Lescott admits he must prove himself to Mancini
Sunday 24 October 2010
It seems like such a long time since Mark Hughes practically went to war to sign Joleon Lescott from Everton, but it is only 14 months since the defender arrived at Eastlands as a regular in the England squad with a £22 million price tag.
Lescott acknowledges that last season was a "disappointment" and, after struggling through the second half of the campaign with knee and hamstring problems, he was left out of England's World Cup squad.
Nedum Onuoha, who is now on loan at Sunderland, was deeply critical of the way Roberto Mancini handled Lescott's return to action, citing the Italian's behaviour as the reason the defender did not make it to South Africa.
Last season's problems – he failed to form a comfortable partnership with Kolo Touré – and the subsequent arrival of another seven players, including Aleksandar Kolarov and Jérôme Boateng, meant Lescott had been forgotten about.
But Kolarov's own injury problems have opened the door again and the 28-year-old Lescott has featured regularly at left-back for City, while injuries on the international stage have enabled him to start England's last two matches.
"Obviously there was disappointment last season but hopefully I have put that behind me now, and [can] stay in the team," Lescott said. "Staying fit has obviously helped. Playing regularly has helped my confidence and building an understanding with the players I'm playing with. You don't go out there intending not to play well, but sometimes it happens. Hopefully that's behind me.
"I wouldn't say the World Cup was a good one to miss. How many players want to get involved in a World Cup? I thought towards the end of last season I was getting some form and I was confident of breaking into the squad, but I got injured and did not get the chance. I was focused on coming back pre-season to get fit and I've played games for England. Hopefully that continues."
Although insecurity must be rife among the City squad, Lescott had to deal with the fact that he was one of Hughes' last signings and was injured when Mancini arrived. It is a feeling that remains despite his recent run in the side. "I'm still aware of that now," Lescott said. "Mark did bring me in and Roberto is going to have his own take on the team and the squad. I don't think I've proved myself to him yet. I still like to think I can improve. There's never going to be a time when I think 'OK, I don't have to go out there and play as well as I have to' because there's going to be someone wanting my shirt and that is what drives me. If I keep that drive then I'm sure I'll stay in the team."
Although it is unlikely to be as memorable as last season's 4-2 victory for the hosts, with Emmanuel Adebayor running the length of the pitch to celebrate, today will be another significant day at Eastlands. Despite Mancini's reputation for negativity, Chelsea and Liverpool have already been beaten there this season as City look to take another step towards dominating the English game with a title challenge.
Another victory today would only serve to increase that belief. "There's definitely more to come," Lescott said. "We don't want it to become a habit where we are not playing well and winning games. We want to get the balance right."
Mancini is partial to holding midfielders but he is also becoming renowned for being feisty, having gone toe to toe with David Moyes and becoming embroiled in a row with Carlos Tevez earlier this month.
Lescott added: "Last season when I was injured, I heard his voice and I thought 'wow'. I came to the games when I was injured and I heard it while I was stood in the corridor. He gets his message across. Sometimes there might be an occasion where he might speak a bit of Italian. It's not just for us to understand – it might be a little blast of emotion to get off his chest."
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