Newsletter #486

Apologies in advance, I’m severely limited for time tonight so I’ll have to forego a proper ‘intro’. The main news is our loan signing of Mark Robins, yes, that Mark Robins, and that we were also turned down by Lee Sharpe. Seems our esteemed boss has a new algorithm on his computer – apparently success appears to be dependent on loan players’ links to the Swamp.

Next game, Reading away, Saturday 27th March 1999


COLCHESTER UNITED vs. MAN CITY, Saturday 20th March 1999

Before I start, bear in mind this is my first live report, and the only other live game I’ve seen this season was away to Wycombe.

I was able to wangle a family visit to nearby Needham Market with sprogs atow and took my sister-in-law, Alison (a Posh fan, her season is even worse than ours!) along for moral support. I’ll be glad when we’re out of this league, what a ground, the Clock End was a stand about 6 rows deep with a clock about 2 foot square nailed to the back. I start to get worried when I open the programme to find home team players (Jason Dozzell) sponsored by ‘Mrs Judith Musgrove’ – scary!

The attendance was 6,554, the highest of their season so far, but only a few hundred more than Fulham’s visit last August. The omens were good when we won the kids’ penalty shoot out (3-2), which had been brought forward to the start of the match and had Colchester’s favourite son(?) Steve Lamacq as commentator (don’t give up your day job). The first half started in a nervy manner, with the U’s coming close to scoring twice in the first 5 minutes. Our main tactic seemed to be to kick the ball out of the ground (the logic being, if they haven’t got a ball, or run out of them, it may stop us conceding a goal). City looked amateurish for the first half hour, the game had a Conference feel to it, too much hoofing, no vision or anyone putting their foot on the ball (Bishop, at least should have done this).

We survived the first 20 minutes mainly due to Colchester’s poor finishing in front of goal, when we got our first corner. Their new Brazilian signing, Fumaca (sp?) didn’t last that long, he went off after about 15 minutes with concussion, from Grimsby reserves to Colchester General! Having been to quite a few away games in my years (but only Wycombe this season, I’m still trying to forget), I was shocked at how quiet we were, there was not much vocal support throughout the match (except with goal celebrations).

Colchester’s supporters’ best effort was ‘you’re not going up’ to the tune of ‘knees up Mother Brown’, mmhmm, most amusing. The Wiekens/Morrison partnership was stable at the back (apart from a few twitches) but not as assured as I have seen them. Crooks/Edghill were competent but no more, Weaver didn’t have much to do, but looked the part anyway. The midfield lacked some direction, Brown was gritty and had a few determined runs but Bishop wandered in and out of the game without stamping any authority on it; considering his experience in football, he was disappointing. We were making too many pretty triangles in our own third, which doesn’t hurt anyone.

The worst guy on the pitch was the referee, believe it or not. I’d rather not slag off refs, it’s a thankless job, but this guy was crap. He must have bought a new whistle for this match and was determined to get his money’s worth. He blew up for every challenge in the air, he didn’t let the game flow at all, and seemed to want to stamp his authority on the game but didn’t know how to do it, so he blew his whistle a lot. The first half was instantly forgettable, I was glad we came off the pitch with it still being 0-0.

City came out unchanged, and a bit more sprightly for the second half. We were trying to string together a few moves to put the U’s under a bit of pressure. Their goalie made a poor clearance, which was picked up by Cooke who lobbed it in towards Goater who took it well and finished in some style, I think it was on the edge of the box, good finish anyway. Buoyed by this we pushed again with Taylor being put through by Goater(?) who finished neatly from a wide angle, this was disallowed for offside. I was at a bad angle to judge if it was a fair decision. After that, the game went quiet again apart from a spell of pressure from the U’s with about 15 minutes to go, which culminated in a shot which hit the post, and Weaver making a fine save (double save?) from close range. Morrison was booked for bullying their big centre forward (who must have been a foot taller).

Overall, this was a poor game by both sides, maybe this is the type of game you have a bit of luck in and come away with 3 points and thank Him above. A draw would have been a fair result, we weren’t that much better than them. But who cares, we won! It makes a change for us to play badly and win.

School report:

Weaver: B- (does his homework, willing to learn).
Crooks: C (quiet boy that sits at the back of the class, apart from Chesterfield!)
Edghill: C+ (better than of late, showed marked improvement)
Wiekens: B- (not upto his usual perfect best)
Vaughan: C+ (got in the wars a bit, showed some strong determination)
Morrison: B- (works hard, although does scare/bully some of his fellow pupils)
Bishop: C- (living on past marks, coasting too much)
Brown: B- (determined performance, should do well on sports day at Wembley)
Taylor: D (lacks concentration and is easily distracted, doesn’t involve himself with the rest of the class enough, a bit of a loner)
Goater: B- (well taken goal, Shaun is really making a good effort; if he knuckles down for the rest of the term, he may do well in his exams)
Cooke: C (didn’t get much support from his classmates, but shows a lot of promise)

Sub: Jeff Whitley: D (a bit of a face in the crowd, didn’t have much time to impose himself)

This is the type of game that we needed to win, whatever the performance was like, the more I think about it the better the win seems. 7 points off Preston, dare we dream of automatic promotion?

CTID, Neil Quinn (


Royle Beats Deadline for Robins

After a prolonged period of transfer frustration, Joe finally swooped, as football managers are wont to do, for a beat-the-deadline signing on Thursday. Having failed to land the likes of Stan Lazaridis, Guy Whittingham and Lee Sharpe in recent weeks, City have signed the 29-year-old former United, Norwich and Leicester striker Mark Robins on a three-month loan from Greek side Panionios. Robins played in a Cup Winners’ Cup quarter final against Lazio a couple of weeks ago, but according to Royle is “desperate to come home.” Nine years ago, as an emerging youngster, Robbins scored the goal which took the Reds to Wembley at the expense of JR’s Oldham, prompting the City chief to say, “He has always been a valuable goalscorer and I remember his goal which beat Oldham in the FA Cup semi-final.” Let’s just hope Robins is more prolific in Division Two than he has been in Athens – he’s managed four goals this season! And many Blues will wonder whether the fact we had to fight off interest from our old friend Alan Ball at Portsmouth is a badge of recommendation. I remember being impressed by Robins when he first broke through at Old Trafford, however. It’s fair to say he hasn’t fulfilled that potential but maybe he can relaunch his career at Maine Road.

Sharpe Turns Down City Loan

Joe Royle met with more frustration this week when former Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe elected to join Bradford City on loan rather than come to Maine Road in a similar arrangement. Since rejecting a loan spell with the Blues earlier in the season, Sharpe has been on loan at Italian club Sampdoria but fell from favour after the departure of David Platt, the man responsible for taking the winger to Italy. The player said that Joe Royle sold the club to him and that travelling away from Maine Road, he’d resolved to sign for City. However, the deciding factor was the prospect of Premiership football through a permanent £1.5 million move to Bradford should their promotion quest be successful.

Cooke Stays … For Now

Presumably Bradford wouldn’t have moved in for Sharpe had their interest in Terry Cooke gone further. Paul Jewell, the Yorkshire club’s manager, was interested in concluding a permanent deal for City’s on-loan winger. However, he was dissuaded when United quoted a fee considerably in excess of the rumoured price £400,000, and later reports claimed the Reds were in fact asking for £1.5 million. This seems to mean either that Alex Ferguson is being friendly and helping to scare off potential competitors for Cooke’s signature, or there’s no chance of the player staying at Maine Road beyond mid-April.

New Deal for Brown

City midfielder Michael Brown, out of favour for the first four months of the season, has been rewarded for much-improved displays since then with a contract extension. The new deal, which has been accepted by the player, will keep Brown at the club until 2002. The move should put an end to the early-season speculation which linked the player with moves to Barnsley and Sheffield United. The official club site at quoted the manager as saying, “Before Christmas Michael was not playing well and I was disappointed with his attitude over one or two things, but you can only praise the way he has buckled down since Christmas and he has done exceptionally well.”

Morrison Ban Uncertainty

Andy Morrison is still waiting for the date of his FA disciplinary hearing. The City captain’s 11 bookings earned him an appointment at Lancaster Gate to explain himself, and he’ll have done himself no favours by picking up a subsequent 12th booking at Colchester. However, the date for the personal hearing has yet to be fixed. Morrison already has an automatic one-match ban which means he’ll miss the home match with Wigan on Easter Saturday. This may be extended by a further match, which would sideline the City skipper for the trip to Preston 48 hours later. Incidentally, Gareth Taylor will also sit out the Wigan game, as will the away side’s Simon Howarth, Andy Liddell and Paul Rogers.

Council Denies Eastlands Doubts

Reports in Thursday’s Mirror newspaper claimed that the construction of the new Commonwealth Games stadium at Eastlands is now in doubt, and that the Games’ athletics events may be held at the Don Valley arena in Sheffield. It was claimed that a team of surveyors had been examining the site last week and were expected to give the go-ahead for the start of construction work this week but further deep mine shafts have been found. The paper claimed a statement would be made next week on the future of the Games, and by extension on City’s proposed new home. Obviously, it’s worrying that such rumours should be circulating, even if the source hasn’t always been the most reliable. If they’re true, the effect on the club’s hopes of attracting investment could also be damaged. David Murray, remember, noted that the possibility of the move to Eastlands was a uniquely attractive aspect of a potential acquisition of Manchester City.

A poster on Blue View said that the council leader, Cllr. Richard Leese, moved emphatically to deny The Mirror’s story in comments reportedly featured on Radio 5 and GMR. He said that no surveyors were brought in last week and that all surveying work was done months ago because of the fact that the whole Sports City complex is being built over an old coal mine site. Any problems identified were less than originally envisaged and no mine shafts were found under the proposed location of the stadium. Lottery money was set aside by the government in January but the council still had to make the formal lottery grant application. This should be approved in April with building work then due to start in the autumn. This is a very specific rejection of the Mirror story, though in itself this doesn’t prove anything. However, only one version of events can be true – either there was a survey last week or there wasn’t. If the correct account is The Mirror’s, then it would probably be better for the Games organisers to come clean. On the other hand, if there’s no basis to this morning’s report, it’s a disgraceful piece of muckraking.

The account of the council’s denial, which I’m told has appeared on GMR and Radio 5, has been taken almost word for word from a posting by TF on Blue View.

More Kit Rumours

Following the termination of City’s arrangement with Kappa, there’s still no word on who will supply next year’s kit. Of course, one possibility is that no-one will supply it – I’ve heard from more than one source that there are strong rumours we’ll follow Leicester City’s precedent and produce our own. Time seems to be of the essence, though – by this stage, most clubs will have finalised the design for next season’s kits. And as we’re no longer with Kappa, we have to produce both a fresh home kit and a new away design this time out. Incidentally, I’ve been told that trade journals discussing Kappa’s strategy are full of information about high-profile contracts with top teams and individuals – the Italian national side, Gianluca Vialli and Marcello Lippi are recent endorsees. It’s fairly evident City don’t fit neatly in the overall pattern. This is borne out by the City entry on their web site. It refers to an “all-time low for the Sky Blues,” before noting that, “The team is more famous for the fact that it is supported by Oasis than its results. Relaunching Manchester City will be a very hard task indeed.”

Reserves Beat Leaders

A Chris Greenacre hat-trick and a further goal from Danny Allsopp saw City reserves notch an easy 4-1 win over Pontin’s League Division One leaders Coventry at Hyde on Tuesday. Whether Greenacre will have done enough with his three goals to earn himself a first team chance at Maine Road is highly doubtful, but it doesn’t seem to have prompted another club to come rushing in before the deadline either. However, with games in hand on the other promotion contenders, the reserves are apparently still very much in the promotion reckoning.

Reading Preview

This Saturday sees the first of three successive crunch matches against promotion and play off rivals as City travel to Berkshire for a one o’ clock kick off. With opponents Reading only five points behind the Blues, avoiding defeat at the Madejski Stadium is vital – I’ve noticed from a couple of visits to Reading sites a feeling their momentum for a play-off charge is building up, and it would surge further were they to beat us. Our forays to Reading’s old home Elm Park saw two big Cup replay wins for the Blues in relatively recent years (the legends of ’68 managed a 7-0 demolition job while Peter Reid’s less affectionately remembered side managed only (!) a 4-0 triumph in 1993), while we notched a league victory in 1987-88. However, our last two visits have been far from auspicious, with a 2-0 defeat the season before last eclipsed by a 3-0 reverse just over a year ago (the latter ranking prominently in the personal “worst ever” lists of more than one Blue I know) so maybe it’s a good omen that the Royals have moved grounds. Whatever, let’s not let them do the double over us, Blues.

Second City Blues – Reminder

Colin Shindler’s ‘Second City Blues’, a comparison of Manchester and Birmingham as sporting cities (is there any comparison?), will be broadcast on Radio 4 (FM only) at 11.30 pm on Friday, 26 March. Any opinions or reviews will be received by MCIVTA with gratitude and by the author with interest.

Peter Brophy (


According to today’s Daily Mirror (25/03/99), it looks like our plans for our new stadium could be going down the tubes. Here’s the article:


Plans for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester were in chaos last night after a surveyor’s report threatened to scupper the £90 million showpiece arena. Work on the the 60,000-capacity Eastlands Stadium, which was due to begin in January, has been delayed by cash problems and safety concerns at the Bradford, Manchester site, once a colliery.

A team of top surveyors was brought in last week but, instead of giving the all-clear for building to start, they discovered more deep mineshafts underground. Only last week the council announced a £25m shortfall in the Games budget and appealed to the private sector for help.

The added expenditure required to make safe the Bradford site has led to widespread panic among Games organisers, who could now be forced to share the event with Sheffield. The Yorkshire city, which hosted the World Student Games eight years ago at a huge loss, has made provisional arrangements to share the cost. The Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield would stage the major athletics events, with temporary stadia housing other events in Manchester. Officials in Manchester refused to comment but an announcement on the Games’ future is expected next week.

The situation constitutes a huge embarrassment for Manchester who, despite massive funding from Government and lottery grants, have been unable to make up the £100m required to run the show.

A proposed deal with Manchester City, who would have moved to Eastlands in exchange for proceeds from the sale of Maine Road, failed to materialise.

(c) Mirror Group Newspapers 1999.


When I worked in Newton Heath (for Wormald Engineering), I used to drive past the site every day and you couldn’t help noticing the capped mine shafts that litter the area – the most obvious one being visible from the road that goes from the Fire Station and the Abattoir.

The bit that worries me most though is the last paragraph. I thought that we had agreed a deal with the council, in that we got the Stadium in exchange for them getting Maine Road and all the money from punters that attend over and above 35,000 (ish)?

Richard Mottershead (


Reading v Manchester City, Saturday 27th March

Tickets for this fixture are now sold out. Supporters are advised not to travel without a ticket.

Ticket Office – Manchester City


We still only have 14 players for ‘land ut gods’ football tournament, this coming Sunday (28th March) in Huddersfield and could do with a couple more – anyone with an email address, supports City and can kick a ball is welcome.

Anyone who can play please let me know soon as possible.

It’s a full-day affair. Make sure you bring enough food to cover from 9am to 5pm – sarnies, tubs of pasta/rice etc. I’ll bring a case of water which should last us. Plus your own kit.

See you Sunday.

If you’re interested contact either:

Dave Barker –
Martin –

Martin Ford (


The fate of City and Reading will go a long way towards being settled over the next three games. Reading play City(H), Gillingham(A) and Fulham(H) while City play Reading(A), Wigan(H) and Preston(A).

9 points for the Blues out of that little lot will surely see us qualify for at least a play-off berth. Now bearing in mind that we recently screwed up against relegation candidates (like the City of old), then we should demolish all three of our next opponents by margins of 3+ goals… But then again, because I think we’ll win then they’ll probably loose… But then again… (You all know how the rest of the argument goes).

Anyway the great news is that after Reading slipped up against Luton on Tuesday, we are predicted to qualify for the play-offs again (just).

Team        Pld GS Pts  L6   Final   L6   Ave L6     Final    Pos
                        GS    GS     Pts   Pts        Pts
Fulham       37 63 84 (13)14 84.00 (16)16 13.57 (107.67)108.00=1
Preston NE   36 65 69  (9) 7 76.67 (11)10 11.14  (89.17) 85.67=4
Walsall      36 51 68  (8)10 67.67 (13)11 10.29  (90.83) 86.33=3
Bournemouth  36 56 64  (7) 6 66.00 (11)11 11.00  (81.17) 82.33=5
Gillingham   36 59 62  (9)12 79.00  (8) 8 10.86  (73.67) 75.33
City         37 49 62 (12)11 65.50 (11)11 12.29  (77.33) 78.50=6
Reading      37 47 57 (10)10 62.00 (14)14 13.00  (78.67) 78.00
Wigan        33 52 55 (13)14 82.33 (15)15 14.40  (87.00) 87.50=2
Stoke        35 43 54  (4) 6 54.00  (6) 6  4.43  (66.00) 65.00
Chesterfield 35 40 54  (5) 7 52.83  (6) 9  9.43  (63.00) 70.50
Millwall     37 42 52  (7) 8 54.00  (6) 9  7.43  (59.00) 65.50
Figures in brackets indicate last weeks values
Pld = Played
L6  = Last 6
GS  = Goals Scored
Ave = Average
Pts = Points
Pos = Final Position


[1] And the games that count during the next week are…

On Saturday 27 March:
Bournemouth  v  Colchester  12.00
Chesterfield v  Blackpool    3.00
Luton        v  Gillingham  11.30
Millwall     v  Wrexham     12.00
Preston      v  Northampton  3.00
Reading      v  Man City     1.00 <6 pointer!>
Wigan        v  Stoke        3.00 <6 pointer!>
On Tuesday 30 March:
Wigan   v  Bristol Rovers    7.45

[2] We must not lose to Reading and, remember, last year they turned us over 3-0. If we do then at the end of the day it could be fatal to our chances of returning to Division 1.
[3] A return to form by Stoke against Wigan would be nice (if only a remote possibility)…
[4] The game between Walsall against Preston next Tuesday has been postponed till April 20th.

RTRCWMC (Riding the Roller-Coaster with Man City), Richard Mottershead (


Further changes to the squad:

Craig Russell, Chris Greenacre and Jeff Whitley back from loan
Neil Heaney loaned to Bristol City
Mark Robins on loan from Panonios

Tommy Wright	 	Loaned to Wrexham
Nick Weaver
Steven Hodgson
Michael Brown Transfer Listed
Gerard Wiekens
Tony Vaughan
Richard Edghill
Lee Crooks
Anthony Fenton Transfer Listed, on trial with Portsmouth
Nick Fenton
Richard Jobson
Danny Tiatto
Kakhaber Tskhadadze
Andy Morrison
Shaun Holmes
Stephen Rimmer Transfer Listed
Murtaz Shelia Transfer Listed
Kevin Horlock
Jamie Pollock
Gary Mason
Jim Whitley
Michael Brown
Ian Bishop
David Laycock
Tony Dunfield
Christopher Shuker
Andrew Porteous Transfer Listed
Terry Cooke On loan from Manchester United
Neil Morley Transfer Listed
Neil Heaney On loan to Bristol City
Jeff Whitley Transfer Listed
Paul Dickov
Shaun Goater
Danny Allsopp
Gareth Taylor
Shaun Wright-Philips
Leon Mike
Mark Robins On loan from Panonios
Chris Greenacre Transfer Listed
Mikhail Kavalashvili Loaned to Grasshoppers Z