Newsletter #554

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Not much seems to have happened in the last few days. We’re still trying to buy Robert Taylor from a reluctant Paul Scally. We’re still about to have our promotion aspirations tested. The England team is still crap.

This is my last issue as guest editor. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I appreciate even more the commitment that Ashley puts in to McVittee. If you’re contemplating offering your services next time there’s a plea for a guest editor, I would definitely recommend having a go.

Next game: Charlton Athletic away, Saturday 20th November 1999

MCIVTA – RETURN OF THE ASH

Ashley’s back from his international jetsetting, and resumes the editorship from the next issue. Please send contributions to him again at mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com.

Martin

NEWS SUMMARY

Scally Insists Taylor Offer “Not Enough”

City’s main transfer target Robert Taylor trained with Gillingham on Thursday morning as the Blues waited to hear whether the Kent club had accepted Joe Royle’s latest offer for the striker. However, chairman Paul Scally reportedly told the Gills’ Clubcall service that he had no intention of contacting City. Earlier in the week, City boss Royle vowed to look elsewhere if a deal wasn’t done by Friday, telling the official club website at http://www.mcfc.co.uk/, “I would like to know by the end of this week if he is coming or he is not coming. We are heading towards that. That is not an ultimatum, that is not Royle says, now or else! It is quite simply that we would like to know by the weekend.” With the City manager’s deadline nearing rapidly, events will have to move fast if Taylor is to complete a switch to Maine Road. According to Scally, the Blues have offered £1.2 million, some of it conditional on appearances and other incentives, but the Gills want at least £1.5 million for their top scorer. If the Blues do end their long-running striker search by clinching Taylor’s signature, it’s thought that the next priority for the City manager will be a central defender.

Taylor Fulham Link Puts New Name in Striker Frame

Newspaper reports in the South are claiming that if Joe Royle is unable to agree a deal for Gillingham’s Robert Taylor, the City boss may switch his sights to Fulham’s Geoff Horsfield. Horsfield, signed by Fulham from Halifax for £325,000 last season, went on to be the London club’s top scorer in their promotion season and is now rated in the £2.5 million bracket. However, it’s claimed that the player has failed to settle in the capital and would like a move back to the North. Horsfield was linked with Leicester earlier in the season and Joe Royle admitted making an enquiry for him when Fulham signed rumoured City target Karlheinz Riedle from Liverpool. Leicester could also be back in for the player following the collapse of their prospective move for Sheffield Wednesday’s Andy Booth. Ironically, there was speculation on Wednesday that Fulham could be set to make a dramatic late bid to snatch long-time target Robert Taylor from under City’s noses as Joe Royle’s deadline for completing the deal neared. However, Fulham’s Clubcall service apparently said on Wednesday afternoon that City would be favourites to sign the ex-Brentford man – if Gillingham agreed to sell. The Gills’ willingness to do business with either City or Fulham may not depend entirely on financial considerations, with Joe Royle commenting, “Gillingham are reluctant to sell because they are involved in a promotion battle of their own. I believe that is the sticking point and not the money.”

Brown No-Go For Wigan

City’s transfer-listed midfielder Michael Brown will not be joining Wigan. The ex-England under-21 player had been strongly linked with a move to the Second Division leaders but Latics boss John Benson said on Wednesday that he doesn’t plan to follow up his initial enquiry for the player. It’s thought that Benson was put off by the fee Joe Royle quoted for 22-year-old Brown but there are also claims that the player indicated that he had no interest in playing Second Division football. Brown played for City’s reserves on Tuesday evening but reportedly had a poor match in front of a dozen watching scouts.

Premier League Probes BSkyB United Stake

Premier League officials are examining the implications of BSkyB’s 11% stake in Manchester United. The broadcaster recently agreed a deal to take a 9.9% holding in Manchester City and has a similar percentage of the shares in Leeds United – the latter meaning the BSkyB is in breach of Premier League rules which prevent the owner of a stake of more than 10% of one club from having an interest in another Premier League club. It’s thought that the television company may be asked to trim its stake in the Old Trafford club – although the Premier League does have the discretion to disapply the rule. BSkyB is currently pursuing a strategy of protecting its right to screen domestic live football by acquiring a stake in a portfolio of clubs attractive to its audience. Chelsea, Aston Villa and Sunderland have been mentioned as likely targets as the company bids to add to the three clubs in which it’s currently involved. The Premier League’s latest move highlights concerns which will be increasingly relevant in English football’s apparently media-driven future – a future to which City has signed up enthusiastically.

Tskhadadze Injury Relief

The injury suffered by Kakhabar Tskhadadze in the Blues’ reserve game at Oldham last night is not a recurrence of the knee problem which has sidelined City’s Georgian international since August 1998. The big defender had to be substituted in the first half of his comeback, but it was a damaged ankle which forced ‘Peepo’ to leave the field. Meanwhile the match finished 2-2 with Shaun Wright-Phillips scoring both City goals. Transfer-listed midfielder Michael Brown was thought to be the focus of attention for several watching scouts, while the Blues’ line-up also featured Terry Cooke, who was bidding to earn a first-team recall in the likely absence of Mark Kennedy at Charlton on Saturday.

Youth Cup Date Set

City’s opponents in the first round of the FA Youth Cup will be Bristol City. The Robins beat Plymouth to earn the right to take on the Blues, and the match will take place at Maine Road on Tuesday, 30 November with a 6.45 p.m. kick-off.

City Drive Liam Back to Drink

The most recent issue of Q magazine features an interview with Liam Gallagher, the man nominated by the journal as ‘Voice of the Nineties’. And the Oasis frontman tells of how he’s remained sober since March – except on one occasion. Gallagher, who became a father in September, has tried to leave his wild days behind him and claims not to have touched drink or drugs for eight months – except on one occasion. And not surprisingly, it was stress caused by watching the Blues which caused the fall from grace. The incident occurred at the play-off final in May, when Gallagher’s own words, “We were getting beat 2-0 and I thought, ‘F*ck this, where’s the vodka?'” It must be said that the singer is far from the first fan to be affected in this way watching City!

City Figure in Queen’s Speech Debate

Today in Parliament saw the Queen’s Speech introducing the government’s legislative programme. And support for Manchester City was held up in the ensuing debate as an example of persistence bringing its due rewards. Ivan Lewis was the City fan making the analogy. As he seconded the Queen’s Speech, the Bury South Labour MP noted, “I left school at 16 with 3 O-levels, and I’m a Manchester City supporter, so I know about the wilderness years and that they can, and will, come to an end.” City fans everywhere will drink to that.

Royle Happy to be Written Off

Joe Royle is happy for pundits to write off his team’s promotion chances. Charlton are currently favoured by many experts as the most likely candidates for promotion from Division One this season, and the City manager says that their verdict is fine by him. “Charlton seem to be everybody’s favourites at the moment which suits me down to the ground,” Royle told Sky Sports. “I love everyone on TV saying that they are the certainties to go up, but we will see. I know Alan Curbishley well and he won’t be underestimating us.” Royle was speaking ahead of a demanding week in which fixtures against Charlton, Barnsley and Huddersfield will see his team face the other three teams in the division’s top four. But the former Oldham and Everton boss played down the significance of the high-profile clashes and in the words of the cliché is taking each game as it comes. “It’s much too early to be putting so much emphasis on these matches,” he said. “The fact that we are playing second third and fourth makes them big games but I am only targeting Charlton. We can’t even think about the other two games.”

Top Spot on Line in Valley Visit

Manchester City could be knocked off the top of Division One for the first time in over a month on Saturday – if the Blues are beaten away to second-placed Charlton Athletic. And it will be a tough task for City on an away trip which seldom brings the Blues success – City have won only three of the twenty away league games they’ve played against Charlton. Alan Curbishley’s team closed to within a point of the summit at the weekend with an impressive 5-2 romp at Grimsby and are rated one of the likeliest promotion contenders. The South Londoners are certainly respected by City boss Joe Royle, who commented, “I tipped them at the start of the season to be the most successful of the relegated sides. There hasn’t been too much change there and I am not surprised to see them on our tails.” City are set to be without Andy Morrison and Paul Dickov for the clash, but Mark Kennedy boosted the Blues on Thursday by declaring himself fit. Meanwhile if Robert Taylor has signed in time to make his first City appearance he’s likely to find himself in direct opposition to another débutant – the Addicks signed defender Andy Todd from Bolton this week.

Peter Brophy (brophy_peter@hotmail.com)

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’: AN OPPOSITION VIEW

MANCHESTER CITY vs. PORTSMOUTH, Wednesday 3rd November

I often wondered if there were other teams that had an equivalent of McVittee. Parallel Universe and all that. Well, my colleague who works in the Bermuda office is a mad Pompey fan and like all exiles awaits with baited breath the score line from Fratton Park (and beyond). Not only that but he can’t wait for the forthcoming match reports from various fans who have braved the elements and provided the written entertainment; just as much as I (we) do.

This is taken from the Pompey FC Fans’ Forum and the contributor is known as Notarfdave.

His rhetoric on Kennedy is warming, his comments on G Taylor are not and his description of the Gene Kelly stand hits a raw nerve. He even uses the euphemistic name Badbuy plus some pot-shots at some of our players and overall performance. I didn’t like his reference to City fans but it does balance things up I suppose after all it was written by the losing side. Pity no reference of the red headed squeakmaster.

Please enjoy again!


Manchester City 4 Portsmouth 2

Have you ever been to watch a little club at home to a big club in the FA Cup, you know, when they just throw up a bit of scaffolding on the edge of the ground to get a few more fans in? That’s how it felt at Maine Road on Weds, stuck away in the corner, like not really being in the ground at all.

Still can’t complain I suppose, we give the away fans the sh*tty end of the stick so it’s only fair. I’m just surprised that after the Taylor Report that City got away with putting up scaffolding just to take a bit more money.

Still, on with the game. City started well, everything going down their left flank towards Mark Kennedy (now that’s a winger) and he was just putting the ball in the box with frightening accuracy. After 5 minutes of the Kennedy show Pompey obviously got a bit bored and decided to do something else; “I know”; says Claridge “I’ll try and win the ball”, win the ball he did and put a wonderful through pass to Lee Badbuy who positively took the p*ss out of Weaver before putting the ball in the net, orgasmic!

For the rest of the first half both attacks were brilliant, Bradbury and Kennedy miles better than anything else on show. Half time comes and we go in 1 up. Probably slightly shaded the first half, so probably deserved it. No changes in personnel for second half but City decide to go and ruin everything by giving the ball to Kennedy again (b*stards); yet again he raped young Jason and suddenly the ball was in the back of the net, don’t know how, it just was.

City fans wake up, what a gang of fickle t*ssers they are, never heard a peep out of them first half. The game hots up again with Claridge’s off the ball running and Bradbury’s running at defenders a joy to behold. Still our defence is frightening, and we sense we need to score again because we will concede again. Pompey pile forward, Claridge should have scored but the ball fell to super striker Tommy T (yes he did have a good game!) and he buried it past supposed England star of the future Weaver 2-1.

I start to panic! You could sense it wouldn’t be long before they gave Kennedy another sniff. True enough he crossed the ball, all Pompey defenders dreaming of other things and the division’s worst striker Gareth Taylor got hit on the head by the ball and it was 2-2. Couple of minutes later action replay 3-2. Pompey still went forward, bloody superb at doing so, movement, passing, everything was oozing class, but defending just wasn’t in the job description, ball goes in our area; “Where’s Andy Petterson?” I ask, nobody seems to know. 4-2, game over, another defeat but so optimistic, can’t believe I’m saying that. Meet my City mates outside the ground who can’t believe they even got a point!

Ratings:

Petterson 6 Did OK till last goal.
Crowe 4 Never got near Kennedy all night, needed help.
Robinson 6 Wrong side of pitch from the action, so had nothing to do and did it very well.
Whitbread 2 Where is Dave Waterman when you need him?
Awford 1 Bye bye, or should that be buy buy? Hurry up Cundy we need you.
Panopoulos 4 Didn’t get back to help out Crowe, nuff said.
Macca 7 Great forward passes and overall vision.
Thogerson 7 Won everything in midfield, defence and attack.
Simpson 6 Never really had much to do, but didn’t do anything wrong.
Claridge 8 One speed but he pulls defenders everywhere.
Bradbury 10 Superb in everything he did… quote from my City mate: “never did that for us”.

Subs:
Igoe 6 Helped out Crowe a bit better and tried to get forward.
Bernsten 4 No time to settle in but f*ck me, he’s big!
Whittingham 2 Same pace as Claridge,doesn’t seem as good as he used to be.

Hope you like the report, shame about the score but don’t despair. Sorry it’s taken so long in coming, I’ve been a bit busy this week. All the best gang, this is Nottarfdave for Fans’ Forum news at Maine Road saying see you soon.

Portsmouth Till I Die, Notarfdave (c/o Phil Lines plines@candw.ky)

CHAIRMAN’S BSKYB BRIEFING

Reps. of the Supporters’ Clubs had a meeting with the Chairman on the 11th November about the BSkyB deal. These are the minutes of the meeting.

BSkyB Share Purchase

During the past twelve months the Club has spoken to 11-12 interested parties regarding `buying in’.

BSkyB have purchased 9.9% of shares at £1 per share, £5.5m in total. They have also paid £2m to be media agents for the Club – tasked to get the best deal for the club in all negotiations regarding media coverage. They will also pay £1.5m if the Club are promoted to the Premier League, £1m if the Club stay up for 12 months and a further £1m if the Club finish in the top six or qualify for Europe.

Existing Shareholders

Current shareholders will be able to purchase 1 new share for every 7 they currently hold at the price of 90 pence per share. BSkyB have agreed to this option which will raise £5.25m if fully subscribed.

The three major shareholders (D. Makin, J. Wardle and S. Boler estate) are not taking up their option to purchase these extra shares. If this option is not over subscribed the current shareholders will also have the option of buying `extra’ shares at 90 pence each. If any non-shareholding fans are interested in purchasing shares, providing they buy before 6 December 1999 they will also qualify for the 90 pence option.

The Club would like this message to be spread via `the grapevine’ J. Wardle and D. Makin have converted approx. £5m of loans into new shares. This will save the Club around £1m in interest charges per annum. Overall this deal will reduce the Club’s debt by £10m.

If the Club gains promotion, with the extra revenue received, the Club as a business will start making a profit.

Some finance has been made available for the Manager.

Questions

Q. What is in it for Sky?

BSkyB recognise the Club’s potential. They are impressed with the support base and feel MCFC is destined for the Premier League. They are our media agents and will be looking at promoting the Club in many ways at home and internationally: Internet, video, advertising, sponsorship, TV channels, radio etc.

Q. What is BSkyB’s long term view?

Football authorities are against full takeovers. With the massive media market BSkyB feels the way to be involved is by having small share holdings in several Clubs. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission are also very wary of full takeovers as recent history has shown. The Club is pleased to be on the ‘inside’ for a change, gaining the benefits of a professional powerful partnership with BSkyB.

Q. What will their day to day involvement be?

BSkyB will have no special powers, only a 9.9% share holding. The Club does not anticipate any difference in the day to day operation of the Club. If BSkyB appoints a Director (their option) this Director will not be present if any discussions take place where there is a conflict of interest. The Club feels that working with BSkyB will give them more muscle in their commercial activities.

Q. Does the Chairman have any reservations?

No. He is ‘over the moon’

Q. What about the local media?

The Club will still negotiate with the local radio stations for coverage of our games. However, GMR and Piccadilly Radio have diminishing audiences and the Club feels it will be two years before they have their own radio station.

Q. BSkyB 5 year deal

lf BSkyB don’t wish to extend the 5 year deal (media agents) with the Club, they will just be shareholders.

Q. Any other potential investors?

There are no more discussions taking place regarding financial investment. D. Makin and J. Wardle only ‘signed over’ their loan because they felt BSkyB was the right partner for the Club. J. Wardle stated that he and D. Makin are here for the duration.

Q. Other major shareholders

Greenalls are not particularly supportive to the Club. With fans taking up the extra share options, this will dilute the share holding of Greenalls and the Boler estate. It is not known if F. H. Lee will take up his option. The Chairman is hoping to attract investment from the ‘city’ if any of the new shares remain available. This will ultimately increase the total value of the Club, equal to Tottenham H. and similar to Leeds U. The greater the value of a Club the more unlikely it is that any individual will attempt a total take over. The Chairman is very confident for the long term future of the Football Club.

Q. Player purchase

The Club will continue to stick to its price policy regarding players. If a selling club attempts to hold City to ransom then we will ‘walk away’. The Club has a system in place when buying a player with the Manager, Chairman and Directors all being involved.

Q. What if the share option is over subscribed?

The Club will look to direct the extra shares to the small shareholders and not just a pro-rata carve up.

Q. Any other offers of money?

The Club has recently rejected financial investment from two separate parties because these parties wanted to have a place on the board. The Club felt that these ‘new’ Directors would not improve the current ‘working’ board of Directors.

There will be an E.G.M. 6 December 1999
Take up options by end of December 1999
New certificates posted by February 2000

Les Saul (m02q4800@cwcom.net)

BSKYB OPINION XII

The tide of opinion appears to be swinging towards being in favour of the Murdoch stake in our beloved team. I have to say I am against this, primarily because of what I have seen in my recently adopted home of Australia. As soccer is pretty much a non-event here in Oz, I have adopted the local games of Aussie Rules and Rugby League to be my Winter spectator sports.

It is Rugby League that in my opinion has been ruined by Murdoch and Pay TV in general. I want to keep this short and to the point, so I will only talk generally. In a small competition of 17 teams last year, the Pay TV giants have been forcing the rules upon the sports governing body, and decided that an ‘elite’ competition of 14 teams would make better viewing next year. They therefore set ‘criteria’ for selection of those 14 teams, and encouraged the ‘weakest’ (under their dubious criteria) teams to merge or die. Two teams, Manly and Norths have been forced to merge (with half their games played at each old club’s locations, some 70km and 75 minutes drive away from each other). Two other teams, Balmain and Wests have also merged, with similar location issues. The teams’ names have changed (for example the former merged teams are now called the Northern Eagles), and all in the name of Pay TV. Another team, Souths, has been excluded from next year’s competition, because they did not meet the criteria and had too much pride and passion to merge with another team. I have no problems in letting a team die if they cannot survive financially, but to set up dubious survival criteria to select an elite competition to suit pay TV is just not acceptable to me. I was a Manly supporter, and cannot find the heart to follow them next year (can you imagine following City if they merged with Stockport or the Scum and took on another name?). A few may, but I am sure most true supporters would find it difficult to have any enthusiasm for such a situation. Thousands of fans have seen their lifelong teams disappear or merged into a unfamiliar new form, which does not now commit itself to the local community as much.

And all because of Murdoch and pay TV in general. I am not saying that this will happen in the UK, and I truly hope it does not, but please beware, these people will do anything to make a quid. If the stake held by Murdoch increases, be nervous, very very nervous!

Alan Bowl (abowl@ozemail.com.au)

BSKYB OPINION XIII

The English Premier league gets coverage here in the US every Sunday for two hours on Fox Sports, a Murdoch channel.

This week, for the first time I’ve seen, the programme took a look at the Nationwide First Division, noted MCFC at the pinnacle of the league, made a comment about looking forward to our return to the Premiership and explained to the US audience that, and I quote, “Man City is the team real people from Manchester support”.

Just one week after Murdoch buys into the team. Coincidence? Perhaps. But if this is the “insidious” influence Murdoch’s worldwide networks will have, bring it on, let’s have some more. Next thing you know we might even get a game or two broadcast over here.

Phil Whitaker (Jabawocki@aol.com)

ARE YOU FRANK CLARK IN DISGUISE?

Having become somewhat of an expert over the last few years, I think I may be qualified to recognise s**t when I see it. What we all saw last night can be put up there alongside any of the worst performances that you are ever likely to see on a football pitch.

A whole team of overpaid woosies. A central defender playing at right midfield, a midfielder playing at right back, right sided players playing on the left, form players left on the bench to accommodate senior players in the team, a lack of urgency in the players and to round it all off a total lack of ideas by the management.

What you get is a totally inept performance, that makes you realise that Keegan will not win anything with England either.

It’s City all over again. Is he Frank Clark in disguise?

Andy Stevenson (rocket@mancity.net)

JOE HAYES: A TRIBUTE

I note in Carol Darvill’s article that an ex-City player called Joe Haynes has died recently. I think she might mean Joe Hayes, one of the favourites of my teenage years, who would certainly have been about 63 now, as he was my age.

It’s a pity his name was misspelt – and I don’t intend that as a criticism of Carol, who was probably not even born when he played for us – but he was a great favourite with the City fans of his day, and deserves better.

Throughout his career at Maine Road, which lasted about thirteen or fourteen years, he didn’t seem to age. He was only 5’8″, possessed a boyish look and an enthusiasm for the game and reached his peak in the so-called “Revie Plan” (it’s worth pointing out to younger City followers that there was life before Lee-Bell-Summerbee). Les McDowall, the manager at the time, decided to copy the all-conquering Hungarian national side and introduced a revolutionary system using a deep-lying centre-forward with two attacking inside forwards and also two wingers (3-2-1-4). Joe was one of those attacking inside forwards and proved to be one of our most successful goalscorers ever (152 goals in 363 appearances, and ten of those goals against United!).

I can still remember, as a student in 1955, listening to Sports Report on the radio (or do I mean wireless?) and hearing the result Manchester United 0, Manchester City 5. Joe got two that day against the famous Busby Babes. He also scored in the third (vs. Derby) and fourth (vs. United!) rounds of the Cup that year, when our ten men lost to Newcastle at Wembley. My souvenir brochure describes him thus: “Still in his ‘teens he has a future full of promise. His enthusiasm has been infectious, and he has proved an accurate marksman and purveyor of passes.”

The following year he scored a beauty in the 1956 final against Birmingham – some of you will have seen the video of the goal, where Revie allowed the ball to pass through his legs, completely wrong-footing the defence and deflecting it deliberately to Joe, who hit it low into the net.

I suppose the really big names of the team in those days were Trautmann and Revie, but there were many others who contributed greatly to this briefly successful period for our club, and Joe Hayes certainly did that.

Like Dave Ewing before him, he will be remembered with great affection by those who watched him.

David Buxton (dbb@forres26.freeserve.co.uk)

WHOSE CUP FINAL?

Can I appeal to all Blues either attending matches or visiting other teams’ message boards to please refrain from using the notion that playing Man City is their ‘Cup Final’. It is a taunt which I have always disliked since we first started using it last season. It is arrogant and condescending, and more befitting of what a Rag would say.

It is also a delusion. Whilst we are undoubtedly the biggest game of the season (in the League anyway) for local clubs in our division, such as Stockport and Bolton (because of local rivalry, and us being the best-supported, and currently highest placed), I cannot accept that we are the biggest game for the likes of Charlton Athletic, or Ipswich Town. I recently visited a Charlton Athletic message board, and some Blue(s) had been winding them up with the ‘Cup Final’ nonsense. One CAFC contributor made the very valid point that their games against e.g. QPR and Palace and even Portsmouth are bigger than their game against us. All of those clubs will take as many fans to The Valley as we are taking, but they will have the added ingredient of ‘local rivalry’, which will make it a ‘bigger’ game. Another example is Barnsley and Huddersfield. They are both highly placed, and it could be argued that when they meet each other it will be a bigger game than when either of them play City.

So come on you Blues (especially those in the North Stand, who seem to be the main protagonists) – stop using this silly taunt. You’re letting the side down. Most footy fans respect us for our amazing loyalty, but this is turning them against us, and it is, quite frankly, embarrassing.

I’m also going to post this on Blue View to try and get the message across to as many Blues as possible, and also to show visiting fans that some of us are not as smug as they think we are.

Show respect and we’ll get some back.

Vernon Thomason (Thomason@vernonfj.greatxscape.net)

PROSPECTIVE BRAMHALL SUPPORTERS’ CLUB

We are contemplating setting up a supporters’ club in the Bramhall/Woodford area of Stockport. If people are interested we plan to meet at the Thieves Neck at 8:45 on Wednesday Dec 8th. Anyone who fancies this could e-mail me at kraken@globalnet.co.uk. Let me know if you are interested.

Nige Beasley (kraken@globalnet.co.uk)

SHE WHO LAUGHS LAST

My sister was on Oldham market looking for the new City shirts when she came across a stall selling them 10 quid cheaper than the shops. She was well chuffed and thought she would buy herself the blue one and me the white. As she was about to dosh out 60 notes to the bloke behind the stall, he asked her if she knew what EIDOS stands for. Our kid tells him it’s computer games… Tomb Raider… He tells her that EIDOS stands for “eleven idiots dreaming of success”. With this bloke laughing our kid asks him if he is a Rag. He says he is and she tells him “b*ll*cks to your cheap tops, I’m going elsewhere”. She ended up going to Allsports and paying 20 quid more. I was well pleased. The Rag got no money and my top is ragfree. I know she paid an extra 20 notes, but it’s made our week.

City till I die… Lee Norris (neoouija@hotmail.com)

BOOK REVIEW

“Blue Moon: Down Among The Dead Men With Manchester City” by Mark Hodkinson (pub. Mainstream Sport, £7.99)

A well-told tale of woe and hope. That’s what you get in Mark Hodkinson’s account of City’s 1998-99 season in the (old) Third Division. Hodkinson is a City supporter/Times reporter who had previously spent a season with Barnsley in the Premiership, describing the life of a small club thrust into the big-time; his book on City is that story in reverse. It’s a good read.

Hodkinson became a familiar figure behind the scenes and on match-days at Maine Road. He was an attentive listener, his judgements shrewd and persuasive. Although the short match reports are a bit flat, by far his best pieces (making up the greater part of the book) are the portraits of people involved with the club. There is the wonderful Stuart Hall, broadcaster extraordinaire. We hear of Andy Morison’s love for the peace and solitude of remote Scottish beaches alongside his rawer, tougher side. There’s a sympathetic and intelligent interview with the departed Nigel Clough, and while nobody would have him back, Hodkinson does suggest that Clough was unfairly demonised in his time with City. There’s the gentlemanly Colin Bell, the unlucky Paul Lake and Kakhaber Tskhadadze. And there’s the “uncle” of the club, Roy Clarke of the 1956 Cup-winning side; now 73 and a bit frail, he lives in modest circumstances, chasing memories as vainly as full-backs once chased him. The author isn’t old enough to have known that era, but one suspects that part of him hankers after a time when Manchester people chose between the blue and the red but still went occasionally to watch the other lot if their own team was playing away, a time when City fans didn’t define themselves, as some do now, by their hatred of United.

Some of the City officials who spoke with Hodkinson did so with a degree of reticence. Even allowing them a natural distrust of journalists it’s hard to understand why a senior boardroom figure felt it necessary to sit in on the author’s interview with Joyce and Janet, the women who wash the players’ kit (unless it was because they know such things as which foreign player once walked into the laundry-room, undid his belt, and announced “Now ladies, I am here to do a favour for you”). More truly revealing of official attitudes is Joe Royle’s reported dismissal of the kind of fans who vent their opinions in fanzines or phone-ins; in his view they are a sniping and self-promoting set, untypical of the “silent majority” of supporters. But how does Hodkinson himself regard the fans? It’s true that he recognizes that City has its share of morons and boo-boys, and that players have felt intimidated by the jeers from the crowd. It’s true, too, that when he began this project the journalist in him wanted to challenge the stereotype of “loyal fans of a club given to magnificent failure”. But he is ultimately more generous. “A football club should be supported for the joy it brings, not the misery” he says, and the most joyous part of his book is when, putting aside the cussedness of some, he lets fans speak for themselves by quoting from their postings on the MCIVTA noticeboard after the play-off victory at Wembley. Choose your own favourites from the 70-odd reprinted, but Pat Poynton’s and Mark Bell’s go a long way to recapturing the emotions of that day.

“A new Manchester City was born at Wembley” wrote Pat Poynton, and if it was, perhaps the astonishing emotional nature of that comeback from the dead has something to do with it. Or is it more to do, as Hodkinson argues, with the sense and stability brought in by the new leadership of Royle, Donachie, Bernstein & Co.? The new prudence is exemplified in Willie Donachie’s measured reaction to being telephoned by Rodney Marsh with news of a “hot young prospect” in Paraguay (where else?!). Not so long ago the lad would have been flying in to Ringway Airport, sombrero and all; Donachie, says Hodkinson, just smiled and said “We’ll see.”

City will likely always attract the hare-brained along with the doubters and pessimists, but there may be fewer opportunities for either follies or laments in the new age dawning. When supporters sing “Blue Moon” it can seem, as Hodkinson writes, “a song for the bruised, the last swig of hope for the sentimental.” But it should also be remembered that its last verses, like this very good book, celebrate a happy ending.

Ken Corfield (kcorfield@berkeley_carroll.org)

KENNEDY SONG

This was posted on the Blue View message board. This could be the song we’ve been after. Début tomorrow, if he plays?

To the tune of ‘The Wombles’ (really!)

Up the Wing,
Down the Wing,
Mark Kennedy,
Used to be Wimbledon,
Now he’s City!

Well done whoever came up with it!

Phil Hartley (philh@firstcap.freeserve.co.uk)

SCANDINAVIAN TELE PUBS

Does anyone know of any pubs in London where they show Scandinavian TV so I can watch the match on Saturday?

Paul Green (Paul@psgreen.demon.co.uk)

WHY BLUE?

I regard myself to be very lucky and very privileged to be a Blue.

My first visit to Maine Road was in January 1948. The match was the record attendance for a league game in England 82,950; the Rags vs. Arsenal. Myself and my mate, both 11 at the time, went in and never saw a single player. We went home and went back the next week and guess what – that was the first view I ever had of the Blues. Maine Road was then being used by both City and the Rags as Old Trafford was being rebuilt after being bombed during the war.

I regard myself as being very lucky because if I had watched The Rags that first Saturday I would now be a Red; what a horrible thought.

I followed City all over England during the fifties; went to 54/55 and 55/56 Cup Finals and even got a job at Maine Road on the ground staff to be nearer to Roy Paul, Don Revie, Dave Ewing, Joe Hayes, Bert Trautman and co. Those were wonderful days.

I am now in Australia and miss the Blues badly.

Bob Redford (dta@southwest.com.au)

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DISCLAIMER
The views expressed in MCIVTA are entirely those of the subscribersand there is no intention to represent these opinions as being thoseof Manchester City Football Club, nor of any of the companies anduniversities by whom the subscribers are employed. It is not inany way whatsoever connected to the club or any other relatedorganisation and is simply a group of supporters using this mediumas a means of disseminating news and exchanging opinions.


[Valid3.2]Martin Freeman, martinf@mancity.net

Newsletter #554

1999/11/18

Editor:


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