Newsletter #1211

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News tonight from Don of the U18’s success, transfer rumours already, and Goater’s swansong.

We also have some excellent opinion from Colin on Pearce and the way forward, the squad, the future and the ruination of the game by cheats.

Boro visit on Sunday, hopefully tired after their exploits in Basle.

Next game: Middlesbrough, home, 3pm Sunday 2 April 2006

NEWS SUMMARY

General News

Youth Prevails: I think it’s time for some good news about a City team, don’t you? The Under-18’s duly booked their place in the FA Youth Cup Final last week, with a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the semi against Newcastle. Having won the away leg 3-2, City were therefore through to face Liverpool next month. Both goals came in the first half at the COMS; Danny Sturridge scored on the quarter hour mark, but the Toon were level on the night through Nicky Deverdics in the 34th minute. Academy Director, Jim Cassell now has a chance of emulating the class of 1986, who won the Cup containing amongst others Paul Lake, Andy Hinchcliffe and Steve Redmond. “It was always a nervy one,” said Cassell. “The object of the day was to win through to the final and we’ve managed to do that so now we’ll go and prepare for Liverpool. It was nice that it worked out for us, the early goal helped, if we’d have got a second it might have been a little less stressful. You’ve got to give the opposition credit. They played to their strengths and were very difficult to deal with in the air. We’d put the first tie out of our minds, that was a bonus, the idea tonight was to go out and try to win the game and if we couldn’t win it and drew then we’d be through.”
Team: Matthewson; Obeng, Logan, Williamson, Breen; Williams, Marshall, Johnson(c), Moore; Etuhu, Sturridge (C.Evans 73).
Unused subs: Daly, Vadon, McDermott, Mouritsen.

Fancy Another Fixture Change? City’s game at Aston Villa has been moved from Saturday April 22nd April to Tuesday April 25 (k.o. 7.45pm). The FA Cup semi-final between West Ham United (damn them) and either Charlton or Middlesbrough is being staged at Villa Park on the weekend of the 22nd/23rd.

Finger on the Pulse: Thanks to Hsien Min for sending in this snippet from http://www.Football365.com/
“Site Seeing – We know that Reading haven’t been in the top flight in over 130 years of existence, so congratulations are in order – but maybe chairman John Madejski could do with updating his football knowledge a little before next season. Madejski’s reply on Sky Sports News when asked what the highlight of next season would be for him? ‘Oh, definitely the trip to Maine Road.’ It’s looking lovely, we think he’ll agree.” Here’s the link to that page, but be warned – those of a nostalgic bent are in for a tear-jerking experience when they see the picture:
http://www.football365.com/features/mediawatch/story_181042.shtml

Rejoice! Sibs is Fit! And the Reserves keep on winning as well. On Tuesday, the second string beat Everton 3-2 at the Regional Athletics Arena, thanks to a pair of goals from Antoine Sibierski followed by the winner by BWP. The brace by Sibs had twice put City ahead, only for Everton to equalise. It took an overhead kick from Bradley on 67 minutes to secure the points. Bearing in mind the injury crisis in the first team squad, coach Steve Wigley was quick to announce afterwards that “Everybody came through ok and everybody’s fit.” Wigley’s view of the match? “We’ve kept the run going, which is good, we started slowly and I thought we looked better towards the end of the half. The lads got themselves a couple of good goals through Antoine. It was a great free kick and a good header from him. In the second half we never really started well. They’ve got on top of us and scored – quite rightly as well. Tim Flowers next to me said ‘they’re going to score’, and as he said that it’s hit the back of the net, I said ‘don’t say that again will you please?’ After that we went at Everton again. Bradley’s got his goal as well, and it was another tap in, which I’m pleased about. But we could have had two or three others as well. Credit to Everton though, they really stuck at it and gave us a tough game.”
Teams: Weaver; Ward, Collins, Bermingham (Etuhu 76), M.Mills D’Laryea, Croft, Laird, Sibierski, Wright-Phillips, Miller.
Unused subs: Grimes, Matthewson, Bennett, Logan.

You Can Leave Your Hatton (For Now): Was it quiet for news in Manchester this week? I only ask because the M.E.N. was saying that World Champion boxer Rickey Hatton wanted to invest in City… only when you read the rest of the article, he won’t really – not just yet, anyway. “There is nothing I would like more than to invest in the club but nothing is imminent. I want to provide for my son and family but if at some stage after a few more fights I’ve got money coming out of my ears I would like nothing better than banging some of it into City. I’m a true Blue and nothing will change that but there is wealth and wealth. I’m not at the multi-million pound stage.”

Transfer News and Gossip

They All Like-A Micah: Sunday’s Mirror claimed that a clutch of Premiership clubs were sniffing round for the signature of Micah Richards. The 17-year-old is the target of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and U****d, apparently. Quite coincidentally, Micah’s people are negotiating a new deal for City’s rising young star – although Richards’s representatives SEM have insisted that the only club their charge is talking with are City. “We are currently continuing talks with City as regards Micah,” Alex Levack of SEM told skysports.com. “We are confident they can reach a successful conclusion very soon.” You hope that City are prepared to pay up to keep their starlets, because another City youngster is being stalked again by a certain Rouble-rich London club. Here’s from today’s Daily Mirror: “CHELSEA STUR IT UP – Chelsea are closing in on Manchester City’s whiz kid Daniel Sturridge. Top talent spotter Frank Arnesen saw the youngster dazzle for England’s Under-17s and the super-rich Londoners are poised to step up their interest. Sturridge has helped City to the FA Youth Cup Final, but has yet to commit to a long-term deal. Chelsea have been on his trail for months – and Sturridge could be tempted by around £1 million a year as the Blues try to sign the best English players of the future.” Methinks it’s time to negotiate a couple of “golden handcuff” contracts, Mr Wardle!

Back to the Future: And at the other end of the age spectrum – City have been linked with a summer move for former striker Paul Dickov. The 33-year-old Blackburn forward, who you may remember, was the star of back-to-back promotions with City in 1999 and 2000, is finding first-team chances hard to come by at Rovers. The Daily Mirror have reported that Pearce is considering a swoop for the forward.

City Inter Milan? Milan Baros is being linked with a surprise return to the North-West by newspaper reports. The 24-year-old Czech international only joined Aston Villa from Liverpool in August 2005 and has netted 10 goals in 25 appearances for David O’Leary’s side. With uncertainty hanging over the West Midlands club at present however, a speculative bid from City in the summer may well be accepted for the former Liverpool man. SP is keen to add another striker to his squad at the end of the current season. Reports suggest that £3.5 million would land the Czech international. However, Villa have warned they have no intention of selling Baros on the cheap. “The reports are a bit misleading,” Villa operations director Steve Stride told Villa’s official website. “And, before anybody gets carried away, we’re certainly not looking to sell Milan and nobody should think that’s the case. But there is a clause in his contract that, if activated, would represent a massive profit for Aston Villa. There’s been a lot of speculation over the weekend and we feel it’s only right that the supporters know what the position is.” It has been suggested an offer in the region of £13 million would be required to trigger the clause, and City will not stretch to that.

Ex-Blues’ News

Carry On, Michael: Former City full back Michael Tarnat has signed a contract extension that will keep him with Hannover 96 until the end of next season. The 36-year-old has struggled to hold down a first-team place since moving to the AWD Arena from the Blues in the summer of 2004. However, coach Peter Neururer believes the former Germany international still has a lot to contribute and decided to hand him a new deal.

The Crying Game: Southend United’s final game of the season, away at Bristol City on May 6, is going to be an emotional day for one former City legend. It marks the final day in the playing career of the man they call the Goat, Shaun Goater. And there are reports of many City fans going down to Ashton Gate to cheer on Goater on his final big day – and the Big Bermudian is very touched. “I heard some fans were going to come to the final league game against Bristol City but I thought it was going to be about ten or something like that”, mused Goater. “But now I hear there could be as many as 200 and that would be incredible and I am very grateful that they think about me in that way. It shows how much they have loved watching me play football and it means so much to me. There is no greater thank you in football than fans coming out like that. It was always going to be an emotional day but now it is going to be even more special. Hopefully it will be a great day for everyone, I can celebrate my last day in pro football and the fans can celebrate Southend’s promotion. I haven’t thought it about it that much, but with all the City fans there and hopefully promotion for Southend it could very emotional for everyone. I’ve cried about football before but I don’t think I ever have in front of fans – we’ll have to see how it goes and I will try to keep my emotions in check. And hopefully by then we will have achieved the promotion we are looking for.”

Reactions and Comments

You Gotta Hand It to Drogba: Chelsea became the second team in a week to complete the league double over MCFC, as they opened a 14-point Premier League lead on Saturday when two Didier Drogba goals gave them a 2-0 win over City at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea dominated the game and Drogba scored after 30 and 33 minutes but City were fuming about the Frenchman’s second goal, which was scored with the aid of a handball. City defender Sylvain Distin was sent off as the teams walked off at half time for complaining about it, and (quelle horreur!) for not giving the ball to the referee, having been booked for doing the same when the goal was scored. Let’s have SP’s thoughts on the game, before moving on to the Drogba-related matters. “Wherever you go, you’ve got to make sure you don’t concede as best you can. We set a formation up that we thought was going to be very difficult for them to break down. As it goes, I don’t think within that formation that our two centre halves got tight enough to the forwards, and we allowed Lampard a bit too much space in midfield. I think in the second half when we started to rat a little bit and lose those nerves we looked a little bit better when we had the ball. For 29 minutes we played OK in how we had lined the side up without really getting about Chelsea and getting in their faces. Once we gave ourselves a decent grounding, we have given away two quick goals and at Chelsea, with their defensive record, you have a mountain to climb. Couple that with my captain getting sent off, it made things very difficult for us and I was very pleased in the second half with the way the players responded. Two goals down against this team with 10 men, it’s very difficult but we had two half chances.”

There’s No Arm In It (According to Ref. Styles at Least): So what did SP think of the basketball skills of Mr Drogba in the lead-up to the second goal? “When I first saw it, I thought it was handball and I’ve watched it again and it was handball. Simple as that. These things happen. It was a very quick game out there and if they miss the odd decision it’s not for me to criticise. One or two of my players were aggrieved and the captain has got sent off for questioning the decision.” SP revealed that he wouldn’t be fining his skipper for his ball-keeping propensities, and that he wasn’t about to start bad-mouthing the ref either. Pearce said: “Why should I speak to the referee? I’ve spoken to my captain and that’s fine by me. He’s an honest kid and I believe him. I have a bond with my captain because I know him inside out and I like him. I trust his word. I believe what he said and I don’t deem that finable. The referee is under enough pressure as it is without me barking in his face. He made honest decisions all afternoon in my eyes. The second booking wasn’t a case of a player haranguing the referee. It wasn’t that in-your-face stuff that stokes the crowd up. He said it was for not giving the ball back. We’ll have to get him his own ball, eh?”

Diving and Ducking: Didier Drogba was certainly the subject of most of the media scrutiny, especially after he appeared to confess to being a diver. Drogba said: “It was a difficult game and when we got the goal there was more space for us to play in. Yes, it was handball but sometimes this is the game. I don’t know how to explain. The ball comes to me and I can’t do nothing but this.” So far so mild, but Drogba really stirred things up during his interview for Match of the Day. Drogba told the BBC: “Sometimes I dive, sometimes I stay up,” but the Ivory Coast star then changed his mind and insisted he did not dive. Chelsea suggested their French-speaking striker had been confused by the question and tried to clarify the issue with a statement from the player. In a later statement, Drogba said (in words spookily unlike anything he’d uttered at the time) that: “Unfortunately in the emotion of winning the game my comments have come across partly in the wrong way. I want to make clear that I don’t dive, this was the intention of my answer.” Psycho was happy to laugh off Drogba’s confessions that he handled the ball to score against City and that he sometimes dives. Pearce said: “Maybe it was his studs. They’re not the best. I know his boots are not the greatest. I don’t want to see my players diving. I prefer them to stand up as long as they can. I’d like to think if they’re not injured they will get up and carry on.”

Willo the Wisp: Once all the dust had settled, SP explained his decision to hand Willo Flood a first start of the season. Pearce started with Flood because: “It was the formation I wanted to play. I had a senior player in Albert Riera available, who I chose not to play, because I thought the formation lent itself to the personnel available and that would have been better without Albert, as such. He’s taken it onboard and Lee Croft has taken it onboard well. I make decisions that in my mind are best for the team and not for a certain individual. Willo’s benefited from that and having done so I thought he was our best player.”

Squad News

Barton Finks About Future: Joey Barton has revealed he could still leave City – despite admitting he was “impetuous” to hand in a transfer request. Just in case you’ve forgotten – he demanded a move in January after rejecting the club’s offer of a new contract. Barton ended up staying at City but is not sure his long-term future lies at Eastlands. When asked if he will stay at the COMS, Barton told the Daily Mail: “Hand on heart, I don’t know. But I think I have shown I remain committed to this football club.” Barton also criticised claims that City had offered him a new deal worth £28,000 a week. He claimed it was £20,000 a week but included a £5,000 appearance payment and £3,750 win bonus – but remember it was never about the money.

Signing On: SP has confirmed that Richard Dunne and Micah Richards are the latest players to begin talks about extended deals at the club. Dunne has been in outstanding form again this season and Pearce is anxious to secure the future of the Republic of Ireland ace, while teenager Richards looks set to be rewarded for his emergence in the first-team in recent weeks. “Richard has opened talks this week and we’re waiting on Micah’s agent.” And Nicky Weaver says that he will sign the one-year contract extension that City have offered him, and that wants to push David James for a place in the first team. “This will be my tenth year at City and I will be coming back next pre-season hoping to put a real challenge to David James,” he stated. “Since he has been at this club this is the longest run I have had being fully fit.”

I Think They’re A-Loan Now: Mansfield Town have extended midfielder Jonathan D’Laryea’s loan spell to a third month. The 23-year-old has impressed the Stags’ manager Peter Shirtliff in the past eight weeks, and is likely to again be named in the side for the League Two clash with Peterborough on Saturday. Likewise, Kasper Schmeichel’s loan spell at Bury has been extended until April 22nd. The 19-year-old ‘keeper has played in seven games so far for the Gigg Lane outfit since joining them in late February, and he has impressed their manager Chris Casper enough to arrange with City that Schmeichel stay there for another month. And it sounds like Sheffield Wednesday want to extend Mikkel Bischoff’s stay at Hillsborough. Manager Paul Sturrock has revealed he will be in talks with City about extending a deal for both Bischoff and Liverpool’s Scott Carson. “If the players liked it here, and we liked them, they would prolong the loan as long as there weren’t serious injuries to players at their clubs,” said Sturrock. “I’m going to be talking to both clubs on Thursday or Friday to find out what’s happening there. Fingers crossed, they will both prolong their loans until the end of the season.”

Big Ged Still Grounded: Oh dear, SP’s sucking and seeing again… Georgios Samaras is not yet ready to return to action. The Greek international damaged ankle ligaments during the recent home defeat to Wigan Athletic, forcing him out of the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to West Ham United days later. The Blues were hoping he would recover for the weekend clash with Middlesbrough, but Pearce has told the club website that this is unlikely. “It’s a ‘suck it and see’ situation with Georgios,” Pearce said. “But I think this weekend will be too soon for him. We will wait and see but he is hell bent on getting back as quick as he can.”

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

OPINION: PEARCE, SAVIOUR OR CON MAN?

When you look at the Premiership managers, there’s a group I call the con-men. They talk a great game and are very plausible about how it’s everyone’s fault but theirs. It’s down to injuries, the small squad, lack of funds, refereeing decisions and so on. They’re not quitters (they tell us) and they are certain that they are just a couple of players or a bit of luck from managing a team of world-beaters. In reality they couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag. The names of O’Leary and Souness are the first to spring to my mind and no doubt you have your own candidates. Keegan wasn’t a con-man – he realised he lacked the ability to move us up those vital few places into the top six of the Premiership and had the honesty to admit it.

Waiting in the wings was Stuart Pearce. A player of total commitment, who even the singularly focussed and uncompromising Roy Keane was in awe of. He didn’t have much experience but performances and results improved dramatically and we set off on an unbeaten run, only missing out on UEFA Cup qualification through a saved penalty. This season started where the last one left off and we were suddenly thinking that a top six slot was finally a reality. Maybe we could even be this season’s Everton and finish fourth. The first fly in the ointment was our home game against Bolton, despite hammering them and the woodwork. We then became a model of inconsistency, in true City fashion, but for me the defining games were at home against Liverpool and Spurs. These were two other sides that had top four ambitions and it was clear after both games that their prospects were much more realistic than ours. There was a depressing gulf in class between them and us and it was apparent that even top six would be a stretch. However, Pearce was getting lots of publicity, virtually all favourable. His antics during a game, his passion, honesty and integrity, the refusal to criticise referees – all of these pointed to a refreshingly different style of manager. He was even being seriously talked about as an England manager, sooner rather than later. He was clearly building a very effective PR web around himself.

The derby match was a welcome victory against a top four team but this merely masked the fact that we were in a “win one, lose one” sequence and couldn’t beat the teams above us. What was even more worrying from my point of view was that we seemed to have retained all the bad habits of the KK era. Poor passing, poor at set pieces, failure to close down the opposition, defensive errors, players standing around when they should be moving off the ball and general lack of cohesion. We simply didn’t seem to have a plan or, if we did, didn’t know how to execute it. All of these point to a lack of preparation on the training ground; something that we now know (as if we couldn’t have guessed) was a feature of the Keegan era.

Still, our problems couldn’t be Psycho’s fault. Our squad was too small. KK had bought badly. We had to sell our best player. Players lacked belief in themselves. The opposition were “cuter” than us. Players who were hugely impressive in training seemed to have the confidence drain out of them in the heat of battle. No way could any Pearce managed player get away with giving less than 110%. But many of them have. We turned out a team against Wigan with a number of players that, all things being equal, would not have figured in our first choice starting eleven. However, with the exception of Bradley Wright Phillips, they were all experienced players and even Stephen Ireland had made it into the Irish squad. You would think this was a perfect opportunity to show not just 110% commitment but 120%. But, with a couple of exceptions they didn’t appear to.

The apologists say that it proved we haven’t got the strength in depth. But can anyone seriously claim that players like Bullard, McCulloch, Teale, Kavanagh, Baines and Chimbonda are in a different class to Reyna, Sinclair, Mills, Thatcher, Sibierski, etc. They aren’t but the difference is that they have been transformed by clever management, good coaching and their own desire from a group of journeymen into top-class Premiership players. Wigan have two quick and strong forwards but, more importantly, they have a game plan that exploits those strengths. Draw the defenders forward and put the ball behind them. It’s simple, yet devastatingly effective. What was our plan – high balls to Wright-Phillips. It’s stupid and utterly ineffective. The plan should have been to play the diagonal ball on the floor into the box from wide positions, so he could use his pace over a short distance to get into space. Or use the pinpoint passing ability of Ireland and Reyna to play him in between the central defenders. It’s the sort of stuff that should be drilled into them on the training ground but no-one appeared to have a clue.

In the replay against Villa we should have closed the game down completely when 2-0 up but lacked the ability to do it. Inevitably Villa got one back and we were hanging on for grim death in a game we should have wrapped up easily. I watched Liverpool when they were 3-1 up at Newcastle with twenty minutes to go and they killed the game off, keeping possession and often catching ten-man Newcastle on the break. A better final ball on a few occasions would have given them even more goals. There’s no secret to this – just good organisation and coaching, plus players using their heads.

I started this article well before the West Ham game but that followed a familiar pattern. There was effort and commitment a-plenty but little fluency or end-product. We were beaten by a team that were just better drilled and organised. As were Wigan, Bolton, Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea, Spurs, etc. Regular readers of MCIVTA will know my thoughts by now. Our back room simply isn’t good enough, particularly with an inexperienced manager. Pearce doesn’t have an Arthur Cox type mentor to bounce things off and the coaching of our senior squad leaves a lot to be desired. We probably have the best Academy in the country, turning out some wonderful youngsters but if they aren’t being taken to the next stage then the effort has been wasted. The art of a manager is to turn an ordinary player into a good player and a good player into a great player. It’s no coincidence, in my opinion, that Micah Richards is proving to be one of our most effective players at the moment. He’s still retained the good habits he was taught in the Academy.

Still, at least things are better than they were under KK, some of you will no doubt say. Well actually, no they aren’t. An article in the Times last Saturday (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7973-2102104,00.html) conclusively puts that myth to bed. We are no better now than we were in the final weeks of KK’s reign. We’re supposed to have a great manager but nothing has changed.

I know it takes time for a manager to fashion a team in his image. Pardew took some incredible stick at West Ham but has now taken them into the top half of the Premiership and to an FA Cup semi-final. Mark Hughes has taken Blackburn into the top six. He did it by getting the basics right and first making them hard to beat. They weren’t pretty but it was the right strategy to avoid relegation. Once he’d got the basics right then he added a cutting edge. Is there any evidence that after a year under the most uncompromising defender of his generation that we are harder to beat? Hardly – we can’t even keep clean sheets against Scunthorpe, Sunderland and Aston Villa. It’s now 10 games since we managed a shut out and even the last one was against the dire (and Owen-less) Newcastle. To be fair to SP, he’s largely had to work with the squad that KK bequeathed to him but these are still experienced players. He let Paul Bosvelt go and I believe that “The Enforcer” played an unglamorous but vital rôle protecting the back four. Who does that job now?

But our manager continues to attract praise from all quarters. An article in the same issue of the Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3164-2102713,00.html) praises his dignity and humility as a welcome antidote to the antics of other managers. We want our managers honest and down-to-earth at Man City – that’s what we’re about. However, is he even that honest? While berating players about loyalty, he was playing cat-and-mouse with the FA over the England job. He claimed to be too inexperienced to be considered but made sure he kept his name in the frame. He played hard-ball with Joey Barton over his contract offer but it then transpired that he hadn’t actually signed his own (he couldn’t have been sending “come and get me” signals to anyone could he?).

Of course he has now signed but even turned that to his advantage by making sure everyone knew about him renouncing his claim to compensation in the event of his sacking. Now that’s a refreshing change from the con-men, who announce “I’ve never walked away from anything in my life” when we all know they really mean “I can’t do this job but you’ll have to sack me as I’m not going without a few quid in my pocket.” However, it was less widely reported that it works the other way as well and that City would also get no compensation if he walked out and joined another club. Again, what sort of message is this sending?

So – Stuart Pearce – is he a saviour or a con-man? Although he doesn’t moan or blame referees, I’m reluctantly beginning to suspect the latter but he needs another full season before anyone can pass final judgement. Let’s see where we are this time next year but if we’re still around the middle, with clean sheets few and far between, then remember this article.

Colin Savage <colin(at)cjsavage.co.uk>

OPINION: SQUAD AND THE FUTURE

I have just read this week’s missal and I agree with a lot of what has been said. None of us want to accept mediocrity and we don’t want to settle for anything other than the best but we have to be realistic.

We do not yet have the money to expect to win the Premiership because we do not have a creative player in the middle that can play for more than half a season (Reyna). The others are the combative kind although Musampa is developing. Joey Barton’s occasional long diagonal ball to a speedy winger does not make him England material and probably never will (even though that works for Beckham). He is a good, honest club player who tries every week when fit. A Mike Doyle look-a-like if he stays that good (if anyone remembers him). The biggest loss I think we have had is Samaras, after losing Andrew Cole. Cole’s deft little touches can rip a defence apart and our shots to goals ratio was lot higher when he was around. Vassell never has been a prolific goal scorer but he causes problems that Cole and Samaras can benefit from. Unfortunately, BWP will always be in the shadow of his brother because something is not quite there yet; hopefully it will be one day.

Then we come to the defence: we do not let that many goals in anymore but each of our star defenders does lose his concentration and does something really stupid every now and again. We, like every other team in the world, need a clever, creative midfielder and we need to look in South America or Eastern Europe or wait for one of our youngsters to develop. If we wait, they will, if we can keep them. If not then it is mid-table survival and mediocrity, which is what we are left with this year.

CTID, Jim Heaviside <JHeavis502(at)aol.com>

OPINION: WASHED UP BLUES

So Steve Gerrard has been washed up by the Thames and finally beached at Henley. Let’s hope the Supporters’ Club gets to him before the emergency services sling him on one of those flat barges and hose him down with cold water.

Talking of hosing people down with cold water, Joey could do with a quick shot to wake him up too. Like Micah calmly stated at the end of the Villa game, “f*0+#xg h£*l, what more can I say!”

As for Dean Ashton, spot on (finally) with the comment about City having a sniff and then turning our noses up at the price. We could have had him for £3 million from Crewe but held off and paid £5 million for Macken instead, then dithered when Norwich would have sold for less than the £7.5 million that he finally went for. Instead we pay almost the same amount for an unfinished article. Samaras has scored a few already, but he looks as raw as a freshly laid duck egg sometimes (see the “finish” when put through vs. Charlton). It’s almost going back to the Michael Robinson days of yore.

Who’s next, Dragoslav Stepanovic, the non-English speaking captain?! Not since the Spurs pitch invasion have I felt so deflated but maybe one or two of us had started to forget something important: this is our City and we’re stuck with them.

Simon Curtis <simoncurtis.efb(at)mail.telepac.pt>

OPINION: CHEATS AND THE GAME

An open letter to FIFA, UEFA, the Football Association, and the Football League.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Steve Kay. I am 48 years old, live in Manchester, England and have supported Manchester City FC since the age of seven. In September 2004 I broke a run of 327 consecutive matches over a six year period, following City home and away, including UEFA Cup matches in Wales, Belgium and Poland. I am also a qualified referee and have been involved in junior football in Manchester, qualifying as an FA Preliminary Coach in 1991. So, I feel qualified to comment about a situation that if it goes unchecked, will result in fans like me completely losing interest in football, and drifting away from the game we all love.

The problem is the lack of honesty, sportsmanship and respect by an increasing number of professional footballers for officials and fellow players, combined with a proliferation of cheating in the modern game by highly paid footballers who have little or no empathy with fans. These fans then see many of the players as mercenaries, which in turn spoils it for the genuine hardworking “club” footballers.

The latest incident in a seemingly incessant stream of similar situations involved my team in a FA Premiership game against Chelsea last Saturday (March 25th 2006). Following an almost identical incident the previous week at Fulham, where a Didier Drogba goal was disallowed for handball following a mass protest by the Fulham players, the same Chelsea striker clearly controlled the ball with his arm in front of goal, and “scored”. All the City defenders immediately raised their arms in appeal for the obvious handball, but neither the referee nor his assistant saw the incident, and the goal was awarded. The City captain, Distin, approached the referee and in a seemingly non-confrontational way, appealed to the referee and was duly cautioned along with another player. As the referee blew for half-time, the ball happened to be at the feet of Distin, who happened to be close to the assistant near the touchline. Distin picked the ball up, and once again questioned the officials in an apparently non-aggressive manner. The referee, Styles, repeatedly asked Distin for the ball, and refused to get drawn into a conversation, which is his right. After a number of requests for the ball, which Distin ignored as he continued to question Styles, the City captain was cautioned again and sent off. Chelsea went on to win the game quite easily, but the talking point was Drogba’s nonchalant attitude, which even seemed to bring sounds of disapproval from his own supporters when he was named “man of the match”. In the post-match interview, Drogba admitted handling the ball, and implied he sometimes dives, a comment that Chelsea FC were quick to react to.

As the major powers in football, FIFA and UEFA especially have the ability to deal with this situation very simply, and so restore the fans’ faith in this great sport. Here is a suggestion of what might be done:

FIFA announces simultaneously:

  1. Any player who, in the opinion of the match officials, is clearlyguilty of “dishonesty”, “simulation”, “feigning injury” or “diving”(i.e. cheating) during a match, will be dismissed (not cautioned) andbanned immediately for 3 weeks (not matches) from the following Monday[if an appeal proves successful, or the referee admits making amistake, the dismissal will be rescinded as presently happens].
  2. For any player where the “cheating” decision is upheld (any appealfails), their employers, the football club, will be fined by the sameamount the player was due to receive during that period, so as toprevent the player earning any money whatsoever for that 3 week period,no matter what the player’s contract may state. If found guilty ofpaying the player, the club will face a meaningful penalty (not justmonetary, but something embarrassingly visible such as playing the nextmatch behind closed doors, or a loss of 10 league points).
  3. All referees and officials are empowered to have the right to ask aplayer or head coach a “closed” question following certain situationsthat occur on the field of play, which would require a straightforward”yes” or “no” reply. This might be where the officials may not have hada clear view of an incident, but is required to maintain control of thegame, or follows a genuine plea from one or more opponents includingthe captain or head coach. Qualifying incidents may include simulation,overacting or intentional handball.

    When questioned, players would be encouraged to answer questions such as “didyou handle the ball?” or “did you dive?” honestly. The team’s appointed “HeadCoach” would be allowed to be present when the question is asked, and couldanswer on behalf of the player. If the answer given at that point is “yes”,the player would be “rewarded” by only being cautioned there and then, andjustice will be seen to have been done, as the correct decision will be madeduring the match. In the Chelsea vs. City game, had Drogba been questioned andanswered “yes”, the goal would have been disallowed, Drogba would have beencautioned, and Distin would not have been cautioned twice.

    I am not naïve enough to think these moves will eradicate the problem, buthopefully with such severe financial punishment hanging over their heads, themood will change so players may become more honest and sporting, have lessincentive to cheat and only “fall to the ground” following “excessive forcebeing imparted by an opponent”. However, the most important new rule would bethe next one:
  4. If when a player is asked a question, to which they answer “no”, andoverwhelming post-match video evidence (or unlikely player admission)prove they were dishonest when answering the official’s question duringthe game, they will receive an automatic five week unpaid ban, againstwhich no appeal would be allowed. If this happened more than once tothe same player in a 12-month period, each subsequent ban would doubleto ten weeks.

    An appointed committee, similar to the “Dubious Goals Committee” we have inEngland, would meet each Monday morning to adjudicate. I would suggest that aplayer would only intentionally fall foul of this once in their career, if atall; otherwise they would be branded a genuine cheat by the football world,which may affect their ability to earn a living.

The simple fact is there is currently no deterrent for the likes of Drogba, and the vast amounts of money at stake may also prevent the clubs from speaking out against their own player. The solution may be contained in this correspondence. The forthcoming World Cup would be an ideal stage to launch such an initiative.

I look forward to receiving a reply or some form of acknowledgement in due course.

Steve Kay <steve(at)mcfcstats.com>

OPINION: UNDER ACHIEVERS

What are the chances of us finishing bottom of the Norh West league in the Premiership? Oh and add another team to appear in an FA Cup final since we got there in 1981:

  • Arsenal
  • Aston Villa
  • Brighton
  • Chelsea
  • Coventry City
  • Crystal Palace
  • Everton
  • Liverpool
  • Man Utd
  • Middlesbrough
  • Millwall
  • Newcastle United
  • Nottingham Forest
  • QPR
  • Sheffield Wednesday
  • Southampton
  • Sunderland
  • Tottenham
  • Watford
  • Wimbledon
  • West Ham or Charlton

Happy days.

A Webb <Charlesalexhols(at)aol.com>

REQUEST: WEST HAM TICKET SWAP

You never know.

I’ve got two tickets on Row C for the West Ham game and wish to swap for two further back. Bit of a long shot.

Andrew Goodman <Andrew.Goodman(at)fha.org.uk>

REQUEST: CSA GALA DINNER

The Manchester City Centenary Supporters’ Association are proud to announce that Stuart Pearce will be their Guest of Honour at the CSA Gala Dinner in the Citizens Suite, City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday 6th May 2006.

Proceeds raised are in aid of City in The Community (CITC).

Guest speaker will be John Gwynn, MC James H. Reeve, Comedian Wayne “Check” Allen and former players will also be attending.

Tickets are priced at just £30.00 and are available from branch secretaries or via Howard Burr on 0161 292 2525 e-mail at the address below.

Howard Burr <reddishblues(at)btinternet.com>

REQUEST: STANDING TOGETHER

The next step is to bridge relationships with fans from other clubs with the same opinion. Standupsitdown have now produced their own board for this to happen.

With successful protests by West Ham, Spurs, and Manchester City fans, it is now time to make this movement grow. Please forward this message on to fans who you think would join our campaign and become members. The site address is http://s12.invisionfree.com/StandUpSitDown/index.php?act=idx

Simon Cooper <actionmcfc(at)excite.com>

RESULTS

29 March 2006

Manchester United     1 - 0  West Ham United

27 March 2006

Tottenham Hotspur     2 - 1  West Bromwich Albion  36,152

League table to 29 March 2006 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Chelsea         31 15  1  0 37  8 10  2  3 23 11 25  3  3  60  19  41  78
 2 Manchester Utd  31 11  3  1 31  8 10  3  3 31 21 21  6  4  62  29  33  69
 3 Liverpool       32 13  3  1 28  7  6  4  5 17 15 19  7  6  45  22  23  64
 4 Tottenham H.    31 10  5  1 27 13  5  5  5 18 16 15 10  6  45  29  16  55
 5 Blackburn R.    31 11  2  2 27 15  5  2  9 15 21 16  4 11  42  36   6  52
 6 Arsenal         30 11  2  2 35  9  4  3  8 13 14 15  5 10  48  23  25  50
 7 Bolton Wndrs    29  9  4  1 22  7  4  5  6 20 25 13  9  7  42  32  10  48
 8 Wigan Athletic  31  6  2  8 19 21  8  2  5 17 17 14  4 13  36  38  -2  46
 9 West Ham United 31  7  2  6 26 22  6  4  6 20 24 13  6 12  46  46   0  45
10 Everton         31  8  1  6 18 17  5  3  8 11 24 13  4 14  29  41 -12  43
11 Charlton Ath.   31  7  3  6 20 18  5  3  7 17 24 12  6 13  37  42  -5  42
12 Manchester City 31  9  2  5 24 14  3  2 10 15 23 12  4 15  39  37   2  40
13 Newcastle Utd   31  7  5  3 18 13  4  1 11 13 25 11  6 14  31  38  -7  39
14 Middlesbrough   30  6  5  5 25 27  4  2  8 18 25 10  7 13  43  52  -9  37
15 Fulham          32 10  2  3 26 17  0  4 13 14 34 10  6 16  40  51 -11  36
16 Aston Villa     31  4  5  6 15 17  4  6  6 19 24  8 11 12  34  41  -7  35
17 West Brom A.    31  6  1  9 21 21  1  5  9  7 26  7  6 18  28  47 -19  27
18 Birmingham City 30  4  3  8 16 19  2  3 10  7 25  6  6 18  23  44 -21  24
19 Portsmouth      30  3  5  6 10 17  3  1 12 14 34  6  6 18  24  51 -27  24
20 Sunderland      31  0  4 12  9 29  2  0 13 10 26  2  4 25  19  55 -36  10

With thanks to Football 365

MCIVTA FAQ [v0506.02]

[1] MCIVTA Addresses

Articles (Heidi Pickup)          : editor@mcivta.city-fan.org
News/rumour (Don Barrie)         : news@mcivta.city-fan.org
Subscriptions (Madeleine Hawkins): subscriptions@mcivta.city-fan.org
Technical problems (Paul)        : paul@city-fan.org
FAQ (David Warburton)            : faq@mcivta.city-fan.org

[2] What are MCIVTA’s publishing deadlines?

Deadlines for issues are nominally 6pm, Monday and Thursday evenings bu email. Unfortunately we cannot accept email attachments.

[3] MCIVTA Back Issues and Manchester City Supporters’ home page

http://www.uit.no/mancity/ is the unofficial Manchester City Supporters’ home page. Created in 1994, it is the longest running of the Manchester City related web sites. Back issues of MCIVTA are also hosted on the site.

[4] What is the club’s official web site?

The official club web site can be found at http://www.mcfc.co.uk/

[5] What supporters’ clubs are there?

Manchester City FC recognises three supporters’ clubs: The “Official Supporters Club” (http://www.mcfcosc.com/); the “Centenary Supporters’ Association” (http://www.reddishblues.com/CSAWebsite/CSA.htm) and “The International Supporters’ Club”.

[6] Where can I find out about the fans’ committee?

The Fans’ Committee operates as an interface between supporters and the club. The Fans’ Committee has been relaunched as “Points of Blue”. It has appeared on the club website as a minor entry under “Fans Zone”.

[7] What match day broadcasts are available on the web?

The GMR pre and post match phone-in is available on the web at http://www.bbc.co.uk/england/gmr/sport_intro.shtml.

Live match commentaries and archives of games, reports and interviews can be found at http://mcfc.videoloungetv.com/do/preLogin?clubSiteCode=MCFC&CMP=AFC-003.

[8] Where can I find out if City are live on satellite TV?

http://www.satfootball.com/pl.html provides a listing of Premiership games being shown on UK domestic and foreign satellite channels. Useful sites for North American viewers are http://www.foxsportsworld.com/named/FSW/Index/Soccer, http://www.soccertv.com/, and http://www.livesoccertv.com/.

[9] Do we have a Usenet newsgroup?

Yes we do: uk.sport.football.clubs.man-city is our home on usenet. If you are not familiar with usenet, a basic explanation is available here: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,289893,sid9_gci213262,00.html

[10] Do any squad members have their own web pages?

There are a number available and direct links can be found at http://www.uit.no/mancity/players/

[11] Can I buy shares in the club?

Yes you can: Shares in Manchester City PLC are traded on OFEX. The latest prices can be on found the OFEX web site http://www.ofex.com/ (registration required) or in the business section of the Manchester Evening News.

[12] Where can I find match statistics?

Statistics for the current season are available from the club site, but for a more in-depth analysis try http://www.mcfcstats.com/.

[13] Where can I find a list of City-related websites?

Try Wookie’s Lair: http://www.wookieslair.com/modules.php?name=Web_Links


DISCLAIMER
The views expressed in MCIVTA are entirely those of the subscribersand there is no intention to represent these opinions as being thoseof Manchester City Football Club, nor of any of the companies anduniversities by whom the subscribers are employed. It is not inany way whatsoever connected to the club or any other relatedorganisation and is simply a group of supporters using this mediumas a means of disseminating news and exchanging opinions.


[Valid3.2]Heidi Pickup, editor@mcivta.city-fan.org

Newsletter #1211

2006/03/30

Editor:


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