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Butler: Platt unperturbed by Man City's slow start

Noel Butler
9/28/2012 3:37:28 PM
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He isn't your typical English footballer. To be counted on a single hand, David Platt is amongst that very short list of English players to carve out a successful career in Italy's top flight.

Added to this - and shockingly so for the Ian Rush's and Luther Blissetts of the world - Platt speaks Italian.

Proper accent too.

Good job, he does! You likely saw him at the Etihad Tuesday night helping calm and sooth a man who single-handedly has reinvented the football scarf Roberto Mancini. Their relationship goes back to the summer of 1993 following Platt's transfer from Juventus to Sampdoria.

Still unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League after five matches, Tuesday's home defeat in the Capital One Cup (although not predicted) continued along the trend of poor results that has greeted and blighted the English champions new season. It's not a concern to Platt.

"I think when a new season starts every game's different," Platt explained to TSN. "We had an exceptional start to the season last year."

The club started last season's league campaign on the back of four straight wins, recording a pair of clean sheets whilst amassing an incredible 15 goals.

"You look at our opening five games that we've had, we had two very difficult away games - both at Stoke and Liverpool," he said. "Games that last season we took the same amount of points. We drew at Stoke, we drew at Liverpool last year too.

"Our other game we dropped points in at the start of this season was Arsenal at home. We beat them by a very narrow margin of one-nil last year in a very, very tight game as well."

Platt did recognize the underperformance that eventually needs to lead to socks getting pulled up starting at Craven Cottage Saturday morning. "I don't think we are performing as well as we did at the start of last season but in terms of where we are game for game we're still in a healthy position."

"The pleasing thing for ourselves is that we know that there's still bags of room for improvement yet we still got the points on the board and we're still unbeaten."

The club suffered the loss of one its more popular managers earlier in the week. The charismatic John Bond, one of the most admired characters in the English game, had a successful career as a player at West Ham playing alongside the legendry Sir Bobby Moore and enjoyed success in the dug out at Maine Road

Although their paths never crossed. Platt was very familiar with Bond. "Anybody who passes away who has had an affiliation with the club it's only right and proper that the club remembers that," he said. "He had successful times here."

The Barclays Premier League is up there in the best in the world conversations and likely leads the pack when simply looking at it in terms of the competitive angle. Platt had a detailed explanation of why he considered it to be.

"The revenue that's in the Premier league although the top clubs will earn more by virtue of the fact they are on the television more," he said. "They'll fill their stadium more, they have more marketing opportunities that it's almost like a virtuous circle really where you can keep investing in the top players because of that.

"But because the other clubs have a very, very good share of the TV income so in the main they're competitive as well. So I think in terms of competition the Premier League is probably the best league in the world."

"It's a difficult league for ourselves to win because although your main rivals for the championship are pretty few and far between you know two or three clubs involved in that could perhaps win the league the rest of the games are very hard at the same time."

He did though reserve significant praise for the Spanish duopoly. "My own personal feeling is La Liga houses the two best teams in the world and the two best players in the world in Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, he said."

As a player, Platt's career in the top flights of England and Italy extended itself past the decade mark allowing him to take in a World Cup that thanks to his crucial goals saw England like the hosts at Italia 90 exit at the semi final stage beaten on penalties.

Platt also played in two EUROs and of little doubt who his toughest opponent was throughout the entirety of his career. Disclosing without a moment hesitation, "I would have to say Franco Baresi playing for AC Milan."

He left Italy in summer of 1995 returning to England and Highbury before retiring in 1998. He hasn't hung up the boots, though.

During the club's preseason tour to the Far East, Platt scored a goal in a training session that had Wayne Rooney's world famous 2011 winner against Manchester City written all over it - drawing highly admiring glances along the touchline from the likes of Kun Aguero.

"It should actually have been a tap in at the far post," he said. "It was actually Roberto that set me up. It wasn't the best ball so I had to improvise. I think sometimes you get back into player mode and your mind does things that you perhaps when once you're in the air you know gravity's going to bring you down.

"I used to be athletic, not so much now. So although I used to be able to do that when I was playing and it didn't hurt when I hit the floor it does now."

With the assist on the goal, it's clear Platt and Mancini have a close relationship and not just at their place of work. They can often be seen out together eating at their favourite Italian resto in quaint Alderley Edge. Located in the Cheshire countryside, it is to Manchester football what Monte Carlo is to Formula 1 pilots.

Their friendship comes with the additional benefit of helping improve the Englishman's command of the Italian language. "It's got better in the last two years because I speak it every day," he said.

Tempestuous on the touchline as Mancini may appear on the surface it seems he has a begrudging type relationship with a ferocious media that closely follow and monitor the English game. Platt though sees it entirely different.

"I think in general Roberto gives the media what they want," he said. "If they ask him a question, he'll answer them truthfully. If that's what generates headlines for them, then that's fine. And if they wish to criticize him that's fine - to him it's like water off a ducks back."

"He doesn't hold grudges. He'll go into the next press conference and he'll answer questions as they come at him.

"We pay sometimes too much importance to what's written and what's not written in the media. I think it's just about concentrating on the next game, concentrating on the football pitch. What will be will be in terms of headlines."

Manchester City, like all of Europe's Über clubs, know full well domestic revenue no matter how large it has grown in recent years will not sustain them or house their lofty ambitions - especially so as we now enter the UEFA inspired Financial Fair Play era.

The opportunity cost of which is the need to grow the global pie. It was a preseason in Canada and the US that set them up for their run to their first English title in close to half a century and although Platt wouldn't be drawn into a conversation about returning next summer he did though heap a whole lot of love on our domestic game.

"Improving, continuing to improve," he said. "I think more of the players as well now are not searching for pastures new they are staying in and around American football and the MLS.

"Without a shadow of a doubt things have changed dramatically, quite dramatically really with the MLS in the last 10 years and they're getting better and better."

Speaking of dramatic change, Manchester City faces a worthy opponent Saturday. One that currently sits directly above them in the table and who in the corresponding fixture last season came back from an 0-2 deficit to share the points.

Taking place in mid-September, Platt's recollections were of tired legs largely caused by the clubs maiden voyage in the Champions League that occurred some 72 hours earlier.

"I think we tired towards the end," he said. "We played that fixture on the back of a Champions League game. We still had that in our legs and we tired towards the end which enabled Fulham on a tight pitch to come back at us.

"Once we got two-nil in front just after half time you would have banked on us seeing the game through. They got back in it at 2-1 with quite a scrappy goal and from then on in they put some pressure on us and as I said we tired physically towards the end of that game."

For the champions to get this year's campaign on a more even keel they have to go for bust at Craven Cottage along a sun lit Thames tomorrow in search of something to brighten up the Etihad mood. A 1st away win of the season.

Focus will have to be the full 90 minutes. From lessons learned you could imagine on the journey down to London talk or even thoughts of the German champions Borussia Dortmund paying a visit next Wednesday night likely under a double banning order - Italian and English.

Fulham v Manchester City live from Craven Cottage airs across the TSN and TEAM Radio Networks Saturday, with coverage kicking off at 9:30am et/6:30am pt.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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