Des Kelly: Smart money says Hughes has problems at City

22 February 2009 11:50
Whatever Mark Twain believed, clothes do not necessarily maketh the man.

Albert Einstein occasionally looked like a cross between Freddie Boswell from Bread, Des Lynam at closing time and an explosion in a dustbin, but nobody ever called him a slacker.

There isn't a footballer out there that has performed more effectively because he had perfectly polished toe-caps or a particularly symmetrical tie knot when he stepped off the team coach.

Fashion crime: Robinho made an intriguing interpretation of ManchesterCity's dress code

Yet, the sight of a ragtag gaggle of Manchester City players traipsing through the airport, flouting the club's dress code en masse, with hoodies under their club suits, woolly caps on their heads, white trainers and a general couldn't care-less-what-the-manager-says demeanour,seemed to advertise the growing belief that Mark Hughes has trouble in the ranks.

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  For all the money spent and for all the promise City might hold for the future, frankly there are some highly paid individuals at the club right now who appear to be doing little more than going through the motions while they wait for their boss to be sacked.

One or two might even be doing their best to speed up that process. When this 'team' passed through the airport in midweek, goalkeeper Shay Given was suited and booted, a picture of professionalism; Hughes was impeccable, too.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Robinho studiously refused to wear a club tie, had his shirt hanging out and gave the impression he had been interrupted halfway through a wardrobe change, or dragged back from another attempt to go AWOL.He wasn't the only one, either.

Now I'm not a fan of Tranny and Carthorse, or whatever they're called. I don't get too hung up on what people wear.

It is easy to be deceived by appearances and cheats wear ties too, as events at our banks have demonstrated recently.

But this City squad just do not look the part, either on or off the field. They don't look like a convincing unit, or give the impression they mean business.

And they certainly don't look like proud ambassadors for their club. More like surly teenagers being forced to go on a school trip.

I read this week that the clique of Brazilian players - Elano, Glauber Berti and Jo (who, incidentally, has suddenly woken up now that he has been shipped out on loan to Everton) - have arranged to have a shipment of sand delivered to Robinho's back garden so they can create their very own Copacabana beach. It figures.

Some are already playing as if they can't wait for their holidays. Which is why Robinho and Elano star for Brazil and then stink against Portsmouth a few days later.

Players chew gum during matches. Another listens to his iPod on the bench.

Big deal? Perhaps. But it's a question of attitude and all of these things come into play when results aren't good enough.

That Sea-dog look: Stephen Ireland

Inevitably, some will argue this is just more media sniping, not a genuine sign of a club with deeper indiscipline. So let's look at the facts, as you can't dress those up too easily.

Unfortunately, they are as unappealing as Vanessa Feltz in spandex. They tell us City are 10 points worse off than they were at the same stage last season, even though the club smashed the British transfer record for £34m Robinho and spent the largest amount of money ever by one club in the winter transfer window.

Hughes' side have won none - that's zero - games from a losing position; have kept the lowest number of clean sheets away from home, have only won one match away in the league this season and claimed no victories in 10 on the road, losing six. That's ugly.

Yet at home, they have scored as many goals as Manchester United. It's a sequence that has to be down to an attitude problem.

On Sunday City travel to Liverpool. It's not a long journey; just 36 miles down the M62, but if the formbook means anything they might as well pack their passports.

Because there are two phrases you are sure to hear this weekend. The first is '.and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor goes to the late Heath Ledger'.The second, 'City have failed to win away from home again'.

Maybe they will surprise us all for a change. If not, the least they could do is look as if they care about it.

 The one that got away After crowning Ryan Giggs as the ideal football role model last week, I listed my top 10 Premier League icons on the Daily Mail website.


Alongside Manchester United legend Giggs, Gianfranco Zola, Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Keane, Steven Gerrard, Alan Shearer, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo all made the cut.

Some complained that I had ignored Sir Stanley Matthews and Sir Tom Finney, which would indeed have been remiss of me had they ever played in the Premier League, which was never in black and white as I recall.


Paul Scholes fired United's opener against Fulham in midweek

There might also be a case for including the likes of Fernando Torres or Cesc Fabregas one day, as some argued, but not yet.

One name was missed, however.

His jaw-droppingly accomplished display against Fulham in midweek, where he didn't just score an outrageous goal but also manipulated the ball with the precision of Tiger Woods plotting his way around a golf course, was the slap across the chops that brought me to my senses.

Really, I should have named a team of 11 icons. That way I could have made room for Paul Scholes.

DO YOU AGREE WITH ME ON PAUL SCHOLES? SEND US YOUR COMMENTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS COLUMN  I do enjoy Setanta's Premier League coverage, mainly because their main commentator, Jon Champion, is excellent.

But their broadcasts are sprinkled with added delight whenever Chris Waddle takes the co-commentator's chair.

Not only does the ex-England player have an entertaining opinion, but he also has me roaring with laughter whenever the referee blows his whistle for a foul inside the box.

'Pel-anty! No doubt about it, that was a pelanty!,' he cries.

During the FA Cup tie between Everton and Aston Villa last Sunday he must have mangled the word half a dozen times. It's an endearing trait.

My niece also calls it a 'pelanty' - although, in her defence, she is only three years old and has just learned to say strawberry instead of roarberry.

While I'd hate Waddle to change, if he is feeling a little self-conscious there is a sure-fire method he can use to pronounce penalty correctly.

Try 'spot kick'.

 This week's goalkeeping master class.How To Deal With The Cross, by Tottenham Hotspur's Heurelho Gomes:

■ Charge blindly off your line in the vague direction of the ball.

■ Raise one fist above your head in a Superman-about-to-fly impersonation. Miss the ball completely, allowing a rival player to score.

■ Fall to the turf clutching various parts of your head, pretending to drift in and out of consciousness to make it appear some faint contact was somehow responsible for your mistake and generally miming as badly as Take That at The Brits.

The man is beyond a joke. With Spurs' other (only) goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini, cup-tied, I think we can all guess what Sir Alex Ferguson will ask his players to do in next weekend's Carling Cup Final.

Heurelho Gomes goes down after conceding another sloppy goal against Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday

I detect reverse swing over Stanford Allen Stanford hardly a 'benefactor'

As relics of history, headlines can often be misleading. My favourite from the sports archive is: Shot Off Woman's Leg Helps Nicklaus to 66.

It was supposed to explain how golf legend Jack benefited from a lucky deflection, but instead conjured up an image of him hacking out of the rough using an amputated limb for a club.

I've been flicking back through headlines looking for similar misunderstandings around the time Allen Stanford announced his arrival in English cricket.

Absolutely everybody now appears to be 100 per cent sure that Stanford's involvement in the English game was a disaster waiting to happen right from the very start.

Funny that. As not all of them appear to have said it at the time.

I can find a Sunday broadsheet trumpeting: 'Stanford's $1m sparks dream of revival.'

And another hailing, 'Stanford - England's Saviour', above an article that begins, 'The billionaire behind plans for a new Twenty20 English Premier League has a history of seeing plans through to fruition'. Oops.

Then there's 'Crisis what crisis? - Cricket keeps credit crunch at bay' from a broadsheet scribe in October.

And 'Pietersen excited by Stanford plans', which is what you'd expect, but only if you swap the word 'plans' for 'money'.

Beyond that there is no hidden meaning, no misunderstanding the headlines.

In fact, although they might like to forget it now, a lot of people besides the ECB were perfectly happy to clamber aboard the Stanford bandwagon.

Despite these embarrassing endorsements, people are not only using the benefit of hindsight, but they are speaking out of that particular part of their anatomy as well.

As I saw it way back in June last year

Yes, the ECB were obscenely grateful to this grinning loony of a 'benefactor', and a leadership change should be pushed through at the top of cricket if only to help the sport reclaim some credibility.

But there were plenty of Mutleys sniggering alongside chairman Giles Clarke in encouragement.

All the high-profile commentators and media figures that swooned when they inhaled the stench of Stanford's wealth like floozies in a Lynx deodorant advert are nearly as culpable as the ECB.

One television reporter claimed this week: 'We were all dazzled by Stanford's wealth.'

No. We. Were. Not.

It was patently obvious to many at the time that cricket had sold its soul - and now it's paying the price.

And those who boasted 'cricket would be the new football' will no doubt be proved right by history - as long as they were thinking of Leeds United.

  Tessa Jowell


Before you preach to the planet about 'gender inequality in sport', perhaps you could apply that logic to your own household?

When Jowell's husband was caught taking huge bribes from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to pay off the mortgage, it emerged that Ms Jowell had signed all theforms, seen a £650,000 loan paid off within weeks, and yet the Cabinet Minister insisted she knew nothing about any of it because she left that sort of thing to herhusband.

Men's work, was it love?

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Source: Daily_Mail