Newsletter #773

A combined last Thursday/Monday issue due to the server problems we experienced over the holiday period.

Last week’s game against Crewe Alex was postponed all of an hour before kick-off due to pitch conditions, Boxing Day saw us draw with WBA and on Saturday return with an emphatic 5-1 victory against table topping Burnley (hat-trick from Wanchope, goals from Berkovic and Huckerby) – when was the last time we went into the break at 4-0 up? This result now sees us just 1 point behind the current leaders.

A very Happy New Year to everyone out there, and let us hope 2002 is a good one.

Next game: Sheffield United, away, Tuesday 1 January 2002, 3pm


General News

Stan Gibson: Fans at Maine Road for the West Brom game were shocked to hear of the sudden passing away of City’s legendary former groundsman Stan Gibson. Seventy six year old Stan, who had tended the Maine Road pitch for over forty years, died suddenly on Christmas Eve. During his time at City, Stan constantly produced one of the best playing surfaces in the country. Chris Bird paid the following tribute, “It is an absolute tragedy. Stan is as much a legend at this club as some of the footballers who have performed here in the past and we will be looking at some way of putting in place a permanent memory of his great work both here at Maine Road and at the new ground.” Former player Gary Owen said “He was not just a groundsman, he was a personal friend of many of the players and what is more he was the best at what he did. Even after his retirement other groundsmen from all over the country, from many different sports, still sought his advice. You talk about top craftsmen from any walk of life and you would have to include Stan Gibson”. We at McV would like to pass on our condolences to Stan’s children Janice and Stuart.

Phoenix League Latest: Despite being constantly in mentioned as one of the “Phoenix League” rebel clubs, City’s management keep speaking out against the proposal. Chairman David Bernstein was quoted in last week’s “Sunday Pink” as stating “We value the Football League. It’s a great League with a great tradition and to think of clubs resigning from it seems to be both unwise and reckless. It seems much more sensible to try to to achieve change internally within the current structure.” Without the support of the best supported club in the Nationwide, it seems improbable that Premiership Two could possibly start.

Chilly in Cheshire: City’s game at Crewe Alexandra on December 22 was called off due to a frozen pitch. One end of the pitch was in constant shade, so was unlikely to thaw out and was declared dangerous by the referee. A Crewe Alex statement read “The club would request that your tickets will be valid for the re-arranged fixture. If you would like to return your match ticket, please call in to the ticket office and we will offer you a full refund.”

Bad Luck, Mr Jones! Despite the protestations of Wolves manager David Jones that Ali Benarbia had cheated to secure the sending off of Joleon Lescott recently, the FA did not concur. They have rejected the player’s appeal against the red card. Perhaps the FA felt that while Bernabia certainly rolled a fair way after the tackle, a tackle from behind is still deemed to be violent play.

Transfer News and Gossip

Granville to Palace: City and Crystal Palace have reached agreement on a fee for full back Danny Granville, it was announced today. Granville has not been a regular in the team this season, and City are well stocked with left sided players at the moment. City have accepted the Eagles’ £500,000 offer for the left-back.

Cole for City? The Daily Star newspaper would have us believe that City are about to launch an £8 million bid for Trafford Rovers star reserve Andy “Call Me Andrew” Cole. Quite why City need another forward when our trio of strikers has been in fine form, or why Cole would want to try and re-claim an England place by playing in the First Division, were questions not addressed by the Star.

Keegan’s Defender Target: Kevin Keegan has confirmed that the former England captain has money to spend on reinforcements. He said: “I think the squad is definitely good enough, we now have the players thinking there are not many teams better than us. I can definitely go and strengthen if I want to, the financial backing is there.” Many reports still reckon that Keegan is anxious to buy a central defender as cover for Lucien Mettomo, who is off to the African Nations’ Cup in Mali during January and February. David Wetherall of Bradford could still be a target for the Blues’ Boss.

Slovenian Not Set for Rovers: It’s unclear how many representatives Milan Osterc has, but yet another agent of the Hapoel Tel Aviv striker has announced that the proposed loan deal with Blackburn Rovers is not going to happen. Chris McMenemy, son of Lawrie and a former Newcastle coach, has said that Osterc “would love to come to England and play his football”. Apart from City, Ipswich, Derby and Bolton are supposed to be in for the Slovenian.

Goodbye to Wembley Heroes? Stand by for a clearout of the class of ’99 at Maine Road. The Manchester Evening News reports that four members of City’s triumphant Wembley squad are out of contract in the Summer – Paul Dickov, Terry Cooke, Richard Edghill and Andy Morrison – and all indications are that only Edghill will be offered a new deal. This would leave only Edghill, Nick Weaver, Kevin Horlock, Gerard Wiekens and Jeff Whitley at the club from that fateful day. Dickov has been the subject of most press speculation, with Preston and Burnley now added to the list of clubs who would like to sign the Scot. Dickov is however desperate to prove his worth to Kevin Keegan. “I have never said I wanted to go and that is still the case,” he stressed. “Other than a couple of substitute appearances, I have not had a chance to show Kevin Keegan that I am worth a new contract and I hope to get that sooner rather than later. I have had a lot of injuries but now I am fit again and ready if called upon.”

Ex-Blues’ News

Branch Out: Former City loan man Michael Branch has been put on the transfer list by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Having failed to score in four matches for the Blues three years ago, Branch came back to haunt us with a hat trick for Wolves the following season. Wolves have recently signed Leicester City striker Dean Sturridge, pushing Branch further down the pecking order.

Clough Tips City for Promotion: Good news everybody – Nigel Clough thinks we’ll get promotion. One of City’s highest ever paid reserves is impressed by the progress made by Super Kev and his team. “It was a roller-coaster during my time at City – they had a few managers even in my short time there. But there is no doubting that in terms of support they are one of the biggest in the country, in fact the following is phenomenal. Kevin has got them back up there challenging and it is good to see them climbing to where they belong. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go all the way and back into the Premiership again.”

Reactions and Comments

Kevin – We’ve Got What it Takes: December saw the return of some players who had suffered serious injuries, effectively increasing the squad by four players. Kevin Keegan has been delighted by the return of Paul Ritchie, Richard Edghill, Alfie Haaland and Paulo Wanchope. “It’s good to be getting players back to fitness,” he said. “We’re starting to look very strong and that will help us with a busy programme ahead of us. Everybody, apart from those with long term injuries, is available,” he confirmed. “This is the strongest squad I have had to pick from, all the older pros are fit and there are some young lads who are pushing for inclusion, too.” Keegan is also upbeat about the prospects for promotion. “I can see a way of how we are going to be in the top two on April 21,” he said, “whereas six to eight weeks ago we looked as though we would struggle to do that at any point. We’ve shown a lot of character, played some good football and when we haven’t played well we’ve managed to get some good results like last week against Bradford when we were slow out of the blocks.”

Crewe Call-off Reaction: Kevin Keegan agreed with the postponement of the Crewe Alexandra game last weekend, but felt that the decision could have been made much sooner. “I think at nine o’clock this morning some decisions should have been made,” said Kevin Keegan. “I think some people have been complacent thinking it would happen. That is where I would make a criticism, not of the referee. If this was us we would have been at the ground in the early morning and that is what should have happened here.” Crewe Mananger Dario Gradi has accused Keegan of trying to influence the referee’s decision to get the game called off, a claim denied by Keegan. “I walked on to the pitch and the referee called me back and said he was going to call it off. I think because I was in the referee’s office Dario thinks I had had a word with the referee. He asked me for my opinion and I said that I thought it was dangerous in parts. I am responsible for a lot players at the club and I would not have felt happy if we had to play. Having said that, if the referee said we had to play then I would have played.” City’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Bird commented “We feel desperately sorry for our fans who have made an unnecessary trip and who will now have to come back in midweek.”

Keegan Cracks Whip: Kevin Keegan has been talking about the responsibilities of players following the recent court case involving the Leeds United Two. He also gave an insight into the line he may have taken with the alleged “Tippling Trio” of Nick Weaver, Steve Howey and Jeff Whitley. “It’s not good for anyone when football makes the front pages of newspapers,” said Keegan. “It is down to the individuals, though, to change that. They have to think about what their job entails. They’re in the public eye more than ever now and with the Internet fans can swap messages and start talking about what footballers they have seen out and about. I’ve told this to the players here. And I have told them what this club and I expect of them. I don’t care what happened in the past, these players know the club rules and those who have broken the rules have been punished accordingly.”

Shauny Wright-Wright-Wright: King of Comedy Kev has been praising our latest goalscoring sensation, Shaun Wright-Phillips. “The lads have started to call Shaun a prolific scorer now and there is even talk that he is in the running for the Golden Boot!” quipped the Boss. Ironically SWP has scored his recent brace of goals from a more defensive position. Keegan commented “Strangely enough, he’s scored both his goals while he’s been playing in the wing-back rôle. That’s after I’ve played him up front and I’ve played him just behind the front two in a free rôle, which is built for scoring goals. Let’s hope it is that start of a sustained run of scoring for him because he’s certainly capable.” Gerard Wiekens also stated that little Shaunie’s goals had given the whole squad a boost. “The lads are all delighted for Shaun because nobody tries harder for the team. He deserves his goals. Now we have to try and keep the smile off his face!”

Paulo Raring to Go: Paulo Wanchope has often been accused of being too much of an individual to fit into a team, although his comments this week put the lie to that perception. The Costa Rican has been out of action for over two months, during which time Darren Huckerby and Shaun Goater have been doing some heavy scoring. “Shaun and Darren have done very well and scored a few goals,” he said. “But it’s all about team work here and there are certainly no individuals – there cannot afford to be if we want to win promotion. We have a squad system here and it makes it easy for players to slot in when others are injured, as has happened while I have been out. We know that if Shaun or Darren are out, the team will continue to score goals. It is important to be back in the Premiership.”

West Brom Woe for Reg: Kevin Keegan reckoned that Richard Edghill’s second booking against WBA on Boxing Day was harsh, and effectively ended City’s hopes of a win. He declared himself to be well satisfied with the performance, if not the result. Keegan’s comments: “I think when he [referee Roger Furnandiz] watches it again he will see it is a penalty. He hasn’t the advantage we have of slow motion. The lad Jordao didn’t get the ball but took Richard. The referee was on the wrong side and maybe he was a bit rash making his decision. I was very pleased with the performance. We played some good football, created some great moves and showed character when down to 10 men against one of the better teams in this division who turned us over 4-0 earlier in the season.” Edghill will serve a one match ban, missing the visit of Norwich. Keegan got support from an unlikely source – the opposition manager, Gary Megson. The Albion forward Jason Roberts was cautioned for a similar diving offence to that of Edghill. The former Blues midfielder believed that neither card was justified. Megson said: “I certainly don’t think Jason dived. I also feel the same about Edghill. In fact I cringed when the official brought out the red card because I felt it just wasn’t justified. It put the onus on us to pass the ball better and be more attacking but you would have though they had the advantage, their passing was terrific. If you look at their home record, we have to be pleased with a point.”

Squad News

The Wrath of Kev: Shaun Goater has been giving a Bermudian newspaper, The Royal Gazette, an entertaining account of how Boss Kev came upon his two errant drinkers, Jeff Whitley and Steve Howey. Goater said: “Kevin Keegan caught two of our players in a pub in the middle of the afternoon last week. Midfielder Jeff Whitley and defender Steve Howey were both in there drinking when the boss walked in around 4pm. He was not impressed and consequently Jeff has been told to stay away from the club and not to contact anyone for two weeks. Steve, because it was his first offence, was fined a week’s wages. The gaffer must have been tipped off about the incident because the lads were saying it would have had to have been a big coincidence for him to walk into the same pub they were in. It is one they apparently go to quite regularly but, although the manager has been here seven months, it is the first time he has been there.”

Toure Finished for Season: Alioune Toure will not play again this season, and has staked an early claim for “Most Bizarre Injury of the Season”. It has been revealed that the Frenchman is suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis, a condition which has been much in the news this year as a number of fatalties may have been caused by it after long-haul flights. The City equivalent? Toure’s condition was aggravated by the six hour coach trip to Portsmouth. Fortunately it is not life threatening for the player, who had been taking preventative medication for a number of years, but as he did not realise the length of the trip to Pompey, had not taken his medicine. Good old City were not aware of Toure’s medical history when they signed him.

Contract Talks Latest: Having stated last week that they had made their final offer to keep Dickson Etuhu at Maine Road, City have now come back and made a second “final offer”. Reports state that Etuhu will be offered a “Pay as you Play” deal, whereby he will earn £2,000 per week if he is in the first team. The player will be free to sign a pre-contract agreement with any club on January 1, so City are keen to reach agreement with the youngster. Tottenham are supposed to be very interested in signing the London-born midfielder. A similar New Year deadline is approaching for Richard Edghill and Paul Dickov – both men are out of contract in June. There is no official word from the club on whether offers will be made to the players. Director of Football Dennis Tueart remarked, “Kevin has not indicated to the board whether he wants Edghill and Dickov to stay or not. We are obviously aware that from the first of January both players will be free to talk to other clubs but that fact won’t push Kevin into making rash decisions.” Australian sources meanwhile have reported that Danny Tiatto is about to begin talks with the management about a new deal. Tiatto was supposed to have been a Summer target of Newcastle and Aston Villa.

Secret of Horlock’s Success: Kevin Horlock has put his improved form down to the competition for places brought about by KK. “I think that competition for places is what is helping me raise my game,” reckoned Horlock. “Obviously players who the manager has brought in are going to figure at some stage so it is important that whoever has got a shirt hangs on to it. But I’m enjoying things at the moment, especially my new rôle, and everything has gone well for me in the last six games. Being a regular has also helped a lot.” Horlock has fitted in well to his new rôle as the holding player in the midfield, a position which Christian Negouai was bought to occupy.

Suspended Duo set to Return: Kevin Keegan has hinted that Richard Dunne and Darren Huckerby are in contention for immediate first team returns following their one match suspensions. The pair missed the West Brom game, but the lack of match fitness of their replacements, Paulo Wanchope and Steve Howey means that Dunne and Huckerby may be restored for Saturday’s Burnley game. The City boss said: “Paulo looked like he needs a game though he worked very hard for a long time and I wasn’t intending to give him 90 minutes. Sometimes, the best laid plans go out of the window. But I said to Paulo that the game would have done him more good than three or four training sessions. We got a man sent-off then players started getting injured. Steve Howey shouldn’t have gone out for the second half but I asked him to give me 15 minutes.”

Don Barrie (


My first live game since the trip to Barnsley; I was hoping this game would see me carry on my unbeaten record for this season, which had also seen me witness 14 goals in 4 games. As a result of this game, I’m now averaging almost 4 goals a game. Email me if you want to know when I’m next going to a game 🙂

Not as cold a day as forecast, but the 12 noon kick-off meant spending most of the first half peering into the sun from the North Stand to see what was going on at the Platt Lane end City were attacking, so I can’t really give any meaningful comments on the goals themselves. Performance wise, after a flying start on 83 seconds, Burnley were probably the more determined going forward, with both wings being used to the full and our 3-5-2 formation being stretched all too readily. It was the consequence of one ball over the top that lead to Ged Wiekens (who was subbed shortly afterwards) bundling over Alan Moore for one of (objectively) the ref’s better decisions of the day. Glen Little clearly fancied his chances in front of the massed Burnley fans, but Carlo guessed right and dived to his right to push the ball away one handed. He clearly enjoyed that one, and I suspect the game would have been very different had it gone in.

We were getting into the game more, but Burnley were still pressing and had a string of corners. Then on the half hour, we effectively killed off the game with 3 goals in 15 minutes, with Paulo completing his hat trick and with Berkovic finishing off a flowing move in between the 2nd and 3rd.

Second half saw us back in the dressing room for 15 minutes, as Burnley pressed forward and got the goal they deserved if truth be told, though Carlo will be frustrated that his clean sheet was wrecked by some laid back defending and poor passing to repeatedly give away possession. I feared that if they’d got a quick second the alarm bells would be ringing, but we gradually reasserted control without busting a gut, though it was only in injury time that Huck was set free on the half way line to charge through the centre and finish well in the bottom left hand corner.

Overall, the scoreline was harsh on Burnley and you can see why they’ve done well so far. Fortunately, Tony and Gareth (Burnley’s answer to Hale and Pace?) were true to form of old, with Taylor in particular spooning one of their better chances over the bar in the first half. As for City:

Nash – Good game. Commanded his area well and looked unruffled with crosses.
Edghill – Another good game. Crossing a bit wayward at times but got forward well in support of the attacks. Subbed by SWP who carried on taking the game to them.
Tiatto – As per Edgy. Getting his form back after an indifferent spell?
Howey – A bit slow to the ball at times but otherwise OK.
Mettomo – Gets better and better. Wonder how he’ll fare if we go up?
Wiekens – Bit like Howey on today’s evidence, but not really on long enough whereas …
Dunne – Better for him being on. Good skill on the ball coming out of defence.
Horlock – In and out of it really. Not as effective as of late.
Bernabia / Berkovic – Isn’t it great to see some creativity in midfield compared to last year? The others are really getting used to playing with these two. Lovely, incisive passing most of the time, with the occasional tendency to over elaborate.
Goater – Seems off the pace, with a long (by his standards) dry spell. Maybe the armband is weighing him down?
Wanchope – Predictably unpredictable. Must see those goals again without the sun in my eyes!
Huckerby – Not too many chances to take them on, but great pace and finishing for his goal.

So, bring on Sheff Utd and here’s hoping it’s not a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Parade as we go into 2002 full of hope and expectation.

Geoff Donkin (


Have just returned from the Burnley match, am absolutely over the moon, 5-1 to the boys in blue, and better still my mate Darell broke his hoodoo (without the help of Mr Geller), not only that but Huckerby managed to score at the end we were sitting; Darell was proper made up to coin a phrase.

It was a special day for me too; in twenty-five years of attending football matches, I have never seen a penalty saved, thank-you Carlo, it was a great moment. At that time Burnley were on the up and I reckon we could have been in big trouble had he not saved that penalty.

I have now seen 18 games this season, and I am starting to like what I see. One defeat and 2 draws, the rest have been wins, this isn’t supposed to be happen; I am after all a City fan. The highlights so far have been the two matches against Burnley, Ali’s début against Birmingham and the game at Sheffield Wednesday. The two wins against Burnley are most pleasing as it gives me ammunition to fire against the sad Burnley fans I see so many of near to me (1 mile from the Yorkshire border). Best of all though is that three of us who work together support City, Wolves and Burnley; I haven’t had so much football related pleasure for many a (blue) moon.

I never thought I would say this (I spent the night Keegan was appointed sulking in the pub after I’d finished work) but KK has really pulled City and the fans together in a way I have never seen. Yes, when things didn’t click against WBA there were a few snipers, but most of the fans were behind the team. In all my life as a City supporter I have never known this to happen, best of all though was the idiot who rang up GMR after the Burnley match to complain that City were passing too much, bring on the clueless long ball tactics of Royle wayhay!

On a serious note, the man sat behind us at the Burnley game was taken ill and was rushed off by paramedics, we are all hoping he makes a full recovery.

Richard Lord (


As City continue to be linked with Milan Osterc, I asked a Slovenian work colleague for his thoughts on our prospective new striker. His opinion “he is not an artist, he’s clumsy but quite effective”.

He could almost be describing a much-loved member of our existing squad. ‘Feed the Ostrich and he will score’ doesn’t have quite the same hook somehow.

Billy King (


Circumstances beyond my control impacted the delivery of the Index last week. Apologies to all who have expressed (thanks!) to me that they enjoy seeing this each week.

City back on top but to be honest no one is stepping up to gain promotion. Probably the most disappointing have been Preston, who have suffered a string of poor results.

Have to say though that the squad that we have is in no way capable of playing in the Premiership even if we make it up. Watched Derby play a couple of games on the box recently and couldn’t list even one City player that I would play ahead of a Derby player given the opportunity.

Projected Final Positions results through Sunday December 23, followed by projected total points. The number in parentheses is their current league position.

01 81 Manchester City (03)
02 80 Burnley (01)
03 79 Wolverhampton (02)
04 75 Norwich (04)
05 74 West Brom (05)
06 73 Birmingham (08)
07 72 Coventry (06)
08 71 Preston (10)
09 69 Millwall (07)
10 68 Bradford (16)
11 66 Watford (11)
12 66 Gillingham (13)
13 65 Wimbledon (14)
14 64 Nottingham Forest (17)
15 64 Portsmouth (12)
16 62 Crystal Palace (09)
17 62 Sheffield Utd (15)
18 62 Crewe (19)
19 57 Sheffield Wednesday (21)
20 56 Rotherham (18)
21 55 Barnsley (20)
22 55 Grimsby (23)
23 50 Walsall (22)
24 34 Stockport (24)

What is the Geist Index? Every week I get asked the specifics so… You start with a premise so basic it’s silly. Every team should win its own home games. Then you add in the premise that the top 6 teams, defined as the 3 teams relegated and the 3 play-off teams remaining should at least get an away draw against the bottom 6 teams, defined as the 3 teams promoted and the 3 teams who finished 19-21 the previous year – and adjust accordingly.

What this gives you is a starting point for the top teams of 75 points, the bottom teams of 57 and the “regular” teams of 69 (23×3).

Then as the season starts, you modify the totals assigned to each matchup. Therefore I start with City assigned 3 points for the season outcome of both games against Burnley. The assumption is that they will win at home and lose away. However, when City won at Burnley the assigned value to City vs. Burnley for the seasonchanges to 6 for City and 0 for Burnley. The assumption is still made that City will win the return fixture at Maine Road even though it has yet to be played.

Wallace Poulter (


Can anybody tell me where I can get the info on which games are on the TV? Seeing we can now get Granada on Sky it would be nice to see the boys play instead of just listening to the net.

Thanks for your time.

C. Hudson – MCIVTA Shetland Branch (


On January 8th, the reserves play Blackburn Rovers reserves at Morecambe’s Christie Park ground.

For any further details on timing, directions etc. please contact me directly.

Lance Thomson (


I would like to thank MCFC – Chris Bird, Sara from his executive office and the chatters of Planet Football, with a special mention to Blue Spice of the City Centre CSA for giving me the opportunity to see the WBA game on Boxing Day. Deeply appreciated! I had a wonderful time.

John Mcfarlane (


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Newsletter #773