Comments courtesy of Manchester City Football Club
First of all I would like to welcome the staff, players and fans from Bolton Wanderers who have made the short trip down the M61 for today’s game, the final one of a season that began for us way back on 17th July 2008 in the Faroe Islands.
Season 2008/09 has been one of highs and lows for us, but the fact that we still have had things to play for almost until the very end of the campaign is most definitely a positive, although it goes without saying that we’d rather still be fighting for that place in Europe today. I am sure that our run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup was the highlight of the season for most people, and although it could be said that we rode our luck at times, in my opinion the team’s strength of character at some tricky moments brought the rewards they deserved.
The performance against Schalke was arguably our best of the year on the road, and the three points we earned in Gelsenkirchen ensured our progress to the knock-out stages, setting up the second half of the season nicely.
The support that we had that night was really inspiring as it was on the road last week at White Hart Lane. We didn’t give you anything to cheer about in the first half after a dominant display by Spurs, but in the second half your support gave such a boost to the team and I think the performance reflected that. I can’t thank you enough for times like that.
I had an inkling what City fans were like before I came here, but the backing we got away from home, especially in Europe, was amazing. Taking the difficult economic circumstances into account, you have made a magnificent effort. That’s not to forget, of course, the backing we have had at home, with the atmosphere against Hamburg being another high point. I have said frequently in my programme notes, we want more European nights like that at our stadium, and we will be doing everything we can next season to bring them back for you.
Another regular feature of my notes has been praise for Stephen Ireland, and I am delighted that he was named as our Player of the Season by both the Official Supporters Club and our LIVE4CITY members this week. He thoroughly deserves all the praise he has had this season. He had already started to change his approach when I came onboard last year but he really bought into what I and my staff were trying to do once we returned to training last summer. He sets himself targets all the time and I can assure you that he is already looking to get even better next season.
Our home form was another plus point, with our run after Christmas giving us a real shout of qualifying for Europe. Alas it was not to be, and I can point to our poor away form as being crucial to that. To only win twice away from home in the Barclays Premier League meant that a high finish in the table was going to be a difficult task, and that is something we will address next season. Going out of both domestic cup competitions at the first hurdle was also not good enough, and we will have to do better in both when they come around in 2009/10. The defeat to Forest in front of our own fans was a watershed moment and stung all of us, both on the pitch and behind the scenes, into improving – which we did, but I would never want a cup exit to force us into action.
There have also been a host of changes made behind the scenes across the club which mean we will be able to hit the ground running for pre-season and beyond. Garry Cook, among his many great achievements this season, has played a vital part in linking the football and non-football arms of our club together and has appointed a great team to help bring success off the pitch. Among that team is Brian Marwood, who has joined us as chief football administration officer. Brian will play a vital role liaising with the Academy, medical staff and performance analysis teams, as well as improving player support and scouting systems. He, like Garry’s other appointments, is an asset to our club.
Our new owners have been magnificent in their backing of what we are trying to achieve. They have been supportive from the moment the takeover happened and have not hesitated to make investments to help improve our team, both in terms of bringing players in and improving the facilities to make those players better. Thanks to them, our gym and medical block has been revolutionised to the point where recently the England team’s club doctor stated that they were the best that he had seen. Similar improvements are being made at all our sites during the summer, including Platt Lane. These developments will be of enormous significance as we aim to become a successful football club in the future.
It has been another fine season for the Academy, with the Under-18 team going unbeaten through their league campaign and they can count themselves unlucky that they ran into a strong Arsenal side twice at the end of the season in the FA Youth Cup semi final and league play-off. The outstanding work of Jim Cassell and all his team at Platt Lane will continue to be a big part of what we are doing at the club next season and beyond.
Thank you for your fantastic backing this season, we will be doing everything we can next season to bring you the success that you so richly deserve. Enjoy today’s game, enjoy the summer break and see you in 2009/10.
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The Manager’s Programme Notes For Bolton
Comments courtesy of Manchester City Football Club