Newsletter #945

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Breaking news tonight that we have agreed a fee of £2.5 million for Reyna from Sunderland, subject to his medical. This follows much speculation earlier in the media and our Virginian correspondent who recommended him to City some 9 years ago!

We have match reports and views tonight on the Blackburn game, opinion on the transfers and news that our fitness coach Osario seems to have disappeared without trace. Don has covered all this and more in the weekly news summary.

We’ve also a fair few requests including news of a new City stats site from Steve.

Sunday sees Arsenal as next visitors to the new ground, which is also a TV game so anybody watching live or via TV please consider your reports/views.

Next game: Arsenal, home, 4.05pm Sunday 31 August 2003 (TV game)

NEWS SUMMARY

General News

Coach Gone? Last week a number of tabloids reported that fitness coach Juan Carlos Osorio had left the club. The Sun even claimed that Osorio had been poached by the Red Devils of Trafford – this was based on the fact that Osorio had worked with their new ‘keeper Tim Howard at New York Metro Stars. There has as yet been no official statement on the matter from the club. It would be a shame if Osorio has departed, as his fitness methods were apparently appreciated by the players.

Carry On, Elliott! Stephen Elliott has retained his place in the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad for the European Championship qualifier against Russia, to be played on Friday September 5th at Waterford. Elliott played last week in a friendly game against Poland, and the young striker took his chance and scored a hat-trick, in a 5-1 scoreline.

Save the Latics: City have given permission to fans of Oldham Athletic to organise a collection for the club at Sunday’s game against Arsenal at the City of Manchester Stadium. Oldham are in dire financial peril at the moment, they had to release 12 players over the summer and their manager Iain Dowie is working without a contract at the moment. The Latics will have to find upwards of £1 million by the next Football League board meeting on September 8 to satisfy the authority that they can fulfil this season’s matches. Failure to make any guarantees would threaten the club’s survival. The Oldham fans intend to be outside the COMS holding buckets to make their collection.

Transfer News and Gossip

Can We Have a Right Back Please? The summer transfer window clangs shut on Sunday, and the City fans who have been hoping for a new full back will be heartened at a couple of the names mentioned as potential Blues targets. On Friday, it was reported that Leeds United had accepted two loan offers for England full-back Danny Mills [Thanks to ACB for that item]. Mills did leave Elland Road on loan, but joined Middlesbrough. According to the Daily Mirror, City were looking to sign Spurs defender Stephen Carr in a £6 million deal. Such a purchase sounds unlikely, however, as the fee appears to be out of KK’s budget range. The Sunday Mirror reckoned that KK was eyeing up Chelsea’s more affordable Mario Melchiot (I didn’t realise Chelsea could sell players these days, I thought they just bought up everyone else’s!). Meanwhile, another defensive candidate mentioned recently, Markus Babbel, has joined Blackburn Rovers on a season-long loan.

KK’s Buying Intent: The Boss Man has made it clear that he may well make one more purchase before Sunday, but only if the right player becomes available. “We would like one more in but we are only going to do that if that player is of a quality that is going to improve us,” Keegan stressed. “We haven’t got a big squad any more, a lot of players have left for one reason or another. I would like to bring one more in but I am not going to do it for the sake of having an extra body around the place. It has to be someone who is going to get into this side and that is not easy. You only have to look at the bench we had at Blackburn to know that and that was without Paulo and Robbie who are both injured. Even so we have had a decent start and if we can keep the belief, dedication and desire we have shown so far then we have a chance of doing something this season.” City were mentioned as a possible destination of Rangers’ midfielder Barry Ferguson, but later reports indicated that Liverpool, Everton and Blackburn were most likely to meet Rangers asking price of £8 million. A new club have been linked with Darren Huckerby, by the way. Leicester City are said to be interested.

Go Stop Go For Mettomo: Now here’s the most confusing transfer story in the City news week. It seems that only the Lord above and possibly agent Willie Mackay knows what’s going on with Lucien Mettomo. On Friday it was announced that struggling Bundeslegia side Kaiserslautern had agreed to sign Mettomo in a deal worth £480,000. The Cameroon international was then paraded to the fans of the German club on Sunday after the two clubs had agreed the fee. On Tuesday all bets were off – Mettomo had apparently returned to City after the move to Kaiserslautern fell through. This news had alerted Wolves, who had been close to signing the defender last week. But Wednesday saw the German side claiming that the deal was back on. “He is here and will have a medical today,” said a Kaiserslautern spokesman. “The information on Manchester City’s website was incorrect. The player is here and will have a medical check today. After that the contract will be signed. He left here on Sunday, but returned on Tuesday and watched our match. As long as he passes the medical he will sign for four years.”

Walsall Saddle Ritchie: In a more straightforward move, Paul Ritchie left City this week to join Walsall on a free transfer. The 28-year-old Scottish international signed until the end of the season. Saddlers’ boss Colin Lee is delighted with his new addition, saying: “It has been well documented that I have been trying hard to strengthen the squad. This signing will certainly do that as Paul has the necessary credentials and First Division experience. I want us to keep on improving and I am pleased to have Paul on board to give us an added option in defence. He’s a strong, tough defender and we’re happy to have him here. The fact he plays on the left-hand side should give us much more balance. I’m sure his international experience will be invaluable at this level. Paul man-to-man marked David Beckham out of the game when England played Scotland in the Euro 2000 qualifier so that obviously says a lot.” Ritchie joined City for £500,000 in August 2000 from Glasgow Rangers but went on to make just 27 appearances. He also had loan spells at Portsmouth and Derby last season.

This Week’s McManaman Story: File under “No Smoke without Fire”, perhaps, but these persistent rumours about Steve McManaman and MCFC refuse to go away. The Sunday Mirror boldly announced that KK was close to persuading McManaman to quit Real Madrid for City. “I can still do a job,” said McManaman. “Real are open to offers.” Everton and Celtic were also said to be checking out the Liverpudlian, then Thursday’s teamtalk.com stated that “Steve McManaman is in talks with a mystery club – believed to be Everton or Manchester City.” Real’s new coach Carlos Quiroz said that “I know Steve is talking to a club and it is better for him and for us that it is sorted out in the next 48 hours.”

Eyal To Stay: It seems that a spell keeping the subs’ bench warm (and the fact that no one has made a bid) has given Eyal Berkovic a change of heart. He never really wanted to leave at all, you see. “Even when I asked for a transfer, at the bottom of my heart I wanted to stay at City,” he stressed. “I have said it thousands of times and I mean it. I want to stay here until the end of my career. It is important for me that when I go to train at Carrington that I feel happy, and at that time I wasn’t happy because I felt that the club at one stage wanted me to go. I didn’t want to make it hard for them, so I asked for a transfer. There was no connection between my request and an offer from Portsmouth and it was not about a new contract. It was between me and the manager, but now I feel we are OK and that everything will sort itself out. Things are much better. The fans have been wonderful to me. I think they understand me. I love the club and I feel at home here and in Manchester. It has always been my dream since I started playing to be at such a big club. I hope things will continue like they are and I will take the transfer request back immediately.” KK has made it clear what Berko must do now. “Eyal took himself out of the side and it is up to him to get back in there,” said the manager. Eyal also claims that his “omission” from Israel’s squad last week was all down to a misunderstanding. He said: “I thought I would be playing four quick games for City, and by the time I found out I wasn’t playing in our game at Charlton it was too late. Someone else had been called up. I have spoken with the team management and made it clear that I still want to play for my country.”

Reyna Raid? Reports in today’s press suggest that KK is going to make a late bid for Sunderland’s Claudio Reyna. The USA midfielder had all but completed a £2 million move to Fulham yesterday, but the deal broke down over personal terms. If true, City face competition from Blackburn Rovers and Everton. The Toffees were about to sign Fulham’s Sean Davies this week but the player failed a medical – Reyna had been expected to fill Davies’s place at Loftus Road. Newspapers in the North East reckon Reyna is Merseyside bound.

Ex-Blues’ News

Taylor Runs Off to Forest: Gareth Taylor is on his travels again. Nottingham Forest have completed the signing of the former striker for £500,000 from First Division rivals Burnley. The 30-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the City Ground club. Burnley chairman Barry Kilby said Taylor was allowed to move on after talks over a new contract proved fruitless. “There have been several offers for Gareth Taylor since the end of last season that the club has turned down. As this intensified at the start of the season, talks were held with Gareth to see if we could extend his contract beyond May 2004, when he became a free agent. Unfortunately, we could not match the offers his agent had from other clubs and although we could have insisted that he saw out his contract for the rest of the season, it was made clear to us that we would have had a very unhappy player on our staff.” Taylor was on City’s books between 1998 and 2001, making 34 appearances and scoring 10 goals. Meanwhile, Taylor’s former captain at Maine Road, Richard Edghill, has joined QPR on a month long deal. Edghill, 28, joins Rangers after short stints with Wigan and Sheffield United towards the end of last season.

Kinky Link: Reports suggest that Gio Kinkladze may find a home in Scottish football. Having been training with Portsmouth, SPL side Dundee are the latest club to be linked with the mercurial Georgian, although Dundee boss Jim Duffy was being quite cagey about his interest. “I would not go so far as saying we have made a move for him or anything like that, because we haven’t. There has been no contact with his agent and I haven’t even spoken to Giorgi. His name has been drawn to my attention though and what I have done is spoken to Harry Redknapp about him. He had him training down at Portsmouth recently and gave me an idea of how he looked. He is in my thoughts but so are a number of other players and I am still considering a few options.”

Yankee Doodle McNab: Neil McNab has finally made up his mind on his next career move. He has decided to quit the delights of the Dr Marten’s Premier Division, and has accepted a three-year coaching contract in Atlanta, Georgia. He went to Weymouth in the summer as Steve Claridge’s No. 2 on a temporary basis. It was his first job after being sacked as the manager at Exeter City, and McNab expressed his gratitude this week to the Dorset club. “I had a rough time at Exeter,” he said. “But I got back on my feet at Weymouth where they have really treated me well. I have regained my appetite for football with Weymouth and I have very mixed feelings about leaving them. I leave with great reluctance.” The Terras’ chairman Ian Ridley said: “We are all grateful to Neil. He has done a great job in helping us to get where we are so early.”

Reactions and Comments

“Typical Man City”! City made a sluggish start to League life at the Citadel last Saturday, as they snatched a 1-1 draw with visitors Portsmouth, thanks to a goal by David Sommeil in the 90th minute. “This was not a great day,” KK admitted. “We were desperate to start well at this magnificent stadium, but just couldn’t seem to find any rhythm or drive. It was one of those things. People say: ‘That’s typical Man. City’, and that annoys me. But yes, it is. We’re trying to get away from that because it doesn’t have to be Man. City. It has been in the past because the records will tell you that and it has been like that in my time, a little bit. But we’ve got to lay that ghost to rest. These players have done that to a certain extent, but we’ve still got some work to do. It wasn’t vintage stuff but I thought we deserved a point in the end,” he added. “Our passing was pedestrian at times and our first touch let us down. But it’s difficult when you have four or five players who are simply not performing. It’s hard to talk about progress when you’ve only just salvaged a draw at home. But the pleasing thing for me was we never gave up. This was one of the poorest performances since I’ve been manager here. But we came away with a point and I have to be proud of the endeavour the players showed.” Pompey manager Harry Redknapp was frustrated that his side hadn’t held on for the 3 points. “I’m encouraged by the start we’ve made, although I’ve got to tell you the lads are a little disappointed they didn’t win that one. We’re gutted because we held them at bay for so long. They threw a lot of players forward but I still felt we could hold on. We were the better side by far in the first half, but this is the Premiership. Six points out of six would have been a great start, but we’d have taken four before the start of the season, no question.”

Sommeil Strikes: David Sommeil, City’s goalscorer said later that the side had not wanted to disappoint the fans. “We didn’t play well but we kept trying as hard as we could to the end, and pushed hard for the goal because it was very important that we didn’t lose the first game at our new home,” he stated. “That would have been terrible for our fans, who were expecting much better after the win at Charlton. We wanted three points like we did against Charlton, so we were disappointed with just one. Scoring goals is not something I work on in training but I like to get forward when I can and I have been in the right place at the right time on a couple of occasions already this season.” It was Joey Barton’s cross from a free kick that set up the equaliser, and he, too, was relieved to have grabbed a point. “We didn’t get the result we thought we were capable of or what most of our fans came to see, but at least we stuck at it and got a point,” he noted. “You don’t want to get off to a bad start any season, and you want to get as many points as you can on the board as early as you can. Four points from two games is decent. However, it is even more important when you have a new stadium to make sure that you have decent results.”

Top of the World: It may have only have been caused by the demands of Sky TV, but for 24 glorious hours, City were top of the Premiership this week. Away matches at Lincoln City seemed a long way off as City beat Blackburn 3-2 at Ewood Park. KK said afterwards that, “You had two teams that wanted to win it and when you’ve got two teams that want to win it you are going to get a good game of football. We just edged the game, but it was a great game.” City conjured up some amazing goals on the night, starting with Michael Tarnat’s free kick strike from 38 yards after 3 minutes, which earned comparisons with Roberto Carlos’ famous free kick against France. Blackburn clearly hadn’t done their homework on our left back, as they formed the most cursory of walls. Even the all knowing Boss Man didn’t guess what would happen next. “Surely he is not going to try it from there?” remarked the boss to Arthur Cox as the German addressed the ball. “He must have pulled a muscle doing it,” said Keegan later. “I didn’t know he took free-kicks but on our pre-season tour of Denmark he had a go and I have never in my life seen anyone hit one so hard – and I played against people like Peter Lorimer. To beat Brad Friedel from that distance takes some doing.” The second goal came courtesy of a powerful run from Joey Barton: “As for Joey, that was a dream goal for him. Other players would like to beat four players and lash it in from 25-yards, he likes two 50-50s with centre backs and then to produce a cool finish,” remarked KK. Nicolas Anelka’s goal from an outrageous angle four minutes from time settled the game. Keegan added: “I didn’t know what the hell he was doing – I just wanted him to keep hold of it – but that’s Nicolas for you. This was a match where there were two teams totally committed to winning and it was a shame one had to lose. I would have been aggrieved if we had lost and I am sure Graeme Souness is.” Top o’the League, but KK tried to keep City expectations to realistic levels. He warned: “Now we have to try and stay there. I’ve been there before – it’s staying there that’s the problem, and we won’t get carried away by being top. We’ve got Arsenal on Sunday – I watched them against Middlesbrough and I switched it off after half-an-hour.” That game must have brought back scary memories for Boro’s new substitute ‘keeper Carlo Nash – the Gunners did the same damage to the Teesiders as they had done to City last February.

‘Keeper’s Ball! In amongst the brilliant goals scored, City conceded a pair of similar goals from corners, and accusing glances were cast at Young Seamo. The ‘keeper preferred to focus on the result. “They put us under a lot of pressure and we’ve done really well to come here and win 3-2,” said the former Arsenal star. On being top of the league, Seaman commented: “It’s great, it’s a bit different. Those fans are fantastic – they create so much atmosphere and so much noise out there.”

Sour Sou: Blackburn manager Graeme Souness thought that his goalkeeper Brad Friedel was to blame for two of City’s goals. “The goals were unacceptable – I think Brad would want to do better,” he said. “I have worked with him for three years and I have never seen him have a bad night like that. You would normally expect Brad to save the free-kick but he seemed to slip a bit. The third goal went through his legs, it was almost freakish and the second one you have got to expect centre-halves to win 50-50s. But he’s a big boy, I have praised him a great deal in the past and he as much as anyone got us to sixth place last season. He’s a top man, one of the best around, but it can happen to the best. We have not played badly but given away three bad goals and that’s cost us dearly.”

Lone Ranger: Next day KK hinted that we may see more of the Lone Elk system, with Nicolas Anelka playing on his own up front, with Antoine Sibierski playing just behind. “I spoke to John Toshack before I first signed Nicolas and he said the best place to play him was up front on his own,” revealed Keegan. “While he can produce perfectly good performances in a two-man attack, he has developed as a person and a player at this football club and he seems to like the challenge of being up there by himself. With his ability, no defence is ever going to go one-on-one with him, which allows a supporting player a bit more space. It is not something I would do every week but we wanted to see how it went. We had two holding midfield players in the centre but with Nicolas up front, Antoine Sibierski just behind, plus the inventiveness of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Trevor Sinclair out wide, you have four players who can cause havoc. At the end, I was screaming at Nicolas to take the ball into a corner and hang on to it but he never listens to me anyway. He might score better goals in his career but he won’t get many from a tighter angle than that.” There was an injury scare for the in-form Frenchman. He played most of the game with a heavily bandaged hand, following a hefty challenge early in the game. Some reports suggested that Anelka could have broken the hand, thus jeopardising his participation in Sunday’s game with Arsenal. The latest news is that there is no fracture, so he should be ready to take on his former club.

Squad News

Always the Sun: Jihai Sun has said how he prefers playing at right back in a 4-4-2 formation, to being a wing-back in a 3-5-2. “It is wonderful to be in the side and though I have not always played at full back for City it is a position with which I am comfortable and familiar because I played there a lot in China and at left back, too,” he said. “Last season I seemed to be battling with Shaun Wright-Phillips for one place but this season we have both managed to get into the side and that is good. I think Shaun has so much to offer the team and we are beginning to get an understanding as a pair down the right hand side. I am enjoying playing.”

Shaunie for England: Some City fans were disappointed that Shaun Wright Phillips had not made the recent England under-21 squad, but KK reckons that Sweep should aim higher. “I was surprised Shaun wasn’t in the full squad,” asserted Keegan. “I wouldn’t worry about the under 21s if I was Shaun. If he keeps playing well he will just go straight into the full squad. He is good enough.” The player himself knows he can improve. “It was quite disappointing to miss out but I have said all along the gaffer has plans for different matches and he will pick the team that he feels to be strongest for particular games,” he said. “That was his decision at the time and you have to accept it. I have just got to make sure that I can play my way back into his plans again. But it is my target to get into the full squad, because this is my last year for the under-21’s. I have got to make that next step forward and I can’t settle for anything else. I have set my sights on next summer’s European Championships and there are a lot of people backing me. If I keep going the way I have been then I don’t see any reason why I won’t get the chance to stake my claim at some point. I know my finishing isn’t as good as it could be and I am working on it constantly with the manager and in training,” he added. “The gaffer doesn’t need to remind me that my shooting has to be more accurate. I can see that myself. I am determined to get more goals and make more goals. I am enjoying my football, playing wide on the right of a midfield four presents its own challenges and means that I am involved a lot. I feel at home and much calmer on the pitch. I maybe had the tendency to rush things a little bit in the past but I feel that has improved and I just need to work on my play in the final third. As for the England stuff, that is out of my hands. My job is to play as well as I can to stay in City’s first team – and that’s not easy with the quality we have here.”

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

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’ I: BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 MCFC 3

I went to see City play Blackburn on Monday night. I’ll leave it to others to cover the game in detail, but first to my opinion on the players:

Seaman: Another decent game from him. Love the rapport he’s starting to build up with the City fans, continuing from the banter at the TNS game. Made a couple of very good saves. Not at fault for the Sinclair o.g. – 8.

Distin: The best game I’ve seen him play for the Blues. Sold Seaman slightly short with one back pass, but apart from that, faultless in my eyes. Didn’t get beaten once in the air, won absolutely every ball. Made a fantastic tackle about 70 minutes in to save a certain goal. Outstanding. – 10

Sommeil: Another very good game. Looks comfortable on the ball. Gelling nicely with Distin. Looked like a Premiership defender. Won almost everything and looks good going forward. Keegan’s done well signing these two. Let’s hope they stay injury free. – 8

Tarnat: What a class act. Made some great tackles, looks incredible going forward. Super goal, must have been 40 yards out, can’t wait to see the replay. You can tell he’s played at the highest level. His passing wasn’t as good as it’s been against Oldham in pre-season and against TNS, but was still good. Looks very cool under pressure. Fantastic signing by KK. – 9

Sun Jihai: If I had to say there was a weak link in the team, then I’d say Sun Jihai, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad! Says something about the current City team. Gets forward well, sometimes gives silly balls away when not under pressure and doesn’t look as solid. I’d still say he’s good enough for the Premiership. However, I’m a fan of Danny Mills so I hope we sign him (although that looks unlikely now?). – 7

Sinclair: Another poor game from him, played well against TNS and Portsmouth, but has been poor twice now. Stupid own goal to concede and wasn’t much good in open play. – 5.

Bosvelt: Was largely anonymous and needs to perform much better than this. Played the ball around well, and was never flustered. Some good tackles, but must get involved more. – 5

Barton: Thought he had a poor first half, but made up for it with a storming second half performance. Nicely taken goal (with a bit of luck with defenders messing up) and some great tackles. Passed it well in the second half and looks more and more confident with each game. – 8

Wright-Phillips: Must improve his shooting, or not bother. One decent strike but about 5 missed chances. His passing and running with the ball was excellent, can’t understand how he was overlooked for the U21s. Looks the part. – 8

Sibierski: Yet to produce the form Keegan says he’s capable of. Didn’t link up well with Anelka at all, gave the ball away and looked poor off the ball. Terrible game for him, I thought. – 4

Anelka: Not a bad performance, playing up front on his own. A truly quality player, and came up with the goods again, scoring the winning goal. When Wanchope plays with him, can see him doing wonders for the team and setting the Premiership alight. – 7

To the game itself. Was watching the first half with the Blackburn supporters in the Jack Walker Stand. Both teams were fairly pedestrian in the first half and it was clear goals were going to come. Blackburn looked dangerous up front with Cole and Yorke linking up well. City had a fair amount of possession, but didn’t look like breaking the Blackburn defence down. Was a fair result at half time.

Sensible stewarding (well played to Blackburn) meant that they allowed us to move into the City end at half time, so could watch the second half with a fantastic atmosphere around us. Both teams improved in the second half, and again, a fairly even contest, with City being marginally the better side. A great goal from Anelka eventually gave us the win, which made the journey home seem even shorter.

This is a very significant result, as Blackburn are a similar level to City and will probably be vying for 6th place with us (?). This could prove crucial at the end of the season. 7 points out of 9 is an unbelievable start.

More generally. Berkovic should definitely be played more, can open up defences and is a quality player. Needs to be brought on much earlier than he was against Portsmouth. Fowler just doesn’t look the part. No synchronicity with Anelka and his first touch lets him down. I think it’s time for Keegan to drop him. Wanchope is by far the outstanding choice to partner Anelka up front, has looked good when he’s come on and there is some gelling with Aanelka, which will only improve given time.

A draw against Arsenal on Sunday would be nice from City (so probably see Barton and Bosvelt start again).

Would like to see another signing from Keegan. Right back or striker would be my choice (providing Sibierski, Bosvelt and Sinclair start showing the talent they undoubtedly have).

Jon Abel (flapster@clanxtc.co.uk)

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’ II: BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 MCFC 3

Plenty of space in the away end for this one. Lots of room in the home end, too, for that matter. I can’t help thinking that we’d have had a larger following if the tickets had been available for longer and had been easier to purchase. Hopefully, like the long queues for beer and food at our new place, the club will address and resolve these problems soon.

The line-up was a surprise. I knew Fowler was out and I thought Sibierski would be missing after limping off on Saturday. Our party reckoned Wanchope would be in for Fowler and Bosvelt for Sib. Instead, whilst Bosvelt indeed played in central midfield, Sib was fit and played, for the most part, up front alongside Anelka or just behind. Wanchope wasn’t even on the bench. Macken took his place and Wiekens was also a sub instead of Dunne.

Rovers had Cole in for Jansen and I was pleased to see that David Thompson (who ran the show at Maine Road last year) was also on the bench.

A couple of minutes in, we got a free-kick 37.4 yards out (I watched the re-run on Sky when I got home). The home crowd apparently tittered (we couldn’t hear them) when Tarnat took a fast bowler’s run up. Friedel dispensed with a defensive wall, presumably thinking that he could save a shot from so far out. He was wrong.

Tarnat leathered the ball with the outside of his left foot. The ball moved first right and then swerved left. Friedel’s feet followed the path of the ball and his despairing dive wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the right-hand corner of his net. Cue wild celebrations on the pitch and in our end. When did we last score from a free-kick?

For the next 20 minutes we sang ourselves hoarse. Rovers, fans and crowd alike, were stunned. Gradually, they both got their act together, although the fans needed encouragement from a drum to get going. As we reminded them, they really are just a small town in Burnley.

Rovers are a pleasant team to watch. They pass the ball around well and generally play the ball to the front two either to feet or chest. Cole and Yorke showed some excellent control and link-up play. Yorke should have scored when Seaman could only parry a shot from the edge of the box. They had less success out wide, where I thought Sun and Tarnat did well against Reid, and later Thompson, and Emerton.

City seemed content to attack on the break, but we didn’t create any clear chances. Anelka invariably tried to shoot when he could but I can’t remember any on target. One might have been, and one of SWP’s was, but they were deflected and saved respectively, though the ref gave a goal kick each time. We didn’t win a corner all game.

Rovers, in contrast, had quite a few. Reid took the early ones and they came to nothing. Just before half-time, Emerton took over. He hit a decent near-post cross, but only Sinclair and Seaman were there. Unfortunately, Seaman (as he later admitted to the cameras) didn’t let on that the ball was his to punch clear. Sinclair, stretching, could only get the top of his head to the ball which then deflected past Seaman and Sun, who had moved away from the far post that he had been guarding. It wouldn’t have made any difference, but I think the fact that Seaman was planning to punch rather than catch betrays a nervousness that will not change at this stage in his career. We have to work on helping him by defending crosses better.

The half-time whistle blew shortly afterwards and we were mightily disappointed. I think most fans thought that we would be up against it after that, because we weren’t playing particularly well or threatening to score again.

At the start of the second half Rovers predictably put us under more pressure. We couldn’t keep the ball for long – Barton in particular kept giving it away. I thought that he should have been taken off and at one stage KK seemed to agree because he sent Tiatto out to warm up. However, he sat down again and then Barton won the ball outside their box, beat one man, humiliated centre-half Taylor by winning a block tackle and then stroked the ball from left to right across Friedel. Yet another reason why KK is the boss and I ain’t.

We were a little unlucky to be pegged back again a couple of minutes later. Sinclair won the ball on the edge of our box and passed to the right towards SWP. The ref got in the way and we ended up with a throw near the corner flag. We quickly lost possession and Tarnat had to concede another corner.

Emerton again took it, Amoruso lost Distin, beat Seaman to the cross and headed into the middle of the goal. Another c**p goal to concede. Amoruso briefly celebrated in front of us. Whilst he is dangerous in opposing penalty areas, he looks a poor defender to me.

Again we thought we’d have to hang on for a point. Jansen and Thompson came on and Seaman had to make a couple of smart saves. We still had a couple of chances on the break (Sinclair nearly headed a quickly-taken free-kick by Bosvelt over Friedel), but I for one would have settled for a draw.

Then a long ball out of defence found Anelka one on one against one of their centre-halves, who had a chance to clear but failed. Anelka collected it and from our perspective at the other end of the ground, seemed to run it towards the by-line about 10 yards to the left of the goal as we looked. Then a flick of the right foot and the ball was in the net (through Friedel’s legs we found out later). Unrestrained joy and amazement in the City end. Could we hang on?

Rovers sent on another striker, Grabbi, and Amoruso went up front. From then on, however, Distin (who had not shone thus far) had an awesome 5 minutes. In the air or on the deck, he won it. SWP might have scored at the end of a mazy dribble but was tackled before he could shoot, and that was it. Just our lucky day, I think. The players celebrated at the end and Anelka was last to leave the pitch, having stayed to milk the applause a little.

I thought that Sommeil was our best player – he was consistent throughout the 90 minutes. The full-backs also did well and Distin deserves another mention for his heroics at the end. The midfield all worked hard, though they seemed to take it in turns to lose possession. Sibierski was better in the first half – he won his share of headers and the free kick that led to the first goal. He and Anelka also kept their defence under pressure.

We had a laugh on the way home looking through the programme and, in particular, the statistics page. It really is a load of nonsense to print items such as “This season Man City have scored an average of 3.00 goals, conceding 0.00 goals per game” after just 1 match. And did you know that Newcastle’s Aaron Hughes has spent the most minutes on the pitch in the Premiership this season? Presumably, he wins because his name begins with 2 A’s since he has, at the very least, 8 team-mates who might claim that particular title.

What they should have put on the stats page was that City beat Rovers 3-2 every time we play them at Ewood on a Bank Holiday Monday when the game is shown live. Last time, they went on to win the league and I think that we went down. No chance of either happening again this time round. 7 points after three games and I don’t think that we’ve played to our potential yet.

John Marsland (jmarsland@iclway.co.uk)

MATCH VIEW I: BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 MCFC 3

Watching this game was a bit surreal for me. I watched it at the leisure club of which I am a member in Bristol (I suppose I could say gym but to be honest I prefer the bar area and the cinema). I got there just on 8.00pm to be met with all the screens showing the athletics on Beeb 1. Checked the board and yes, Blackburn vs. City was due to be shown. Asked the barman to put it on but only got it on the really big screen – all the other TVs had the athletics. This was strange – watching a football match with the athletics commentary! No sound from the ground at all – or commentary. I thought that we’d get the commentary when the 100 metres was over – but no, now I had to watch with the soundtrack from the Vicar of Dibley!

Anyway, I was able to watch the match. Took me at least 20 minutes to realise that Sibierski was actually on the pitch! It was an exciting game with 3 cracking goals from City – Anelka’s was unbelievable. But I wasn’t impressed by our defence and we are still woeful at defending crosses/corners. I thought that in the second half Sun played too high up the pitch. Distin also made some errors. Still, Bosvelt looked a classy player. I thought our distribution could have been better. We can’t argue with the result though and for a brief time City were top of the Premiership! Strange how lots of neutrals like City – one guy at the tennis club chanted ‘top of the league’ when I arrived on Tuesday for a game or two – while even one of our football hating secretaries said that she knew were top.

Right, now for Arsenal – let’s hope it’s not 0-4 at half time again! At least Carlo Nash won’t be in goal – he’s probably as happy at the prospect as the rest of us are! Before I get in hot water – I quite liked Carlo in goal – as a shot stopper and as a distributor of the ball, not too good on crosses or corners though.

Ian Burgess (i.burgess@virgin.net)

MATCH VIEW II: BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 MCFC 3

What a brilliant game at Blackburn, the “never say die” attitude paid off. An exciting game to watch, kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

Our defence made some mistakes, but we must remember that some players are new to each other, and things should get better as they get to know each other better.

Tarnat has a kick like a mule; what a cracking goal from 40 yards out, brilliant! Barton never gave up the fight for every ball and this paid off, with his very good goal! Anelka – star – what can you say about his goal? Stunning, like putting the thread through a needle, excellent!

We can celebrate being top of the Premier League; we all know that it will probably be shortlived, but celebrate nonetheless City fans.

It promises to be an exciting season ahead, with the Kevin Keegan brand of attacking football. Chelski might have spent around £80 million, but just look at the signings Kevin Keegan got for City for less than £5 million. All the new players had good games, giving a lot of effort to this great win at Blackburn.

How we get on against the top 5 from last season will of course be the real test. But for now let’s cherish the moment of being top of the league Yipppeee!

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

OPINION: SIGNING OF REYNA I

I see that the Independent (which isn’t but that’s another story) has a headline worthy of the Guardian this evening that states “Keegan steps in for Boro’s Reyna.” No surprise that the “Independent” is registered in London; anything north of Watford Gap being lumped in together. But I digress.

I like Reyna, in fact I’ve prattled (technical term) on about various US players for a couple of years on this list. For some reason the US player is not rated by the English system, a mistake in my opinion. McBride, whom I’ve gone on and on about, Landon Donovan who would be the perfect player to play just behind Anelka and a number of others are of Premiership quality. Hate to admit it but the Howard pick up was an inspired choice by United.

But… as much as I like Reyna, and would really have liked it if we signed him a couple of years ago (and wasn’t there someone on this list who was e-mailing MCFC multiple years ago recommending him when he was a kid?) I fail to see how he improves our midfield. Depth is a useful thing, but we need to bring in players that are better than those that we have at the club. Hence my comments about Sean Davis (below).

Wallace Poulter (wpoulter@aol.com)

OPINION: SIGNING OF REYNA II

Claudio Reyna could sign for City on Thursday afternoon for £2 million, subject to his medical (the concern will be his knee, which was injured last season whilst playing for Sunderland).

In May 1994 I sent a letter with newspaper clippings about Claudio Reyna to Francis Lee (then Chairman of MCFC). Reyna at that time was a star at the University of Virginia. Francis Lee did reply to me, I still have the letter today, but nothing did develop.

Reyna was signed by Woflsburg in Germany who were in the Bundesliga Second Division at the time. That first season Wolfsburg got promotion to the Bundesliga First Division. From Wolfsburg, Reyna went to Glasgow Rangers, and then to Sunderland, but injury put him out of action.

Claudio Reyna is the captain of the USA national team. He plays in midfield, and if fit feel he could still play a rôle in the MCFC squad of players. Reyna nearly signed for Fulham, but there was a hold up; as I write this KK is after this player.

[Thanks Ernie, maybe you ought to contact Arthur Cox to see if you can still get an introduction fee! – Ed]

Ernie Barrow (britcityblue@aol.com)

OPINION: DRINKS AND TOURS

Thanks to the person who recommended the Blue Moon Pub on Clayton Lane – Excellent. Quite close, not too busy and run by a true Blue. We went after the Portsmouth match. Also did the ground tour and asked what had happened to the old honours’ boards from the Maine Road directors’ lounge – They are in storage while they decide what to do with them. They have all been retained. Also got a look at the home changing room just as the kit was being put out – thanks to the kit-man for that.

We met Trevor Sinclair outside the ground – what a nice guy. Nothing was too much trouble and he posed for pictures with the fans. Also saw Eyal, whose kids had City strips on – a good sign! If you want to see some pictures of Anelka’s boots etc., stadium tour type stuff. feel free to visit http://community.webshots.com/album/87140963cZJsoI; there are some shots of the Blue Moon and Bar too. The Press get a free bar and free food too. Wouldn’t you think they would give us a break?

I’m saying nothing about the Portsmouth match – but last night’s first goal at Blackburn was awesome.

John Stewart (johnatredcar@yahoo.co.uk)

OPINION: TRANSFERS

The transfer deadline comes into effect this week end, so far this is how Manchester City have fared in the transfer market. I think that any City fan will agree it’s been impressive.

OUT             IN
Goater          Seaman
Nash            Tarnat
Howey           Sibierski
Horlock         Sinclair
Jensen          Bosvelt
Ritchie
Murphy
Belmadi
Whitley
OUT on LOAN
Vuoso
Shuker

If I have missed anyone, someone correct me please. The deal for Mettomo to go to Kaiserslautern in Germany fell through at the weekend, but could be that Wolves might show an interest before the deadline.

Kevin Keegan has not ruled out another signing before the deadine, but not just to bring in just another player, he has to be someone who can get into the first team.

Ernie Barrow (Britcityblue@aol.com)

OPINION: SEAN DAVIS

It’s a funny old game, I honestly thought we’d struggle a bit this year, not be relegated but end up in the bottom half. So of course we are top; it may be after only 3 games, but still nice.

My concern about the off season was that we added older players. Say what you will about the Rags and Chelski but both seem to have done good business this summer buying quality young players. In fact that to me is what is so impressive about Chelski’s outlay of millions. No single player over 30, and some really fine young talent. They could not spend for 5 years and still have a very competitive team.

Barton and SWP coming through is good but we need more youngsters to come through or we need to buy younger players to form a foundation. We turned over a significant amount of the starting line up the first year back and yesterday all 5 summer signings started.

Which brings me to Sean Davis of Fulham. A very talented midfielder, the type of player we could use to build upon. Reports are that he has some knee damage and Everton have pulled out of a proposed deal because he would not pass the medical by the transfer deadline. The other suitors, Boro, have also cooled on their interest. The rumored price is £5 million. I smell an opportunity. Maybe with a structured deal that pays once the player is fully fit and/or passes a medical.

Just a thought.

And another, anyone know when Poland et al are entering into the EU? Once they are in all of their players fall under the EU rules, which could make some very interesting signings.

Wallace Poulter (wpoulter@aol.com)

OPINION: OSARIO, OSARIO, WHEREFORE ART THOU?

Juan Carlos Osario

What’s happened to him? There were reports that he’d gone to the Scum?

Didn’t see him at COMSTAD on Saturday or at Ewood on Monday. Has he gone? Why has there been no press release? Nothing from the club? Anyone know?

Gary King (Gary.King@newcharter.co.uk)

OPINION: UNSUNG HEROES

Great result on Monday night but what about a word of praise for two regulars who rarely get a mention on McV.

Moonchester and Moonbeam were in great form on the night. Pre-match entertainment second to none. I loved their impression of David Seaman, moustache and pony tail copied to perfection (well almost). Glad to see they didn’t rise to childish provocation from the Blackburn mascots’ where do some clubs get these morons from?

My seven year old grandson Liam will not forget his first away game in a hurry. Despite being acutely embarrassed by being forcably made to snog Moonbeam by an enthusiastic dad and grandad, I think he actually enjoyed the experience. Let’s hope the randy bitch didn’t over stimulate one so young.

The Moonies are very much a part of Manchester City and greatly enjoyed at all the supporter events that they attend. I believe they both are subscribers to McV so here’s a public thankyou for the enthusiastic and unstinting work you do for us Blues. Long may you reign.

[Yes, well done to the Moonies – Ed]

Alex Channon (alex.channon@cwctv.net)

OPINION: STADIUM NAME I

Joining in the stadium name debate, how about “City from Manchester’s Stadium”?

Leon Black (Leon.Black@itc-wgt.fzk.de)

OPINION: STADIUM NAME II

When we were first sorting out the COMS deal I remember hearing a proposal that there could might be a little service road built to the stadium which could be named by the local authority ‘Maine Road’. It’d retain our historical links and although it’d be asking a bit much change the official name of the ground from COMStad, at least we wouldn’t have to rewrite those chants. Anyone from the club and/or Manchester City Council out there to give a view?

Brian Connell (brianaconnell@yahoo.com)

OPINION: STADIUM NAME III

I know Maine Road rolled of the tongue with some ease – and now – off the map – with greater ease, but how’s about The Manchester Stadium; sounds big – but not massive(!), it’s where we are from, it’s not as much of a mouthful as the Comstad – but it ‘means’ the same and it’s an arrogant nod towards the enemy.

I for one don’t mind the Blue Camp, but it’s a bit ‘nick name’ compared to some of the more official suggestions.

The Manchester Stadium yep – I like that. No No No Screeeech, halt STOP! Rewind, PLAY! “THE CITY STADIUM” THATS IT! Genius.

Whatever it is – we’re doing alright at the mo ain’t we?

And what about Nico’s Goal on Monday? I reckon we should call the Stadium “The Anelka MEGS Goal on Monday Nights Stadium… at erm… Eastlands, not Blackburn.comstad”

Joel Perry – ex-Kippax, now East Stand (joel@mancity.net)

OPINION: STADIUM NAME IV

I’ve been reading with interest, and mounting horror, the various suggestions being made regarding the new stadium name. I think Peter Birbeck (MCIVTA 944) has hit the nail on the head. The best name it its current name – The City of Manchester Stadium. No c**p, no twee ‘nickname’ guff, just a solid and dare I say noble name.

The name is difficult to ridicule. Those who suggest names like Peterloo, the Sky Stadium, the Citadel, and the ghastly BlueCamp must enjoy getting the p**s taken out of them, and before you attack me for slagging off Peterloo, while the name may be unique to Manchester, it will be non-Mancs and the tabloids that will poke fun. Saint Bob Geldof must have had the same mentality when thinking of the names of his daughters.

Look at Sunderland. Stadium of Light my a**e, as Jim Royle might say! What about Derby and Pride Park – bet they’re sorry now! Bolton have simply sold out to Reebok, as we would do if we named it the Sky Stadium.

Nah. Leave it as the City of Manchester Stadium. Remember, we’re City – we’ll have our downs as well as our ups, and when we’re down at least we won’t have given the scum et al self-generated p**-take material as far as the stadium name is concerned.

John Breen (breen@hp.com)

REQUEST: NEW MCFCSTATS.COM WEBSITE

5,000 Competitive Match

The website http://www.mcfcstats.com/ is the result of my ongoing “labour of love”. So far I have spent at least 600 hours manually keying match and player stats into spreadsheets. In an effort to protect my hard work from being plagiarised, with the help of my son Ashley, who is studying for a multimedia degree at Salford University, we have designed the site in “Flash” rather than the normal “html” format. Though this media is more “memory hungry”, we are currently looking at ways to reduce the access times to the pages on the site for those using 56k modems.

We launched http://www.mcfcstats.com/ onto the Internet on June 26th 2003, about five hours before the tragic death of Marc Vivien Foe. Hence the site has been dedicated to his memory. If you visit, you will see that the site is in its infancy, but hopefully has enough content to keep visitors returning. There is a News section, which is usually updated nightly, as well as Trivia and Acknowledgements sections. New pages are being pasted as quickly as possible, but there is a long way to go before our work will be complete. We are concentrating our efforts on having up-to-date profiles of the current squad, and the recent matches, then working back in time to the genesis of Ardwick FC on October 4th 1890. For example, check out the player profiles of Anelka, Distin, Barton and Mettomo, by clicking on their name within the “Players” section. You will find all their personal details, as well as a photo and autograph! The Blackburn Rovers match details were updated within 4 hours of the match finishing, though TNS will not be quite so quick!

Regarding content, the debate as to what constitutes an “official” match is subjective. I include the stats of any “competitive” match where players represented Ardwick or Manchester City. By competitive, I mean: “Any match, organised by a proper body or association, against a registered club, played to the rules in force at the time”. Football League, FA Premier League, FA Cup, Football League Cup and European games are always included, and are analysed separately. Though matches played during both World Wars involved “invited” players, who may have been based in the area for a time whilst in service for the Armed Forces (or even plucked from the crowd just before kick-off), they were nonetheless “competitive”, with cups and titles to be won. How would you feel if you had pulled on a Manchester City shirt in 1943, and scored a hat-trick, but were told it would never count as an appearance? The more contentious games are those that I class as “Other”. Given the above rule of thumb, under this heading I have included the following competitive matches: FA Charity Shield, Division 2 Play-offs, Auto Windscreen Shield, The FA Alliance games of 1891-92, Anglo-Scottish Cup, Anglo-Italian Cup, Texaco Cup and Full Members Cup. I have also included here the three completed Football League games that took place at the start of the 1939-40 season, before the League programme was abandoned at the outset of World War 2. The decision to include these stats as “Others” rather than “League” is based on the fact that, although these matches were officially “abandoned”, each match was completed, and players walking off the pitch believed they had notched up another appearance. Therefore, it seems a shame to deprive them of their moment of glory! The only matches that have not been included are friendlies, abandoned games, and “4-club tournaments”, such as the Tennent-Caledonian Cup and Bill Shankly Shield, where trialists and multiple substitutions are commonplace.

Which brings me eventually to the reason for contacting you. Given the above rules of qualification, Sunday’s match against Arsenal will be a City landmark, in that it will be the 5,000th match in the club’s history. As a statistician, and City fan who hasn’t missed a first team match since January 17th 1998 (275 consecutive games to the 3-2 win at Blackburn), I feel I should let as many people know this, so they can share the moment with me! So spread the word, and please let others know about our “fledgling” site.

Steve Kay (info@mcfcstats.com)

REQUEST: SPURS TICKET

Can anyone help me out with a pair o’ tickets to the Spurs game on September 28? I tried to go through official channels (honest!) and signed up for an ISC card, but the ticket office told me it was taking 4-6 weeks to process applications (yeah, I was incredulous too). So I’m left to grovel to my fellow McVittee supporters to help me and my wife get to see our Blues in the magnificent new stadium as we make one of our infrequent trips over the pond.

Thanks in advance, Bill Buffam – West Chester, PA (mcvittee1@buffam.com)

REQUEST: CHICAGO BLUES

My name is Scott Moore and I have just moved to Chicago. Just wondering if there are any other Blues over here who may be interested in a few beers whilst watching the Blues somewhere? It’d be nice to see another Sky Blue shirt when we destroy Arsenal on Sunday!

If any of you are in Chicago, it’d be great to hear from you, especially as I have only been here 4 days and am still finding my way around!

City till I die, Scott Moore (speaktoscott@yahoo.com)

REQUEST: HERNE HILL BLUES

Calling all South London based Blues to come down to the Commercial Hotel (opposite Herne Hill railway station) Over the last three seasons, this pub has been adopted as the place to watch City play live on the TV with an ever growing crowd of Blue Army.

Next meeting: Sunday 31st August, 2003 – City vs. Arsenal.

David Rogers (David.Rogers@guardianship.gsi.gov.uk)

REQUEST: BLACKBURN GAME VIDEO

Has anybody recorded the game and would like to post it to Tokyo please? I will transfer funds or write you a cheque for the postage and packaging etc. Please email me and we can swap details.

Thank you, Marc Bailey (BAILSY@bloomberg.net)

REQUEST: LAST GAME OF LAST SEASON PROGRAMME

Due to the supply of programmes for the last home game of last season not meeting the demand for on the day, I was unable to obtain a copy. Is there anybody out there who can suggest where I can obtain a copy?

Thanking someone in anticipation, Andrew Powell (andrew_powell@tesco.net)

REQUEST: MCV FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE

I’ve entered a team in The Times Fantasy Football League. Interestingly, City players are scoring good points at the moment, but you’d expect that for a team that is top of the league!

You can create your own super league by giving the league a name and inviting others to join. I don’t know if anyone already has, but if people are interested in forming a McVittee league then you can still enter a team until 28 September.

Let me know if you’re interested in joining, and I would be happy to coordinate things.

Michael Stoddard (strand.partners@virgin.net)

REQUEST: MCFCTV.COM REGISTRATION

I can’t register with MCFCTV.COM for live broadcasts? Each time I single (or double) click the “New Members Register Here” button the screen disappears and the the same screen reappears! MCFCTV.COM video lounge support team are unable to resolve my difficulty. Has anyone out there experienced the same problem and successfully resolved it? Any help will be appreciated.

Brian Durrant (bje.durrant@ntlworld.com)

REQUEST: MARC VIVIEN FOE MEMORIAL APPEAL

As a result of calls on various websites, emails and talking to MCFC and other authorities involved, together with the amazing response from fans worldwide (as diverse as China, Japan, Australasia, USA, throughout Europe) and from rival clubs, it was decided to launch an appeal fund which would help to fulfil Fo

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