Newsletter #559

My weekend actually turned out quite well after a discouraging start. My Wolves-supporting uncle had inadvertantly booked a trip to the opera (his wife had anyway!) for last Friday, so my chance of watching the Blues in the pub were dashed (his wife would have been the babysitter!). So, after a 4-1 drubbing, I did have the consolation that I’d avoided having to watch yet another defeat by Wolves in the presence of my ever-smiling uncle. City were quite simply appalling, and Wolves were not in any way flattered by the scoreline. We have two ‘live’ match reports, as well as another opus from Cathal Wheelan in Berlin.

City are once again being linked with Craig Hignett, though there seems little substantive evidence to support these stories. The big news, though hardly unexpected, is that the BSkyB deal and the rights issue were approved, so the cash injection can now officially take place. Let’s hope we can mark this event with a halfway decent performance tomorrow night.

The current subscription list stands at 2,974.

Next game: Stockport County at home, Tuesday 7th December 1999


City Crash to Molineux Defeat

City slid to a 4-1 defeat at Molineux on Friday evening against a Wolves side which outplayed the Blues in all departments. Ade Akinbiyi and ex-Maine Road loan man Michael Branch put the home team two up and though Shaun Goater reduced the arrears, another Branch strike gave Wolves a 3-1 lead at the break. The Blues fared little better in the second period and Kevin Muscat completed the scoring on 68 minutes. Unusually this season, City were outfought in midfield and with Kennedy and Bishop short of recent match practice after their injury lay-offs, the team looked pedestrian in the extreme. New signing Robert Taylor was one of City’s few successes on the night, and the ex-Gillingham player fired a close range shot against the crossbar when the Blues’ deficit was only one goal.

Royle Tells Players “A Few Home Truths”

Joe Royle was not a happy man after Manchester City’s 4-1 drubbing away to Wolves on Friday – City’s first defeat by more than a single goal margin in 80 matches. The City manager revealed that there were some harsh words in the dressing room after the Blues’ Molineux débâcle. “We played badly as a team and there were a few home truths told,” admitted Royle. “Now we have a chance to show it was a one-off and make sure it is all forgotten.” One player exempted from the general criticism was new boy Robert Taylor, with the manager noting that the big striker “will add a new dimension going forward and he held the ball up better than we have been doing.” Needless to say, Wolves’ Colin Lee was rather more satisfied, reflecting, “Every player performed to a high standard and we were determined to show we can be an attacking force as well as be hard to beat.”

City Lose Top Spot

Following Friday’s defeat, City were knocked off the top of Division One on Saturday. Huddersfield Town beat QPR 1-0 at the McAlpine Stadium to move a point clear of the Blues at the summit. Third-placed Charlton closed to within two points of City with a 1-1 draw at Barnsley, who are a further four points back in fifth spot. Ipswich leapfrogged the Tykes with a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest on Sunday and the East Anglians are now four points adrift of the Blues. Joe Royle’s team will reclaim top spot if they win at home to Stockport on Tuesday.

Sky Share Deal Ratified

Manchester City shareholders voted on Monday morning to authorise the club’s board to issue £15.5 million worth of new shares, of which around a third will be taken up by satellite TV company BSkyB. The meeting was short and free of rancour, with all resolutions passed unanimously. BSkyB will take a 9.9% stake in the club at a cost of £5.5 million, while £4.8 million worth of shares will be issued to JD Sports owners David Makin and John Wardle. In return, the pair will cancel a corresponding amount of debt owed to them by the club. The remaining £5.2 million worth of shares will be issued on a one-for-seven basis to existing shareholders. With the holders of major blocks of shares indicating they’ll decline to take up their entitlement, most of these shares should end up in the hands of genuine supporters. The share issue is part of a £21 million package, which also sees the Blues appoint BSkyB as the club’s exclusive worldwide media agent for a five year period in a deal worth up to £5.5 million.

City Prove Major Sky Draw

Not surprisingly given the broadcaster’s decision to buy into the club, City are becoming the Nationwide League’s biggest armchair draw. The Blues made their fifth appearance of the season in front of the Sky cameras at Wolves on Friday. And at least three further games involving the club are set to be screened by mid-February. Next up will be live coverage of City’s match at West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day and the home game with Fulham in January will follow. And now it’s emerged that the satellite broadcaster wants to screen the potential promotion showdown at Huddersfield. The game at the McAlpine Stadium is likely to be moved forward to Friday, 18 February with a 7.45 pm kick off.

Promotion Rivals Eye City Star?

If Sunday morning reports are to be believed, City’s out-of-favour winger Terry Cooke is attracting the attention of Huddersfield Town and his home-town club Birmingham City. Joe Royle has so far said he wants the player to regain form in the reserves but rival bosses Steve Bruce and Trevor Francis are thought to be ready to move if the Blues hint they’re prepared to cash in on Cooke. It’s believed that City would at least want to recoup the £600,000 basic fee plus £200,000 promotion bonus they paid in the spring for the ex-Old Trafford junior. Royle could put the money towards a bid for long-time transfer target Craig Hignett, who’s still being linked with a move away from Oakwell. Fulham are said to be prepared to pay £1.2 million for the Merseysider.

Royle Reports Wide of the Mark

It was widely claimed in the Saturday press that a tight-lipped Joe Royle had stormed out of Molineux the previous evening after declining to attend the after-match press conference following the Blues’ defeat at Wolves. The truth, however, is a little less dramatic. In fact, no-one had turned up to escort the City manager to the press room in an unfamiliar ground so after waiting for some time, Royle boarded the team coach with his players. Manchester Evening News journalist Chris Bailey had decided to seek out Royle when the Maine Road boss failed to show at the press conference, and the reporter was rewarded for his enterprise with Royle’s full after-match views. Not surprisingly, Bailey was unwilling to share his scoop with his rivals from the national press, leaving the remaining hacks in need of an excuse for their failure to supply the views of the table-topping boss. The fabrication of an angry, taciturn exit by Royle fitted the bill nicely.

Wolves Goal Hero Thanks Bishop

Michael Branch put City to the sword on Friday evening by scoring two goals for Wolves against the Blues. And the striker, currently on loan at Molineux from Everton, gave credit for his impressive display to City midfielder Ian Bishop. Branch has suffered injury problems at Goodison and explained how Bishop provided sound advice when the 21-year-old was at his lowest ebb. “Bish is a big mate. We both live in Southport and I was his room-mate when I was at City,” said Branch, recalling his loan spell at Maine Road a year ago. “He gave me great advice when I was really low after breaking my ankle. He urged me not to be afraid to drop a level to get back to the top.” Branch has already scored two more goals at Molineux than he did in his stint with the Blues and Wolves have reportedly agreed a fee of £700,000 to make the move permanent. It’s claimed that Wolves boss Colin Lee has spent his transfer budget so will have to work to raise the fee for Branch. There’s been no word as yet of Royle making a bid to hijack the deal but £700,000 is a figure Royle was reportedly prepared to pay to add the player to the City staff last year.

Brentford Pair Linked

City have been linked with two Brentford players after scouts from Maine Road were spotted at Griffin Park recently. The Blues are said to have been monitoring the progress of Brentford’s central defender Darren Powell, but the Blues are rumoured also to have been impressed on their spying missions by midfielder Paul Evans.

Russell and Allsopp Back After Loan Spells

Joe Royle’s hopes of reducing his top-heavy playing staff were dashed when two players he’s prepared to release returned to Maine Road after loan spells. Danny Allsopp and Craig Russell have ended their stints at Notts County and Darlington respectively, though Royle may have more luck in offloading Chris Greenacre. Mansfield are thought to be keen to sign the on-loan striker permanently, though personal terms could present the Stags with a problem. Meanwhile, Bournemouth are the latest club rumoured to be showing an interest in Allsopp, who last week turned down a £300,000 move to Gillingham, but the Australian is reckoned to have designs on fighting for his place at Maine Road.

Macc Hope for City Loan Aid

Macclesfield Town are hoping to become the latest lower division club to take a Manchester City player on loan. The Cheshire club have reportedly asked the Blues about the possibility of borrowing one or two Maine Road youngsters. Moss Rose manager Sammy McIlroy, strongly linked with the vacant Northern Ireland post, is said to be keen to bring in a couple of new faces to lift his side into Third Division promotion contention. And with the Silkmen lacking the financial resources to make permanent signings, the loan system suits McIlroy’s purpose admirably. City manager Joe Royle is often willing to give his young players a chance to gain experience by lending them to other teams, so such an arrangement could benefit both parties.

City Lose Out Through Tiatto Success

City’s Australian international Danny Tiatto has made himself an important part of his country’s set-up with some impressive recent displays – but that won’t necessarily please his manager at club level. Tiatto was commended for his performances against Manchester United in the summer and against Brazil last month, and is a certainty to be called up for forthcoming friendlies against Chile, Bulgaria and Slovakia in January. The news is a blow to manager Joe Royle as Tiatto has this season proved a valuable squad member, deputising for both Danny Granville and Mark Kennedy.

Young Star Rewarded for Progress

Shaun Wright-Phillips has been handsomely compensated for breaking through into the Manchester City senior squad. The youngster’s reward came not from the club, but from his father, Celtic striker Ian Wright. The ex-Arsenal legend splashed out £14,000 on a Peugeot 306 for his son after the latter’s first-team call-up for the Blues at the end of October. And a friend of the 18-year-old was quoted by the News of the World as saying, “Shaun’s as proud as punch and his dad’s pretty chuffed too.”

Mixed Academy Results

City’s weekend head-to-head with Leeds United at under-17 and under-19 level ended with one win and one defeat for the Blues on Saturday. The Elland Road youngsters emulated their seniors’ last two league performances with a 1-0 win in the elder age group. However, the Blues took consolation from the efforts of their under-17s, who handed the Yorkshire side a 5-2 drubbing.

Reserve Game Postponed

Royle is hoping for a big improvement from his senior side against Stockport on Tuesday, but there’ll be no wholesale changes in personnel to help the Blues achieve this aim. Any fringe players hoping to force their way into the reckoning for the midweek local derby suffered a blow when Monday night’s scheduled reserve game at Preston was postponed. The City manager is expected to field the same team against Stockport as started at Wolves provided midfielder Jeff Whitley recovers from a bout of ‘flu.

City Facing “Must Win” Derby

City play their second Greater Manchester derby of the season on Tuesday evening looking for a return to winning ways after two defeats. The Blues already have a victory over Bolton to their name this term, and Joe Royle admits it’s vital his team produces a repeat performance when Stockport visit Maine Road. “This is a game we now need to win,” the City manager told the club’s official website at, but to do so his players will have to overcome opponents who have performed better than expected so far this season. Under novice manager Andy Kilner, County are tenth in the table but within striking distance of the play off places – a win against the Blues could take them into sixth spot. Just over two years ago, City produced what many fans regarded as the worst 45 minutes they’d ever witnessed from the Blues as County stormed into a 3-0 lead at the break in a fixture at Edgeley Park which eventually finished 3-1. In the return fixture, City’s 4-1 win wasn’t enough to stave off the threat of relegation but in the circumstances Joe Royle would no doubt settle for a much less conclusive win on this occasion.

Peter Brophy (



Gutted, absolutely gutted, can you believe it, there I am at half time wandering around, feeling confident that City would give their normal 2nd half performance and pull back this game when some bloke walks past me in the same (exactly) yellow hat as me. I thought I was the only one stupid enough to wear something like that, it would be like Tony Burns walking to the ground with no belt on his trousers, his trousers around his ankles and finding someone else doing the same.

Well what was the game like? Got to the ground and a lot of the pubs in the town were not away supporter friendly, so we were never getting in there (have you ever tried to do a black country accent, no accent can sound that stupid, you can’t even do a decent impersonation if you have an IQ above 10). Ended up going in some rough pub near the ground; met my mate at this pub because he’d been ejected from the Hogshead in Wolverhampton, for speaking to me on a mobile. The bouncer heard him, realised he had an above average IQ (not a Wolves accent) and chucked him out.

Got in the ground, I was quite impressed with the set up; to be fair it’s a nice ground with decent facilities and it’s hard to believe that our ground in Eastlands is going to be twice this size. Took my seat next to a couple of mates, Tim and Steve, and kick off commenced. City were on the back foot from the off. Why when we come to this part of the world do the clubs insist on putting the away fans on a lower tier and the home support on a tier above them? It’s an open invitation to put whatever you like on to the away fans; Midlands don’t you just love it?

So we were on the back foot and only a few minutes into the game we were one nil down. Wolves crossed the ball into our box, it was headed against the bar and Akinbiyi knocked it in with his head. Within what seemed minutes they were 2-0 up and the Wolves fans were dancing a merry jig. Branch got the second for them, his pace was electrifying all night. We look as scared as an 8-year-old at a Gary Glitter party, we showed them too much respect and we were rattled. Bob Taylor, who for me was the man of the match, hit the crossbar with an excellent effort. City didn’t have Kennedy in the game up to this point, but when he eventually sent in an excellent cross, it was converted by Goater. 2-1, game on. City were now starting to exert a bit of pressure for the first time in the match, but just before half time Wolves stretched their lead to 3-1; for some reason I thought City would still be able to scrap their way back.

I had my hat experience at half time, bad omen if ever there was one. So the second half got under way and City were being outfought in the middle of the park. Whitley’s game relies on harassing the opposition, which he didn’t, which makes him as useful as a Jeffrey Archer character reference. The back four were left exposed and didn’t seem to be tackling the Wolves players, giving them time and therefore confidence on the ball. Later on in the half Wolves carved up the City defence and got a fourth. At this point the Wolves fans let themselves down badly, coming across as very sad people by chanting ‘United, United’; this led to a couple of City fans trying to take on all the police and stewards to get to them. This must be embarrassing to any decent Wolves fans, why chant that sort of rubbish at a ground?

I left with about 5 minutes to go, I’d had enough. The Wolves stewards would only let the City fans out of one turnstile, which was very dangerous; only when it looked like the fans would turn on the stewards did they open a gate, no need.

The bright note from the game was the performance of Bob Taylor, he for me was superb, hitting the crossbar, bringing others into the game, setting Goater up with more than one clear cut chance, he was superb. Some sad git behind me was slagging him off (so I had to put him right), then he laid into Goater for most of the match. Who are we going to replace him with? Gareth ‘The Giraffe’ Taylor? He wanted Goater substituted after 5 minutes (again I had a word). Some people are more short sighted than Steve Wonder with a micro chip.

We need to be better than this, we badly miss Morrison, he would have put Akinbiyi in his pocket and still had room to organise the rest of the defence. Can you imagine us conceding 4 goals with him in the back 4? No, neither can I.

Walter Smith (



From your East Anglian Correspondent – escaped to the West Midlands for the day.

Am I jinxed or what? Is there an award for the unluckiest Blue of the year? If there is I think I might be a candidate. City have lost three matches away this season and I’ve been to three matches – guess which ones?

This is the second time my mother- and father-in-law have given me a birthday present of watching City at Molineux. Two years ago City got hammered 3-0 and this year we were hammered again. I have seen Wolves quite a few times over the last couple of years, when I have been to the in-laws and what I saw on those occasions meant I travelled to the match with great optimism. My brother-in-law had already said on Thursday that it was OK to stay at his house as long as I didn’t gloat on Saturday morning. Wolves have been poor at home and have had trouble finding a balanced side with any sort of midfield. With Wolves having trouble scoring goals and with City’s mean defence I thought 1-1 was quite likely and would avoid any family jibes over the next year or so.

I took up my position in the “Billy Quiet” stand between father- and brother- in law and awaited the team selection. Aha – Kennedy and Bishop back. I informed my companions that City had come to attack. Since Wolves are based around the counter-attack this was, I guess, an error by Joe. Playing into the wind in the first half was, if it was our captain’s decision, about as sensible as one of Nasser Hussain’s choices on winning the toss.

Right from the kick-off Wolves were all over City. It was like the Norwich game but with two differences: the ref was OK; and unlike Norwich, Wolves are actually quite good. Father-in-law had just said “at last Lee has got a balanced side” when they scored thanks to some seriously sloppy defensive marking, a header by Emblen against the bar, then off the back of Weaver and back to Akinbiyi who just nodded it home.

Wolves carried on hoofing the ball up past Wiekens and Jobson. The ball seemed to hang in the air quite a bit and this certainly caused Wiekens problems. City made a few brief forays into the Wolves half but most failed because Curle and Pollet both had a great game. Taylor mk2 almost scored from a long throw but somehow missed and hit it against the bar. Then calamity, just as City were getting into it, Wolves scored again after the whole City defence let Branch wander about in the penalty area until he shot past Nicky. I think we gave the Wolves the ball just outside the area in the first place. The main story of the first half from a critical point of view was the appalling lack of judgement of Edghill and Granville. Both kept giving the ball away in the most awkward positions around City’s own penalty area.

City then came back into the match for about 15 minutes. Kennedy finally got a cross in after losing his two markers and I think Goater got his toe on it, but it could have been one of the defenders… 2-1. City kept pressing but then more calamity, Jobson and Granville let Akinbiyi get to the by-line and he squeezed the ball across the area. All our players missed it and Branch didn’t. 3-1. Half-time and it was my in-laws that were gloating and I was sulking. The fans in the Billy Quiet were in a state of euphoria. My pre-match thoughts of how to celebrate City’s goals without being noticed by the old bat in front of us (she would have had me ejected from the stadium) were no longer relevant.

The second half was pretty mild after the first. Taylor mk2 had a good chance in the first few seconds after Goater cleverly dummied in the area. He fluffed this one too. After that there were few chances for either side. Wolves did not seem to be as hampered by the wind as City were in the first half but they did have a two goal lead and didn’t need to force it forward. Tiatto and Pollock came on for Whitley and Granville. Tiatto showed some good skills and gave Muscat (fellow Aussie) a serious dead-leg without the Ref. noticing it was a foul – excellent. Tiatto seemed a much better player than when I last saw him and also after his return from Aus.

Wolves produced the goal of the game late on. Osborne stuck a long ball down the wing that was chased and crossed for Muscat to slip it home. Osborne has been absolutely useless the last few times I have seen him and he usually gets the sort of reception that Taylor mk1 gets from the City fans – if you know what I mean. Typical that the swine played a blinder when I wished he was his usual ineffectual self.

City were pretty poor. Weaver could do nothing about the goals. Was this the first time he has let four past in 90 minutes? Wiekens, Bishop and Goater had reasonable games and the rest were ineffectual. Kennedy was giving his team mates some serious grief when a lot of the time it was him that was at fault. Taylor mk2 did not impress, and I thought he looked cumbersome. Not a fair game to judge him though. Wolves would have beaten any team playing the way they did on Friday. Some final comments on the context of this result from the in-laws perspective. Wolves have not scored four at home for years. They normally play in front of a very quiet crowd because they don’t perform – the Mexican wave has not been around the stadium for over three years. If they can play like that every week they will climb the table, but I think they were playing an unsustainable cup-tie sort of game.

So 4-1 and I have got to put up with the in-laws’ insults for the next year (or two if one or other of the teams gets up to the Premier) – thanks lads. Do I ask for a similar birthday present next time City go to Molineux around November time or should I go for a bottle of scotch instead? The good news for all of you out there is that I probably won’t make it to any other matches this season so City should not lose again away from home until the end of the season.

Pete Carey (