74/75 - my dad took me to my first match at Maine Road against Everton, I can't remember the result or much about the game but I do remember Rodney Marsh dribbling past a couple of players in front of the Kippax then turning round and beating them again running back towards our own goal... I was hooked!

WHAT IS THE  MOST  PECULIAR  OR MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU AT A MATCH?
Again, as a very young kid sitting with my dad on the front row of the North stand, a cross was whipped in but it lacked accuracy and flew behind the goal. My Dad reached forward, caught it and threw it back, I thought he was very cool, I still do actually!

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND PREVENT ONE MATCH FROM BEING PLAYED -WHAT MATCH WOULD THAT BE  - AND WHY?
Definitely our Champions League exit to Spurs, I was with my son Liam and my stepdaughter Mary and when what we thought was the winner went in we danced and hugged each other with joy only for the dreaded VAR offside to appear on the scoreboard. We went from sheer euphoria to despair in seconds, it was awful!

WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR  LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
Manchester United, no explanation required.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MAN  CITY TERRACE SONG  OR CHANT - AND WHY?
'The Invisible Man' I love that one, I was there when we started singing it in the dark days and it always makes me smile when we sing it today!

HAVE YOU EVER MET  ONE  OF YOUR MAN  CITY HEROES… IF SO, WHO… AND HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE!
My local pub as a youngster was the Oddfellows Arms in Ashton-under-Lyne (coincidentally my soon to be father-in-law John was the landlord!) and one of the pub's regulars was Mike Doyle and naturally, I was in awe of him, I was lucky enough to have quite a few football chats with Mike, he knew I was a massive Blue and always had time for me, a true City legend and a gentleman. 

IF YOU COULD  INVITE  ANY MAN  CITY  PLAYER - PRESENT  OR  PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS  - WHO  WOULD IT BE  - AND WHY?
Dennis Tueart, he was my absolute hero growing up and I remember being absolutely gutted when he left for New York Cosmos. As a kid, I'd try to play with cool white sock tags like he had but mine were just toilet paper stuck to my socks! 

HAVE YOU EVER SHED A TEAR - OF JOY  - OR  PAIN -  AT A  CITY MATCH?
A few times but I think most memorably at the 2011 FA Cup final v Stoke, after 31 years of following City home and away and winning nothing to see us lift the trophy that day was so emotional....and brilliant!

WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT  MAINE ROAD?
Night matches! it was such a special place and where I grew up really, but there was something magical about playing there under the lights, great memories!

WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD WIN IN AN  ARM  WRESTLING  MATCH…  YAYA TOURE - OR KYLE WALKER?
Yaya, but Kyle could jump up, pull his tongue out and I don't think Yaya would catch him!

IF YOU COULD  PICK ONE CURRENT CITY  PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR  PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD  IT  BE - AND WHY?
I'd have to go for Kevin in the hope that he's as clever off the pitch as he is on it, but I'd also have Marc Riley on my team so we should sail through the music round!