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MCFC's Space Mountain!

This is going to be a hell of a starry-eyed few weeks...

In a couple of days time we'll find out who our opponents will be for July 17th's UEFA Cup Qualifying round first leg clash. As this is Manchester City we are talking about and the home leg will be played in Barnsley thanks to the appalling Bon Jovi and some pisspoor club planning, then it would be just typical that we storm into Europe against a team from Wales again, or Ireland. However, there is every chance that a summer trip to Germany, Denmark, Israel, Bulgaria, Sweden, Finland, Hungary (to name but a few) or a host of former soviet block countries could be on the cards.

There are some cracking household names and commentators nightmares that could be in the firing line of City's current crop/crap of no less than 12 first team squad strikers. FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, FH Hafnarfjordur and PFC Cherno More Varna could soon be hosting the Blue Army.

Mark Hughes has got a job on, and time is not on his side. If he gets us through the next 6 weeks with our European aspirations intact alongside a solid run of performances up to the Premier League campaign then he will have done well. This is the gamble of installing a new manager again this summer that Thaksin Shinawatra and his advisers have calculated upon.

Hughes has to firstly reassemble what remains a small Premier League squad top heavy with forwards for pre season training. His decision to take the players to a Boot Camp in Southern Germany should be applauded. That should sort out the men from the journeymen. All too often last season the team looked knackered and needs toughening up. The games will be coming thick and fast as soon as the final whistle goes in the UEFA Q1 First Leg. Friendlies in Stockport, Hamburg and the usually demented Glasgow will be followed up with the Q1 Second Leg and AC Milan in town for the Thomas Cook Trophy. Then the small matter of the Second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup will be followed up by the League opener at touchline pants wetter Martin O'Neill's Aston Villa in our stylish new LCS Red and Black Stripes.

In amongst all this, Hughes has to continue reorganising the City backroom staff and assessing the squad's strengths and weaknesses against a backdrop of reorganisation within the club's hierarchy.

The squad situation is uppermost in most Blues minds. As I understand it, Hughes has yet to make a signing which was directly of his own volition as the processes of signing young strikers Marcello Trotta from Napoli and Jo from CSKA Moscow were already under way and in negotiation by the time he took office.

I think we will all feel a damn sight more comfortable if the squad offload so many of us hope for is realised. But the problem is, for that to happen and for top quality strength to be brought in with a focus, then a lot is going to have to take place within the next fortnight before City's early season start. Hughes can either opt to keep as many players on board as possible for a long hard season, or he can radically overhaul the squad. We all knew about Sven-Goran Eriksson's network of contacts throughout the game and it will be interesting to see how Hughes fairs with Thaksin's backing in the transfer market.

But before June is out, the first thing the club should do is publically distance itself from Ronaldhino who clearly does not want to play for Manchester City. That fact aside, even if Goofy did feel the pull of Ashton New Road, the money involved in bringing him in could finance the signing of players that could bolster the City squad in key areas. A lack of strength in depth was one of the factors that saw our season nosedive this year and Hughes cannot afford a repeat in what could be an epic campaign.

So strap yourselves in with your inflatable bananas and Somebody Scream!

Wondered why City only sign strikers these days? Get yourselves over to the Vital MCFC forums from under your parasol this summer! Signings, Taxi for's and much much more!!

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The journalist

Writer: Johnny Baguette Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday June 29 2008

Time: 4:50AM

Your Comments

JB, have you made those names up? Was hoping for Bangor or TNS. If I was Sparky, I would want to have a look at my squad before I let them go. I second your thoughts on bringing players in that are not Sparkys choice, but OK thats done, we need cover else where and as for Goofy, I like the guy, but I do not think he is a team player and thats what makes a good team great. Mercer and Allison created a team and players emerged from from that team as stars, but they were still team players.
Buzz Lightyear
midfield, midfield, midfield. We someone solid like Viera and someone creative like Bernarbia in the midfield. simple.
Not sure about the away strip being used against Villa as it may clash with their Claret (or is it Burgundy) I am sure you will know JB. By the way anyone know what the third strip looks like ?
I'm thinking on alphie re our kit at Villa. We nearly always played in white there and as I recall, on that glorious first day at West Ham last year the white third kit took the stage. I would hope that kit would remain in place this season. Three new kit a year is a joke. How about a third kit in Thai national flag colours, then? Anything is possible!!
Johnny Baguette
Hate to burst your bubble (of optimism) Johnny, but the first few rounds are divided into Northern, Central-Eastern and Southern-Mediterranean zones, and are seeded, which means we are restricted in the 1st Qual. round to being drawn against teams from Lithuania, RofIreland, Iceland, Estonia, N. Ireland, Wales, the Faeroe Islands and Luxembourg. Take a look at the Wikipedia article to see what I mean. Plenty of chance for an all-British tie, they constitute 6 out of 14 of our potential opponents this round. Just to make it more bizarre, thanks to our UEFA Cup run 5 years ago we're actually 7th seeds not just for the qualifying round but the whole competition...which means we'll probably struggle from the start. And Alphieblue, the 3rd strip is due to be unveiled some time in July.
Many thanks for the info, Falastur. If anything, I am more optimistic now that the team will not have to endure ropey flights that are too long before the PL starts! Luxembourg'll do! Anyway, I reckon any team that makes the finals of this marathon competition always make a heck of an achievement! Please not TNS while I am on the subject...
Johnny Baguette
lol. No problem. I've been wondering about TNS myself - I browsed their forums a month or so ago and a few of them want to have a second crack at us to see if they can do better than last time (7-0 over two legs), though I think they'd prefer the variety of someone else too. Do you know if the draw is televised, by the way? Also, thinking about what you are saying about the squad, with Isaksson and Schmeichel almost certain to leave, and with question marks over Hart (though fingers crossed for a new contract) is anyone else getting slightly concerned by the fact that we aren't being linked with any new goalkeepers whatsoever?
Don't worry Falastur we never sign anyone that we have been linked with.
This fortnight is going to be extremely important in how our season shapes up. Ideally, the transfer action needs to take place now in order that there is less distraction once Euro campaign gets under way. I think City should make Schmeichel an offer to stay on.
Johnny Baguette
I'd love to see Schmeichel stay on, too. Only thing is, if the reports are to be believed, he's not willing to be merely a substitute keeper, and I can't see him taking over from Hart this season coming.
Agree JB about the transfers - it all seems a little too quiet "officially", apart from the 250+ players we have been linked with in the press. We are still waiting for the club to confirm the Jo signing!!! Just hoping Hughes operates like his predecessor and acouncements are made out of the blue! I personally think he is working just as hard to clear out a few, as well as signing them, because we have a seriously imbalanced squad. One thing is for certain - life is never dull at City! Here's to the UEFA draw tomorrow, and then a mad dash to the nearest atlas!!

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