6-0. How two games eight years apart tell the story of modern football

Valentine’s Day 2016 and there was no love for Aston Villa as the side from Birmingham were run off the park 6-0 by Liverpool in their English Premier League fixture. The result handed the Reds their tenth win of the season and left Remi Garde’s side anchored to the bottom of the English Premier League ladder, seven points adrift of 19th-placed Sunderland.

The score was not notable for its margin, given Aston Villa are last on the table and bound for relegation, but the quirk of the scorers was unusual.

Not since 21 September 2008 had a top-flight game in the UK finished 6-0 with no multiple goal-scorers.

The historic fixture saw Manchester City dispatch Portsmouth who now reside in League Two (the fourth tier of English/Welsh football) and are currently fifth, seven points off an automatic promotion place.

City’s scorers on the day were then skipper Richard Dunne, Ched Evans, Gelson Fernandes, Jo, Robinho, and Shaun Wright-Phillips. The game was two days before the formal ownership takeover of the Abu Dhabi United Group (now better known as the City Football Group) who acquired the club from former Prime Minister of Thailand Taksin Shinawatra and provides an intriguing insight into the changes at Manchester City, the EPL and world fooball.

On Sunday Emre Can, Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, and Kolo Toure all netted for Liverpool who won handsomely at Villa Park.

In case you are wondering the unfortunate Villans’ keeper on the weekend was Mark Bunn whilst in the 2008 game the Portsmouth shot-stopper was England international David James.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

The six players who scored for Manchester City in the 2008 game have since go on to represent their country on many occasions, win titles in other countries and continents, and (in the case of one player) spend time in jail.

Richard Dunne, With 296 games in the light blue Dunne spent the majority of his career playing for City before the Repulic of Ireland defender retired in late 2015 with time at Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers after leaving the Eastlands complex in 2009.

Gelson Fernandes. Perhaps the least known of those, played 43 times for City, and is now playing in France with Rennes but has a notable record. Last year the Swiss international became the first player this century to score a goal in the EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1. A journeyman yes, but what a career tale!

Robinho. Probably the most celebrated player in the group. The Brazilian striker played over 100 games at Real Madrid before heading to the north of England and he ended up playing 41 matches for City. In 2015 played top flight football for Guanghzhou Evergrande, who won the Asian Champions League last year, but the marksman didn’t feature in the ACL-winning team but can take credit for their run the to Chinese Super League title. The now 32 year-old has won the league in Spain and Italy.

Jo. The Brazilian striker was a much-heralded recruit for City from CSKA Moscow and won a Bronze medal in the Olympics that year but only played 21 games in the light blue. Had spells on loan at Everton and Galatasary but recently signed for Jiangsu Suning, the Chinese Superleague side who have made headlines in Europe with their recruitment of Brazilian midfielder Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk for a CSL record transfer fee.

Shaun Wright-Phillips. The England international winger had two spells at Manchester City which totalled 218 games. Wright-Phillips, now 34, plays in the MLS for New York Red Bulls. Wright-Phillips was one of the two big signings for the citizens in the summer prior to the featured game ,along with Robinho, but no City fan back then could have expected spending on the scale the club has undertaken since then.

Finally the second-last scorer in the game – Ched Evans. The second-half substitute played the least amount of games for City of the six (16) and at the time was considered somewhat of a rising star having debuted for Wales in May earlier that year. His career, and life, changed in 2012 when he was convicted of rape. Evans has since been released from prison, after serving half of the original sentence. The 13-cap international, who last played professional football for Sheffield United, has staunchly maintained his innocence and sought to have the conviction quashed.

WHERE WILL THEY BE?

The ‘City Six’ have taken very divergent paths with three having ended up in the ‘new football’ markets of the USA and Asia but what about the ‘Liverpool Six’. If we are to look at their career projections it’s an interesting snapshot.  All have played international football already with Emre Can the least experienced in that regard having turned out three times for Germany. If we were too fast-forward eight years later for this group as many as four could still be in the English Premier League and maybe even with Liverpool which would be in complete contrast to those under the 2008 tutelage of Mark Hughes (yes Mark Hughes was City manager then before he was axed in December of 2009). Toure, 34, will be retired and it is tough to see Milner, now 30, still charging around in the EPL given the toll his work-rate must already take on his body. Ex-Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen starlet Can is 22, Birmingham-born Sturridge 26, Belgian 20 year-old Origi and right back Clyne, 24, could all still be around – if not in red than maybe elsewhere in the UK. Sturridge may have to hope medical science can find a cure for tiredness if he wants to extend his career into his mid-30s though.

SIX QUESTIONS FOR EIGHT YEARS FROM NOW

How many of the ‘Liverpool Six’ stay in England as the football market-place evolves?

Which of these players will perhaps end their career in the USA, United Arab Emirates or Uzbekistan?

Will a nation like Indonesian fix itself, resume international games, reinvigorate there national competition, and finally realise their football potential and attract a Sturridge in his twilight?

Does this mean Liverpool fans can expect two titles in the next eight years? Manchester City have won the league twice to go with FA Cup and League Cup triumphs. In that time Liverpool have won the League Cup once.

Are Villa consigned to life in the fourth tier within the next decade given how far Portsmouth have fallen?

Who is going to make the ESPN 30 for 30-style documentary on where the ‘City Six’ are now?

This piece first appeared on From the sideline of sport

@hamishneal

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

Leave a Comment

*