Date: 16th March 2009 at 10:03am
Written by:

Legendry musician Roy Harper has been a regular Vital Manchester City contributor for many months with March being no exception.

The 67-year-old has recorded material with the very best the music industry has to offer and we at Vital are privileged to publish Roy’s monthly blog.

Roy begins with responding to Vital Manchester City forums top poster, Buzz Lightyear.

Some good posts recently. Sacking Hughes is not the answer. As Buzz says, he’s only had one window. If you want another season of instability, then fine, get him sacked, but a good gritty manager simply doesn’t become a bad manager overnight. It’s his first year with a new team. It’s their first few weeks/months together. It’s more than a bit much to expect them to be anything other than just getting to know each other.

There are lots of examples of how long it takes to assemble a good team. It doesn’t happen in a year. You can buy players ‘off the shelf’ who might not gel. You can have players given to you who you have to deal with in ways you never dreamed of. When you buy an entire dressing room of men who don’t speak each other’s language, you’re bound to import factions. It’s going to be a pretty loose tightrope you’re going to have to walk, without even thinking about the divisive nature of a completely negative press.


The press are now beginning to be seen to be shooting themselves in the foot with regard to City. Yes, plenty of them out there are still bitter and twisted, and will remain so, but the holes in their arguments are now palpably yawn-sized. The back page red top readers need new scandals, and City bashing on moral grounds wore thin some time ago. The more intelligent press are getting bored with it because coming down hard on ‘City ruining football’ is hard to sustain, and Mark Hughes has handled himself really well for 90% of the time.

Sunday 15 March 2009 – City At Stamford Bridge

At Chelsea today, we played decent football for long periods of time. Essien fluked a goal courtesy of a quick-thinking Lampard, who spotted that Zab had gone towards Dunne to communicate something and left Essien unmarked. After that, Chelsea settled for what they had, and unless City were to equalize, they didn’t need to come out of practice game mode. Then again, neither did City. They had to be content to preserve their goal average.

There was some goodish football, but without De Jong and Kompany we couldn’t sustain the pressure needed to get a goal. As Hughes said, they had a day advantage over us in terms of recovery from Midweek, which is exactly what it looked like on the pitch.

Robinho looks really tired. His first season of EPL is more exhausting than he ever imagined, and flying back to Brazil twice hasn’t helped. Obviously Hughes has to walk a tightrope with him as far as man management goes. He can’t be seen to be favouring him and yet he cannot afford to be carrying him either. There are moments later in games when he isn’t worth as much as Steven Ireland at the moment. With nine games left, he needs a rest.. but he needs to give himself one as well.

There is a possibility that the team will play as well as they did against Villa more regularly, and that some of them will be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of what they can expect from each other.

Throwing a team together isn’t rocket science; it’s more difficult than that. Humans are all unique, and throwing a bunch of strangers into a room usually has unforeseen results. On top of that, the advent of ADUG has sent expectations into the stratosphere.

Press and fans alike now have wild expectations, especially so among those who have little patience. People seem to think that money means an IMMEDIATE fix. It doesn’t, as most people know, and can invariably lead to the kind of instability we’ve all witnessed since the takeover.

Money Can Be A Hindrance

The average lottery winner will always say how happy they are to win, but do they all stay that way? And how many of the family become instantly more needy?

How many people end up at the door, begging? Either you enjoy the new wealth you have, perhaps as a greater family, or you gripe because you feel for some reason that more of it should be coming your way, to satisfy your own particular needs; that somehow, you’ve been left out. That Sparky’s got the job is irritating for some of you, but the fact remains that he is one of the best young managers in England. I would put him ahead of everyone except David Moyes, and they’ll be on a level quite soon.

Martin O’Neill’s policy is to buy what he knows, and mostly English. A decent tactic, but unless he can buy Rooney, Rio, SWP, Barry, Lennon, all three Coles, Lampard, Terry and Foster, he’ll have to branch out in the Summer. Take more of a chance.

Who Would, Or Could Replace Hughes?

In the event of the anti-Hughes faction-forcing Hughes out, the most important question would seem to be who to replace him with? Wenger? Not a hope in hell. Wenger is a great manager, but his philosophy alone is totally opposed to buying a team of ready-made footballers, and he’s never going to change. He’s a teacher who scours the bargain youth basement.

Coppello – He’s probably on his last job, and it’s going to keep him occupied for the next two or three years.

Mourinho – Not a chance. For a while now, he’s appeared to be the one who’s lined up for Ferguson’s job when the old buffer moves upstairs, and as the press have already intimated, could anyone go from City to United?

Personally, I don’t think he’s the man for either job. He’s not going to bring stability with him. Never has done, never will. Ferguson neatly swallowed him in a few bites this week, after years of spreading all kinds of condiments all over him.

With the re-alignment of everything post ‘credit crunch’, I think that the next incumbent of the Stretford job is most likely going to go to the winner between Bruce, Moyes and Hughes, based on their respective achievements at the date the post becomes vacant; but Hughes would only be on that list if he was sacked by City in the Summer and moved on. (Hughes would turn Newcastle round in a year).

O’Neill, Ince and Keane, would be the possible outsiders for Stretford, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as strong. If ADUG go for Mourinho in the summer, City will become the biggest football circus’ on the planet, and I for one will be very disillusioned.

Having said that, if they give him £100,000 million with the proviso that he only gets the majority of the cash on completion of, say, five years, then he might have to become less of a pop star and more responsible, but he doesn’t strike me as being the man who’s able to build for a team that doesn’t have a guaranteed European spot.

So, back to the list. Ancelotti? Doesn’t know the league. Could bring nancy-boy Kaka with him, but both of them would be out of their depth. I think we need men at this club. I don’t think Angels are going to work that well.

Scholari – Gone. Not in Hughes’ league as a man manager of different nationalities anyway.

Rijkaard – Never worked in England. Would take him at year at least. Probably not as good as Hughes for this job.

Hiddink – Into his last job now. Has the money. Doesn’t need the aggro. Stop gap at best, as he might be at Chelsea.

Moyes – Well, you could swap chalk for cheese if you wanted to… Same with Bruce, but then you would accuse him of being a rag! Do any of us think that ADUG would swap Hughes for either of these two?!

After that you’re starting to get into marginal characters like Mancini, Donadoni, Erikson and Maclaren. How about Mick Macarthy.. or Steve Coppell? Coppell is a fine manager and an intelligent man, but ADUG aren’t going there, and besides, he’s another red!? Which wouldn’t do, would it?

They’re not going to go searching the European leagues for a potential Ferguson or Wenger. We’ve all got the list they’re going to choose from. What they’re looking for, if indeed they are, is a ready-made figurehead, and they’re not going to accept anything less.

So, after looking at what’s available, where do we stand? It seems to me that there are five realistic candidates. Hughes, Moyes, Bruce, Mourinho and Ancelotti.

Bruce has something of a character flaw with his tendency to moan and complain. Hughes and Moyes don’t have that.

Ancelotti knows the politics of working with a very rich man (Berlusconi) and he seems to be able to work the press, but Hughes is doing well with both of these at present, and he’s building the kind of team that will soon challenge. Mourinho is a walking character flaw, while Hughes and Moyes are both diplomatic.

On top of this, Hughes was the first £2 million player when he moved from Stretford to Barcelona. He was an excellent player, he’s seen it all, even if he hasn’t done it all yet, and he knows how it works. It would be crazy to throw away the investment that Hughes represents at this time in order to start again. Absolutely crazy.

To read Part 2, click here.