Newsletter #365

The only real news is that Lee Bradbury came through a friendly game with Oldham earlier in the week and is apparently available to play against West Ham this Sunday. Talking of this game, this issue contains no less than four places to meet up round the world to watch the game live! Other than that, we have a lot of opinion – including some from a Sunderland fan – and another cracking Why Blue.

Next game, West Ham United at home, F.A. Cup 4, Sunday 25th January 1998


Reuters – Manchester United may be English soccer kings but down-on-their-luck Manchester City are definitely upper crust!

First Division City, high scorers with a winning combination of lightly spiced meat and potato, were named on Monday among five finalists in Total Football magazine’s competition for the best football pie in Britain. They faces stiff compitition from reigning champions Kilmarnock, Yeovil Town – the only semi-professional pie in the final – Macclesfield Town and First Division rival Norwich City, who have top cook Delia Smith on their board.

Nizam Idris (
Klaus Petzel (
Charles Pollitt (


Manchester City are warning clubs – including Celtic – off attempting to snatch their prize asset Georgi Kinkladze by slapping a £12 million price tag on the brilliant Georgian.

Celtic are hugely keen on making the 24-year-old the signing who could win them the championship but are just the latest club to be rebuffed in their efforts. Dutch giants Ajax were stunned recently when they believed they were close to signing Kinkladze only to be met by that astonishing demand by Maine Road chairman Francis Lee. Morten Olsen wanted Kinkladze to link up with fellow Georgian Shota Arveladze and were capable of coming up with a substantial offer before Lee’s refusal to do a deal.

Celtic have received little encouragement either with the proposal that out of favour striker Tommy Johnson could travel south with cash in exchange for the midfielder. Sportsmail understands, however, that when Kinkladze signed his new City contract last summer an agreement was struck allowing him to leave in 12 months if the club failed to gain promotion to the Premiership. That appears unlikely now, with Frank Clark’s side stranded 18 points shy of a play-off place, and if Celtic wish to follow up their interest in the summer competition would be fierce. The player himself has a dream to play for Liverpool, while clubs in Italy and Barcelona in Spain will also be at the forefront of the bidding.

But Celtic head coach Wim Jansen wants to bolster his midfield with a playmaker who can provide constant service for Harald Brattbakk and company and his spending is not finished yet.

Charles Pollitt (


Gio Kinkladze was the centre of attention in the press this week, despite the fact that the press didn’t know where he was! On Tuesday the Daily Mail ran a story that City had put a £12 million price tag on the 24-year-old Georgian in a bid to ward off interested parties. The report said that Ajax “believed they were close to signing Kinkladze” to partner his close friend Shota Arveladze, and also that “Celtic are hugely keen” on him. There were no quotes in the article.

The City players were given Tuesday and Thursday off this week, but this wasn’t mentioned in a Daily Mirror report on Wednesday that said Kinkladze had missed training on Tuesday and had been seen at Manchester Airport carrying a small hold-all and boarding the shuttle to Heathrow. It also quoted Frank Clark as being “baffled” by his whereabouts and saying “I just hope Georgi’s in training tomorrow.” As it happens, Kinkladze was going to Heathrow to meet his sister, who was flying in from Tbilisi. The player was reported to be “furious” about the article when he found out about it. Incidentally, Kinkladze has recently purchased a house for around £600,000, which suggests that he doesn’t have any intention of leaving the North West in the near future.

The week’s other big news is that Lee Bradbury is set to return to the first team on Sunday, probably via the substitutes’ bench. He played the full 90 minutes of a reserve team friendly at Oldham’s training ground and came through with no adverse reaction. The game was refereed by Latics’ manager Neil Warnock and his side won 4-1. City’s team included Nigel Clough, the Whitley boys and Jason van Blerk as well as Bradbury, who scored City’s consolation goal from the penalty spot two minutes from the end. Frank Clark said: “He came through the game at Oldham without many problems. He looked sharp considering how long he’s been out. Lee played the full ninety minutes. There was no obvious reaction during the match and he said he felt fine.” A relieved Bradbury said: “It has been very hard for me sitting in the stand and watching us go up and down the league. The most frustrating thing is that I was just hitting form when the injury happened. It was a real bolt out of the blue and I can’t tell you how painful it was. I tried to return to training three weeks after getting the injury, but it was just no good. It is great to be back now and I feel fit enough to play on Sunday, but that is up to the manager. I feel as good as new. The fans have not seen the best of me yet and I am itching to get back into the action.”

One player who won’t be in action on Sunday is Gerard Wiekens, who has damaged ankle ligaments. Kevin Horlock has still not resumed full training but there is better news of the Georgians, Kinkladze (tooth abscess) and Shelia (knee), who are both expected to start the game. Shelia’s injury, at first thought to be a knee ligament problem, is no longer thought to be anything serious. It remains to be seen who will fill the midfield space vacated by Wiekens but it seems that Frank Clark will be choosing between Jim Whitley and Ged Brannan again. The City manager has thrown a protective veil over Whitley, refusing television requests for interviews with the 21 year old midfielder in the build up to the tie.

City will be hoping to keep up a decent record in the F.A. Cup this weekend, having made it to the fifth round for the last three seasons before going out with the help of some dubious refereeing decisions against Newcastle, Man. Utd. and Middlesbrough. Steve Lomas, victim of an assault by Middlesbrough’s Festa in the Cup game last season, is likely to be playing against City for the first time on Sunday and has been warning his new team-mates about Gio Kinkladze: “He is the big threat to us. Georgi has the knack of making defenders look silly. He is the quickest man I have seen with the ball at his feet. If we do not deny him space, he can destroy us. The move to West Ham has been a good one for me, although I never wanted to leave City. The cup draw brings me back to the place where I really learned my football and it will be difficult to adjust to playing against City and not for them. But we know this will not be easy for us. You can forget this being a Premiership side against one from the League. This is a one-off and either side can win it.”

Also looking forward to the West Ham game was Frank Clark: “A win on Sunday could turn our season round. However, the priority for us is to get back the three points that we dropped against Sunderland. I accept that the Cup is something to look forward to for our supporters, but the really important game for us is the one that follows [against Charlton next Wednesday]. It has been the story of our season that we have not been able to put a run together and we have to try to solve that problem. We can play a lot better than we did against Sunderland and we have to. What we need is to put two or three wins together to give us breathing space. Then maybe we will relax and play all the better.”

Uwe R