Newsletter #472

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The lid remains impressively tightly closed on the share deals being done behind closed doors at Maine Road (probably somewhere else in all reality). To maintain this level of secrecy for so long is surely some kind of record for a club whose managers usually hear of their dismissal via the press! Saturday is another big game, and one which has the potential to turn nasty, at least off the terraces; let’s hope the City fans behave themselves and the Police realise the type of away fans they’re going to be dealing with.

This issue has a belated report on the Stoke game, and animated replies to the opinion on violence expressed in the last MCIVTA. There is sad news of one of City’s late 60’s signings, Arthur Mann; and also of that prolific scorer, Joe Hayes. There’s also the latest squad details and another nice Why Blue – more needed.

Next game, Millwall at home, Saturday 6th February 1999

STOKE MATCHVIEW

This was an unusually spur-of-the-moment act for me. Usually I decide which games to go to weeks in advance, but not this time. I had decided to watch the Stoke game in the pub, if I could find one in Lufbra that showed it, but then I can’t bear watching City on live TV – somehow they always lose when I do. And I had been convinced that we were going to lose.

But I woke up on Friday morning with a strange feeling we were going to do ok, coupled with a not-so-strange feeling (it happens regularly) that I had to get out of Loughborough. So I got the time off work, hot-footed it to Maine Road (passing the Britannia stadium on the way!) and got my ticket.

I can’t write a full match report; somehow after the event it all seems to become a blur after a while. Someone at work told me I was mad to drive 100 miles just to buy the ticket when it only takes 40 minutes to get to Stoke from here, but it was worth it. One of those few occasions in this awful league that reminds you why you’re proud to be Blue. The team’s attitude, commitment and performance in the first Stoke game and the Fulham game, combined with the atmosphere, were fantastic, but somehow being away from home made it far better. The team battled for each other, outplayed Stoke, created countless chances, there was no way they were going to lose this game. Confidence is obviously high and you can see it throughout the team – except perhaps in the front two. Goater in particular seems very short on confidence, he’s hesitating to take chances he would have put away earlier in the season.

The back four did their job well against one of the best teams in the division, restricting them to very few chances. Crooks and Edghill have been excellent in the full back positions in recent weeks – hopefully the arm injury Crooks picked up in the second half won’t stop him playing Millwall on Saturday. Wiekens was, as always, superb – there are still rumours going around that he’s going to be sold and I hope it’s not true. You don’t get anywhere by selling your best players, and if JR is building a team for the future Wiekens should be in it. Unless he screws up spectacularly he’s bound to be player of the season. As for Vaughan, who’d have thought he’d be playing so well? As we’ve all seen before, Vaughan can be truly awful when he’s at left back (perversely, the position Mad Frank bought him for) but in the past few weeks he’s been excellent alongside Wiekens. JR must have a dilemma on his hands now Morrison has finished his suspension and in my opinion he shouldn’t drop Vaughan while he’s playing so well, it could destroy his confidence.

In midfield, Brown did well again (I was surprised he wasn’t carried off after the apalling challenge that got Stoke’s captain rightly sent off), while Pollock did alright although he still doesn’t seem to be on top form. Horlock’s doing ok as well, although he’s another player that isn’t on top form. As for Cooke, all I can say is it’s nice to see so many crosses going into the box. Shame our front two can never do anything with them. Sign him up now Joe.

As for Goater and Taylor, Goater seems to be short on confidence as I’ve said already, while Taylor still doesn’t look like the answer to our problems. They both worked hard but their finishing is appalling.

And finally – the fans. The atmosphere in our end was fantastic. The twenty minutes of “Joe Royle’s Blue and White Army” was incredible. It’s nice to see everybody getting behind the team.

It’s a shame this win didn’t move us further up the table. Automatic promotion still looks a pretty tall order, but you never know. As I write this the FA are discussing whether to sack Hoddle (and personally I think they should). Wouldn’t it be a shame if Keegan were to get the job! Meanwhile, Preston’s manager is said to be Taggart’s first choice as assistant, and there are rumours that we’re going to get a major cash injection. What should JR spend it on? Terry Cooke, a striker and a left winger – if we had a decent striker (Uwe would be my first choice) getting on the end of crosses from both sides there could be no stopping City. Whoever he buys, Joe shouldn’t spend it all in one go but save some for if we go up.

Julian Griffiths (J.P.Griffiths@lboro.ac.uk)

NEWS SUMMARY

Millwall – Preview

Ever since City’s visit to The New Den on September 29, attention has been focused on the return at Maine Road, which takes place this Saturday. In particular, there have been several warnings of the potential for a repeat of the crowd trouble which disfigured our trip to Bermondsey. The following, for instance, landed in my mailbox from MCIVTA subscriber Chris Horrocks: “A Millwall supporter who researched their fans in his sociology Ph.D recently told me that 3,000 of them intend to travel up to Maine Road to cause trouble in ‘revenge’ for the events that took place when City visited the Den. Even Harry the Dog, 1970s hooligan and scourge of police and rival supporters, is planning to come out of retirement to lend a hand.”

Whatever happens, I hope the reputation of City fans emerges unscathed. One of the few good things to accrue from the club’s recent disasters is that, thanks to our loyalty, we’re viewed as the genuine article when it comes to football fans. It’s something we can be proud of and I’d resent any moron acting in a way which might detract from the positive image. Preventive measures will include extra police being drafted in and stewards will being given a special briefing. I also understand that many pubs in the vicinity of Maine Road are considering the precaution of remaining closed for the day, something they’d be well advised to do if one or two of the rumours I’ve heard are anything to go by.

The match also seems to have assumed the status of a revenge mission for Joe Royle and the players. According to the manager, the talk in the dressing room immediately after the Stoke match was all about the visit of the Lions and from his comments it certainly sounds like the players are ‘up for it’. “There were events at that match which we weren’t happy with and we have a chance to put it right and make them suffer,” said Joe. It’s certainly important for City to keep up the recent good form against the team immediately below us in the table. Millwall by all accounts have a young side containing a number of products from their youth scheme and entertain play-off hopes themselves, so they can’t be taken lightly. With ten home games remaining and all of them against teams currently below us in the table, it’s our form at Maine Road which will decide whether we’ll stand a chance of putting pressure on Preston for a top two place. If that’s to happen, we can’t afford a slip-up tomorrow.

Vaughan to Keep His Place?

Joe Royle has something of a selection headache for the Millwall game. Andy Morrison was an automatic choice before his rather unjust three-match ban, but in his absence Tony Vaughan deputised successfully as we picked up seven points from games against three teams in the top four, and the defence conceded only a single goal. The dilemma for Royle is whether to ignore the old adage and change a winning side or whether to follow conventional wisdom and start with Morrison on the bench. The manager’s giving nothing away. “Let’s wait and see. It’s a nice problem for a manager to have,” was his only comment, though it’s thought he’ll choose to start with Vaughan.

Cash Injection – No Real News

The speculation over the potential cash injection and acquisition of a major shareholding in the club seems to have died down over the last couple of days, and there’s still no conclusive word on the name of the party involved. After weekend reports that the deal would be done with either Scandinavian or American backers, the latest rumours referred to an “English-based corporation with foreign connections.” However, I’ve seen references in a couple of sources to a board meeting today (Thursday), so it’s possible more news may surface thereafter.

No Signings Imminent

I should create a template for this item. Joe Royle is, as ever, looking out for players who would improve the squad, but there are no signings imminent. The City official site claims that he’d want any signing to be the type of player who could make a big impact, and that only after a cash injection would there be sufficient funds available for an acquisition which would fit the bill. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the free Saturday afforded by Sky’s decision to screen the Stoke match, Royle went on a scouting mission to Rotterdam but said the trip was merely an information-gathering exercise. Incidentally, I hope that if money does become available, we don’t inflate the squad to ludicrous proportions in the way we did after the last cash injection.

City 19th in Turnover League

The Deloitte & Touche survey of football club accounts has made most news this week for labelling a certain Trafford-based outfit “the world’s richest club.” It also provides some interesting data on our club, however. Last season, we had the 19th largest turnover in British football, ahead of three Premiership sides – Wimbledon, Derby and Southampton. The only other team outside the English or Scottish top flight to make the leading twenty is Sunderland, who are one place above us, buoyed no doubt by their large home crowds at their new stadium.

The report I’ve seen makes great play that there are currently 33 teams above us who had less income than us – the view is that we’re punching below our weight. While I agree that we’ve not made the best use of our resources, I don’t think it’s the most telling conclusion to be drawn. Despite drawing more money in than those 33 teams, we made a bigger loss than any of them. The real lesson is that teams who gamble on attaining Premier League status by spending on players and increasing their cost base hit major problems if the gamble doesn’t pay off. It’s a lesson that Wolves, losing £40,000 each week and set to give free transfers to many big earners in the summer, are also familiar with.

Obituary – Arthur Mann

I’ve just learned of the untimely death of the former City full-back Arthur Mann at the age of 51. He was killed in an accident at the scrapyard where he worked. A Mercer/Allison purchase in the late 1960s, Mann cost a club-record £65,000 from Scottish club Hearts. By the standards of the day, it was a major signing – the fee represented more than a third of the then transfer record, so equates to around £6 million in today’s climate. The move didn’t really work out, though, with Mann playing only 35 league games before spending most of the remainder of his career at Notts County. However, he did have some good days at Maine Road, playing in four European ties and also figuring in a City trophy winning line-up as a member of the side which won the 1970 League Cup by beating West Brom 2-1.

Obituary – Joe Hayes

After writing about Arthur Mann’s death this morning, I discovered on Thursday evening that Joe Hayes has also died, at the age of 63, after a long illness. Hayes, known as ‘Little Joe’, was a prolific goalscorer for City in for more than a decade before leaving for Barnsley in 1965. His 142 league goals in 331 games puts him high on the list of the club’s all-time top scorers, and he was particularly prolific in Manchester derbies, his nine goals tying him with Francis Lee for the honour of finding the net most for the Blues against the old enemy. He also figured in the two mid-fifties Cup finals, scoring in the Wembley win over Birmingham in 1956. Though he never won an England cap, he did win under-23 and Football League representative honours, while his record for City entitles him to a prominent place in the club’s hall of fame.

Reserves Lose Friendly

City reserves were beaten 4-2 in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Bolton on Wednesday. The match was arranged to give a run-out to the ring-rusty Richard Jobson, who’s only played 45 minutes in the second team since returning from injury, plus Danny Tiatto and Andy Morrison, who’ve both just finished serving suspensions. Tiatto and fellow Australian Danny Allsopp were on the score sheet for City, and Jobson came through the whole game.

Bailey Offer Riles Bur

Bury manager Neil Warnock revealed this week that he was approached by an agent looking to arrange a loan deal which would give young City striker a taste of first-team football. The Shakers weren’t tempted, with Warnock angry that the offer was made at all given that his team are in a higher division than City. It sounds like a lack of professionalism on the part of the agent, who, according to Warnock, didn’t actually know what grade of football Bury play. The player, of course, has since gone to Macclesfield on loan and made his league début for them at Blackpool on Saturday.

Weaver Makes Under-21 Squad

Nicky Weaver has been called up to the England under-21 squad for the match at Derby’s Pride Park against France. He’ll be hoping for better luck than on the one other occasion he was called up – he didn’t even make the bench after his first call-up. Everton’s £3.5 reserve Steve Simonsen and Leeds’ second string keeper Paul Robinson provide Weaver’s competition on this occasion.

Stadium Deal “Weeks Away”

According to Thursday’s Manchester Evening News, City hope to sign by “early March” legally binding agreements concerning the move to the Commonwealth Games stadium at Eastlands. The first drafts of the contract documents have now been drawn up and though, as would be expected, some issues are still to be resolved, David Bernstein is confident that any problems will be resolved fairly easily. A board subcommittee headed by John Wardle has been looking at aspects of the design, and apparently one of their contributions will be to ensure that the new ground has a prayer room! KFS Sports & Leisure Design have been chosen as the architects after making what Bernstein referred to as an “excellent presentation”.

Peter Brophy (brophpe@moscow.whitecase.com)

OBITUARY – ARTHUR MANN

Former City star Arthur Mann has died, aged 51, in an industrial accident in Birmingham.

Mann was in City’s squad during the 1970 double-winning season.

He was working as a fork lift truck driver at an alloys factory in Birmingham when the accident happened on Wednesday.

He had been working until recently as West Brom’s assistant manager.

Tony Book was quoted as saying, “Arthur was a wholehearted player who never let anybody down.”

Miles Barter (milesbarter@yahoo.com)
Vince Docherty (cmedical@netvigator.com)

LATEST SQUAD DETAILS

Changes since last squad printed:
Alan Bailey on loan to Macclesfield
Craig Russel on loan to Port Vale

Tommy Wright
Nick Weaver
Michael Brown Transfer Listed
Gerard Wiekens
Tony Vaughan
Richard Edghill
Lee Crooks
Anthony Fenton
Nick Fenton
Richard Jobson
Danny Tiatto
Kakhaber Tskhadadze
Andy Morrison
Shaun Holmes
Stephen Rimmer Loaned to Doncaster
Murtaz Shelia Transfer Listed
Kevin Horlock
Jamie Pollock
Gary Mason
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
Jeff Whitley Transfer Listed and loaned to Wrexham
Paul Dickov
Shaun Goater
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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