Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Tuesday March 6 2007
Something is in the air at Eastlands. The atmosphere reminds me of that at Maine Road during the frequent lows of the Peter Swales era. The natives are restless and outright rebellion is little more than a game or two away, or so it would seem.
Central to this is Manchester City Football Club`s ability to shoot itself in the foot at every opportunity. Not content with re-labelling its supporters as customers in order to justify its commercially exploitive model of control, the club have, by supporting the Pearce regime, sanctioned a brand of football that is as ugly as it is alien to Manchester City supporters.
Ticket prices, kick off times and a general malaise outside the top four are all factors in the decreasing attendances at City, however the most significant factor is the style of football being played. Yes crowds are down throughout the Premiership, but nowhere is that downfall more significant than at Eastlands. An average decrease in the region of 10,000 supporters warrants more answers than those being supplied by the club`s spin doctors.
Stuart Pearce was initially installed as caretaker manager at the end of the Kevin Keegan regime. He wasn`t the popular choice amongst supporters but despite that he took the club on a fantastic end of season run that ended with the blues just missing out on Europe by virtue of a missed penalty. It was inevitable that Pearce would be offered the job full time.
So what has gone wrong since then? Well the board has to take a degree of responsibility with its frugal approach in financing Pearce`s reign as manager. Pearce has had money to spend but nothing like the amount that the club have recouped in transfer fees and wages from those that have left the club. This lack of ambition has been plain for all to see and has led to an approach on the pitch that looks to prioritise safety over any attempt at winning things. The result of that approach is now plain for all to see as City struggle to even muster shots on target never mind score goals.
That is not to absolve Pearce of any blame in the downward spiral that has seen City find themselves on the brink of a disastrous relegation. Despite the boards overall frugality the money Pearce has had to spend has been used to disastrous effect.
Giourgious Samaras is not a Premiership player. As Lee Bradbury became synonymous with the Frank Clark regime so it is that Stuart Pearce will stand or fall by his £6 million signing of Samaras. It has been argued on here before that there were better striking options available when Pearce signed Samaras, Dean Ashton springs to mind, and his (Samaras) consequent performances have done little to dispel that notion. Pearce argues that Samaras is young and still finding his feet, most respond that strikers are natural and take little time to find their feet. The good ones score from the start.
Pearce`s other signings have also left a lot to be desired. Hamann may have cost nothing but commands a large salary for doing very little, similarly Dabo. Trabelsi has shown glimpses of why Arsenal once wanted him but he is being asked to play out of position and his performances have more often than not shown that. There is a reluctance to play Beasley who in any case looks far too lightweight for Premiership football. Corradi has never been a goalscorer and I won`t even go down the Dickov road. In my opinion Pearce`s one good signing has been the Swedish number one, Andreas Isaksson. Only purchased out of desperation, it now seems very unlikely that he will ever feature very much for Manchester City despite him being a better keeper than Weaver.
Some may argue that despite his shortcomings in the transfer market at least Pearce has given youth a chance. This is a valid argument, but in response I would counter that if the youngsters are good enough they will emerge into the side anyway. Remember it was Keegan who introduced Barton to the first eleven and Keegan who nurtured Wright-Phillips into the player that commanded a £21 million fee, all of this despite Keegan not being a fancier of home-grown players.
So where does this leave Manchester City? Well the coming week is critical. After the Wigan fiasco the voice of dissent is justifiably growing; A club that has announced six-monthly losses of £7 million cannot afford to drop into the Championship. Perhaps the players are unaware of this, perhaps they just don`t care, but it is up to the manager to make them aware, rally them together and fight for both the club`s and their own survival. Key to this are the Blackburn cup tie and the Chelsea home fixture. A semi-final berth followed by a fighting performance against the champions would hold off the dissenters until the season`s end. Defeat in both games, with the level of performance carried over from the Wigan game, will surely mean the end of the Pearce reign.
Date:Tuesday March 6 2007
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