Newsletter #468

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The mysterious second loan player who couldn’t be named by JR earlier in the week – for fear of embarassing him or his club – has failed to materialise, or rather a deal has! The main news is that the purchase of Stephen Boler’s shares seems imminent, and that this is probably going to lead to money coming to Joe Royle for the purchase of players. On the squad front, much less exciting but nevertheless welcome news, is that Horlock has recovered from his knock and will play at Walsall, hopefully resuming where he left off last Saturday.

This issue has a belated match report; news that the Swamp’s lawyers have put a stop to those nasty anti-Man U fans who ran ‘Better dead than Red’, and that Bradbury’s career continues on a parabolic course – pity the zenith was at Portsmouth. The latest squad news is in from Stuart Reynolds; a request for players for McVitee FC; a review of the January issue of City magazine; and opinion on Curle, charging for RealAudio City games, and that man at the MUEN, Richard Burgess.

Let’s hope the whole team continues where it left off vs. Fulham, not just Horlock…

Next game, Walsall away, Saturday 23rd January 1999

MATCH REPORT – ‘LIVE’

MANCHESTER CITY vs. FULHAM, Saturday 16th January 1999

City vs. Fulham (3pm k.o.) – actually it kicked off at 3.10pm – I found out today this was due to a small fire in one of the catering areas.

At last a 4-4-2 formation:-

           Weaver
Crooks Wiekens Vaughan Edghill
Cooke Brown Pollock(c) Horlock
     Goater Taylor

City began fairly brightly, plenty of enthusiasm and generally the players looked “up for it”. Despite the commitment though, for the first 10 minutes or so we seemed to be penned back too much for my liking. Hayles (the player who scored the winner in midweek vs. Southampton in the FA Cup) went close from a narrow angle but Nicky Weaver got down well to block. Coleman was not far off with a header that went just over the bar and I think they had a couple of corners too. After this early period we settled down, used the ball more and generally got stuck into them. Fulham didn’t seem to relish the challenge so much any more! Five City players ended up getting yellow cards (Taylor, Brown, Vaughan, Horlock and Pillock) and one Fulham defender (the lad that used to play for QPR?). Michael Brown was probably lucky to stay on the pitch as he got a couple of lectures off the fussy ref (from Brum) and then completely accidentally bumped into him down by the touchline. Good job he stayed on the pitch as he was my MoM, caused the Cottagers plenty of problems (tackling, passing and running with the ball). He seems to have undergone a new lease of life since his Gio-goal against Darlo and I hope he’s not still on the list?

The first goal came after about 25 minutes – Goater laid it off for Brown who fed Crooks on the right. He swung a decent ball in that hung in the air allowing Shaun Goater to flick it in with his head (yes his head!), into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

YEEEEEEES! GET-IN-THERE-SON… 1-0 to the Blueboys!

The crowd (over 30,000) audibly stepped up their support another couple of notches and I believe this was the impetus for the players out on the pitch to go immediately for the 2nd goal. Whereas in some matches I’ve been to lately (e.g. Burnley) we take the lead and then take our foot off, allowing the opposition to get back into the game. Anyway we were completely on top now. Shortly after this, a crisp 3 or 4 man move saw the ball played into the area but Goater fluffed a great chance. Then a couple of identical moves happened where Goater was coming back from an offside position (having chased down Maik Taylor in goal), Fulham were pushing up and Brown put Gareth Taylor clean through. The first time he had a poor shot blocked and as the ball came back to him Kit Symons (boo!) got the ball away for a corner. The second time he made no mistake, rasping the ball into the top left corner. Cracking finish – 2-0 to City. “Keegan Keegan what’s the score?”, “City ’til I die”, “Blue Moon” etc. ringing around a packed Maine Road. Awesome! Fantastic stuff.

It really made me think how ordinary we were making Fulham look (as we did Stoke a few weeks ago).

Fulham came back a little bit towards half time and I dreaded them getting back into it at 2-1. But the interval came and I went off for an overpriced cheeseburger very happy! The mood in the Main Stand Gents queue (block A) was very upbeat, but one hardened fan added a note of caution: “We’re looking at 2-2 then aren’t we?!”

City began the second half at the same high tempo (IMO this style really suits us better than the probing game and JR/WD must continue with it, especially now we’re playing 4-4-2). Cooke looked good on the right on his début and showed some nice touches. I also thought Lee Crooks was having a good game and Edghill was far more comfortable just being a full-back. As ever Gerard Wiekens was his usual cool, calm and collected self (a Dutch Bobby Moore!); he and Vaughan were commanding in the air. On about the 65/70 minutes mark, Brown went on a great attacking run after a quickly taken free-kick and was hacked down just on the edge of the area. After a prolonged delay while the ref tried to get the Fulham wall back, Horlock eventually stepped up and slammed a low shot through/under the wall. It might have taken a slight deflection but who cares! 3-0 and game over with plenty of time to rub their noses in it further. Sweet revenge for our dismal beating at their place in August, where I witnessed a pretty gutless performance from City. What a contrast to that evening. The chant now was “Messiah Messiah what’s the score?” Poor old Keegan! He made a triple substitution but only Peskysolido came close in the final minute, with a header that Nicky Weaver did well to save at his right post.

The only sour note was Horlock’s injury near the end – hopefully not too serious? Whitley came on for him, which was our only substitution. I would’ve liked to see Dickov on for Taylor to run them ragged in the last 10/15 minutes.

Marks out of 10? I’d give them all 8 and a half with Brown MoM on 9/10.

Keep this up lads and who knows – a top 2 finish might yet re-appear on the horizon!

CTID, Jon Reese, forwarded by Simon Bateson (Simon.Bateson@ons.gov.uk)

NEWS SUMMARY

Shares Latest

Speculation has intensified that a deal is close to being concluded for the sale of the late Stephen Boler’s 24% stake in the club, although no announcement will be made until the transaction has been sealed. On the back of these rumours, the share price closed Wednesday at 95p – a figure which represents an increase of 10p on the day before and values the club at a little over £30 million. The prospective purchaser’s identity is uncertain, but one report states that the ex-Sheffield United chairman Mike MacDonald, regularly linked with City for more than five years, can be ruled out of the equation.

Claims that the buyer will also take the shares owned by Francis Lee seem unlikely to be true as the two holdings combined constitute in excess of the 30% threshold which triggers a requirement to make an offer on the same terms to purchase all shares held by other shareholders. A more realistic guess would be that any deal may include the shares now in the hands of Brenda Swales, which if memory serves would together with the Boler shares represent a total of around 29%. Presumably the potential buyer would be also prepared to release funds for expenditure on team-building, since there are reports that money should become available for Joe Royle to strengthen the squad this season.

David Bernstein’s comments just before Christmas referred to talks with a number of interested parties. If the latest reports are true, what seems to have happened now is that one has emerged both who’s offering a price acceptable to the Boler estate and who feels able to co-operate with the holders of a significant number of the remaining shares (remember, while this is the single largest block of shares, it’s only a minority holding – the purchaser still needs the support of at least some other shareholders to carry sway). Once the basis of a deal has been agreed there’ll no doubt be the usual legal machinations before the transaction is actually completed, until which time there’s always at least a small element of doubt (as I know to my cost – I work on corporate acquisitions in my job!). It may also take some time to come up with the most advantageous structure if there’s to be a capital injection.

My own guess is that, assuming his willingness to do so, Bernstein would remain as chairman. After all, a company chairman needs the backing of holders of a majority of the shares rather than just the owner of one block of less than 30%, and confidence in Bernstein unites both Francis Lee and the owners of JD Sports, who were in open conflict only ten months ago. I’d also expect an experienced chief executive to be recruited to replace the recently-departed Mike Turner, with any new major shareholder having a big say in the identity of the appointee.

Cooke Praises City Fans

Terry Cooke, who played his first game for City on Saturday, was impressed with the atmosphere at Maine Road, comparing it favourably to the crowd at another club not a million miles away. Maybe I’ll stir up a hornets’ nest here, but when I was at home for Christmas, I observed in the second half of the Stoke game how City responded to magnificent backing from the fans with a display to match. By all accounts it was similar state of affairs on Saturday against Fulham. Wonder if any of the infamous boo-boys have noticed?

Said Cooke, “It was absolutely unbelievable. The crowd was amazing and their reception gave me such a buzz. It was totally different from the atmosphere at Old Trafford. The fans there just expect to win and sit back to enjoy the game. Here the ground is full of fanatics and they can make such a difference when they get behind you – there is no way you want to lose.” City fans are pretty easy targets for stick from United fans these days, so the contrast of us as passionate, real fans with their high proportion of plastic glory-hunters might be retaliatory ammunition for those of you who suffer regular taunts from Red neighbours or work colleagues. Especially as the comparison came from a man who, at the end of the day, is still a Manchester United player.

Nicky Weaver Part I: Reprieve From Tournament

FA Technical Director Howard Wilkinson seems to have reassured a host of clubs fearful that they might lose key players for three weeks when the World Under-20 Championship takes place in Nigeria in April. In addition to City’s Nicky Weaver and Nick Fenton, players eligible for the tournament include Liverpool’s Michael Owen, Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry, Everton’s Michael Ball and Danny Cadamarteri, Leeds’ Jonathan Woodgate and Stephen McPhail and Manchester United’s Wes Brown. Wilkinson said: “This is a very good competition which is being staged at an unfortunate time and in a difficult place, but I never had any intention of taking players who are involved on a regular basis with their first teams.” So it looks like City may not after all be handicapped in what hopefully (fingers crossed!) will be our promotion charge by an enforced return for Tommy Wright. Nick Fenton, on the other hand, has started one game since October so may well find himself in the England squad if only fringe players at their respective clubs are chosen.

Nicky Weaver Part II: Staying Put

Still with our young custodian, Joe Royle has denied weekend reports that he could be on his way to Liverpool or Manchester United for £3 million. Describing the reports as “laughable”, Royle affirmed that “Nicky Weaver is going nowhere.” And the player himself has delivered the same message. With it looking likely that a cash injection is round the corner, it appears there’ll be no financially-driven imperative to sell players, while the club wants Weaver to stay and he’s happy to do so. This is a relief. More than one City fan I’ve spoken to has predicted great things for Weaver, and while I don’t like to heap pressure on him by comparing him to some of his illustrious predecessors, on my limited viewings he’s certainly looked as if he has the potential to earn his place in the City goalkeeping hall of fame.

Transfer Moves Deferred

As reported in MCIVTA 467, Royle was close to signing a big-name player on loan towards the end of last week. However, he’s now reconciled himself to the fact that the deal is dead. And this week, word is that he’s decided to shelve any plans to bring in new blood for now – maybe he’s waiting to see if there’s a deal for the Boler shares and funds are made available which enable him to set his sights higher than he could at the moment. From his comments, it appears that last week’s target was a front player. And while the three goals against the divisional leaders seem to have persuaded him to call a temporary halt to his search, he promises that it will resume “should we not score or carry on not scoring regularly.” Meanwhile, trialist full-back Fausto De Amicis, who’d been expected to play for the reserves this Wednesday, was missing from the line-up and reportedly interest in him has also been dropped.

Reserves Out Of Pontin’s League Cup

The reserve team game in which De Amicis had been due to play ended in a 4-3 defeat in the Pontin’s League Cup at Tranmere. City took the lead three times only to surrender the advantage on each occasion, with Tranmere’s last two goals coming late on after Murtaz Shelia had gone off injured. The late winner we then conceded ensured our elimination from the competition, in which we have only one win from the four games so far in the opening round-robin phase. Strikers Danny Allsopp and Craig Russell, both on target last week, each found the net again, with the other City goal coming from Ian Bishop. Incidentally, the under-19s lost 3-2 in a rearranged game at home to Blackburn on Wednesday.

Preview – Walsall Away

After taking on the leaders of Division Two last Saturday, City now travel to second-placed Walsall. And while we need to produce a fairly spectacular run and rely on other teams faltering if we’re to have any chance of an automatic promotion place, it would be a major boost in this direction to beat one of the sides we still, according to Joe Royle, have legitimate hopes of overhauling. In the summer, Walsall were expected to struggle this season. They lost their star Frenchmen Boli (their top scorer last season) and Peron, while the fans were unhappy with the appointment as manager of Ray Graydon – he arrived from a coaching position at Port Vale and had no previous managerial experience, on the face of it not the most exciting pedigree for the job. Both he and his team have confounded all expectations, however, and they now have an impressive 50 points from 26 games. I doubt many Blues when we beat them 3-1 in the fifth game of the season would have bet on us being six places and ten points behind them at this stage.

We’ve never played at the Bescot Stadium before, but we did have a couple of trips to their old ground, Fellows Park, in the last few years before they moved on. Anyone who attended the game will remember the crazy 3-3 draw in 1989 in the old Division Two when we were chasing promotion and Walsall were bottom – from a City perspective, it featured a catastrophic start in which we went two down, midfielder Nigel Gleghorn spending most of the match in goal after Andy Dibble’s injury, a storming fightback to take the lead, a missed penalty and a catastrophic back-pass late on by David Oldfield to throw away two points. Blues will be inclined to hope instead that we emulate the FA Cup match three years before, when we won 3-1. Two of City’s goals that day were scored by Paul Simpson, who’s been on loan with Walsall for much of this season. However, I believe he’s now been recalled by his parent club Wolves owing to an injury crisis at Molineux. Walsall’s other City connection is left-back Neil Pointon. If we win this one, maybe I’ll believe we’re finally on the “run” Joe Royle kept promising throughout the first half of the season.

Former Blues in the News – Paul Stewart

This one interested me as a former modern languages student. Paul Stewart only played one full season at Maine Road, and he later became rather an unpopular figure with City fans (I remember him receiving a particularly hostile welcome in, I think, 1993-94 when he returned with Liverpool). I suspect that this may have been because every close season for several years after he left, the papers were full of stories, ostensibly encouraged by Stewart himself, that he was desperate to return north to play for City. Of course, this desire always manifested itself in a decision to stay at Spurs after they offered to improve his contract. However, to be fair, Stewart did assure his place in City history by being one of the three hat-trick heroes in the 10-1 win over Huddersfield in November 1987.

Only 34, he’s now turning out in slightly less opulent surroundings than those he sampled at Maine Road, White Hart Lane and Anfield – he plies his trade with non-league Workington Town in the Unibond League. Despite offers to remain in league football, Stewart opted to go part-time last summer so that he could devote time to his roofing business and study for a degree in Spanish. His long-term aim is to establish a sideline as an interpreter participating in transfer negotiations or accompanying teams travelling in Europe. It’s not exactly a standard move for a footballer’s second career, but good luck to the bloke.

Peter Brophy (brophpe@moscow.whitecase.com)

NEWS – BETTER DEAD THAN RED: DEAD

According to Friday’s Daily Telegraph, ‘Better Red Than Dead’, the enterprise set up by Leeds fans that sells anti-Man Ure mechandise has been shut down by lawyers acting on behalf of the team from the Swamp.

So there you have it, Man Ure do not have a sense of humour. Their lawyers will probably be after us next because our team has ‘Manchester’ in the company name and the fans’ web site has jokes about them.

P.S. As I said a few weeks ago, if the team attacks then the Boo-Boys will be silenced (or drowned out) – and so it has come to pass. Keep it up Blues – if we continue in this vain we will, at least, make the play-offs.

CTID, Richard Mottershead (richardjohnm@hotmail.com)

RUMOUR – MANCHESTER CLUBS TO MERGE

Has anyone heard about the merger of (I think it was Oldham, Bury and Rochdale) teams to form Manchester North End? The major player is allegedly the Oldham chairman who was at one time a keen advocate of no relegation from the Premier League, but that was when Oldham were in it. His plan is to base the new club in Oldham.

The three chairmen are keen, the supporters, unsurprisingly, are not. Imagine being a Rochdale fan in that move… you’d be lucky if one of your team made the first eleven, and you’d have to go to a new ground, unrecognisable kit, regulars etc.

David Knight (davidknight@abpltd.com)

A reply from Peter Brophy:

The proposed merger hit the news a couple of weeks ago, with a banner headline on the back page of the Manchester Evening News. Predictably, it was greeted with horror by the fans of the clubs concerned, and the prime mover, Oldham’s Ian Stott, was forced to concede hastily that the merger wouldn’t take place. Indeed, it went down so badly with fans of all three clubs that Stott was forced to step down as Oldham chairman.

What I found interesting was Stott’s claim that the new club “might be invited to play in Premiership Two” – note the word “invited”. Stott, remember, is an FA councillor who wants to become chairman following the demise of Keith Wiseman, so he might be expected to have some idea of possible changes to the structure of the English game. In the light of this, his choice of words and open reference to the concept may be quite telling. The interest of media groups in acquiring football clubs, the recent availability of digital TV, the imminent ruling of the Restrictive Practices Court on the current Premier League Sky deal, pay-per-view TV experiments and expanded European competitions, could provoke some quite far-reaching changes to the framework of English football in the next five years. When I first read of the soon-aborted Manchester North End plan, my first reaction was that it was a rather desperate response to this prospect from clubs which face being left in the cold by these developments.

Peter Brophy (brophpe@moscow.whitecase.com)

NEWS – BRADBURY NIGHTMARE CONTINUES

As a Blue now living south of Birmingham I met up with a mate and we went to see Palace vs. Stockport County. I was a bit sceptical about selling Bradbury but having seen him play for Palace, any money we got for him is a bonus. He hardly found a Palace player with a pass, missed a couple of sitters and by the time he was substituted midway through the second half, the Palace faithful were booing him every time he touched the ball and shouting “what a waste of money”. His substitution brought the house down. I have never laughed so much at a football match.

Martin Jackson (113315.3431@compuserve.com)

LATEST CITY SQUAD

Changes since last squad printed:

  • Chris Greenacre loaned to Scarborough
  • Lee Daly loaned to Portsmouth
  • Stephen Rimmer loaned to Doncaster
  • Jeff Whitley transfer listed and loaned to Wrexham
  • Ray Kelly released and joined Bohemians
  • Terry Cooke on loan from the Rags

Tommy Wright
Nick Weaver
Michael Brown Transfer Listed
Gerard Wiekens
Tony Vaughan
Richard Edghill
Anthony Fenton
Nick Fenton
Murtaz Shelia Transfer Listed
Richard Jobson
Danny Tiatto
Kakhaber Tskhadadze
Andy Morrison
Stephen Rimmer Loaned to Doncaster
Shaun Holmes
Kevin Horlock
Jamie Pollock
Lee Crooks
Gary Mason
Jeff Whitley Transfer Listed and loaned to Wrexham
Jim Whitley
Michael Brown
David Laycock
Andrew Porteous
Terry Cooke On loan from Manchester United
Neil Morley Transfer Listed
Neil Heaney Transfer Listed
Ian Bishop Transfer Listed
Paul Dickov
Shaun Goater
Alan Bailey
Danny Allsopp
Gareth Taylor
Shaun Wright-Philips
Chris Greenacre Transfer Listed and loaned to Scarborough
Mikhail Kavalashvili Loaned to Grasshoppers Z

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