Date: 19th August 2008 at 4:42am
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Call me Johnny Nostalgique, but City’s young team is badly lacking experience and leadership in three key positions as it aims to find it’s feet in the top flight just as it was in autumn 1980. Back then, John Bond took on a young squad expensively assembled by City legend Malcolm Allison that had all but lost it’s way.

On a limited budget, Bond produced a masterstroke in signing Bobby McDonald and Tommy Hutchison from Coventry City and then Gerry Gow from Bristol City. The rest is City folklore.

Okay, the stakes are higher in 2008 and the English Premier League operates emotionally, socially and above all else, financially in a different universe to the old Division One. But the thought of Peter Swales at the controls of a misty Maine Road is enough to tear at any Blues’ weary post Thaksin takeover heart strings.

The similarities between the two teams many years on are uncanny. At left back, we are all at sea. Michael Ball is going literally backwards and Javier Garrido doesn’t seem to know whether to go backwards or forwards. Before I go any further, the perma-injured and no longer required by Taggart Mikael Silvestre is not the solution. He may have the experience, but a fighter he ain’t.

In the midfield engine room, the calming influence of Didi Hamman appears to be on the wane and it looks as if he will be used sparingly throughout his last season. The current pairing of Michael Johnson and Gelson Fernandes increasingly looks like a lightweight headless chicken combination and affords little protection to our overworked goal shipping defence. We need a wise head in there breaking up play and winning balls. In truth, opposing sides have not been given a battle by a City midfield since that deluded nutter Joey Barton left.

Then there is the lack of balance. Stop Martin Petrov and you stop Manchester City. We haven’t taken the game to the opposition down both flanks in seemingly ages.

So who can Mark Hughes bring in to steady the ship? Who can give us the spirit and nouse the three Scots legends gave us all those years ago?

The upheaval of changing the management team and focusing on Ronaldhino this summer meant that City lost out on the likes of John Arne Riise or Pascale Chimbonda at left back, for example. A search of the substitutes benches across the country last weekend is a painstaking task where a left back is concerned.

In central midfield, I’d throw two names into the hat. Jimmy Bullard could do a job for us and has contract issues at Fulham, but it’s likely he’d stay down south. Would Thomas Gravesen, released by Celtic yesterday, be prepared to revive his flagging career at Eastlands?

On the right wing, the spectre of Shaun Wright-Phillips still haunts us. We all know he would fit the bill. But could his stepfather and advisers who are happy to see him gather splinters in his arse at Chelski ever agree to a move back to City? Maybe a loan move could be an option.

If the latest undenied rumour that City have taken out a £30 million loan against future television revenue to fund further transfers is true, then it’s clear the club’s hierarchy realise that we are not in a position to piss about with 13 days to go until the transfer window closes.* Riskily continuing the season with a threadbare young squad is not an option.

It could well be that Hughes will prioritise yet another striker signing in light of the current up front injury crisis, but that striker’s signing will count for nothing if a well balanced team with the right blend of experience and youth is not operating behind him.


Can City rediscover a McDonald, Gow and Hutchison effect in 2008?


*The Premier League have confirmed that the first transfer deadline of the season will be extended to midnight on September 1.

The window is usually scheduled to close 24 hours earlier but has been put back because August 31 falls on a Sunday.

 

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