The City View
Ahead of the early Saturday kick off at the Etihad this weekend, TEB caught up with Manchester City’s popular 1894 Group to find out about their season and more interestingly, their views on atmosphere in the Premier League.
Q. The last time the two sides met, City won a tight contest at Selhurst Park back in November. What were your views on the game?
Yaya Toure was the difference that day and it says something that after all the money spent over the last few seasons, the most valuable players are the likes of Yaya, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero – players brought in under Roberto Mancini and in some cases, Mark Hughes! If you recall, Kompany went off injured and we have lacked his leadership. Him and Joe Hart were part of the spine of a title winning side and neither have been there for us this season, for varying reasons.
Q. How has the season been for City since that game?
We have underachieved in terms of not landing a trophy this season. However, it is poor transfer policy over the last few seasons now which are catching up with us. Manuel Pellegrini was a puppet manager for Soriano and Begiristain and won the league with Mancini’s players. We have had a good half against Barcelona and a good half against Monaco but that is it. We have enjoyed some superb approach play but the problems seem to be mental as much as anything, a lack of belief at times that if we go behind, we can’t get back into a game and if we score that often we can’t see out a game.
Q. Did the club address all their needs in the January transfer window?
No, but then it is difficult to find the players at that time of year that would either be available for the Champions League or who could significantly improve the squad for the league. Gabriel Jesus did join us in January however, that deal was tied up the previous summer as he wanted to finish his commitments in Brazil.
Q. Has Pep Guardiola disappointed City fans this season or was there a feeling this would be a season of transition?
There was optimism that we would be there or thereabouts for the title but deep down we knew there were limitations with the squad as there has been for many years and it would take more than a couple of transfers windows to sort that. Pep wants to win his way and is happy to sacrifice points because of this. Sacrificing Hart because he was supposedly not as good as playing out from the back as other keepers has backfired and the fans made this clear in August. We would expect next season to see ‘Pep’s team’ in full so no excuses then.
Q. Do you think there is a real lack of real atmosphere at Premier League games and why do you think that is and what can be done to improve it?
We are all in agreement that the Premier League has sanitised atmospheres. And we all know the reasons why. But instead of reducing prices and bringing in terracing and basically trusting fans to build the atmosphere themselves they try and copy fan groups who are trying to lift it and outspend them, overpowering them and copying their display ideas. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you like) clubs cannot replicate them properly and so it really is only fans themselves that can improve atmospheres.
Q. If you had the power to make one change to the game of football, what would it be and why?
Remove Manchester United from the league and make them play elsewhere in the world , somewhere closer to where their fan base comes from, somewhere like the South Pole. Obnoxious fans. Still no-one prosecuted for Paul Nixon / Walsall in 1994 by the way either. Wall of silence from their fans. United are the media darlings and since the takeover media paints us as the pantomine villains. You Palace fans should know what that’s like in a way after the Matthew Simmons / Cantona incident. The world would just be a better place if they weren’t around.
Q. What is your view on Palace both as a club and how the season has panned out so far?
City and Palace have no real beef historically, mainly because geographically we are so far apart and have so many other historical rivals. However, in 1987/88 there was trouble behind the Kippax at Maine Road. We had Ron Noades threatening to sue Franny Lee over comments made about Steve Coppell. The League Cup quarter final in 95 , the 4-0 that was a bad night. In 1996-97 Palace fans sang “Nowhere, city are going nowehere” to the tune of Blue Moon and we were without a manager for six weeks. “Nobody’s blue and white army” replied the City fans. We then had Harry Bassett turning the City job down.
It was hypocritical to put a banner up saying “You’ve got the money, we’ve got the soul”. We didn’t see any banners in the Holmesdale saying “Let’s not take the American money”. What happened to us could have happened to anyone. What we are saying is that we are essentially the same fans that stuck by the club during thirty-five years without a trophy. The club may be rich but the fans aren’t.
Q. Name one player from each team that the opposition should be concerned about.
Christian Benteke on his day can be a handful. Gabriel Jesus for us if he plays.
Q. Your prediction ahead of the game at the etihad?
A poor game and a flat atmosphere given the early kick of for television. Will have an end of season feel to it because City fans simply won’t ‘get up for it’ for Palace at home. 2-1 to City and the atmosphere will only pick up if we get early goals.
Q. Thank you for talking to TEB. Please tell us a little more about yourselves and share any projects that you are working on.
We are coming to the end of four years at the 1894 Group. It’s a huge task. We do get co-operation from the club, they don’t try and alk all over us like Leicester City do with their fans’ group, but they do nick our ideas! We give out 200 flags to fans most games. Club then copied a similar design and told us on the day of the derby they had 1,500 more done. So our issue is sometimes we have to step back when the club wants to do their own tifos.
They help us logistics wise and we have communication with them, we have to tell them in advance what we plan to do though. It’s easier to change the atmosphere at somewhere like Palace. We can’t call Sheikh Mansour, but you had good contact with Simon Jordan when he was there and now Steve Parish. You could see Jordan in the stand joining in with songs. That makes your task a lot easier.
Your Holmesdale Fanatics have been going eleven or twelve years now compared with our four but the stuff we have been doing in our time has been way beyond what your lot were doing in the same timescale. You were getting 14k in a 30k ground so easy to organise groups to relocate and any younger or more energetic fans can get tickets easily. At our ground, the average age of supporters must be in the fifties. Lots of tourists too now as the traditional fans are priced out.
There has also been opposition to an out and out ‘Ultras’ movement because the fans have concerns about the songs being very repetitive and historically, City fans have been trendsetters rather than copying things that are out there already. So we have been careful to go at a pace which takes most people with us. Our inspiration has been some of the European teams coming to our ground, not anyone in this country. We felt that the ground is going more and more corporate since the takeover and you get fans buying tickets for the status of it, then not coming to each game. We are the voice of the fans who have always gone to City and in the main, we are well backed by the fan base.