Later today, in the FA Cup fourth round, two very different clubs will lock horns; Manchester City of the Premier League will travel to Meadow Lane to take on Notts County of League One. For all the differences between these two clubs they are also in some ways very similar.
The differences can hardly be ignored: The huge wage bill of City compared to that of County; the managers, the cultured Roberto Mancini with his Italian suits and tailored woollen coat, and the hard man of football and the self-proclaimed “Gov’nor” in his tracksuit; and of course the stadium facilities, the City of Manchester Stadium is a state of the art complex can accommodate over 47,000 fans and is a designated UEFA Elite Stadium, Meadow Lane on the other hand can take just over 17,000 and, although it has been refurbished of late, was originally build in 1910.
However, both clubs have in recent years been bought by investors and then in turn taken over again, City were bought by Thaksin Shinawatra and then sold on to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, while County were purchased by Munto Finance before being sold to Peter Trembling for £1.
Both clubs also share the somewhat dubious moniker of having at one time employed former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. This, more than anything else, could be the biggest factor in proving the credentials of County.
After being taken over by Munto Finance there was talk of the club scaling the English leagues and making an assault on the Premier League. This was further compounded by their signing the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, from today’s opponents, as well as managing to entice former Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell to join the club.
The fact that both Eriksson and Campbell swiftly departed the club, with Campbell leaving after playing just a single league fixture for the club nicknamed the Magpies, demonstrated that such images of back-to-back promotions from League Two to the Premier League were little more than dreams.
City found themselves in a similar position after being bought by their Abu Dhabi owners. With Mark Hughes in charge the club finished tenth in the league when, following the signing of Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.3 million, it was assumed by some at the club that they would be lifting the Premier League trophy come May.
Since then both clubs have reassessed their goals and ambitions, as well as their ethos. Man City under Hughes attempted to sign the likes of Kaka when a solid defence was much more important at such a time. County, after changing managers, gave the job to former Cheltenham manager Steve Cotterill.
Under Cotterill the club were promptly promoted from League Two as champions, and thus, under Paul Ince, they find themselves in League One and currently in 18th place after Cotterill departed to join newly relegated Portsmouth at the start of the current season.
While this season County are looking to consolidate in their first season back in League One before they look to climb the table yet again in the coming years, City are genuine title contenders this year having finished fifth last season after Mancini took over from Hughes part way through the season.
When the two clubs kick-off it could be a very one sided match indeed, with City able to boast the likes of Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Jo, and Mario Balotelli, and that is only up front, while Ince will have the slightly less household names of Kevin Smith, Karl Hawley, Craig Westcarr, and former West Brom man Lee Hughes.
However, no matter what the when referee blows the final whistle, neither club will have lost focus of the bigger picture or their long term goals. And while neither club may win any silverware this season, they are sure to be tasting success in the near future.