Newsletter #410

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This issue has the fixtures for the forthcoming reserve warm-up games, and news of the rebirth of the official City web site, which promises to be a ‘top drawer’ offering, thanks to the efforts of Steve Sayer.

Peter Brophy suggested a few issues back that people might like to write articles for MCIVTA remembering past matches or players. Peter has started the ball rolling by sending in his memories of a player and a game most will have forgotten; please consider putting down your own memories and sending them in.

Next game, Sunderland at home, Saturday 18th July 1998 (Brightwell)

NEWS – RESERVE TEAM FIXTURES

Thurs. 	16 July	Droylsden	Away	7.30 KO
Weds. 	22 July	Bamber Bridge	Away	7.30 KO
Sat	25 July	Congleton	Away	3.00 KO
Weds	29 July	Lancaster City	Away	7.30 KO
Mon	3 Aug	Altrincham	Away	7.30 KO
Weds.	5 Aug	Radcliffe	Away	7.30 KO

CTID, Ian Reeves (ian.reeves@gecm.com)

NEWS – MCFC ON-LINE… COMING SOON!

The new official website, MCFC On-Line will relaunch on Wednesday July 9th with a full editorial service. The on-line catalogue and match commentary service will follow later in the month in time for the kit launch (July 30th) and the pre-season friendlies. A full multi-media press conference will also follow early on, with Joe Royle, to officially launch the site. The site will now provide a seven days a week service and much more besides.

Many of the features asked for earlier in the year during our survey have been acted upon to bring the site in line with other top football club sites. The new email address service will be mancity@mcfc.co.uk, with each department having their own email from within the site for ease of information flow. This replaces the current citynet@mcfc.slv.co.uk which is no longer in existence. So keep an eye out for the definitive City website, which is now truly the voice of Maine Road.

Steve Sayer

IN THE SHADOW OF UNITED

Just a quick note: the new Sky magazine arrived today and we all have a real treat in store for us.

On July 30th Sky are screening “In the Shadow of United”, a programme charting the downward slide of Manchester City since their relegation from the Premiership in 1996.

Can’t wait for that one.

Peter Utratny (Pjutratny@aol.com)

THE REASON WHY

I’ve said it before and I still stand by my fool-proof theory to explain the dramatic decline in City’s fortunes. The sole responsibility lies in the direct correlation between the shirt sponsors’ name and their standing within the business community or the product they produce, or even their slogan. Several test cases have proved that, without contradiction, this system actually is astoundingly accurate:-

Manchester United – SHARP. Self explanatory, I think.
Arsenal – JVC. Petty damn good stereo stuff if you ask me.
Liverpool – CARLSBERG. “Probably the best…”
Leeds United – PACKARD BELL. Things haven’t been going all that well at Elland Road recently!
Everton – ONE TO ONE . Need I say more?
Manchester City – BROTHER. Anyone for a knitting machine?

My personal favorite! Were not Oldham Athletic sponsored by LEES during their rapid climb up the league tables and cup runs (see bottom line for explanation). What favours will SLUMBERLAND offer them next season?

Perhaps a little research into the financial pages is called for. How about MICROSOFT! City are already half way there. They’ve got a monopoly already, unfortunately Microsoft are actually making copious amounts of money with theirs. City appear to only have a monopoly on crappy professional footballers. What we really need though is HEINEKEN – “Refreshes the parts other beer’s cannot ..”. Perhaps we should just go all the way and make an approach to the makers of VIAGRA!

Before I go, Shawn Goater’s mum sends her love!

Dave Lees – Flatt’s Village, Bermuda (enzosnose@northrock.bm)

FAVOURITE MATCHES/PLAYERS

A few weeks ago, Ashley asked for ideas on possible features for MCIVTA. I don’t know if anyone else would fancy it, but I’d quite like to see a series of pieces remembering past matches, past players or both. While this notion might be seen by some as wallowing in nostalgia, I think we’re entitled given the current state of things to remember times when our fixture list didn’t contain names like Macclesfield, Chesterfield or Northampton and when we weren’t fielding players of the quality of Brannan or Creaney.

I think it would be interesting to people if contributors focused on matches or players with a resonance for themselves which wouldn’t necessarily be shared by everyone. For example, we could all recall the 5-1 or Georgi Kinkladze, but to my mind a unique and personal element would make the pieces more absorbing.

When I e-mailed Ashley with this idea, he suggested that I submit a piece which could be included and then others could follow up if they had the inclination. As ever, it’s turned out a little longer than I’d have wanted, but here’s something to try to get the ball rolling.


Gordon Hobson’s Finest Hour

I’d guess that most people reading this can’t even remember who Gordon Hobson was – that’s if they ever knew in the first place. However, one of my most memorable Maine Road afternoons was the one which witnessed Gordon Hobson’s finest hour. It was a highly signficant footballing moment for me, too. I’d always aspired to make the back pages for my rôle at a City game, and as the 1986-87 season drew to a close, it actually happened, even if the circumstances weren’t the same as in my childhood dreams. Gordon Hobson and I, a somewhat unlikely duo, are probably the only people now who could still readily recall Southampton’s visit to Maine Road on a grey April Saturday.

It won’t be too difficult for City fans to recapture the frame of mind prevalent amongst the club’s supporters at the time. City were involved in an ultimately fruitless scrap against relegation. The Southampton game was, I seem to remember, the first of three home games in a week. Spurs and Watford were to visit subsequently, and it seemed like a great chance to grab four or five desperately needed points.

In retrospect, it’s hard to see why I was so optimistic. City had struggled all season and a couple of weeks previously had crashed 4-0 away to fellow relegation candidates Leicester (an abject performance, though we’d probably ploughed even greater depths in the 5-0 defeat at Charlton over Christmas). However, a 0-0 draw in another crucial basement battle at Villa was all I needed to give me grounds for hope. In mitigation, I can only say that I was seventeen then and more prone to bursts of irrational confidence in Manchester City. The intervening eleven years have rather put paid to this unwise trait.

It’s easier to outline why Gordon Hobson enjoyed his day so much than to explain why it assumed such significance for me. Hobson was a journeyman striker, who spent most of his career in the lower reaches of the Football League with Lincoln and also played for Grimsby. His one shot at the big time came after being bought by Southampton. Their side in those days had star players like Shilton, Wright and Wallace, while a couple of youngsters called Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer were beginning their careers. With the best will in the world Hobson was a little out of place in such elevated company and he didn’t make much of an impact in his time at The Dell. Or to put it more accurately, he didn’t make much of an impact apart from when he lined up against City in April 1987.

In fact, things had started well that day for an attack-minded City side featuring two out and out wingers to provide ammunition for Stewart and Varadi. Paul Stewart’s early strike (his first for the club, a powerful header past Peter Shilton) gave us an entirely deserved advantage. We could have added more, too, had we not shown our customary profligacy in front of goal. However, those who have forgotten the match completely or who weren’t present that day won’t be surprised to learn that some slack defending gave Southampton an equaliser just before half time. The naïvete of youth prompted me to think that this was merely a temporary set-back for our bold survival crusade.

Needless to say, I was wrong. City’s defence collapsed in a manner which would make the England cricket team’s middle order batting appear a bastion of determination and resolve in comparison. After Southampton took a two-one lead, City manager Jimmy Frizzell went for broke, sending on Paul Moulden, a fifth forward, in place of centre-back Kenny Clements. Moulden duly scored a second City goal. Unfortunately, it came in the closing minutes, by which time we’d conceded four (and were lucky not to have given away several more). Our tormentor in chief was none other than Gordon Hobson, who scored a hat-trick as our back line made him look like a cross between Pele, Cruyff and Maradona.

The match marked the point when I finally reconciled myself to a return to the old Second Division, having done my best to ignore the overwhelming weight of the evidence throughout the season. I was utterly mortified by the performance and so were all the home fans. Somehow, and with all due respect to him (after all, he had footballing ability I can only dream of), the whole sorry situation was summed up by the fact that, rather than one of Southampton’s stars, it was the balding and little-known Hobson who was the principal author of our misfortune.

One incident encapsulated the crowd’s feelings. I remember standing on the Kippax terrace in the second half as one of the players booted a clearance into our midst. The most effective form of protest for the disenfranchised supporters was to hold onto the ball. The players stood bemused until someone made the rather elementary deduction that play wouldn’t be able to continue until a replacement ball was fetched from the dressing room area. The City fans on the Kippax forsook following events on the pitch, deriving far greater enjoyment from their own game of propelling the ball around the terrace and chanting defiantly that it wouldn’t be making a return to the field of play. A kill-joy policeman finally put paid to the fun when he caught a wayward throw and, to much derisive jeering, refused to return the ball to the fans. This welcome distraction removed, the mood turned to anger and the fans howled their disapproval with a vehemence I have seen only rarely at Maine Road. It was in this Hobson-inspired sea of discontent that my own fifteen minutes of football fame occurred.

City’s promotion season in 1985 had been supposed to be the last we’d see of life outside the top flight (little did any of us realise at the time quite how wide of the mark this hopeful prognosis would turn out to be). The fact that we appeared to be sliding backwards rather than making progress had caused much frustration and anger. Fans recognised that the predominantly young team was doing its best. Jimmy Frizzell largely escaped criticism, as it was evident that any manager would struggle if forced to field half his youth team and a succession of cut-price signings. It was, not for the first or last time, Peter Swales who bore the brunt of the fans’ complaints.

Then, as later, I was firmly in the “Swales Out” camp and even today haven’t reconsidered my views. I’d be able to explain why in great detail, but this isn’t the place to get sidetracked into an airing of these old issues. All that matters is that, whatever the rights and wrongs of the argument, I felt as a committed and passionate fan that City would be better off with a change at boardroom level. I’ve never joined any organised fans’ pressure group, but this was the one occasion when I really wanted to make my voice heard. The 1986-87 season had marked the beginning of a new Saturday afternoon sports show on Piccadilly Radio. The programme was presented by James H. Reeve with Tommy Docherty as the expert pundit and I enjoyed it tremendously. When I was looking for a vehicle to air my views, it seemed the natural choice. There were only a couple of problems – I wasn’t sure if I had the bottle to go on a radio phone-in and I couldn’t guarantee being at home at the right time even if I did, since I was usually on my way to or from a City match when the phone-in was on air.

I decided that I’d write a letter and structured my comments carefully. After a cursory introduction, I moved on to detailed arguments – I knew this section wouldn’t be read out, but I wanted to show that some thought had actually gone into shaping my views so mine wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to a poor league placing. Finally came a short closing paragraph, with my bones of contention recited in concise and, I hoped, listener-friendly bullet-point form. I felt pleased with my efforts.

In truth, I was only partially successful. What I had felt was a powerful conclusion had been ignored, and I considered that some of my most telling comments were overlooked in the ensuing debate. Nevertheless, when I listened later to my mum’s recording of the programme’s opening hour I wasn’t entirely dissatisfied. The letter had been read out early on, and had ensured that Alex Ferguson’s early troubles at Old Trafford were scarcely mentioned as discussion on the programme centred round City’s plight. My belief in my potential as an opinion former thus fortified, I considered what other outlet might allow for an effective further expression of my views. I decided that a more direct form of protest was in order.

At this time, I used to attend matches with a group of friends and all sympathised with my views, so a couple of them readily pitched in with assistance. One was responsible for producing all the plays put on at our school. He therefore had access to the props and to an assortment of other materials for the construction of scenery. Most crucially for our purposes, in the eclectic hoard of items under his custody were some pots of paint. Another friend brought in a large white sheet, and this gave us everything we needed.

The design of our banner was the subject of much careful thought. We especially wanted to emphasise that our complaints arose from a sense of concern over the club’s long-term well-being rather than from poor results in the short term. We were anxious, too, to reiterate that our dismay over Swales’s stewardship did not detract from our enduring and resolute support of the team. In the centre, we painted the bold, black legend “Up or down – Swales must go” – in other words, even if the team avoided relegation (this, remember, was before Gordon Hobson showed what a forlorn hope City’s survival really was), we felt the issue needed to be addressed. We painted “MCFC” in sky blue down each side of our sheet to affirm our loyalty to the club itself. The banner was completed on the Thursday before the Southampton match. On the Friday, I took it home and awaited the weekend, always keenly anticipated, with more excitement than normal.

I followed my habitual pre-match routine. I left the house at about one o’ clock, just after Football Focus and The Saint and Greavsie. The early start was necessary because of the erratic frequency of buses on the 41 route from Sale, through Northenden, West Didsbury, Withington and Fallowfield to Rusholme (where I alighted, at Platt Fields) and into the city centre along Wilmslow Road and Oxford Road. The timetable bore scant resemblence to the reality, and I invariably had a long wait. However, that day, a bus must have appeared more or less immediately, because I remember being at Maine Road in time to see the Southampton players stepping off their team coach. There was Peter Shilton, a goalkeeper of legendary stature. There was Mark Wright, a young centre-half exepected to be an England regular for years to come. There was Danny Wallace, widely considered one of the country’s most exciting forwards. And, of course, there was Gordon Hobson, whose unassuming gait belied the devastating impact he was to have a couple of hours later.

I met my friends just after two o’clock, outside the Kippax. This was earlier than usual, but we wanted our declaration on view for the greatest possible length of time. We normally stood roughly two thirds of the way back and two thirds of the way along towards the Platt Lane end. On this occasion, we held our customary line, but headed right to the front, determined to affix our handiwork to the perimeter fencing to ensure maximum exposure. This we did, under the watchful eye of a policeman who satisfied himself that we posed no security risk. For the next ten or fifteen minutes, our opinion of Peter Swales was on show to all early entrants into the stadium.

At this point a second policeman appeared. I heard a voice tell him over his walkie-talkie that the banner had to be removed. Needless to say, we were aggrieved, and I attempted to argue. Indeed, things became heated enough for me to be threatened with ejection from the ground. The thrust of my discourse was that I was merely exercising my freedom of speech, and that any law enforcement officer wishing to restrict this basic and fundamental right would be better suited to a career in the KGB. On reflection, I concede that the extrapolation of the incident from its original context to a symptom of the wider decay of the British democratic tradition may have been marginally exaggerated and melodramatic.

Accepting defeat, albeit with little grace, we removed the banner, and retreated back up the terracing. We resigned ourselves to the fact that our efforts had been in vain, and the three of us were muttering darkly about the injustice of it all. What we didn’t appreciate was that Gordon Hobson would intervene on our behalf. Of course, I desperately wanted City to win and give themselves an increased chance of staying up, so his actions were most unwelcome. However, I have little doubt that if Hobson hadn’t enjoyed his finest hour that day, our moment wouldn’t have come either. As the final whistle drew near, word spread that fans were already gathering on the forecourt outside the Main Stand to express their fury. We were as upset with everything as anyone, so it was an easy decision to head round to the front of the ground.

Absolutely justifiably in view of the way the club has been run, such manifestations of anger have long since become de rigeur at Manchester City. For example, I have an abiding memory of the last home game I attended before leaving England to work abroad, a dismal home defeat by Oxford on a miserable November night in 1996. At the end of the match, I raced off to Lloyd Street South with my long-time City-watching companion Greg (the provider of the sheet) to catch a bus into central Manchester for a farewell drink with some old friends. As I turned to take one last look at the old stadium, I was confronted by the reassuringly familiar sight of a large crowd forming outside the main entrance to give vent to utter disgust.

Just under a decade previously, this type of occasion was much more of a rarity, and the one at that Southampton match is certainly the first I remember participating in. Regrettably, on occasions I’ve seen the protests turn violent – at the Coventry match the night Brian Horton’s appointment was announced, for example. However, I don’t recall any such behaviour on the afternoon we unfurled our banner and marched through the North Stand bottleneck towards the forecourt. By this point, Gordon Hobson was no doubt relaxing in a nice warm bath, imagining the future glories to which he’d progress after years of spadework in the game’s lower reaches and contemplating all the “Hobson’s choice” headlines which would dominate the next morning’s newspapers.

As we turned the corner by the ticket office, a few hundred fans were already gathered, but many more were coming from all directions. The press estimated that the eventual number swelled to more than two thousand and fans seeing our banner immediately identified with it. We quickly found ourselves at the head of a column which swept to the front of the ever-growing mass around the crush-barriers surrounding the main entrance. The protest had more staying power than most I’ve attended, and half an hour after the final whistle, the crowd scarcely seemed to have thinned. The chanting was heart-felt and vociferous, though there were interjections of humour too, as anyone who’s followed City for any length of time would probably expect. By half past five, people were starting to drift away, and as six o’clock neared, we too elected to give up the ghost. However, there was a hard core determined to remain defiant, and many of them expressed disappointment at the impending departure of the proclamation which had been a focus for the assembled multitude’s feelings. Greg turned back with the banner and, to a hero’s reception, he took his place at the head of the remaining protestors.

The irony was that the catalyst for the furore been Gordon Hobson’s performance, and yet the spontaneous show of supporter discontent had the effect of limiting recognition for his feats. The papers on Sunday and Monday were not emblazoned with weak puns on the name Hobson, as the match became almost a footnote in most reports. Media interest centred round the demonstration, with the newspapers featuring photographs and detailed accounts. Regrettably, our banner wasn’t visible in any of the pictures, but its existence was reported in both The Sun and The Mirror, the two papers with the widest circulation. The Sun even went as far as to reproduce our slogan word for word. I believe Greg still has the cutting.

Obviously, as a child I’d dreamed of featuring in City match reports for my heroic on-field exploits, but I knew from an early age that it would never happen. The day after Gordon Hobson’s finest hour was as close as I’ll ever get, and that’s why I can still recollect a home defeat by Southampton which is no doubt long-forgotten by almost everyone.

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

THEORY…

In MCIVTA 409 Peter Share asked if anyone had “any theories regarding the break-neck speed at which such an enormous club has plummeted to the Second Division.” Well here’s mine.

  1. If you want to improve a team then you have to improve eachindividual player. However, once that player has reached his best, the onlysolution is to get a better player. Certainly, since Alan Ball’s-up first took over, City’s policy hasbeen to replace players with players of inferior quality. If youstart with a Rolls Royce and trade down you eventually end up with a ReliantRobin. It will get you from A to B but you may as well walk.If you want to get back to the top then you need to replace playerswith better players; that does not necessarily mean big names, justbetter players.
  2. A good manager will win more games than he loses. He may notwin every game but enough to make the team be feared.The record of managers since Peter Reid has been poor to downrightgarbage. A good manager will be able to motivate the team and producethe right tactics.I don’t subscribe to the stability arguement. The top qualitysides in Europe sack their managers willy-nilly but still end up at thetop of their leagues and in European competitions year after year. The blokefrom Madrid got the boot and he won the European Cup (sorry, Champions’League), the competition for League Champions and 1st losers.
  3. Finance, it’s true that money does not automatically buy success, but ithelps. In recent years City have not had enough money to buythe best players and they have paid over the odds for bad players. Whyelse are we stuck with players that we either can’t sell or even giveaway?

If City can reverse the recent trend of 1-2-3 then they may return to the top flight. If they don’t then the China Syndrome may continue and we may drop even lower. I believe that City are still seen as a big club but so once were Wolves, Blackpool, Preston. Even I am beginning to feel the strain; I still go but I know many who are not, these people aren’t the hangers on who only go to the big games or when we do well, they are the people who have been loyal supporters for many years.

So come on JR, let’s hope you’ve got the bottle to get the job done and return us to our rightful place, in the top flight of English football, I’m not asking to win the League, Cup and Europe (wouldn’t be against it though) but to at least be spoken about with respect and not with mirth.

City But Can’t Take Much More, Peter Astbury aka Newton Blue (p.astbury@which.net)

OPINION FROM PERTH WA

What do Coventry know which City’s management team don’t? Surely Cock-up & Boob are not Premier material or have they been acquired to boost their reserve team? Strachan must be more demented than all of the City managers over the last 4 years.

Speaking of managers at Maine Road and whilst I sympathise with recent writers to MCIVTA to support him, what exactly is Joe Royle’s current state of mind? I have just received last week’s copy of the Pink, and instead of reading that Joe is desperately persuing attack-minded new players and may I suggest a winger, he is poncing on about the lack of security at the Platt Lane complex, with the possibility of some maniac slashing a City player to death or worse chopping his own head off. Does he not think City fans have had enough opportunity to do this!

What is it about the City manager’s position that sends them into an alcoholic stupour with mad mumblings; à la Mr Clark who slurred every statement he made at the end of his reign, unlike when he joined us when I recall him hurling abuse at Cock-up Symons for fannying about with the ball and we were beating Oxford away, 4-0 at the time.

I am sorry Joe but it’s just not good enough, the one and only thing you should be reinforcing is that the City team of 98/99 are going to play with pride, with a spirit of adventure and hopefully reinforced at sometime with a few quality players: instead of asking the board to fund a totally wasteful new training facility costing £4.5 million – unbelievable!

Finally, Graham Hine recently wrote to MCIVTA proffering support for one Mark Hughes. I strongly support his comments and disagree with other views of him still being Premiership quality (mind you Coventry will certainly disagree with me). Why not finish his career at Maine Road and then start a revolution to take over Joe’s job?

As you may gather, Joe does not impress me one iota.

Peter McDonald (petemc@shp.iinet.net.au)

IN REPLY TO – “WHO PLAYED NEXT TO HESLOP”?

  1. Ken Mulhearn/Harry Dowd
  2. Tony Book
  3. Glynn Pardoe
  4. Mike Doyle
  5. George Heslop
  6. Alan Oakes
  7. Mike Summerbee
  8. Colin Bell
  9. Francis Lee
  10. Neil Young
  11. Tony Coleman
  12. Arthur Mann

Ahhhh sweet memories … Andy Birkin (A_J_Birkin@Email.msn.com)

REQUEST – PORTSMOUTH AREA BLUES

Are there any Blues out there who live in the Portsmouth area who want to go to some of City’s matches (home and away) in the forthcoming season (1998-1999)? If you’re interested, send me a mail at the address below.

Vince Buller (BullerGems@aol.com)

REQUEST – NEW AWAY SHIRT

Does anybody know the details of the new away shirt for 1998/9 season? Is it the yellow and black one they played in for the majority of last season’s away games?

Hope to hear comments soon.

Mark Dutton (MarkDutton@Saltunion.com)

REQUEST – USA BOUND BLUES

Looks from here like the rats are beginning to leave what we hope is not a sinking ship (Bobby and Kit). We on the other hand are definitely not sinking and our next stop is New Orleans. Unfortunately we missed the Argentina game. Anyone fancy doing us a match report?

Managed to see the Columbia game in Rodman, Panama in a British-run pub. What a great performance. There were about 80 of us in there, two with City colours on; we even got filmed for local TV (which was shown straight after the game!).

We now have 2 contacts in Boston, any Blues in Baltimore, Tampa?

Have a nice day y’allll!

Johnny Mac and General Booth (339@navynet.gtnet.gov.uk)

WHY BLUE?

I am a Blue for the only possible reason for being a Blue. I was born into a family of Reds. My sister had the good fortune to meet a Blue who took me to Maine Road in the fifties when I was about 8 and we lost to West Ham 5-3 and I loved it! Blue logic!

I then followed them until I moved to California in ’79. My mother-in-law still sends me the Pink tho so I can read about the latest tragedy and occasionally we see a game.

I do rememmber going to Huddersfield in the old Second Division and the trips to Wembley. Driving through Leeds after beating Newcastle is still my fondest memory (I still have the brown ale bottle I brought back the turf in – the turf died), after the trip to Tottenham the week before.

Keep this going, not everyone will reply but we all appreciate the work you guys put in. Thanks again. Remember we did have managers like George Poyser and still won!

J Heavis (JHeavis502@aol.com)

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


MCIVTA ADDRESSES:
Contributions: Ashley – mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com
Subscriptions & Club Questions: Steve – sbolton@buxtonrd.u-net.com
Technical Problems: Paul – paul@city-fan.org


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 #410

1998/06/29

Editor:


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