City prepare for Hammer time – MAN CITY v WEST HAM UTD

When City skipper Mike Doyle proudly lifted the League Cup at Wembley on the last day of February in 1976, it meant so much to Tony Book’s Sky Blue Army.

Little did they know it would take another 35 years before they celebrated any Cup success of any significance.

If Vincent Kompany were to follow the example of the sadly-departed ‘Doyley’ on March 2nd , it will doubtless be rapturously received by the City fans… but only as an hors d’oeuvre.

Captain Fantastic - Kompany has yet to lead his men to Wembley glory

Captain Fantastic – Kompany has yet to lead his men to Wembley glory

The ‘mains’ of the Premier League title and – if we allow ourselves an excursion into la-la land – the Champions League, should still be on the menu if Manuel Pellegrini lands his first piece of English silverware before spring is sprung.

The bitter irony of City’s 2-1 win over Newcastle, when the League Cup was the League Cup before sponsorship intervention, was that it was so nearly a pre-cursor of greater things – a case of so near yet so far.

Had Manchester United’s Martin Buchan not effectively ended Colin Bell’s glittering career as City walloped the Reds 4-0 en-route to Wembley, ‘Colin The King’ would have been central to a First Division winning Manchester City side in 1976-77.

Without their talisman, City were edged out by a vintage Liverpool team who edged the title by a point, before Bob Paisley’s team went on to win the European Cup with the likes of Kevin Keegan, Tommy Smith and Steve Heighway.

A fully fit Colin Bell would have been worth a bundle of points and City’s history would have taken a totally different direction.

Carry on winning - Pellegrini wants to lift every ounce of silverware going

Carry on winning – Pellegrini wants to lift every ounce of silverware going

If the modern day City side can navigate their way past Sam Allardyce’s presently hapless Hammers, they would be hot favourites to reclaim a trophy that has a nostalgic place in the hearts of older supporters of the club.

The clumsily re-titled Capital One Cup, is now a poor fourth on the season’s shopping list, but Pellegrini made it clear at the outset last August, he wants to win everything.

It’s to be hoped it’s a case of third time lucky after City’s recent flirtations with League Cup glory, before succumbing to aggregate semi-final defeats of 4-3 against Manure in 2009/10 and,  more latterly, 3-2 against Liverpool in 2011/12.

On face value City should hammer the Hammers at Fortress Etihad and put the tie beyond West Ham’s reach in the return leg on January 21st.  Of course, City and ‘cup certainties’ don’t exactly go hand in glove.

Player of the Month - Fernandinho has just picked up the award from City supporters for an outstanding December

Player of the Month – Fernandinho has just picked up the award from City supporters for an outstanding December

Saturday’s disappointing draw at Blackburn is but a tame example when compared with City’s last sortie down Wembley Way – the nigh on unbelievable FA Cup Final defeat to Wigan in May.

Team selection will be the main pre-match talking points for both sides. In the face of chronic fixture congestion, Manuel Pellegrini’s astute and measured rotation policy, is perfectly logical and understandable to the vast majority of City’s support.

The same cannot be said of Allardyce’s lamentable selection of a virtual youth team, who were unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup 5-0, by Nottingham Forest’s ‘tree-fellers’ – well, more like 13 or 14 if you include the subs!

So that’s sorted, City will win 12-0 and the second leg will be a total non-event…I wish!

Even with a team boasting some of the finest players in the world and an impeccable home record, City cannot afford to be complacent – not for a second.

Keeping Kompany company - will Martin Demichelis be partnering Vincent in the Capital One Cup semi-final?

Keeping Kompany company – will Martin Demichelis be partnering Vincent in the Capital One Cup semi-final?

West Ham have already pulled off two unexpected away wins at Spurs this season – never City’s happiest of hunting grounds – and Allardyce is not the benighted buffoon some of the media would have you believe at present.

Yes, City should win and by a decent margin, but it would be foolish in the extreme to under estimate a fellow Premier League team branded as clear underdogs…just ask 3G – David Moyes – over at Old Trafford, or as it is now known, the ‘Theatre of Screams’.

Both teams will show substantial changes in personnel to the teams fielded in the FA Cup ties against Championship opposition, the difference being City still have a chance to progress.

Welcome news for City is that Martin Demichelis is definitely back in the squad but the tie has come too early for back-in-training duo Micah Richards and Sergio Aguero.

Knee knock - Flying winger Jesus Navas is out injured

Knee knock – Flying winger Jesus Navas is out injured

A noticeable absentee will be Jesus Navas with a knock to his knee.The diminutive Spanish winger has grown in stature as the season has progressed and his speed, directness and energy will be a loss.

Stevan Jovetic – a man seemingly with a lot to prove in the eyes of his manager, as well as the City fans, is still absent but believed to be on the verge of a return to first team contention. His will be a welcome return as he tries to give City some positive return on the £22m outlay to Fiorentina last summer.

West Ham are tentatively pencilling in a January return for injured striker Andy Carroll, who has yet to kick a ball in anger since making his £15m permanent switch to Upton Park. He will be absent at the Etihad but could figure in the 2nd Leg.

The Hammers will be trying to become only the second team to ever beat City at home in a League Cup semi-final, Liverpool having achieved the feat in both 1981 and 2012.

Joe show - Hart should be back as the custodian of City's goal as they bid for Wembley

Joe show – Hart should be back as the custodian of City’s goal as they bid for Wembley

With City ready to field their big guns of  Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Yaya and Nasri from kick-off, in addition to Silva and Negredo who started at Ewood Park, Pellegrini will be looking to effectively render the return a ‘dead rubber’ by running up a three or four goal advantage.

It’s well within City’s free-scoring capabilities and would be a big bonus in light of the vital Premier League fixtures against Cardiff and Newcastle, as well as one, potentially two, FA Cup ties this month.

Hopefully it’ll be ‘Hammer time’ and City’s superiority will be such that Pellegrini will turn to Allardyce at the final whistle and simply say ‘You can’t touch this!’



By David Walker



  1. January 7, 2014  7:53 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    The absence of Navas is a blow, as his pace and skill against a very under strength West Ham defence could have been very handy, but not to be.
    I still think Pellegrini will continue with his Dzeko-Negredo partnership up front, although it has been stuttering of late. If he doesn't, I'll be surprised, but, personally, will welcome it, as I think a one up top with Nasri lying just behind could be effective. We'll see.
    It would be handy to have a clear goal margin to take to the second leg - the crowd could make a difference tomorrow night, it's difficult at the moment to gauge what the attendance could be.
    No complacency!

    • January 7, 2014  8:07 pm by David Walker Reply

      With you on all points I'd have Lopes on the bench or even as a starter - no fear & bags of pace. Difficult to call the crowd but 40,000 + would be nice. Blackburn next Wed will probably a sub 30,000 turnout - hope I'm wrong.

  2. January 7, 2014  8:37 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Just about echoing everybody thoughts with regards the old 'League Cup' when we always thought we stood a chance, eh them were the days.
    Even more galling for me against Liverpool at Maine Road in '81' was that the linesman who failed to give Kevin Reeves an obviously clear penalty was a friend of mine, not any more - named and shamed as Steve Mason.
    In the 2nd leg at Anfield, drawing 1-1 and literally all over them, Dave Bennet hit the bar in the very last minute which would have sent us through, close but no cigar, eh them were the days. Nowadays its the media fuelled expectation at the Etihad rather than the eternal optimism we experienced, eh them were the days.

    • January 7, 2014  9:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      There are so many aspects that we lament from the old days, but I can get used to the modern day habit of winning. Such a shame about Colin Bell. We'd have have won League & maybe gone onto greater things.

  3. January 7, 2014  9:18 pm by Mole Rocks Reply

    Unfortunately City's last League Cup win was before I can recall said event.

    As a result I would welcome MP really pushing to add the Capital One trophy to the silverware cabinet.

    As ever we can expect/desire a whirlwind performance, let's hope West Ham United don't have any delusions or ambitions to take a lead back to the Bolyen Ground.

    • January 7, 2014  10:01 pm by David Walker Reply

      I was at Wembley in 1976 as a schoolboy with my Dad, a family friend - headmaster - and a 70-year old man of the cloth - all City fans & sadly all no longer with us - not surprising with the vicar being 70 back in '76!

  4. January 8, 2014  9:40 am by GeorgeInIsrael Reply

    Excellently written and a wonderful read, as always. I have no doubt that Big Sam will come to park the bus, as he is aware that if he plays WHU's typical football, his team will get a walloping. I hope that we manage to get an early goal (or two) that will force them to come out and try for an away goal that might just make a difference.

    A couple of unrelated comments:

    The only League Cup final I managed to get to was the 74 final against Wolves - the one where Rodney Marsh's stupid backheel instead of hoofing the ball into row Z gave John Richards a present of a winning goal just as we were getting ready for extra time.

    I would take issue with your description of Martin Buchan ending Colin Bell's career, as you make it sound deliberate. Unlike George Best's disgusting lunge on Glyn Pardoe (despite what Big Mal says here: ), Buchan's tackle on Colin was a fair, hard tackle. Colin simply fell badly and the damage was done.

    • January 8, 2014  12:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for so much feedback George. My recollection of Buchan's tackle was that if maybe not malicious it was not a good one. As far as I know he has never apologised to Colin, whichever way you look at it is poor form. Cheers.

  5. January 8, 2014  10:01 am by Chris Williams Reply

    As Georgeinisreal states above Allerdice has already said that he took heart from how Crystal Palace made life difficult for us at the Etihad and that West Ham will have to do the same tonight. So obviously they'll be parking the bus and hoping to still be in the tie by the end of the night.

    City and more importantly the crowd will need to show patience tonight, as it will be difficult to break them down. Even a quick goal won't change their outlook, as they'll be looking for a 0-0 or 1-0 to take back to Upton Park. The game could actually be won in the away leg when they'll have to open up.

    I think that we will win comfortably tonight and it might even spell the end to Big Sam's tenure.

    • January 8, 2014  12:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Excellent synopsis Chris - shame Navas is out because he could wreak havoc down the flank.

  6. January 8, 2014  10:03 am by Simon Dear Reply

    As a very young City fan back in the day of the league cup being the just that , I recall City v Liverpool at Maine road being screened live on TV and I'm sure Kevin Reeves had a perfectly good header disallowed for a foul ( replays shown it wasn't ) or am I dreaming ? . We lost 1 nil and battered them away drawing 1-1 .never the less great memories !! Just shows you what great nostalgia this cup competition brings. I think it will be tight tonight but we will take a lead to Upton park and get the result needed. Manure will overcome S'land in the second leg as Brown & O'shea ( as in the past ) will forget what colour they are playing in at the swamp and stick the odd own goal in & concede at least one pen to Moyes acrobats! . I'm truly hoping for a first Derby final !! That would be awesome .

    • January 8, 2014  12:54 pm by David Walker Reply

      Yes, I'll take an all Manc final & blast Manure to pieces!

  7. January 8, 2014  10:08 am by Simon Dear Reply

    Ps . Great read again David , thanks !!

    • January 8, 2014  12:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for reading - no readers = no point = no RBNR!

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