Newsletter #1168

A brief issue tonight, with Don brining us the good news on Ireland’s contract extension and return to training for some of the injured players. Pearce is already looking ahead to the January transfer window and potential targets.

We have a view from Barry on last week’s game and current state of the team, and look ahead to the visit by Mr O’Leary and Villa on Monday night.

Next game: Aston Villa, home, 8pm Monday 31 October 2005


General News

Weather Report: City’s Manchester Senior Cup tie with Stockport got cancelled this week, due to heavy downpours in the Edgeley Park area. This must have been particularly galling for Robbie Fowler and BWP, who had both hoped to play against Stocki. Both men returned to action for the second XI versus Bury last week, and must have been looking forward to continuing their returns from injury. The Reserves’ next game is on November 2, with a visit to the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham where the Blues face Liverpool.

Spro Gyra: (Enough with the jazz funk band related headlines, already!) The club website was rather pleased to announce this week that the club’s “This is Our City” advertising campaign has been passed fit for human consumption by the Advertising Standards Authority. Apparently the posters round Manchester proclaiming ‘Real Manchester’ and ‘Greater Manchester’ had enraged some local Reds fans, and 5 complaints were made to the ASA – the report doesn’t make clear how many % of Manc based Reds that is, but no matter. “This campaign is aimed at celebrating the long-standing relationship between the club’s fans and the city,” said City assistant club secretary Matt Lowery. “We are proud of it. It reflects the confidence of our fans and seems to have struck a nerve with others. It is great to have an official stamp of approval.” Fancy the Traffordonians complaining to a body named after City’s hole-in-the-heart hero of the 70’s, Asa Hartford – they never stood a chance, really!

Transfer News and Gossip

Geerty Gets Shirty Over Rumours: Geert de Vlieger is less than chuffed at last week’s reports suggesting that the Belgian ‘keeper is anxious to leave the club. “The question of my future was asked to me by a Belgian journalist after David James had signed his new contract. With my contract expiring at the end of this season I will look at how it goes because I still feel I have something to give back to Manchester City after last season when I was out injured. Now I’m fully fit and working hard, I’m on the bench so you never know what will happen. Let’s hope Jamo doesn’t get injured, but there could be a suspension, so I want to be ready to play a game if it’s my turn. There are still a couple of nice months of the season left, so we will see how things go between now and the end of the campaign. It must be clear that I’m not unhappy as some of the newspaper’s made out over here.”

City-s Biggest Tool: Stuart Pearce hasn’t ruled out making a number of signings come the January sales, and believes that City’s good start in the league can only strengthen the club’s pulling power to potential targets. “Our league position is an important bargaining tool,” he said. “Players in this country are aware of Manchester City, who we are and what we stand for. Players elsewhere in Europe don’t know about the stadium or the fan base. All their knowledge comes from looking at a league table and seeing where we are. Some of those we were talking to in the summer said they wanted European football, so the higher I can put this club up the league, the more clout I will have when negotiations start.” Don’t be too surprised if Fulham’s Steed Malbranque features again on Psycho’s shopping list come 2006. “I am always open-minded about good players and Steed Malbranque is a good player,” he said. “We are looking right across the spectrum, at Bosmans and players we would have to pay a fee for. That has been the case since the day I took the job. We are short in terms of numbers and we have been exposed on a couple of occasions when we have picked up a few injuries in certain positions.”

Ex-Blues’ News

Kev’s Talking Turkey: Kevin Keegan stories are like London buses – no sign of them for ages, then a clutch of them arrive at once. First this column spotted him making an appearance in Newcastle as a speaker at a management conference, then an eagle-eyed MCV punter noticed him and Mrs. KK enjoying (if memory serves) an Indian, and now, our former Boss Man is being mentioned in a footballing context. Oliver Kay, in the Times on Saturday, revealed that KK “is to be offered an unexpected opportunity to return to football management in Turkey. Besiktas, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Bolton Wanderers in Istanbul on Thursday, have identified the former England manager as the man to reverse their fortunes and hope that the Liverpool old boys’ network will persuade him to pull on the tracksuit for one last time. Besiktas appointed Gordon Milne, another Anfield graduate, who has vast coaching experience throughout Europe, as their new sporting director on Monday. His first task is to find a manager to replace Riza Çalimbay, who resigned last week. Although the pair’s Liverpool careers did not overlap, it is understood that Milne has made Keegan, 54, his target and that, with the help of intermediaries, an offer will be made within the next seven days in the hope of luring him to Istanbul.” Kay states that Keegan wasn’t first choice for the job, Morten Olsen and Philippe Troussier had turned the job down first. Mr.K’s reaction to this story? “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk about it, whatever it is,” he offered. Kev’s chances diminished further on Wednesday, when the press reported that Besiktas were now chasing former Fulham boss Jean Tigana for the job.

Sheron Sharin’ His Experience: Following his release by Coca-Cola League Two side Shrewsbury Town, Mike Sheron has signed up for UniBond League First Division club Warrington Town. The 33-year-old wing nut eared Liverpudlian made over 100 appearances for City between 1991 and 1994, before embarking on a footballing odyssey that took in Norwich City, Barnsley, Stoke City, Queens Park Rangers, Blackpool and Macclesfield Town in addition to Shrewsbury [Thanks Peter Carlisle].

Well Eyal Be: Berk to Manage Israel? Avrahim Grant, Israel’s national coach, stood down recently, despite a good World Cup qualifying campaign that ended with the Israelis getting edged out for a play-off place by Switzerland. And guess which shy and retiring former Blue has stood up and volunteered to step into Grant’s shoes? “I am prepared to retire today,” declared Eyal Berkovic this week. “Maybe it’s time to bring in new blood, people who understand today’s players, their psyche. I think it was a respectable campaign,” he continued, “But we are no longer interested in being respectable. Should we be proud of home draws? I have a different approach. We have great attacking players. I would want to win, I do not think a draw is a good result.”

Reactions and Comments

Numbskull With the Numb Leg: The year is 1982. The football genius that was Johan Cruyff scores the most outrageous penalty of all time. Playing in for Ajax, Cruyff takes a penalty by rolling the ball sideways for Jepser Olsen, who rushes into the penalty area, taps the ball back to Cruyff who can then pea roll his shot into the net whilst the bemused opposition remain motionless. And now in 2005, two French alleged geniuses try to recreate that moment… The Arse’s Robert Pires has already put his side one up against City with one penalty, and is persuaded by Thierry Henry on the award of a second penno, to “do a Johan”. It didn’t work quite so well – Pires scuffed his foot over the top of the ball, touching it without moving the sphere. Cue mayhem – Pires couldn’t touch it again, so Monsieur Va-va-va-Voom, David Sommeil and Danny Mills launched a race to get to the ball first. Luckily for us, the Boys in Blue never give in, and came away with the ball, and ref Mike Riley decided that City should have a free kick from their own penalty spot. Naturally the majority of the press coverage concentrated on this Gallic Goonery by the Gunners, and how refreshing it was to hear the two protagonists stand up, take a deep breath, then try and blame each other for the farce. “I regret it,” Pires said afterwards. “We practised it two days ago in training and it went very well. It was Thierry’s idea. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t feel it was the right kind of game for it. It was too tight. I apologise to the manager and to the fans.” Henry was equally contrite. “It’s all my fault. I’m to blame,” he said, “But it wasn’t my fault Robert had a numb leg. After that, I’ll be taking the penalties from now on.”

You Ain’t No Cruyff, Robert: Although most fans would enjoy the humour of the situation, some City players were less than impressed. Captain Sylvain Distin said on TV that “What they did was disrespectful. Perhaps you could call it ungentlemanly conduct. I didn’t like it at all.” Fellow Frenchman Antoine Sibierski commented, “I can understand his idea to make the show and I don’t want to blame Thierry. But to the fans and the other team, you can’t do that. If it had gone in, I would have really been mad.” Ever the diplomat, Gaffer Psycho said, “When you try something that is different from the norm in football, you will be accused of arrogance. But you could also say that it was a clever training-ground ploy that didn’t come off.” Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger tried to rationalise what had happened, saying: “What is terrible is it will be interpreted as a lack of seriousness and respect but I think it is because he is too serious. He decided to do that because he was a bit insecure about taking the second penalty because it has never happened to him and he was scared to miss it. We got away with it because we won the game. I feel the intention of Robert was not a lack of seriousness. It was just a wrong and a bad decision. If it had been 1-1 we’d have made a big mistake by not taking our second chance on the penalty. Robert came to me after the game telling me he was sorry and that he had made a big mistake, but as a manager, you have to live with these things. My reaction after the incident was one of surprise. Maybe if Robert had missed the first penalty, you could have understood had he tried to pass the ball as he would have been shaky. He should have been full of confidence after smashing in the first penalty so marvellously.”

Pearce’s Pens Up Frustration: Of the rest of the game, Pearce said: “I thought my team played extremely well with great heart and we limited Arsenal to very few chances. The game hinged on one or two penalty decisions. We had a goal disallowed for offside but we showed great spirit and I’m very proud of my team. I’m disappointed we didn’t get any points but I think our fans know we’re not a walkover any more.” Pearce said: “It looked like Thierry Henry dived over David James’ arms and my players are disappointed – but Henry is a clever player. But we will go with the referee on that one, because he made an honest decision.” Distin picked out his third centre back partner of the season, David Sommeil, for special praise: “David came in and played well. He’s got a great attitude and is a real professional. At the back since the beginning of the season we are always changing because of a player injured or suspended so it’s a credit to David and shows the great spirit we have within the squad.” Of the game itself Distin added: “The main word is frustration, when everybody came back to the dressing room we felt frustrated and we know that we deserved better. At the same time there are a lot of positive things to take from this game, so we have to keep going like that, keep our heads up and keep working. We played better against Arsenal than Newcastle, and if we play like that every week we won’t come away with no points. We deserved at least one point as minimum, but we didn’t get it, and that’s football.”

Squad News

Fowler: SP has told Robbie Fowler that if he wants his first team place back then he will have to be patient. Following his two goal return for the Reserves last week, Pearce said, “I am pleased Robbie came through yesterday and the ball is in his court now. He has to prove his fitness and show he is good enough to break into the first team again. In management, you find out quite quickly that when you think you have a settled side, all of a sudden injuries come and people who were on the outside are in and playing. Robbie knows he has to work hard in training, play in reserve games when he is asked to and be around the first-team squad. I am sure his chance will come.”

Injury Updates: Claudio Reyna faces the prospect of spending a number of weeks on the sidelines. The USA international limped out of the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday with knee and ankle injuries. An initial scan confirmed the double blow although SP is still awaiting the final prognosis. Pearce confirmed his concerns and praised the impact Reyna has made during his eight-month tenure. “Claudio’s had a scan and he looks as though it could be a few weeks; we’ll be getting the prognosis this week,” said the boss. “It will be a couple of weeks, I suspect. It’s his knee and ankle, the ball has fired both back in one jarring motion. He’s done well for us, he’s been available for all the games where I’ve been in charge so he’s not had a bad run at it. He’s probably fortunate we took him off as soon as he did it rather than let him go back on.” Andy Cole and Nedum Onuoha were absent from the Arsenal game, although they were almost included in the starting line-up. “I deemed it was not the best thing to do to risk them, credit to the players who did come in but it will give them an extra few days to make sure they get themselves right,” confirmed Pearce. “Both of them were chosen to play on the Friday in the hope that they would be fully fit but thinking about it in the cold light of day I thought it was probably wise not to risk them.” Meanwhile, the injured pair of Richard Dunne and Trevor Sinclair have been ruled out of a return to senior action against Aston Villa on Monday. The duo have been laid low with knee problems, but had outside chances of featuring in the encounter. At least Sinclair is closing in on a return to contention, resuming light training after a month on the sidelines.

Stephen’s Settled: Stephen Ireland’s progress in the first team has been rewarded with a contract extension. “I’m delighted with the contract, I spoke to the gaffer and said that I wanted to stay as long as I possibly could,” the 19-year-old told the club website. “To get an extension through to 2009 is absolutely brilliant for me. I want to stay here, keep playing and keep proving myself. Over the summer break I worked very hard on weights and keeping my fitness up to high levels. I played my pre-season over here and then they invited me to go over with the squad to Thailand, and that was an extra bonus again.” And despite the latest injury blow suffered by Claudio Reyna, the M.E.N. reports that City have held preliminary discussions with the 31-year-old over a new contract.

Don Barrie <news(at)>


First, last Saturday’s defeat by London/French. I watched the game here “live” on television. I thought that we were very unfortunate not to get a point.

As the team emerged from the tunnel and I saw no Ned or Andrew, I felt a sinking feeling, particularly when I saw Sibierski and Sommeil. Sibierski was the number one on my list of leavers for the end of this season and Sommeil my number two. As it turned out, Sommeil had a very good game and I ended up wishing that he had been given the one year contract extension and not his compatriot.

Regular readers will know from my article last December that I had, several months before KK’s departure, stated my hope that SP would be our next manager. Sibierski’s contract extension is the only matter so far where I have disagreed with him, and it is not the end of the world. However, I would sooner see City play with a youngster in than Sibierski. I cannot think of another Premiership side where he would be played. Apart from one good crossfield pass that led to the goal against Stretford Red Sox, I cannot think of any contribution that he has made this season. He does not tackle, he is slow, his ball control is less than good and he needs more space to turn than a 53 bus. In addition he is not the good header of a ball that the press would have us believe. My comments on the performances are as follows:

James: Did not have a great deal to do and was a little unfortunate in giving the penalty away. He definitely tried to play the ball and not Henry. Some refs, other than the awful Red Riley would have let it go. Had this happened in the Arsenal penalty area, I doubt whether we would have got the same decision. In the last two games James has improved his ball distribution. 6

Mills: Although not a lover of Danny, I think that he has improved a great deal this season. Nevertheless, he still loses his temper too quickly and always seems to inflame a situation rather than calm it. If there is trouble, you can bet that Mills will be in the midst of it. He must learn to keep cool and use his head more. Has a tendency to give free kicks away in our half, sometimes when the opponent has his back to our goal and poses no immediate danger. 6

Sommeil: A revelation to me. He was cool, calm and collected and played some good balls out of defence. A good performance from our fourth choice centre back (fifth choice had Thatcher been fit, because I think SP would have played Jordan alongside Distin). Many more games like this and will be worth considering for another year. However, I don’t think he will get many more opportunities. 7

Distin: Our star man for me. An excellent all round performance and should be picked by France. He is far superior to the over expensive Boumsong. I just wish he would be a bit more vocal as captain. 8

Jordan: No doubt about where his heart lies – definitely blue blood in his veins. However, still tends to “sell” himself, by sliding in and often getting the man and not the ball. SP needs to coach him more. Never gives up and is a 100% trier. 6

Barton: I thought that Joey slipped back a notch here, with a show of petulance that earned him, quite rightly, a booking for throwing the ball away. He must learn that using his intelligence and not the red mist will serve him and the team best. Not as dominant as in recent weeks. 6

Ireland: I think that this young boy is going to be outstanding. Seemed to tire a little in the second half, but what a footballing brain! His little one touches, under pressure, played us out of trouble and onto the attack several times in the first half. I can see him being a fixture in the team for the next ten to twelve years! 7

Reyna: Until injured, worked very hard and played some intelligent balls out of defence, covered and tackled well. Seems to have struck up a good understanding with Stephen Ireland. 7

Musampa: Not a lover of this player and on my list for release at the end of the season. Not committed enough and has missed so many chances this season. However, is our best bet on the left hand side for the present. Where are all the promising left footed youngsters? 6

Sibierski: Comments above. 4

Vassell: Worked away tirelessly for the whole ninety minutes and very unfortunate not to have his great header count. Many assistant refs would not have been so efficient! He was offside by about six inches! Received no support from Sibs. 7

I will not comment on the subs, except to say that the 17 year old Micah Richards struck me as a talent. He almost made a name for himself by chesting the ball down, swivelling and shooting. Unfortunately, the shot was well wide. City ended with five academy lads on the pitch. A stark contrast to Arsenal.

As SP has said several times now, we are no longer “pushovers”. With even average luck we should be the possessors of a further four points – three from the Bolton game and one from Arsenal. Two good buys in the January “window” will see us as definitely top six material (possibly top four) and with a decent draw, in with a real shout for the FA Cup.

Barry Anderton – Hong Kong <PBAnderton(at)>


League table to 26 October 2005 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         10  5  0  0 14  2  4  1  0 10  2  9  1  0  24   4  20  28
 2 Charlton Ath.    9  1  1  2  4  6  5  0  0 11  3  6  1  2  15   9   6  19
 3 Tottenham H.    10  3  1  1  5  2  2  3  0  7  4  5  4  1  12   6   6  19
 4 Wigan Athletic   9  3  1  1  5  3  3  0  1  5  2  6  1  2  10   5   5  19
 5 Manchester Utd   9  1  2  1  4  4  4  1  0 10  3  5  3  1  14   7   7  18
 6 Manchester City 10  3  1  1  6  3  2  1  2  5  5  5  2  3  11   8   3  17
 7 Bolton Wndrs    10  3  1  1  5  1  2  1  2  7 10  5  2  3  12  11   1  17
 8 Arsenal          9  5  0  0 10  1  0  1  3  2  5  5  1  3  12   6   6  16
 9 West Ham United  9  3  1  1 10  4  1  2  1  4  4  4  3  2  14   8   6  15
10 Blackburn R.    10  3  1  1  6  4  1  1  3  3  6  4  2  4   9  10  -1  14
11 Newcastle Utd   10  2  2  1  5  5  1  1  3  3  5  3  3  4   8  10  -2  12
12 Middlesbrough   10  1  2  2  3  7  2  1  2  8  7  3  3  4  11  14  -3  12
13 Liverpool        8  2  1  1  3  4  0  3  1  2  4  2  4  2   5   8  -3  10
14 Fulham          10  2  1  2  6  5  0  2  3  4  9  2  3  5  10  14  -4   9
15 Aston Villa     10  1  2  2  6  8  1  1  3  3  8  2  3  5   9  16  -7   9
16 West Brom A.    10  2  0  3  8  9  0  2  3  1  9  2  2  6   9  18  -9   8
17 Portsmouth      10  0  3  2  3  6  1  1  3  4  6  1  4  5   7  12  -5   7
18 Birmingham City 10  0  1  4  3  9  1  2  2  4  6  1  3  6   7  15  -8   6
19 Sunderland      10  0  2  3  5 10  1  0  4  4  7  1  2  7   9  17  -8   5
20 Everton          9  0  1  3  1  5  1  0  4  1  7  1  1  7   2  12 -10   4

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1168