Born again City will thrive under Pellegrini


Their chosen profession might be as capricious and unpredictable as it gets, but that doesn’t mean footballers aren’t frightened of the unknown. Each time a manager is hired then fired it can be downright distressing.

You could be a Conference journeyman or a Premier League star, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you’re happy and enjoy working with a certain gaffer - and you know the feeling is reciprocated - the realisation that the cosy situation has been whipped away from beneath your boots is scary.

I experienced this when I was playing under Bruce Rioch at Arsenal. He rated me and I knew it. Included in the first team squad most weekends, treated as a bona fide member, my confidence rocketed. I couldn’t have felt more comfortable.

Then, starting afresh for the reserves in front of Arsene Wenger brought on the butterflies big-time. Suddenly, I was fighting to cling on to my job and it felt unnerving. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Thousands of footballers experience the same emotions every season when a new manager takes charge.

Okay, it’s true that those who are frozen out usually jump through hoops in over-optimistic expectation of an upturn in fortunes when a new boss comes in. However, those hopes are rarely anything other than a false dawn. Often, as I found out to my cost when Alvin Martin was replaced by Alan Little at Southend United, a slightly concerning situation can just as easily get ten times worse under a new incumbent.

A new boss wants to sign his own players. They’re all the same. So, unless you’re hankering for a move, a change at the top often spells bad news.

Having said all that, I firmly believe the opposite applies to the bulk of Manchester City’s squad this summer. Roberto Mancini’s departure will boost, rather than alarm them.

Yes, one or two will be sent packing once Manuel Pellegrini (finally) signs on the dotted line, but for the likes of Gareth Barry, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko it’s not a great concern. With hefty pay-offs and the chance to be bigger fish in smaller ponds, an escape from the Etihad will likely be best-case scenario for all of them.

Pocketing obscene wage packets which put them out of everyone else’s league, the rest are stuck at City whether they like it or not. And you sense they are just so happy to see the back of Mancini that it doesn’t matter if they are going to be playing for Pellegrini or Posh Spice; the dressing room is buzzing at the prospect of a new regime.

Aside from his Champions League failings, Mancini’s fatal mistake was to upset too many players. If he hadn’t offended you personally, he’d hammered one of your best mates.

When you’re winning titles and improving as players, such incidents can be brushed, even laughed off, but when results go the other way, one single fed-up footballer can quickly spread disharmony and disenchantment among the rest.

He had a few of them, and by the end, it now appears the squad universally rejoiced at the Italian’s departure. And that’s significant.

Pellegrini’s managerial credentials are excellent, and if his former players are to be believed he’s also a pleasure to work with.

The signing of Fernandinho, for a rather steep £30million fee, will bring additional vibrancy to the centre of their flagging midfield. While in Jesus Navas, City have the luxury of a genuine out-and-out winger to call upon when the need is there.

Others will come in, but the bulk of a very strong Man City side is there for him to play with.

Usually the majority of players will be on edge, nervously looking over their shoulders at who the new boss has his eye on bringing in, but at City this summer I think it will be different.

Pellegrini will inherit a group of men that are excited not concerned by his arrival.

Last season City’s squad weren’t enjoying themselves, and it showed in their performances.

Now, before a ball has been kicked, or a training session has been taken, I predict an extra ten per cent from Man City this term. Released from the shackles of Mancini, the players will find renewed energy and verve.

In a wide open title race, this simple boost in morale makes them slight favourites in my mind to win back their crown. Available at 3.35 with Unibet it could be a decent wager…

Read more from ex-professional footballer Adrian Clarke