In this week’s Opposition Focus, Matt Wiggins spoke to the Blue Moon Podcast to get a Man City perspective ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick off at the Etihad.
Man City vs Fulham, what comes to mind when you think of this fixture from years gone by?
I don’t know if I’m giving away my age on this one, but I think of Kevin Keegan being particularly angry at Shaun Goater not being flagged offside in a 3-0 win for City at Maine Road, in about 1999. This was before Keegan had managed City, and he’d taken Fulham to the Division Two title, while City came up through the playoffs. I think it might have been the opening goal in the game, Goater was a mile offside, but because he didn’t get involved and I think Paul Dickov ran through and scored, the linesman kept the flag down. Then the 3-0 defeat at Craven Cottage in the second game of 1998-99, when we all expected City to start much better than they did after two relegations in three years! Then there was the beginning of Fulham’s great escape in 2007-08.
THAT Aguero goal could be seen as one of the greatest moments in Premier League history. How special was it to be a City fan in the stadium that day?
You only realise it’s special after the fact, that’s the problem. All the way through, you’re thinking you’re cursed to be there because you’re experiencing the horror of the dream crumbling into dust. It’s only after it’s happened that you can reflect on the sheer ecstasy of having watched what you’ve just watched. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything that’s taken me from such despair to such delight in a matter of seconds. That feeling is utterly indescribable.
One piece of silverware City are missing is the Champions League. Is this finally the year you go all the way in the competition?
How long is a piece of string? There’s always something that gets in the way so it’s impossible to say. In 2018, it was Liverpool and several offside/penalty calls that swung the tie at Anfield. In 2019, it was Tottenham and VAR now getting those calls correct that swung the tie! In 2020 it was Pep Guardiola tying himself in knots for Lyon. This City team isn’t as good as the City teams in 2018 and 2019, so if they couldn’t do it… It’s all about the draw, too. There are some teams, Spurs and Liverpool at the moment, that City just can’t deal with.
City sit 10th after 9 games with 4 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats. How do you think this season has been for you so far?
Hit and miss, it we’re honest. The game in hand does skew the league slightly – if City win it, they move to within three points of the top of the table. The question is, will City win it? They’ve been inconsistent for 18 months or so now, able to blow teams away 4-0 or 5-0 one week and then can barely muster a shot on target or missing open goals in a 0-1 defeat the next. The opening to season hasn’t been easy, but they should probably have had a few more points on the board than they’ve got already.
How does the squad this season compare to the one that finished 2nd behind Liverpool last season?
I honestly don’t really know yet. The defence is so much better. Aymeric Laporte has always been an excellent option, but John Stones appears to have found a bit of form again and Ruben Dias has settled in brilliantly since his arrival. I’d trust this team to keep clean sheets much more than I’d trust last season’s, though creating chances has been a bit of an issue, Burnley aside. Last season, the problem was finishing chances – so now, if they’re not even creating them, that’s a bigger worry.
There are a number of players to have played for both clubs. Who would you say is the best player to have donned both the blue of Man City and the black and white of Fulham?
Off the top of my head, I can only think of Andy Cole, Michael Brown and Kit Symons! It’s fair to say that City didn’t see a great deal of Cole. He was great for half a season, then injured, then he upped sticks and left for Portsmouth. Symons got relegated twice in his three seasons and City leaked goals week after week. Brown was a decent player for City, but his face never really fitted with Joe Royle and he was moved on to Sheffield United. He’d been at the club about five years by that point, having come through the academy before that, too.
After a quick Google: Dickson Etuhu was at City for a bit, too, after coming through the academy. I also didn’t realise you’d had Niclas Jensen for a bit. He was great at City, scored a cracking volley against Leeds in 2002-03 which is well worth looking up. Wayne Bridge wasn’t exactly a roaring success at City, either.
The best common link is probably Kevin Keegan.
What are your Top 4 and Bottom 3 predictions?
God knows. Honestly, this season is such a hard one to predict and I’m always wrong anyway. So take this with a pinch of salt. You’ve a better chance of predicting it by picking names from a hat.
Top Four: City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea (pick your order!).
Bottom Three: Sheff Utd, West Brom, Fulham (sorry!).
Finally, how do you see the game panning out?
City have had a run of tough games and they’ll be feeling confident after thumping Burnley at the weekend. If they can carry on that sort of form, then hopefully they can get their season up and running, with their first back-to-back Premier League wins of the season. I’m going for a 3-0 City win.