FEAT-BALL2

PREVIEW: Derby v City

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In February 2008, City travelled to West Brom. Win that, we counselled ourselves, and this play-off push might actually be a real thing. It isn’t easy to perfectly recollect one’s decade-old thoughts, but that seems close enough to the 2008 reality.

In February 2019, City travel to Derby. Win that, we tell ourselves…and then find ourselves inescapably drawn back to THAT season, the one that changed everything forever.

The comparison isn’t drawn solely as a cheap way of recollecting the very best of days. There’s something tangible in it. Because like 2008, City have come from almost nowhere to be in the frame for the top six. To do that, we’ve already had probably the result of the season, a 2-0 win at then-leaders Leeds. But that win, just six short weeks ago, was about pulling clear of relegation. Now, wins count (we think) towards loftier goals. So as the motive for winning changes, so too does our pre-match thinking. Beat Derby…

Oh, but it’ll be tough. This has never felt a happy hunting ground, as recent 4-0 and 5-0 defeats testify. Then again, City famously hammered the Rams when it mattered most, a 3-0 win eventually sending the Tigers to Wembley in 2016.

City will have to do it without both Reece Burke and Jordy de Wijs, who are still injured; and you fancy that Derby will do a better job of exploiting City’s extremely makeshift back four than a leaden-footed Stoke did last week. A clean sheet here would surely be our best laundered of this season. If Nigel Adkins does decide that defensive reinforcement is needed, Liam Ridgewell could be in line for a City debut.

Ashley Cole could make his Derby debut, lining up alongside ex-City loanee Fikayo Tomori. Also formerly of this parish is Harry Wilson, whose superb loan spell last season was one of the reasons City are still in the Championship. Another ex-Tiger, Tom Huddlestone, doesn’t look an obvious starter.

Derby need the win: they’re 7th, albeit with a game in hand, and a play-off place was presumably the minimum requirement for Frank Lampard this season. They can’t drop lower than that this weekend, but with ten points separating them from second it’s likely that their only route to the top flight is via the play-offs and they daren’t fall behind that race as well. City could end the week anywhere between 8th and 13th depending on other results, a wide spread of positions for a season now two-thirds through. Even a draw could knock the Tigers back into the bottom half; but it wouldn’t be a bad point if we get it.

It’s a mark of City’s huge recent improvement that Derby aren’t odds-on for this game. You’d have struggled to get much better than 1/2 a few months ago, but the Rams are now generally 11/10 for a win. The draw is 13/5, but if you fancy City’s surge to continue then 13/5 is all yours. Not that we advocate gambling or anything.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST SPECIAL: Justin Whittle on the Great Escape, 20 seasons later

We’re thrilled to have made it as far as 200 podcasts, and more so that the genuine City icon that is Justin Whittle agreed to join us to look back on the remarkable, turbulent, frantic but ultimately satisfying 1998/99 season, when City pulled away from the horrors of the Conference trapdoor after months of being the 92nd best club in the country.

Whittle was signed by new manager Warren Joyce in November of that season, and recounts eloquently the circumstances of his move, the initial struggles, the turn in form at the start of 1999 and the ultimate success of staving off relegation into the abyss of the non-league pyramid. We chip in with memories of the games, the media coverage, the soundbites from a continuously barmy boardroom and the celebrations when safety was assured with two games to spare.

It’s here, and it’s long (90 minutes, appropriately) but it’s well worth your time.

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: The Herefordshire Arjen Robben

We’re back, and still open-mouthed at what phenomenal football and form we are witnessing. The podcast will include jolly discussion on…

*Six wins in a row

*Bowen’s scoring run

*FA Cup exit at Millwall (briefly)

*Allams statement

*Defeat at Everton between two FA Cup games v Newcastle, ten seasons ago

It’s all yours…

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Top of the form

Happy new year! Here’s a cheerful podcast for a quite phenomenal run of form. It’s our festive round up, so expect a long one…

* Swansea and Preston, Leeds and Bolton

* Dizzy heights, new ambitions

* “Mauled by the Tigers”

* January transfer window

* FA Cup third round tie preview

* Two defeats a decade ago

Behold…

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: (Not) toss on toast

One defeat in nine, fourth in the form table, heady days to be a City fan!

Geoff Bielby is our illustrious guest on the podcast this week, detailing the HCST’s involvement in recent takeover talks, as well as his own view on the current side.

It’s our last one until 2019, so thanks ever so much for listening and watching over the last 12 months.

All yours…

 

FEAT-POD

PODCAST: Dossena’s rectal dismay

Our cup runneth over with one defeat in seven games, no? So, in buoyant mood, we’ll discuss…

* The point at Millwall

* Brandon Fleming’s full debut

* Actual home attendances

* Cup tie moved to Sunday

* Drawing at Liverpool a decade ago

Here y’are…