Newsletter #983

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A great result, some positive play in a 1-3 victory at Leicester on Wednesday night and we look to be finally rounding that corner. Goals from Sibbi, Anelka and Macken ensured our progress through to the 4th round tie at CoMS against Spurs.

A busy news week for City, what with Eyal’s outburst, the tabloids deciding Anelka had also put the knife in (do your research, journos, it’s not hard) and fortunately we’ve the full story on that here, plane crashes and retirements it’s certainly kept the papers full of the Blue half of Manchester. No sooner does David Seaman decide to hang up his boots, than David James arrives and should be in for Saturday.

We have match reports tonight on the Leicester game, thanks to Jeff, and reserve and youth games (sadly they went out of the cup to the Rags) thanks to Gavin and opinion on our new recruit and the season so far.

Blackburn are the visitors on Saturday, currently on the same points and we’ll certainly be looking to get all 6 of them this season.

Next game: Blackburn Rovers, home, 3pm Saturday 17 January 2004

NEWS SUMMARY

Those Main Stories Again…

He’s a Baby: It didn’t feel good being a City fan on Saturday evening. The miserable winless streak continued with a 4-2 defeat at Portsmouth, despite an excellent first half performance, and then Eyal Berkovic stole the weekend headlines with his diatribe against KK. During an interview with GMR, Berkovic accused Kevin Keegan of acting like “a big baby”, and “deserved to be sacked”. Berkovic said that Keegan had lost the support of the City dressing room, adding: “I’m very happy to be at my new club with a new challenge. Everyone knows I fell out with Keegan. I didn’t see another reason why he didn’t play me as I was the best player in training for six months and everybody knows that. 45,000 supporters knew that I had to play but he was behaving like a big baby. I told him that. I think at the end of the day he deserves to be sacked.” Keegan, clearly shocked, responded by saying: “That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. Sadly people will print it. He should learn to keep his own counsel a bit more. I sold him and he might be a bit bitter. I wished him good luck and made it all as easy as I could for him to leave. He wanted to go and we had to do something. His comments don’t bother me a bit – I’ve had worse things said about me.” Nevertheless the outburst was damaging given City’s plight, especially as the Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp revealed that Berkovic had arrived on a free transfer – and not for the £500,000 fee that City reported. To add further insult it was reported that City were paying part of his £27,000-a-week wages. Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp also criticised Berkovic for his comments about Keegan. “I’m disappointed Eyal said what he did,” said Redknapp, “but I know what he’s like. He doesn’t need to get involved with Kevin or anyone else. Football is a game of opinions and Kevin did what he though was right with Eyal.”

Yes He’s Going, No He Isn’t: The award for the most confusing newsline this week goes to the press coverage of Nicolas Anelka who, if the newspapers were to be believed (a) Couldn’t wait to leave City, (b) Pledged his loyalty to the club after Eyal’s whinges (c), Had learnt nothing at the club and couldn’t wait to leave again. These stories appeared on consecutive days between Saturday and Monday. The weekend tabloids greeted us with the “news” that Le Sulk wanted to return to Real Madrid pronto. They drew this conclusion from the following quotes. “I don’t regret leaving Arsenal to join Real Madrid. Even though I had a tough time there, Real are a club you can’t say no to. And if the club were to offer to sign me again, I would certainly go back there. Unfortunately, I soon felt unwelcome when I first joined them. Samuel Eto’o told me right at the start that I was going to have to play on my own up front, as nobody would pass the ball to me.” Sounds like a complaint about Real to me, but let us continue. After the Portsmouth game, and after Eyal’s eruption, who came out of the dressing room to defend KK? Why, only our supposedly unhappy star striker that’s who! “I don’t know why Eyal says this. It is not true to say that we are not behind the manager. We are all together and we are all working hard to try and win for the club in every game. It is just that this is a very difficult time for us all. When you do not win for 14 matches it is a hard situation to get out of. But we all play for the manager and we all try to keep our spirit strong. That is all we can do. I just try and score as often as possible so that I can do my part.” Clearly this wasn’t good enough for the ‘gentlemen’ of the press, so Monday’s Sun quoted yet more discontented mutterings from Anelka. The striker had reportedly told a French newspaper he would like to leave the Blues. “With Keegan, we get on well. That is all. But I have not made any progress. I feel better than I was at Arsenal. But I was already like that when I arrived at City. I have no reason to envy the so-called best strikers in England. I am simply not in a team that allows me to shine. I was 19 at Arsenal and you saw what I did there. I want to be at a great club, to turn out with great players in England or elsewhere. I want the place of a real striker. At City, I am more of a midfielder.” KK rejected these reports, saying that: “Nicolas Anelka is an excellent player. He is enjoying his football and scoring goals and I believe he is happy here. He has never come and knocked on my door and said he doesn’t like it. All the time we have to live with his past and the things that have happened to him. Dealing with it doesn’t bother me – it is part of my job.” So where had these quotes alleging discontent come from? Anelka had apparently given an interview to French TV programme called Recto Verso last week which was repeated on the Canal+ network and then duly picked up by the tabloids. Thanks to Heidi for tracking down and translating Anelka’s views on his personal website, which you would hope might contain some truth. “It’s all kicked off this weekend from an interview I gave in French and badly interpreted/translated as you will. To sum up, it’s mad here in Manchester since people are believe what I may have said, so time to clear the air. We’re all pulling together in difficult times, it’s never been question of bad players, poor coach or whoever wants to leave, We’re all 100% behind the coach and me first. I really think he mustn’t go. It’s down to us on the pitch to ensure things go well. Personally, and I know it’s a bit strange at the moment, but I feel great. Since the beginning of the season I’ve scored 16 goals in all competitions. I never though I could have achieved so much at this stage of the season. It’s evident that here at MCFC I’ve progressed, as I have done in all my previous clubs, but it’s obvious I’m not the same player as 2 years ago. Which is why I really don’t want to go, and why I want to help save the club. Quite honestly it would be mad for KK to leave now, no-one else can do more than him and that’s why I want to stay.” Memo to press – now City have won a game, can you go and destabilise some other club please?

Changing Davids: Tuesday evening saw a pair of goalkeeping announcements that caught most of the football world by surprise. Just before 7.00pm came news that City had agreed a fee for England’s No.1, David James, for a fee expected to reach £2 million. Your News Editor’s feeble brain couldn’t work this move out – surely James would have to be a first choice in the side? An England international wouldn’t want to sit on the bench for half a season? Within half an hour, the move made perfect sense. By 7.30, David Seaman had announced his retirement from football. It seems that his recurring shoulder problem flared up again at Portsmouth on Saturday, and Safe Hands had decided he could not meaningfully contribute to the team this season. “I have reached this difficult decision after much discussion with my family and those in the game whose views I respect,” he said. “It has become clear to me that this type of injury will not quickly disappear – and I think now would be a good time to hang up my boots, rather than at the end of the season as planned. I believe I have had a fantastic career playing at the highest level. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who have stood by me and supported my career, especially during the tough times, the players who I will miss for their professionalism and friendship and the fans who have inspired my enthusiasm for the game. After deciding to retire it was a pleasure to recommend David James – so I know the position is in safe hands,” he added. “I wish him all the best. He is joining a great club with a first class manager in Kevin Keegan and a great squad. I am looking forward to getting the shoulder better in order to explore potential goalkeeper coaching opportunities.” KK added: “This has been a difficult decision for David – but I fully respect it. It says a lot about the man that he has been incredibly helpful to us as a club in finding a successor at such a testing personal time for him. His record is incredible and his achievements unbelievable but most importantly I will remember him as an ultimate professional who cared about others.” Seaman, who played 75 times for his country, made more than 700 league appearances in a 21-year professional career. He made his début for Peterborough United in 1982 and went on to enjoy spells with Birmingham City and QPR before moving to Arsenal in 1990. Seaman went on to appear in more than 400 league games for the Gunners before joining City last summer. He made 26 League and Cup appearances for City. KK could not contain his delight at capturing James as Seaman’s replacement. “David James is a tremendous acquisition. We have been looking to strengthen the goalkeeping position and to secure the England number one is terrific news,” said the Boss. James is set to make his début against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, and commented that “David Seaman is a hard act to follow but it is a great and exciting challenge for me. I don’t envisage any problems settling in at City. I have worked with Kevin Keegan before with the England squad and know several of the lads from my days at Liverpool and West Ham. Everyone knows what a big club City is with fantastic facilities, great fans and great ambition. I am just pleased to be back in the Premiership and can’t wait for my début.” The ‘keeper, who was with West Ham for two and a half years and made just over a hundred League and Cup appearances for them, was quick to pay tribute to all at his former club. “I would like to thank everyone at West Ham for making my stay there so enjoyable.”

General News

Directors in Plane Scare: The City Chairman and board of directors had a lucky escape when an engine on their plane caught fire on their return from City’s Premiership clash at Portsmouth. The right hand engine on the Jetstream plane caught fire just ten minutes after taking off from a local airport on the south coast. The passengers who included the board of directors, vice presidents of the club and the Manchester Evening News correspondent, Chris Bailey, were first alerted to the problem when they heard a loud bang. The engine cut out and fumes poured into the cabin. The captain of the plane, John Morris, put out the fire and, turning the plane into the wind, carried out an emergency landing at Farnborough airport. The emergency services had been alerted and were waiting for the plane that was landed safely on one engine. “It was the most frightening experience of my life,” said Chris Bailey of the Manchester Evening News echoing the thoughts of all the passengers. “There was a loud bang and we could see sparks coming from the engine. It was a very scary moment. But the captain was terrific, he handled the whole emergency with great calm and we are all very grateful that we got back down in one piece.” The Chairman John Wardle and the rest of the passengers continued their return journey from Hampshire by coach [From the club website].

Simply The Best (!): It may have been inconceivable a few short weeks ago, but Robbie Fowler has won the club’s Player of the Month award for his performances during December. He scored three goals in as many League games. The panel of judges that included former players Dennis Tueart and Gary Owen said that it was not just the striker’s goals but also his work rate and attitude which led to the award. “I am very happy with my own form but I would swap it for a good win,” commented Fowler on receiving the award. “I think it was well documented that I didn’t have a great start when I came to City. I think the last five or six games I have been doing quite well and believe the fans are starting to take to me, which is great. We are all here for the team, that’s what all the players are about and we know that the results have not been good enough.”

Win Some, Lose Some: City’s youngsters had mixed fortunes in their encounters with the Dark Side this week. On Saturday, City’s Academy Under-17’s beat United 3-1 in the prelude to Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup clash. A goal either side of half time from the Reds ended the City’s Youth team’s interest in the FA Youth Cup, as last year’s semi-finalists lost 2-0 at Old Trafford. The goals were scored by Ramon Calliste and Callum Flanagan. Team: City: Schmeichel, Warrender, Collins, N D’Laryea, Onuoha, Bennett, Laird (Reilly 62), J D’Laryea, Bermingham (Etuhu 90), Ireland, Logan (Miller 67). Subs: Matthewson, Richards.

Transfer News and Gossip

Buy One, Get One Free: The news of the swoop for David James was even more surprising, as the newspapers were sure that City were ready to offer Danny Tiatto plus cash for Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Other targets were said to include Barcelona’s Turkish goalkeeper Rustu Recber (remember him? “I don’t want to play for Man City – I want to play for a big club”), and Millwall’s promising Tony Warner. The M.E.N. was sure that City couldn’t afford David James (ahem), although they did correctly surmise that City might be in the market for two goalkeepers. Reserve cover for the goalkeeper spot duly arrived in the form of Icelandic international ‘keeper Arni Gautur Arason. He is on a trial with the club and the 28 year-old is available on a Bosman transfer after being released by Norwegian outfit Rosenborg. He could sign a short-term deal if manager Kevin Keegan is impressed by his training ground performances.

Best of the Rest: If you believe some reports, KK has blown his January transfer kitty on the goalkeeping department, although this hasn’t stopped the usual batch of “City are being linked to…” tales. City were said to be keeping tabs on Twente Enschede’s prolific strike pairing of Collins John and Blaise N’Kufo. The duo have been in fine form this season for the Dutch outfit and came under the gaze of City scouts three times before Christmas. John has been one of the revelations of the season, with the 18-year-old netting eight goals in 16 league appearances for Twente. His front-line partner N’Kufo has been equally impressive during his season-long loan from Hannover, rattling in nine goals in 16 Eredivisie outings. John was born in Liberia but also holds Dutch nationality while N’Kufo is from Congo and is also a Swiss citizen. Closer to home, City were one of a quartet of Premiership clubs said to be interested in taking Leeds striker Michael Bridges on loan. Newcastle, Liverpool, Tottenham and City are all believed to be keen on offering Bridges the chance to get his career back on track. Bridges is thought to be attracted by the prospect of a move away from Elland Road in a bid to get regular first-team action. The former Sunderland star has been frustrated by a substitute rôle at Leeds this season as he looks to build up his fitness after a lengthy battle against injury. Bridges has just six months to run on his current contract and it seems that he will be leaving Elland Road at the end of the season. Birmingham have supposedly made a move for Richard Dunne. St. Andrews’ boss Steve Bruce is desperate to land an experienced centre-back after losing Matthew Upson to injury, although would KK sanction such a move, considering the Dunnie is in the best form of his City career?

Ex-Blues’ News

Fat Lot of Use! Not another example of inaccuracies in the UK press, surely? On Saturday, the Daily Mirror stated as follows “Leeds have already abandoned plans to sign Giorgi Kinkladze just three days into a two-week trial, because he’s too fat! The Georgian international was hoping to resurrect his career. Yet his weight has ballooned since he left Derby on a free at the end of last season. An Elland Road insider revealed in The Mirror: ‘He is fatter than some of the coaching staff. There is no way he will be playing in the Premiership, as he is so unfit.'” Entertaining, perhaps, but highly erroneous presumably, because four days later it was reported that Leeds were trying to ensure that Kinky played for the Reserves in their midweek game with Wolves – caretaker boss Eddie Gray wanted to see him in match action before deciding whether to make a move for the great man.

Haaland’s Future: Alfie Haaland has been talking about his life after football. The former Manchester City captain was a guest pundit at the Walkers’ Stadium on Wednesday, and earlier in the week was quoted as saying that he may eventually need a major operation on his damaged knee. “The knee works well now, when I don’t do a lot,” said the former Norwegian international. “But as a top athlete I am an invalid. I played an indoor tournament with some friends over Christmas. That worked out and I could probably play football at a low level, but honestly I don’t know how much my knee can take. I will maybe get an artificial knee eventually due to the wear and tear it will suffer, but I will try and delay that as long as possible.”

Reactions and Comments

There Ain’t No Justice: Believe it or not, there was actually a football match taking place at Fratton Park last Saturday, and not just a forum for spleen venting by disgruntled ex-City players. The Blues had much the better of the first half, hitting the bar thee times in addition to goals from Nicolas Anelka and Antoine Sibierski. City’s half time lead evaporated in the second half, as Portsmouth struck back three times to take a 4-2 winning lead. Adding to City’s miseries, Joey Barton had a superb long range ‘goal’ disallowed because Anelka was deemed to have been stood in an offside position. “I think it is two years since I saw a goal like that disallowed,” remarked KK. “In my day of course it would have been but it has flown into the net and I don’t know how he disallowed it but he did. I would like to see the free kick again that they scored from as I don’t think it as a foul by Richard Dunne. There were a number of contentious issues that turned this game but it was a great match with two sides that were totally committed and genuine. But the minus for me was our defending, which I thought in the second half was poor. For the third time in four matches we have scored two goals and we have come away without a win, without even a point. It is soul destroying but that is football.” He admitted afterwards that City are in the middle of a relegation dog fight. He said: “We have to accept we are in a relegation battle and have been for the past four weeks. And the defeat against Portsmouth was hard to take as we deserved something out of the game. But I can only keep saying that for so long and I have got to get into the real world. It’s just the way the division is this season. The three teams at the top are pulling away and the rest are fighting each other and picking up points off each other. The gap between the bottom and fourth or fifth place is such that a run of four or five wins could get you up there.”

Winning Streak Begins: City finally ended their run without a win on Wednesday night, as they beat Leicester City 3-1 in the FA Cup third round replay. A twelfth minute goal from Antoine Sibierski had given City the lead, which they maintained until a deflected Les Ferdinand free kick brought the home side level with 17 minutes to go. The game seemed to be heading into extra time, until late goals by Nicolas Anelka and Jon Macken brought victory. It all left KK admitting: “Never mind taking a monkey off my back, it feels like I have had a colony of monkeys lifted. Going 14 games and 10 weeks without a win has not been easy for any of us to take, that’s for sure. The only thing that has kept me going is that I know that in a lot of those games we have played well and not got what we deserved. We have played far better than we did against Leicester and not won. Perhaps it was going to take a game like that to get us going again.” Sky TV made Anelka man of the match, and the Boss paid tribute to the so-called-sulker. “It was never his ball and he should not have scored, but he is electric and that is why he is a world-class striker,” said Keegan. “He gets a lot of unfair treatment on and off the field, but he never sulks and just gets on with it. I am pleased he got his goal, because he missed a couple of opportunities before that, but he never tried to hide and kept working for the team. Now we have got a home tie in the fourth round. I’ve said we will not win the Premiership, but we have a team that can battle in the FA Cup. A lot of the stuff that is written about Nicolas Anelka is totally unfair,” said Keegan. “I have never seen him roll over. I have never seen him kick out at anyone and I have never seen him retaliate. During my time at this club, I have seen him suffer challenges which I wouldn’t have liked to be on the end of. But it doesn’t bother him, he just brushes himself down and gets on with it. He chased down that throw-in and showed how quick he is. His pace is his greatest asset. He had no right to get there but he made it into a goal. That just emphasises what a good player he is.” Interviewed on TV, Anelka said: “I think this is good for the team, for the manager and for all the people who have stayed behind us through the recent bad times. We knew it would be a difficult game and we wanted to win. We knew we had to be a unit, we were – and that’s why we won.” On scoring, Le Elk lifted his shirt to reveal a vest declaring “David Seaman – we love you”. “David is a legend in England. I wanted to say a thank you to him,” he explained. Leicester boss Micky Adams was less then impressed with his side’s late capitulation. “We certainly handed it on a plate to Manchester City at the death,” he said. “But it was a great effort from my players. We asked people who weren’t really fit to put their bodies on the line. I’m talking about people like Frank Sinclair, who has not played for nine weeks, and Matt Heath, who wasn’t in the team 15 minutes before kick-off. And Les Ferdinand was magnificent. This is possibly the hardest time of my managerial career. We have a bunch of players put together for virtually nothing against a team who cost £60 million.” But Adams has vowed that his team will not give up, even though they have not won in nine games, adding: “Middlesbrough won’t have an easy game on Saturday.”

And Finally… From today’s Leicester Mercury: “Last night did not end totally happily for some Manchester City players including Trevor Sinclair, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler who stayed too long in the Players’ Lounge only to find the team bus had left without them, a blow that prompted many mobile-phone calls.” [Thanks to Carol for this snippet]

Don Barrie <news(at)mcivta.city-fan.org>

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’: LEICESTER CITY 1 MCFC 3 (FA Cup)

On a bitterly cold night I found myself on the periphery of the away section with only one row of seats, a couple of stewards and an aisleway separating me from the Foxy faithful. I caught the highlights later on Sky, which said we were playing a wing back formation; for me it was a straight 4-4-2 with Sibierski drifting from the left into the middle of the pitch.

The full line up was Ellegaard in goal, back four of Tarnat, Distin, Dunne and Sommeil. Joey and Bosvelt holding the midfield accompanied by Sinclair on the right and Sibierski as mentioned. Up front the Elk and Mr Punch Macken replacing the injured Fowler. Leicester kicked off at the 3rd attempt as the fussy Graham Poll wasn’t happy with our apparent premature excursions into the centre circle. Within the 2 minutes Anelka had a good shot from the right of the 18 yard box saved by Walker with apparent ease.

Leicester put a couple of high balls into the area and Ellegaard dealt with them competently, which seemed to help him settle. City’s first goal came in the 12th minute, Sinclair racing clear on the right before placing a perfect ball towards Sibierski who had time to weigh up his options before powering a header past the ‘keeper into the net.

City had a 2 other chances of note in the 1st half with Macken failing to connect to an Anelka pass from about six yards. Johnny was under pressure from a defender, but still should have done better in front of a gaping target. Anelka had a low stinger parried by Walker, which was immediately put out for a corner by a defender following in. Leicester didn’t do much in the 1st period except imitate the Wimbledon of old by punting long balls all over the place and being very physical in the challenge. One minute of added time passed and the Blues (or red and blacks tonight) went in one goal to the good.

City sat back in the 2nd half as they sought to defend a too slender advantage. Injury hit Leicester didn’t really look like scoring even though some chances arose and Mr. Poll must have had a bee up his backside as he attempted to ruin the game (as he did the 1st encounter) by endlessly interrupting play, mostly to award the home team a free kick. Poll’s tactics were certainly helping the Foxes as their style is to stifle and frustrate teams who try to play flowing football – like we were trying to do.

Poll’s continued interference enabled Leicester to gain an increasing hold on the game and their equaliser arrived on 73 minutes with the inevitability of an unloved season. The man in black awarded a generous free kick just outside the area in line with the end of the ‘D’. Old man Ferdinand struck a fierce shot, which deflected off Barton’s posterior and past Ellegaard into the goal. 1-1.

The hitherto mouselike squeaks from the Basil Brush fans were replaced with full bloodied yelps as they sensed a likely victory. One of the buffoons began gesturing with unnerving gusto for me to record the event in my notepad. Silly boy, I was hardly going to censor a match report; after all I’m not the MuEN. Another over excited simpleton added that Leicester would soon create a 2nd and winning goal. He was right, but not in the way he dared to imagine.

Leicester pressed for the winner and substituted Ferdinand for Elliot. Elliot’s first touch was to fluff a headed clearance into the path of Anelka who contrived to smash a thunderbolt over the bar from about 8 yards. City surely had wasted the chance to win this game, but with the tie heading for extra time we were gifted a goal.

Tarnat took a throw from the left in the general direction of Anelka, who was hovering between half way and the goal. The throw was too far and Frank Sinclair started to shepherd the ball towards Walker who was advancing to the edge of his area. As they pondered the moment with mutual admiration, Anelka stuck a leg around Sinclair and poked the ball past Walker into an empty goal. 2-1 City in the 90th minute.

At this point the Leicester faithful lost their sense of humour, thus requiring police intervention as arrests were made. I decided to record the late goal in my notepad even though the home fans didn’t insist this time and went all shy and turned their backs on us.

With 3 minutes of time added City could have had a 3rd when Anelka fed Barton who passed the ball into the arms of a diving Walker. Thirty seconds there was a 3rd as Macken, who must have broken wind as his marker was nowhere, received the ball from Barton to place the ball high into the goal.

There the game ended. 3-1 did flatter us, but it was no more than we deserved given that we have had to put up with the spoiling tactics of an ordinary side ably aided and abetted by the attention seeking Graham Poll. So onto Spurs in the 4th round and a chance to avenge a poor performance at WHL.

Jeff Roycroft <jeff.roycroft(at)ntlworld.com>

MATCH VIEW ‘TV’: LEICESTER CITY 1 MCFC 3 (FA Cup)

As the song says, it’s a mad world – over the last 14 games we have outplayed teams and lost or drawn; at Leicester we didn’t play very well and won a game that probably neither side deserved to win. One bit of good football involving Macken, Sinclair (yes, indeed) and Sibierski resulted in City having a goal lead; still, that means nothing at the moment. Rest of the first half was pretty dull. Strange things happened in the second half: for half an hour City players disappeared whenever they ventured more than 10 metres into the Leicester half. Clearly Micky Adams has a secret weapon and should fear USA pre-emptive strikes. The spell was broken when Leicester scored and then Anelka mysteriously changed into Shaun Goater to capitalise on a City style defensive misunderstanding by the Foxes. Finally Macken, left one on one with the ‘keeper, doesn’t miss – strange indeed! Throughout KK looked tranquilised and even at the end walked off as though we had lost and didn’t appear for comment on Sky.

Still, let’s hope that this represents the corner. Some points of note were Stuhr-Ellegaard who generally did well and had a fascinating duel with Dickov, who tried to unsettle him at every opportunity. Nice to see Anelka’s reaction to his goal with a tribute to David Seaman.

Some general remarks: David James, though not my favourite, probably represents the best option at the moment. If McV reports that Berkovic went to Pompey for free and without playing restrictions are true then Wardle, not KK, should go – Bernstein would never have allowed that!

David Lewis <dfl(at)microscopist.freeserve.co.uk>

MATCH REPORT: MUFC YOUTH 2 MCFC YOUTH 0

Kasper Cock-Ups Cost City

Two soft goals gifted to United by Kasper Schmeichel’s indecisiveness and an over zealous attempt to come out to claim the ball meant that the best youth team in the land failed to deliver once again. The goals came in each half from Roman Calliste in the first and substitute Callum Flanagan in the second.

The game took a while to get going and it wasn’t until the tenth minute that a decent chance fell to either side. This one fell to Stephen Ireland of City when he was gifted a loose clearance from Steven Hogg. However, Ireland’s run and final shot failed to find the target. This awoke United more and they were the first team to win a corner on the sixteenth minute. Three minutes later Kasper saved well from a Sylvan Ebanks-Blake drive.

Then, on twenty two minutes, as Nedum Onuoha was shepherding Sylvan to the corner, Kasper had a rush of blood and tried to come for the ball. This allowed Sylvan to lob the ball into the box and for Calliste to slot the ball into the empty net.

This woke City up and a good chance fell to Karl Bermingham from a Carlos Logan free kick, where Karl’s header was well saved by Tom Heaton in United’s goal. It was end to end stuff and the next dramatic action saw United’s Adam Eckersley strike a lovely twenty five yard free kick against City’s bar.

As the half hour passed, City were awarded a free kick on the right in a similar position to their last free kick that saw the chance fall to Karl. This time Nedum connected with the cross and saw his powerful header come back off the inside of the post, but Karl couldn’t quite get to the rebound and the ball was scrambled clear.

As the first half drew to a close, both ‘keepers saved to deny their opponents scoring. So the end of the first half seemed to set up what should have been a hard and keenly fought second half.

However, both teams emerged from their break rather sluggishly. This may have had a lot to do with the fact that this game would have been their first competitive efforts since their long winter Academy break and as such were lacking match fitness.

So it took until the seventy second minute for City to look threatening, when substitute Ishmeal Miller held the ball up and laid it on to City’s other substitute, Phil Reilly, but his shot didn’t quite have the power to find the bottom corner.

Five minutes later saw a long punt up field by Heaton, which bounced heavily and had enough pace to find the box, which Nathan D’Laryea was shepherding to the oncoming Kasper; however, he stopped and then tried to come again, allowing Flanagan to nip between the two City players and head the ball over Kasper and into the net.

This knocked the stuffing out of City and they had no answer to United’s buoyant position. As the game went to ninety minutes, Karl Bermingham fell awkwardly in United’s box and had to be stretchered off but even with a few minutes of injury time, the game was lost and the heavens opened with hailstones and sent the City players’ heads down even further.

Yes, the blame for the two goals has to go directly to Kasper. But what really upsets me is that City’s Academy staff want to play their most experienced team even if it means playing players in the wrong position. I am mainly referring to the coaching staff playing Stephen Ireland up front when he should have a free rôle in the centre of the park orchestrating things with his abundant talent. As with last night’s game, if Karl Bermingham is having a poor game, City has no real forward line to speak of. Whether it would have made a difference playing Kelvin Etuhu up front with Karl we don’t know, but you know that the right team would be playing and would have kept United’s defence more on the back foot.

Man of the Match: Jonathan D’Laryea; he worked tirelessly in midfield and his fitness of being the player with the most reserve team starts really showed.

United: Heaton, Howard, Hogg, N’Galula, McShane (capt), Jones (Spector 46), Picken, Martin (Marsh 76), Ebanks-Blake, Calliste (Flanagan 69), Eckersley.
Not Used: Lee, Port.

City: Scmeichel, Warrender, Collins, N D’Laryea, Onuoha (capt), Bennett, Laird (Reilly 62), J D’Laryea, Bermingham (Etuhu 90), Ireland, Logan (Miller 67).
Not Used: Matthewson, Richards.

Gavin Cooper <blueboy(at)mancity.net>

MATCH REPORT: MCFC RESERVES 2 MUFC RESERVES 1

Swamp Dwellers Given a Football Lesson

City’s first win in the Senior Cup against our neighbours of low moral character, thanks to goals from both our strike force to cancel out United’s goal that was against the run of play in the seventh minute. A goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips just before the break, and a goal from our World Youth Cup Championship star, Stephen Elliott, ensured that a totally one sided game came out with the right result.

After the first team’s run of disappointing results, City’s second string looked to give the long suffering fans a brief respite from our current slump. With City’s reserve side having identical form from our previous six matches as United, by winning five of our last six matches, it was bound to be a close contest. But the long winter break seemed to show a gulf between the two teams.

City started brightly as they got used to the touch of the ball, passed it around well and showed commitment to win the ball back when a pass went astray. They were, however, not showing the same guile in the final third at this point in the game. So on seven minutes when a short cross from United’s right came into the box, it was only half cleared and came straight back in, Paddy McCarthy couldn’t get the ball clear from out of his feet and United’s Kenny Cooper was able to dispossess him and strike the ball across the goal into the bottom left corner.

City didn’t drop their heads from this but for just over ten minutes were not being inventive enough in the final third to worry United’s defence. Then a bit of luck, when a long ball for Bradley Wright Phillips was missed by himself when he got a shove in the back, but the defender missed it also and the ball ran on and bounced kindly for the returning Danny Tiatto to hit a sweet volley, which United’s ‘keeper and their Man of the Match, Ben Williams, did well to save and turn over the bar for a corner. This seemed to spark some real life into City and from this moment, it was all one-way traffic in City’s favour.

Danny Tiatto’s determination at the by-line resulted in him being able to shoot from a tight angle but Williams was there to deny him again. Minutes later saw Lee Croft make a jinking run into the box, but was perhaps too honest when he rode a tackle and then had his shot half blocked to go behind for a corner. Immediately after that Bradley made a strong run down the right and put a deep cross over to the impressive Christian Negouai but he couldn’t quite keep his header down.

Christian’s persistence around the box nearly led to a goal when he forced the ball through on the right to shoot but there was Williams again to deny City an equalizer. City only had to wait a minute for that though when Bradley mis-controlled a ball on the edge of the area, United’s defence failed to deal with it and Bradley was able to nick the ball from under their feet and hit an accurate shot into the bottom left corner of the goal, giving Williams no chance.

Right at the death of the first half Williams was there again to deny city when Stephen Elliott twisted and turned on the edge of the area and fired a good shot to goal. United must have gone into the dressing room wondering what had hit them after hardly getting a touch of the ball for over twenty minutes.

The second half started as the first had finished with United unable to deal with City’s quality and work rate. City’s first chance of the half fell to Christian when a half cleared corner fell to him and his first time shot was cleared off the line and behind for a corner by Lee Sims. City then had to bear the indignity of having to wait about quarter of an hour for their next clear opening when Christian sent Bradley clear and beat the offside to be one on one with Williams, but yet again he saved well and Elliott was not able to convert the rebound as the ball fell behind him.

Christian seemed to have taken a knock and perhaps as a precautionary measure was taken off. At times during the game he looked like he could have been Patrick Viera, much was his dominance in the midfield. So when he went off I was perhaps concerned that our control of the game might wane. However, his replacement, Jamie Tandy, who went on the left side of midfield slotted in well with Tiatto reverting back to a centre midfield position.

United made their final two substitutions at the same time to try to quell City’s control of the game; but a long range shot from United’s Captain, Neil Wood, which went high and wide, was all they could muster. Two minutes later City finally got the reward they deserved when a good corner from Croft was only half headed clear and City’s captain, Stephen Jordan, sent a teasing header over United’s defence, which was rushing out, but got caught ball watching as young starlet, Elliott, scored a poacher’s goal as he timed his run perfectly to head past Williams and send the two thousand City fans jumping for joy.

Elliott could have wrapped the game up into injury time with a more realistic scoreline for the game when a good deep cross from Tandy was headed back into the centre of the box by Bradley, but uncharacteristically he completely mishit it and the ball rolled straight to Williams.

This win in the cup now gives City a realistic chance of reaching the final for the fourth year in a row. After our early season defeat to Senior Cup newcomers Bolton, we now play Bury a week on Tuesday to help further our cause to the final. Three points from the game; good to see Tiatto complete at least eighty minutes well, Mcarthy completing his first ninety minutes since being injured at Harrogate pre-season, but the third was a disappointing one as I perhaps expected to see Mikkel Bischoff in the line up to start his rehabilitation from his operation on his foot and ankle injury that he had in November.

Schmeichel: All he had to do was kick the ball and pick it out of the net once. 7
Flood: Another good game for the young Irishman. 7
Jordan (capt.): Solid as a rock down his flank and set up the winner. 8
Wiekens: Was not troubled once, Mr Dependable. 8
McCarthy: Slightly at fault for the goal, otherwise very good. 7
Negouai (69): Outstanding display in the middle of the park. Can it continue? MoM 9
Croft: Won Man of the Match surprisingly but didn’t really shine. 7
J D’Laryea: Took a while to get going but proved his quality as the game wore on. 7
Elliott: Again, like Jonathon took a while to get going, but was great in the 2nd half. 8
Wright-Phillips: Worked hard against a persistent fouling United defence. 8
Tiatto (85): Good to see Tiatto back fit to help give the 1st team options on Saturday. 8

Tandy (69): Did really well when he came on, caused a lot of problems. 8
N D’Laryea (85): Not enough time to score.
Not Used: Matthewson, Onouha, Murphy.

United: B Williams, Sims (Lawrence 69), Pugh, Bardsley, Tate, Wood (capt.), N Williams, Johnson (Timm 69), Cooper (Poole 60), Nardiello, Richardson.
Not Used: Jowsey, Lynch.

Ref: G T Stott: Seemed to allow United a lot of niggling fouls that might have warranted a booking here and there; otherwise quite good. 6

Att: 2,197.

Gavin Cooper <blueboy(at)mancity.net>

OPINION: THE ANELKA SHOW

Just caught up with the Anelka TV show over the weekend. The one the Mirror and all have been getting rowdy about. First, if the Elk said he’d go back to Real, it was to justify ever going there in the first place, a not so great career move (“It was a big club, I was young, Couldn’t say “Non”, Me bruvvas had nothing to do with it”). That was what he was talking about. It’s certainly no shocker: He wants Champions’ League footie, he ain’t playing for France, he wants to prove himself on the big stage, blah blah blah.

Most interesting were his mates Henri and Pires, talking like older brothers, saying that he’s a shy boy, wants to be left alone really, what he needs is to play in good conditions like at City and score goals. Sound advice indeed, let’s hope he’s taken it in.

Good to see him dismiss any Rags rumours, although he clearly seemed flattered by the idea. Any relation between poor form and the rumours?

The show was about him sitting in front of a big screen while commentators, friends and family talked about him. He seemed overawed by the whole thing. The final question, the one that caught attention over here was not the sort of thing footballers are usually asked: “You’re ten years younger than your brother, did your parents really want you?” He didn’t know the answer. Maybe he’s found out since. Maybe his sudden upsurge in City-itis has got something to do with watching his life flash before our eyes on TV?

Painful to watch was his first senior goal, PSG-Lens, a one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Also, footage of training at the French national academy, practicing one-on-ones with the ‘keeper.

The surprise for me in the show, considering the media attention he attracts, was that he’s damn shy. I wonder if scoring just embarrasses him ‘cos it makes everyone look at him, that kind of shy. Meanwhile, he played down any dressing room strife, just said things were tense ‘cos we’re not winning and the other stuff he’s been saying on his site.

So sell him, don’t sell him? I got the impression he’s still got a lot to prove and a lot to show. He’s a hard worker, ambitious with it, if he’s going to get onto the big stage again it’s with us; he’s going to do it. Here’s hoping he takes rest of the team with him.

And hell, the program made me really like the guy. He looked more like a shy lil’ bro’ a bit bewildered by it all, rather than the sulk of legend. And then I nearly got a game of footie with him in the summer before he went to Real (another story), and apart from serving Niall Quinn in a bar and getting Terry Scott’s autograph, it’s about as close to celebrity as I’ve ever got.

Slysa <jonno.slysa(at)free.fr>

OPINION: SEASON SO FAR

Just a few thoughts after reading the last few postings.

Keeper – well that’s been fixed by the look of it. Typical City fans that were slagging James off on 606 web site already; hmmm, maybe we should let him play a few matches before giving up on him?

I have to say that I thought Seaman was a risk worth taking, it could have worked out like Schmeichel did the season before. Remember he had been dismissed at Villa but was excellent for us. Unfortunately Seaman didn’t work out, I hadn’t felt that nervous since watching Carlo ‘nailed to his line’ Nash. It was very easy people saying get someone in but we all need to remember that we are skint for this season (more on this later).

Eyal – thank God he has gone. I lost any hint of respect for this mercenary when he threw a pad after not getting his contract extension. This is a guy that played about half the games in a season for two years. Yes he was creative, yes made chances etc. but the decision to tell him to stick to his contract was right. We have a situation where a number of players were given deals that were too high and too long, he would have become another Nigel Clough where he was happy picking up the money for years. We nearly had a similar issue with Huckerby where it was better for him to stay with us than sign for Norwich.

Eyal also showed what an opportunist he is, timing the pad after Ali’s departure thinking he had us over a barrel. KK signing Sibierski was a sign that he was heading outside. All reports from training I have heard are that he was often on his own and won’t be missed.

SWP and Jihai Sun (Sinclair and Macca). Why are these two players getting stick from the fans when Macca and Sinclair are left alone? SWP is one of better players and will become a great. Sun does a job at right back, he does it better than other people that have tried and at least he gives his all.

Macca has been shocking, seems all he learned to do in Spain was to wave his arms and collect the ball on the edge of his own box.

Sinclair has been a waste of time and money too, I don’t think I have seen anyone take longer to get from one end of the pitch to the other; I can do it faster carrying a pint and a pie. When he gets to the other end of the pitch he can’t go past the defender as he has no left foot so then just rolls the ball back; time taken, 5 minutes, yards lost, 20.

I had a cunning plan to solve this; play him on the right and SWP on the left. Last year SWP took Carr (highly rated) to the cleaners so he should be OK out there and Sinclair might be able to go past the defender on his right foot. After watching the Leicester match when Sinclair played right wing, he still takes 2 days to get to the by-line and still can’t go past the defender; summer sale is best plan for him unless we find some mug to take him off our hands.

Ali. We should have tried to get another season out of him. He could still cut it; if he had been protected by Bos and Barton he would have been alright IMO.

Huckerby. Quick, had spells where he could finish but usually very erratic. Best way to describe him is uncoachable, KK knew this and I didn’t think he would last as long as he did.

Macken. KK seems to take a lot of stick over not playing him, mainly due to the fact he always seems to be recovering for injury. Not sure about him, was a strange buy in my mind and far too expensive. The possibility is there though, I would have played him rather than Paulo as he was dreadful.

Defence. Erm, OK what’s happened here? Distin is a shadow of the player from last year, no good as captain and his body language is dreadful. Take the captaincy from him (who to though?) and see if he can get his game right..

Sommeil. Another player that had a good spell but I’ve never been impressed. Seems very soft although has the hardman image – bit Paul Ince. Defenders should not wear gloves. Look at O’Brien at Newcastle – took 5 shots to a broken nose and still comes back for more, Sommeil would be out for months with a chipped fingernail.

Dunne. I wanted him out but fair do’s – he has sorted himself and is playing well, Still the odd mistake but on recent occasions his has been virtually on his own, just wish he was a little taller.

Coaching. KK is getting stick but do you think he tells people to make an horrific error on the edge of our box and give a goal away?

I’m more concerned that the issues that have followed him all his career are happening with us and I think that tracks back to Derek Fazackerly, he is allegedly in charge of the defence. Maybe some set piece practise during the week.

The other problem here is that the defenders are under no pressure as if KK drops Sommeil, Distin etc. who will he bring in?

KK. I agree that some of his buys have been bad ones, over inflated fees on players not up to the job. There is maybe a tendancy to play people he has bought (except Macken) but I think that is a natural reaction.

I like the football we play, is it his fault we can batter teams for 20-30 minutes but not score? Maybe as he selects the players but he can’t take the shots for them.

I don’t like the idea that we are now bringing everyone back for corners, thought we have grown out of this – personally I’d leave 2 up front.

Some of the stick he got was daft, everyone having a go for playing Sun, not realising Tarnat was injured. Not playing Tiatto when he hadn’t been training after injury; players cannot just walk into the team after being out that long.

For the people wanting him sacked, I’d take a good look round and let me know who you’d replace him with. There doesn’t seem to be many options, certainly none of us liked debating this in the car on the way home from the Leicester match on Sat.

Keep the faith.

Glyn Owen <glyntowen(at)ntlworld.com>

OPINION: THROW-INS

The amazing thing about Anelka’s winning goal at Leicester was that it came from one of our useless throw-ins. Thankfully their defence was even worse than ours (their Sinclair made ours look good!).

A lot of letters to McV have highlighted our inability to take a decent corner or free-kick, plus, of course, our total incompetence in defending against them (“Here you go, Mr Leicester man, stand next to me in our wall”, “Thank you, Mr Barton.”).

But what annoys me most – because it happens so much more often in a game – is the total lack of imagination or movement when we win a throw-in.

Watch any City match and see how many times Sommeil, Sun, Tarnat, Distin, or whoever, is reduced to simply hurling the ball hopefully upfield, where 90% of the time it is won by the opposition. If we’re lucky, the ball goes into touch and we get another throw-in, where the same thing happens again. In most cases, however, we just give the ball away cheaply and are immediately back in defensive panic mode. There were numerous examples of this in the Leicester game.

If I was an opposing manager I would advise my team to kick for touch, rugby-style, deep into the City half, confident in the knowledge that there was an odds-on chance that they would get possession back straight away. Other teams seem to be able to throw a ball to people on their own side, why can’t we? I guess it all comes back to the age-old question – what exactly do they do in training?

John Caley <john(at)caley.net>

OPINION: KEEPERS I

So we have obtained the services of David James. I have to say that I wasn’t too impressed when he played at Maine Road last season. Still, unlike Seaman, he’s used to playing behind a poor defence so he won’t experience the culture shock that must have hit Seaman. I wish him good luck with us – hopefully he’ll do something about conceding goals from crosses. We should give him a warm Manchester welcome.

Ian Burgess <i.burgess(at)virgin.net>

OPINION: KEEPERS II

Congratulations to David Seaman on a brilliant career in football. It’s a pity really that he did not retire at the top of his career at Arsenal, but it’s tough to stop playing the game you love, though it all catches up with us all too soon and the body can no longer take it. Thanks for a gallant effort for Manchester City, happy retirement!

Welcome David James; must stick to only the positives about David. He is England’s number one ‘keeper. he has taken England into the European Finals in Portugal this summer. I think this move will be good for David and for City. David James will want to keep his place in the England squad in Portugal, so will give his best, Erikson will be watching his number one ‘keeper, that’s good for us.

Let’s all be positive about our manager and team, as supporters let’s support them, a couple of good results in the League and things will be turned around.

Come on you Blues.

Ernie Barrow <britcityblue(at)aol.com>

OPINION: DUTCH VIEW

Keegan magic has a limited shelf-life: Manchester City 14 games without a win, by Sjoerd Mossou, Algemeen Dagblad 12/01/04

The magic of Kevin Keegan is limited these days. Manchester City began the season full of expectations, but after 14 games without a win is now in deep trouble. Fusspot Keegan has lost the plot again.

It was just like a stab in the back. “Keegan behaves like a big baby. He deserves to be sacked and I have told him that myself”, said the Israeli midfielder Eyal Berkovic shortly after his transfer from City to Portsmouth this week. The player got his revenge with his new club with a 4-2 win over “The Citizens”. The Manchester club is now after 14 games without a win and is dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Keegan hasn’t learnt much from his mistakes in the past. The former star player began building up his current team with attackers, just as he did in the 90s when he was manager of Newcastle United. Last season the City manager bought Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler as a starting point to reach the top. Anelka is lazy and mentally weak, Fowler is physically worn out and too fat. This summer Keegan added some midfielders, of whom Paul Bosvelt, Claudio Reyna and Steve McManaman must all fight for the same position. The veteran David Seaman was enticed to the club, but the goalkeeper is a caricature of himself and can’t play a single game without making a mistake.

After a year of spending millions and buying big names the loyal City fans looked forward to a season full of expectation. The club moved to the impressive City of Manchester Stadium and seemed at last destined for glory. At the end of November they hit the first hurdle. In the UEFA Cup the small Polish club Groclin Dyskobolia proved too strong for them and also in the domestic league Keegan’s team couldn’t get the results. The defence in particular is hopelessly short of ideas, but the manager refuses to acknowledge this.

The Keegan magic is often short-lived. At Newcastle and Fulham the manager got his team quickly to the top, but he always seems to lose the plot. His enthusiasm and opportunism are catching, until the effort begins to fade and he becomes unfathomable. In England the manager is known for his legendary outbursts, a mix of clich

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