Manchester City squad 2015

Published on June 4th, 2015 | by Ian Cheeseman

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Ian Cheeseman talks City, Football and the 2014/15 season

Despite living in the same world, we all see things differently, because even though we might have many shared experiences, they’re not necessarily made up of the same things in the same order – as Eric Morecambe might have said! In fact there’s a perfect example, unless you’re of a certain generation you won’t understand that reference (to Morecambe and Wise).

I grew up, my formative years you might say, watching Manchester City’s manager and coach, Mercer & Allison (particularly Allison) believing that the aim should be simply to “score more goals than the opposition”, and I loved watching that team. Affirmation of that philosophy came during the Mexico World Cup in 1970 when Brazil swept to the trophy by playing that way, with Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto etc.

Just as the Moon Landings of 1969 had ignited a life long passion for Space Travel/Science Fiction, so City under Mercer/Allison, and the great Brazilians, had been the spark to my lifelong love of attacking, creative football.

1970 League Cup final winners

1970 League Cup final winners

Of course winning trophies was great, but that was the icing on the cake. In the mid 1970s City entertained me with the likes of Dennis Tueart, Peter Barnes and Rodney Marsh – to name just three – but only won the 1976 League Cup. As a supporter, I had no complaints, I loved that era, with or without trophies.

Just before the FA Cup final this year, I tweeted that I wanted Arsenal to win and that I thought Arsene Wenger was the best manager of the Premier League era. Some disagreed, pointing out his lack of trophies over the last few years. I can’t argue with that, the facts stand for themselves.

During Edin Dzeko’s best seasons at City he was prolific in front of goal, and whenever anyone suggested that Dzeko’s lack of mobility, touch or flair was a concern, the answer came back that his record stood for itself – argument ended! I believe Aguero, Negredo and Jovetic are more exciting to watch (when fit of course).

Statistics are facts, but football is so much more than just trophies and statistics to me. Because of the unique set of circumstances that led to MY view of the World and MY view of football. I’m not right, I have an opinion, you’re not right either, whether you share my views or disagree.

Wenger is a man who polarises views, and some of his opinions on City, and the politics of football, will effect the way he is judged. Alex Ferguson managed Man Utd, which also clouds things. He too was a manager who believed in attacking football, even though his loyalty was Red rather than Blue. My views on Wenger are based on the style of football his team plays, and the core beliefs he has. Just like Manuel Pellegrini and the current owners of Manchester City, it’s about doing things a certain way, in my humble opinion “the right way”.

Brazil v Italy in the 1982 World Cup

Brazil v Italy in the 1982 World Cup

My views on football were polarised even more by the 1982 World Cup, when Brazil, complete with Socrates, Eder, Junior and Falcao seemed destined to sweep stylishly through the tournament, but along came Italy, a defensive minded, cynical, more pragmatic, counter attacking team led by Paulo Rossi, back from a two year ban.

That Brazil were a joy to watch, while that Italy did what it needed to win and they were the winners that year, Rossi was top scorer. I believe that being destructive is easier than being creative. Note that I said easier, not easy. Defending and stopping the opposition is a crucial part of football.

There’s another key expression to note -“watching football”. Professional football is a spectator sport, and is only a participation sport for a small minority; the players. Modern football, at the stadium or from the armchair, is expensive too, and so has a duty to be something more than just about winning and losing.

In my teens I played table tennis at a youth club, in a league, and was pretty good at badminton too. I wasn’t particularly (naturally) talented but by being good defensively I found a way to win (sometimes) even against more talented players. I never gave up, chased every smash, and wore my opponent down (sometimes). If I’d been watching those games, I think I’d have wanted my opponent to win, I was boring; but then I was a player, doing whatever I needed to win, and I wasn’t being paid a lot of money to entertain.

On that basis Arsene Wenger, Manuel Pellegrini, Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique (the current Barcelona coach) Mario Zagallo (Brazil coach 1970) and Mercer & Allison are some of my heroes because they have to risk defeat to try and win in the right way.

The players I’ve idolised down the years are those with flamboyance, with the wow factor, they’ve been ones that take my breath away. Don’t get me wrong, Alan Oakes, Willie Donachie, Nicky Reid, Danny Tiatto, Andy Morrison, Kevin Horlock, Gareth Barry and James Milner (just a few of many examples I could give) were seen by many as the essential  “steady-Eddies” of their teams, but it’s Bell, Lee, Summerbee – Berkovic, Benarbia and Anelka – or Silva, Aguero and Yaya Toure that are the real reason I love football.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi playing for Barcelona in 2015

Lionel Messi is the best player I’ve seen, he’s on a different level to Cristiano Ronaldo in my opinion, despite their parity statistically. Give me Messi, Kinkladze & Marsh any day of the week, (and just so you don’t think my lack of enthusiasm for Ronaldo is a Utd thing) or even Scholes, Cantona and Giggs!

On that basis, and bearing in mind that in England (and Wales) alone, only one club each season can consider themselves to be truly successful – the Premier League Champions – everyone else are different levels of failure, and that’s one of those statistical facts used to win any argument.

My view is more subjective. I thought Manchester City had a wonderful season, full of flair, creativity and free flowing football. There have been moments when David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho have produced football that has been mesmerising, a real joy to watch.

City finished second in the Premier League and reached the last sixteen of the Champions League, where they lost to the best team in Europe; an opinion based on the quality of their play, not on whether they win or lose to Juventus in the Champions League Final.

Watching Manchester City during the 2014/15 season was magnificent. Apart from City at their very best, I’d say Arsenal were the next best team I enjoyed watching in the Premier League, and that’s why I’m a Wenger fan.

Football, in its most basic form, is simply about winning, but for me it’s always been about joy, expression, creativity and attacking, even if that means you don’t always win, BUT here’s hoping for a trophy filled season of entertainment next season – that would be perfection!

Enjoy the summer!

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