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Published on January 16th, 2014 | by Ian Cheeseman

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The manager’s philosophy is working – and I’m loving it

It is such a joy to sit alongside the City legend Shaun Goater, to watch this team playing dream football, and hearing so much insight from “the Goat”, as I do my dream job of commentating on Manchester City.
What did I learn during the Blackburn commentary? Well for a start, his first name is Leonardo, not Shaun. That subject came up because I’d suggested that to be a striker for the Blues these days your name has to end in “O”.
“Mine does, it’s Leonardo” he told me. “I use my middle name because I prefer it!”
Leonardo has never hidden the fact that he’s aiming to become a manager, so his observations of the touchline antics of those currently employed in that role, are particularly interesting. He pointed out to me that Manuel Pellegrini rarely looks at his watch. Shaun reckons the reason is that glancing at your time piece can send out the wrong message to the players; anxiety for example. I did point out to Mr Goater that his substitutions are often timed, so his backroom staff clearly keep a watch on the clock for him, but a clever observation by Shaun.
There was one moment during the commentary, when even I reacted with astonishment, at one of his comments. I asked Shaun, as a prospective manager himself, what he’d made of the spat between Alan Pardew and Manuel Pellegrini at Newcastle. I’d expected him to continue his touchline assessments from a City perspective, perhaps saying the Blues boss had acted with dignity under provocation, but no, Shaun twisted the subject on it’s head.
“I’d have done exactly what Pardew did”. I challenged him back by saying, “what, you’d swear at him and say the things he said?” “Yep” was the quick retort.
I was initially quite shocked, but as he explained further, it made me think.
“Pardew knew that his team couldn’t beat City for quality, so by doing what he did, he was trying to get a reaction from the crowd, which it did, and he was trying to distract Pellegrini into a loss of concentration and focus (which of course it didn’t)”
I questioned if the “gentleman” that is Shaun Goater would really react like that, and he insisted he would, and then he’d apologize after the game, saying he’d done it in the heat of the moment.
I think they call that sledging! He had a twinkle in his eye as he expressed those views, I still believe he wouldn’t have gone as far as Alan Pardew did, but I thought his answer was honest, interesting and a little edgy ; and maybe an insight into the psychology of some styles of management, I’m sure you can think of your own examples from the current and past Premier League.
The City boss is a man of few words, before, during and after games. He’s a coach, first and foremost and he has a football philosophy which I love. He reminds me of Malcolm Allison, for those who remember Malcolm from the 1960s and 70s. Perhaps that needs to be “Malcolm Allison, without the ego”.
“Score more goals than the opposition – attack is the best form of defence – entertain the crowd – let players enjoy themselves and play the game with freedom.” Those are Pellegrini and Allison’s shared philosophies.
In recent weeks, particularly in home games, it’s been like being inside a dream, and wondering if you really are awake. I can’t believe what I’m watching at times.
“We are always of an ambitious mind, a winning mind, right from the start, it doesn’t matter in which competition we are playing and against whom. We try to play, independent of the score. When winning 1-0 or 2-0 maybe other teams go backwards, and I know that is an easier way to play, trying to counter-attack, but from the beginning with this team I have tried to create a style of play, to try to be a complete team, defending and attacking. That was why it was important for me to come to this big team, to this club to show what I think is the best way to do it. In my whole career, all my teams play the same way.”  The words of Manuel Pellegrini after the 5-0 win in the FA Cup.
It was great to see Sergio Aguero back, and what a quick, slick goal to mark his return, and I was delighted to see Micah Richards back. He admitted to me afterwards that his heroic chase back in Munich had cost him extra days on the treatment table. He took one for the team that day, by demonstrating his selflessness.
I thought James Milner’s free kick, late on, against Rovers, had clocked up City’s 100th goal of the season, but as it shaved a layer of paint off the far post, I realised we must wait until the Cardiff game, at least, for that century to be realised. Amazing. A hundred goals scored before the end of January. What other word can you use.
One of my Uncle Karl’s favourte records was “All I have to do is Dream” by the Everly Brothers. I used to play it a lot when I was a little boy, but I never imagined I’d be confusing a dream for reality, as I do watching City, all these years later.
– Ian Cheeseman

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