Ahead of Monday night's season opener at The Hawthorns, we caught up once more with City fan Howard, from the website Standing Alone. He gives us his views on last season, Manuel Pellegrini, Saido Berahino and more
. You can follow Howard on twitter @howiehok34

Firstly, last season, how did City fans view it overall, good or bad? 

Bad. It seems churlish to complain about finishing 2nd in the Premier League, something we could only dream about 10 years ago, but the bar is a lot higher nowadays and there’s no way of painting last season as anything other than a let-down. It was a disappointing title defence again, there were two pitiful home defeats in the domestic cup competitions, and the Champions League campaign came up short again, though there can be no shame in losing to Barcelona. Despite somehow catching Chelsea in the league over the Christmas period, the whole season had a “meh” feel about it, and key players failed to perform. 

Highlight of last season? 

There weren’t many, and whilst a victory over United is always something to cherish, the key game for me was the comeback against Bayern Munich. The excuses as usual were trotted out that Bayern weren’t taking it seriously, had players missing (so did City) as they always do when City put in a good performance, and whilst City weren’t even that brilliant, the two late Aguero goals provided the best ten minutes of the season for me, and gave me the first pangs of joy from a Champions League game. The competition had finally come to life, briefly. The win at Roma was probably just as enjoyable, but I wasn’t at that, so it loses out. Lampard equalizing against Chelsea was quite nice too. 

Moment or game you would rather forget? 

Plenty of moments and plenty of games! All the cup exits, as any cup exit always hurts still after all these years, the 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford when City played brilliantly for 10 minutes then seemed to lose the plot, and a host of other performances that didn’t quite live up to expectations – but there was nothing I’d like to wipe from my memory more than the 1-2 home defeat to CSKA Moscow, a night that was the ultimate depressing, soul-sapping experience. A terrible performance, no away fans, no atmosphere, in-fighting as a small number of harmless CSKA fans were thrown out of the home end, two red cards and a nadir in our season. It was a miracle that we qualified after that match, having also thrown away the away leg in Moscow, though the referee takes much of the blame for that after the worst penalty decision I have ever seen. 

Player of last season? 

It was great to see Joe Hart regain much of his form, and David Silva was David Silva, which is always a wonderful thing, but I can’t look past Sergio Aguero. Despite more injuries, he was the league’s top scorer, and his omission from many “team of the year” lists proved that he often seems to be taken for granted. I’ll cry on the day he leaves the club. The same goes for Silva. 

Villain of last season? 

Well I wouldn’t call him a villain as such, but if you are asking for a poor performer, then look no further than Fernando. Nicknamed the “octopus” for reasons that escape me, he impressed in pre-season, and there was hope that our troublesome defensive midfield position had been filled, but that was wishful thinking. For the rest of the season, he appeared to play in concrete boots, with the agility of a drunk slug. Hopefully we will see an example of the 2nd season improvement that affects many foreign players, but I’m not hopeful, and he seems completely unsuited to the pace and rigours of the English Premier League. Jovetic wasn’t far behind, and has now exited stage left, his appalling dress sense gone from British shores forever. 

Best chant heard last season? 

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember any that stood out. All I remember is a succession of pathetic “where were you when you were s**t? chants. Week after week after week after week….. 

There's been yet more speculation over the close-season in regards to City boss Manuel Pellegrini's future at the club with Pep Guardiola once again being linked with the role. How do City fans currently feel towards Pellegrini and do you feel he has the full backing of the club's owners? 

It’s hard for me to categorize how City fans feel about Pellegrini, as feelings on him vary widely, from fan to fan, and from week to week. After the first season he was the messiah, winning two domestic trophies in a debut season, some achievement even with our resources. As of March/April this year, most fans would have been glad to see the back of him, and few predicted he would still be here come the start of the 15/16 season. It was some fall from grace after a frustrating season, and a minority just don’t see the merits in him as a manager. As for backing, the fact he is still here is probably more due to the lack of a better replacement (and we all know who that is) than faith in the manager. I heard from many a good source that he was very close to exiting in the spring. Anyway, whilst a bad run can always change things, the situation is fairly clear now – he has a three year contract, which expires next summer, so he will likely see it out and leave, and then we’ll have a tiresome summer of being linked to Pep Guardiola. 

Happy with the club's summer transfer dealings? Anything else City need to do before the window shuts? 

If we get De Bruyne I will be very happy, but with a caveat. An attacking line up of De Bruyne, Sterling, Silva and Aguero with Yaya behind is the stuff of dreams. However, there must still be major concerns over our defence. We don’t have a top class defensive midfielder, but I think Delph’s energy could help screen the defence, and we haven’t had a top class left-back in years, and never done anything about it – though we have a great prospect in the youth team called Jose Angel Tasende (or Angelino), but he isn’t ready yet. Then there’s the form of Kompany and Mangala, but I guess we can’t just keep on buying central defenders, so we’ll have to hope they gain an understanding in the coming months. Anyway, we’ve snapped up a couple of good young prospects and Delph was a steal, so not bad – and Sterling will add an extra dimension to our attack. 

City have recently been strongly linked with Albion striker Saido Berahino. Can you see a City move for him coming to fruition or is it being viewed in Manchester as just 'paper talk'? 

Nope, I cannot believe this to be a possibility, and compared to 100 other names mentioned over the summer, there hasn’t been that much paper talk of him coming. It would make some sense for City to look at him, as he is the right nationality, young, and we have just sold Dzeko and Jovetic, so are short of numbers upfront, but I just can’t see it myself.  

How’s pre-season gone? 

Badly, as always. The results have varied, and they don’t really matter, though the defending in the last game at Stuttgart was a tad worrying, but it’s the other stuff that’s really got me worried. City seem to start each season utterly ill-prepared, though not always due to their own fault. Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernandinho and Aguero have had extended leave due to the Copa America, so probably won’t be fully fit for the start of the season, Aguero, Silva and Nasri have been sent home this week with a virus, Bony has been ill, Toure had a knock and Mangala has been ill too. It could have gone better. Add to that jetting around the world for no other reason than to make money, and it has been a waste of time. 
Prediction for City’s season? 

It really could go any number of ways. Champions, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, who knows? I certainly don’t. Many pundits have us down for 4th, David James even has us down for 5th, though I have flushed things down the toilet with more football knowledge and insight than him, but we have not been out of the top two for four seasons, so should not be discounted. Our attack should destroy plenty of teams, so it depends on how reliable our defence is and our performances in the big games. 2nd place would be a sound prediction as a betting man. 

Prediction for Albion’s season? 

Again, hard to tell. You’ve got a savvy manager who should make you harder to beat, so I think Premiership survival shouldn’t be difficult, and it’s then a case of how high you can climb, as anything below 6th is up for grabs, though I think Swansea and Southampton will be strong this season. Lambert will do alright, but you’ve not really strengthened significantly in the summer, though there’s plenty of time left, and I reckon a busy transfer deadline day could be on the way. If I had to predict a position, I’d go for 14th. 

Premier League Champions? 

I wouldn’t be much of a fan if I didn’t go for City but I’m going for Chelsea (superstition prevents me backing my team).


Leicester, Norwich and at long last, Sunderland. 

Prediction and thoughts on Monday night’s game? 

For West Brom, you could not have picked a better time to play City, for the reasons detailed when discussing our pre-season. Still, the last four champions started their campaign on a Monday night, so for one of us it’s going to be a great nine months! I think it will be close, but I hope we have too much for you in attack, though you will definitely score. 1-2 is my prediction. 


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