Manchester City do their national service

As I and many other Manchester City fans have taken great delight in telling others over the past few days (whether you are a City fan or not, you’ve probably heard this bit already, but I couldn’t just start this article with paragraph two as it wouldn’t make much sense, so you’ll have to bear with me for a moment), the club’s spending power is far from damaging the England team, as had previously been decided in the tabloid kangaroo court based at Fleet Street. We’ll be doing nothing but going over old ground to repeat that argument, but it was a point I felt needed reiterating.

Especially with all the English City players that have been the spine of the last two of Fabio Capello’s teamsheets. You can insert here one of the many jokes that have been going around the web about hating international breaks but it being ok this time around because it was just like watching City. I was also disappointed with the number of my friends that told me the same Wayne Rooney joke over and over again. You can insert that here, too, if you like, just to get it out of the way.

With the introduction of the 25-man squad rule, a lot of the press were looking towards City as a team that would struggle to get their squad size down. But, in reality, the squad picked itself, there was more than enough of the home grown talent in there to meet the rules and the English players aren’t just there to make up the numbers. The victory over Liverpool in August demonstrated this, with six Englishmen both starting and finishing the game, with a seventh on the bench should he be needed. I’m not quite sure where the vitriol against City came from, given that, either through the checkbook or club academy, English talent isn’t being ignored.

Odd, how there hasn’t been nearly as much backlash towards other squads. Take Arsenal’s, for example, which doesn’t contain one English player. How often will the English Arsenal under 21 players make first team appearances, especially now with Walcott out injured? It looks like it’s going to be down to infrequent appearances from Wiltshire and Ramsey.

Chelsea couldn’t name a full 25 man squad because of the lack of home grown players – English or not. And, despite this, it’s City who are in the wrong because they’re the ones who have spent the money.

Speaking of spending money, I’m also perfectly willing to go back onto the record and state my belief that Adam Johnson will be the best value for money buy in the Premier League in the last five years. He’s young, English (and therefore with added transfer premium), not afraid to take a player or four on and he’s not afraid to have a shot when necessary. And, unlike a lot of footballers, he is comfortable and looks natural on both wings.

In fact, I’d go as far to say I’ve never been as excited about a City attacking player in the past. That he will, even though he is left footed, head for the byline or cut inside whichever wing he is on, leaves full backs not knowing what to expect and makes City (and, as we’ve seen recently, England) a much more dangerous prospect attacking. After a World Cup where England were crying out for a left winger to offer service, it seems obvious (as, I suppose, everything does with the benefit of hindsight) that not taking Adam Johnson to the tournament was a mistake.

Middlesbrough’s youth academy, like City’s, is known for developing a large number of prospects and talents and, in recent years, has been noted as one of the most productive in the country. I was concerned, when Roberto Mancini signed Johnson from the north-east club in the winter transfer window, that he was going to be another player that was ‘one-for-the-future’. That he would get maybe ten or fifteen minutes at the end of most games, providing the points were safely in the bag. That he would struggle in the Premier League at first and that it would take several years to see what sort of player he could be.

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever been more wrong. Maybe the time, just before Javier Garrido scored his first goal, a free kick, for City against Liverpool, when I said, “My worry is that he might fancy a shot from there.” Maybe.

Having watched Johnson play regularly for City, it now stumps me how Stewart Downing was keeping him out of the Middlesbrough team. Out of the two left wingers transferred from the north-east, I don’t think there can be much question that City got a better deal than Aston Villa.

City are going to play a very large part in the future of England’s development, especially since Milner and Johnson joined the club. With Hart back from his loan at Birmingham and keeping Given out of the team, Barry putting in his usual solid and stern performances and Lescott proving he’s comfortable at left back as well as centre back, both City and England have bright futures ahead of them. And that’s not including any potential call ups for Richards and Wright-Phillips, who, I think by most City fans’ admissions, haven’t exactly been on the tops of their games recently.

And, the second half display against Sunderland aside, if watching England in years to come is anything like watching the new City, then international breaks should make for much more pleasant viewing than they have lately.

Written By David Mooney


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