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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 134

Just football! That’s it. Such an enjoyable experience to exclusively talk about things that have occurred on the pitch. We were gleeful. Almost danced a celebratory polka during the discussion.

So, all the positives from Arsenal, some quite deep stuff about the refereeing performance that helped deny us a share of the points, and a look back at previous visits from Burnley, who are our next opponents. No podcast next week due to no game.

Behold…

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 133

Four unexpected points, the impact of the new players – and, of course, this remarkable new head coach of ours. Plus we remember past trips to the Emirates, ahead of this weekend’s game.

Click and collect…

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Things We Think We Think #244

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1. A week ago, we wistfully sighed at the triumph that a point from Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal would be, doubting that even that modest total could be met. Get ye gone, pessimism! Marco Silva is in charge, and there are shades of 2008’s “anything’s possible” mindset bubbling to the surface.

2. Manchester United first. Not unlike our other recent trip to Old Trafford, we went hoping for a point but more realistically aiming to keep it close. Instead, City fought tenaciously enough to pinch a draw, and came desperately close to even stealing what would have been a first win at that ground since 1952. And thoroughly merited it was too, with City playing with a confidence that belied our lowly league status.

3. We can scarcely imagine the chaos that would’ve ensued if Lazar Marković’s cute shot had struck David de Gea’s post another inch further along. In contrast to some visits to the “big clubs”, the away end was largely free of tourists and their revolting half-scarves, and instead the atmosphere was a good one and we all richly enjoyed the performance. But if only Marković had fractionally adjusted his shot…or Hernández had controlled that high ball when twenty yards clear…

3a. Of course, the embittered halfwits at Old Trafford would probably have lodged a High Court injunction striking the game from the records. Jose Mourinho is a nasty specimen whose repellent bullying attitude increasingly render him yesterday’s man, while being chided for playing to the cameras by Zlatan Ibrahimović is simply beyond parody. In case you’re wondering, you pair of dildos, it made the result even sweeter.

4. As it was, we didn’t have long to wait for bedlam in the stands while socking it to one of the Sky Sports Super Clubs. Liverpool may have been wobbling, and our resurrection is clear, but we still started as distant underdogs against a side that panned us 5-1 earlier in the season. This could scarcely have been different. Sure, the statistics may record that Liverpool had more possession, shots, corners and so on – but they looked fretful throughout, whereas City applied themselves with steely resolve. This is a side that really knows what it’s doing and calmly does it. And when Oumar Niasse unflinchingly stroked the game’s second goal past the Liverpool keeper to win the game, we had our moment of Tiger Mayhem.

5. There’s such a long way to go that this cannot be regarded as anything other than the start of things. We remain in the bottom three, and it’s going to take something remarkable at Arsenal to alter that next weekend. What’s clear is that Marco Silva is restoring confidence to a side that (and we really must remember this) was playing well under Mike Phelan, but rarely seemed to believe it could finish sides off. Whatever he’s doing, he needs to continue it.

6. City’s relegation in 2015 should forever dispel the myth that you can ‘win’ the January transfer window, but nonetheless there is good reason to be pleased with the recruitment done on Marco Silva’s behalf. Polish winger Kamil Grosicki seems a particularly exciting signing, giving us width and a ready made dead ball specialist to replace the departing Snodgrass. Grosicki seems genuinely excited to be a City player too, rather than just being here to rehabilitate a faltering career.

7. That might sound sneery, as City have signed a few players on loan who have essentially failed with their parent club (Niasse with Everton, Marković with Liverpool, Ranocchia with Internazionale), but no such sneer is intended. On the contrary Marco Silva’s plan of mobilising a mob of misfits is admirable (possibly inspired), and the vast improvement we’ve seen in David Meyler and likely 2017 Ballon D’or nominee Tom Huddlestone under Silva is testament to his ability to coach and improve players regardless of what has gone before. Sign one such player and the destabilising impact of Hatem Ben Arfa is a possibility, sign three or four and the odds of one or more being a success dramatically improves, and lessens the disruption if one fails miserably.

7a. City apparently missed out on Guingamp midfielder Yannis Salibur because they ‘ran out of time’. The transfer window is only open for one day after all. What’s that? It isn’t? Oh!

8. City fans have got so used to a lack of meaningful communication from either of the Allams that some have responded to the club’s ‘Transfer Window Review with Ehab Allam” with delirious glee. Regular meaningful communication is a MINIMUM REQUIREMENT of a chairman, it should not be considered an unexpected bonus or anything particularly laudable, even if the latest attempt is a positive step.

9. The Allams just don’t do admissions of personal culpability do they? Ehab attempted to pin the ‘permanent’ hiring of Mike Phelan (and indeed the overlooking of Marco Silva in the summer) on “three potential buyers” as if he had no input. With those deals no longer pursued (they lost interest as City dropped down the table, Ehab says; his standing up one of the bidders, Peter Grieve, had no impact) Ehab took positive, decisive action to bring Silva in. Nicely staged Ehab, of course you’ll come across well when there are no probing or challenging questions on the table. It’s way past time for you to address the Premier League rulebreaking on lack of concessions and the laughable marketing mess caused by using different club names on different media platforms.

10. Hard luck to Ahmed Elmohamady, who last night featured in the Egypt side that lost the final of the African Cup of Nations. He’s going to find a lot’s changed here when he returns to East Yorkshire…

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Things We Think We Think #243

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1. One week, two Cup games, two exits – and two very different ways of departing knockout competitions. Manchester United first, where City were magnificent in victory on the night, and although it wasn’t enough to make the League Cup final, it was still as impressive as anything we’ve seen this season.

2. All the more so for a highly unexpected team selection. It smacked a little of tossing the tie away and keeping our powder dry for the league, however the attitude on show suggested precisely the opposite. In the end, even if it never quite felt as though the miracle of qualification was on, City outplayed their illustrious guests and thoroughly merited a first win over them in four decades. Terrific stuff, and a richly enjoyable League Cup run came to an inspiring end.

3. Not that many were inspired to attend. To see the whole of the upper West Stand shut and barely 13,000 City fans in attendance was as shocking an indictment of the Allam family’s poison as you could wish to see.

4. Three days later came an exit from English football’s premier cup competition, and if we left its less distinguished counterpart with heads held high, no such feeling was possible at Fulham. City were disjointed, disorganised and worst of all, disinterested in crashing to a wretched 4-1 defeat at Craven Cottage. There are no positives to take, and it’s a stark reminder that Marco Silva has an epic task in making City competitive this season.

5. Which brings us back to the ghastly, spiteful, hateful Allam family, who seem to regard any bid of £10m from any club for any of our players as an automatic prompt to cash in and instruct the manager to replace them with an inferior loan. “We aren’t a selling club”, dribbled Ehab. He must think we’re as stupid as his classmates recall him to be.

6. Robert Snodgrass was a fine player for City, one whom we almost certainly didn’t see the best of thanks to his elongated spell on the sidelines after that horrific injury suffered on the opening day of 2014/15. Eventually we did get to witness some marvellous free kicks and some generally incisive displays from an international footballer who rightly felt he deserved better than a last-ditch auto-extension on his contract from a regime who have form for not adopting known employment practices for key senior players. We wish Snodgrass well at West Ham United, without obviously wishing any wellness towards West Ham United.

7. There has been some criticism of Snodgrass for not apparently showing enough loyalty to City after they nurtured him back to health while paying his not insubstantial wages over 15 months. As a riposte, we’d say that a) being seriously injured was not his fault; b) highly-paid footballers are just as likely to be injured as those on the breadline; c) he was never slow in thanking the club and the supporters for believing in him before and upon his return; d) he was generally brilliant this season; e) the quickness with which the club accepted the £10m offer suggested they could see life without him quite readily; and f) his slightly outspoken interviews in the early part of the season (specifically on the tiny number of players in the squad) suggests that he didn’t like nor trust nor rate the Allams and wanted to carry out his professional duties with a club that knew its gluteal muscles from its lateral epicondyle. Not that West Ham is that club, of course – a world of other problems exist there – but at least it understands that having some footballers on the payroll of a football club is rather crucial.

8. Burnley seem now close to getting Andy Robertson off us. Only a simpleton (morning, Ehab) would endorse such a deal and if he goes, that’s £30m worth of assets the owners have cashed in on without spending a bean on credible, proven replacements. Marco Silva has stated that up to four players are coming in before the deadline – but “up to four” can be defined as anything from four down to none whatsoever.

9. Manchester United on Wednesday, again. Then Liverpool at home. Then Arsenal… and then the fight to stay in the Premier League actually starts. Even a point from the next nine available would be regarded as a bonus, especially as we seem to be close to picking players barely on solids thanks to our destructive transfer policy.

10. Ryan Mason has been released from hospital and this is something from which we can take good cheer. The road to his full recovery starts here and we hope it is speedy and not uncomfortable.

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 131

Here it is. Ryan Mason is our main focus (and the irresponsibility of one tabloid newspaper after his injury), plus the Chelsea game, the two cup ties ahead and the transfer window. Enjoy – and we again wish Ryan a speedy recovery.

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Things We Think We Think #241

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1. Marco Silva’s has had his first full week in charge of the Tigers, and whisper it quietly – very quietly indeed – but the opening signs are broadly positive. It’s crazily early to offer any sort of definitive judgement on the new City manager, and we won’t make any attempt to extrapolate beyond the immediate future, but nonetheless we’re impressed.

2. Unfortunately, his second game in charge was one that’s probably seen our faint dreams of League Cup glory and subsequent European exploration ended. Overcoming Manchester United over two legs was always a huge long shot, and while City’s 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford hasn’t absolutely settled the tie, it’s close to impossible to believe we’ll be two goals or more better than them in the return leg.

3. However, if the tie is effectively over and our dreams of major silverware have ended at the semi-final stage, then what remains is the memory of a sterling effort and the encouragement it provides. City defending manfully throughout to restrict a side assembled at preposterous expense to relatively few chances. Not much was created up front, unsurprisingly, but for a squad as thin and inexperienced as ours to keep it to 2-0, and be slightly unfortunate even to suffer that, was a superb achievement.

4. If that was the backs-to-the-wall against-all-odds match, then four days later came an altogether different test for Sr Silva. Bournemouth are an enormously admirable side, and even if they’ve experiencing a tick down in form they’re in a position we can only dream of. Nonetheless, this fell firmly into the “really could to do be winning” category. And we won it, deservedly, with a bit to spare and even the faintest hint of a swagger.

5. And that despite making it hard for ourselves too. Harry Maguire’s boneheaded challenge in the second minute could’ve been fatal for our chances, and had Bournemouth extended themselves properly and got a second while City were still coming to terms with a new formation and an early concession, it’d probably have been yet another defeat. However, as the first half wore on City cleared their heads and fought their way back.

6. Some of the play was far better than you’d expect from a side that started the day at the bottom of the table. We’ve seen that before, of course – the luckless Mike Phelan had City playing some attractive stuff prior to his dismissal, but this time there was a cutting edge. In other words, there was an Abel Hernández. His second goal was exactly the sort of predatory finish you can’t easily teach. Shifting the ball half a yard and instantly swiping it past an unsighted, uncomprehending keeper, it’s instinctive brilliance, and how we’ve missed it.

7. However, the hero of the hour may be Tom Huddlestone. He’s frequently frustrated, and a whiff of underachievement has stalked his time here, but he’s playing the finest football of his City career. He’s involving himself far further forward, his passing is not only sumptuously attractive but defence-splitting and he’s notably upped his workrate. In the past month, he’s become a joy to watch and an essential player. If he can maintain this level of performance, then maybe, just maybe…

8. No! Enough. The odds remain stacked against City, and the strong probability of four defeats from our next four games will quickly provide both a reality check and also a lot of late-season work to avoid relegation. We’re probably still going down. But we’re going down fighting, and that’s better than nothing.

9. Two new players – striker Oumar Niasse and midfielder Evandro – have arrived, and we welcome them warmly. We’re pleased to note that a right back appears to be next on his wish list. The sooner the better please, patrão.

10. Oliver Holt, one of the country’s most respected sports journalists, dedicated his entire Mail On Sunday column at the weekend to the situation at City, paying a visit to the UK City of Culture to talk to supporters. It’s a must-read and, while seeing everything we have to contend with via the toxic Allam regime in black and white isn’t an uplifting read, at least someone truly influential has put it all down for the national footballing consumer to digest. We hope the Allams read it, hang their heads in shame and change their attitudes overnight. But then still sell up very quickly.

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Things We Think We Think #240

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1. An unfathomable amount has happened since we last wrote one of these, most of it in the past week. It’s hard to know where to start: Mike Phelan’s dismissal, the appointment of a largely unknown foreign coach, Cup progress and the first ever organised boycott of a City home game. If stability is one of the key ingredients of footballing success, City are sorely lacking it.

2. Let’s start with the sacking of Mike Phelan six days ago. Taken in isolation, there’s a real stench of shabbiness about it. Phelan did a job few others would have taken on, and kept the show if not quite wholly on the road, then at least mostly out of the steep ditches on either side. We’re bottom, but we’re not as hopelessly adrift as Ehab’s summer sabotage might have left us, and we’re League Cup semi-finalists.

3. It’s easy to pick holes in what Phelan did, and he was far from perfect – sometimes too negative, erratic in the deployment of personnel and tactically limited. Nonetheless, he kept our miserably thin squad together, won more games than we expected and actually had City playing some attractive football towards the end. His status as a decent and respected football man will hopefully not suffer from his experience with the Allam family, we thank him for doing his best and wish him well for the future.

4. Marco Silva then. We are supposed to believe that Ehab Allam has suddenly become massively knowledgeable about football and wanted a manager, sorry head coach, with a sports science background (which is odd, because the owners had a purge of sports science staff a few years ago, deeming them a waste of money). It has been suggested that the appointment was made on the suggestion of a party interested in buying the club, but whether that’s the case or not, it seems implausible that Ehab identified Silva as a candidate by himself.

5. Nonetheless, Silva’s CV is impressive: Near miraculous achievements with a small club (Estoril) followed by delivering the first silverware in a while to a well known club (Sporting Lisbon) and a league championship in another country (Olympiacos). He showed himself to be very articulate in his first club interview and called us Hull City several times for good measure. His appointment has breathed new life into the club, and we wish him the best of luck as a Premier League manager and in dealing with the buffoon(s) currently running the club.

6. It was quite unfortunate for Silva’s first game in charge to coincide with an organised boycott. Some opportunists claimed that boycotting the game was the action of fans who ‘don’t have the club at heart’, which is quite disingenuous. The boycott was never, ever about the club’s manager, its players or league position, but rather to highlight malcontent with the owners, something that hadn’t previously penetrated the football supporting collective consciousness on a national level. We would argue that wanting rid of the Allams is absolutely the default position of those who truly have the club at heart.

7. The attendance was 6,608. That’s essentially 10,000 down on when we faced Swansea in the League Cup last season, suggesting the boycott was a ‘success’. No one should be celebrating it as such though, that’s we’ve gotten to this point is a cause for great sadness.

8. Ehab Allam thinks ‘two or three’ signings will be enough to save Hull City’s Premier League status, so ahead of the deals being done we look forward to welcoming Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski to the Circle very soon.

9. The prospect of Robert Snodgrass leaving before the month is out is a genuine concern, even after the club activated a contract extension without attempting to negotiate a proper, long term deal. West Ham’s bid of £3m might seem insulting, but frankly City have insulted the player more by leaving it until just days before he was permitted to field free agency offers before indicating we’d maybe like to retain him. Well run clubs tie up players they want to keep a year (sometimes more) before their current deal expires, but we are not a well run club, which may encourage Snodgrass, who has been at the heart of anything and everything good that has happened this season, to take his chances elsewhere. If Snodgrass has his head turned by West Ham’s interest, then a lowball first offer puts them in a good position to get him for less than his true worth.

10. We won’t be podcasting tonight – we boycotted Swansea and we can’t therefore offer a reliable view of the game.

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 128

Despite some technical struggles, which you’ll note from the sudden decline in audio quality, we managed to complete our final podcast of 2016. Spurs, West Ham, boycotts, the Snodgrass contract (or lack of) and past games against Manchester City all on offer for you.

Merry Christmas. We’ll be wittering inarticulately again in the new year.

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PODCAST: TWTWT Podcast 127

Lots to talk about, mainly to do with City putting in a terrific shift against Crystal Palace. We talk also about the two games in London this week and the issue of diving for penalties.

And our special guest is Ian Bunton, whose new book 46 And Counting is available here – all proceeds to Alzheimers and dementia.