Firstly I would like to welcome the owners, directors, management, players and fans of Manchester City to SE25 today for this FA Cup tie.
It was only 11 days ago that we progressed to the fourth round after seeing off a spirited Bolton Wanderers, but I’m sure it’ll be a much sterner test this afternoon against Pep Guardiola’s side. My emotions from that day were pretty similar to what we experienced last weekend against Everton. Having come so close to getting a potentially vital point we once again succumbed to a late goal, however it was a cruel way to a lose a game with Jeffrey Schlupp needing treatment at the other end of the pitch.
It was a frustrating situation but I was buoyed by the effort the players put in, as well as your support from the stands. I had asked you for a little bit more in my programme notes ahead of the game, and you didn’t disappoint. It was wonderful to hear you backing the team throughout as we searched for the crucial breakthrough, and heartening to watch you applaud the players off at full-time despite the harsh defeat. If we all stick together, displays like that will reap rewards, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
Attentions now turn to the FA Cup and I’m sure Sam will continue to strike a balance between his team selections for this competition and the Premier League. Today will be another chance for those players not normally considered regulars to get an opportunity to show what they can do against world-class opposition. Hopefully one or two can put their name up in lights and knock one of the favourites out of the cup – after last year’s exploits we know that anything is possible.
These are my last notes before the transfer window slams shut next Tuesday just after our game at Bournemouth. We are continuing to work hard behind the scenes to bring in reinforcements and I’m hopeful that by the time Sunderland come to town for a massive game in a week’s time, Sam will have more options available to him.
It’s been tougher than usual recruiting players as we have to target individuals who will be up for getting their hands dirty and helping pull us out of this relegation dogfight. The inflated prices have also made things difficult, but we’ll only pay what we feel is fair and won’t panic. As Sam has suggested, the squad is very similar to the one that was flying high at the end of 2015, so there’s plenty of potential still to be extracted and I’m confident that Sam is the man to do that.
With three games and a transfer window closing, it’s set to be a hectic week for all of us, so watch this space and hopefully we’ll be in a much better position once all is said and done over the next seven days.
One thing is for sure, we won’t get out of this without being positive, and everyone at the club has a part to play. I know you won't let us down and, no matter what, stay behind the team.
Up The Palace!