Newsletter #460

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First the good news – it’s not possible to lose any more games before Xmas… next the bad news – the amnesty only lasts a day!

City lost again, but we do have an excellent report of the game, which despite the score was a much better performance from the Blues; there’s also a belated Darlington report. City have taken Scott Oakes on loan (anyone care to give a biog or their opinion of him, as he was once considered to be quite a prospect?). There’s plenty of news, opinion, a Spanish Why Blue and a comparison between City and Apple’s recent predicament; interesting that, as MCIVTA eminates from a Mac.

MCIVTA will appear as and when it reaches critical mass, i.e. if it ain’t big enough on Xmas Eve it will be held over ’til the 28th.

Merry Xmas to 2,275.

Next game, Wrexham away, Saturday 26th December 1998

MATCH REPORT – ‘LIVE’

YORK CITY vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 19th December 1998

Never thought our annual visit to my wife’s relatives in York for Christmas would coincide with a City match. I’ve always intended to visit York’s ground out of curiosity and add to my tally of grounds visited, but I never dreamt that Man City would be providing the opposition. For those who haven’t been to York, it really is a great place. Very picturesque with loads of pubs, it really was an effort dragging my wife out of the shops and to the game. York City’s ground though is a total contrast. It’s horrid. Two smallish stands run along the sides of the pitch. The home supporters get a roof for their terraces, while the away fans have to bear the elements. I purchased my tickets from York to ensure I got some, although I notice that Man City still had seats available the day before the match. To get to our seats, we had to go right through the terrace behind the goal to enter the ‘Popular Stand’. However, I was relieved to find that the majority of this ‘Home’ section was occupied by Man City fans.

I didn’t tell my wife that Paul Dickov was out suspended until we were well inside the ground, as she definitely wouldn’t have left the shops. With Goater injured, Wiekens out with flu and Morrison suspended, City lined up as follows:-

            Weaver
Crooks  Fenton  Vaughan  Edghill
Brown  Goater  Bishop  Horlock
       Taylor   Russell

Subs: Whitley, Allsopp, Mason

We were just making our way to our seats when York scored in the second minute. One of the York forwards took on Tony Vaughan in the box, played the ball across goal to an unmarked Connelly who rifled the ball home unchallenged. Aaagh. City’s response was generally quite good. They outpaced and constantly pressurised York for the majority of the first-half. After about 10 minutes, Brown made a great run into the box and a long cross from Russell resulted with him heading just over. After 15 minutes Russell made a good break down the right, cut inside the defender and curled a shot towards the far corner, which resulted in a great save by the ‘keeper. At approximately 20 minutes a long cross from Brown found Taylor 5 yards from goal. He did manage to beat his marker to the ball, but missed the goal. Should really have been the equaliser.

Inside the first half an hour City had four corners and simply lobbed the ball into the box for each one. Surprisingly nothing came from any of them. When will City start practising their corners. 15 years ago, corners were City’s main source of goals. Those good old days on the Cup run when Kevin Reeves would flick the ball on at the near post and Bobby MacDonald would steam in unmarked and score. This simple tactic has even been adopted by the likes of Darlington recently against us. When will City try something new? What does Donachie do with the players in training?

Anyway, after 33 minutes, the ball was played over the top to Russell making a diagonal run towards the corner, right in front of me. With Taylor making a run inside of him, I was thinking ‘play a quick ball inside’, but no, Russell whipped in a cross that amazingly went over the ‘keeper and nestled in the back of the net. Yesss. I’m sure it wasn’t what Russell meant, but if he did then what a great goal.

After the goal, City sat back a little. York didn’t exactly come into the game anymore, just that the City players seemed to be taking a bit of a breather after their exertions in scoring the equaliser. Nevertheless, in the first half City were looking a half decent side. The midfield in particular was dominating the game. Bishop was having one of his better matches showing some good touches. Brown was covering every inch of the right flank, and was constantly outpacing his opposite marker. Pollock was retaining possession more than usual, and Horlock was having one of his steady if unspectacular games.

No more chances before half-time, when it was time to seek out the York toilet facilities. Amazingly, there was just one loo at the back of the terraces to cater for both the terrace stand and the ‘Popular’ side seats. Approximately 4,000 people. I guess if you’re a York fan, you just don’t go to a pub before the game. Arrived back at my seat to witness a very loud and heated discussion between Dave Wallace and another City fan who was chanting for Francis Lee to come back. Most bizarre, especially as this was taking place in the York seats. Personally, I can’t understand how anyone can still support Francis Lee after what he’s done to this club, but that’s another story.

Anyway, first minute of the second half and City really should have gone in front. A great 30 yard shot from someone on the left. I think it was Horlock, but not sure. The ball broke loose to Taylor right in front of goal. Rather than place the ball, he elected to whack it straight at the ‘keeper, who easily knocked the ball away for a corner. Which, as noted above is not much better than a goal-kick. City had most of the ball and were putting York under a great deal of pressure, although not really creating many chances except from a header from Horlock which went over, when really it was easier to score. The Man City fan sitting next to me said, ‘surely it’s only a matter of time before City score?’. He obviously hasn’t seen City very often! Indeed, I suspected his credibility as an ardent City fan when he said to me ‘Has Clough come on at half-time?’

Allsopp came on for Russell about half way into the second half. A strange substitution as I felt Russell was City’s most dangerous player. But then again Joe Royle seems to see things differently to everyone else. Allsopp was immediately presented with a great opportunity in the box but his first touch let him down and the ball was cleared for another corner / goal-kick. Another strange substitution followed shortly after. Pollock, although not as good as his first half display but still effective made way for Jim Whitley who just wasn’t in it for the rest of the game. Nice one Royle. With five minutes to go, the predictable finish happened. York, who hadn’t mounted one serious attack all half, broke forward. The ball was played inside to York’s 18-year-old débutant substitute Andrew Dawson, who had only been on for 1 minute. He calmly slotted the ball past Weaver who had no chance. Aaagh. City had no response and 2-1 it finished.

For what it’s worth, here’s my summary of each player’s performance.

Weaver: Did not need to make any saves apart from the two he let in. Had one dodgy moment when he elected to punch the ball away unconvincingly, but he generally dominated the area and held onto everything (6).
Crooks: Another steady performance. Good tackling and heading, but his final cross into the box was woeful. Can’t shoot, can’t cross. Come on Lee – practice! (5)
Edghill: Not a natural left-footer and consequently can’t put over a decent cross when in telling positions. Would prefer to see him back on the right, but while Tiatto prefers fighting to playing, I guess he’ll have to stay on the left. Good defensive performance though (6).
Fenton: Didn’t do a thing wrong. Could quite easily come into the side permanently in place of Wiekens. City’s main weakness lies up front. If Wiekens could be sold to generate some funds for a decent forward, I don’t feel the defence would suffer (7).
Vaughan: Allowed the York forward to get in a telling cross in the first minute. Played a dodgy back-pass to Weaver shortly before the City equaliser that was almost intercepted. Besides that, good tacking and heading (6).
Brown: Rarely gave the ball away and obviously playing with much greater confidence than in the past, no doubt due to his brilliant goal in mid-week. Just about edged Russell as City’s best player (8).
Pollock: Good first-half. Provided a continuous link between defence and attack throughout. One of his better games. Faded in the second half and was greatly missed when substituted (7).
Bishop: Showed some good touches and often looked a class above the York midfielders. Played an absolutely awful cross field pass in the second half, which York really should have done better with, but in general one of his better games. Although for Bishop that is not difficult to achieve (7).
Horlock: Didn’t look match fit. Didn’t cover nearly as much turf as Brown on the right. Rarely conceded possession, but again can do much much better (6).
Taylor: Best game yet, but again that is not difficult. Held the ball up quite well, and won a couple of headers. Didn’t concede possession cheaply like Goater, but still missed City’s best chances. No better than Niall Quinn on an off-day (5).
Russell: Good first-half. Made the goal out of nothing, and great play early on deserved a better outcome. City created little after he was withdrawn in the second half. Deserves an extended run in the side up front (7).
Whitley (Sub): Didn’t see him touch the ball in the last 15 minutes that he played (1).
Allsopp (Sub): Made no impact (1).

Again City failed to win a match which they had dominated. Royle had changed the forward line once again to find that winning streak. Once again it failed. Now in a lowly 11th place, 15 points below 2nd place, automatic promotion can be ruled out. Our only hope is that a good run might see us into the play-offs, but my main concern is that we’re only 9 points above the relegation positions. Surely we’re too good to go down again, but who knows while Royle and Donachie remain in charge.

Colin Jonas (colinjonas@compuserve.com)

MATCH REPORT – ‘LIVE’

MANCHESTER CITY vs. DARLINGTON, Tuesday 15th December 1998

I really don’t know why I’m bothering to do this match report, other than having just read the latest McVittees I noted there wasn’t a single match report from this game. Perhaps that’s because those who were there didn’t recognize it as much of a match.

It was once again a very poor match, not quite as bad as the shambles against Bristol, but pretty bad in anyone’s book.

I think the best thing about the match was that my daughter and her friend moved seat a few times (they had plenty of choice) whilst my son said “Dad, can I move down there and have a row on my own?”, such was the pulling power of City vs. Darlington. It wasn’t all bad though as there was no crush at the bar so getting served was easy.

It was another game where we never looked like getting beat, but we never looked like winning. Having said that we were relieved when a Darlington player missed an absolute open goal after the ball had bounced back off the bar in the first few minutes.

The shape or lack of it resembled that evidenced in the game against Bristol. It’s really disappointing to see a real lack of off-the-ball movement. It’s just so static, the idea of moving and pulling players away just doesn’t happen. It seems that we are back to that kick it and hope style of play, very little running at the opposition with the ball and a real lack of imagination.

I’ve read the last couple of McVitees and the comments about City fans venting their frustration and I realize it must sound crazy for those Blues who are far away to think that the team are getting booed, but to be honest whilst I don’t go that far myself I can understand it. What other form of entertainment would be tolerated if after paying your money you were dished up with poor performances week in, week out? It’s not so much the fact that we’re crap and not winning, it’s to do with the mediocrity of effort and performance. I know it’s been said before but I’ll say it again: when you watch recent performances, it really does seem obvious that there’s a lack of passion and commitment. I can’t believe that players don’t want to win, so why does it look so jaded week in, week out?

It was a real disappointment to go to extra time and sit though another 30 minutes. It was brilliant however when we got the goal, and what a good goal it was as well.

City fans as ever the eternal optimists could already see the twin towers looming, the double dream of promotion and FA cup is back on and our place in Europe assured. We’ve all got our dreams and I said to my children as we were leaving the ground “looks like we’re going to Wembley twice this year”.

My forecast for the York game – we’ll destroy them possibly by a clear 4 goal margin, the FA cup win against the mighty Darlinton has surely ‘kick started’ our season and now it’s only a matter of time before we’re on Match of the Day every week. We have to believe that don’t we?

If we don’t then let’s just settle on the most appropriate name for the new stadium, something that matches the Reds’ ‘Theatre of Dreams’. I rather fancy The Temple of Doom – what do you think?

The fact that this match report contains so little content about the actual game is an accurate reflection of the content of the game.

Onwards and upwards – our day will come.

Oh one last thing – credit to the Darlinton fans (or Darlo as they referred to their team); they had a few there and they got behind their team – well done to them.

Tony Burns (tony.burns@cwcom.net)

NEWS SUMMARY

City lose at York

Saturday saw City lose 2-1 at York, managing to go a goal down in 90 seconds, and then, having got back in the game courtesy of Craig Russell and gone on to dominate proceedings, losing in the 86th minute. Reports of the game seem to indicate that we had most of the play, and that York scored from two of only a handful of goal attempts. Again, Joe was lamenting this loud and long, bemoaning the fact that we gave away two goals he labelled “daft”. His opposite number Alan Little conceded that, “Manchester City were unlucky”.

City are now in twelfth position in Division Two (which is 56th place in the overall English league structure) and six teams above us have games in hand. Over the last league 15 games, we’ve won three and picked up 16 points. What this means is that over a run of games equating to a third of an entire season, we’ve shown what is basically relegation form. The performances must have been pretty bad for us to have that type of recent record. Still, I’m not prepared to throw in the towel just yet, and for reasons explained elsewhere in this MCIVTA, I still harbour play-off ambitions even though results will need to improve to get us there. Such an outcome would have disappointed me in August but looks like the best we can hope for now.

Royle’s transfer efforts finally rewarded

When I was writing a first draft of this summary on Sunday evening, I noted that I ought to create a template including a section on transfers which said that Joe wanted to strengthen the squad, that he’d been talking to lots of managers about lots of players and that he was really trying hard to bring someone in but nothing was imminent. This morning I had to scrap the idea, as he’s managed to conclude an incoming deal, albeit on loan. The player in question is Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Scott Oakes. As far as I know he isn’t considered a genuine wide player, but my guess is that, with Pollock a fixture, Michael Brown impressing Royle recently, Horlock recovered from injury and Ian Bishop earning a starting spot on Saturday, Oakes will fit in on the right hand side. I’d guess he’s on loan while we assess whether he has what it takes to fill this rôle on a permanent basis. He began his career at Luton and was regarded as an exciting prospect. Presumably his career at Wednesday suffered after the departure of his mentor David Pleat.

Kelly to be released

If being able to report a successful recruitment is a first since I’ve been doing the MCIVTA news summaries, reporting that another City player is available on a free is hardly a new departure. The player on this occasion is Ray Kelly, who arrived in the Peter Reid era for £30,000 from Irish side Athlone Town and who made only one senior appearance. He leaves with a commendation for his attitude from Joe Royle, who feels that Kelly has been another victim of the crazy squad inflation at Maine Road in recent years.

Bernstein looking for investment

A few days ago, my dad told me that he’d heard a report that the club was looking for investment. I didn’t record this at the time, as he couldn’t remember the source. Now it’s the lead story on the Manchester Evening News web site and was presumably emblazoned over the back page of the print edition on Saturday. In most of the stories I deal with in these news summaries I try to limit myself to one or two paragraphs at most. This will be an exception, but I make no apologies. With chances of promotion effectively limited to a shot at the play-offs at best, whether we’ll be in a position to deal with the financial consequences of staying down is of crucial importance. I don’t have the time or space to go into a detailed explanation as to why, but unless we attract some kind of meaningful investment, the only means of staying afloat would probably be the sale of some of the better players.

The MEN story claims that the club is in discussions with several “quality organisations”. While obviously there’s a risk that all negotiations will come to nothing, Bernstein is hopeful there’ll be an injection of at least £10 million if there’s a deal struck. The MEN claims (and Bernstein’s comment that any deal “will resolve ownership issues” seems to confirm) that any new investor is also likely to pick up at least the 24% shareholding of the late Stephen Boler. The newspaper values these shares at around £7 million (though at the current trading price of 70p quoted on the Ofex exchange they’d be worth in the region of £5.5 million). The MEN valuation would put the club’s overall value at around £29 million.

In the summer, Bernstein said attempts to find investment had failed, but recently, he elaborated a little and said that he could actually have brought funds in, but all potential suitors were rejected as not offering a deal which represented good value for the shareholders. This presumably means that they were looking to buy shares to ensure a say in how the investment was used but weren’t prepared to pay enough for any of the major shareholders to want to sell. At the time, any major shareholder lacking long-term commitment no doubt felt we’d be likely to win promotion anyway, which would have offered a chance to sell their shares for a much better price next summer. The fact that negotiations have started again seems to indicate that the shareholders now feel that we’re unlikely to go up, so, knowing that the share price will fall if we don’t, they’d prefer not to hang round in the hope that City sneaking up through the play-offs will boost the value of their holdings. Given the way the first part of the season has gone on the field, Saturday’s story in the MEN shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

As yet, there’s no news as to who the investors might be, though I suppose the first inclination is to look to those who’ve been interested in the past – people like Raymond Donn, who was reported in the summer to have secured first option on the Boler shares, or Mike MacDonald, who’s been linked with City takeovers for five years now and who recently sold his stake in Sheffield United. However, I was particularly interested in Bernstein’s use of the word “organisations” to describe interested parties. In part, this is because it may give credence to a rumour I saw on Blue View but haven’t been able to corroborate anywhere else. The posting claimed that Glasgow Rangers Chairman David Murray has made a bid for a non-Premiership English club and that the bid valued the target club at £25 million. It was said that though the approach has been rejected, it wasn’t dismissed out of hand. According to the rumour, Rangers are said to be looking at joint merchandising and player swaps (presumably the latter would involve them farming out some of their youngsters for experience and making sure their non-EU foreigners don’t hit work permit problems through playing too few games).

The figure mentioned is definitely in the right ballpark for City, while I’d have thought we’re possibly their best bet in the Nationwide League for a merchandising tie-up – we’ve had the best selling replica shirt in Scotland other than Rangers and Celtic for the last two years and our home kit was a bigger seller than any kit for an English team other than Manchester United or Liverpool last year. There’s also an interesting marketing angle in that Celtic and Manchester United seem to have an affinity which has manifested itself in Celtic playing at Old Trafford when banned from using Parkhead for a European tie and providing the opposition in testimonials for the likes of Charlton, Hughes, Robson and McClair.

I should emphasise that the Rangers link is complete speculation at this stage, but what I will say is this: if Rangers really are looking at a deal with a Nationwide League club, to consider it might be City is definitely not within the realms of fantasy. And I think Berstein would be justified in calling them a “quality organisation”.

Mixed news on juniors

A running theme in my news summaries seems to be the lack of success of the under-17 and under-19 Academy sides, and the youth team, presumably drawn from members of those teams, lost 3-2 to Sheffield Wednesday at Maine Road in the FA Youth Cup last Friday. However, there’s better news of younger age groups – last week, while the two senior Academy sides were losing to their Manchester United counterparts, the under-13s, under-14s and under-15s all managed victories against the same opponents, the under-14s in particular running riot in a 7-0 win. Now all we have to do is make sure the best players in these age groups don’t go somewhere else for their YTS contracts.

Praise for fans

David Bernstein, who hasn’t been quoted in the press as being critical of City supporters, and Willie Donachie, who has, have both moved to lavish praise on the City fans. Bernstein was upset by The Mirror’s infamous story on the Mansfield game, saying that while the board and the team may deserve criticism, the fans certainly don’t. Donachie, meanwhile, has moved to temper his comments of last week, emphasising that the true City fans are second to none. I suppose that the club has realised it’s not in a strong position to criticise fans when the team is underachieving and that alienating the fans with public criticism may not be the best policy in PR terms.

Christmas sell outs

When I came home for the Gillingham game, the away fans at one point broke into a chant of, “You’re not famous any more”, and I can’t imagine they’re the only ones this season to employ this refrain. However, one or two statistics point to the fact that a game against City is still a big attraction for every team we play. So far, each team we’ve visited has its best attendance against us (one or two, like York and Millwall have enjoyed their biggest home gate for several years), while the eleven biggest crowds in Division Two this season have been for our eleven home games. Both of these sequences will continue for the Christmas fixtures, since the games at Wrexham and at home to Stoke are each sold out.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

This may not be my last news summary of the year – it depends on whether Ashley sends out a Christmas Eve edition. As I’ll be off-line from then until 5 January I’ll be leaving you in the capable hands of former guest editor Geoff Donkin. Brace yourselves for an eventful couple of weeks – Geoff’s editorial stint turned out to be quite a turbulent old time even by our usual standards, featuring takeover speculation, boardroom warfare and the sacking of Frank Clark. Please send news, rumour, innuendo and lies over the Christmas period to Geoff – I won’t be able to access my messages, so anything I receive won’t be attended to for a couple of weeks.

I’d just like to thank everyone for their help and support. I try to reply to all messages, even if only briefly, but apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone. Have a fantastic Christmas, whatever City manage to throw at us, and I’ll see you in what hopefully will be a happy, prosperous and slightly more successful 1999.

Geoff can be mailed at: citynews@donkin.demon.co.uk

Peter Brophy (brophpe@moscow.whitecase.com)

TEN THINGS…

Ten things you knew about Man City but had tried to forget:

    1. On 6 Dec 1978 we beat AC Milan 3-0 at Maine Road. This is the same ACMilan who had won two European Cups and two European Cup Winners’ Cups andwho were on their way to winning Serie A for the 10th time that season.
    2. On 4 Dec 1998 we drew 1-1 with Darlington in the FA Cup 2nd round.This is the same Darlington who were in the Vauxhall conference in 1989/90.
    1. On 11 May 1968 we beat Newcastle at St James’ Park to win the leaguechampionship from Man U.
    2. On 3 May 1998 we were relegated to the third division in Englishfootball for the first time in our history.
    1. On 29 April 1970 we beat Gornik Zabrze 2-1 in Vienna to win theEuropean Cup Winners’ Cup for the first time, becoming the first Englishteam to complete a cup double in one season.
    2. On 24 April 1999 we entertain Wycombe Wanderers in a league game forthe first time at Maine Road, hoping for at least a draw to stop themcompleting a double over us in one season.
    1. On 3 Dec 1969 we beat Man U 2-1 in the first leg of the League Cupsemi final in front of 55,799 people, the largest crowd ever at Maine Roadfor a League Cup tie.
    2. On 8 Dec 1998 we lost 2-1 to Mansfield Town in the first round of theAuto Windscreen Shield in front of 3007 people, the smallest crowd ever atMaine Road for a competitive game involving Man City.
    1. On 7 Nov 1987 at a low point in our history, we beat a poorHuddersfield side 10-1 at Maine Road.
    2. On 7 Nov 1997 at an even lower point in our history, we lost to aneven poorer Huddersfield side 1-0 at Maine Road.

Kevin Cummins (kevin@mcfc-lon.demon.co.uk)

CITY BADGE

I have never been too keen on the new badge and after what I saw on the news it makes me more concerned! Next time you see Sadam Hussien talking, look at the crest that is usually behind him, it is like the City badge as it incorporates the eagle in the same way.

Finally after this weekend I wonder who is in as much s**t, him or us?

Graham Lord (gooch@logos.cy.net)

CITY AND APPLE!

I have supported Manchester City for over twenty years now and naturally am feeling down and disillusioned like everyone else. I am also a great Apple Mac computer fan (yes I do support the underdogs don’t I!) and came across this article the other day. It sounded so like City that I felt I had to pass it on to everyone – it’s a message of hope really for the future – are you listening Willie Donachie?

“My second merit badge must go to all of the Mac users who stuck by Apple through the hard times of the past several years. The ones who never gave a thought to switching to Windows even when everyone was saying that Apple was “dead”. Who endured quarter after quarter of Apple’s mounting financial losses and the draining of many of its best employees. Who stuck by Apple even after Apple admitted that Copland would never see the light of day and Apple didn’t seem to have a clue where to go next.”

“In the face of so much bleak news, you could have hardly blamed anyone who decided to jump ship. But many stayed on board anyway, refusing to believe that the ship would actually sink. They turned out to be right. These users provided the base of support necessary for Apple to survive when things looked their darkest. So pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a drink. You deserve it. Apple are back, big time and ON THE UP!”

Hope that’s a positive enough message. Yes I know it’s a long shot and probably very silly to liken City to Apple Mac computers. But if you’re a City supporter you have to take your solace where you can find it!

City Till My Apple Computer Dies, Rowan Sayner (rowansayner@hotmail.com)

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

Steve Maclean’s archive report on the City Spurs game from early ’83 bought memories just flooding back. I remembered the game all too well. The previous week we’d all been down to Brighton for a 4-0 cuffing and in the midweek John Bond had bailed out after allegations of extra-marital relations (within the club). His number two (how apppropriate), John Benson had taken over, allegedly to save buying a new tracksuit for the manager.

So why was this game significant? Was it for David Cross breaking Ardiles’ leg in front of the Kippax (yeuch)? Was it that Benson played Kevin Bond at centre forward (never has a player been caught offside so many times)? No, it was that just three months after being second in the table I realised that for the first time in my life, we weren’t good enough for the division – how times change. I remember the penny dropping as I was walking home that we had no stars out injured and that this eleven was it. We were broke, as usual, and bereft of creativity. Ironically, how we are now. Except that now we’re two divisions lower.

Andy Noise (anoise@globalnet.co.uk)

OPINION – REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL PART ONE

Ok so things are appalling both on an off the pitch. We sneaked through against Darlo on Tuesday in less than convincing fashion, a fixture we should walk. So what crumbs of comfort did the game offer:

  • Although apart from two early scares, never looked like losing… if it had gone to penalties, well, that’s another matter.
  • Maybe the usual curmudgeons stayed at home, but the crowd (what little there was of one) were a bit more positive towards the players. There were two guys next to me, who obviously go for a good moan. One, on Tuesday, was clearly making a real effort to be more positive. His mate was baffled by his attitude until extra time when he finally converted him back to the land of moaning.
  • Crooks, Morrison, Wiekens, Edghill is probably the best back four we’ve got. Let’s hope Royle sticks with it. I must just moan a little, here. First sign of a substitution on Tuesday and Royle’s changing the formation. He started with 4-3-3, the only quirks being Edghill at left back not right and Crooks at right back not central midfield. Still for Joe it’s not bad. Oh and Goater had obviously been told to play wide right (poor sod). This was obviously killing Big Joe. It was too normal. Suddenly it’s Tiatto on for Morrison and he’s away. Edghill to right wing back, Crooks to centre back and it’s the old 3-4-3 again. Phew. I digress.
  • Brown and Edghill, surely our worst players in front of goal, had good efforts on target and in Brown’s case scored a cracker. Son of Kinky, almost.
  • Pollock and Horlock don’t look match fit yet. In Horlock’s case, he was knackered within the hour but Joe persevered.
  • Bishop’s class made the difference when he came on.
  • Edghill, restored to defence, had a belter.
  • Moonchester’s ever improving ‘keeping must be threatening Tommy Wright’s place in the reserves.

That’s not bad for a 1-0 win over Darlington, is it? The (brief) flipside is our build up is too slow, and except Edghill there’s rarely a wide option (as usual). Oh and this guy Taylor’s obviously a master at disguising his abilities.

Andy Noise (anoise@globalnet.co.uk)

OPINION – TRYING TO LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

As I’ve noted before, we may as well forget automatic promotion, and I’m bitterly disappointed to be writing that phrase before half the season’s gone. I certainly believe there’s plenty of scope to criticise the management and players for this state of affairs, too. Nevertheless, I’ve done my fair share of that, and now I just want to look ahead. I genuinely feel that all’s not lost – we can still salvage this nightmare. Granted, the play-offs are a lottery but they do represent some kind of hope so they’re a target worth aiming for, and personally I don’t think most teams would fancy coming up against us in that kind of context as opposed to an ordinary league game, where they’ve nothing to lose.

Now in the light of our recent record as quoted in the news summary elsewhere in this MCIVTA, maybe the views expressed in this piece will sound a little bizarre, and I freely admit that my optimism might be borne of my slightly delirious anticipation that in 72 hours, I’ll be escaping from Mother Russia for a whole 11 days. Maybe, too, it’s easier for me to make optimistic noises because I’ve only seen one match out of the 29 we’ve played so far this season. However, I’m still hopeful we’ll make the play-offs – what happens then is anyone’s guess, of course.

I feel that a big part of our problem so far has been that in the summer, Royle decided to approach the new season without really adding to the group of players he already had, and this in turn meant persisting with the system which was conceived by Frank Clark to accommodate Georgi Kinkladze. After a run of one win and eight points from nine games, it became clear that the Clark system would be jettisoned but unfortunately we’ve been lacking anyone to play wide in a 4-4-2 formation, and we’ve desperately been trying to make a signing to remedy this rather significant flaw. In other words, the team’s been in transition over the last couple of months and it still is.

However, I still feel we’ve a core of players who are of a quality higher than most we’ll be playing against this season, and I have watched a reasonable amount of football at this level over the years. I still believe that we should be able to garner enough players from the rest of the squad to supplement them and form a unit which will be better than most opponents. I’m disappointed so much of the season has passed without our being able to achieve this, but I’m not yet ready to concede that it can’t be done – maybe it will take the help of a signing or two, but there does seem to be a genuine desire to add to the squad even if again, the process is taking longer than we’d like.

There are other factors, too, from which I’m trying to draw comfort. Confidence is low at the moment, but it’s something which could start to return fairly quickly after a couple of decent results. It isn’t arrogant to say that playing us is a big occasion for every team we’ve faced – it’s worth repeating that so far, every away game has provided our opponents’ biggest gate of the season while our eleven home games have provided the section’s eleven biggest attendances. After next week, everyone will have played us once so the novelty factor will have worn off a little. Our squad is larger in numerical terms than many other teams in this league so maybe that will count for something too.

I’m not saying this is how things will turn out – I’ve been a Blue long enough to know disappointment’s never far round the corner. And nor am I saying that I’m happy with the current state of affairs. I wouldn’t have been happy with the play-offs at the start of the season and I’m disappointed it’s the best we can hope for now. And hope, even if it’s destined to be thwarted, is something I’d rather have than not.

Maybe there is a bit of wishful thinking in this piece and in any case, if we make the play-offs I know they’re a lottery. But my point is that taking part in that lottery gives us more chance of promotion than if we don’t have a ticket at all. We’re still only three points off the last play off berth and in the light of that, we have to regard a top six finish as there for the taking. Now it’s up to Joe and the players to go and seize the chance. That’s something City have failed to do so often that it’s bound to reduce confidence that the management and players will do it now. However, I’ll write them off when they’ve failed to do it rather than while opportunity is still there for the taking.

Peter Brophy (brophpe@moscow.whitecase.com)

OPINION – ARE WE JUST A BUNCH OF IDIOTS SUPPORTING WASTED TALENT:
PAUL LAKE, RÖSLER, KINKY – WHAT’S GOING WRONG?

I suspect the title will provoke a response of ‘not another dig’, but please read on and you’ll see I’m trying to hit out at the root cause of our major problems!

Since my brother first took me to Manchester City at the fantastic age of six, the magic made me spellbound for life. My brother and I would go week after week, stand on the Kippax and watch the game – I can’t describe the feeling. Not only was he taking me, he also paid; considering it represented about a third of his wage at the time I think you’ll agree it was a special thing to do for a six-year-old! He sadly can’t go as often now as he’s a fireman and has serious commitments that are above City!

I recall all the times that Manchester City fans have believed in the club, the players and above all else football. If one were to rank the order that City fans’ loyalties lie I think it would go along the lines of:

  1. The survival of the World Game of Football,
  2. The survival of the English Football League (whatever it may be called),
  3. The survival of Manchester City Football Club,
  4. The support of the Team, Manager, etc.

The list may go on, but recently, perhaps over the past ten years, there has been a distinct trend for players to become larger than the game, not to mention larger than the clubs. Ronaldo is the obvious example, and you could say Kinky. In my opinion Kinky was a fantastic player and would have appreciated a more demanding arena that we sadly didn’t give him. He had so much potential, as do a lot of players that have graced this great club of ours, and our loyal attitude is allowing them to sit back and relax.

When you consider that there have been some great players that came to City and subsequently flopped, you must ask the question why? It’s subtle, the players, managers, board, have no standards to aim for – the most loyal fans in the world, we are in the second division, paid a wodge, high profile, … I’m sure there are numerous examples of this lax attitude, nay even patronising attitude to our great club.

Well this is a shot across the bow, there are people in the ground week in, week out who are good businessmen/women (multi million pound businesses), people on low wages who save to watch a game, top academics, people from the City (London), Doctors, Nurses, Policemen/women… all of whom have integrity, honesty and intelligence as their core characteristics. I don’t think they come to watch ill-disciplined, unmotivated, degrading and low-standard football. In my opinion it should be an honour to come to this club; managers, fans, football players should all expect to work very hard to even get a chance of making an impact on this name of Manchester City. I can remember the Liverpool team of the seventies, a player was bought and then wasn’t allowed to play in the first team until he had first of all proved himself in the reserves! No automatic first team place there, look at what’s happened since. Compare things to the likes of Arsenal or maybe Chelsea; competition for places has raised the standard, improved the team and allowed young players to develop in a disciplined, stable and high quality environment. City has a high quality environment – a new stadium to go to, good pitch, good training facilities, money, support, good press coverage, … but no standards!

Every fan wants to see City tank the scum, win the European Cup and be the envy of every fan in the world, watching high quality football played by the likes of Kinky. You could say Kinky had a bad attitude, but the guy used to send some of his wages back to his home club – I would argue that those are the signs of a player of quality and depth of character – for him to walk out in a Manchester City shirt and underperform, because we didn’t set up the correct arena for him, would rip the heart right out of his soul! I could mention other players with similar qualities: Paul Lake, Rösler, Colin Bell, … all of whom would run through a brick wall for the cause.

We need to start setting standards, it will be hard, people will suffer, but it must be done. How, that’s another question, it’ll take a charismatic genius to turn it around, Rolye had this trait at Oldham! Maybe we need a sparkling player or a catalyst – nope. Royle needs to understand a few home truths, Willie definitely does and the board of directors are at best, fair. But the biggest change must come from the players – their patronising attitude is destroying the club’s soul, fan base, distorting the attitudes of the young players and eating away at the heart of every fan. I believe that it will take a long time for us to change things but we need to start today!

Imagine you’re a young player, Manchester City come in and say they’d like to sign you, all your life you have worked hard to get this far – waking up on a Monday morning, it’s -4 degrees outside and you’re playing some team with no kit – why should you bother, but you persist and enjoy the game. You arrive at City, straight in the first team, lose and treated like a hero – where’s the honour in that?

We must make winning, promotion, etc. not a means to an end but a worthy cause that is respected by hard working, honest and loyal fans. What better praise could one expect for simply doing your job you have a gift for and worked hard at! We need to have the confidence to demand the highest of standards.

No player could ever hope to have done enough for Manchester City until the day he leaves!

CTID, Andy Lowe (ajl42@eng.cam.ac.uk)

OPINION – PITIFUL BOO BOYS

Those like Ben Potts are of course absolutely right about their entitlement to criticise poor performance. Predictably, he fails completely to address the real concern of those who want the boo boys to stop. That is simply that it makes matters worse. No-one ever responded positively to anonymous, public criticism. As for the kind we witness at Maine Road and in some away matches, it obviously makes players tense and anxious, afraid to take risks and appears to be guaranteeing failure. We could get away with occasional jeering if we had a tough-minded team of players with a history of success. We don’t. We have young players who need encouragement; we have players rescued from the oblivion of Huddersfield and Bolton reserves – in short we have a team of very ordinary players who are just human.

It would be a little more honest if those who put forward the ridiculous idea that supporters should denigrate their own teams efforts, acknowledged that what they want is a licence to overindulge emotionally and to hell with the consequences. This team of mediocrities might be encouraged to be better but is actually getting worse. It’s not all the fault of the boo boys but some of it certainly is. Second or perhaps third division football is here to stay as long as Mr Potts and his ilk are at Maine Road under the delusion that they are supporters when they only want to be customers. If you want to be a football customer then there are other clubs in the area whose dedication to sharp consumerism is well known and who would appreciate you becoming a member of their focus group.

There is an alternative. Support City. Unconditionally support City. See if City’s supporters can be worth a goal start to the team instead of a goal against. Try to get hold of an idea which you seem to have difficulty with: nobody makes you go to watch City and if you wear the colours you are supposed to help towards the progress and success of our club. Say what you like on MCIVTA but don’t wreck the support the rest of the crowd give at the match. We watch the same intolerable tripe as you do but know that only positive support will help.

If Joe Royle would like to provide me with a suitably charged Klingon Turbo-Phaser with telescopic sights and a built in bulls**t detector, this 56-year-old supporter of City, will personally stand of the roof of each stand in turn and zap all the Maine Road boo boys to other side of the Andromeda Galaxy. I will do this free of charge expecting not a murmur of dissent because they will appreciate my stamina, hard work and technique.

Peter Llewellyn (hw79@dial.pipex.com)

OPINION – RESIGNED TO THE SECOND DIVISION

I’m sitting at home on Saturday night (that’s sad in itself) contemplating yet another City defeat. I didn’t go to the match, so I have no idea whether it was a battling City who were robbed of a certain win by cruel fate, or an inept display by a ragbag bunch of demotivated cloggers. No idea, but a faint suspicion…

So what to do? Hang up my scarf, cancel my MCIVTA subscription, and give up? This is simply not an option. I am, as we all are deep down in our hearts, CTID.

Sack the manager? We have tried that tactic a few times in the past and it hasn’t brought about any change, or at least not a change that we would wish for.

No, I have decided to change my perception of City. I will try to become a City realist.

I will accept we are where we are because that is how good the team really is. I am resigned to being in 2nd Division for the foreseeable future, and that the best we can aspire to is to be a sleeping giant in Division 1 like Wolves. I am not in future going to see the Blue bottle as 1/8 full, but as 7/8 empty. I will stop my futile burst of optimism whenever City contrive to win, and accept that it’s not the corner that has been turned, but merely a temporary blip.

In this way I hope that the pain, frustration and hurt will go away. I hope that I won’t feel the crushing disappointment on Saturday evening when Manchester City Football Club lose to garbage like Lincoln, Wycombe and York. I hope I will be pleasantly surprised at the end of the season (see, I’m still at it!).

CTID but very very pi*sed off, Richard Jenkins (richard.j@seaweld.co.uk)

OPINION – SUPPORT

Stay behind the team, manager, coach, and everyone connected with City. All those fans who want to change things again will only put our club further back. We are lucky to have Joe Royle and Willie Donachie, remember how many managers refused to come to Maine Road? Let’s support the players; without real support how can they improve? Let’s rally round the cause, yes we have had some bad results, but we have also been unlucky in a few.

City fans are the best in the world – let’s keep it that way.

Come on you Blues! Ernie Barrow (EB2205@aol.com)

BLUE HUMOUR

I haven’t seen this on the list, has it been on?

Alex Ferguson is curious how Arsenal reached the double last year, so he decides on a visit to London to see how Arsene Wenger coaches his team.

After one day he is not really impressed by the training practices, so he asks Wenger how he gets his players so sharp. ‘Well it is simple. I sometimes ask my players a difficult question, and that way they stay really sharp mentally’. Of course Fergie wants an example, so Wenger asks Bergkamp to come over to the sidelines. He asks: ‘Dennis, he is not your brother, but still he is your father’s son. Who is he?’ ‘That is not difficult’, Dennis answers immediately, ‘Of course that is me’. ‘You see? That’s the way you keep them sharp’, Wenger says to Fergie.

Ferguson, who wants to win the double also, decides to bring this into Manchester United’s practice the next day. He calls David Beckham over to the sidelines. ‘David, I have a question for you’, he says, ‘He is not your brother, but still he is your father’s son, who is he?’ ‘My God, Coach’, is the Spice Boy’s reply, ‘That is a tough one to answer, can I sleep on that one night, and why do you ask me these questions?’ Fergie explains it has to do with some continental coaching trick and agrees with the one night postponement.

So that night Beckham decides to call Jaap Stam. He has played on the continent, maybe he knows something about these continental coaching methods. ‘Jaap, maybe you know the answer to this question, he is not your brother, but still he is your father’s son. Who is he?’ ‘That is easy, that is me!’, says Jaap Stam.

So the next day David walks full of confidence to Ferguson. Fergie asks: ‘David, do you know the answer to my question now?’. ‘Yes it was actually very easy’, he says, ‘Is it Jaap Stam?’

Ferguson answers: ‘No of course not you stupid b*****d. It’s Dennis Bergkamp.’

Ralph Sheppard (R.P.Sheppard@massey.ac.nz)

WHY BLUE?

I was born over a thousand miles away from Maine Road, and the reason for being Blue is my father. Ever since I can remember he was always telling me about MCFC, so it was only natural I should become a City fan. I am sixteen now and have been to Maine Road on various occasions, being fortunate to see the 5-2 against Spurs. I am lucky to have seen Kinkladze and Rösler play for the Blues. It is not easy being a City fan here in Spain, as for the past two years, at least the Spanish press describes MUFC as El Manchester, as if no other team exists in this famous city; unfortunately with regards to the Champions League, success, and international recognition they are right!

City are in oblivion. The kids at school ask me if I saw El Manchester on the television last night and I just have to nod and sigh. How can you explain to them that there is another team in Manchester and that although it is in the third division of the league it is a big club? They don

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