Result: Manchester City 5-0 Blackburn Rovers (FA Cup with Budweiser 3rd Round Replay)
Venue: The Etihad Stadium (City of Manchester Stadium) (Wednesday 15th January 2014, 8.05pm)
Att: 35,000 (rounded)
I found myself with an opportunity I could not miss. Unbelievably, I had contrived to never have attended an FA Cup game in my life. That is a ‘proper’ round. So when I saw that the Man City-Blackburn replay, which Rovers had earned somewhat surprisingly at Ewood Park thanks to Scott Dann, was to take place on this Wednesday evening I jumped at the chance. This was also a milestone for me. It was my 100th ground I have watch football at!!!!
I arranged to get the Stretford & Urmston branch of the City supporters’ club bus to the game for a fiver return which wasn’t too bad considering. After a short journey up to the pick up point at the Robin Hood in Stretford, I went inside to find the pub populated by a large number of people, although there was a distinct lack of blue, which despite the appearance of a red double decker bus from 20 years ago outside slightly worried me, as to whether I had screwed up the initial part of my trip!
As it was, I needent have worried, and as it was I boarded the bus first and took the back seat and no sooner had I done this than an influx of City fans rushed the bus, and we were on our way towards Eastlands.
We arrived a little over 25 minutes later, via a couple of stops, and having been dropped off immediately outside the stadium, I was informed that the pick up point was to be on Alan Turing Way, a short walk to the left of the ground. After purchasing the matchday programme from a friendly vendor outside, I made my way towards the club shop, where I had been told was where the tickets were on sale. Opposite here was a stage with live music being blared out, although not long after I arrived, the last act of the night was just finishing up her set and we were soon plunged into silence. After queuing for a few minutes, I spotted signs on the outside of the stadium advertising ‘Matchday Ticket Sales’. Yep, I was in the wrong line. So, after a walk of shame from one queue to the next, I waited around 15 minutes for a ticket just as the heavens opened. With ticket in hand, I wasted little time in scooting along to the Colin Bell Stand, and up the famous ‘helter skelter’ style ramps that lead to the terraces, and soon after I was taking my seat right above the halfway line, with the travelling Rovers fans to the right of me, and a Serbian/ Kolarov fan club to the rear complete with national flag. Interesting!
So with the game 10 minutes old by the time I had entered, and the scoreline still reading goalless, this seems the perfect time to pause for a moment, and head back into the history books and look at the roots and story of the Citizens.
Manchester City were originally founded under the name of St. Mark’s (West Gorton) in 1880, becoming Ardwick A.F.C. in 1887, before settling on Manchester City in 1894. 5 years later, and the club had its first honour under its belt, in the shape of the Second Division title, and with it promotion to the First Division, which was won in 1902-’03. A further five years later, in 1904, City lifted their first ‘major’ honour, the FA Cup, by beating Bolton Wanderers by 1-0 and narrowly missed out on a league and cup double by finishing as runners-up. But, by lifting the Cup, City ensured they would become the first club in Manchester to win a major trophy. In 1906, financial irregularities saw suspensions issued to no less than 17 players, and as a result City lost captain Billy Meredith to city rivals United.
Despite these setbacks, a third league title was attained in 1909-’10, before a further setback hit the club in 1920, with the loss of the Main Stand at their Hyde Road ground at the hands of a large fire, which led to the club moving into their new purpose built home, Maine Road, three years later. 1927-’28 saw a fourth league title lifted, before the early 1930’s saw FA Cup final failure and success, the former at the hands of Everton in ’33, and the latter a triumph over Portsmouth the following year. During this successful cup run, City broke the English record for an attendance at a football game, attracting a crowd of 84,569 at Maine Road for a 6th Round tie against Stoke City. The record stands to this day.
The First Division title was won for the first time in 1937, along with a first Charity Shield, but City were immediately relegated the following year, despite scoring more goals than any other team in the division! War was soon to break out, to end action for a while, but upon its return, City again won the 2nd Division title in 1947. After a further Cup final loss and subsequent win in ’55 &’ 56 to Newcastle United and Birmingham City respectively, (the latter of which is the famous match in which the late Bert Trautmann continued to play with a broken neck), the club was again relegated back to the Second Division and crowds dipped to a low of just over 8,000.
Under the new management team of Joe Mercer & Malcolm Allison, City began to make strides forward, regaining promotion via the title, and signings of Mike Summerbee & Colin Bell (whom the stand I was sitting in tonight is named in honour of). It took just two seasons for the First Division to be won for a second time, in 1968, and adding gloss to this by lifting the Charity Shield and by pipping United to the title. The FA Cup was won for a third time in 1969, before the club won it’s only European silverware to date in 1970, in the shape of the Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Gornik Zabrze 2-1. City also lifted the League cup domestically that season, and in doing so, became only the second English side to win a European & domestic cup double in the same season.
Throughout the ’70’s the club continued to challenge for honours, lifting the Charity Shield for a third time in 1972, and finishing as League runners-up on two occasions, and in the 1974 League Cup final too. In 1976, Denis Law famously scored a backheel against United, his former club, to relegate the Reds but in 1976, their success was to come to an abrupt halt for the best part of a quarter of a century, this last success being a 2-1 League Cup Final victory over Newcastle United.
After a long period of turmoil, including a large turnover of managers, and only one slight success, a defeat in an FA Cup final replay to Spurs, and were relegated twice from the top flight in 1983 & ’87, but they returned again in ’89 and finished fifth under Peter Reid in ’91 & ’92 as they threatened to rebuild. But after Reid’s departure the club again went downhill on the field, and despite being founder members of the Premiership in ’92, lasted just 4 seasons before being relegated to Division 1. Two seasons later, they were relegated to the third tier, becoming only the second ever European trophy winning club to suffer this fate, after 1.FC Magdeburg, of Germany.
After this, large backroom upheaval followed, and with Joe Royle now in the hot seat promotion was secured in the most dramatic of fashions, in a play-off against Gillingham thanks largely to Paul Dickov’s late, late strike. Promoted again the next season, ’99-’00, the stay in the top flight was brief, only one season in fact, before they bounced back at the first attempt, breaking club records for points gained & goals scored. After the ’02-’03 season, City bid farewell to Maine Road, not before ending a 13-year wait for a derby win, and also qualified for European competition for the first time in 25 years.
For season 2003-’04, City moved to the City of Manchester Stadium, following its redevelopment from athletics stadium after the end of the 2002 Commonwealth games which was hosted in the city. After employing ex-England boss Sven-Goan Eriksson & ex-Unite legend Mark Hughes, the club entered further financial instability thanks to Thai businessman Thaksin Shinawatra, before in 2008, the current owners the Abu Dhabi United Groub took over the club, and immediately began to pull their significant financial weight, breaking the British transfer fee for Robinho, who would prove to be mediocre at best. After a mid-table finish and a quarter final place in the UEFA Cup in 2008, the owners went on a spending spree, bringing in the likes of Gareth Barry (Aston Villa), Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn Rovers), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) and Carlos Tevez (Unnattached), the latter of which had been refused on a permanent deal at Manchester United, and spawned the infamous ‘Welcome To Manchester’ poster, bearing the Argentine. In December ’09, Hughes was replaced by Roberto Mancini, and the club finished the season fifth, and qualified for the newly-named Europa League.
Further investment and squad strengthening led to City reaching the FA Cup final in 2011, their first major final in over 30 years, beating United in the semi final to get there. They beat Stoke City 1-0 in the final, and also qualified for the UEFA Champions’ League for the first time since 1968. 2011-’12 arguably saw City’s finest hour, when after being 8 points behind United, reeled in their rivals, which resulted in a final day showdown. United beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, and with City 2-1 down in stoppage time at home to 10-man QPR, it looked as though the reds would be winning title number 20. However City, and Sergio Aguero in particular had other ideas, as he smashed the ball in to spark scenes of jubilation in Manchester, and utter despair in the North-East. City had their first title in 44 years.
Last season saw United regain the title, as City flopped horribly under Mancini, losing in the FA Cup final to Wigan Athletic thanks to Ben Watson’s late header, and the Italian was shown the door before the end of the season after reports of dressing room unrest. In his place came Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who seems to not believe defence exists, and plays the most exciting brand of football in the Premier Division this season, and with the firepower at his disposal, who can blame him?!
Back on to the game at hand, and it remained at 0-0 for the majority of the half, with Blackburn proving a match for their more (currently) illustrious opponents, with Rovers defending stoutly, and looking to attack on the break with DJ Campbell, who received some good natured stick from his own fans over his ‘match-fixing’ allegations. However, when City where in a position to fashion out an opportunity, Edin Dzeko proved particularly wasteful, with his strike partner Alvaro Negredo looking a class above, and he proved this on thee stroke of half time, when the Rovers defence was caught napping, and Negredo arrived to power a header from Fernandinho’s ball in.
The half-time entertainment consisted of two lads having to twirl on the spot 10 times, before planting two goals in past two mascots. Both failed horribly with their first efforts, and thus the one who went first won. It really was that exciting.
The second period mercifully started, with Paul Robinson withdrawn in the Rovers goal and replaced by ex-FC Halifax Town goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, who I found out via twitter hadn’t endeared himself to the non-league faithful. And as if to prove this, he was beaten immediately by Negredo, who ran through onto substitute Aleksandar Kolarov’s through ball and place beyond Eastwood. A couple of minutes later and it was three, as Edin Dzeko met a low Jesus Navas ball at the near post to expertly convert.
3-0, and game over, as Blackburn’s traveling support began celebrating phantom goals to keep spirits up, and they needed to do it more when Negredo was replaced and Sergio Aguero was introduced into the fray to a rapturous ovation following injury, and just 50 seconds later he had found the net, as he controlled Gael Clichy’s ball with is first touch, before finishing past Eastwood with his second. Number five wasn’t long in coming, when Dzeko and Navas combined once more, and the fans’ man of the match converted his ball by beating Eastwood for pace, and via the ‘keepers palms, the roof of the net bulged.
99 goals, and Navas spurned a great chance to make it one hundred when he fired narrowly wide, but with Rovers’ fans doing the Poznan, the game fizzled out into City protecting their clean sheet, and young players getting debuts, in the shape of Emyr Huws for City and Connor Mahoney for Rovers.
As it was there was to be no 100, and the game ended, with the Serbian supporters club very happy to see Kolarov, and everyone wasting little time in getting out of the ground, and onto their many ways of transport. For me, it was back onto my big red bus, and back home in the familiar drizzle of a Manchester match night.
My Manchester City M.o.M.- Alvaro Negredo
My Blackburn Rovers M.o.M.-Jason Lowe
Game: 9- Goals, and one of the best sides on the planet. 100th ground too!
Ground: 9- Really like the Etihad, especially the helter skelter ramps
Fans:7- Was quiet on the whole, but was to be expected r.e. the competition and night.
Programme: 10- No complaints, should be a 10, and it was.
Food: N/A- Already eaten!
Value For Money: 10- Cut price ticket £10, £5 travel and £3 for programme. Very happy!!!
Referee: 9- Referee had a good game, well, I think he did, I can’t remember really!
MANCHESTER CITY: 30.Costel Pantilimon, 2.Micah Richards, 22.Gael Clichy, 33.Matija Nastasic, 6.Joleon Lescott, 14.Javi Garcia, 15.Jesus Navas, 25.Fernandinho, 7.James Milner, 10.Edin Dzeko(2), 9.Alvaro Negredo(2). SUBS: 1.Joe Hart(GK), 5.Pablo Zabaleta, 13.Aleksandar Kolarov(p), 16.Sergio Aguero(p)(1), 26.Martin Demichelis, 52.Emyr Huws(p), 64.Mesquita Lopes.
BLACKBURN ROVERS: 1.Paul Robinson, 27.Adam Henley, 3.Tommy Spurr, 17.Lee Williamson, 5.Grant Hanley, 4.Matt Kilgallon, 45.Tom Cairney, 6.Jason Lowe, 12.Ben Marshall, 19.Chris Taylor, 10.DJ Campbell. SUBS: 13.Simon Eastwood(GK)(p), 7.Josh King(p) 8.David Dunn, 14.Marcus Olsson, 23.Ruben Rochina, 31.Connor Mahoney(p), 39.Rudy Gestede.
REFEREE: Mr. Craig Pawson. ASSISTANTS: Mr. Simon Beck & Mr. Harry Lennard. 4th OFFICIAL: Mr. Lee Probert
*I’d like to thank the Stretford & Urmston City OSC for their help in getting me to and from the game. Thanks guys & girls!