Newsletter #454

Another mixed performance, some good, some bad. We have 3 match reports, as well as a news summary (I think we also have a Scandinavian trialist this week, as yet unnamed!), the squad changes, opinion and a Why Bleu.

James Talbot has asked me to point out that he was not one of the people heckling Chris Bird at TG2, just the comedian.

This one goes out to 2,280.

Next game, FAC 2nd Round, Darlington away, Friday 4th December 1998


LUTON TOWN vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 28th November 1998

This looked like being a tough game for City against a Luton team with some good ‘scalps’ of higher division teams in the Worthington Cup this season (I was hoping that Luton had their minds on next Tuesday night’s game at Sunderland in the quarter-finals). A somewhat wet day in Luton and a slippery pitch, although at kick-off it wasn’t raining; the stadium was almost full to capacity, an attendance of 9,100, but not the sell-out I had expected. We had another new signing to look forward to in Gareth Taylor (some regrets on my part that it wasn’t Hignett – dream start for him at Barnsley), but I couldn’t help thinking that it’s about time we had more of a settled team by now. The City line-up was:

          Edghill   Vaughan   Wiekens    Morrison
          Crooks    Mason     Bishop    Russell
                     Goater   Taylor

Subs: Tiatto, Brown, (Dickov not used)

Actually, I’m not really sure of the exact formation; maybe Russell was up front as well.

Luton started with a lot of possession and had the best of the first 5 minutes but City were looking very secure at the back and gradually began to assert a grip on the game. Luton were playing the offside trap very successfully, catching Taylor in particular several times but it can be a dangerous game and Goater at one time found himself in yards of space right in front of the goal. Unfortunately it appeared to scare him to death and he put a tame header wide. Taylor at this stage was looking strong and mobile without getting any chances.

City really dominated the rest of the first half with some slick football, plenty of quick passing and movement (wow! am I really saying that?). They got a well-deserved goal after 29 minutes from a corner on the left. The ball was delivered to the far post where Morrison rose to head back over the ‘keeper into the net. We could have done with a few more corners, with the likes of Morrison and Wiekens joining Taylor and Goater up front – quite a threat to most defences.

The rest of the half passed with City in control but Luton showed a little of their potential when Weaver was called on to make a really fine save, diving low to his left. Morrison took a heavy knock towards the end of the 45 but appeared to recover.

Half time was, for once, a comfortable experience – we were in control, really solid in defence, playing good football and even appearing dangerous up front. The rain then sheeted down for some time, auguring a more difficult second period for us?

Morrison didn’t reappear and he was replaced by Tiatto. This was obviously a big loss for us – he’s becoming a key player at the back and contributing useful goals. Whatever the reason, the second half was a different game, with City seeming to defend in depth, posing very few threats on the Luton goal.

Still, we defended pretty well for a time. In the 75th minute, however, concentration seemed to be lost as Luton took a corner hard and low that their 18-year-old substitute headed in. With Morrison on the pitch I don’t think this would have been conceded (where is Shelia these days?). This was the impetus for Luton to launch waves of attacks and we were hanging on for the last 15. When Luton are allowed to get a momentum going, they’re difficult for any side to hold and they could well have won this game – their centre back Davis missed one sitter right in front of goal and Edghill was nearly forced into putting through his own net, being rescued by another great Weaver save.

Brown had replaced Bishop presumably in an attempt to halt the Luton flow but he made little difference. He did, however, produce our best (only?) moment of the second half with a good run and dribble deep into their penalty area. Our tackling was fierce at times with Vaughan and one other being booked and, all in all, I was very relieved to hear the final whistle.

It’s difficult to know how to summarise this game but I think I’ll be positive; City were playing against a very useful team and at times (the first half) looked like they were approaching the finished article at last. We have a solid defence now and the midfield acquitted itself better than of late, though we could do with some goals from this part of the team. If Taylor settles in then maybe we have the makings of a balanced side.

Ratings: Weaver (9) some great saves; Edghill (7) best I’ve seem him for some time; Vaughan (7); Wiekens (9) I once reported that this guy didn’t impress me – I was wrong!; Morrison (8); Crooks (6); Mason (7) getting better I think – helped out a lot when we came under pressure; Bishop (7) we need his creativity, I wish he lasted the game; Goater (6) distributed the ball quite well, but missed a sitter; Taylor (6) quiet start; Russell (6) busy but not that incisiveness shown against Halifax.
Subs: Tiatto (6), Brown (6).

Peter Kewley (


LUTON TOWN vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 28th November 1998

We are bloody here…

“We’re not, we’re not really here” Oh Yes City fans we are here and we could be staying here for a good while longer. We never looked like winning even when we were one – nil up, it was just a matter of time. I’ve never seen the City away following as quiet in a long time, as they were in that second half. The bloke up sweeps up the stands at Luton would’ve had piles of bitten nails the size of Mount Kilimanjaro.

To the game; in the first half the defence looked solid enough, with Morrison and Wiekens looking the business, and even Vaughan and Edghill looking solid (except Edghill always has to make the odd balls up). The goal was a header by Morrison but I didn’t get a great view as we were down the other end. When we scored there must have been some brave Blues in the Luton end who started celebrating, because all hell broke loose for a minute or two, until the local law arrived.

I feel we lacked in the middle of the park, we just didn’t have any presence, no-one to grab the game. Where was Pollock? Mason and Bishop are shoved off the ball too easily by the opposition. The forwards looked very ineffective, Goater and Taylor didn’t figure much for the entire 90 minutes. Goater won his usual amount in the air (not much), lacked pace against their back four and his running off the ball reminds me of Stevie Wonder. City had enough warnings before they scored, but they deserved their equaliser. Brown came on and got booked, no surprise there then. They could’ve won the game near the end, but our luck held out. As we left the atmosphere was very much one of a defeat.

Team was: Weaver, Edghill, Vaughan, Morrison (first half only, injured), Wiekens (my man of the match), Crooks, Mason, Bishop, Goater, Taylor, Russell. Subs: Tiatto (45 minutes), Brown (2nd half), Dickov (not used).

There was a lot of talk about Hignett scoring twice the night before, which just rubbed salt in the wounds. Luton’s ground was not very nice; we left by what looked like a fire escape and the toilets were in the back of a terraced house (had to be seen to be believed). “We’re not, we’re not really here”, oh yes we bloody are, and we may have to get used to it!



LUTON TOWN vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 28th November 1998

A sad reflection of how the mighty Man City have fallen hit me on Friday night before the Luton game. On entering the hotel lift down to reception, my wife and I were greeted with a ‘Hello’ from none other than Paul Dickov. I guess it was the Kappa gear that he was wearing, but having recognised that we were indeed in the company of my wife’s favourite player, we made our introductions and were informed that the rest of the team were in the restaurant. No, surely not I thought. Man City players should be staying in magnificent country lodges with acres of practice pitches, swimming pools and gyms. Not a city centre hotel that I can afford. My illusions shattered, we peered into the hotel restaurant and sure enough kitted out head to toe in Kappa gear was the entire City squad. Choosing not to remonstrate with the players for their awful performances this season and without wishing to appear as a City ‘groupie’ we gave the restaurant a miss. Perhaps the City players should also have done so because the ‘iffy’ breakfast I received the following morning from the same restaurant could be one possible explanation for another dire City performance.

Aside from a brilliant Niall Quinn goal 6 years ago, I have unhappy memories of Luton. There was that game in ’83 and a League Cup defeat in 88 left me very despondent – again. Surely, this was time for revenge? Displaying Joe Royle’s latest acquisition Gareth Taylor, City lined up in their newish 4-3-3 formation:-

Edghill   Wiekens   Morrison   Vaughan
     Mason      Bishop     Crooks
               Goater   Taylor    Russell

The first 5 minutes belonged to Luton, with their forwards playing simple balls in behind Edghill and Vaughan and only last ditch tackling from Wiekens stopped City from conceding an early goal. Having settled, City then began to dominate. Bishop was looking good, playing some simple but effective passes and Russell was seeing a lot of possession. Indeed, Russell was looking very sharp, constantly beating his marker and was giving City some much missed width to their attacks. It was a link up between these two that saw City’s best chance of the match. Russell played a great ball in from the left, and Goater, for once beating the offside trap, headed wide when unmarked from 5 yards. A great flowing move starting from the back earned City a corner in the 29th minute, and from Bishop’s lofted kick Morrison rose above the Luton defence on the 6-yard box and powered in a great header which the defender on the line could do no more than merely deflect the ball into the net. Yesss!

Luton came back into the game more after the goal, and a couple of dangerous balls across the 6 yard line could have gone anywhere. Weaver made a couple of good saves at the foot of the post and Luton corners were beginning to develop a regular pattern. Long ball into the area, City head it clear, falls straight to an unmarked Luton player on the edge of the penalty area. Panic ensues and City just manage to hang on. Why oh why, did City not pick up these ‘free’ players hanging on the edge I just don’t know. Come on Donachie sort it out.

Second half and Morisson didn’t reappear. Tiatto came on as left back and Vaughan moved across to the middle. Not a good start for Tiatto either. He lost the ball badly with his first 3 touches allowing Luton to develop a couple of attacks which thankfully came to nothing. Luton were getting more and more into their stride and with the backbone of City’s defence looking far less secure you just knew Luton were going to score. Sure enough, from a corner in the 76th minute, Luton substitute Doherty rose above the statuesque City defence to put Luton level. Aaaagh!

In the last 5 minutes Luton should really have won the game. Again, one of Luton’s big forwards (it was down the other end!) had a free header, but somehow managed to put it wide. City didn’t have one chance of note in the second half and quite simply look a very poor side. Craig Russell had obviously been earmarked as City’s more dangerous player in the first half and was marked out of the game in the second. Goater was back to his usual self after his much improved performance against Gillingham. Gareth Taylor looks like a poor man’s Niall Quinn. Not quite as tall at Niall, doesn’t win many 50-50 balls, can’t head the ball as well as Niall, and doesn’t possess his deft touch on the ball. All in all, looks like another astute Royle purchase! I understand Royle has since said that Taylor wasn’t fully match fit. So why the …. did he play him then, and why when it was apparent that he was totally ineffective did he not bring on Paul Dickov?

In midfield. Mason was getting shrugged off the ball quite easily, but he was giving his all and certainly didn’t justify the slagging off that he was getting from the crowd around me. Bishop tired in the second half and his replacement Michael Brown was really up for it. He won all of his tackles and was unfortunately booked again. He went on a couple of Kinky like runs that again lacked a good finish, but he really deserves an extended run in the team. Crooks was solid and again unspectacular. I just wish he’d practice his shooting. I’ve not seen him hit a shot yet that doesn’t finish at least 10 yards over the bar.

On leaving the ground I overheard some Luton fans summing City up quite well. ‘A very average Second Division team. Not bad at the back, but awful up front’. I’m afraid I have to agree.

I am getting very concerned about Joe Royle’s judgement on players. Yet again we see another of his purchases put in a poor performance. If we are to believe David Bernstein when he says that the sale of Lee Bradbury was a footballing one made by Joe Royle and not forced on him, then replacing Bradbury with Gareth Taylor defies logic. I understand that Royle is still after Michael Branch who has already proved to the majority of City fans that he won’t fit into this City team in this division. What is going on? Is Joe Royle really determined to prove that Alan Ball doesn’t see out this century as Man City’s worst manager?

Colin Jonas (


Don’t know if big Joe used this line after the match, but the whole game turned on the injury to Andy Morrison just before half time. Consequently he didn’t enter the fray in the second half. Not only did our lethal attacking weapon disappear but the defence looked arse without his leadership.

Suffice to say that when a Luton corner came over late in the second half our lot were absent without leave to allow their sub. a free header which left Leonardo Di Weaverio rooted.

Main Points:

Goater – great first 20 minutes, did everything well and should have scored when at last he beat the offside trap only to head wide. Fell away towards end of the game, but ran tirelessly.

Taylor – didn’t look interested at first but started to gel with Goater – no real scoring chances, tried to help the defence at the end.

Morrison – great goal, solid in defence, hope he’s not another long-term injury.

Mason – needs to be rested. Crowd were beginning to get at him in the second half when he ducked out of a couple of challenges. Dickov would have been ideal at this stage but hey, when do the management see the same game as us?

Support – sell out, good vocal support, bit of a rumpus after our goal.

Tim Edmondson (


We got us a Striker!

Joe Royle has completed the signing of Sheffield United’s Welsh international striker Gareth Taylor. The initial fee for Taylor is £350,000 with a further £50,000 payable by City based on appearances. Personal terms and a medical were sorted out in time for the 25-year-old Taylor to make his City début against Luton Town last Saturday at Kenilworth Road. The 6’2″ tall striker is an excellent target man, with his ability in the air one of his main assets; prior to the start of the season, the striker had scored 41 league goals in 139 appearances for Bristol Rovers, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United. Taylor has won eight caps for Wales, and nearly joined Huddersfield Town last season but failed a medical. Reports on Blue View seem to rate him as a “The White Shauny Goater!”; make of that what you will. Joe Royle reckons he will need time to get match fitness.

Branch goes back to Kendall’s Wife (but Joe is hopeful)

Michael Branch has returned to Everton after completeing his month with City. He is to have talks with Toffee’s manager Walter Smith to see where he stands, probebly on the sidelines with the rest of the wannabees. But JR is still interested in the little fella even though he missed the 1-1 draw at Luton after injuring an ankle playing for the Nationwide League against the Italians. “With Michael going back to Everton at least for the initial period we decided not to involve him at Luton but he quite understood,” said Joe Royle, who has not given up hope of signing Branch. “I will be speaking to Walter about him this week to see whether something can be sorted out,” said Royle, who would have been unable to play Branch at Darlington on Friday because loan players are ineligible for the FA Cup.

Andy Fighting for Fitness

New Blue Cult hero Andy Morrison is battling to be fit for City’s tricky FA Cup tie on Friday night, stand in captain and goal scorer at Luton before going off at Half time injured with a damaged hip. “We haven’t given up on him for Darlington and if there’s any chance he will play,” confirmed Royle who knew in the dressing room at half time at Kenilworth Road that his skipper was struggling to carry on. “He’d landed very heavily. He came and won a header and then turned on his hip and he is a bit dead around his buttock and his thigh which would indicate he might have landed on a nerve.” The Darlo pitch survived their 3-0 beating of Scarborough and if it doesn’t rain between now and Friday night then the match will get the go ahead. Here’s hoping that JR doesn’t make the same mistake as Big Mal did at Shrewsbury all those years ago when he told all he City players before the game that the pitch was unplayable; surprisingly we lost 2-0.

Brown link resurfaces

The Sunday newspapers suggested that Michael Brown was set for a move this week to Barnsley, a story which first circulated a couple of weeks ago. Last week, the Yorkshire side spent £800,000 on Craig Hignett (now where have I heard that name before?) so a move for Brown to Oakwell seems unlikely, unless they’re willing to offer Hignett in part exchange!

City to ditch Kappa rumour!

Another Sunday newspaper story claimed that City were about to ditch their current kit suppliers Kappa in favour of Adidas! The story reported that the club had already lined up a deal with Adidas and that the Kappa contract was “unlikely to be renewed.” City have had a few problems with Kappa in recent seasons in terms of kit supply, but with the new first-team kit reportedly at an advanced design stage a switch to Adidas would seem to be highly unlikely at this moment in time. Agggh! Can you imagine giving up a contract that has City’s shirt being the third best seller in the country, for the brand with the 3 stripes?

Those that we have loved and lost

Two former City defenders of differing eras, and greatly differing abilities, came face to face at Celtic Park on Sunday afternoon in the Scottish League Cup Final. Rangers’ Colin Hendry came up against St. Johnstone’s alleged defender Alan Kernaghan (worth £1.6 million of anybody’s money), with the ‘Gers beating the Saints 2-1. Elsewhere at the weekend, Uwe Rösler was on the mark for Kaiserslautern as the defending German champions beat Schalke 4-1. Rösler wasn’t the only former City striker on the mark at the weekend, as Niall Quinn, Mike Sheron, Ashley Ward and Carl Griffiths were all on the scoresheet for their clubs in the Nationwide.

Peepo on the mend (Hurry up please!)

Kakhaber Tskhadadze is the winner of the Richard Jobson award as he could be back in serious training early in the New Year after damaging his cruciate ligament in City’s third game of the season at Fulham back in August. Joe Royle said: “He’s going very well and is well ahead of schedule. At this stage he is starting to move at half pace, maybe a bit more. He’s talking about four weeks which may be a bit premature, but having progressed so well already, who knows?” Get well soon Peepo!

City in Extended cup run shock!

The City youngsters have been given a home draw in the FA Youth Cup third round following their 6-0 win against Carlisle at Maine Road last Tuesday. City have a home tie against Sheffield Wednesday, with the game having to be played before Saturday, January 9th. Good luck to the boys in blue. And the reserves were in cup action too. Jamie Pollock played the full 90 minutes for the reserves in a 3-3 draw with Tranmere Rovers in the Pontin’s League Cup game at Hyde. The City skipper was given the full match to step up his bid for fitness as City twice threw away the lead and then had to come from behind to snatch a point in the group game. Danny Allsopp gave City the lead after combining with fellow Australian Danny Tiatto, only for Tranmere to equalise early in the second half. Chris Greenacre restored City’s lead but Tranmere hit back with two goals, one of them from the penalty spot following a foul by Neil Morley. Michael Brown popped up with a header four minutes from the end to earn a draw.

Robins’ star linked

According to sources in the south-west (is that Worcester sauce?), the Blues have been linked with a move for Bristol City star Brian Tinnion, although the player himself has denied that he’s about to leave Ashton Gate. The 30-year old former Newcastle and Bradford player can play at either left-back or on the left hand side of midfield. Joe Royle, of course, is a former Bristol City player, as is Shaun Goater, which is presumably where the reported Tinnion recommendation will have come from.

Beauchamp fails again! (This is beyond a joke!)

One time City transfer target and famous mammy’s boy Joey Beauchamp of Oxford had decided to flee the nest at last but failed a medical at Southampton after he’d been poised to end all the speculation about his future by moving to the Dell. The winger failed a medical at Nottingham Forest a few weeks ago – can you see a pattern forming?

Royle player purge goes on

Joe Royle has vowed to carry on his purge of the playing staff to slash costs. As many as ten more players could be on their way out of Maine Road before the end of the season. “Ideally, I would hope to have the squad down to around 24 or 25 within next year,” promised Royle, who has already undertaken a massive clear out of the City staff. “Another eight or ten players could be gone by the end of this season. Some of those will be young professionals and others coming to the end of their contracts. There were 54 professionals when I arrived which was a ridiculous situation,” added the City boss. “There are now 32 players on the staff and the situation is a lot more healthy than when I joined the club. More players will be leaving the club. We still have a number available for transfer while we look for that extra bit of quality to help our promotion push.” Royle is still after a new winger to improve the quality of the service to the front players, although service is one thing; the ability to finish off the chances that service provides is another thing altogether!

If it talks and walks like a duck, maybe it will taste like a duck? I may be putting 2 and 2 together and getting 657 but Tottenham have been playing Andy Sinton out of position at left back. Now Sinton was one of the guys that was supposedly on his way to City a couple of weeks back on loan, and City’s need for a full back is well known and I wonder if George Graham is showcasing Sinton in the position to entice Royle?

Of course this is just what City needs. Another player who isn’t a natural left back.

Thanks to Wallace Poulter for the contribution –

Howard McCarthy (


After solving a request for the missing 27 (in fact 30), I felt duty bound to respond to the a couple of other items.

Concerning Steve Brocklehurst’s feeling that ‘Whatever’ reminded him of Neil Innes’ “The Idiot Song”. Innes sued Oasis for plagiarism and they had to fork out a slice of the royalties. Noel, incidently, claimed he’d never even heard of the song, never mind heard it. Consequently it’s the only Oasis single not to appear on an album, to avoid giving away another slice of pie.

The other one was an unsigned (M Strong?) request for the last time we came from behind to win. I’ll rephrase that. Won after going a goal down. We haven’t this season, can’t remember us doing it last, so Reading at home last day of the ’96-’97 season. Won 3-2 after being 2-0 down. We were losing 1-0 at home to Grimsby a couple of weeks before and won 3-1.


Further to my listing of the thirty missing in (in)action, I read that Joe believes that he now has a squad of thirty two pro’s and would like to end up with twenty four/five by the end of the year. He’s already upped it to thirty three with Taylor and would like to bring in at least one more. He’s looking at getting rid of eight to ten by the end of the season. So who? We have to assume Kelly, Greenacre, Heaney and Russell as they are on the list. Rimmer and Morley will both be twenty by the end of the season. So unless they break through between now and then, and they don’t seem to even be in the frame, they’ll be off. Throw Porteus into the same category and there’s potentially another three. I’d hope that Wright and Jobson will be two. They’re both thirty six next year (gulp, so am I). Given the choice, I’d make Vaughan the next onto the bonfire, but it’ll probably be Brown or a Whitley (Jeff?). If Joe is realistic about going up this season, then more than just one more purchase will be required. There are also a couple of youth players (Holmes, Mike etc.) who could well be in contention come the Spring. So we may end up losing all of the above.

Andy Noise (


Latest changes to squad:

Andy Morrison signed for £80,000 from Huddersfield
Branch returned to Everton
Gareth Taylor £400,000 signing from Sheff. Utd.

Tommy Wright
Nick Weaver
Michael Brown
Gerard Wiekens
Tony Vaughan
Richard Edghill
Anthony Fenton
Nick Fenton
Murtaz Shelia
Richard Jobson
Danny Tiatto
Kakhaber Tskhadadze
Andy Morrison
Kevin Horlock
Jamie Pollock
Lee Crooks
Gary Mason
Jeff Whitley
Jim Whitley
Michael Brown
Neil Heaney Transfer Listed
Ian Bishop Transfer Listed
Paul Dickov
Shaun Goater
Alan Bailey
Danny Allsopp
Chris Greenacre Transfer Listed
Ray Kelly Loaned to Scarborough
Mikhail Kavelashvili Loaned to Grasshoppers Z