The indie giants’ bassist spoke to Goal about the season, Yaya Toure’s tantrums, the positives of the club’s money on Manchester and wasted talent at the Etihad Stadium
It’s been an amazing season to watch for the neutral but, for anybody involved, it has been heart-stopping at times. I’ve loved it, it’s been painful and you’ve been pulling your hair out at times: ‘We’ve got it … no we haven’t!’ It was a funny old season for City. We had amazing home form but rubbish away at the start for the season, stuffing everybody 6-0 and then went through a wobble but pulled it back at the end and, unbelievably, saw out those last four games.
For me that was the most impressive part of City’s season because ordinarily that wouldn’t be something that City could do; we’d have just crumbled like Liverpool did! They just ground it out when they needed to and City don’t normally do that; they don’t normally have that kind of professionalism and that clinical attitude, it’s normally much more all over the shop and that’s the pain of being a City fan over the years, really.
Has Manuel Pellegrini helped with that winning mentality?
I think City aren’t yet an established team that presumes they’re going to win things. Despite the money that’s been spent, through my adult life we’ve had 40 years of failure and living down the road from the other lot [United] that win everything, that takes a lot of shifting and more than just two or three years of success, that’s deep in the DNA of a club.
I think that’s why you need somebody cool in those situations that can steady the ship and [Pellegrini] did that. You don’t need a manager who can throw his arms up in the air and run down the touchline; we need that steady calmness that can keep the club on course.
We’re not yet a team that expects to win as much as everybody looks at our squad, we’ve had too many years of not winning stuff to suddenly counterbalance that quickly. We’re getting there, getting that mentality of expecting you’re going to win and the confidence that gives you and those last four games were indicative for me of that shift at City; that’s why I was so impressed.
So Pellegrini is the ‘Charming Man’ that City need?
It’s not an easy job – let’s face it, you’re dealing with some players whose egos must be incredible and trying to get them all pulling in the same direction. You saw that with [David] Moyes – how do you get that respect and control? [Sir Alex] Ferguson could just get in there and yell but Pellegrini has got that calm and that respect of the players and it suits City.
Speaking of egos, what do you think about Yaya Toure’s antics of late?
It’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? This gamesmanship in which players and their agents get involved in, it’s just so annoying for the fans because it’s disrespectful. If it was to go on behind the scenes then fair enough but it should never go public and the players shouldn’t get dragged into it. Of course they’re trying to get the best deal that they can for the player but that was just a ridiculous example.
Is it a shame that it’s come so soon after what should be a period of celebration for the club?
It is, absolutely, and Toure has had such an amazing season. He’s been unstoppable and he’s been the difference for City this year, he’s stepped up. [Sergio] Aguero was missing for most of it, struggling getting goals at times, [Alvaro] Negredo lost form, and he just grabbed some games by the scruff of the neck. He just runs at teams and there’s not another player out there like that.
I hope it’s just gamesmanship and the rumours are just nonsense but it’s just difficult for fans because you want to feel that the players are there in your heart and soul and, if somebody wants to leave, then fair enough but when somebody tries to work the situation then it’s not on. You feel a lot of it’s [engineered] and [Carlos] Tevez was the same with his agent; it sullies the player’s reputation with the fans and, if I was a player, I wouldn’t want that – it’s not a clever thing to do.
What impact do you think Financial Fair Play will have on City?
The limitation of the squad in the Champions League is probably going to have an impact. It seems there’s quite a lot of loopholes and ways to get around it, I’m not too sure what I think about it – whether that’s because I’m a City fan but there’s never an equality in funding in football, bigger clubs have more money than the smaller clubs. Unless you say there is ‘x’ amount for everybody to spend and it’s all the same every year, there’s always going to be that inequality. It seems like [Uefa] are pussy-footing around; I don’t know how much of it is just slapping teams across the wrist and taking a few quid in the process.
I kind of like the fact that, out of nowhere, some mad lunatic with too much money can step in, like Jack Walker, and say ‘I’m going to make this club massive’ and suddenly there’s an influx of attention and funding.
Look at Eastlands – it was a terrible part of Manchester, an awful part where you wouldn’t really want to go and there’s been a huge influx of cash there and job opportunities and development – is that a bad thing? Is that bad for Manchester? Is that bad for the game? Looking at the infrastructure of City and the changes around the ground, it’s a very very different part of Manchester now and it’s changing very positively and I can’t really see that as a negative thing.
I think we’ve got to be careful, it depends who we lose from the squad. A lot of players don’t play, we’ve got some amazing players who’ve hardly featured and, as much as we need a large squad, if I was a player I’d want to be playing. We’re still talking about a central defender to pair up with [Vincent] Kompany but I thought [Matija] Nastasic was looking good before he got injured and then it was like he didn’t exist. People were talking about him as if he wasn’t there and then [Martin] Demichelis came in and was there permanently and I don’t understand why we don’t revert back to that partnership.
The rest of the team, it depends on whether [Edin] Dzeko goes or not. I hope he doesn’t go and we’ve still got great players up front but Aguero missed most of the season through injury, Negredo didn’t score for the second half of the season, [Stefan] Jovetic only played a handful of games so, if Dzeko goes, then we’ll need a striker.
But then again, who would come in thinking that they weren’t going to be first or second choice? It’s [a balancing act], having a large squad of top-flight players, and half-a-dozen, a dozen are going to be disgruntled and I don’t blame them.
I feel sorry for the England players – Micah Richards is amazing, he should be somewhere playing every week. James Milner as well. [Jack] Rodwell, [Scott] Sinclair, they just haven’t featured this season. Their careers have ground to a halt. You don’t get many years as a top-flight footballer, 10 comfortably, and to spend three or fours of them not doing anything?
Are they sacrificing their careers for a pay cheque then?
Oh absolutely – for the last couple of years, fair enough. You come in in your early thirties, get a bundle of cash, don’t play every week but, as a young player, to come in and do that, it’s not worth the pennies. [Rickie Lambert’s move to Liverpool] makes sense because with them being in the Champions League, you play a lot of games, and if [Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez] are not scoring or injured you’ll get to play but I think when you’re a young player you’re just sacrificing your career and that’s just ridiculous. They’re not going to look back on the glory years of being on the Man City bench for four years, are they?
You’ve got to be realistic looking at the club you’re joining and think: ‘Will I be in that first XI, am I there yet?’ Perhaps you should hang on three years and then you will be but, if you’re not, then you can play instead of sitting there and making up the numbers.
I think City have invested a load of cash in their youth policy and the facilities there and, over the next few years, hopefully players will start coming through but, at the moment, you’re not seeing young City players coming through; I think that is an easy, simple way to try and manage that problem but dragging a player in from another Premier League team who’s on the rise, it’s not a good thing to do, it really isn’t.
Tell us about your album ‘La Petite Mort’ and why you chose the title.
The lyrics are about death and we wanted to reflect that in the title without being too morbid. La Petite Morte is French for the post-orgasmic stage so it is about death but it’s also a little tongue-in-cheek because obviously it’s a serious theme but the album is very uplifting, which is what James do a lot – take a dark lyric and put something uplifting behind that to counterbalance it, which is what the record is full of that.
Your single, ‘Moving On’, seems to reflect that balance.
In the west we’re terrible about dealing with death! It doesn’t exist as far as people are concerned but that’s different when you trace around the world. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of death and all your relatives and those you know who have died and it’s a very positive thing that brings death into everyday life. The people that have died are talked about but in the west we’re useless at this; we pretend it’s never going to happen but it is. I think that’s what we tried to do with the record in a liberating way, drawing attention to it without being dark or miserable.