Newsletter #359

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After expecting a very quiet few days, I suddenly find that I have enough to send out a New Year Issue! In it, there’s a review of CITY magazine, and a guide to our now customary relegation dogfight, which neatly illustrates the gravity of the situation we now find ourselves in. There is also much opinion on our plight and in particular, Frank Clark’s part in all this. The newspapers have been speculating further on a move for Royle and there is no doubt that FC must feel under great pressure. Finally, there is a mini Why Blue – but evocative nevertheless.

Next game, Bradford City home (F.A. Cup), Saturday 3rd January 1998

REVIEW – CITY MAGAZINE Vol 3 Issue 4 Dec. 97

This is the last issue edited by Steve Anglesey, who has taken the plunge to join the new on-line daily football newspaper, Football 365. This month’s cover star is the uninspiring Craig Russell. He expresses concern about house prices in the area and instantly dismays by showing a lack of concern at City’s lowly league placing, “…because it’s a false position” (echoes of 95-96…).

All the usual features and gloss. Alongside a picture of Kinkladze in the Dynamo Dresden away kit, Steve Sayer explains why it won’t be on sale (because it’s yellow…). There are pictures of Gio’s Ferrari after his control let him down, and a poster of Ray Kelly, which, judging by his performance against Huddersfield, may prove to be something of a collectors’ item.

There’s a weak interview with Moonchester, Barry Conlon answers 20 questions – “Tell us about your premature baldness, Barry…” and a look at our future stars (boo-boys?) at the Academy as they plan ways of bunking class. Michael Brown, having seen at Hartlepool how the other half lives, explains his competitive performance in Paul Lake’s testimonial and completes his rehabilitation by being this month’s centrefold. There are six match reports which record only one win (false position, Craig?). And the magazine exclusively reveals the reason why we beat Crewe: we had fifteen players (count them)! Finally, John Maddocks provides an obituary of Gordon Clark, who made his début during the Championship season of 1936-37 and who went on to become a war-time regular for the Blues. But this month’s highlight has to be AwayDayBlues, which actually features a pair of breasts (go on, count them!).

David Butler (davidbutler5@virgin.net)

DOSLA REFEREEING QUESTION

Division One Statistics and Leagues for Anoraks (DOSLA). Compiled by Steve “Statto” Kay. Update No 21. Up to and including 28th December 1997.

Last week’s question:

An attacker shoots at goal but an opposing defender punches the ball

  1. over the bar.
  2. into his own goal.

In each case, what would you do?

Answer:

  1. Send off the defender for serious foul play (deliberate handball) and award a penalty.
  2. Award a goal and caution the defender for unsporting behaviour.

This week’s question:

When would you award an indirect free kick for handball?

Steve Kay (Stevemcfc@aol.com)

ARMCHAIR GUIDE TO THE RELEGATION DOGFIGHT

As we enter 1998, it’s time to look at our run in to the end of the season. I have listed the remaining fixtures, followed by last season’s corresponding result, and the running points total if that result were repeated. This is followed by my prediction. There is space for you to enter the actual results/points.

Last season 46 points meant relegation. With no teams breaking away at the top this season, it could mean teams need at least 50 points to be safe. As you can see below, we are likely to struggle to reach 50 points, unless there is a significant change of form, or luck as Frank Clark believes. Also note that if last season’s results are to be repeated, we will lose the last three games of the season!

My DOSLA stats reveal the following:

  1. We have only won 32% of the points possible so far. Continuing that trenduntil the season end would mean 44 points and relegation with Huddersfieldand Bury.
  2. If our form over the last 6 games, i.e. won 2, lost 4, was repeated untilthe end of the season, that would leave us with 45 points in 20th place,with Tranmere, Bury and Port Vale relegated, but still below the 50 pointsbarrier.
  3. If this season’s home and away form were continued until May, we would endwith 27 home points and 17 away points, a total of 44 points and relegationwith Portsmouth and Bury.
  4. When comparing “like for like” results with last season, we are currently 9points worse off than last year. If things got no worse, we would end with 52points, with Crewe, Bury and Huddersfield relegated. To be fair, after 23matches (halfway) we were only -5, which left us in the comparative safetyof 17th place with 56 points.
  5. When all teams had played 23 games, we were in 19th position with 24points. When I can produce a table after 25 games, it will probably show usin a relegation place (22nd), because we have lost the last two games.
  6. Our home record is currently 22nd best, with us only picking up 38% of allpossible points (15). Only Huddersfield and Crewe have a worse one, and welost at Crewe! When you study the table showing the away form of ouropponents at Maine Road, we have yet to beat any team in the bottom 9 (we onlyhave 4 to play: Stockport, Bury, Oxford and QPR).
  7. Our away record is currently 19th best, with us picking up 25% of allpossible points (9). When you study the table showing the home form of theteams we have visited, we have yet to beat a team in the bottom 16 (westill have to visit 8).

To sum up, we need to be looking for at least 5 home wins, most likely against Stockport, Bury, Oxford, QPR and one other, and at least 4 away wins, most likely at Portsmouth, Port Vale, Huddersfield and Reading. That would give us 51 points and probable safety. Anything else would be a bonus. Anything less would be disaster. If you think we are unlikely to beat the likes of Bury at home, or Huddersfield away, you now realise how serious our predicament is, and you need to get ready to add some new away grounds to your collection next season!

				  Last season  	My prediction	 Actual
10/01/98	Portsmouth (A)	       L-24		D-25
17/01/98	Sunderland (H)	       L-24		L-25
28/01/98     	Charlton (H) 	       W-27		W-28
31/01/98	Tranmere (A)	       D-28		L-28
07/02/98	Norwich (A)	       D-29		L-28
14/02/98      	Bury (H)  	       W-32		W-31
18/02/98	Ipswich (H)            W-35		W-34
21/02/98	Swindon (A) 	       L-35		L-34
24/02/98	Reading (A) 	       L-35		D-35
28/02/98	West Brom (H)	       W-38		W-38
03/03/98	Huddersfield (A)       D-39		L-38
07/03/98	Oxford (H) 	       L-39		W-41
14/03/98	Port Vale (A) 	       W-42		D-42
21/03/98	Sheffield Utd (H)      D-43		L-42
28/03/98	Bradford (A) 	       W-46		L-42
04/04/98	Stockport (H)	       W-49		D-43
11/04/98	Wolves (A) 	       L-49		L-43
13/04/98	Birmingham (H)	       W-52		W-46
18/04/98	Middlesbrough (A)      L-52		L-46
25/04/98	Q.P.R (H)	       L-52		W-49
03/05/98	Stoke City (A) 	       L-52		D-50

The countdown is on: 9 more wins needed for safety.

Cross them off as they happen: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Steve Kay (Stevemcfc@aol.com)

FRANK CLARK – THE CASE AGAINST

Until now, I’ve thought that City would be wrong to sack FC and that, in view of our outrageous managerial turnover, another upheaval was the last thing we’d need. Unfortunately, I can no longer justify this opinion to myself. The lobby in favour of giving FC more time seem to have claimed the moral high ground, able to dismiss calls for his sacking as reckless, knee-jerk short-termism. However, I’ve now come round to the view that things have got so bad that persisting with Clark is worse than the alternative I’ve been so anxious to avoid up to this point.

We started this season with promotion hopes, and even in retrospect, I don’t think we were being unreasonable. Our form from the beginning of 1997 to the end of last season, if repeated over the whole season, would have put us in third place. Gio then agreed to stay and FC was given over £5 mlllion net to add to the squad. Furthermore, the team have shown on occasions (Forest and WBA away, Swindon and Boro at home) that they are capable of reaching the heights most of us expected from them.

In the light of that, the current position is a disgrace. Anyone who thinks we could mount a run to the play-offs should stop dreaming right away. Last season, the lowest placed play-off team was Palace with 72 points. To emulate that, we’d need 48 points from 21 games, or, put another way, a run of form which eclipsed Bolton’s last season. That would be pushing it for Boro or Forest, let alone a team with a record of 12 goals and 15 points in the last 17 games.

The fact is that we’re in the relegation dogfight, below the likes of Crewe and staring the second division in the face. A lot of Blues (and other people) seem to think that we couldn’t go down. No doubt fans of Villa, Wednesday, Sheffield United, Birmingham, Sunderland, Wolves, West Brom and Stoke all thought the same when they were in a similar position. We’re averaging less than a point a game and were eliminated from the League Cup in a two-leg tie by a mid-table division two team. That’s nothing if not relegation form. Almost 60% of the season has gone, so it can hardly be written off as a blip.

I respect Frank Clark’s achievements for all but his last four months at Forest (I don’t know enough about his record at Orient to comment). Taking them to third place in the Premiership immediately after winning promotion in his first season was a great feat. The next year, they finished 9th and reached the UEFA Cup quarter finals, which wasn’t bad either. This is the Frank Clark who arrived at Maine Road to lift City comfortably out of the relegation zone. He immediately appeared to identify what was wrong with the team, recruiting players in the right areas, and inspired a couple of our perennial under-achievers (Rösler and Summerbee) to drastically improved form. The extent of the turn around is shown by our results after his arrival, and I’m sure that most Blues were pretty happy with him in the summer.

However, there are two failings shown in his Forest reign which seem significant now. The first is that some of his transfer purchases after the sale of Stan Collymore were decidedly dodgy (Silenzi is the most obvious example, but any Forest fan will cite you plenty more). The second is that, although things were made difficult for him by boardroom unrest which stopped him from buying or selling players, he simply seemed to lose his grip on the playing side of the club completely He admitted as much when he resigned claiming that he simply couldn’t draw any more from the squad he had. I regret to say it, but this is the Frank Clark who’s in charge at Maine Road now.

If anyone doubts this, then simply look at the way FC’s managed the club since the summer:

  • His net transfer deficit since arriving at City is around £7million – since the end of 1996/7, it’s around £5.5 million (bringing inBradbury, Vaughan, Wiekens, Shelia and Russell while only Summerbee hasdeparted being valued at more than a pittance). This is a degree offinancial support all but a couple of the managers in our league wouldgive their right arm for, yet we’re now playing as badly when FCarrived. Spending that amount of money and failing to improve the teamis unforgiveable, especially when we’re being beaten by teams assembledfor around 20% of the cost of one Clark signing.
  • The two players who suddenly started to show their true formafter his arrival have respectively ended up on the transfer list andsold.
  • He spent £1.35 million on the man he said would fill ourleft-back problem position only to tell us after less than 3 months ofthe season that the bloke isn’t a left-back at all. We end up bringingin a Millwall reserve to play left-back, while Vaughan isn’t even firstchoice now in his “proper” position because he’s so good we’ve signedsomeone else to play there.
  • Certain players, like Brannan and Symons, are automatic choicesno matter how badly they play. What would you make of that if you were,say, Dave Morley (immaculate on his début and given two appearances assubstitute since) or Michael Brown (only now enjoying a regular rundespite seeming to be the only midfielder we have with a notion thatwhen the opposition have the ball, it helps if you can win it back)?
  • When we lose our two main strikers through injury, we have astriker out on loan banging in goals like there’s no tomorrow.Admittedly, it’s in the division below ours, he’s not been a success atCity and he has a weight problem. However, his career goalscoringrecord at our level and for Celtic in the Scottish Premier is betterthan a goal every three games, his confidence is high and, even if hehas no long-term future at Maine Road, he has something to prove topotential buyers. Before recalling him, Clark waits six weeks. In thistime, our strike force features a transfer listed reserve winger, theKinkladze/Dickov pairing with its massive physical presence, and Conlon,Greenacre and Kelly (three league goals between them – all at a lowerlevel). Gerry Creaney is far from the ideal centre-forward for us butwas a bloody sight more likely to get three or four goals in the absenceof Rösler and Bradbury.
  • Despite inheriting an already overloaded squad, FC has broughtin 13 players. Many of these are no better than reserves or squadplayers we already had.
  • While I don’t think most City fans would complain about the teambeing structured around Kinkladze, does it really make sense for him tobe the only creative option? When he’s off-form or injured, we simplydon’t look like scoring (as is witnessed by the tally of twelve goals inthe last seventeen games). Meanwhile, we’ve dispensed with the servicesof Summerbee and Beagrie, who could have provided the width to give usanother outlet. Our options now if we want to play with wingers are thetransfer-listed duo of Phillips and Heaney and the novice Scully.
  • Barring the traditional 2-3-5 system used up to the 1950s, we’veexperimented with more or less every possible formation, with abewildering series of personnel changes too. Should not FC have hadmore of an idea of his best eleven at the start of the season?
  • Finally, we adopt a strategy of playing with three at the backdespite having no players suited to the wing-back rôle – of those who’vefeatured there, for example, Edghill is a good right-back but can’tcross, van Blerk is very ordinary and Horlock is wasted there. Is itany wonder that Kinkladze is the only attacking hope, or that when he’snot playing, we struggle for goals?
  • The striker we’ve been chasing for six months (despite him beinga reserve at a side in the same division) arrives, scores no goals infive games up front (missing more than one easy chance), then isconverted to a wing-back.
  • FC spends a huge chunk of our transfer kitty on a player withone season of league football behind him. Yes, he’s got promise and hisinjury was unlucky for us. However, he proved fairly conclusivelybefore his lay-off that he’s not the finished article, yet what weneeded was a proven goalscorer. We didn’t have enough money to lay outthat kind of fee on potential.

I appreciate the arguments against change for change’s sake. However, the one thing worse than a lack of stability is stability under the wrong man. In my view, neither Horton nor Ball should have been appointed (I opposed both appointments at the time), so their sackings were justified (I consider Francis Lee’s biggest mistake not appointing a manager with a proven track record as soon as he took over). Clark was a different story, but the unfortunate fact is that this season he’s lost the plot completely. Though we all hoped for promotion, I think that City fans are genuinely realistic and we’re also aware that a major factor in our slide has been the lack of managerial stability. If we were even two thirds of the way down the table, I wouldn’t expect a clamour for FC to be sacked as long as we were clear of the dogfight. I know it took Judas first time round at Everton and Fergie at OT time to sort things out before they were successful. In the meantime, things looked pretty bad for both of them, but never did they give their clubs the cause to sack them that FC has given us.

We need to appreciate that we’re in a crisis position. We really are in serious danger of going down. If sacking Clark and bringing in someone else will enhance our hopes of survival, he has to go. It’s as simple as that. Nor is there any point in taking such a step in two or three months time if there’s no improvement. Sunderland made that mistake with Lawrie McMenemy. If Clark is to be sacked, it has to be while a new man has time to make a difference.

Relegation would be an absolute disaster for our club. Obviously, we have a magnificent support and our performances have come nowhere near to the level the fans deserve for years. The longer we stay out of the Premiership, though, the less likely we are to be able to bridge the gap if we ever do get back – the discrepancy in the average TV revenue between Premiership and division one sides is now seven million pounds a season. However, if we stay up this time, there’s always hope for next year – I know this sounds like blue-tinted optimism, but both Newcastle and Sunderland stayed up by the skin of the teeth in the last few years and were divisional champions the following season (and both ditched the managers who’d taken them to the brink of relegation to achieve this). A newly promoted City side (with the potential for profit generated by its support) would then surely have a decent chance of attracting the kind of investment to give us a decent tilt at Premiership consolidation? This may well not happen, but while we’re in the division we are, there is at least some hope.

Contrast this with the scenario if we go down. We’re already financially overstretched – the club already lost over two million pounds last year on non-transfer activity, despite having a Sky handout following relegation. The major item of financial expenditure for a football club is players’ salaries and we have a large number of well-paid players on long-term contracts. We can’t offload them while they’re in contract as no-one else will match their earnings. This means that we’ll have to keep on paying them, which would ensure that it would be hard for us as a business to cut costs. In turn, the financial state of the club would worsen because revenue would drop sharply. For a start, we’d lose a minimum of half a million on what we currently get even under the small-beer Nationwide deal. Crowds would surely drop – which would mean more lost revenue; for example, if we attracted an average gate of 20,000, we’d probably lose almost 100 grand a match (or two million a season) compared to current gate receipts. Merchandising, corporate hospitality and sponsorship revenue would also be likely to be hit drastically. Selling Gio would not enable us to rebuild the side – we’d need the cash to stave off bankruptcy. It isn’t overestimating the potential impact to say that relegation could be a financial blow from which we’ll never recover – even if we won promotion, we’d hardly be in a state to look to get up to the Premiership.

For these reasons, I think we’re perfectly justified in thinking that we have to avoid relegation at all costs. But could a new manager make the difference? There’s no guarantee, of course, but my view is that we’d be much more likely to stay up with a change in management. To me, FC looks like he did in his last days at Forest – as if he (along with the rest of us) can’t understand how things have got so bad and that he can’t think of anything more he can do. I suspect from his demeanour that he’s hardly inspirational in the dressing room, either – at the moment, his mood seems to be one of resignation and despair. If that transmits itself to the players, we’ve no hope. Clark showed at Forest and is proving again now that, though he can be an intelligent and astute manager, he is simply unable to stop the decline when things go against him. This means that, under FC, I can only see us plodding on as we are, with the odd unexpected win amongst regular disappointments. I simply don’t see that it’s worth the risk of holding on and hoping that things will miraculously improve of their own accord. The only change of direction he could introduce is to sell Kinkladze to finance re-shaping the side. On his record so far in the transfer market, I simply wouldn’t want to let FC loose with the cash.

On the other hand, I feel that a new manager with new ideas would much more likely to provide the direction and motivation necessary. I’d do everything possible to lure Joe Royle. His teams have the kind of tenacity and steel of which we desperately need an injection before it’s too late. His greatest successes as a manager came against the odds at Oldham and from turning Everton from relegation certainties into F.A. Cup winners. It has to be worth a try. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but City is badly broke and badly needs fixing. I don’t want to contemplate the consequences if we don’t.

Peter Brophy (Peter.Brophy@salans-shh.com)

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO BLUES THE WORLD OVER

Last year on new year’s eve we blew up the Hacienda Hotel. This year we will be dropping a car from 15 stories up onto six other cars in a pyramid shape on the ground. Frank Clark’s seat has unfortunately been taken by a stuntman.

The guy spotted in Caesar’s Palace trying to put a fiver on City to win the F.A. Cup is reportedly recovering well at home. He is expected to be able to resume drinking early this evening – and I should know.

Visitors to Las Vegas are reminded that Boddingtons can be found in the ‘Crown and Anchor’ on East Tropicana. Also it’s okay to call people w*****s here – Yanks and Rags that is.

Have a great ’98 from the Entertainment Capital of the World (after Maine Road of course).

David Atkins (datkins@7circle.com)

DISTANT MEMORIES OF A DISTANT BLUE

It was 1964, and I was a nine-year-old scruffy little kid from Beswick, Manchester. My dad had bought me a City kit for Christmas, which was great although I never had a chance to see them as we had no telly back then. However, I was obsessed with the club; unbeknown to my mum, I would walk to Maine Road after school with my little seven-year-old friend and proceed to kiss, touch and pay homage to all the entrances to the ground as a ritual. Still the only news I had of the Gods in Blue was through friends and through the Evening News.

Finally, my mum allowed me to go to the match, my first game! It was a midweek match against Everton. I remember everything so clearly, the relentless rain, as me and my little chum stood in line at the turnstile excited at the prospect of joining the chanting throng, the steaming cup of OXO that blistered my lips, and the luscious Holland’s meat pie that scalded my neck, the capacity crowd, the fighting fans, the generous away fans who threw filed down pennies at us. Such memories. Needless to say City lost and I had my hand knitted scarf nicked on the way home, managed to get my head kicked-in by a couple of scousers, and had to walk home in the rain. But for some ridiculous reason I kept going back. I have been away from the promised land for nearly 22 years, and for the last six years I lived in the USA and still to this day have the yearning to go back to the stadium of dreams.

Wayne Tidswell, Blue-through-and-through, USA (WTIDSWELL@aol.com)

OPINION – TIME TO GO, FRANK

Living overseas doesn’t give me many opportunities to see City live these days so MCIVTA keeps me in touch; besides from the Stockport game live and the Sheffield game live on the tele, that’s it for this season. Now that’s not much to form an opinion on, but I do manage all the match reports thru MCIVTA. Now let’s be honest, we are in the relegation zone of the 1st. division, we cannot string 2 wins together (the facts of life are, can we string 2 passes together?) we play like crap 90% of the time and we are going nowhere. From reading the match reports, I can deduce that one third of the team perform as if they belong to a third rate team at the bottom of the 1st. division which is exactly what we are. We have some class players but what good is fielding a 5 a side team against 11?

Remember way back to the 80/81 season when City started the season with about 0 points from the first 12 games; we got ourselves a new manager and he brought in Hutchinson and Gow, things turned around and we ended up at Wembley. We need some fighting spirit. Having both played football and coached a few junior teams both in England and overseas it is not hard to see what’s wrong with the team. They seldom work for each other, they give the ball away all the time, they are so close together half the time that one of the opponents can mark 3 men, Gio is good with the ball but otherwise he seems to do sweet F.A. Sell and do some good with the money. A game of football is 90 minutes; City seem to come good for 15 or 20 minutes somewhere within the 90, this happens time and time again. If we are not 3 down by half time then we let in a couple in the last 10. Changes must be made.

What does FC really stand for? Father Christmas or Fat Chance? Has he fielded the same team twice this season? He has achieved nothing since he arrived and will achieve nothing before he goes. It’s time for FC to go. Now the real reason for this mail. I get to see a lot of Premiership matches on the box and was wondering if anyone could put together a decent team of ex-City players still playing in the Premiership.

Thanks to all for keeping us exiles in touch and at least a mention of the gatekeeper at Stockport that was running his own show at £20 a head in full view of 4 mounted police who did nothing to stop him.

Ron Smith (Ron.Smith@Teleinstrument.se)

OPINION – IT CAN’T GET ANY WORSE, CAN IT?

Each December we seem to think that the next year can’t be any worse than the one just gone! I don’t think any City fan who has witnessed the past two fixtures would bet against our Boxing Day 1998 fixture being against Chester or Wigan, such is our current plight.

With Sunday’s game still very fresh in the memory, I can only put the blame for the defeat and generally shoddy performance at the feet of Frank Clark. Others have been very critical of the guy for several weeks now, but as one who would usually blame the team for a bad game – after all, they are meant to be well-paid professionals, this departure from collective responsibility is something new.

Firstly, I would like to say that I did not disagree with the overall team selection given the previous week’s win over Boro, as the result on Boxing Day could have given us a similar result if we had taken our chances better. What most frustrated me and countless other Blues was the formation of the team. I think the guy reporting for Monday’s Times was as equally baffled as he quoted the formation as 4-1-1-1-1-1-1.

Personally, I don’t think that it was as straightforward as this – but the major flaw in the formation was the absence of support for Rösler up front. Dickov appeared to be playing on the right of midfield and was consequently of little threat to the central defenders for Forest. Kinkladze had another quiet game (this is not necessarily a criticism – the guy at least can conjure up something from nothing), and with the possible exceptions of Brown and Shelia, nobody seemed interested in getting forward even when we were 3-0 down. Somebody on GMR observed that at one point in the game, no less than 4 players were playing out of their recognised position. This can be seen as acceptable if a team has major injury worries, but when our squad is approaching 50 in number, then there are no excuses.

From the start, FC set himself up for criticism, then proceded to make matters worse with his substitution of Brown for Scully. The only ever present member of the team so far this season is also our least effective player – and that is saying something – and yet on Sunday it is one of the younger players who was taken off. Clark can obviously see something in Ged Brannan that has so far escaped every other City supporter. I am loathe to single out players for criticism, but to my mind, the effectiveness of a player, particularly a midfielder or forward, is identified by how many times he is seen with the ball. It generally takes me at least half an hour to realise that he is actually playing – although given his constant inclusion, I guess I shouldn’t even bother looking.

City fans are not known for their patience with inadequate players – e.g. Heaney against Stoke – but if Clark has any sort of football manager brain, he must know when a player is under-performing. Mind you, that remark could have been aimed at most of the team on Sunday – although if they had all played in their correct position, then who knows?!

The problem is that a change of manager will do us no good whatsoever. We already have far too many over-paid, waste-of-money, clingers-on at the club. We can’t sell any of these (we can’t even give them away) and another manager will only want more money to bring in more players, and I can’t see Franny going much for that idea. The fact remains that we are in serious danger of going down again, and the odd barn-storming performance against a ‘big’ club won’t save us this time, just like it didn’t save us last time.

Richard Cotton (RikRgn@aol.com)

OPINION – WINDS OF CHANGE

The rumours about Kinky could be correct. After all he did go to watch his bestest mate Ketsbaia playing in a match at St. James Park recently (vs. the Rags?). And Newcastle are effectively out of the Championship now, so a run in the F.A. Cup may be their only way into Europe next season. If Kinky is still at the club next Saturday and misses the cup tie versus Bradford for any reason, the rumours will only be strengthened that his absence is down to anti-cup-tied-itis.

In my opinion, we are in a rut. The team have this mental barrier of winning 2 games on the run. Though his signings have been reasonable, Frank Clark is tactically naïve. As far as I am aware Ged Brannan has never been sub or subbed. Remember Inchy Heath? We should get rid of Clark, Hill and Money today. Get Joe Royle and Willie Donachie in tomorrow; if he doesn’t go to Newcastle, sell/trade Kinky in a month if things don’t improve, for no less than £8 million and get a proven goalscorer like Fjørtoft tomorrow.

Steve Kay (Stevemcfc@aol.com)

OPINION – FC AND THE GREAT MANAGEMENT DEBATE GEOLOGIST

When big Frank joined us last year, he was tasked with avoiding relegation to the unthinkable depths of Division 2. He achieved this and therefore deserved a slap on the back/bonus etc. This year his target was the play-offs at the very least. Although an amazing turn around which sees us steam up into play-off contention is not totally out of the question, it is fair to say that he will probably fail to achieve this season’s target. Considering the money he has spent and the resources available at Maine Road (especially compared to other Nationwide clubs), this is a poor performance.

I am sick and tired of people making excuses for Clark, and slagging off the club. The bottom line is that Clark has been given an opportunity and the resources to do a job, and quite simply, to date he has failed. I read Monday’s match review of Saturday’s Forest game in the Times newspaper and it read like an essay from the FC appreciation society. City (i.e. the club – whoever/whatever that might be) was portrayed as the big villain and Clark was described as a thoroughly decent, honest and able type. I personally don’t subscribe to this rot and feel that Clark is in a position that many other Division 1 and lower division managers would envy. There is pressure at City, and no-one denies it, but the rewards for success are potentially huge. Real pressure in football is an AFC Bournemouth scenario, where the players weren’t sure if they were getting paid and poor old Mel Machin didn’t know whether he had a side to manage week in, week out.

The fact is that the current City side are overpaid, undermotivated, badly organised, poorly led and tactically naïve. At least some of these criticisms lie at FC’s (and his backroom team) feet. Remember, FC brought in all his own backroom staff, something that many previous managers were not allowed to do. So come on everybody, stop bleating about poor old FC. Let’s face it, he has bought badly, and he doesn’t seem able to string a couple of wins together. I don’t believe that sacking him mid-season however will help. Let’s make judgement day the end of the season. If he hasn’t met his target of a play-off place, I believe that he should be dismissed and a new man (with a new backroom staff) brought in.

The new boy’s first job will be to prune the current squad, which is far too large, and is full of street trash like Heaney and Co.

I’m afraid I’ve given old Frank a bit of a slagging, and as I don’t really know what is going on behind the scenes at the Academy maybe I’m being unfair. My hero Rodneeee says there is a ‘cancer’ at the club (we all thought it was Swales), or maybe it’s just that old gypsy curse/ghost/poltergeist.

After writing this, FC will probably turn everything around and prove me wrong-and I really hope he does, because these are really dire days for City fans and it hurts like hell.

Come on Frank, prove me wrong. If there are massive problems behind the scenes please blot them out and focus on the playing side. You have the best bloody fans in the world behind you, so get those pillocks playing on the park. I’d rather have 11 die hard City players who will go to hell and back for the fans (even if they are hopeless), rather than mercenaries who just turn up for the wage slip.

In terms of a possible successor to Clark, I think Royle and Donachie would be good, but what about a hungry young manager from the lower divisions (does anyone know of any good ones?).

Alternatively, what about Rodney Marsh? He has managed Tampa in the States and has a professed love of City. He has a reasonably good relationship with Lee and has a good football brain. On the downside, he is ‘unproven’ as a English Division manager, but would he do any worse than Horton, Ball, Coppell, Neal, etc.? Maybe it’s time to take a gamble and bring in a completely new face, with new ideas and a little bit of flair? The whole of Maine Road needs a smile painted on its face and maybe a colourful character with fresh enthusiasm is what we need. Certainly, anything would be an improvement on FC’s miserable jowelly, dog-like expression. At times he reminds me of a sad beagle – maybe now’s the time to put him to sleep.

Steve Maddox (maddox.s@bgep.co.uk)

OPINION – THE CURRENT CRISIS

There is, it seems, never any shortage of rumours and gossip related to the increasingly bizarre phenomenon that is Manchester City Football Club. Of the current crop of rumours, I can only say that I too have heard whispers to the effect that Frank ‘Droopy’ Clark is on his way out of Maine Road – apparently before we play Bradford in the FA Cup 3rd round.

The mysterious arrival of Dennis Tueart on the scene at the behest of Francis Lee – who is off for a convenient (already scheduled – admittedly) vacation in sunnier climes – has an ominous ring of familiarity about it. Remember a certain John Maddock, who materialised with just a single wave of Swalesey’s spare wig, and – also armed with a ‘watching’ brief – proceeded to sack Reid and bring in Horton? One thing is for certain – Tueart is there for a reason – and it ain’t to pump money in.

I am of the opinion that something is going on behind the scenes. Boardroom support for Clark has been noticeable by its recent absence – suggesting that these people have more important and immediate matters to deal with. Joe Royle is a manager with a proven track record who is out in the wilderness at the moment. Some might say he missed his chance when he turned us down a few years ago – opting to remain loyal to Oldham instead. At that time we needed Royle more than he needed us. Perhaps the feeling is more mutual now. Perhaps the time is right.

I don’t subscribe to the view that the malaise at Maine Road is all down to Frank Clark; but while not expecting a miracle in the twelve months of his tenure, I would at the very least have expected an improvement – especially given the fact that he has spent around £9 million on new players during that time. Even if the rumours of Clark’s impending departure are true, then the board are going to have to provide the financial wherewithal to support a new man at the helm. At this moment in time I can only see two ways of achieving this. One is to sell Kinkladze. The other (more viable) alternative is to bring in some big money at the very top. Tueart, while not having sufficient financial clout himself does have contacts. Indeed, his company – Premier Events – deals with corporate involvement in sport. It is possible, perhaps even likely that Tueart is the front man for a possible takeover bid. We shall see.

The Kippax St. Kid (conal.fitzpatrick@virgin.net)

OPINION – OH THOSE BLUES

It’s been a long time since I made a contribution to MCIVTA – but the Christmas results have moved me to pound the keyboard. I believe that Monday’s Times summed it up when they described the team formation as ‘4-1-1-1-1-1-1″. The few opportunities I’ve had of watching them this season I have been left with the impression that there is no plan to each game. The players seem to be playing an isolation game. There is no midfield since that would imply that a group of players are perfoming a rôle of supplying the ball to the forwards. My biggest disappointment this season is that FC has not been able to instill a sense of direction into the team. There doesn’t seem to be a system, so it’s hardly surprosing that we get walloped when we should be handing it out.

Time has run out – playing well and getting no result is no longer an acceptable situation. Of course that doesn’t apply to our lot very often – we are more in the category of getting what we deserve.

It looks like FHL has had enough of the stress. FC is upset at the lack of progress and I’d like to go on record as saying that I’m absolutely fed up at the lack of effort at the club to identify the root cause of what is wrong and then fixing it.

Changing Managers will do nothing (hasn’t in the past) until the root of the problem at the club is sorted out.

CTID, Mike Edwards (cityfan2@email.msn.com)

OPINION – GO!

Fatso Frank.

Well, I think he should go. We’re really in the dumps. What a t*** side we’ve got. I was back in Manchester for the Bradford game. We were total crap. I can’t believe these optimistic match reports that come in at all. Shape up City fans. If you’re paying £40 for a shirt I reckon you’re only prolonging the agony.

Well. Happy New Year anyway.

Matt Rayner – Finland (m@nwkengl.pp.fi)

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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.


[Valid3.2]Ashley Birch, mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com

Newsletter #359

1998/01/01

Editor:


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