Newsletter #866

The main news of the week centred around our French striker and his national ‘call-up’ farce which threatened to turn into a diplomatic spat. They’ll be banning British beef again. Nico (as les grenouilles call him) has declared on his website that ‘what counts for me is Manchester’ as he feels quite rightly that KK and City want him more than M. Santini. Fortunately Don has been hard at work keeping abreast of the situation and it is all neatly summarised here, along with the latest transfer rumours from Stam to Bowyer.

On the pitch our reserves have continued their super form with their 6th win on the bounce as we trounced Leeds 5-0. We have a report from Gavin, and our next reserves game is Tuesday 26th at Ewen Fields against Blackburn.

We’ve also a couple of views on the Charlton game, opinion on all things Elk and some answers to the Boleyn teaser, requests and a bit of Blue humour.

Boro on Saturday, and we hope ‘Nico’ is out to prove all his detractors here and across La Manche wrong.

Next game: Middlesbrough, away, 3pm Saturday 23 November 2002


Anelka International Special

M. Anelka Regrette… Saturday evening brought good news for Nicolas Anelka and his international career, or so it seemed. French coach Jacques Santini had recalled our Elk to his squad for Wednesday’s friendly with Yugoslavia, despite leaving City’s leading scorer out of the original squad. Lyon striker Sidney Govou had suffered a knee injury in his club’s game against Bordeaux, so Santini needed a replacement. Anelka, however, was having none of it. Sunday’s headlines screamed that “ANELKA SNUBS FRANCE”. According to one report, Anelka had flown to Paris to read out a statement to a number of French journalists saying he that he would not be joining up with the squad and that his only concern is playing for Manchester City. According to L’Equipe, Anelka felt that he wasn’t really wanted by Santini. “I currently do not sense people truly want to pick me,” said the Elk. “The coach asked me to show that I wanted to wear the France team shirt. I tried to do so until today. I saw the coach last week at the match against Manchester United. He did not give me arguments which convinced me. He told me that he had kept players ahead of me in the squad because he knew them better. I hope that my absence is only temporary. I want to return one day, but nobody has tried to speak to me. I’ve always been proud to wear the France shirt in the past and I’ve always given my all for Les Bleus.”

Revenge is Sweet? So a French striker has fallen out with his national coach – end of story. This scenario has been played out many times before; indeed David Connelly of Wimbledon effectively ended his international career last weekend by rebuking the Republic of Ireland’s caretaker manager Don Givens for offering him a late call up to their squad. Yet the Anelka saga was only just beginning, because the French Football Federation (FFF) announced that they were seeking an immediate suspension for Anelka. “We are considering asking Anelka’s club to ban him for two matches,” a French media officer said on Monday. “If no sanction is taken we will put the case to FIFA.” So City faced the prospect of losing their star striker because of a row which did not concern the club. FIFA seemed to support this demand. Their spokesman commented, “Our rules are very clear on this. If he has refused to play for France, Anelka cannot play for his club during the time he should be on international duty. He would also be unable to play for the club for five days after the match, which means he cannot play for Manchester City until next Tuesday.” FIFA stated that City could face a heavy fine and deduction of points if they went against any ruling by playing Anelka against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Defence of the Elk: Anelka’s representative in the UK, agent Willie McKay, was soon supporting his client. On BBC Radio Five Live, McKay stated that “I think the situation with France and Nicolas is complex. But the players in France, the ones I know, are sympathetic to Nicolas’ little problem and are very supportive. I do not think Nicolas should have been treated the way he has. Everybody knows Nicolas should have gone to the World Cup. He was let down by the people on the selection committee. There were players at the World Cup who shouldn’t have been there and Nicolas, with the talent he’s got, should have been.” McKay also criticised the media for their unfair portrayal of Anelka. “Nicolas has been targeted by the media as a sulk,” he said. “Nobody knows the real situation. He’s one of the nicest players I’ve met. He’s a great guy and you can ask the players at Manchester City and Liverpool. He should have been asked from the start.” McKay added that it was ‘guaranteed’ that Anelka would not be banned for Saturday.

No Ban for Nicolas: Mr. McKay’s guarantee proved to be a cast iron one, as it was confirmed that Nicolas Anelka would not after all have to serve a ban. How ironic then that FIFA were thwarted in their attempts by their own regulations. Article 38, section two, states: “If a national association wishes to summon one of its players who is playing abroad they must notify him in writing at least 15 days before the date of the match for which the player is required. The player’s club shall also be informed in writing at the same time. The club shall confirm the release of the player within six days.” As the French only gave the Elk four days notice, a suspension could not be applied.

It’s Good to Talk: The most sensible Gallic reaction to this incident came from French skipper Marcel Desailly, who urged Anelka to pick up the phone and settle his differences with Santini. Back in Angleterre, a bemused KK gave his thoughts on the whole sorry mess. Keegan said: “We did not refuse Nicolas permission to go. We have never refused anyone permission to go on international duty. In fact Shaun Wright-Phillips has joined up with the England Under-21 squad and he is carrying a slight injury. This is a personal matter between Nicolas Anelka and the French. It has nothing to do with Manchester City and there is no way he can be punished for it. To talk about missing two games is absolutely ridiculous. It would make a mockery of football.”

General News

International Blues: There was an excellent start to the week for two of City’s younger internationals. Dorryl Proffitt starred for England’s Under-18s in a 4-0 victory in Tunisia. Proffitt scored England’s second goal, and the England coach, the improbably named Dick Bate, said afterwards, “To achieve this in Africa, which is a new experience for these boys, is an excellent achievement.” Rhys Day meanwhile captained the Wales under-21 side to a historic 1-0 win in Azerbaijan on Tuesday afternoon. This was the first Welsh victory at this level for nearly six years. Richard Dunne’s comeback continued with a sound display at left back for the Republic of Ireland. The Irish played out a 0-0 draw in Greece. A non-playing Blue was Eyal Berkovic, who was not involved in Israel’s 3-2 win in Macedonia.

Gallaghers’ Accolade: It’s been reported that Liam and Noel Gallagher have been paying their own tribute to every City fans’ favourite pair of players. Currently on tour with the mighty Oasis, the Burnage brothers have dedicated their sell-out shows in Cardiff this week to those hapless siblings, the Neville brothers. And why not…

Derby Fixture Change: Speaking of our friends in Stretford, here’s a note for the diary – the Old Trafford derby has been switched from Saturday 8 February to Sunday February 9, kick off 12.30. The game will be shown as a pay-per-view fixture on Sky TV. Claims that the game will be billed as “Keano’s revenge” have yet to be confirmed. In case anyone has forgotten what happened on November 9 at Maine Road and wishes to be reminded, there is now a DVD out of the derby. Thanks to David Warburton for the following link:

Say… We Are Top of the League! Darren Huckerby’s hat-trick against his old club Leeds United took City’s Reserves to the top of the Barclaycard Premier Reserve League with a 5-0 away victory. Hucks scored on 28, 48 and 78 minutes, with the other goals coming from Matias Vuoso and a Leeds own-goal. The second XI have now won their last six games. Team: Ellegaard, Flood, Paisley, Whelan, Onouha (Tandy 83), McCarthy, Huckerby, Barton, Vuoso (Croft 46), Kerkar, Shuker.

Blues Taking Over: Following Dave Kilroy’s tale of a pre-derby day takeover of Dublin airport, comes news that we may be making inroads into the Reds’ support base in Belfast. Mark Ballentine writes that in Tuesday’s Belfast Telegraph, there was an article on John McDermott (17) who was named as Barclaycard fan of the month as he travels every other week from Northern Ireland to Maine Road. He’s followed the Blues through the dark days of the Second Division, and says that “Until recently my highlight was the Division 2 play-off final when we came back from 2-0 down in the dying minutes and won on penalties. But realistically, my highlight now is the recent derby win over United.” The News Desk says: Good Lad! Bring your mates as well!

Smikes Retires! Thanks to Mark Ballentine again, who informs me that according to the Guardian birthdays column, Peter Schmeichel is a “former footballer”. I don’t think he’s been playing that badly, or are there Dark Forces of the Red kind at work? Personally I blame the same Rags supporting Gremlins who have made my video of the derby disappear in the post between Stoke on Trent and Manchester… (rant, moan…).

Transfer News and Gossip

Shopping List to be Drawn Up: It sounds like KK and the board will soon decide how much money will be spent in the January transfer window, and who the targets will be. “We will have a big meeting next week as far as the transfer window is concerned,” Kevin Keegan announced. “Obviously I would like to bring players in because I don’t want us to stop going forward as a club. But until we have that meeting and we realise what finance is there it is pointless speculating. It will depend on what money there is to spend.” Mr. Keegan then rehearsed the lines he will use to convince the board that another striker must be bought. “The biggest problem for us is the forwards because neither Paulo Wanchope or Jon Macken are going to be back fit enough during the transfer window. It will be after the end of January, certainly for Paulo, so we are not going to know until probably the end of February, the beginning of March if he is going to be fit enough to come back in. By that stage of the season you are talking about eight games left. It is very difficult to come back from a long-term injury for the last eight games. It will be more difficult for him too if the other forwards are scoring regularly. But I tend to think, ‘what happens if’. Players do get injured, not just in matches but in training too. They do get flu and miss matches. We have been lucky that Nicolas, Shaun and Darren have all stayed sound. If we could guarantee three forwards of that quality you would be pretty much okay with Chris Shuker and Matias Vuoso to come in and play bit rôles in the forward line. I don’t know how much money I will have to spend until we have had that meeting and everything has been discussed.” The names of Robbie Fowler and Francis Jeffers have recently been mentioned in connection with the Blues, while Jason Roberts of West Bromwich Albion was touted over the weekend as a potential