City of joy

Former Manchester City goalkeeper Alex Williams,in Mumbai for a coaching clinic,says change in attitude on and off the field is the key reason for its turnaround.

Written by Shahid Judge | Mumbai | Published: December 5, 2013 2:16 am

Alex Williams can vouch for Manchester City’s flair for the dramatic. In May last year,when Sergio Aguero struck the winning goal that won Manchester City the their first league title in 44 years,the former City goalkeeper’s belief got even stronger. Memories from 28 years ago flooded back. “We left it to the last game when we won promotion back when I was playing,” he smiles,fondly remembering City’s 5-1 win against Charlton Athletic in 1985.

Accompanying Manchester City’s academy coaches to Mumbai for the club’s football clinic,Williams and Business Development Manager Michael Geary represent two different eras of the club’s history. Williams played for City when the club was predominantly a second tier side while Geary’s tenure at the club saw it rise from the lower division to cement it’s place in the top flight. “The club has grown very quickly. We’ve managed to achieve 10 to 15 years worth of growth in just five years,” says Geary,who is also a coach at City’s academy.

Given that the duo have addressed football development in the youth as a part of their duties for City in the Community Foundation (CITC),the pair have recognised a difference in the idea behind training youth at their academy.

“Young players just want to play hard and get into the first team. This was the same during Alex’s time as well. The only difference now is that the players are trying to get into the first team of a side that is competing for titles now. Earlier it was to help get promotion,” says Geary.

Regarding the club’s fierce rivalry with Manchester United,Williams reveals a change in City’s approach to the games. “The rivalry has always been there even when I was playing for City in the second division and United were in the first. But now,City have grown so we focus a lot on developing our brand name and we tend to not give too much attention to the opposition,” says the 52-year old.

The club’s rapid evolution has been so vast that Geary himself questions if his ‘Business Development Manager’ post would have existed during Williams’ playing days. “It probably wouldn’t have been there,” he says. “But now it’s an important position because of the rate at which we have developed over the years. We’ve got a lot of partners,especially our developing relations with Etihad Airways. But we need the post now because we do a lot to support youth both locally in Manchester,and internationally as we are doing here.”

Over the years,Williams,who played for two clubs during his career (City and Port Vale) also cited a change in player loyalties over the years. “Player contracts are made by agents in a way that the player gets to do what he wishes. So he can sign a five or 10 year contract but that doesn’t make much of a difference these days. Another reason is the finances. A player gets more money by moving around every two or three years. It’s very difficult to get a modern footballer to stay with one club for many years,” complains Williams. “Back in my day,most of the players would stay at one club,or stay at a club for a long time,” he adds. Geary furthers Williams’ argument by stating that players now pay a lot of interest in how well the club is doing.

“They like to stick to a club that wins. The standard of the players at City is going up and we’re managing to keep those players and attract more because we continue to be successful,” he says. Williams’ role for the club has also changed over the years as he moved from player to spectator. The former goalkeeper’s professional career was cut short due to a recurring back injury,a result of which he often reminisces his playing days. “I still remember my debut game against West Brom. That’s one of my favourite memories. But now I like watching the team play,but funnily enough,I don’t enjoy it. Earlier I could influence the play,but now I’m on the sidelines shouting and jumping with everybody else,” he laments.

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