Roberto Mancini is not the only Italian manager putting his faith in Manchester City. The Eastlands coach will surely have raised a smile last night when his countryman Fabio Capello selected six City players in his squad to play Switzerland. The surprise pick was Joleon Lescott who started at centre-back ahead of Bolton's Gary Cayhill, who came on as a substitute against Bulgaria on Friday and had been expected to retain his place.
Joe Hart, of course, was in goal and he was joined in the starting line-up by Gareth Barry and James Milner, the midfielders. Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips, the two City widemen, were on the bench but Johnson made it five City players on the field when he replaced the injured Theo Walcott after just 13 minutes last night which England won 3-1. However, last night was a disappointing one for City's Vincent Kompany who was sent off in Belgium's match with Turkey. But six players from one club in an England international squad is a rare achievement and will no doubt have had City fans looking back to their last "golden generation" when the likes of Colin Bell, Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee and Rodney Marsh were England regulars in the late 70s and early 80s.
In addition to their success with England and an assault on the Premier League, City are now flexing their muscle on the cinema screen as well. Today marks the opening night of Blue Moon Rising a film that depicts life at City during the first full season of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed's ownership. Created by Big Brother producers Endemol and directed by BAFTA winner Stewart Sugg, the film lives last season through the eyes of seven fans. Following them around the country, it also includes exclusive interviews with Mancini and Khaldoon al Mubarak, the club chairman. The "access all areas" view of City life covers the dismissal of Mark Hughes and the appointment of Mancini, plus the highs and lows of a season that were encapsulated in a two-leg Carling Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United.
"Blue Moon Rising reinforces Manchester City's standing as the most fascinating story in the world of football," David Pullan, the commercial director, said. "It will be a lasting testimony to one of the most exciting years in Manchester City's history." Meanwhile, Gerrard Houllier is poised to become the 25th manager in Aston Villa's 126-year history with his appointment as Martin O'Neill's successor expected to be announced in the next 24 hours.
Houllier will be only the second foreign coach to take charge of the English Midlands club after Jozef Venglos' ill-fated spell two decades ago. He is set to be named as Villa's fifth manager of the new millennium after John Gregory, Graham Taylor, David O'Leary and O'Neill. It will represent the end of a six-year exile from the Premier League for the Frenchman since his reign at Liverpool came to an end in May 2004.
Houllier, who has been working as France's technical director, is expected to face the media for the first time in his new role tomorrow. His first match in charge would be the away clash with Stoke City on Monday. Houllier's former Liverpool number two, Phil Thompson, is expected to follow him to Villa Park. When Villa started recruiting in earnest to replace O'Neill, they admitted that Premier League experience was high on their list of priorities - and Houllier has that in abundance.
The former schoolteacher has been in management for 37 years and his clubs included Lens, Paris St Germain and, after leaving Anfield, Lyon. He joined Liverpool in July 1998 and won the UEFA Cup, two League Cups, an FA Cup and a European Super Cup during almost six years at the helm. * Agencies