Early Doors

A bright spark getting dimmer

Early Doors

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If Mark Hughes can make it to August 1 and remain in the Manchester City hot seat, it will be his biggest achievement as a manager.

The Abu Dhabi United Group did not roll into town late last summer to see valiant quarter-final defeats. If they wanted that, they could watch England (which Sheikh Mansour already owns a decent bit of).

The Brazilian duo that have put paid to the final few strands of black hair Hughes had left, Robinho and Elano, both turned up last night against Hamburg, buoyed by the occasion and the roaring Eastlands crowd as City played their biggest European match for three decades.

Conversely, however, the very fact that Robinho looked interested and Elano bust a gut for City might work against their boss.

The easy question for the visiting Khaldoon al Mubarak to ask is why they're not playing every week, which can't necessarily to answered with such a simple response.

The club has released yet another statement backing their boss, but there were still boos from the stands that could be heard when Elano was taken off and at the final whistle.

The owners acknowledged in that statement that they have one of the brightest young managers in the game, but is that the man they really want? Surely a trillion-dollar owner can afford to bring in the finished article, who is used to handling such unreasonable pressure. Either way, a decision to stick or twist must be reached in the summer.

Sparky knew he was stepping into a big job when he took it on last June, but soon saw it get even bigger when ADUG rocked up to get Thaksin Shinawatra out of jail (literally) and plonk the British record signing down in front of him amid a whirlwind of other wild transfer claims.

Remember the dazed, apprehensive look on Alan Pardew's face when Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano landed on his lap at West Ham? Hughes may be an altogether more composed and dignified character, but he still has the air of a man coping with rather than revelling in his club's budget and expectations, both equally warped.

Few would argue that Hughes could well be a candidate for the Old Trafford job when the keys to Carrington are finally pried from Fergie's cold, dead hands (metaphorically speaking, of course).

However, with a record showing that he's won as many games as he's lost for City, he might do well to try his luck elsewhere first.

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There was an internal groan of disappointment when scanning the EPG last night in search of coverage of the City game upon the discovery that the game was being screened on ITV4 (otherwise known as Arsenal TV 2).

Early Doors reckons Pat Nevin is worth 10 Andy Townsends, but the blow was softened once David Pleat's dulcet tones began to flow.

When he wasn't greeting the viewer with a cheery 'hello, everyone', sounding genuinely disappointed whenever Richard Dunne advanced his search for a sending off or crediting Martin Jol for Hamburg's run in the 'Bundesleague' he described a Robinho run as 'shimmying like me sister Kate'.

Pleat comes in for a lot of stick for all manner of reasons but, like Graham Taylor, he's part of a school of insightful veteran managers who have no interest whatsoever in the absurd glamour of the modern game, and the glamour of the modern game has no interest in them.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I enjoy cards a lot... but my future is still in football. I will stop when I'm fed up chasing after a ball and I am not bored yet. When I'm retired, who knows, I could become a professional poker player." - Former Italy striker Christian Vieri has decided to compete in poker competitions but has no plans to hang up his boots just yet. The 35-year-old former Inter Milan forward is without a club having quit Serie A side Atalanta this month after fans jeered him during a training session.

YOUR VIEW: scrubbertheman has a message for those fat cats in Nyon - "The best part of having 3 English teams in the CL semi's is that Blatter and Platini will be seething and crying like hells own babies!"

Yesterday ED wondered what the Arabic for 'dead man walking' was. Apparently it's 'Rajol fe edad al mawt'. Shokran, olrip.

"Seriously, how can ED say that the hubbub over Ronaldo's non performance was uncalled for after weeks of verbal bashing here? Does it simply wish to imply that it simply that it backs the winning horse?" - The penny has finally dropped for rock.bratt.

COMING UP: It's the turn of the FA Cup to provide the thrills and spills this weekend, with both semi-finals still being played at Wembley. We'll have all the latest facts, stats and team news on the two semi-finals as well as the Premier League. Our latest run-down of the best Fantasy picks in Choose 'em lose 'em is coming later, as are blogs from Jim White and Danny Murphy.

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