here we go again...
Games against Aston Villa are rarely dull affairs.
We all look at the fixture lists when they are published and there will be games that stand-out, some not so much and a few we're all probably glad to get out of the way quickly.
Villa, home or away, has always been a decent date on the calendar and this meeting is no exception.
Dean Smith's side have proved to be one of the Premier League's surprise packages this campaign, but they are so purely on merit.
Indeed, they have taken 16 from a possible 24 points on their travels this season and performed well in all the games against the leading sides.
Had their home for been better, they could have been coming into this game above City.
Leeds, Brighton and Southampton have all won at Villa Park and Burnley left with a 0-0 draw - had they managed just six points from those four games, Villa would have been in a very strong position going into the New Year.
As it is, they arrive at the Etihad having not been able to play a Premier League game for 19 days due to Coronavirus protocols and whether that works in their favour - or against them - remains to be seen.
In this digital edition, we look at Villa's season so far plus our long, colourful history against them.
Also, Kev Cummins shares a photoshoot he did with Jack Grealish a few years back and we have Pep's manager notes and Buzzer's regular column as well as Dream XI and Connections.
Hope you enjoy it!
Hello everyone and a warm Etihad Stadium welcome to Dean Smith and his Aston Villa staff from all at Manchester City.
Villa come here having had an incredible start to campaign. The staff and players there have worked so hard to turn things around after a difficult time last season.
Already we have seen their team’s quality with wins at Wolves, Arsenal and Leicester away from home and that big win over Liverpool at Villa Park.
We know we face an opponent that is full of confidence - but so do they.
Our 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday night not only took us into second place in the Premier League table but also extended our own long unbeaten run.
I was so pleased with the way we took the three points from a Palace side that had enjoyed its previous recent trips to Manchester.
Everyone could see from the start how we pressed; how aggressive we were to get the ball back. The intensity that you need was evident. All those things are so important if you want to keep winning football matches and right now, we are in a good moment.
The guys at the back did not make any mistakes and they are so consistent. Last season it happened many times that the opponents did not do that much in a game or did not have many shots, but they scored goals.
This season we have improved a lot in that aspect of our play. We concede few and that means the skill of the players up front can make a big difference.
We saw that on Sunday with the quality of the goals we scored and the assists that led to them.
I have said before that everyone can beat everyone else in the league and it gives you difficult and different problems to solve in every game. Tonight will be no different and the fact that we have won some matches in a row will not matter. What does matter is that we again show all the qualities that we did against Palace.
League position is not important at this point in the season. We fought a lot to be up near the top, like many clubs, and now we will have to continue to fight a lot to stay there. We were eight points behind before we played Southampton and now, if we win tonight, we will go top - but there will be no title given.
Many things can and will still happen. That is why I do not think too much about the position in the table and neither should the players. What we need to do is play our best game this evening and then rest well and prepare well for the next one.
Enjoy the game everyone and stay safe.
Our Club Ambassador's thoughts ahead of the Villa and Cheltenham Town games...
I was pleased we got three points against Crystal Palace on Sunday because as I said previously, they are a good, hard-working, and well-organised side.
They’re not easy to beat them home or away, but I did wonder why they sat back as much as they did.
Losing Wilfried Zaha was a blow for them, but apart from Leicester and maybe Wolves, few teams arrive at the Etihad with anything other than a defensive mindset and given the amount times those sides leave with nothing, I often wonder why.
We played really well, though and it was a very good result against a decent Premier League side.
Next up, we face Aston Villa and this is going to be another difficult test.
Villa have impressed everyone this season and they are very good away from home, so I think this will be a really good match.
They may have been isolating due to a Coronavirus outbreak, but don’t kid yourself that they won’t be fresh and ready for this game.
Manager Dean Smith has said it has been similar to a midwinter break, so they will have plenty of energy and will fancy they can get a result at the Etihad.
I’m also looking forward to Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Cheltenham Town as it is a game that is very close to my heart.
In 1950, my father became the manager of Cheltenham, which is a beautiful spa town in the Cotswolds and it was a wonderful experience for our family.
I grew up in Cheltenham and my dad did a good job at the club, with no bias in that statement at all!
He helped Cheltenham become the first club in the Southern League to have floodlights, placing them on the telegraph poles around the ground with the help of some players.
I’m really looking forward to going back – Cheltenham holds wonderful memories for me and I’ve not been back to the stadium since I was a boy. It is a fantastic draw for both clubs.
Enjoy the Villa match and Saturday’s FA Cup tie and I’ll see you all again against Sheffield United at the end of the month.
Until then, keep safe and take care.
The Season So Far
Campaign to date...
Having narrowly survived relegation on the final day of the 2019/20 campaign, few expected Aston Villa to fly out of the blocks in quite the way they did this season.
The Midlanders opening game was to be City away - but our participation in the latter stages of the Champions League meant that fixture had to be delayed until this evening.
Instead, Villa started their schedule with a 3-1 win over Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup, with £28m capture from Brentford Ollie Watkins on target.
A narrow 1-0 home win over Sheffield United got the league campaign up and running and a 3-0 Carabao Cup win at Bristol City made it three from three.
Villa ended the month with another fine performance and the 3-0 win away to Fulham preserved their 100% record to date.
October began with a surprising Carabao Cup exit, losing 1-0 to Stoke City at Villa Park, but what followed was arguably one of the biggest shocks in recent Premier League memory.
Villa routed defending Premier League champions Liverpool 7-2, with a superb all-round display from Dean Smith's side that saw Watkins grab a hat-trick and the influential Jack Grealish a brace.
It was a result that sent shockwaves through the top flight and with league three wins from three, put Villa second in the table.
And how do you follow a win like that? With an added time winner away to Leicester City is the answer as Smith's men continued their blistering, faultless start.
But the old saying that you are only as good as your last result proved true, as Villa then succumbed to a second-half Patrick Bamford hat-trick to lose 3-0 at home to Leeds United.
Villa again came unstuck on their own turf in the next game and went in at the break 3-0 down to a resurgent Southampton - but at least fought hard in the second-half, ultimately going down 4-3.
Smith's side bounced back with a superb 3-0 win away to Arsenal, but missed the chance to go third with a hugely frustrating 2-1 home defeat to Brighton.
November ended with a 2-1 defeat away to West Han United, but December would see Villa's form improve.
Anwar El Ghazi's stoppage time winner was enough to beat Wolves 1-0 at Molineux but continued poor home form saw a 0-0 draw with Burnley.
Villa’s fine form on the road, however, was evident again in the 3-0 victory away to West Brom to push Smith's men back into the top half of the table.
A 3-0 Boxing Day win over Crystal Palace was a welcome three home points and Villa ended the year with a creditable 1-1 draw away to Chelsea.
They started the New Year with a narrow 2-1 loss away to Manchester United before the club were affected by a Coronavirus outbreak and the first team were forced to self-isolate.
Though Villa fulfilled their FA Cup third round against Liverpool, they were forced to field the majority of their Under-23 squad and were eventually beaten 4-1.
Villa haven't played a Premier League fixture since with games against Everton and Spurs postponed.
Smith's side have three games in hand over the majority of Premier League teams coming into tonight's game - if they won them all they could be second in the table.
They travel well, play good football and will be a difficult hurdle for an in-form City.
CITY V ASTON VILLA:
One of our most played opponents, City and Aston Villa have met 173 times prior to this evening's clash...
The first meeting dates back to 1899 and Villa set the pace for the early fixtures winning four and drawing one of the first five meetings - two of which were FA Cup ties and one was a 7-1 thrashing for City in December 1900.
City then bettered that opening run, winning five and drawing one of the next six - all in the top flight - before Villa resumed control winning three on the bounce.
Over the next decade, there was little between City and Villa, with the Blues just shading the 18 meetings 8-7 and three matches drawn. And from 1920 to 1930, Villa just shaded it 9 wins to 7, including a 2-1 win on their first visit to City's new Maine Road home.
City enjoyed a number of handsome victories in the 1930s, recording wins of 5-0, 5-2 and 4-1 - though the biggest was a 6-1 FA Cup semi-final win at Huddersfield Town's Leeds Road.
From 1928 to 1963 (apart from the suspension of the league during the War), City and Villa met consecutively in Division One, and the Blues won just three of 12 meetings between 1958 and 1967.
After a gap of five years, City beat Villa 1-0 in the 1972 FA Charity Shield - and odd encounter as the fixture usually involved the top tier champions and FA Cup winners, but as Derby County and Leeds United declined the invitation, City - who had finished fourth in Division One and Villa who were Division Three champions, instead played the game in front of 34,859 fans at Villa Park with Francis Lee's penalty the only goal of the game.
In 1977/78, City beat Villa 4-1 at Villa Park, with Dennis Tueart scoring a hat-trick as well as winning the return 2-0 at Maine Road.
But between 1979 and 1983, City would win just one of nine meetings - hardly surprising given the Blues were on the decline and Villa won the 1982 European Cup final.
The 1987/88 meetings were notable because it was the first time the clubs had met in the second tier, with Villa going on to win promotion while City finished ninth.
Perhaps the most notable clash in the immediate years after was City's 5-1 win at Villa Park in April 1991, with David White scoring four for the Blues.
The first Premier League clash in 1992 ended 1-1 at Maine Road, with Villa winning the return 3-1. And the first meeting at City's new Eastlands home in 2003 went City's way, with Kevin Keegan's side winning 4-1.
Overall, since 2002, it's fair to say City have largely bossed this fixture, with the odd Villa triumph thrown in here and there.
During the nine years up to 2011, City lost just three of 19 meetings, winning 12 and drawing four.
The decade since has been even more hard for Villa fans, with City winning 13 of the last 16 meetings with a goals aggregate of 46-12.
Combine the two periods and since 2002, City have won 25 of the last 35 matches – a fantastic record.
Of course, our last clash with Villa was the Carabao Cup final in March - the highest profile meeting yet of the two sides - with City edging a 2-1 win at Wembley thanks to goals from Rodrigo and Sergio Aguero.
The Villa we meet tonight, however, will rightly claim to be having their best top flight campaign for many years…
Premier League Stats
Squad number: 10
Hit woodwork: 3
Headed goals: 0
Right-foot goals: 11
Left-foot goals: 3
Penalties scored: 0
Free-kicks scored: 0
On target: 46
Shooting accuracy: 32%
Yellow cards: 13
Red cards: 0
Clubs: Aston Villa, Notts County (loan)
International caps (England): 5
International goals: 0
Club career appearances (all comps): 243
Club career goals (all comps): 36
City songs and chants and their possible origins...
The chant: ‘Dunney, Dunney’
(to the tune of Denis by Blondie)
“Dunney, Dunney, he’ll put a crush on you,
Dunney, Dunney, he’s over six-foot two,
Dunney, Dunney, he’s coming after you-oooo.
And when he ran, was like a Chieftain tank,
And when he jumped, the ground beneath him sank.
Dunney, Dunney, he’s coming after you-oooo.
Oh Dunney, Dunney’s Blue, he’s coming after you,
Dunney, Dunney’s Blue, he’s over six-foot two,
Dunney, Dunney’s Blue, he’ll put a crush on
A brilliant adaptation of Blondie’s worldwide 1978 smash in honour of City skipper Richard Dunne – and as we’re playing Aston Villa tonight (another of his former clubs), it seemed the perfect choice.
It’s tongue-in-cheek in some ways but a genuine homage to our much-loved defensive colossus who would have definitely seen the funny side.
Where it came from remains unknown, but likely to have been created between 2004 and 2009 – Dunney’s peak City years.
There have been plenty of connections between City and Villa over the years with the path from Villa Park to Maine Road and the Etihad a well-trodden one...
We’ve chosen 10 of the most relevant connections, given the numbers – though there are honourable mentions at the foot.
In no particular order we begin with James Milner who joined Villa on loan from Newcastle United in 2005 and returned on a permanent deal in 2008 and after 126 appearances Milner swapped Villa Park for the Etihad, playing 203 times for City over a five-year period.
Gareth Barry spent 12 years at Villa Park, making 441 appearances before moving to City in 2009.
Barry would win the FA Cup and Premier League with City, playing 175 games.
Joleon Lescott won two Premier League titles with City during a successful five-year stay at the Etihad.
Lescott made 160 appearances for City before moving on to West Brom - and it was from there he joined his boyhood club Villa, enjoying one full season in 2015/16 before leaving for AEK Athens.
Micah Richards spent a decade with City, clocking up 245 appearances during his time with the Club.
After a loan spell with Fiorentina he moved to Villa, but his four years in the Midlands was hampered by injury and he made just 31 appearances before being forced to retire.
Fabian Delph spent six years with Aston Villa, playing 134 games before joining City in 2015.
Delph would stay four years at City and was a two-times Premier League winner, making 89 appearances before leaving for Everton in 2019.
Kyle Walker was loaned to Villa from Spurs in 2011 and made the permanent move from White Hart Lane to City in 2017 and he has to date amassed 160 appearances.
Stephen Ireland broke through into City's first team in 2005 and was a regular for five seasons, winning the Club's Player of the Year award in 2008/09.
He left for Villa in 2010 and remained there for three seasons, making 57 starts.
Another favourite and (four times) MCFC Player of the Year is Richard Dunne.
'Dunney' was a City player for nine seasons, with the former skipper clocking up 352 appearances with the Blues.
The Republic of Ireland defender would then spend four seasons with Villa, making 111 starts.
Darius Vassell spent eight seasons with Aston Villa, scoring 45 goals in 202 games, before moving to City in 2005.
Vassell made 124 starts for City, bagging 22 goals in a four-year stay.
One of many goalkeepers to play for both, David James played 85 times for Villa between 1999 and 2001, and after spell with West Ham, stayed two-and-a-half years with City, making 100 starts before signing for Portsmouth.
In addition to the above, three managers have ties with both clubs - Ron Saunders, Billy McNeill and Martin O'Neill.
Keepers Stuart Taylor, Shay Given, John Burridge, Peter Schmeichel and Scott Carson have all played for both.
Scott Sinclair, Glenn Whelan are two more players to add to a sizeable list and going back a bit further, Frank Carrodus and John Gidman are both ex-City and Villa.
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KEVIN CUMMINS: meeting jack the lad
Photographing Jack Grealish - and why does he have my credit card?
This week I thought I’d talk a bit about photographing footballers, specifically for the kit shoot and for stock pictures for the season.
In 2016 I was commissioned to photograph tonight’s visitors, Aston Villa, for all their stock shots for the season. It’s difficult to get anything out of a shoot like this for myself, like a portfolio portrait. Everything is conveyor belt- choreographed, and timed to the second with hundreds of shots to do.
Backgrounds are neutral to make it easy for the design team to cut players out and to place them in groups of three.
Most clubs have an agreement that three players are used when promoting a brand.
The player stands there for a few full length portrait to show off the kit, then they point in different directions and hold blank cards so as ads can be dropped in place and so on. They invariably just do whatever they’re asked to do, then it’s the next player’s turn to do a range of similar shots. Nobody messes around, because they’re so used to doing it.
For me, it’s more exhausting than working with a band because it’s relentless.
A band might turn up 12 hours late, but at least they enjoy being photographed. Not many footballers do.
I wanted to try to get a few photos of Grealish that I could maybe keep in my archive, too. I took a photo of his legs because he has the unique short sock over short shin pad trademark look that everyone was commenting on at the time - and it’s so obviously him. I also managed to get a portrait for myself, Villa mainly wanted full length shots.
Then I had to do a shot of him holding a credit card for a credit card partnership deal Villa had. Except the card wasn’t yet available and nobody else had any other card with them. The new one could be stripped into the photo later, but he had to be holding a card in the shot.
Consequently I had to get one out of my wallet and pass it to him - reluctantly - well, you never know with Brummies do you? Only joking, Jack...
Fair play to young Jack, he did give it back to me later, but I quickly checked with my bank that I hadn’t just paid for a new Aston Martin for him …
Anyway, Villa were a very decent group of players to work with, and I wish them well for the season - except when they play us, obviously. And Jack’s not a bad player either, is he? And if he needs me to look after his credit card this evening, I’m happy to return the favour.
Macclesfield band Cassia have been earning plenty of rave reviews in recent months. The highly-rated trio have toured the UK, Europe and USA to sell-out crowds – with only the pandemic halting their progress. Music Glue write: “Cassia combine the positive indie pop of bands like Foals and Vampire Weekend with the jazz-tinged afrobeats of Fela Kuti and Ebo Taylor and American folk influences like Paul Simon to create an individual sound that uplifts. In the words of Gig-wise, the music comes from a band “on a mission to spread positivity.”
Ok, on with the show as bassist Lou Cotterill (pictured centre, below) said: "My dad is a massive Man City fan so there was no way I was getting away with supporting anyone but City."
Here, Lou delivers his Dream Team...
Our official mascot for the Villa game is...
Name: Lavish Jain
Favourite player: Kevin De Bruyne
In this latest episode of the series that sees me grilling fellow City supporters, I turn my attention to a certain Dan O’Donoghue. He’s a life-long member of the Blue Army as you will see from his answers. Such is his allegiance to City that he is rumoured to wear only blue socks.
Aside from following his beloved team up and down the country, Dan is also a keen rower. If you’ve ever been on or around the Manchester ship canal at 8am on a freezing Sunday morning and witnessed a tall fella in a long boat, pulling on a set of oars whilst being shouted at by someone at the far end…that could well have been Dan.
Over to you….DAN O’DONOGHUE
Dan O’Donoghue, season ticket holder for more than 25 years. Racked up over 70 away grounds, too. Also works with the local FA to increase participation in football at grassroots level.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GOING TO A FOOTBALL MATCH?
November 1978 v Ipswich. Finally I was going to see Peter Barnes! Six years-old I recall the Main Stand smelling of Bovril and King Edwards (cigars not potatoes!). Kaziu Deyna made his debut. Kenny Clements broke his leg. Lost 2-1. 40 years later I managed to get Peter to sign my programme.
WHAT IS THE MOST PECULIAR OR MEMORABLE THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO YOU AT A MATCH?
Mid 90s. Sat in the Umbro stand and the guy in the row in front of us would regularly stand up and swing a raw chicken around above his head. In fact, all poultry was on offer so I now know what a quail looks like too. Was at times a blessed distraction from the match.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND PREVENT ONE MATCH FROM BEING PLAYED -WHAT MATCH WOULD THAT BE - AND WHY?
Tottenham, lost 5-2 in the FA Cup at home, bad day on and off the pitch. Riot horses on the centre circle is never a good look.
Terry Phelan did score a blinder, however.
WHICH TEAM ARE YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENTS - AND WHY?
Coventry. They play in sky blue. Call themselves City. It’s always weird to hear away teams chanting ‘City!’. So you can expand this to include Leicester, Stoke, Bradford, Truro.. the lot of em!
Also, Coventry always used to stay up on goal average at our expense. And Gordon Strachan!
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MAN CITY TERRACE SONG OR CHANT - AND WHY?
It’s not my favourite but one that I thought was inspired was from the Oasis song about lasagne.
‘What a life it would be, if you could play for Man City, you could wear the number 3, Bacary Saaaaaagnaaaaa!’
HAVE YOU EVER MET ONE OF YOUR MAN CITY HEROES… IF SO - WHO…AND HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE!
Peter Barnes, see above. Colin Bell on my 40th. Mikel Arteta at Northenden refuse tip.
However, literally bumping into David Silva on 5th Ave (in New York, not the nightclub) was pretty special.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE CITY GOAL YOU HAVE WITNESSED?
Apart from the obvious. Kinkladze v Southampton. I also recall an amazing Niclas Jensen volley. SWP scoring the fourth in a derby win. Ian Brightwell’s welly.
But for sheer joy created, Andy Hinchcliffe’s header making it 5-1. Bishop’s pass outside, White’s first time cross and bullet into top corner. Cue bedlam in Kippax.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY MAN CITY PLAYER - PRESENT OR PAST - TO YOURS FOR TEA AND BISCUITS - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
Nigel Clough. He must have some great stories about his old man. I bet those tales would go on all night.
And hopefully there wouldn’t be enough time to talk about his City career.
HAVE YOU EVER SHED A TEAR - OF JOY - OR PAIN - AT A CITY MATCH?
Lifting that first cup at Wembley in 2011. I’d been too young to remember our League Cup win in ‘76. The hard yards had been put in and you sensed something was shifting, but we needed that first trophy.
Painful memory? Goodison Park. Any visit. Those benches in the away stand are lethal. Given where it’s situated, I should have made a compensation claim by now.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT MAINE ROAD?
Standing on the Kippax. Change is inevitable and looking back it could be a bit hairy at times but some great times.
And some bleak comedy, Jamie Pollock.
WHO DO YOU THINK WOULD WIN IN AN ARM WRESTLING MATCH? YAYA TOURE OR KYLE WALKER?
I think it would be a lot closer than most would imagine with Yaya taking nearly a full second before securing the win.
IF YOU COULD PICK ONE CURRENT CITY PLAYER TO BE ON YOUR PUB QUIZ TEAM - WHO WOULD IT BE - AND WHY?
Scott Carson. I’m sure he keeps himself busy but he hasn’t played much. Plenty of time therefore to keep up to date with current affairs and maybe learn the periodic table, that always comes in handy.