THIS is what Championship football is all about!
We’ve got two top away games coming up – against my old club Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool – and I know we have the ability to acquit ourselves well.
It’s Hillsborough on Wednesday, and who could forget our last two visits there?
The fans were well and truly singing in the rain when we won 2-0 two seasons ago.
Graham Carey and Anthony Pilkington scored great goals in the first half of a match we dominated.
We were toying with Wednesday by the end, and they will be the first to admit they were poor that night.
It was a different case last season, when we went there just before Christmas for what turned out to be a real cracker.
We went two up before Wednesday seemed to have taken control.
Trailing 4-2, we looked to be heading for defeat, but Jordan Rhodes finished with four goals to his credit as we fought back to draw with an equaliser which came in front of our fans deep into injury time.
The latest game will have to go some to match last season’s, but as ever, I’m sure our supporters will travel in numbers, and they really do have an important part to play.
Wednesday finished last season very strongly under Dave Jones to pip Sheffield United to the second automatic promotion spot, and we all know about the play-offs!
When they came to our place late in the season and won 2-0, they looked very good, with pace and power all over the pitch.
They’ve started well this time, but we’ve given a good account of ourselves as well, and it’s going to be a very interesting night.
Blackpool, of course, have been up in the Premier League recently and after making last season’s Championship play-offs, look capable of mounting another promotion challenge.
I feel a bit sorry for our fans after the game was switched to next Monday for television coverage.
Thinking the game would be on Saturday, they had booked accommodation so they could make a weekend of it.
I’m sure we’ll still take our fair share for what is our first visit to Bloomfield Road for a while, and the game will have special significance for Simon Grayson, who was both a player and manager there.
ROBERTO MANCINI isn’t the only football manager in Manchester who has to produce as the Champions League looms.
Hopefully Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed his break in New York, when he watched Andy Murray win the US Open, because he’s got plenty on his plate now!
It’s clear that with the amount of money City’s owners have pumped in, they won’t want to stop at winning the Premier League – and that means Roberto Mancini must get his team to perform on the biggest stages this season.
But with their recent financial outlay, it’s obvious United are desperate to meet the challenge posed by their ‘noisy neighbours’.
Going out so early last season will have caused just as much disappointment at Old Trafford as the Etihad.
And while Fergie (right) is hugely experienced, he’s under the kind of pressure he is maybe not used to.
While City’s group looks the toughest of the lot – as well as Real Madrid, their hosts tomorrow, it includes Dortmund and Ajax, who both won their domestic leagues – United must get the better of Galatasaray, who come to Old Trafford on Wednesday, Portugal’s Braga and little-known Romanians CFR Cluj, so there will no sympathy if they fail to progress.
The Europa League proved a pretty grim experience for both City and United last season, and I’m sure neither will fancy another helping.
As for our other two contenders, Arsenal, who play Montpellier in France tomorrow, are dab hands at getting through the group stages, and I expect them to do the same this time around.
As for holders Chelsea, at home to Juventus on Wednesday, they have a lot to live up to, but I believe they will still be involved come 2013!
WHEN Bradley Wiggins followed up his epic Tour de France triumph with Olympic gold, I thought the BBC Sports Personality of the Year was a foregone conclusion.
But given what has followed in a fantastic period for British sport, there’s going to be plenty of debate as to who takes an award we sometimes struggle to find contenders for.
And we’ve still got the Ryder Cup to come!
Could someone like Rory McIlroy put himself in the frame alongside Wiggins, US Open and Olympic champion Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, David Weir and Ellie Simmonds?
Every one of them have done brilliantly – and there are others who could stake a claim – and how on earth do your compare their various achievements?
The other interesting and refreshing thing is that for once, sports like football, rugby and cricket aren’t getting a look-in!