They say that working abroad offers new experiences. After 12 years away from his native Bulgaria, Manchester City's exciting winger Martin Petrov discovered a novel one earlier this season: being left out of the team. He did not enjoy it and can reasonably be assumed not to have shed tears over the replacement of Mark Hughes by Roberto Mancini just before Christmas.
As the song has it: "Players only love you when they're playing." The new manager has used him in every game so far and seems likely to do so again if City's game against Blackburn at Eastlands tomorrow night beats the weather.
Not that a change of coach was ever likely to dismay Petrov, who has played under a few of them for his six clubs in five different countries: Bulgaria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and now England, where he was one of Sven Goran Eriksson's initial rush of imports in the summer of 2007.
Petrov's direct style down the left enthused City supporters from the start but, having missed most of last season through injury, then scored three goals in four games during October, he became a victim of Hughes' lost patience following the 3-3 home draw with Burnley.
"I am a little bit frustrated at that," Petrov said. "It's difficult when you play well, score goals, do good and are the best player in the month of October. Then you spend another three games on the bench. For that, I'm a little bit unhappy. Because I think I deserved to play. It's not good for anyone if they don't play. OK I am not the only player who was not playing, but I tell you I think I have a place in this team and that I'm showing that to the former manager. If someone doesn't give you the chance then that's frustrating to me, and he knows what I think."
Hughes now being an ex-manager, Mancini is the man it is necessary to impress, which he appears to be doing. Petrov says: "It is very clear what each individual must do under this manager and that's normal, because he comes from Italy. And you know how it is in Italy with the tactical stuff."
Less expansive stuff too by the look of the new man's three games so far without conceding a goal; the sort of style that demands wingers do their share of tracking back and defending? "Yes, of course. Me, Robinho, Tevez – everyone. You know if you play you have to do that. We know when we go forward we have quality but we also know that we have to get behind the ball at other times because if you're not strong defensively, you know 100 per cent that you'll have a problem. We're working very hard on that. For me it's not a problem. I just try to do what the manager wants from me. I think in the last game I did it well and OK, I know it's not my strong side, defending. Everyone knows that. But I'll try and do my best."
He agrees that teamwork has not always been City's strongest point either but believes Mancini will improve that and that a general tightening up will enhance the prospects of Champions' League football; victory tomorow would put them back in the top four. "I think we are good enough but we need a little bit more time to work on tactical stuff and to show more concentration. We made too many draws but that's over. We knew we had a good squad before with the players we have but if you don't play on the pitch as a team, you know what can happen. Look what happened with United against Leeds."
With the two Carling Cup semi- finals to come against their neighbours on either side of an FA Cup tie at Scunthorpe United, plus three more League games this month, not even Petrov can expect to play every game over a critical period, although he would appear quite happy to do so. Then, of course, there is a transfer window, never a quiet time at Eastlands. Even as he was talking, Patrick Vieira was on the way: "Look, another big name, with his quality, and he has played in the Premier League before. He is not on the left. But OK I will play on the right – or centre-forward!"
English football's schedules may dismay other foreign arrivals. Due to celebrate a 31st birthday this Friday, Petrov can't get enough.Reuse content