Newsletter #913

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Plenty of news tonight covering the weekend’s arrangements, opinions and an “ode to Maine Road”.

Little to say other than what the contributions here have, so everyone enjoy what will be an emotional weekend for Blues worldwide. Get those flags flying, glasses raised and celebrate.

Next game: Southampton, home, 3pm Sunday 11 May 2003
Countdown: 3 days

NEWS SUMMARY

Maine Road’s Grand Finale

It’s Flag Day! City have announced that fans attending the last ever Maine Road fixture can bring their flags. Supporters’ Clubs have already been asked to bedeck the Kippax with their colours. “Our last game at Maine Road is set to be a wonderfully memorable occasion for all those with a connection to Manchester City,” said acting Chairman, John Wardle. “We’ve enjoyed some great times here over the past 80 years and want to make sure that our farewell party is one of the best so we’re inviting fans to make an effort, come to the game in fancy dress or with your flags or banners and let’s make sure that our final day here is the envy of every other club.” Turnstiles open at 1pm. Pre-match entertainment will include a parade of former City greats. After match music is provided by The Sounds of the Blues Brothers and The Doves. City have also stated that memorabilia from MR will be taken from M14 to reside in the new surroundings of Eastlands. “We will be taking some parts of Maine Road to the new stadium, including the mosaics outside the ground, the centre circle – providing it survives – and some turnstiles which go back to the Hyde Road days,” revealed City managing director Alistair Mackintosh. “It is important that we keep that legacy in the family.”

Tight Security: Officials are concerned that the emotional climax to life at Maine Road will cause an influx of punters without tickets to try and gain entry into the ground. Match commander Superintendent Neil Wain warned: “We are expecting large numbers of fans and members of the public to be in the area of Maine Road for Sunday’s game, and their safety is our ultimate priority. We appreciate the significance of this match for both the club and the fans however we would not want the game to be spoilt by the behaviour of a minority. We would warn anyone without a ticket for the game not to travel to Maine Road. Extra security checks will be in operation and anyone without a ticket will not be allowed near the stadium. Anyone found to be attempting to buy tickets from touts outside the stadium will be banned from games at the new stadium by Manchester City Football Club.” The club are also keen that fans stay off the pitch at full time. John Wardle commented on BBC GMR. “At the end of the game will you please stay off the pitch. If you come on, the police will have no option, that will be it. It will be closed. There is a lot going on after the game and I want fans to enjoy themselves. If they stay in their seats they will be able to enjoy it.”

Good Times: Former City players have been talking about what it’s like to play at Maine Road. Mike Summerbee, part of the most successful Blues’ team ever, said: “It’s not so much the stadium as the people who come to watch. You’d come out of the tunnel and see the Kippax absolutely heaving and when they started singing your name, it sent a shiver down your spine. It didn’t matter where you had come from or what your reputation was, you always had to prove yourself to the fans. Once you had achieved that, they were always on your side.” Gary Owen featured in the City first team between 1974 and 1979 and, while appreciating the great atmosphere at the old place, accepts that it is time to move on. “It will be an emotional day for me as a former player. It will be strange to think that we will not be playing our football in Maine Road again,” commented Owen. “We leave with plenty of memories. But there are a lot of people for whom their life has been Maine Road. For many, coming to Maine Road on match days has been an escape from their everyday working lives. There are the stewards and staff in the canteen for instance who worked at a club and stadium they loved. It will be sad for them too. But I think we all leave with good memories. Yes there are the bad memories, but the good ones certainly outweigh the bad ones. Like many others I do love the old stadium, but I am also someone who loves progression,” he said. “When you see that new stadium, anyone who has any tinge of sadness about leaving Maine Road and once they get into the City of Manchester stadium and see the facilities they will be proud of it. Every other week they will be going to a stadium which is the best in football.”

Lest We Forget: Not only are we saying farewell to Maine Road on Sunday, but also to our supreme goal getter of the last five years, one Shaun Leonardo Goater. In an article in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette this week, the Goat has tried to put into words how he feels about his last hurrah at Maine Road. Under the title “Leaving City – The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had To Do”, Goater states that “When Sunday is all over and done with, the match is finished and I’ve returned my captain’s armband, I think I am just going to walk out the door at Maine Road, get in my car and head home, all the while trying not to look back. If I don’t, I fear the emotion of the occasion might get the better of me. I never thought I would get attached to a club in this way. At the end of the day it’s just a job, you make the move because it’s good for your career. You never think you’re going to get so close. But that’s what’s happened in the five years I have been at City, and leaving will be the hardest thing I have had to do. Being the captain on Sunday in the last-ever game at Maine Road will be a great way to say goodbye. I cannot put into words how I will feel. It is going to be an emotional rollercoaster. All I know is I will be drained, both physically and mentally. One thing is for certain – I want to be remembered as the last City captain to get a result at our spiritual home.” If there’s any justice, he’ll score the last ever goal there as well. [Shaun will remain a Blue for us, wherever he goes, a true ambassador for the sport and the club – Ed]

General News

Danes Contact FIFA: Reports in today’s Daily Telegraph and Guardian state that the Danish FA have contacted FIFA and requested an investigation into Kevin Keegan’s links with the Proactive Management sports agency. KK allegedly owns shares in Proactive, and the agency represents Peter Schmeichel, Niclas Jensen and Mikkel Bischoff. Jim Stjerne Hansen, the general secretary of the Dansk Boldspil-Union said yesterday, “I think this is something that FIFA should look into. If there is a conflict of interests, FIFA, as the governing body, is the one organisation with the power to make a decision. I would rather not take a personal stand against an individual manager but I fear there is a problem when managers and players are shareholders in the same company as the agent. Because of that, I want to ask FIFA if it is common practice and, if not, whether something should be done about it. FIFA has to look at the principles and decide if there is something wrong.” Both papers have stressed that nothing illegal has taken place. Proactive issued a statement saying that “The inference that managers would not act in the best interests of their clubs, just because they have a shareholding in Proactive, is offensive to those people concerned. The board of Proactive finds it surprising that the press should question the integrity of managers and players, none of whom have a significant stake in the company. The group has more than 300 contracted clients, of which more than 60% are based outside the UK. A transfer is not the responsibility of any one person. It is invariably authorised by the board of the club, not the manager, and in most cases the negotiations are not part of the managers’ remit. Proactive operates under the highest standards and regulations assigned by the FA for the recruitment of players.”

Croft Craft Wins the Day: Second place beckons in the northern section of the Premiership Reserve League, as the Reserves triumphed 2-1 at Newcastle United. The Toon had taken the lead on 28 minutes, but City pulled level with a Jon Macken penalty just before half time. The game seemed destined to end in deadlock until substitute Lee Croft fired a superb late winner following a one-two with Djamel Belmadi. City cannot now top the table following Sunderland’s thrashing of Aston Villa on the same night. City stay fourth in the table, but could finish the season in second place if they win their final game of the campaign at Bradford tonight (Thursday). Team: Ellegaard, Jihai Sun (Food 72), Jordan, Bischoff, Whelan, Wiekens, Belmadi, Vuoso (Croft 78), Macken, Goater, Shuker. Subs: K Schmeichel, McCarthy, Browne. In other Reserves news, it seems that the Manchester Senior Cup final between City and Oldham could be staged in the summer. The clubs are struggling to arrange a date for the Boundary Park clash.

Youths Prevail: Having topped their League, City’s under-17 side secured a play-off final spot with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa this week. Both goals were scored by Ian Bennett. The young Blues now play Blackburn Rovers in a two legged final. The home game will take place on Friday or Saturday at Ewen Fields. [Latest news has it at 12pm Friday 10th May].

Dale Fixture Unveiled: City’s summer tour of Lancashire has a new date. Having confirmed a trip to Oldham on August 2, this week it’s been announced that City will visit Spotland on Monday August 4 to face Rochdale. It’s a repeat of last year’s pre-season friendly, which saw the Blues win 6-0.

Kevin’s Aims: KK gave an end of season report on the club’s return to the Premiership, and he is pleased with the progress so far. “In the last year we have made progress and that pleases me,” reflected the boss. “Now we have to try and break into the next bracket in the League next season. We haven’t been in the bracket that is in the dogfight for relegation, we have been in that next bit. Then there is a group trying to get into Europe and then there are the sides which are trying to win the title. We are not in with them yet, but we can get in that next group where Everton are. That is a realistic objective. When I was asked to come here it was five year plan to finish in the top six. If we finish twelfth for instance we are only six places away. It will give us something to aim for.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Holland in Dutch Swap? An unofficial Ipswich Town website has reported that “sources at the club” think that Joe Royle would like to bring his old mates Shaun Goater and Gerard Wiekens to Portman Road, with midfield general Matt Holland joining the Blues as part of the deal. Last summer Holland turned down the chance to join Aston Villa last summer, citing his reluctance to move his family to the Midlands. It remains to be seen if the prospect of another season of First Division football might convince Holland to move this time round.

I Kahn’t Believe It! The search for a new goalkeeper carries on. Seeking Peter Schmeichel’s replacement, KK is said to be checking the ‘keeper roster at Sunderland. Boss Man Kev has been linked with both Mart Poom and Thomas Sorensen this week. Poom, an Estonian international, has only been at the Stadium of Light since January, and denies that he wants to move on. “The financial problems that result from relegation you can’t take lightly and it affects even big clubs like Sunderland. Lots of clubs see it as a big problem and it means a lot of players leaving,” said Poom. “But I am going to stay, I have already played half a season in the First Division with Derby County. I am ambitious to play in the Premier League but I have signed a contract to Sunderland and I want to see it through.” City are supposedly interested in Poom’s colleague Sorensen. He was Schmeichel’s long-time understudy as Denmark’s international ‘keeper, but Keegan is thought to face competition from some bloke called Alex Ferguson. Today’s Daily Express reports that Bayern Munich’s Oliver Kahn wants to find a new challenge, would like to try playing abroad. City have immediately been linked with Kahn, aged 33, as have Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City.

Barça Raid? Many thanks to Dominic O’Donnell, who writes: “Nicolas Anelka has updated his website (1st May). It is in French, but he mentions the name Philippe Christanval of Barcelona, and him joining the ‘armada’ of French players already at the club. This player has been linked with loads of clubs in the past, and was refusing to leave the club recently, even on loan.” Barcelona signed the tall and rangy centre half from AS Monaco in May 2001. He enjoyed a long run in the team last season, but was dropped before Barça’s Champions’ League semi-final with Real Madrid, leading to the player demanding a transfer. He was linked with a move to Leeds United during this season’s January sales, but nothing came of the speculation.

Ex-Blues’ News

Many Thanks: Uwe Rösler is grateful for the messages of support he has received from City fans this week, since it was revealed that the former City striker had been diagnosed with cancer. “I have received loads of cards and calls from City fans and I cannot tell you how much it means to me,” he said. “They have helped lift my spirits enormously, I am sorry that I will not be there in person to help say goodbye to Maine Road next weekend but I will be there in spirit and I wish everyone well. Hopefully I will be fit enough to come over for the opening of the new stadium next season and I look forward to seeing all my dear friends in Manchester. The news of my illness came as a big shock to me and my family but the tumour has been discovered at an early stage and the doctors have told me the chances of a full recovery are very good. I know how wonderful City fans are and their generosity of spirit has been fantastic,” he concluded. “They are the best in the world.”

Kinky Quits: Uwe’s former team mate, Gio Kinkladze, will be looking for a new club this season, after turning down Derby County’s offer of a new two year contact. Kinky will be a free agent next month, and feels that he needs a new start. “It is finally decided that I am leaving Derby, but for the moment I don’t know where I will go,” said the 29-year-old Georgian genius. “I respect the Derby bosses and fans but I really do not want carry on playing in the First Division. I don’t want the new contract with Derby. I don’t have to stay in England, although I will choose the team that has serious intentions, it does not matter where it will be.”

Allsopp Moves On: Hull City have completed the signing of Manchester City striker Danny Allsopp from Notts County on a three-year contract. The 24-year-old Australian has scored 12 goals in Division Two for Notts County this season, netting 55 times in 123 appearances for the Meadow Lane club. The striker moved to County in a £300,000 move from City in 2000, having been signed by JR from Port Melbourne Sharks for £10,000 two years earlier. Allsopp scored 4 league goals for City in three starts, plus 26 as a substitute.

Gareth is Top: Another player from dark days of Division Two was striker Gareth Taylor. Taylor, who moved to Burnley in the summer of 2001, and has just been voted the Clarets’ Player of the Season, having bagged 17 goals in all competitions this term. Taylor paid tribute to boss Stan Ternant for saving him from life in City’s reserves. “He showed a lot of faith in me and brought me to the club when my career was probably at a standstill really. And I feel more settled here than I’ve ever been at any other club,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed my time at other clubs, and I’ve played at some big clubs as well as Burnley. But I just feel now that my form’s quite good and I think that’s really down to playing games. The gaffer’s shown a lot of faith in me playing me week in week out and I think it’s just given me that edge to my game, knowing that I have an iffy game the gaffer’s going to still stick with me and hopefully I’ve repaid him.”

Simmo’s Spotland Sojourn Stops: Ex-City winger Paul Simpson has resigned as manager of Rochdale, after less than a year in charge. Rochdale enjoyed brief success this season in the FA Cup, beating Coventry City before being knocked out by Wolverhampton Wanderers. This form was not replicated in Division Three – ‘Dale finished 19th in the table, winning only one of their last 12 matches.

Reactions and Comments

Many Happy Returns to Anfield: The pre-match headlines had been made by Robbie Fowler’s first return to Anfield since his departure in 2001, but another Liverpool reject was the star of the after match coverage. Nicolas Anelka’s double ensured a first City win at the home of the Red Scousers since 1981. KK said afterwards: “Nicolas Anelka is a quality player and I know he didn’t want to leave Liverpool. He wanted to stay but Gerard Houllier had a difficult decision to make and had other options. Now he’s come back to Anfield and done what all good goalscorers do, score important goals. We deserved it,” he continued. “Baros took his goal well but we thought there was a foul in the run up on Robbie Fowler. But we played some good football, created chances and looked like causing problems. I’m delighted that we have come to Anfield and won. It is not easy to do that. Liverpool needed to win to get into the Champions’ League and I hope they do that because I’ve a lot of time for Gerard Houllier. But we wanted to win, too. In Joey and Shaun, we had two great kids. Joey in particular is playing for £500 a week. He will be given an improved contract. But he has said to me ‘Gaffer, I’m not bothered about money – I just want to play football’. Nicolas took his second goal superbly. We had played some great football in the build up to it but it was still some finish with is left foot. We now have to make sure we finish the job against Southampton next week.” Keegan also singled out the performance of Peter Schmeichel after his heroics kept City in the game: “Peter is the best goalkeeper the Premiership has ever seen, he’s impossible to replace like for like and can still hack it with the best. He’s not retiring because he’s not good enough anymore, he’s going because he has other things he wants to do.” KK hopes that his former team qualify for the Champions’ League next week. He said: “I would desperately like Liverpool to be in the Champions’ League next season and I will be supporting them next Sunday when they play Chelsea. I have the greatest respect for Gerard Houllier because he was brilliant to me when I was England manager, and gave me a lot of help in what was a difficult job. I thought we thoroughly deserved to win today against a great side. We played some excellent football and Nicolas Anelka scored a superb winning goal, with a great left footed strike. I don’t think Liverpool were at their best today but we took advantage of that and I’m delighted with my side. I don’t know whether it was a penalty or not when Anelka scored, but if it had been the other way I’m sure Gerard and Phil Thompson would have taken it. We had a chance of Europe, it was achievable. But we haven’t been quite consistent enough. Eighth is just about right for us.”

“Your Question is Totally Out of Order”: ITV’s highlights of the game (apparently, City didn’t get into the Liverpool half until Anelka earned City’s penalty) produced four interesting moments. One was the quality of Anelka’s winner. The second was the jaw-droppingly excellent save made by Peter Schmeichel save to push the ball onto the bar from El Hadji Diouf. The third was Joey Barton ruffling Schmikes’ hair as if to say “Well done son.” (mark my words, that boy will go far!). The fourth came in the after match interview, the normally urbane Gerard Houllier, losing his cool with the interviewer. Clearly ticked off when asked again about Liverpool reject Nicolas Anelka’s contribution, the Frenchman paused, then said “The question is totally out of order. We made a decision not to sign him for various reasons and I don’t want to go back on that. He’s a quality player and that’s why we signed him last season on loan. I don’t want to come back to discuss our decision. City have good strikers but we also have good strikers.” Hardly Fergie hair dryer stuff, but it made for an unexpected and (dare I say) an amusing finale to the coverage. Once the dust had settled, Houllier gave a more reasoned response to the goings on at Anfield. He said: “The game practically summed up our season. We had enough chances to win the game but didn’t take them. Peter Schmeichel made four world class saves, two in the first half and two in the second. He was the difference today. I thought the City penalty was harsh and I feel hard done by because we should have had a penalty in the first half. Milan Baros was clearly fouled and I couldn’t believe it when the linesman gave City a free-kick. I just could not believe it! It was because we were pushing forward trying to get the result that we conceded the second goal. It was a difficult second half for us but we scored first, and then two mistakes at the wrong time in the wrong areas of the pitch cost us. The boys will learn from that though. I told the players a draw would have been a good result before the game.”

Vive Le Elk! Nicolas Anelka has been quiet on the goalscoring front recently, so the former Liverpool striker was pleased to get back on the goal trail. He said: “I admit I wanted to stay but Gerard Houllier decided the other way. What more can I say? I can’t say anymore. I have no regrets. I am happy at Manchester City. I like the manager, I like the club, I like the town and I can see my long-term future here. Robbie Fowler and me still don’t know each other that well, but we will do something good. It will take time, but I can see something good happening here at Manchester City. He is a great player.” The Frenchman added: “I haven’t scored that many recently so to score at Anfield made me very happy. I got great satisfaction, but not because it was Liverpool. In the last few weeks I haven’t played like I should.” He continued: “I want to play Champions’ League football and that is why I can see my long-term future at City. We can finish eighth this season and, in the long run, I’m sure we can finish third or fourth next season. I need to be playing in the Champions’ League because I don’t have the national team any more. That’s my goal and I hope I can achieve that with City. I do believe that’s a realistic goal.”

Squad News

Jensen Improves: Niclas Jensen is pleased with his recent City form, after a difficult introduction to life in the Premiership. “When I came here the goal was to win the Championship and get promoted, which we did,” Jensen recollected. “After an okay start, we had a bit of a bad patch and didn’t get as many points as we would have liked, but showed we have the quality to bounce back. I think I am still adjusting. I wouldn’t say I am surprised by the quality of players I have come up against because I knew I was coming into one of the best leagues in the world. It is good that the standards are always so high here, because that is where you want to play if you want to develop – against the best in the world. I am just enjoying it and trying to develop my game to get better every day. I am sure in 12 months’ time I will be able to say I am a far better player. In Denmark, people have already said I have improved. I just think I have got used to playing at a higher tempo.”

Loan Deal for Vuoso? KK thinks that Matias Vuoso has begun to show better form on the pitch, and is settling better off it – so next season could be a make or break time. “Matias is coming on though I have not had him in the first team squad for a long time,” explained the team supremo. “He is down the pecking order but in the last couple of games he has started to show some level of consistency. Hopefully he will improve and then come back next year and make some sort of challenge for a place in the team. We felt he would be closer after what we had seen of him. When he got the injuries he should have been closer than he was but at that time he was not in any sort of form. A lot of things have happened to Matias. But he now understands English much better and that is a big hurdle to get over. He came here not speaking one word of English and it was really only Paulo Wanchope or Juan Carlos Osario with whom he could communicate. His English is good now so he is over that one and he has got time on his side as well as he is only twenty-one.” KK thinks that we may see Vuoso gaining experience elsewhere. “I will have patience with him. If we think it will be right to loan him out then we will as I have done with other players in the past. He has got some improving to do. But he is one of the best headers of a ball in the club and he is brave. He has been compared to Peter Beardsley and I can see why. He goes and drags the ball back off defenders. But the pace of the English game, the way it is played is completely different to Argentina. Invariably it takes South Americans a year to settle. Now he has had his year. So next year will be a big one for him.”

Don Barrie (news@mcivta.city-fan.org)

MATCH REPORT: NEWCASTLE UNITED RESERVES 1 MCFC RESERVES 2

City give the Magpies the Crow

Just like the official site said, the reserves replicated the first team’s achievements at Liverpool by gaining a last minute winner at Newcastle courtesy of a very fine goal from Lee ‘Figo’ Croft as his team mates affectionately call him. City had come from a goal behind by Newcastle’s captain, Bradley Orr from a free kick, when City were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes of the first half and Jon Macken duly scored from his rebounded first effort.

Newcastle’s reserve venue is Kingston Park, home of rugby union Zurich Premiership competitors, the Newcastle Falcons. So it was no surprise to see a pitch in worse state than a Sunday league park pitch. How the players were able to control the ball on occasions as it bobbled and bounced all over the place is hard to fathom. So you could say any silky football skills went largely out of the window and you would be hard pushed to describe the game as a classic. City you would have to say were dealing with the conditions better than their home opponents and a good chance fell to Matias Vuoso when Shaun Goater, with what will surely be his last appearance for the reserves, headed down to Vuoso inside the box but Matias was unable to direct his shot on target. City fired a few salvos on target from Sun Jihai and Shaun Goater, but they were not really able to test Tony Caig in goal for Newcastle.

So it was quite a surprise when Newcastle took the lead, slightly against the run of play, from a free kick. Stephen Jordan had decided to include himself in a two man wall to make it three. This left Bradley Orr without a marker to run in unchallenged and hit a shot to ground from Joe Kendrick’s inswinging free kick, which bounced over Kevin Ellegaard’s head and into the net. The remainder of the first half was largely a non-event as neither team created any real chances. Then, as the half drew to a close, Vuoso played a pass for Macken to run into the box whilst surrounded by two defenders, towards the by-line. He attempted to turn towards goal but he was impeded by Newcastle’s £5.5 million overweight purchase from Ipswich, Titus Bramble. I was quite surprised that the referee decided to weight his decision firmly in City’s favour by awarding us a penalty. I would have given an indirect free kick in those circumstances. But Jon Macken did not look a gift horse in the mouth and he was first to react when his first strike was well saved by Caig but the ‘keeper couldn’t save Jon’s rebound effort.

For the first ten minutes of the second half, City dominated play; they were obviously buoyed by the equalizing goal and came out with much more purpose to their play. However, their dominance failed to reap the rewards of a goal, with Vuoso failing to convert three good chances during that period, one a header that went just over the bar, another a good save from Caig and a shot that went into the side netting.

After this initial flurry of play from City they seemed to step down a gear and looked happy to go through the motions as the half wore on. This allowed Newcastle to gain in confidence and press forward more and indeed they were unlucky not to score a second goal when good possession on the edge of the area saw Jamie McClen unleash a great strike that hit the bar and rebounded to safety.

With just over ten minutes to go, Lee Croft came on to replace Vuoso and add some width and more balance to the team in an attempt to exploit the spaces down the flanks. This seemed to pay dividends on the 89th minute when Macken made a surging run from the half way line and then played a one two with Goater; Jon rounded a defender and squared a pass to the unmarked Belmadi eight yards out, but his shot was more like a rugby conversion that the ground was obviously very used to.

Frankly you would have considered that to be City’s last real chance of the match as the fourth official raised his two minute board. Lee Croft had other ideas when he received the ball well in his own half on the far right touchline; he ran forward along the line, evading three challenges along the way before cutting inside and playing a one two with Belmadi on the edge of the area and then running in and coolly slotting the ball past the despairing Caig to wrap up the three points for City.

That result at the time was what we thought enough to keep our slim hopes of lifting the title still alive. However, our enthusiasm was soon dampened when leaving the ground; whilst on the phone to Ian Cheeseman, he informed us that Sunderland had resoundingly beaten Aston Villa and placed them in a very strong position to retain their league title, being a point in front of Middlesbrough who travel to Altrincham to play United on Thursday. Boro need to win due to their inferior goal difference. That result will have a bearing on whether we finish runners-up or third. Somehow with the Ferguson-McClaren old pals’ act, it will be a long shot that United will defeat them.

Ellegaard: Steady game, not at fault for the goal. 7
Sun (72): Had an unusually steady game for him. 7
Jordan: Shouldn’t have gone in the wall, otherwise great. 8
Bischoff (capt): A fine display from the young Dane, gave Chopra nothing. 8
Whelan: Good first half effort, not as determined in the second. 7
Wiekens: Nothing past him all night, the Dependable Dutchman MoM. 9
Belmadi: Inconsistent in his play, too fanciful at times on a poor pitch. 7
Vuoso (78):Worked hard, got into the right places, needs work on finishing. 7
Macken: Drifted in and out of the game but played some good stuff. 7
Goater: Won some good headers and played his part in a 3 man attack. 7
Shuker: The conditions made it very difficult for his style of play. 8

Flood (72): Got forward a bit more than Sun had, to good effect. 7
Croft (78): A great goal, but still needs work on his final ball. 8

Not Used: Schmeichel K, McCarthy, Browne.

Newcastle: Caig, Norton, Quinn, Kendrick (capt2), Orr(capt1)(Robson 64), Bramble, Ambrose, McClen, Chopra, Lua Lua (Dunn 56), Walton.

Not Used: Smith, Brittain, Carr.

Goals: Orr (28), Macken (43), Croft (90).

Att: 1,422.

Gavin Cooper (blueboy@mancity.net)

OPINION: FAREWELL TO MAINE ROAD

Farewell, Maine Road. Goodbye to eighty years
Of love and laughter, joy and tears.
This is the ground where eighty thousand stood
In heaving hope of City’s glory
Where Doherty played, and Swift, and Brook,
Those early stalwarts of the Maine Road story –
Before our time.

Farewell, Maine Road
Here in our childhood Trautmann leapt
From wartime foe to lifelong friend
Roy Paul came smiling up from Wales
And Bobby Johnstone’s dazzling steps
Roused old men from their seats
While boys in belted coats hung scarfs
In sky-blue tribute on the big white wall.

Back then we journeyed out from town
On buses that said “Football Match”
Past houses doused in gray.
Through heavy turnstiles we squeezed in
To stand on terraces and wait
Until the Blues walked out
Scanning the thin programme for the teams
Between the adverts for the Football Pink
And trains to City’s next away
For seven shillings.

The great times came:
Joe Mercer and Big Mal brought in our heroes
And we saw ourselves in them
We were Young and Bell and Franny Lee,
Sang “Sha-la-la-la Summerbee”
As titles, trophies were achieved
(Then promptly lost again)
From Power and Tueart, Book and Bond,
Through fortunes thick and thin
Maine Road endured;
The changes rung by Helen’s clanging bell
For poor Paul Lake and the Mighty Quinn
While in the back streets of Moss Side
Cloth caps and shawls had given way
To rasta hats and golden saris.

Life took us afar, yet at each return
The old home was renewed,
Bishop, Rösler, and the Kippax gone,
Goater, Ali, welcomed in
A league of nations now
But all Manchester City.
And now this grand old club has found
A brand new home, a bright new future too;
No more for City at Maine Road,
Just memories remain.
On 11 May, 2003
We’re Not Really Here.

Anon

OPINION: THE THINGS WE DO FOR CITY

Well back in the early 70’s when the Rags were famous for wrecking trains, and just being natural hooligans, I was in San Fransisco when I found a postcard with a picture of the famous prison “Alcatraz” with “Wish you were here” written across it.

So I sent one to Manchester United’s manager at the time Tommy Docherty, but I did say “Not you Tommy just some of your supporters!”

Even though I’m blowing my own trumpet, I’m proud of that one.

Good luck City on our last game in our old home!

Come on you Blues! Ernie Barrow (britcityblue@aol.com)

OPINION: PLAYER REVIEW I

I’ve not contributed before but always read with interest, and I think I have to disagree with some of the views on our players.

I go to every game home and away, and the idea that David Sommeil ‘needs to improve very fast’ seems entirely unfair on him. Granted, every one of our players has room for improvement, but Sommeil has been superb for us pretty much ever since he signed. He and Distin are forging a good partnership at the back and they, along with Schmeichel, were very effective as a unit against Liverpool (regardless of the image ‘The Premiership’ may try to portray). It is a shame that Schmeichel is leaving, but to award understudy Carlo Nash the ‘Andy Dibble Memorial Award’ is again unfair. He didn’t have a good start at Leeds, but since then he’s been improving and his performance at Old Trafford was top class. He made several good saves and his 40-yard dash to thwart Giggs in the second half was particularly special. Sadly he lacks the sort of presence Schmeichel has to offer, but in terms of technique and attitude he is more than capable.

Getting rid of Wanchope without even giving him a chance once fit would be foolish in the extreme, as Macken has not shown any real promise in the few appearances he’s made (without looking particularly bad either, to be fair). Fowler has not been the revelation some people were hoping for, but I’m not going to pass judgement on him until he and Nic have had a proper pre-season together. As for Shaun, I don’t think it is a mistake him going. Of course he’s been a fine servant and I hope no one misinterprets what I’m saying – he’s been fantastic and he’s one of football’s few truly nice guys. He’s a lot of people’s favourite player over the past five years, and he’s mine too.

But we need to be realistic and admit that Shaun is not the way forward any longer. He’s getting on a bit and I think Robbie Fowler will prove to be a worthy successor next year. In a perfect world Shaun would have hung around as a replacement, but no one can blame him for wanting to play and the club were never going to stand in his way – we fans would have considered the club keeping the Goat against his will to be even worse than letting him go, and rightly so.

It would be nice to see Vuoso at least get a substitute appearance, but then I trust our management team to get such decisions right. They seem to have introduced Joey Barton at just the right time – three wins, a draw and two defeats in the six games since he was given his début is a marked improvement on a win, a draw and four defeats in the six games prior to that. He’s rejuvenated the whole side, most notably Shaun Wright-Phillips, who now seems locked in competition with JB for our man of the match award each game.

Foe is also not as bad as many seem to be suggesting, and the impression I get is that our players like having him around, but truth be told we won’t miss him that much and his quoted price is indeed daylight robbery. So he will be leaving in the summer; I personally wouldn’t miss Richard Dunne either who can be good but is a little too inconsistent. Belmadi has not done anything like enough to justify remaining with us – some may say he has not had the time, but even in the short bursts he has had, he hasn’t shown me that he would bring something new to our team. Of other players who have featured in the first team, Steve Howey can leave, not quick enough and there’s now a question mark over his attitude and relationship with Keegan.

Summer signings – that Goat/Wiekens for Matt Holland deal sounds promising but is probably too good to be true. McManaman keeps getting mentioned but wages would be a big issue there. As for anyone else, I don’t know… I’ll let Kev surprise me! He certainly did last summer. Apologies for being a bit long-winded but I felt a few players needed a bit more praise than they were getting.

Ollie Williams (ollie@gprem.com)

OPINION: PLAYER REVIEW II

Firstly, I want to thank everyone that has been working with MCIVTA during the last years. You, guys and girls, are the best!

It has been a good year for a Manchester City supporter. My first visit to Maine Road and the beating of Man United is something I will never forget.

But now is the time to look to the future. From my Swedish point of view it seems that City need to bring in four new players.

  1. A new goalkeeper, obviously. Peter Schmeichel has done great, but if Citycan buy an experienced goalkeeper there should be no need to feel sorry thatSchmeichel is retiring. I hope for Sunderland’s Danish ‘keeper Thomas Sorensenand dread David James (please tell me that the rumour isn

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