Dickov: City can win first UCL title soon

Speaking to FourFourTwo on a recent visit to Singapore, Manchester City legend Paul Dickov believes the club can win that elusive UEFA Champions League title soon...

Dickov had two stints at City, the first from 1996 to 2002 and the second from 2006 to 2008.

He remains an ardent fan, but a lot has changed since his time at the club, despite his claim that they were always a ‘big club’. “The obvious change is the new owners coming in, but there has been investment on and off the pitch- their community work, the youth academy, the Etihad stadium. We want to be the biggest club in the world. The whole setup is world-class; and to be polite, it wasn’t like that when I was there.”

Leading on from that point, he believes that the elusive Champions League title is not too far away. “Look at the team they’ve got and they can beat any team on the day whether that be Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Barcelona," he told FourFourTwo.

Look at the team they’ve got and they can beat any team on the day whether that be Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Barcelona

- Dickov on City's UCL chances

"More consistency is needed, as well as strengthening the squad a little bit more, for example at full-back since a lot of players left the club. Some of the football I saw last season was some of the best football I’ve seen, not just at Man City but from any team in the league. I’m not going to tell Pep what to do. It’s important Vincent Kompany stays fit- he’s a leader on and off the pitch and it would be great if we can get a full season out of him.”

The former Manchester City player has been in Singapore for the past week as part of the Betadine Youth Football Programme in partnership with Mundipharma and the English giants.

Nicknamed “The Wasp” and “The Pest” in his career, it is no wonder why Paul Dickov finds effort very important in a footballer’s career. “Be the best you can. If you’re talented it’s not enough nowadays. For me it’s attitude over ability.”

Dickov was impressed by what he saw on the pitch. “I thought it was fantastic. Two top coaches coming from Manchester City and the things that stood out for the coaches and the parents was the enthusiasm shown by kids of all ages and their ability to listen to what the coaches had to say. It’s great for the future.”

It was clear that all of them left a lasting impression on Dickov and the coaches. “They all stood out for different reasons. I was with the girl’s team today and it was the best session I saw in the week. The hardest thing to do when you’re a player is to translate what the manager says into the session, something every single one of them were able to do.”

Dickov takes youth football development very seriously

Dickov comes from a club that know their way around youth football, with their state-of-the-art Etihad Campus that heralds the start of a long-term pathway for young footballers to the first team. It’s the long-term mindset that the Englishman believes Singapore requires too.

“Sometimes you need to take one step back to take two steps forward. If we give them time to progress, you can do it six years down the line. City’s training complex was built in three years, showing it won’t happen in one year. The benefits will come after two years. Youth football has got to be patient and not expect anything; if you look to coach the kids at a young age, you will get the benefits later on.”

Such programmes give hope that there will be a Singaporean in the Premier League one day. Dickov believes such hopes are not unfounded. “It’ll be fantastic for Singapore to have a player in the Premier League. The fundamentals need to be in place- teach them the game and be patient.”

Sometimes you need to take one step back to take two steps forward. If we give them time to progress, you can do it six years down the line. City’s training complex was built in three years, showing it won’t happen in one year.

- Dickov on youth football development

"The enthusiasm from players, fans and supporters is great. All the signs are really positive from Singaporean football and if that can be translated into games, they've got a good chance. Dickov also met the local Manchester City supporter club yesterday and was pleased to meet them. “The City supporters are the best in the world whether that be in Manchester, Singapore or anywhere else. It was great to meet the fans here.”

For the academy players, Dickov believes there is plenty of hope for the future. He named Tosin Adarabioyo, Manu Garcia and Phil Foden as all having a bright future ahead. “The academy is producing great talent- and Pep has shown he will play young players at Barcelona, where he replaced Toure with Busquets. City fans want to see the local players coming through from the academy and it’s the staff’s job to see that happen.”

Dickov moved into management post-career at Oldham and Doncaster, but hasn’t managed since September 2015. He doesn’t have any immediate plans to return now. “Never say never. I loved my seven [four] years of management, it was a great experience for me. But at the moment, I’m doing various other things. I’ve got my life back without the stress of management and I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

A man with a cheerful disposition and an easy talker, it is no wonder why Dickov is a fan favourite, despite playing for numerous other clubs. No matter what he does in the future, he said that he was “always happy to be a fan.” That should be enough evidence of his love for the club.