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Hughes relishing more Hamburg nights

Crowd waving flags and bananas at Man City vs Hamburg at City of Manchester Stadium 0809

Crowd waving flags and bananas at Man City vs Hamburg at City of Manchester Stadium 0809

Mark Hughes sends his 2008-09 team out for the last time against Bolton today with a promise to the City of Manchester Stadium faithful that he will not rest until "Hamburg nights" are back on a regular basis.

Those bananas and flags will be back in abundance to help give the Premier League swansong a real carnival atmosphere, but manager Hughes will be transported back to that electric UEFA Cup tie against the Germans.

City's heroics that April night fell agonisingly short of booking a semi-final ticket despite a 2-1 victory, but the occasion gave Hughes a tantalising glimpse of a future he and his players are desperate to fulfill.

The Blues boss admitted: "The stand-out game of the season was Hamburg - I just loved every minute of it ... the atmosphere, the passion of the crowd, the performance that we were able to produce.

"The whole package was what we are trying to do in the future. Hamburg was a term of reference. We can look back at that game and understand that's what we need to do on a regular basis.


If we can get this club really going, it will go through the roof.

Mark Hughes


"There is a real sense of optimism. Expectations were way above what we could reasonably attain this season because we weren't strong enough, but after the summer hopefully that will change."

However City perform today against Bolton, the team will inevitably have a different look after the manager's summer transfer business has landed the several players he hopes to sign before the end of August.

But Hughes is also convinced his squad will benefit from this roller-coaster season, with a thrilling UEFA Cup odyssey counter-balanced by the restricting away form that ultimately cost City a top-seven finish.

He said: "It's been steady if difficult progress. Our frustrating away form has held us back - at times we have taken a step forward then a step back. But it's been an experience and a learning curve for everybody.

"I know next year we will be a lot stronger because of what we've been through, and it's crucial that we start well - and there's no reason to think that we won't.

"The changes have been huge and that can have a negative impact while they're happening, but those changes will sustain the club for many years. That's why everybody is excited about what we can achieve."

City can finish ninth today with a 13th home League win, but ambitious Hughes agrees with Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak that the top six is within the team's capabilities next season.

He said: "I could easily lower expectations and hope for better, but we believe we can achieve something. Lowering the bar because it maybe suits the manager's position is something I've never done. It's about living up to those expectations and, if we can, surpassing them."

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