Newsletter #677

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Although I’m sure many will be disappointed not to have got all three points last Saturday, a point is without doubt a good result for us, especially given the fact that Huckerby appears to have been far from fit. Perhaps what is disappointing though, is that apart from some minor developments in the protracted deals for Grant, Bishop and Jobson, there have been no further moves on the transfer front.

This issue has a match report; Peter’s news; an interesting letter on loyal supporters; City diary, SAFE 12; and lots of opinion on our current plight.

Next game: Coventry City at home, Saturday 27th January 2001 (FA Cup)

NEWS SUMMARY

Part I: Dervy Away – Result and Reaction

Draw Takes City Up One Place: Manchester City moved up to 18th position in the Premier League on Saturday. The Blues drew 1-1 at Derby to overtake Coventry on goal difference after Gordon Strachan’s men lost at home to Everton. Following a scoreless opening period at Pride Park, both sides scored in the six minutes immediately after half time. First, Darryl Powell converted Malcolm Christie’s cross to give the hosts the lead, but then within three minutes, City were level as Steve Howey headed home a Danny Tiatto corner. City remain three points behind Derby, who are immediately above the drop zone, while Middlesbrough and Everton are respectively a further point and two points ahead of the Blues.

Royle Satisfied With a Point: Joe Royle had been hoping for a win from Manchester City’s trip to Derby on Saturday. But the Blues’ boss was far from unhappy with the outcome after his side earned a draw at Pride Park. Royle saw City match the home team throughout the crucial relegation battle. But he admitted that a draw was probably a fair result in a match which was certainly not a classic. “Both sides were short on confidence, and probably because of that a little short on quality,” reflected the City manager. “We came here to win the game, but an away point is never bad.”

Todd, Tension Killed the Game: Derby assistant manager Colin Todd felt that the point his side gained from Saturday’s game against Manchester City could prove crucial at the end of the season. But the former England defender admitted that the game had been a tense and nervy affair. Todd was disappointed that the Rams held the lead for only two minutes after Darryl Powell’s opener early in the second half. But the former Bolton manager wasn’t too downhearted at only earning a draw. “This was a scrappy game – it was always going to be with the two sides in our position – and there was a lot of tension,” he claimed. “But while we’re disappointed at not picking up all three points, this draw could prove vital at the end of the season.”

Rams’ Anger at Ritchie Escape: Paul Ritchie returned to the Manchester City side on Saturday for the first time in two months. And the former Hearts defender was involved in a controversial incident in the match at Derby. Ritchie was involved in a clash with Adam Murray in the second half of the Pride Park encounter. And the home side’s assistant manager Colin Todd felt that the Scotland defender was lucky not to be sent off for the foul. Meanwhile, Joe Royle claimed not to have seen the incident, even though it took place just in front of the City dug-out.

Royle Backs Ref Despite Penalty Claims: Joe Royle felt that Manchester City were denied at least one legitimate penalty in Saturday’s draw at Derby. But the Blues’ boss was at pains to stress that he wasn’t aiming criticism at referee Jeff Winter. City had two penalty appeals at Pride Park. But while television pictures were not conclusive in respect of the second incident, an alleged handball late in the game, Paulo Wanchope certainly appeared to be impeded when attempting to meet an Alfie Haaland cross in the opening minute. But the City manager was anxious to ensure his comments weren’t taken out of context. “We should have had a penalty,” he said, “but it would appear that holding, tugging, pulling and grappling is allowed these days. I don’t want it to come across as a criticism of the referee because the Press Association will only report it as ‘Royle raps ref’.”

Part II: Transfer News and Rumours

Bishop Swill Weighing Up His Options: Ian Bishop is expected to announce this week that he’s leaving Manchester City. But it’s still not clear whether the Liverpudlian will opt to play in the Nationwide League or will move across the Atlantic. Bishop has attracted interest from several English clubs – and is thought to favour a switch to Barnsley if he opts to remain in this country, much to the disappointment of Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Tranmere and Gillingham. But the midfielder also has an offer from MLS side Miami Fusion, and is known to be tempted by the thought of ending his playing days in the US.

Jobson Hoping Finally to Seal Move: Richard Jobson has been hoping for the last three weeks that his loan move to Tranmere could become permanent. And there’s speculation that the 37-year-old could finally get his wish. Jobson was a mainstay of the Blues’ promotion team last season, but scarcely featured this term. And after a brief stint with Watford, the ex-Oldham and Leeds player has impressed during his first month at Prenton Park, and boss John Aldridge may now seek to offer the veteran a contract. Meanwhile, youngster Shaun Holmes, who is also on the transfer list at Maine Road, has been offered a week’s trial at Third Division Darlington.

City Linked with Bolton Defender: After the recent failed attempt to land Steve Lomas, Manchester City might have been expected to be continuing their search for a midfielder. But only one player was linked with the Blues in the Sunday tabloids – and he’s a defender. City are said to be interested in Bolton’s Robbie Elliott, although it appears that Joe Royle is eyeing the former Newcastle star with a view to next season, the player will be out of contract in the summer. The versatile 27-year-old, who can play in the centre of defence or at left back, is also being mentioned as a target for Ipswich as well as in connection with a move back to his old club.

Dickov Ends Talk of Hibs Switch: Paul Dickov is currently on the Manchester City injured list. But that fact hasn’t put a stop to rumours that the Scot could soon be leaving Maine Road, so now the player himself has now moved to end talk about his future. Dickov injured medial ligaments after coming on as a substitute against Leeds last week. And the 28-year-old claims he may make a quicker-than-expected return to action after originally being expected to be sidelined for six weeks. Press sources had claimed that even if the ex-Arsenal trainee makes his comeback, as he hopes, within the next month, this could simply accelerate his departure from the club, with Hibs tipped as his potential new employer. However, the Livingston-born star has emphatically denied the story, although Monday’s Manchester Evening News reckons the Edinburgh outfit remain keen.

Boss Wants Wright to Stay Next Season: Following the signing of Carlo Nash from Stockport, Manchester City have allowed reserve goalkeeper Tommy Wright to join Bolton on loan. But Joe Royle wants the veteran still to be at Maine Road next season. Royle is hoping that the 37-year-old will be the Blues’ third goalkeeper – but also envisages a coaching rôle for the Northern Ireland man, though the club has not yet made him a formal offer to this effect. But Wright may opt to leave the Blues because he feels he could play for another two years at the top level. “I’m keeping my options open,” he explained, “but it’s nice to have offers on the table from Joe.”

Albion Still Hopeful of Grant Deal: Joe Royle says Tony Grant will remain a Manchester City player, at least for the time being. But West Bromwich Albion say that they hope to land the ex-Everton star eventually. Albion were keen to sign Grant at the end of his successful loan spell at The Hawthorns, which ended at the beginning of January. But though Royle then accepted a bid from Barnsley for the 27-year-old’s services, the City boss changed his mind after the player’s substitute appearance against Leeds last week. However, the Midlands club are still determined to get their man, and chief executive John Wile says the deal isn’t dead, even though the Baggies have now signed another midfielder in the shape of Preston’s Michael Appleton.

Part III: Other News and Views

Royle Stays Even if City Go Down: David Bernstein has sought to emphasise recently that there will be no managerial change at Manchester City. And the Blues’ chairman says he’ll stick to his guns even if the Blues lose their fight for Premiership survival. Bernstein feels that the club is making progress even if results don’t currently reflect the fact. And he says that a calm approach is crucial if the club is to continue to move in the right direction. “Stability is vital if this club is to progress,” he explained. “Joe is the right man for us, his record is outstanding. Often, the toughest decision is to do nothing because people perceive that as being weak.”

Changes Likely for Cup Clash: Joe Royle will be forced to make changes to the Manchester City side for next Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Coventry. The Blues are without two suspended regulars for the game, and also have a number of injury doubts. Danny Tiatto and Steve Howey will serve one-match bans when the Midlands club visit Maine Road – though Tiatto may have been unfit anyway after picking up a neck injury at Derby on Saturday. However, the Australian is expected to recover to play in the league game against Liverpool a week on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Darren Huckerby and Gerard Wiekens could also miss out against Coventry. Both played at Derby but have yet to recover fully from the ankle and hamstring injuries which made them doubtful for the game at Pride Park.

Howey, Squad United in Survival Battle: Manchester City’s team is currently changing on a regular basis as Joe Royle searches for a winning blend. But Steve Howey says that the eleven players selected by the manager in a given game always have the backing of the whole squad. Howey, who headed a vital equaliser for the Blues in Saturday’s basement battle at Derby, says that togetherness is vital as City chase Premiership safety. And the ex-Newcastle man says there’s no jealousy between the players selected and those omitted by Royle. “All the lads are good professionals,” said the 29-year-old, “and no matter who the personnel is we should be able to gel together without any problems.”

Part IV: Reserve and Youth News

Luton Youth Cup Tie Rearranged: Manchester City’s youngsters saw their FA Youth Cup tie at Luton postponed last Tuesday. And the match will now take place on Wednesday, 31st January. The young Blues were disappointed to see the original game fall victim to the weather and are hopeful of further progress in the competition after their resounding win over Fulham in a third round replay before Christmas. The winners of the Luton vs. City tie are set for a home fifth round engagement against either Coventry or Crewe.

If a replay is needed to determine whether the Blues or the Hatters win through to the next stage, it will be at Maine Road on Tuesday, 6th February with a 7p.m. kick-off.

Peter Brophy (peterbrophy@mancity.net)

MATCH REPORT – ‘LIVE’

DERBY COUNTY vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 20th January 2001

First impressions of the new Pride Park (since I haven’t had the chance to go there before) were favourable – a good view seems to be had from all parts of the ground, the pitch seemed quite wide and square. I suppose my one grumble is that the catering facilities seemed to be hopelessly inadequate – although that could be partly due to the ban on smoking in the stands and the fans therefore staying in the concourse to finish their pints and cigarettes.

City lined up somewhat strangely – not the first time the line-up seems to have been odd:

            Weaver
Howey   Dunne   Prior   Ritchie
Whitley Wiekens Haaland Tiatto
       Wanchope Huckerby

Subs: Wright-Phillips, Goater, Grant, Granville, Nash

Now, where do I start? In fact it’s hard to think of a really meaningful chance to either side in the first half. The most effective performer in the first half was the referee, who seemed to take every opportunity to stop play and break up any possible moves. Weaver had virtually nothing to do, except take a lot of goal kicks; the defence seemed to do a good job of killing off any threat from the Derby front line, although they seemed to be so inept when they had half-chances, I don’t think we had to do a lot. The wind direction must have been pretty odd because both sides seemed to boot the ball into touch too frequently from free kicks.

Meanwhile, City’s play was altogether disappointing. Too many balls played hopefully high into the air towards Wanchope and Huckerby.

The second half started quite explosively with two goals in quick succession. Both came from crosses into the box, first Powell for Derby, and shortly afterwards an excellent cross (for once not too close to Poom) met by the head of Steve Howey.

At this point the game did seem to open up somewhat but the final analysis will show that these two goals probably constitute the only meaningful chances on goal during the whole game. City made substitutions – first Wright-Phillips for Tiatto, who was carrying a knock, then Goater for the clearly unfit Huckerby, and finally Granville on for Ritchie.

The most effective of these was to bring on Shaun Wright-Phillips. He did at least add an extra dimension to City’s hitherto rather one dimensional play, and although he had a half-chance which he took too long over, the game descended into more ‘hit and hope’ from both sides.

1-1 seemed to be about right for this game. We now sit third from bottom, and on today’s evidence, I can’t see us climbing the table quickly. We desperately need a creative force in midfield – someone who can bring players in from all over the pitch and do something different from time to time. The regularity of the long, high ball, meant that our attacks were so predictable, they could be cut out before any great danger was established. The ‘Route One’ style of football is probably more efficient if the ‘route’ isn’t straight to an opposition midfielder/defender! I wonder why Grant wasn’t given a chance to do something in midfield – this is what we needed today.

Is this a point gained or two lost? Against a team who showed such ineptitude as the Derby team today, it has to be seen as two lost. Looking at the remaining 14 league fixtures, games like today’s and the home game against Southampton have to be won. If we can’t make chances against Derby, what chance against Arsenal and Liverpool?

Ratings:

Weaver – 6 Very little meaningful stuff to do, apart from to pick the ball out of the net. Had to make one hurried save to stop a one on one but otherwise quite untested. Some dodgy kicking today, and could so easily have given a penalty away after a late lunge at the ball. Fortunately the Derby player in question kept his feet – some others would have gone down like a sack of spuds at this point!
Ritchie – 7 A good, solid part of the defence. It was good to see him back in the side, although probably not where I would have expected. Without a good channel through midfield had to resort (like the rest of the back four) to long, hopeful balls.
Prior – 7 Another fairly solid defensive game. Got a good reception from the Derby fans at the start, and played his part with few errors. Again needs a good channel through midfield to avoid having to resort to long, hopeful balls.
Howey – 6 Also solid at the back, and did well to get our equaliser, passing perhaps could have been a little more considered, less ‘hit and hope’, but probably this was his only option. Arguably most culpable for the Derby goal.
Dunne – 7 Played well, showed some useful touches at times, solid in defence.
Whitley – 5 Pretty ineffectual game from Jeff. He didn’t get into the game, when he did, he rather huffed and puffed without achieving much at all.
Haaland – 5 At times seemed quite uninvolved. Still hasn’t quite sorted out what he is doing with these wretched long throw-ins. Time to reconsider this particular tactic, but also to get re-motivated and involve himself in the play on the pitch once more.
Wiekens – 4 Was showed up as being just too slow. Spent a lot of time at the start of the game, giving the ball away and being caught in possession. Will need to improve to keep a Premiership team place.
Tiatto – 7 Was all over the pitch, battled for everything, unlike one or two others, and was probably the one channel down which any meaningful play could go.
Huckerby – 6 One or two good touches. Seems very much off the pace and not at all match-fit. I would question his inclusion in the starting line-up, perhaps would have considered him for a late entry as a substitute in reality.
Wanchope – 6 Held the ball up well, and battled, but always was being marked by two or three players, and got involved in some niggly stuff. Never really got close enough to goal to be a threat.

Subs…

Wright-Phillips – 7 He was an extra dimension and he definitely put the wind up some of the Derby defence, although he also got muscled off the ball quite frequently. Took some corners pretty well.
Granville – 6 Not much chance to really impress, but seemed solid enough.
Goater – 6 Didn’t really get into the game. Along with Whitley and Wiekens, may be in the process of being found out as not quite up to the standard we require to stay up.

Euan Bayliss (euan@agm.net)

PETER BARNES ON BLUE VIEW

City legend Peter Barnes has joined us here at Blue View and will be giving us his fortnightly verdict on events at Maine Road.

Read Peter’s thoughts on City’s current predicament by following the link below:

http://boards.rivals.net/default.asp?sId=914&stId=8055077&p=2

Doug Bennett (dbennett@ukrivals.net)

CITY DIARY

This week in City’s history:

Jan. 22nd: Remember Brian Kidd scoring 4 as City beat Leicester 5-0 back in 1972? Or in 1984, Mike Summerbee, Franny Lee, Asa Hartford, Nicky Reid, and Roy Little plus some of the Coronation Street cast performing “Jack and the Beanstalk” at the City social club (1st night of 4)?

Jan 23rd: Two 6-1 wins on this day. In 1932 vs. Brentford in the F.A. Cup. And in 1926 it was City 6 United 1, the biggest ever win in a derby match. (but City were still relegated that season). In 1974 Tommy Booth scored for City in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final away to Plymouth Argyle. It ended 1-1 and City went on to play Wolves at Wembley.

Jan. 24th saw Paul Lake’s début for City in 0-0 at Wimbledon in 1987. In 1981 six different City players scored in the 6-0 win over Norwich in the 4th round of the Cup. Manager John Bond’s son Kevin played for the Canaries.

Jan. 25th: In 1988 Andy Hinchcliffe’s goal sent City on their way to a 3-0 win over Huddersfield in a 3rd round Cup replay.

Jan. 26th 1952: Ron Phoenix, having been told that day that he’d be making his début for City, scored in the 2-2 draw vs. Arsenal at Highbury in front of 54,000 people.

Jan. 27th: In 1973 Willie Donachie got the only goal of the game at home to Birmingham.

Jan. 28th witnessed both famous and infamous Cup games in City’s history. In 1956 Joe Hayes scored and then Bert Trautmann kept out Southend’s attacks in the 4th round at the seaside. This is also the anniversary of City’s Cup game at Luton in 1961 when Denis Law scored all six goals before the game was abandoned with City leading 6-2.

Ken Corfield (Keltia@prodigy.net)

MONOMANIA

Monomania have now moved on from “Kippax Records” to “Ugly-man Records” of Manchester. Would you let the Blues’ fans know as many of them bought previous releases “What Next” and “Feed the Goat”.

The website – http://www.monomania.co.uk/

Thank you, Ricky (ricky@monomania.freeserve.co.uk)

LOYAL SUPPORTERS

With thanks to: Soccerage.com.

Editorial: Man City Fans – The Most Loyal In The Prem?

News Archive

01/19/2001. There was an interesting letter in my local paper yesterday, a sort of semi-sarcastic attack on the fans of my local team that have suddenly returned to support the team after an upturn in fortunes. Before we go any further, I should add that the local team I am referring to are non-league Frome Town who play deep down in the depths of the English football pyramid and after a few seasons when victories were rare, suddenly the club are fourth in the Screwfix First Division with games in hand of all the clubs ahead of them.

It would seem that the fans are beginning to return to follow and support the club now that they are enjoying a modicum of success. How whilst here in deepest Somerset we are talking about attendance levels that are measured in 100s rather than 1000s, it got me thinking about how this is obviously a trend that is relevant right through the league and also wondering just which ‘struggling’ club has/had the most loyal fans.

I decided to have a look at the fortunes of seven league clubs, all of who have enjoyed at least one season in the Premiership, but equally have had a spell in the lower divisions where they have struggled. I have then compared attendances from their Premiership season with their struggling season and found just which club have the most loyal fans. I’ve looked at the various average attendance in comparison to the overall ground capacity as obviously this changes over the years.

We often hear fans of various clubs stating undivided loyalty to their club regardless of their situation and of course you could argue that the most loyal fans are those that follow Carlisle or Exeter, week in, week out and regard a 500 mile round trip to support their team on a wet, freezing Tuesday night as one of the pleasures of following their club. Every team has a cross section of these rare breeds and they really are the fans that deserve the highest respect. It’s easy to follow a successful team, but when a club is in the depths of the Third Division and doesn’t look like ever getting out, then their loyal batch of fans remain the base of any struggling team.

However, how about clubs whose fortunes fluctuate from season to season? Who have the most loyal fans and which club has fans that desert the home ground as soon as relegation ensues? Back in 1999 when Blackburn were relegated, a friend of mine (who is still an Ewood Park season ticket holder) told me in no uncertain terms that things would return to the ‘bad old days’ of the early 90s. Well, back in 1990, Rovers’ average attendance was just under 10,000 (capacity 17,000), despite finishing 5th in the old Second Division; however, five years later when they won the league and from a capacity of 31,000, they averaged 25,000. Last season, their first after relegation, they were down to an average of 19,000, only just half filling the stadium! My friend would appear to have been proved right!

The season before Blackburn went down, Barnsley enjoyed their only season in the Premiership and the fans flocked out to see Man United, Leeds and Arsenal, with an average crowd of 18,400 (very nearly filling the capacity of 18,800!). The following season however, the excitement of watching Tranmere, Portsmouth and Bury clearly wasn’t so high on the agenda of the fans as they recorded an average of just over 16,000, it dropped a further 1,000 last season when they actually reached the play offs! Their last home crowd this season was 13,000 as the trend continues.

Fans of Barnsley’s south Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday didn’t wait for relegation to stop watching their club. In 1993 when they reached both cup finals and finished 7th in the Prem, the averaged almost 28,000; last season when they struggled and were ultimately relegated, that had dropped by 4,000! Their last two home attendances this season have been 15,000 and 17,000 – a cut of almost 50% in less than a decade!

Swindon Town are one of those clubs that were one season wonders in the Premiership and looking at their current plight, it seems unlikely to change. During their promotion season, they averaged 10,000 (capacity 18,000) and during the Premiership season, this shot up to 15,000. Their first campaign after relegation saw a drop to just under 10,000 whilst last season it had dropped to 6,977 – a far cry from those heady days of 93-94.

The above four clubs could justifiably be considered as unfashionable clubs. The kind of teams that have never enjoyed widespread success during the history, but instead have had brief spells of joy before returning from whence they came. However, the flip side of this can be seen with the following three clubs. All of whom have excellent stadiums, a wide catchment area for their fans and who have enjoyed a decent spell of success and silverware during their history. They also, allegedly, have extremely loyal fans! So let’s take a look at Leeds United, Newcastle and Manchester City.

During the late 60s and early 70s, Leeds United were one of the most successful teams in England and in 1973 they averaged 35,000. When they won the league in 1992, the average was 29,000 from a capacity of 30,000 after changes at the stadium were taking effect. Last season was Leeds most productive since that Championship winning season, and again the average was 39,000 from a capacity of 40,000, so when the club is successful, the fans certainly flock out in force.

However, during the 1980s, Leeds suffered a dramatic drop in fortunes and were relegated in 1982, their average crowd that season was just 22,000! During eight years in the old Second Division the trend continued, with 1983 seeing a slump to 16,000 whilst five years later after a finish of seventh place, it was back up slightly to 20,000.

So what of Newcastle. How many times have we been told that the Toon army are the most loyal in the country? Ok, so let’s take a look at the stats. In 1996 when Newcastle were at their best on the field and ran Manchester United very close to the Championship, out of a capacity 36,600 that season, the club averaged a superb 36,500! A full house almost every week and to be fair to the club, it’s similar now that the capacity is up to 52,000. However, go back a few years to when things weren’t quite so good.

1989-90 saw Newcastle have a good season in the old Second Division and they finished third. However, out of a possible 37,000 attendance, they averaged just 21,000! The following season it dropped further to 16,000. However, within five years, coincidentally after promotion and a couple of promising seasons, it had more than doubled. I’m sorry to shatter the myth that Newcastle fans follow their team through thick and thin, but the figures don’t lie.

So, each club I’ve looked at so far, follow the same trend. Success breeds success and whilst the club are doing well, the fans will flock in, but a drop in form or a drop in divisional status also brings a drastic drop in fans coming through the turnstiles. There is however, one club that does a little to redress the trend and that is Manchester City, whose fortunes over the last six years or so could hardly have been more dramatic. Below you will see figures from the last six campaigns, including division, capacity and average attendance and they make interesting reading considering all of the above.

94-95: Premiership (17th): Capacity: 28,053 - Average Attendance - 22,725
95-96: Premiership (18th): Capacity: 31,257 - Average Attendance - 27,869
96-97: Div One     (14th): Capacity: 31,458 - Average Attendance - 26,753
97-98: Div One     (22nd): Capacity: 31,458 - Average Attendance - 28,196
98-99: Div Two     ( 3rd): Capacity: 31,458 - Average Attendance - 28,261
99-00: Div One     ( 2nd): Capacity: 34,026 - Average Attendance - 32,088

As you can see, despite the struggles of the club on the pitch, even dropping into the third tier of the league for the first time ever, the fans kept flocking through the Maine Road turnstiles and remain a credit to their club.

It’s impossible to say whether a drop in division would ever affect the big clubs of the day. Arsenal have been in the top flight for 72 years, whilst Manchester United have only suffered one season out of the top division in the last 63 years, although both clubs did suffer a fall in attendances when their fortunes faltered, United in the late 80s (39,000 from a 55,000 capacity) and Arsenal in the early days of the Premiership when they averaged 30,000 from a 39,000 capacity, although the redevelopments of Highbury around this era (remember the Arsenal mural!) does make this difficult to judge accurately.

Now before we get stacks of complaints accusing me of being a pot calling the kettle black, I have never been lucky enough to be able to follow my club with a ‘season ticket’ regularly and I dare say that some of the fans who ‘disappeared’ from their home stadium when top flight or success left the club, have a valid enough reason for doing so, however what the above proves is that relegation from the top flight means a loss of revenue in more ways than one.

Manchester City fans, we salute you, as we do the hard core of supporters who continue to turn up each week regardless of the situation of the club and their current fortunes. However, to those who turn their back the minute that Bury become opponents rather than Liverpool, we can only hope their enjoy their Saturday afternoons watching the underwater tiddlywinks competition on Grandstand or a black and white film from 1948 on BBC2. It beats remaining loyal to a struggling team!

Gary Dowden – Frome Town Fan – Frome, Somerset!

Sent in by Phillip Lines (slines@tciway.tc)

S.A.F.E. 12

Sunday 21st January. Today the Sunday Mirror launches ‘The Biggest Fans’ Survey Ever’ in association with the National Federation of Supporters’ Clubs. The findings will be presented to Kate Hoey, The FA, the Premier League, PFA, Managers’ Association and Writers’ Association. One question specifically mentioned is ‘We want to know exactly you think of the proposals to bring back small, secure standing areas back at Premiership stadia’.

How to take part: Voting forms will be available from your supporters’ club and distributed to fans from Monday 29th January. Or you can request a questionaire directly in writing from Mark Agate, National Federation of Football Supporters’ Clubs, ‘The Stadium’, 14 Coombe Close, Lordswood, Chatham, Kent, ME5 8NU. E-mail inquiries to npower@talk21.com Telephone inquiries: 0191 252 6533.

Please forward this to everyone you know.

Thanks, Phill Gatenby safestanding@hotmail.com)

POLICING POLICY? – COMMENT

In reply to Martin Rajah’s comments, I’d like to defend the police (it’s not often I defend the police, but someone’s got to!) for the way they police the games.

He complained about how much the police did at the Leeds game, by blocking off the back of the North Stand/Kippax and locking the fans in. In fact, I don’t think the Leeds fans were locked in, just asked to stay behind, and those who wanted to leave were given protection by the police (they were slightly out-numbered). If he was so worried about the free movement of fans around the stadium after the Leeds game, then why did he complain about the fact that at the Birmingham game the fans could move freely? Maine Road isn’t exactly the best place to police, so that’s why they block off alleys… the last you need is hundreds of fans running around alleys looking like lost sheep.

“Why is it that the vast majority of us get treated like animals, told to move on, to shut up, get laughed at, get videoed for no good reason and get threatened with arrest for asking questions about our democratic rights?”

That’s because from 9-5, when you’re not wearing your City shirt you act responsibly. When it’s a Saturday afternoon, you’re all fired up after watching City and there’s 30,000 of you who’ve had a few pints, you don’t exactly behave perfectly do you? We’ve all shouted things we shouldn’t have, or gestured to people we wouldn’t dare to when we’re not wearing our City shirts. Policing a game isn’t much different from herding sheep. You just have to keep the fans apart and try and prevent any small fights from breaking out. If one small fight breaks out, you get a domino effect and before you know it you’re in the middle of a giant brawl.

Yeah, the police aren’t always brilliant and sometimes we get trouble, but on the whole they manage to keep World War Three from breaking out every Saturday, which is worth having to walk a few extra hundred yards to avoid any trouble.

The police do this for a job, and they know more than you do about which fans are going to turn up and what’s expected through their intelligence. They do what they do because that’s what they’re trained for.

David Scally (scall@mancity.net)

A VIEW FROM CALIFORNIA

I have started about five messages in the last month but keep deleting them without sending. I just got too depressed writing about what is likely to happen. My impressions are based on the five or so games seen on TV over here and highlights… so they should be seen in this context – such limited viewing misses a lot I know.

I can’t seem to gather a lot of optimism about our chances of survival and that worries me. Perhaps, in hindsight, we came up a year too soon and our euphoria got the better of us… hence the difficulty in accepting that we are in real trouble.

Yet – I keep thinking that what is wrong with the team has been there for all to see for months. The midfield has lacked creativity and leadership, the defenders that have been bought seem to share a characteristic of not being very good at defending and our attack is lightweight. I don’t think, again in hindsight, that our squad was as solid as either Ipswich and Charlton or as prepared for life in the fast lane.

Sounds very defeatist doesn’t it but I don’t mean it to be. There remains a chance but it is a slim one and will require a very good run of results. We can’t rely on goal difference given the way we are letting them in. In terms of the teams that could go down I’d narrow it to Derby, Coventry, Bradford and City. I think Venables will pull Boro through, more’s the pity. Everton could also remain in trouble; this is cutting it close but I did say before the season began that my only goal for this year was fourth from the bottom. That has to remain the focus.

I don’t blame Joe; I think I said when he was appointed that I worried about his ability at the very top level – but he has brought us from oblivion and he will be with us for some time yet. But I wish he wasn’t so steeped in the old Third Division North kind of mentality: up and at ’em stuff. For all the faults of the Premiership it takes a certain amount of sophistication to survive and I worry that Joe has not moved on from his philosophy at Oldham and Everton. And – I can’t see too many dogs of war in this squad at the moment.

But who will come to City now, with such a battle for survival going on? So we may have to rely on the squad we possess at the moment (hoping beyond hope that we can convince some new players to come in) – and again pray that some combination clicks and that all the players are given a chance. But as others have said it is now quite clear that some players who have been with City for a while just aren’t going to make it at this level. The counter argument may be that this has been clear for quite some time, even last year.

Here is a list of the remaining games. I have tried to be realistic and suggest what could happen. It is not happy reading.

Jan 20 Derby                 A      Draw
Jan 27 Coventry (FAC4)       H
Jan 31 Liverpool             H      Draw at best
Feb  3 Middlesbrough         A      Lose
Feb 10 Tottenham             H      Win
Feb 24 Newcastle             A      Lose
Mar  3 Southampton           H      Win
Mar  17 Bradford             A      Draw perhaps
Mar 31 Aston Villa           H      Draw--maybe a win
Apr  7 Everton               A      Lose--maybe a draw
Apr  14 Leicester            A      Lose
Apr  16 Arsenal              H      Lose
Apr  21 Man Utd              A      Lose
Apr  28 West Ham             H      Draw
May  5 Ipswich               A      Lose
May 19 Chelsea               H      Win

I think that is 3 wins and 5 (possibly 6) draws: 14-15 points: so somewhere we have to find 3 more wins. Oh this is too blo*dy depressing. To cap it all I may be over in March to introduce my 3-year-old son to what suffering is all about.

Once again: many thanks for this wonderful newsletter. It really helps to read the news and views and know that we have yet another “exciting” end of season in store.

Best wishes, John Pearson (john.pearson@stanford.edu)

OPINION – TEAM

Having spent the past few days catching up on reading MCIVTA, I was interested to read the opinions of those who see City on a regular basis. My own ‘live’ viewing of City has been restricted in recent years, I do though however have my own view point on who should be in the team and who we should be looking at buying.

I believe Joe is the man for the job, although I do believe he should pick a system and stick to it as much as possible and preferably the 4-4-2/4-3-3 formation we’ve employed to great success over the past 2 or 3 seasons. The team’s biggest problems stem from the re-building of the team to bridge the gap between Premiership and First Division. The defence leaking goals is symptomatic of two things; developing an understanding across the back 3/4/5, with different players being employed each week (after they have recently been bought). Secondly and perhaps most importantly, defending is something that the whole team is required to do, from the front men harrying defenders into mistakes to the midfield making sure that players don’t run straight through them. This is where the blend is lacking in the current City team, we need either Tony Grant to prove that he can be an all round midfield presence, playing killer through balls for the strikers and being defensively sound, or we go out and buy a quality midfielder. Joe should look at buying a rising young star capable of playing at this level, Jody Morris, Lee Hendrie, Lee Clark, David Dunn (although maybe too inexperienced?), or even look at a player such as Tugay at Rangers, a defensive midfielder, who passes the ball beautifully and has the ability to play the killer pass.

I’m not about to re-hash the Terry Cooke debate, but it would be nice to think that he could at least have a chance of a first team place, considering how poor we are currently. My current first choice team would be:

                                Weaver
        Haarland        Howey(c)                Dunne           Ritchie
        Wright-Phillips Jeff Whitley            Grant           Tiatto
                        Huckerby        Wanchope

Subs: Nash, Morrison, Granville, Kennedy, Cooke.

This is a team that would give us good balance and skill levels, the same solid back four and ‘keeper that gave us 4 wins before October and the front line will bring goals, the bench offers options to change formation and personnel and gives us the talismanic presence of Morrison. We are not a bad side and have a quality first choice eleven, but we do need quality in midfield and I believe we still need another forward, someone who is strong, powerful and score any kind of goal, scrappy or classic, James Beattie, Clinton Morrison or Jason Euell anyone?

Chris Lambert (Chris.Lambert@LloydsTSB.co.uk)

OPINION – THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER

Firstly I have to echo the sentiments of Simon Hope and Mark Wood in MCIVTA 676, (although I have to confess I will reserve judgement on both Dunne and Charvet), good comments all round. It has to be said that things do not look good at the moment, and with time rapidly running out there are few opportunities to reverse the dreadful trend of defeats and poor performances. The Derby game is crucial but I’m afraid I don’t hold out much hope (please let me be wrong by the time you get this!).

Yes, we desperately need a quality midfield, that is obvious, but look at the players we do have and how Joe uses (or doesn’t). I know Kennedy has his critics but he is one of the few players that can create chances by attacking players and crossing into the danger area. It is criminal that he has been a bit player this season. Tiatto is one of our leading lights this season but he cannot be expected to be defender and attacking midfielder week in week out! Terry Cooke deserves a chance to give us that balance and width that we so desperately need, and yet we recall Edgy before him. I know we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes but this is getting seriously worrying with only fifteen games to go!

Of all our recent purchases Huckerby may well be our saviour if he can stay fit as we all know that pace and an attacking mentality can create chances. Yet with width and crosses I do believe that Wanchope or Goater can produce the goods. I know it’s far from easy as my Championship Manager game keeps reminding me (although Ritchie always performs well!) but sometimes I despair at the repeated exclusion of decent players. Fingers crossed for tomorrow vs. Derby but I am fearful that Joe and some of the team are just not equipped to compete seriously at Premiership level.

Oh, and by the way Martin Rajah, let me see you do better! Oh I suppose you would allow everybody to roam freely about the ground before, during and after the game, and have the Police dressed in ‘nice’ tunics and uniforms that look traditional, and when there is trouble rely on PC Plod to record the miscreant’s details on his trusty notepad with his pencil… get real. Come on boys, do the business at Derby!

P.S. I’m afraid the Leeds affair was my fault… me and Mrs. went out for the day leaving our friends to look after the kids; the male of that couple is a Leeds fan and I got home at full time to find he had been drinking tea from my City mug all afternoon! Sorry.

Adam Davey (adam@daveya.screaming.net)

OPINION – VARIOUS RAMBLINGS

Well, Saturday came and was looking forward to the game against Derby with some trepidation. Went through all the match day rituals, lucky pants, lucky 70’s replica shirt. Caught the coach to the game with the other members of the Essex & Suffolk CSA, the mood on the coach was a little flat, like it was at our meeting the previous evening. Not all doom and gloom but a feeling of uncertainty, not knowing what to expect.

The coach journey was pretty uneventful, except bumping into Nick Leeson at the service station and organising a visit to the branch. It was good to see him looking so well after all the problems he has had. As it was pointed out by Chris, he does not look anything like Ewan McGregor!

Arrived at the ground at 1.30 pm. Now this is some sort of record for the Essex & Suffolk CSA; we have had some nightmare trips to games, we have had a driver who once got to Manchester and then admitted he did not know where Maine Road was but could take us to the Swamp!

Had a wonder about and saw the City coach arrive; was it me or did all the lads look down! The only guys to acknowledge the crowd where Joe and Willie! After much discussion it was agreed the team did not look down or beaten but they where focused!

Once in the ground and a few beers were enjoyed, the atmosphere was really good: loads of singing and good humour – this seemed to die once we took our seats! When the game kicked off, I had all intentions of writing a match report for MCIVTA but it was at this stage that I suddenly realised how hard this job is and how well the people who can do it, make such a good job of it. So I am afraid no match report, just some ramblings from the game!

Was Derby’s goal handball? Certainly looked like it from where I was sitting. Did not get chance to see it on MotD or Sky’s Goals on Sunday. Would be interested to hear anyone who was at the game’s view? Weaver is lacking confidence; I think my wife could kick a ball better than he can at the moment. He can not give the defence any confidence with the way he is clearing the ball at the moment, but saying that he did make a good save in the 2nd half. Heard a lot of rumours on Saturday that if we go down Weaver will be on his way, that’s why Joe has brought Nash in! Let’s hope it is just a rumour.

City are lacking in midfield, we desperately need a playmaker; the only player that looks like something will happen when he gets the ball is Huckerby. With Kennedy injured, why does Joe not give Cooke a game, he will be up to it and has something to prove.

I feel we did enough for the draw but not enough to win. Like I said, we desperately need a playmaker but who? I don’t look at Saturday as two points lost but a point gained; time is slowly running out, 14 games to go and by my reckoning we need to win 7 and draw a couple to be safe. So here’s to a nail biting 3 months!

CTID, Cliff Shelley (cshelley@clifford-thames.com)

OPINION – ‘BLUE DOOM’

To hear all this comment and views about our current plight proves one thing at least – we do feel for our club and are hurt at our present failings.

Look at the table; we are not adrift of the other teams that make up our ‘mini league’ and we must not lose our heads whilst those around us keep theirs. Talk of relegation at this stage is premature (although not out of the question) and yes a vast improvement in form/results is required. I write this prior to the Derby game so there is no knee-jerk reaction to the result – which, given past results at the Baseball ground doesn’t look good – but we are now visiting Pride Park and strangely enough we seem to perform slightly better on our travels.

There will be no change of manager regardless of the final outcome this season which is 100% correct in my view. We need consistency and I believe there is now a sound base within the club to build on. Don’t forget a new manager brings with him his backroom staff and at last we are O.K. with the youth academy, reserves and juniors so let’s leave this alone. Joe has assembled a good backroom team and there are several promising youngsters coming through. When was the last time we could have said that?

Of course the overriding aspect is the first team and we have to face reality here, we are still 2 or 3 quality players short of staying in the Premiership. Other MCIVTA subscribers have put forward suggestions and a quick poll of fellow Blues and colleagues have thrown up the 4 most consistent opinions:

  1. Joe must eat humble pie, not bear any grudges and try Terry Cooke. He isa good crosser of the ball and has an appetite for working and tacklingback. He would also fill the gap between the right back and front line. I’msure Wanchope and Goater would welcome a cross sometime this year. It wouldcost the club nothing to try him and if not successful then when heeventually he does leave we will know exactly what his capabilities were.
  2. It keeps cropping up, that ball-player in midfield. Without one we don’tlook like opening up any defences. A link man for Huckerby or Cooke isessential, otherwise the aforementioned players are likely to go lookingfor the ball and drop even deeper, loosing our shape and leaving no one upfront. Question is – who?
  3. A flat back-four system so that players know their rôles, using Granvilleand Edghill as the full backs. I don’t care what anyone says, this is aspecialist rôle that both players can play. They will not get skinnedoften – only when they are asked to run the length of the pitch being wingbacks and providing crosses do the problems set in. They can defend. Theycan’t pass a ball 60 yards with accuracy or weight. They should give theball to midfield who do this. Cooke, Huckerby and Kennedy are vital inthis system and help the team greatly when this format is played.
  4. Pick what is considered the best side and stick with it. No rotation withus – we are City and don’t have the quality in depth.

So there we are, our club is foundamently sound, the heartbeat’s strong, the fans remain loyal, and our unity is admirable. We have had a damn good two years after 21 crap ones. With the new stadium taking shape and sponsorship at an all time high we mustn’t throw it all down the pan. We have to invest in players now. Leaving it with only 6 games to go is short-sighted and is destined to fail.

Let’s start today in that rural backwater that is Derbyshire home of Kinder Scout, a few small villages where in-breading is still allowed and where the sheep roam nervously around the foothills of the Pennines (I used to live in the county and even now reside close to it and these are my own personal observations).

We are Blue and proud with it, we will support the club forever but please City fight until you drop. Every game is a cup final for us from now n – sh*t or bust.

CTID, Steve Denton (STEVE@dteam75.fsnet.co.uk)

OPINION – RE CITY’S POSITION

OK so we got a point at Derby. But we need to do better. I was sorry to see that Andy Morrison had been dropped – at least he can provide some leadership on the field – unlike our so-called captain. We desperately need a midfield player who can take charge as well. Why not go for someone like David Batty (if he’d come) who could do the tackling, keep the ball and pass it to Tony Grant who can then do what he does best instead of having to tackle and cover every blade of grass. If we had both Andy Morrison and David Batty in the team at least we’d have the beginnings of a spine. I agree with Simon Hope; with Mark Kennedy sidelined we should use Terry Cooke to provide width and some skill. The biggest mistake JR made was bringing in a new captain. Hardly shows confidence in the guys who have taken us up 2 divisions.

Whichever players are selected let’s hope we beat Coventry in the cup.

Ian Burgess (i.burgess@virgin.net)

RESULTS

Recent results to 21 January 2001 inclusive.

21 January 2001

Sunderland            0 - 0  Bradford City         47,812

20 January 2001

Chelsea               4 - 1  Ipswich Town          34,948
Coventry City         1 - 3  Everton               19,174
Derby County          1 - 1  Manchester City       31,174
Leeds United          1 - 3  Newcastle United      40,005
Leicester City        0 - 0  Arsenal               21,872
Liverpool             0 - 0  Middlesbrough         43,042
Manchester United     2 - 0  Aston Villa           67,533
Tottenham Hotspur     0 - 0  Southampton           36,095

League table to 21 January 2001 inclusive.

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  GD Pts
 1 Manchester Utd  24 10  1  1 33  6  7  4  1 23 10 17  5  2 56 16  40  56
 2 Sunderland      24  8  4  0 16  5  4  3  5 15 17 12  7  5 31 22   9  43
 3 Arsenal         24  9  3  0 31  8  2  5  5  8 15 11  8  5 39 23  16  41
 4 Liverpool       23  9  2  1 25  8  3  2  6 17 18 12  4  7 42 26  16  40
 5 Ipswich Town    24  6  4  2 19 10  6  0  6 17 20 12  4  8 36 30   6  40
 6 Newcastle Utd   24  7  2  3 18 12  4  2  6 13 20 11  4  9 31 32  -1  37
 7 Leicester City  23  6  4  2 16 12  4  2  5  8 13 10  6  7 24 25  -1  36
 8 Chelsea         23  9  2  1 33 11  0  5  6 10 18  9  7  7 43 29  14  34
 9 Charlton Ath.   23  7  3  1 18  7  2  2  8 13 29  9  5  9 31 36  -5  32
10 Tottenham H.    24  8  4  0 22  9  0  3  9  8 25  8  7  9 30 34  -4  31
11 West Ham United 22  4  4  3 17 11  3  4  4 14 15  7  8  7 31 26   5  29
12 Leeds United    22  6  1  5 21 18  2  4  4 11 13  8  5  9 32 31   1  29
13 Aston Villa     22  4  4  2 14 10  3  4  5  9 14  7  8  7 23 24  -1  29
14 Southampton     24  6  2  4 18 15  1  6  5 10 19  7  8  9 28 34  -6  29
15 Everton         23  3  4  4 13 14  4  1  7 11 20  7  5 11 24 34 -10  26
16 Middlesbrough   24  3  4  5 14 16  2  5  5 13 14  5  9 10 27 30  -3  24
17 Derby County    24  4  6  2 15 16  1  3  8 10 25  5  9 10 25 41 -16  24
18 Manchester City 24  3  2  7 16 19  2  4  6 12 24  5  6 13 28 43 -15  21
19 Coventry City   24  2  4  6  9 18  3  2  7 14 25  5  6 13 23 43 -20  21
20 Bradford City   23  2  4  5 10 17  1  3  8  6 24  3  7 13 16 41 -25  16

With thanks to Football 365

WWW MANCHESTER CITY SUPPORTERS’ HOME PAGE:
http://www.uit.no/mancity/


MCIVTA ADDRESSES:
Contributions: Ashley – mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com
News & Rumours: Peter – brophy_peter@hotmail.com
Subscriptions: Steve – sbolton@buxtonrd.u-net.com
Technical Problems: Paul – paul@city-fan.org


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]Ashley Birch, mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com

Newsletter #677

2001/01/22

Editor:


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