Man City Have Acted Like A Petulant, Spiteful Organisation

We all wondered if Manchester City really would field a weakened team against Chelsea.

FA Cup Farce
We wondered whether the threat from this charming man, Manuel Pellegrini would manifest itself in reality at Stamford Bridge and essentially raise the white flag not only on a game that the world were tuning in to, but another kick in the you know whats for the world’s oldest cup competition.

Well he did. So where does this leave us?

Well I have some sympathy for Manchester City and any other Premier League club when it comes to preparation for Europe’s premium competitions. The Germans are just finished a lovely break on the beach, recuperated and fresh for the domestic and European challenge.

The Spanish FA help their clubs by bringing games forward or putting them back as and when suits Real Madrid and Barcelona.

In the grand context of European football the FA really should be doing more, much more to help English clubs in Europe at a time when the Italians in particular are not a million miles away from taking one of our 4 spots.

That would for me mean a simple solution, taking the considerations of both Chelsea, Manchester City and their busy schedules into account, sitting them down and deciding the following.

Tier One Trivia
Chelsea played their “tier one” game last Tuesday. The FA Cup for them probably would ordinarily be 2nd or 3rd priority, so therefore 2 full rest days, the chance to bring in squad players for the lesser next game (FAC), would mean for me that Chelsea should have been ready to face City on Friday night, mentally and physically ready, changes planned, to take on their metro rival.

Manchester City of course are yet to play their “tier one” encounter with Kiev, so as a FA we should be doing everything possible to help them have the right amount of rest time, to put a competitive team out for the watching world, and to maintain the FA Cup as a serious tournament rather than an afterthought. Therefore City playing at Chelsea on Friday night gives the 4 full rest days to be ready for Kiev – a fair, balanced approach to both clubs, their resources and commitments. It’s called common sense.

This though, is where the ongoing malaise at the FA and its inability to lead the game is quite frankly absurd.

I want to switch on Sky Sports News with one of their guys in his big coat, standing outside FA HQ reporting City and Chelsea administrators and a smiling Greg Dyke chatting, nodding, agreeing then coming out with a statement which makes us all believe that we have an association fit for purpose, not one which hides away. That’s what happened to Chelsea and City this week, their FA hid away.

Do we want our clubs to do well in Europe or don’t we? That’s the fundamental question, and if the answer is yes, then let’s see it. I rarely have sympathy for big clubs who have more resources than their counterparts in the 70’s and 80’s who managed to play a Cup Final on the Saturday and a European Cup Final early the following week.

But, the reality is that players have been so brainwashed by sports science that they are genuinely much more fragile creatures than the more robust “get on with it” player of yesteryear, so this has to now be a reality we face if we are going to compete in Europe.

As a former player who knows all about European journeys, who knows about recovery time and of course how clubs go to extreme lengths to fill out squads with 25 quality players, the sensible solution would have been to have all of the above dealt with before we got to an embarrassing situation.

This would not only be for the FA, but for its flagship tournament, which fans around the world have loved for decades, but also for Manchester City, parading itself these days as a forward thinking big club with a squad which has one of the greatest teams ever to grace a pitch, Liverpool FC (when they were dominating Europe with 14 men), would have died for.

Don’t get me wrong, City have a legitimate complaint about being protected by their home association but they didn’t act like a great club in the making.

They’ve acted like a petulant, spiteful organisation which basically said “you won’t help us, we’ll kill the premium tie of the weekend and put another nail in the FA Cup coffin”.

This is unacceptable, and was shown by the resounding result, glossed over entirely by the FA, Manuel Pellegrini, and the usually ever-so-friendly City PR machinery.

The FA got it wrong, City got it wrong, and who suffered? The Cup, only the cup.

Holy Grail
If in 2016 we can’t have a respectful dialogue between clubs and association without toys being thrown out of the pram then the next time this happens, the team taking the mick gets thrown out of the competition for unsporting behaviour and a serious leadership challenge needs to be cranked up in the media to force the change agenda on the FA, something Greg Dyke I’m sure is keen to do but is facing resistance from the old boys club.

The FA Cup is one of the holy grails of the English sporting calendar, along with Wimbledon, The Grand National, the boat race and The Open. Treat it as such or face serious consequences – however big you think you are these days.