oncerns about Mark Hughes:
Man management – One thing we quickly learnt last year was Hughes didn’t have the samba style to win over our Brazilian contingent. A pre-season boot camp (which was noticably less rigorously enforced this year) is his preferred method for bonding. In fairness, he does inspire loyalty from some, notably Ireland and Bellamy, and respect from others. Bellamy in particular has always played his best football under his fellow Welshman.
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It’s been confirmed that Tal Ben Haim has joined Portsmouth on a four year deal. This was a logical deal with the Israeli international having little chance of first team football at Eastlands, while Pompey are desperate for proven Premier League players to bolster their decimated squad. Throw in the Abu Dhabi link of both clubs owners and it makes even more sense.
City fans never saw the best of Ben Haim, who has struggled since he left Sam Allardyce’s Bolton. Aside from Jo, he was Mark Hughes first signing, and probably his least successful. There was talk that he wasn’t actually a Hughes signing, but I’ve never been convinced by that one. He was happy to leave Chelsea, where he wasn’t getting much first team action, and apparently took a pay cut to join City. How many of our subsequent signings can say that?
The Israeli came in to provide competition for places across the back four, but isn’t quite big enough to dominate at centre-back or skillful enough on the ball for a top class full-back. He made a promising home debut in a pre-season friendly against AC Milan, but from then on struggled along with the rest of the defence to absorb the demands of Hughes’ style of play. A series of individual errors compounded his difficulties, with a particular low point coming away at Hull City. After being selected ahead of Nedum Onuoha, a sloppy back pass led to a goal and Joe Hart being injured.
With the return to form and fitness of Onuoha in the second half of last season, Ben Haim went on loan to Sunderland. A move away from City has seemed inevitable ever since, despite some improved performances in pre-season.
With the arrival of Joleon Lescott, speculation has increased that Richard Dunne may be leaving the club, while Ben Haim is being linked with a season-long loan to Portsmouth.
The Daily Mail earlier claimed that Aston Villa have agreed a Ã‚Â£6m fee for Dunne, and this has since appeared in The Guardian. As of today Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott look set to be our first choice centre back pairing and it’s doubtful if Dunne will be happy with a place on the bench in a World Cup year. Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland are well placed in their qualification group and Dunne wouldn’t want to miss out.
Nedum Onuoha has recently inked a contract extension to confirm the management have faith in his abilities. With Vincent Kompany also a more than capable centre-half, Dunne may be considered expendable by Hughes. It’s hard on the loyal servant, but there are decent options available to him. One problem could be whether potential suitors would match the wages the Irishman is currently on. If they do, it could mean a fond farewell to the Joe Royle signing.