Newsletter #887

Plenty of news, as to be expected, from the aftermath of last week’s result and in the lead up to Sunday’s derby game. Monsieur Barrie has neatly summarised all goings-on for us here.

We also have match view, opinions on team selection and tactics, and a fair few requests for tickets and derby viewing.

Wherever you watch the game on Sunday (and my view shall be from within enemy quarters thanks to work colleagues), enjoy.

Next game: Manchester United, 12.30pm, Sunday 9th February 2003
Countdown: 94 days to go


General News

International Blues: There’s a busy week of international friendlies in the next seven days, and City’s squad sees a number of its members off on their travels. Niclas Jensen flies to Cairo for Denmark’s game with Egypt, while Djamel Belmadi is in Brussels for Algeria versus Belgium. City’s Cameroon stars, Marc Vivien Foe and Lucien Mettomo are heading for France where their country will play a friendly against the Ivory Coast. Closer to home, Richard Dunne makes the trip to Glasgow for the Republic of Ireland’s clash with Scotland at Hampden Park. One disappointed City player is sure to be Danny Tiatto, who has been omitted from Australia’s squad for the game at West Ham’s Upton Park, against England. Coach Frank Farina felt that Danny was not yet fit enough.

Saints’ Fans Take the Maine Road: With thoughts turning to the last ever game at Maine Road, it seems that City fans will not be getting any extra tickets from their opponents. It had been suggested that Southampton supporters might not take up their full allocation of tickets for the game on Sunday May 11, thus allowing a few more Blues to attend the emotional farewell. These fond hopes were dashed this week when Saints’ Club Secretary Brian Truscott told a fans’ forum: “We are entitled to 3,000 seats and will take them.” This is not so surprising because Southampton are threatening to have their best ever Premiership season, so might be in a position to secure an UEFA place in the last game.

reserves Don’t Win – Shock! City’s reserve team clash with Bradford City was postponed on Wednesday, finally succumbing to the ice and snow in Yorkshire. The game was originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday, but the inclement conditions forced a postponement. The clubs waited 24 hours to see if the weather relented, but to no avail. It must have been particularly frustrating for Jon Macken, Darren Huckerby and Shaun Goater, who were named in the team and would have hoped to impress KK ahead of Sunday’s derby.

Transfer News and Gossip

Spend! Spend! Spend! KK was one of January’s biggest spenders in the English Leagues this January, but he doesn’t feel that the purchases of David Sommeil, Djamel Belmadi and Robbie Fowler will adversely affect the financial future of the club. “We haven’t done anything at this football club that will put our future in jeopardy,” said Big Kev. “We are moving into a new 50,000-seater stadium next year, we have a new sponsor for our shirts this season, a new deal in place with a different shirt manufacturer next year and more hospitality to sell at the new stadium. Just because the overall climate isn’t great, why shouldn’t we push forward? Football has had some real boom years but now other clubs are experiencing difficulties. I am not pleased about that but it means you can get some good deals, which makes Manchester City’s position extra-special.” Keegan revealed that he had discussed the Fowler signing with Nicolas Anelka. “I showed Nicolas the list of strikers we were thinking about. He picked out two – I won’t say who the other was – and one of them was Robbie. Nicolas is going to be here for the next six years and I wanted to know what sort of player he felt would be good for him. Nicolas is a deep thinker about the game and Robbie was the name that excited him.” Keegan added: “Robbie is 27 and I believe his best years are still to come. He is at the same age now as when I went to Hamburg and those were my best years.”

Run (to) Forest, Run! Although the window is shut and bolted for permanent transfers, Nationwide League clubs can still sign players on loan. Most of the speculation this week concerned players who might be off to new clubs in the lower Leagues, albeit on a temporary basis. Darren Huckerby is the main focus of this attention, and there were more reports of a Hucks move to Leicester City. Foxes’ boss Micky Adams was quoted as saying. “I am led to believe that if we can come out of administration there are funds available to strengthen the squad. I am sure that if Darren Huckerby was available and I could get him then I would be interested in him. We are not going to deny that we have made an enquiry but I haven’t had any discussions with Kevin Keegan as yet.” Next it was our old rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers who were sniffing around Darren. Black Country publicans would be pleased – Huckerby is said to be best mates with Mark Kennedy. Even near neighbours Walsall were said to have put in a call to KK: “If anything, City want to sell Huckerby,” said Walsall boss Lee. “We made an inquiry about taking him on loan, but there are a few of our near neighbours interested in him as well.” The strongest rumour this week had Huckerby going on loan to Nottingham Forest. Nottingham born Huckerby would join the Reds on February 24 on a three month loan, which would allow him to play for Forest in any potential play off games. Huckerby’s agents were not so sure and even denied that there was Scottish interest in the player: “Further to reports in today’s papers, Darren Huckerby is issuing a statement to make it very clear that he has not snubbed a possible move to Celtic FC, or indeed has yet agreed to join Nottingham Forest on a loan later in the month. A deal has apparently been agreed between Manchester City and Nottingham Forest for an initial loan deal for the player, to incorporate the period of the play-offs, should Nottingham Forest qualify for them. However, the player is keeping his options open before needing to make a decision in the next couple of weeks. Moreover, he is upset about some of the reports concerning Celtic. There was an option late in the day on Friday prior to the transfer window closing, for the player to go on loan to Celtic for the rest of the season with a view to a permanent transfer. Various circumstances dictated that it was not possible to complete such a deal in time for the deadline. The player is, however, completely open-minded about such a move should the opportunity arise at the end of the season. He has most definitely not snubbed Celtic and has a particularly high regard for the manager Martin O’Neill.” Late reports today (Thursday) suggest that KK is refusing to sanction the transfer of Huckerby until Jon Macken and Paulo Wanchope prove their fitness.

This Week’s “Club for Ritchie” Is… Sheffield United, who are hoping to take Paul Ritchie on loan for the rest of the season. The 27-year-old has been out-of-favour at Maine Road and admitted in December that he saw little chance of breaking into KK’s squad this season, with Sylvain Distin leading the pecking order at the moment. The Scottish international has already spent time on loan this term at fellow Division One side Portsmouth and Blades’ boss Neil Warnock may look to bolster his back-line even further with the addition of Ritchie. He would join ex-Blues Michael Brown and Richard “Binman” Edghill at the South Yorkshire club.

Don’t Do It, Shaunie! Fans of SWP should look away… now. According to last week’s “News of the World”, Arsenal want to sign little Shaun in the summer. Presumably the paper thinks that Shaunie’s family connections with the Gooners make him a viable target. KK did not seem to confirm this report as he paid tribute to the player this week. “Shaun is the most exciting young player at the club by a long way,” said Keegan. “We have one or two promising players here, but in terms of ability, he is head and shoulders above anyone in his age group. He has a big heart and plenty of courage, everything you need to at this level. He is also training every day and playing with people like Ali Benarbia, Eyal Berkovic and the like can only help him get better. Shaun is not playing every week at the moment, but there will come a day when he is an automatic choice and that won’t be too far away.”

Oh Karel: This week’s “You’re Yanking my Chain” Award goes to BBC’s footie message board. According to one posting, Karel Poborsky (nickname: “The Hurricane” for some reason) is on his way back to Manchester – but not to the Trafford end of town. City, it is alleged, will pay £7.5 million to Sparta Prague for the 30 year-old. Yeah right – let’s hope this is to be filed under “Spurious Rumours put about by Scally Reds” (Thanks to Boy Citrine for this item).

Ex-Blues’ News

Kinky and Friends: He may not have got his dream move to Galatasaray during January, but it didn’t stop Gio Kinkladze enjoying himself for Derby County last Saturday. The Rams thrashed Rotherham United 3-0, with Kinky scoring by all accounts an exquisite free kick, then having a hand in the other two goals. Some former City heroes were in midweek FA Cup action this week. Danny Granville and Kit Symons were in the Crystal Palace team who succeeded where City failed, beating Liverpool 2-0 in a Fourth Round replay at Anfield. Elsewhere, Garry Flitcroft was a double goalscorer for Blackburn Rovers, but he was unable to stop Sunderland triumphing on penalties at the Stadium of Light after the game finished 2-2.

Rae’s Better: Port Vale have confirmed that Rae Ingram has been discharged from hospital as the 28-year-old former City defender continues his recovery from meningitis. Ingram is now recovering at home after picking up the illness while at Lilleshall where he was receiving treatment for an ankle injury. “It’s a viral strain of meningitis,” Vale’s physiotherapist Matt Radcliffe said, “Hopefully he should be OK to start light training in about two weeks time, depending on how he feels, of course.”

Reactions and Comments

Kev’s Castle Kicked Down: Wouldn’t you know it? True to form, City capped an exciting week on and off the field with a disappointing defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion. As KK succinctly put it “Once again, just when we have the chance to build our castle up, we have allowed someone to knock it down,” which sums up City-watching in my lifetime at least! Keegan added that “Perfect weeks are very seldom in football and this is not the end we would have wanted. We need to look at our defending at set pieces again. We are all right until somebody comes into the box we don’t expect to be there. It is not the end of the world but it is a disappointing end to a good week.” Asked for his comments on Robbie Fowler’s début, he replied that “Robbie has signed for three-and-a-half years, not for 90 minutes today. He needs games but he is not going to get fit by sitting on the bench.” The Boss had consoling words for Djamel Belmadi, who was Man of the Match against Fulham, but was only substitute on Saturday. Belmadi eventually replaced his compatriot Ali Benarbia against WBA. “I thought Djamel was very unlucky to be left out. Ali had spent a good hour foraging in there and had given it his best shot and I just thought Djamel might give us something different and get Nicolas or Robbie in a different way. But the game against West Brom was one of those ones in which I tried everything and nothing worked. That happens sometimes in football.” Richard Dunne’s tenure as a right wing-back may soon be over, as KK explained. He said: “Dunney has worked so hard and maybe I compromised him a bit playing him wing-back. It’s not his best position but as long as he gives it his best shot. Against Fulham I thought he did very well and I thought he deserved another chance. He’s not a right wing-back but I wanted to keep him in the side.” The Sorceror of Scunthorpe then turned his thoughts towards derby day this Sunday. “It wasn’t the best preparation for the derby but that will be a different game. It is a one off game and of course I would have liked to have gone into it with a couple of wins under our belts. I think the last time we played them we were beaten just before by Wigan so maybe this was the best preparation. It is a real one-off game and you just never know.”

Happy Gary: The win for Albion helped the Baggies off the bottom of the League. “We needed a result like this to give everyone at the club a bit more belief,” said manager Gary Megson. “We have a fighting chance now. We are in a difficult position to say the least but people to know that it is possible to escape, that it isn’t inevitable that we go down. The players are capable of getting out of this mess, providing we keep battling.” Albion are to appeal against the sending-off of Jason Roberts who seemed to fell David Sommeil with minimal contact. “I was told Jason got a shove from Sommeil then started to throw his arms about,” said our former flame haired schemer. “I spoke to the officials but they said there was no choice other than to send him off. I didn’t have a good view but if Jason had really meant to hurt the lad he would have made a more aggressive effort than he did.” Megson could afford to be magnanimous towards his former employers, and paid tribute to the Blues’ latest signing. “Robbie will be a good signing,” said Megson. “He gets himself into good positions and even on Saturday, if he had a little bit of luck or timed his finishing a bit better, he could have had a couple of goals. He is a really bright player and made some great runs. When you can sign a player like him when you already have Nicolas Anelka, Shaun Goater, Darren Huckerby and Jon Macken in your squad, it bodes well for the future.”

An Un-Distin-Guished Show: As City missed out on yet another opportunity to claim a prized spot in the top six of the League, Sylvain Distin gave his thoughts on the poor show by the Blues, while remaining optimistic for the rest of the season. “It was a very disappointing performance, we tried to play but it just wasn’t there on Saturday, it wasn’t enough,” said the French defender. “That is the third or fourth time that we have had the opportunity to win a game and go into the top six and not done it. We are too inconsistent. Perhaps it is a mental thing, I do not know. All we can do is to keep working hard. We have to make sure our concentration is a hundred per cent all the time, if we do that then we have the ability in the side to do really well. Consistency has been our biggest problem all season. We gave away two stupid goals from set pieces and we really only have ourselves to blame that we did not win the game. It was a hard game to play, there was more scrapping and fighting than flowing football but sometimes it is like that and we have to learn to win playing that way, too. We have one week now to get down to some hard work and prepare for the game against United. Every game is different and that is what is really interesting about this sport; you lose one game one week but the weekend after you can win. Everything can change. Of course we still have a chance of a top six place but the result against West Brom has made that harder to achieve. We have to keep our heads up.”

Squad News

That’s Schmei Boy: [We can thank the sub editors at The People newspaper for that headline – News Ed]. Peter Schmeichel has been talking about why he joined City, and has been dropping pretty heavy hints that he’d like to stay a bit longer. “There were two reasons I came to Manchester – one was to play for Kevin Keegan because I respect him and the other was that we wanted to move back to the area we love. In coming back here this time it was with a son who wants to play football. We had a chat about it and when he told me his ambitions my advice was obviously to come here to City. Being able to train with your son is quite an experience so it was the most natural thing to do and now everyone knows he’s here at City with me.” Sixteen year old Kapser Schmeichel, described in the article as “a Great Dane clone”, is in City’s youth team squad at the moment, but Papa Schmikes wants the boy to be left to develop in peace. “I want the media to lay off my son because he’ll have a tough time coming out of my shadow anyway. I will try very hard to shield him from the spotlight as he is only 16. Kasper is playing in the Under-17s at City at the moment and it’s not the right time for him to be under great pressure. He needs time to develop his own style. The less he is in the spotlight the better for him and everyone.” Schmeichel was pretty honest in his assessment of City as well. “I wouldn’t have wanted to play for City four years ago. The best thing about the place was the fans,” he said frankly. “The players never used to be top priority at the club. But under Kevin Keegan everything’s changed. He wants to build a top-six team and can land big players because people respect him. One of the reasons I’m so happy here is that it’s always exciting to go forward, to be part of developing something. When I played for United we were a winning team involved in everything – Europe, the League title and the FA Cup. Games came so fast you never had time to savour it. The main reason you play at my age is for enjoyment and I’m enjoying myself as much as at any time in my career.”

Paulo’s Nearly Ready: Paulo Wanchope should be back in full squad training at the start of next week, according to his manager. “Arthur Cox asked him earlier this week when he thought he would be ready to play and Paulo said ‘on Sunday versus Manchester United’! That is how desperate he is to play and the kind of attitude we want,” explained KK. “It is absolutely tremendous for us that he is returning to training; if he is ready to play in the next three or four weeks it is a really big bonus. It gives us another string to our bow and gives us the kind of strength of depth in the forwards that I like. We will look carefully at his programme and how much we can do here with him but he may need a reserve game or two. We have missed him, like all our forwards here he offers something different and we haven’t been able to utilise that. He is big, strong, gives us height at set pieces and has that flair. His performances for me have been unbelievable. There is no doubt about it. He is a world-class striker. It is a bit of a waiting game with Paulo. Although the signs are very, very good at the moment, when he comes into full time training on Monday it will be very different to what he has been doing and that is the next hurdle for him. Looking at him he has done everything out there that you can do without full time training. He has done everything we have asked of him so far and now he faces an acid test. He is the sort of player who will not take many matches to get ready.” The Boss Man concluded with a rather unfortunate comparison: “He is a bit like Robbie Fowler in that respect he may need two or three games but it will not be nine or ten.”

“I’ve Got Those Derby Day Blues” News

Better Injury News: In the early part of the week, City had gloomy news of two influential team members, Eyal Berkovic and Peter Schmeichel. It appeared that neither player would be ready for derby day. “I wouldn’t rule him out but it’s looking doubtful,” said Mr. Keegan. “I’ve been told by the physio at times that Eyal is okay but then he has trained and broken down again. Sometimes the pain areas have moved, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. He’s a player who loves to play on the big stage but that’s not a good enough reason to bring him back. It’s a big ask not to train for two-and-a-half weeks and then throw someone into a derby.” Meanwhile, there was still a big question mark hanging over the fitness of Schmeichel who was hampered by a damaged calf. Keegan added: “I want to see Eyal fit again and I would like Peter Schmeichel, Danny Tiatto, Paulo Wanchope and Jon Macken back as well. All of them are close but that’s not good enough – they need to be fit.” Then on Monday, there was better news on the injured men. “Eyal trained this morning,” explained Kevin Keegan. “He will see a specialist on Tuesday afternoon and if he gets the all clear will train for the rest of the week. We might get a full game out of him as he has not missed out on anything with our back up here at Carrington. When he came back into training he was as fit as anything.” How’s the Great Dane doing, Kevin? “Peter was out training on Tuesday morning for the first time for a while,” he replied. “It is not a case of judging his fitness at the moment but how he is for the rest of the week. I think Peter has a very good chance of being fit for the derby if he does not have any setbacks. Just as we thought we were getting him back in the past few weeks he has had a number of setbacks, so we will wait. It is a calf injury with Peter this time. But it has not always been the same injury. It has been little niggly things. In the old days he might have been able to play, but now ‘keepers have to kick and do a lot of running as well. The great thing about Peter is that he knows when he is not ready to play.” KK also knows that it will take several games before new striker Robbie Fowler is back to his best. “I think to be fair to Robbie he is going to need five or six games to get his fitness though that doesn’t mean to say he will need that number of games to get some goals. He is such a good predator and such a clever player that even at seventy-five per cent fit, which is what he probably is at the moment, he is still a threat. We will go to Old Trafford and we will have a forward line which we know will cause them problems provided we service them better than we did against West Brom.”

reds Seek Vengeance: Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, Sunday’s opponents sound keen to gain revenge for their Maine Road drubbing in November. You can bet your bottom Guilder that Ruud van Nisteldive will be gagging to win a penalty in front of his adoring fans, after his rather feeble efforts to do so earlier in the season. “It is a league game which we have to win but at the back of our minds we know we lost against them this season and we want to go out there and show them what we really can do,” said van Nistelrooy. “Our build-up play is marvellous and the team are creating plenty of chances, which I try to finish. The games are coming pretty quickly now but that is great news because we all feel so good.” One of City’s heroes in the last victory was Gary Neville, who commented: “Sunday is a big game for us in more ways than one. Obviously it is a local derby, but it is the same situation for us in terms of winning three points. We’ll be extra determined against City because we need the win, and the game at Maine Road was a bad result for us.” Trafford FC have their own injury worries, as Sir Alex revealed: “Fabien Barthez has got a lot of swelling”, although he did not reveal where. The Donald Pleasance look-alike was carried off in the Reds’ match at Southampton last Saturday.

Don Barrie (


A typical City performance, although to be fair, not too typical in recent times. A European place on offer, and so we disdainfully turned up our noses, and cocked a snook at the top six of the Premiership. “No thanks, guys,” we said, “We’re perfectly happy where we are, thank you very much.”

It was actually a match that reminded me of the last time we were in the Premiership, although it was West Brom that played like we used to – little imagination, but solid at the back, with Darren Moore performing the Steve Howey rôle, scoring a scrappy goal in a barely deserved win, which rekindled vague hopes of avoiding the drop. I can’t see them doing it though, but they deserve to keep going if only for the sake of their fans, very impressive after a season of scraps.

City never got going. Can anyone tell me why Richard Dunne is playing as a wing back? If you take a full list of all his assets, a full list of the assets for the perfect wing back, and compare the two you will find no similarity. Keegan said after the match that he wanted to keep him in the team to reward him for doing well. There was an article in MCIVTA not too long ago looking at Keegan’s performance as if he were a management consultant, and picking up on some very bad management traits. This is one. If someone does something well, let them do it. Was there any need to bring Sommeil straight into the defence? Or, forgive me, have we been doing better at the back since Howey, Dunne and Distin started playing together?

Incidentally, given that we are all agreed that Dunney had a stinker – through no fault of his own – can I ask why so many people seem to want to play Dunne and Distin at full back, with Howey and Sommeil at centre back? They are different skills. Some people can play them both, some can’t. Why would we risk putting two players out of position?

Midfield didn’t have an impact. Foe was miserable. He was involved in our goal, but mainly just happened to get in Gilchrist’s way. I can’t remember him making a meaningful contribution in the entire 90 minutes. The only thing I can remember him doing is falling over quite comically. Please don’t sign him Kev. A player of his stature should provide more. I can’t honestly say that he has added more to the team that Jim Whitley did when he was playing that position last time we were in the Prem. For £3.5 million as a permanent transfer I should be able to. [Goals?! – Ed]

I feel like I am just been unnecessarily nasty about the team. However, I have praised them this season when they have deserved it, so I’m going to be honest when they don’t. Distin seemed to have got it right when he was interviewed after the match. They need to toughen up mentally. The top six teams are top six because of their consistency. We still switch off for certain matches.

Oh, and Robbie Fowler played.

Sam Al-Hamdani (


West Brom displayed a wide thuggish streak. City’s defending at corners was pitiful. Carlo Nash was bullied into staying on his line.

Fowler rarely seems fit. At 27 he should be in his prime. Instead, his football life is passing him by. Keegan has spent £43m … but few in the side would interest other managers. Manchester United and Arsenal will be licking their lips.

Sunday Times:
Keegan hoped the strikers would show telepathy … they played so far apart that telephony would have been more appropriate.

Fowler’s inclusion proved a failed gamble. Richard Dunne was a beached whale at wing back.

Sommeil collapsed as if hit by a steam-hammer. Both the visitors’ goals came from set pieces and Keegan promises more work in that department.

Daily Mail:
City were awful … Fowler was off the pace and it appeared peculiar that Keegan left him on for 90 minutes. Seeing Dunne labour at wing back was embarrassing.

Depressing or what? I hope Fowler doesn’t turn out to be another Marsh. Will Kevin play him in the reserves?

Peter Kewley (


As far as I know the following City players have their own websites:

Nicolas Anelka
David Sommeil
Robbie Fowler
Alfie Haaland
Carlo Nash

Does anyone know of any others?

And seeing as Trafford Rangers and Liverpool will be contesting the Worthington Cup, does this mean that 7th place will now yield a place in Europe, assuming that Liverpool finish in the top 6 (although looking decidedly dodgy at the moment!)? Answers on a postcard!

Lance Thomson (


Kevin Keegan showed his tactical mastery at West Brom. Robbie Fowler gets a goal every second game, so Keegan sends him out, unfit and out of shape against the Baggies. As expected, no goals – so he’s due one for Sunday.