Newsletter #576

I’m afraid that I’ve only just got back from a Fairport Convention gig (am I really that old?), so it’s more a question of cut and paste. Apologies…

Next game: Nottingham Forest away, Saturday 5th February 2000


Royle Plays Down Transfer Talk

Joe Royle has poured cold water on earlier claims that major transfer activity is imminent at Maine Road. The City boss has told the club’s official website at that the Blues are “nowhere near” either an incoming or outgoing deal. According to Royle, the most likely transaction to come to fruition is one with Norwich for Tony Vaughan, but there’s been no word from the East Anglians as to whether they’ll pursue interest in the City defender. It’s thought the Canaries are reluctant to meet the Blues’ £350,000 asking price and the player’s reported £4,000 weekly salary. The former Ipswich man is now back training with the rest of the City squad after his trial at Carrow Road last week.

City Keep an Eye on Haaland

City scout Rod Cousins attended Leeds United’s reserve match against Sunderland on Tuesday night. And although so far there’s been no confirmation from the Blues, it’s thought that once again Alf-Inge Haaland was the man under scrutiny. City have now watched the 28-year-old utility man in six successive reserve games, sparking rumours that Joe Royle could be poised to make a £1 million bid for the Norwegian. To add fuel to the fire, there are reports that an emergency board meeting was held at Maine Road on Tuesday. However, the difficulty for the City boss may be the reluctance of the club’s board to sanction another major signing before some of the Blues’ unwanted stars are offloaded. The squad and wage bill are once again threatening to spiral and it may be that Royle has to sell again before he can buy.

Rumoured Target Dixon Offered New Arsenal Deal

Recent tabloid speculation has linked the Blues with a summer move for Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon. But the Gunners are keen to retain the services of the ex-England man and have offered him a new one-year contract. Dixon, who has just celebrated the twelfth anniversary of his move to Highbury from Stoke, will be out of contract in the summer. And while some sources feel he could be tempted to break the long-standing association by the offer of a two-year deal elsewhere, it’s open to question whether this kind of proposition will be forthcoming for a man who will be 36 next month. The Manchester-born player is a lifelong City fan, but it seems unlikely he’d opt for a one-year deal at City ahead of a similar arrangement at Arsenal even if the Blues do reach the Premiership.

Second Chance for Russell in Canaries Trial?

Craig Russell followed in Tony Vaughan’s footsteps this week and became the second City player to go on trial at Norwich in the space of a few days. And though the striker failed to impress in his outing for the Canaries’ reserve side, he’s reportedly set to feature in a second reserve match. Norwich went down 1-0 on Tuesday at Colchester, with Russell and fellow-trialist Jonathan Hunt from Sheffield United by all accounts producing mediocre performances. However, it now appears that manager Bruce Rioch is prepared to allow the pair another opportunity before making a final decision on their fate. Both men are available on free transfers.

Bishop Offered Contract Extension

City have offered midfielder Ian Bishop a new one-year contract. The 34-year-old’s existing deal is due to expire in the summer but he now seems certain to stay at Maine Road. “It is not signed but he has offered me another year and I will be signing,” Bishop told the official City site at “There are a few things to be sorted out, which is something me and the gaffer will talk about on another day.” Bishop has retained his place in the City midfield even though some saw recent signing Tony Grant as a possible replacement for the former West Ham player.

Veteran Pair to Stay Another Year

After the news of Bishop’s extended contract, it’s also emerged that the Blues have asked fellow veterans Tommy Wright and Richard Jobson to commit to another year at Maine Road. “We have spoken to them about one-year extensions and now it is up to them,” Joe Royle told the Manchester Evening News. Wright, who will be 37 in August, has played only two league games for City in the last two seasons but is obviously still regarded by Royle as a capable understudy for Nick Weaver. Jobson, who is three months older than the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, has been a regular this season after injury ensured he failed to notch a single appearance last term.

City Reject Wigan’s Dickov Bid

Manchester City have turned down a £500,000 bid from Wigan for striker Paul Dickov. The Blues are thought to be holding out for a £1 million fee for the former Arsenal forward – although director Chris Bird has emphasised that the club is in no hurry to part with the player. According to Thursday’s Daily Mail newspaper, Wigan don’t appear set to make Joe Royle an offer he can’t refuse. The paper quotes Latics chairman Dave Whelan as saying that his club “don’t intend going much higher” and that “the ball is in their [City’s] court now.” Ironically, Dickov’s strike in the play-off semi-final last season eventually proved crucial in sending City rather than Wigan to Wembley – where the Scot, of course, notched an even more dramatic goal.

Dickov Notches Reserve Hat-Trick

Dickov will have impressed any Wigan spies on Tuesday as he scored a hat-trick for the City reserves. The Blues beat Birmingham 3-2 at Hyde in front of a larger-than-average crowd including several scouts. The Scot was outstanding as City went into a 2-0 lead, one of his goals coming courtesy of a spectacular long-range lob, but the visitors fought back to level the score. The Blues’ winner came when trialist Mark McGregor, the twenty-year-old from Conference side Forest Green Rovers, won a penalty and Dickov stepped up to complete his hat-trick. McGregor reportedly gave an impressive performance to increase his hopes of extending his stay at Maine Road beyond this week.

Disappointment as Youngsters Lose at Derby

Manchester City’s youngsters are out of the FA Youth Cup. The Blues lost 1-0 at Derby on Wednesday in the fifth round of the competition. In a close-fought encounter at the Baseball Ground, the Rams won through thanks to Adam Isik’s 72nd-minute winner from a powerful 18-yard drive. There was some controversy, with the goal coming after an indirect free-kick in the City penalty area awarded against goalkeeper Steve Hodgson for dissent. City also had midfielder Steve Jordan sent off late on.

Tiatto Row – Royle Slams Premier Bias

The Australian FA have rejected City’s request to reconsider the decision to call up City’s Danny Tiatto for a four-team tournament in Chile this month. And Joe Royle is angry at the double standards applied in the Aussies’ player selection process. The likes of Manchester United’s Mark Bosnich, Harry Kewell of Leeds and Craig Moore of Rangers have been given permission to remain with their clubs. However, City secretary Bernard Halford’s faxed plea for the Blues to be accorded the same treatment has fallen on deaf ears. The episode has angered Royle, who fumed, “I feel there is one law for Premiership clubs and another for the rest.”

City Face Training Ground Dilemma

Manchester City’s Platt Lane training facility was only opened in August 1998 – but Tuesday’s Manchester Evening News reports that the Blues have already outgrown the complex. There are only two outdoor pitches at the site but, including the Academy youngsters, City have 74 players training there. The Platt Lane complex is a joint venture with the City Council and is extensively used by the local community. And according to director Chris Bird, any solution won’t involve a move to new facilities for the Blues. “Platt Lane is very much our home. The area is where the heart of Man City is and long may that continue,” he asserted.

City Bid to Increase Platt’s Misery

Manchester City visit Nottingham Forest on Saturday looking to cement their top-two position – and at the same time add to the difficulties facing Forest manager David Platt. The former England international has had a tough time since taking the reins at the City Ground last summer. Despite recruiting several new players at considerable cost, Forest have spent much of the season in the lower reaches of the table and are currently only three points ahead of the relegation zone. Matters recently went from bad to worse when Platt lined up three transfer deals in a bid to revive Forest’s season only to see Martin Smith choose Huddersfield and Spencer Prior opt to stay at Derby. Grimsby’s Jack Lester did sign, however, and will make his début against a City side which will have Gerard Wiekens back in defence after suspension.

Peter Brophy (


Quick view on the Youth Cup last night. We lined up: Hodgson, McCarthy, Paisley (Richards), Day (capt.), Jordan, Etuhu, Wright-Phillips, Dunfield, Shuker, Killen and Mike. An attacking 4-4-2 formation which at times relied a little on the long ball. With two big centre forwards it was an option, but the best results were achieved with the ball on the ground.

So, what happened? Well we lost 1-0, totally unjustly. We had most of the play, but the ref seemed hell bent on making a name for himself. A very clean game had five yellow cards and a red for Steve Jordan. He left the pitch threatening all and sundry for the outrageous decision and the Derby player who got him sent off. Not a happy man. Needless to say, the Derby player escaped all sanction. By this time we were one down and had taken a defender off. Still there were plenty of Blues present to agree with him in the meagre crowd of 427.

So, who done great? Hodgson, the ‘keeper, had little to do. No chance with the goal, which arose from a free kick in the box. This was incredibly awarded against him for shouting at the linesman for not giving a Derby player offside on the previous attack. I kid you not. This is worth the Club appealing in my book. Hodgson was booked as well. Full backs, too, had little to do, too. Derby did get in behind them a few times, but Rhys Day covered well. He also won everything in the air and fancied his chances at corners. The wingers. Etuhu didn’t see a lot of ball, so hard to tell. Big guy for a winger. May end up down the middle. Shuker is somewhat smaller, but no less a handful. Good at running at players, he linked well with Mike and Killen and hit the bar with a vicious shot. It was a shame he didn’t get more of the ball as he forced a good save from their ‘keeper with his other shot. Central midfield was not right. Shaun Phillips looked a bit out of place in midfield. He was bustling around, but is not really a ball winner. Tackling by hanging your leg out flimsily is a sure way to a broken leg. When he was dribbling was a different matter, though. Nothing seemed to go right for Dunfield in the first half. He missed our best chance when great work from Mike left him one on one with the ‘keeper, but a tame sidefoot was all he could manage. However, his distribution looked good in the second. We were short of a ball winner, though.

I thought the best player was Leon Mike. He didn’t get much change in the air, but running through the defence he looked really exciting. Strong and quick, he several times burst into the box, only for his final ball to be wasted by himself or a colleague. I bet Chris’s mum is on tenterhooks as to how her lad played, so finally it’s… Chris Killen. Got a bit of fire in him, this one. Booked early on for kicking the ball away, he was constantly pressuring the defence in the air, on the ground and irritating the oppo by never retreating at free kicks. Certainly wound the crowd up too. And yes, it’s true, everyone calls him Skip(py).

All in all, we looked a far better team than Derby. Short of a defensive midfielder, but good to watch. As to who will break into the first team? The two forwards, Day and Shuker look, at the moment, the best bets and Dunfield may well have a hint of Bish about him. People who see them more often may well differ.

Andy Noise (


For some time I have felt that going to watch professional football is getting too expensive for the working man and if you agree with me, perhaps you should consider getting along to watch the youth team. Last Wednesday City played away at Derby County in the fifth round of the cup and so off I toddled to the antique Baseball Ground. I thought it had been demolished when Derby moved to Pride Park but no, there it was resplendent in all its rusty glory. It left me wondering what will become of Maine Road now we are vacating but that is another story for another day.

The team lined up as follows: Hodgson, Hogan, Jordan, Day, Paisley, Joyce, Mears, Philips, Shuker, Killen, Mike. Straight from the kick off it was obvious that Derby were no mugs, even on a bumpy pitch and on a windy night they showed good composure on the ball and could pass the ball about well. However, City also looked sharp and while not as controlled in their play, they did pose the greater danger on the break and from set pieces. Shuker had a terrific shot turned over the bar and Day made a strong header from a free kick. In defence Day marshalled everyone very strongly and on this showing looks a real prospect for the future. Hogan covered well at right back and Paisley did likewise on the left side. Jordan did everything sensibly well, apart from one incident where he backpassed to Hodgson without realising that Hodgson was well out of his goal. The ball rapped Hodgson’s shins without him knowing much about it and rebounded to safety. Phew.

The midfield was very congested and poor little Shaunie Phillips was completely overpowered by the congestion in there, but Shuker was like sh%t off a shovel, a bit like Terry Cooke but smaller (really!). His shot in the first half was a real quality effort which the Derby ‘keeper did well to tip over the bar. Killen up front looked the part, he certainly looked big for a youth team but was booked for dissent early on and will need to watch his temper. Half time: Rams 0 Blue Army 0.

In the second half the wind seemed to pick up and swirled round the enclosed Baseball Ground. This seemed to hinder our playing style (hoof up field to the two big guys, then push up midfield to support). Derby continued to dominate possession but were not making much headway. However, as the half wore on, Derby began to impose themselves more and more and City were clearly tiring. With about quarter of an hour to go Derby broke down the left, the defence had gone AWOL, the ball pinged around the goalmouth before Hodgson fisted it away towards the corner flag then ran out to gather it. At this point everybody made their way back to the halfway line, but Hodgson decided to give someone a right rollocking. I have seen this done many times by Schmeichel or Grobbelaar or even Tony Coton, but on this occasion the referee penalised him by awarding a free kick to Derby and yellow carding Hodgson. I was flabberghasted at this and have never seen such a bizarre decision. Anyway, City defended the free kick but as the ball came out to the edge of the area the Derby No. 3 (Isik) wellied it home. At this point a note on the referee and his assistants. I know they have a difficult job and all that but if Martin O’Neill and all the other whingers want to see some real inept officials, check out these matches. In particular the linesmen missed so many decisions it was incredible, the referee could not keep up with play and in the second half issued cards for the slightest challenges, most of which were a result of tiredness rather than recklessness.

After the goal City tried to push forward but did not seem to have the steam left in their lungs to make an impression, and with 5 minutes remaining Jordan was sent off for a second yellow card following a tussle which seemed more a case of frustration and handbags than anything malicious. Parkhouse came on for Paisley to try to salvage something but all that did was further hamper the defence and in the last few minutes it was Derby who had the upper hand. All in all then a disappointment to lose, but we need have no shame, the youngsters did their utmost and were undone by a bit of eccentric refereeing and coming up against a very good Derby team.


Hodgson – did OK, never looked really troubled but was well protected by a back four.
Hogan – confident old fashioned right back, combined well with Shuker going forward and covered his centre backs well.
Paisley – left back, covered most things well enough, got a bit exposed by Joyce in front.
Jordan – a bit inexperienced to get sent off like that especially with the team chasing it but looked OK throughout.
Day – on this showing definitely one for the future, commanding at the back, strong in the tackle and the air, good pace and can hoof the ball upfield as well as anyone.
Mears – ball-playing midfielder seemed to tire later on in the game, but showed some good touches esp. first half.
Joyce – looked out of his depth, especially as the game wore on. Not much pace and did not give enough cover to Paisley. Must do better.
Phillips – in contrast to most of the team, he got better as the game went on especially after the goal when he pushed himself forward more. Needs to learn when to look up. Early on got lost in a crowded midfield.
Mike – big and strong , a bit clumsy but always looked like he might get a goal. Unfortunately he never did.
Killen – I think he is a prospect but where he fits in behind all our other strikers is anybody’s guess. Strong, pacy, chases everything… if only he could score he would be the perfect striker.
Shuker fast as a whippet with diarrhoea on steroids. Caused some problems but again tired late on. Unlucky with a powerful shot first half. If that had gone in… who knows.

Anyway I would recommend youth matches; this one at £3 admission and sit where you like was the best value match since prices went over 7/6 for the scoreboard end. Always next year, sorry for any spelling mistakes.

Jim Curtis (


Ashley’s asked me to tackle the magazine in a slightly different way so I hope it’s OK – I know my views will be both agreed and disagreed with, but then that’s life. However, any sarky comments from Andy Cleaver, Secretary of the London Branch, will result in a slap round the head and loss of Mars Bar! He knows what I mean!

Slim & Tonic

This article covered Jamie Pollock’s return to fitness and into the manager’s plans.

I’d like to know how he does it! Being a rather tubby person myself – OK then, fat bag – I could do with some advice! He is fitter than me of course which must make a difference! I sympathised with him as he recounted his experiences in the run up to and during the Wembley Play-Off Final. But as he admits himself, he was too negative at the latter end of the season which would have affected him off the pitch. I also don’t blame him for looking after number one and leaving if the offer had come along. Fortunately it didn’t so he took a long, hard look at himself and resolved to become more focused which has had startling results. IMHO and this is a personal opinion, I think he would be a better stand in captain for Andy Morrison than Richard Edghill is. I’m not jumping on the “we think Edgy’s useless” bandwagon, although I don’t like him as I’ve said before, but Pollock has a more forceful character and can let both his team and the fans know what he wants them to do; I feel that Edgy doesn’t and he suffers for it. I thought Jamie was a good captain when he first arrived but his poor disciplinary record did let him down, not that our Andy is an angel! As he’s more focused than before, leaner and meaner then he should be given a longer run in the team, but then again I’m not the manager! I found Jamie’s honesty about himself refreshing, you don’t get too many players who admit that their problems are self inflicted.

Tony Grants An Audience

Mike’s interview is held after the WBA win on Boxing Day, covering Tony’s career to date. I must admit to wondering why we’d got another “old boy” as for me, how a player played when he was with a manager the first time round doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do the same the next time round but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. He can pass a ball, hold it up and helps out both in defence and attack and I think he’ll play well with Bishop in the same midfield – however, I may have to change my mind if they start falling over each other!

Don’t Call Him Skippy

This article is about young Kiwi Chris Killen who has been over here for a year and is going great guns in the Youth Academy – can’t say I’ve seen him play yet but I wish him every success in his career here.

Leon Lights Up Maine Road

This article was about the Youth team’s FA Youth Cup tie against Bristol City on November 30. Again I didn’t get to see the match due to work commitments but I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing the boys the best of luck for the rest of the competition – more silverware?! Oooh-er!

Be Aware, Be Very Aware

This was an interesting article on how the younger players are being groomed to handle the media in all its guises – what a great idea! If one of the things it does is stops any player being interviewed saying “you know” or “um” or some other inane interjection with every breath that would help! I’ve felt that City, from the Chairman (whoever he may have been) through to the players and backroom staff have always been both media and supporter friendly – I’ve never known them ever willingly refuse to sign autographs or pose for photos and they’ve always been very amenable at Supporters’ club “dos”. We have a manager who is very articulate, tells it like it is without doing a “Sir Taggart”… you know what I mean, he is not media or supporter friendly and this attitude seems to have spread to his likle darlings – but enough of them, this is a City review. As my old granny said, “Courtesy costs nothing” and I think this will stand our lads in good stead in the years to come, whoever they end up playing for.

20th Century Blues by Gary James

Very interesting article enabling the reader to establish their own ideas of the comparisons which Gary alluded to – personally I picked out about seven which I won’t go into ’cause my views won’t necessarily match somebody else’s! However, I will mention that in the 1900s Sam Ormerod, the esteemed manager of the day, actually got his own office and a phone – modern technology or what! At least Joe has lost the revolving door on his office so that must be modern technology of some description.

Drawing on Experience

This covered Bish’s sortie into the world of children’s book writing and how he got started; I wish him luck with it. I have a suggestion for the Marketing Department at Maine Road… when his books are published, get them in the Superstore – they’ll go down a storm as they will appeal to both old and young alike – love the names of some of his players!

And while I’m on my marketing soapbox, why hasn’t anyone thought of producing a Moonchester soft toy?! He’s such a popular figure these days that you could do a good line in cuddly toys, cards, stationery, sweets, mouse mats… sorry alien mats, duvet sets, Moonchester outfits for kiddies or even us big kids to dress up in (fancy dress ideas?), teeshirts and other clothing; the list is endless so please do something!

Having had my moan I shall now go and have a lie down in a darkened room!

Carol Darvill (


Many thanks for your recent feedback on our commentary service.

We are currently reviewing the levels of service and need as much feedback as possible, to ensure that whatever steps are taken lead to a better service for our supporters and customers.

Your points have been noted and will be tabled with as we begin contract discussions.

Yours sincerely, Steve Sayer, Marketing Executive


by Noel Bayley (editor of Bert Trautmann’s Helmet)

It is with some interest that I’ve followed the Alan Brazil debate which has raged upon the pixels of MCIVTA in recent weeks, but one thing I have wondered is: so what’s new? Time and time again, ex-Rags are dusted down and dragged before the open mic on both TV and radio. Always have been, always will be. Of course there are more celebrated exponents of the fine art of sucking up to the Rags than Mr. Brazil; a Mr. ‘Cow Pat’ Crerand springs readily to mind. Here is a man who doesn’t just suck up to them, he becomes downright dangerous on radio phone-ins whenever his one-eyed version of events is challenged. Sadly, Cow Pat isn’t alone. Fat Ron Atkinson with his cheery smile, laboured clichés and perma-tan is never far away from a rolling camera. Nor is ‘Honest’ Lou Macari while the equally honest Mickey Thomas hosts his own radio show somewhere, thankfully, far away. And then there’s ‘Butch’ Wilkins, Alan Gowling, Wilf McGuinness and Alex Ferguscum who, it seems, are never too far from a studio while Steve Bruce’s ever-handsome boatrace recently joined the aforementioned throng of ex-Rags whose mobile numbers appear to be within easy reach of producers everywhere.

Why, Honest Lou even appeared on Granada a few weeks ago running his ruler over a City match. Can you imagine, say, Mike Doyle attempting to give his impartial view on a Rags’ match. No, of course you can’t because not only would there be uproar in the Home Counties, but there appears to be an unwritten rule in media: talk up the Rags and rubbish everyone else. Therefore, potential detractors are kept at arm’s length while those who are guaranteed to toady to the Rags are welcomed with open arms.

It disappoints me greatly to hear ex-City players like David White, Paul Power and Gary Owen being so agreeable on local radio while the likes of Crerand and McGuinness butter the Rags up and aim sly digs at the Blues. Who ever heard of two pundits (Blue and Red) so much as disagree on the airwaves? Give me a bar room row anytime as opposed to the pulled punches of the radio phone-in and the comfy TV panel.

But back to Alan Brazil. I well remember Brazil, along with such equally fabled – not to mention failed – forwards as Garry Birtles and Peter Davenport. Brazil was memorable if only for his uncanny resemblance to Coco The Clown with his bald head flanked on either side by curls, while it was said that Birtles had a building named after him: UMIST! Davenport? Er, now I’m struggling a bit, but he was as crap as the other two.

Last week, Wheelie wondered if we should refer to Alan Brazil in lower case, similar to how alan ball mbe (nee alan ball) is referred to in not only my fanzine, but in others too. Of course, I have no objection. Why should I? While we may have given the world such pseudonyms and acronyms as Slippery Jim Leighton, Crap Stump, the aforementioned Cow Pat and TWGFC? I can’t lay claim to alan ball. That was Bibby’s idea and, in turn, he nicked it from a Millwall fanzine – The Lion Roars – who, for some reason, always refer to Arsenal in lower case. TWGFC? was his though, while I’ll claim the others and there are more too such as WTFIGO? and BASS