Ian Cheeseman is BBC Radio Manchester’s City commentator and journalist and known by many fans as the ‘voice of City’. Here, he takes time to answer questions about last season, criticising the club, that Aguero goal, Vincent Kompany’s captain’s armband, Mario Balotelli and more.
Part One, where Ian answers questions about commentary, his books, offers from television, Twitter, future ambitions and more, can be found here.
View From A Blue: At the start of last season, were you confident that we would go on to win the Premier League?
Ian Cheeseman: Yes, I knew it wouldn’t be straightforward, but I really believed it would be City’s season to win the league and I told people that when they asked me. The squad is full of rising stars (some have risen a bit more now), hungry players and very talented. What more can I say, I believed!
VFAB: Following the defeat away to Arsenal many fans felt our title chances were over. Did you feel the same way?
IC: Yes, I thought that was it. I’d always felt City would lose at Arsenal, and so I believed City had to have a lead over United going there, to keep the title in their own hands. The reason I felt so worried going there is that since the mid-70s I’ve seen every City game at Arsenal, and apart from the League Cup tie last season, we’d never won there and almost always lost.
Arsenal had also hit their best form of the season, just as we were going there in the league. Sadly I was proven right, but maybe in hindsight, being the chasing team at the end of the campaign better suited City, and took the pressure off their first chance to win the title for so many years, so hey hum, it all worked out in the end.
VFAB: As a City fan, but also a commentator broadcasting on the radio, how difficult was it to remain professional during the QPR game, especially the final few minutes?
IC: I’ve been doing this job for a long time, so despite how it might sound as you listen, I’m always in control. Imagine what I might say if I wasn’t. When I first became the City reporter there were plenty of professionals who thought I wouldn’t be able to do the City job because I’m too much of a fan. Most local radio reporters don’t do the team they support for that reason. My personality is such that I can remain professional even in stressful situations.
The best example I can think of is when Aguero scored that goal. Nigel Gleghorn, my co-commentator “lost it” – he leapt into the air as the goal went in sending the equipment crashing to the floor, taking us off-air – so while City fans were leaping around, crying with emotion, I hurriedly picked the bits up and reassembled the equipment, getting us back on air in seconds. I did my crying when I’d finished working and shared the emotions with my family. I blubbed when I listened to my title documentary for Radio Manchester – even though I’d put it together, and again when I watched the DVD – I could let it all out once I wasn’t in “work mode” !
VFAB: Here is your commentary of Aguero’s goal. How much of that was pre-rehearsed with regards to the facts about managers and relegations? And is preparation of particular lines to use in commentary something you like to do often?
IC: I wrote a few words out for Wembley 2011 – in case City won, because I realised the importance of the moment of triumph and the number of times it could be repeated, but I was too anxious ahead of the QPR game to repeat that plan and felt I’d be tempting fate if I did it again, so I didn’t prepare anything for the Aguero goal. I’d read a statistic about managers which leapt into my head as I was in full flow in those dramatic few moments, but really it was just what came to me in that moment. Just say what you see and what you’re thinking usually works for me.
VFAB: Vincent Kompany gave you his captain’s armband following the QPR game. What have you done with it since?
IC: Looked after it! It will always be the ultimate City possession I own. Vincent asked me to look after it, and I will and I don’t plan to cash in on it, it will become a family possession, passed down through the generations, I hope. Maybe I’ll lend it to the City museum when it reopens, so fellow Blues can share it.
VFAB: Bearing in mind the need for access and support from the club, how difficult is it to be critical of certain issues, such as team selection or tactics?
IC: My job title is “broadcast journalist” : which is defined as “a person who writes or edits news items for radio or television”. My principal job is to ask questions, pose both sides of a debate and to describe fairly what I see or hear. That’s what I do. Which means generally it isn’t my role to give opinion. If a player is playing badly, I’ll describe what I see, fairly. If I believe a question has to be asked about something that is perceived as critical, I will ask it. What I won’t do is attach my opinion to it, and whether I agree with an an answer of not I will respect it and not get into a personal debate.
Political reporters can’t and shouldn’t have agendas and should treat all sides the same. It might seem a serious answer, but that’s what I do. There are players and managers of the past that I don’t like or never rated, I’d like to think that if you tried to guess my views you might be wrong, because I try not to let them show.
So to answer the question, I try to be fair – so have no problems, and ask what I think is fair and right. To be honest, there’s very little to be critical about at City at the moment anyway, even if I wanted to be critical or opinionated.
VFAB: More so than any other, Mario Balotelli is the one City player who divides opinion. What are your thoughts on him?
IC: He undoubtedly has ability, and if he can concentrate on football, stop sulking and diving, he can be a very good player. What he does off the field is irrelevant and mainly made up. He’s immature and can be a liability on the pitch. In the end his absence during the crucial run-in probably helped City, though his brilliant touch to Aguero for THE goal was vital and brilliant.
Those goals v Germany may be in danger of overhyping him. I’ve never met him nor been invited to interview him, so I can only judge on what I see on the pitch. I’ve given my opinion to you for your blog honestly, purely as a fan, because you asked me. Going back to that last question, as there’s a slight crossover here, my rule is that if you wouldn’t be prepared to say your opinion to that person’s face you shouldn’t say it – or write it.
VFAB: Who was your player of the season?
IC: Yaya Toure would be my choice, but it was a great team – so in some ways all of them would be classified as my player of the season!
VFAB: Do you believe City need to strengthen this summer and if so, which positions need strengthening and who would you like to see added to the squad?
IC: Always strengthen, never rest on your laurels, as Oliver Hardy always said. Definitely a centre-back – I’d look for another midfielder who’s capable of doing it all – like Yaya. As for names, well we can all throw the obvious ones around, but of the 116 games I attended last season, I never saw an non-City players often enough, in the flesh , to form a meaningful opinion. I’ll leave the recruiting to the scouts who watch other players every week.
VFAB: How would you expect City to fare in the Champions League next season?
IC: I’d hope and expect City to reach the semis at least – after that there’s always an element of luck involved in any competition. It’s not always the best team that wins – eg Chelsea last season.
VFAB: Who is your favourite ever City player and why?
IC: Colin Bell was my boyhood hero, it takes a lot to beat that – and he is/was a great guy/player – there are so many others too – I could write a book on that – mmm there’s an idea.
VFAB: If you could go for a beer with just one City manager past or present, who would it be?
IC: I met Malcolm Allison a couple of times, properly. The first was in Germany at the team hotel when I was 17, in Monchengladbach – I was mesmerised as he sat down with me and talked football. I met him again in a nursing home when I was writing Colin Bell’s book. Although his mind drifted a bit, he still had some magic left – I’d have loved to have chatted some more with him in his pomp. Kevin Keegan and Joe Royle were and are great company.
VFAB: Where do you see City in three year’s time?
IC: As one of the top few clubs in world football – playing dream football in an extended stadium next to be the best training facilities in Europe – and still my club.
Many thanks to Ian, who kindly gave up his time to talk to me. If you have any comments about what Ian has said, feel free to post below.