Newsletter #95

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All quiet at the moment, absolutely no news as regards a potential manager. Some people are naturally worried by this but to look on the positive side (eternally optimistic, but then again, isn’t that what being a City fan is about?), at least the club appear not to be rushing into a signing just for the sake of signing someone.

This issue also includes a review of Don Revie’s autobiography which naturally tells the story of the Revie Plan. If any of our older subscribers remember 54/55 and the excitement the plan caused then perhaps they’d care to put some of their impressions down in writing to give us all an inkling of what it was really like to watch the plan in action and the general reception it got.


NEWS – KIDD I

Francis Lee and Martin Edwards have both denied that City have made a formal approach to United regarding Brian Kidd. Lee said “I have made no formal approach, none at all”, whilst Edwards said “I know absolutely nothing about any approach from Manchester City for Kidd.”

Paul Howarth (paul@wg.icl.co.uk)

NEWS – KIDD II

Just read last night (Thursday) on Ceefax on BBC that Lee and Martin Edwards both attended some league chairmans’ meeting in London and both denied that any approach had been made to ManU over Kidd (Lee) or that any approach would be entertained (Edwards). This stringent denial from both sides probably means in chairman-speak that Kidd is on his way to Maine Road even as we speak.

Tom McLaughlin (T.McLaughlin@Queens-Belfast.AC.UK)

KIDDO – NOT ON BOOKER SHORTLIST!

When I was at school the widely held belief was that Kiddo couldn’t write his own name, and Wilf McGuinness had to help him read the Beano. Maybe apocryphal, but maybe he’d fit in well!

Peter Gibson (100600.1232@compuserve.com)

OPINION – LACK OF ACTION!

From recent MCIVTAs there seems to be some worry about the transfer market. Granted we haven’t been linked with any big names, but we haven’t yet got a manager (I think!). Therefore the sports press do not include us in the gossip that they make up on a boring Friday afternoon. I’m sure that if BH was still manager we would have been in the running for Romario, Gullit, Gascoigne, Baggio etc. etc. according to the press.

To continue in this vein I would like to point out that just because we haven’t got a rich sugar daddy who can afford to pay 6 million for an aged striker who is no better than Rösler (who cost less than a tenth of the price), doesn’t make us any less ambitious. City would gain more by ploughing money into the youth development programme to produce the stars of the future rather than buying the stars of yesterday. This doesn’t mean I don’t want City to sign good players, but hopefully we won’t get caught in the trap of paying silly money for average players as we did in the Reid era.

Finally I’d like to add my thoughts on the managerial front. Is there a possibility that BH’s heir apparent has finally decided not to take the job and this could possibly be why the transfers of Quinn and Gaudino are on “hold” just in case Lee’s second choice wants to keep Quinn and let Gaudino go?

Adam Houghton (Adam.Houghton@sheffield.ac.uk)

OPINION – TRANSFERS

I agree for the most part with what Adam has to say (above) regarding transfers. The recent trend is very worrying and City would do well to stay away from it. Warren Barton is an OK player but certainly no better than a lot of other defenders in the Premier League; you have to ask just how much of a rôle media hype has played in bumping up the valuations of certain players? After all, we’ve been hearing that Warren Barton and Dean Holdsworth would be auctioned off for practically two thirds of the season now and how they’ll readily be snapped up by bigger clubs. These players are just average, how can they be worth so much? Has the press convinced us (and Keegan) that players of this calibre are really worth this much money? As for Ferdinand, 6m, have they gone crazy? IMHO he’s better than Cole and probably Collymore as well but he’s 28 for God’s sake! This means that Newcastle are likely to get 4 years maximum out of him as a top line striker and that’s being optimistic; it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that he’ll cost them at least 1m a year in depreciation and his wages will not be insignificant either! God only knows what Collywobble will go for (£8.5m?).

Another recent target of the media has been David Unsworth of Everton who they basically describe as the most promising talent ever to pull on an Everton jersey. This is quite a claim and monitoring RSS, it’s quite clear that a number of Everton fans believe him to be totally overrated. Draper’s yet another who’s got the treatment and has been earmarked to leave Leicester, ’cause he’s such a good player, right? Is he really? Could be that he is, but I hardly think he’s proven himself to be worth the 4m that the Foxes will be asking. City would do well to consider carefully who they buy; they can certainly obtain much more talented players outside England than within at a fraction of the cost. Although Dino might not be the best man for City, he’s got more technical skill than 99% of players in the Premier League and is (?) costing about £1.5m.

Ashley

OPINION – MANAGER I

After weeks waiting for a new manager to pop up, it’s time to realize that we’re having trouble finding one and not just trouble choosing one…

So why not look to Norway? The coach of the Norwegian national team Egil Olsen could simply do the trick. He’s a very analytic manager, running a professional squad of helpers. Most of the players, playing in England, that represent Norway find English clubs poorly driven when it comes to team-support. No doubt that Mr Olsen would know what to do! He also has an academic degree in football and has often said that an offer from a “big club” would be interesting. So when Norway is Champs. of Europe (in England ’96), it’s going to be too late. If we grab him now, England still has a chance 🙂

As for Norwegian players. Why not U21-regular Steffen Iversen, son of the famous Odd Iversen. A young and promising striker who scored a brilliant goal against Malta. And he would be cheap too!

Of course there are always the bad experiences, like Hareide and Ingebrigtsen…

Svenn Hanssen (svenn@hanssen.priv.no)

OPINION – MANAGER II

City could get Parreira as the new manager; he was the Brazilian coach in the World Cup, and is now free. I can guarantee that he is one of the best Brazilian managers, not to say the best one. Besides, he could take a Brazilian player to City.

Alberto Blois (71102.2237@compuserve.com)

OPINION – MANAGER III

I’m getting more and more worried about this managerial situation. As somebody pointed out in a previous MCIVTA it seems that by the time we eventually get someone all the transfer activity will be over and done with. This will leave us with the same deadwood that we had last season but most other teams will have improved. We’ve already missed out on Ferdinand and Barton and cannot be in the running for any other names until we appoint a manager. Even then, will we have any money?

Rob Kerr (r.w.kerr.man0539@oasis.icl.co.uk)

OPINION – MANAGER IV

After the sacking of Horton, I was feeling quite optimistic about City’s future. I was convinced we’d get Rioch or Graham, and maybe start to win things. Rioch has now gone to Arsenal, and Graham, it seems, is too dodgy to be considered for the job. So now we’re left with Brian Kidd. Please not him! Okay, so he might have learnt great coaching skills from Ferguson, but he is only the monkey, and not the organ grinder. We need someone with proven managerial ability, and preferably someone who isn’t a Red. Then again, who else is there?

Charles Pollitt (plxcep@vax.ccc.nottingham.ac.uk)

WHY BLUE?

Sadly I can’t remember the first match I went to but it was during the 1966/67 season, soon after City’s return to Division 1 and I recall only that it was a 1-1 draw. I became interested in football at the age of 10, after watching the World Cup on TV the previous summer; according to statistics I wasn’t alone, as attendances rose that season. The mystery is why my Dad took me to Maine Road rather than to see U****d who were theoretically more of an attraction. Maybe because they were in the process of winning the Championship and getting in would have been difficult, maybe because Maine Road was nearer to Cheadle, where we lived, or maybe it was just that City were at home the day my Dad took it into his head to initiate me into the agonising life of a football fan. A recent ‘Why a Blue’ contributor referred to Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, and I too feel I cannot better his description, this time of the chances and factors that influence what can become a lifelong passion. It could have been so different – if U****d had been at home that day nearly 30 years ago, I could have been sitting here now believing that Eric Cantona was hard done by, that Blackburn were lucky and with a drawer full of hideous shirts. I might even have got a job in Television. Does being a Red make you a whingeing ****, or is it the other way round?

Anyway, what happened the following season is history, and in retrospect it’s no wonder I was hooked for life, but at the time I probably didn’t fully appreciate the privilege of supporting a Championship-winning side. The excitement of the games I remember, and the end of the season watching a report on TV from Newcastle by an excitable commentator (“…the referee’s looking at his whistle…”), and we were Champions. Mostly, though I remember the things associated with matchdays – parking in Whitmore Road, walking through the alleys to Maine Road, and the huge throng outside the ground; the man in the bowler hat telling us cheerfully every match that the End was nigh; the huge queues that you don’t seem to get these days, even with a bigger crowd; the Juniors’ turnstile being closed when the Platt Lane was full, and having to go to the gate because my Dad had already got in through the Adults’ turnstile; having to jump up every two minutes when everyone else did (terrible stand, the Platt Lane, almost as bad as its hideous replacement.)

The football was wonderful but I still remember relentless criticism of certain players – Neil Young (“Nellie”) for one, though when I got the Lee, Bell & Summerbee and 200 Great Goals videos last year it reminded me he scored some great goals. Ian Bowyer suffered more than most, and Mike Summerbee was far from immune from barracking as well!

Of course, in common with the rest of you I’ve suffered 20-odd years (if you’re as old as me!) of anti-climax since then, punctuated by some marvellous highs: FA Cup win, League Cup win (my first trip to Wembley) preceded by a Semi-Final win over Newton Heath, European Cup Winners’ Cup matches at Maine Road, and the final (on TV!), 10-1, and despite a lack of silverware, many more recent memorable matches. Also some desperate lows: losing to Chelsea in the ECWC, Colin Bell’s demise, David Bastard Pleat dancing on our pitch, Steve Daley, – I’m sure anyone can supply a long list of less than ecstatic moments.

Sadly, I live and work in Birmingham now, and with 2 kids who are avid Villa fans I rarely see the Blues these days (I did get to see U****d get sh*t on 3-1 at Wembley last season, though!). I saw the recent match at Villa Park (wearing my City shirt to my kids’ disgust) and thought we played any football that was going that night, losing 2 points to the hand of Ugo. Strangely, the Villa fans seem to have no animosity to Blues fans at all (common enemy, perhaps?).

I intend to visit Maine Road again this coming season, to see what it looks like with the Kippax gone, and hopefully see a win. See you there!

Does being a Blue make you a philosopher, or is it the other way round?

Peter Gibson (100600.1232@compuserve.com)

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE           Soccer's Happy Wanderer
AUTHORS         Don Revie
PUBLISHER       Museum Press Limited,
                26 Old Brompton Rd.,
                London SW7
                England
ISBN No         None, predates ISBN system
PRICE           Out of print

I obviously spoke too soon when I said that Mike Doyle’s autobiography was a little lightweight at 173 pages as this one is a mere 110! The format is A5-ish and in hardback. There may have been a dustcover with the book originally but my copy (cost £8.50, secondhand, May ’95) doesn’t have one. Complementing the text are 24 black and white photos and some diagrams of moves to illustrate aspects of the Revie Plan.

Although this book masquerades as an autobiography, it’s really the story of the Revie Plan fleshed out with something about his early years. There is a foreword from Raich Carter who played alongside Revie at Hull City and who was one of Revie’s mentors. In his opinion the Plan wasn’t new but was really a return to an old style of play with the emphasis on passing and ball control rather than technically gifted individuals. He tries to give the rather modest Revie his dues, saying that City could not have adopted the plan so successfully without him and that the plan was a much-needed shot in the arm for English soccer. Yes, that word ‘soccer’ again! Recently, it’s become fashionable to rush for the garlic and a crucifix whenever the word is mentioned. Anyone who cares to research it a little will see that its origins go right back to the beginning of the game and it’s used continually in this book, which is now 40 years old (1955).

Revie intoduces the book by way of a description of the revelation which hit England in ’53 & ’54 in the form of the Hungarians with their deep lying centre forward (Nandor Hidegkuti) and his two inside forwards (Sandor Koscis & Ferenc Puskas). City were almost relegated at the end of the 53/54 season and were ordered to report back for the following season two weeks early where they learned that they were going to play the Hungarian system! The press dubbed them ‘The Deep Revie Boys’.

Revie was born in Middlesbrough in the middle of the depression and learned his football with a ball of rags. He stresses the absence of coaching and how he concentrated on ball skills, something which is fairly topical today. After playing in local leagues, he was signed by Leicester City where he was taken under the care of Sep Smith, one of the old school of hard taskmasters. At 19 he was rated as an excellent England prospect but subsequently broke his ankle badly (career-threatening) and then had a difficult rehabilitation, becoming the target for the boo boys and finally missing the 1949 F.A. Cup final through injury. He then asked for a transfer and ended up at Hull City after turning down approaches from Arsenal and Maine Road. He never really settled though and the departure of the influential Raich Carter meant that he too soon left, this time to Maine Road.

Here he found himself in a team of talented misfits who despite the presence of such mercurial talents as Ivor Broadis, just never seemed to click. He became close friends with Johnny Williamson who was a striker in the reserves. During one match, Williamson lay deep behind the other four forwards and ended up causing havoc. Fred Tilson (reserve team trainer) and the manager, Les McDowell, immediately saw the possibilities this opened up and the reserves adopted the system and spent their last 26 games of the season undefeated. Revie, however, remained sceptical.

By this time Revie was fairly disenchanted with City and in particular the manager’s constant switching of his position. However, at the start of the 54/55 season, Revie was still prepared to give the club a further chance. They started training 2 weeks early and began the first match of the season away at Preston North End with the new plan. The result was a 5-0 thrashing… of City! Fortunately, McDowell was determined to persevere and made a key decision in its success by introducing the relatively unknown Ken Barnes (father of Peter) at wing half, a player of immense stamina.

Revie explains several moves with the aid of diagrams which show how he came deep to receive the ball which he would immediately control and pass on to Barnes, with Revie moving on again to receive the ball back and continue the attack. The basic principle was of a mobile striker who came deep to start moves (often from a Trautmann throw out) and everything hinged on running into space, good ball control and fast, accurate passing. Success arrived and City started to hand out some beatings and became the side to watch. An off day saw them beaten at Cardiff 3-1 when the home team employed the tactic of man-marking Revie. Many opposition and press people saw this as the key to breaking the system and its downfall was widely heralded. City however, devised a counter measure which consisted of Revie moving up-field and standing opposite the right back which meant in effect, that two players were now marking him thus leaving the right back’s man, usually Roy Clarke, free. Even if teams managed to eliminate Revie he was still pulling their defences all over the place, a fact which could only be to their detriment. These new tactics meant that teams worried about City and desperately tried to adapt their game, whilst City were left to play exactly as they wanted. A development of the plan was the novel introduction of two centre halfs, Ewing and Roy Paul. They also worked on the wingers, getting them to come to meet the ball (something Mike Summerbee was to do with great effect later on) rather than the prevailing style which was to belt the ball over the back of the defenders with the winger running onto it. It was with this plan that City equalled their record 1926 margin of victory over the Rags at Old Trafford, running out 5-0 winners (against the Busby Babes)!

City were still to remain unlucky, failing to win the league (they eventually finished seventh) and picking up injuries to Johnny Hart and Roy Clark before the F.A. Cup final against Newcastle United. To cap it all, Jimmy Meadows was carried off in the first half which reduced the Blues to 10 men, a hopeless task against Newcastle at Wembley. They eventually ran out 3-1 losers but at least Revie had the consolation of being named Footballer of the Year for 54/55. He ends by giving a quite amusing (seen from the 1990s) justification for the ‘no substitutes’ rule, saying that teams might abuse it by bringing on fresh players for people who weren’t even injured!

The book is very short and is curiously divided up into chapters of only 2-3 sides, perhaps something which was the ‘norm’ in the fifties for a sporting biography? It is however, a very good and first-hand description of events which seized the imagination of the whole of England during that season and I can recommend it to anyone wanting to find out more about those years. Furthermore, lots of the things Revie says about the game, which was in crisis at the time, ring true today. Accurate passing, ball control, tactics, etc. are all lauded, he talks a lot of sense, even if some ideas are a little dated. I remained however, unconvinced when he champions this style of play over teams who relied on gifted individuals doing their tricks. Surely the game has a place for the latter as well as the Colin Bells of this world?

One thing that still isn’t clear though is whose idea it was for Williamson to play deep. Did Williamson do it deliberately, was it an accident or did McDowell tell him to? Clearly Revie was the key player but he wasn’t the initiator of the plan.

Ashley Birch

WWW MANCHESTER CITY SUPPORTERS’ HOME PAGE:
http://www.uit.no/mancity/


Thanks to Peter, Adam, Svenn, Alberto, Paul, Rob, Tom & Charles.


DISCLAIMER
The views expressed in MCIVTA are entirely those of the subscribersand there is no intention to represent these opinions as being thoseof Manchester City Football Club, nor of any of the companies anduniversities by whom the subscribers are employed. It is not inany way whatsoever connected to the club or any other relatedorganisation and is simply a group of supporters using this mediumas a means of disseminating news and exchanging opinions.


Ashley Birch, birchaw@oci.unizh.ch

Newsletter #95

1995/06/12

Editor:


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