Newsletter #1423

Well that was more like it! A convincing performance on Saturday that put Portsmouth firmly in their place. A few enforced team changes were made but the players dug in and got the result deserved. We have a match report tonight thanks to Phil and views on recent performances.

There’s also a look back from Steve on the 1968 anniversary, opinion on the recent news reports, the usual requests and a review of Backpass magazine, which features Colin Bell.

Next Game: Saturday 26 April 2008, 3pm, Fulham (home)


City turned the clock back to the autumn with one of the best performances of the season. Silky skills, smooth passing moves, chances aplenty made this a performance and a spectacle up there with Newcastle and Middlesbrough. City played very well indeed and deservedly defeated a team whose European challenge is built on an excellent away record. After a week when the chairman failed to back the manager, the crowd showed its support and appreciation for Sven Goran Eriksson by chanting his name before the kick off, and several times during the game; the loudest being after Benjani’s clinching goal. Does Thaksin Shinawatra need it spelling out any more clearly?

City’s defensive resources were stretched to the limit with injuries so Sven had to be innovative. After whingeing about having to play left midfield, Sven rewarded Elano by saying ‘You’re playing right back.’ He might have added ‘Whinge again and you’re playing in goal next week!’ Whether the Brazilian liked it or not, Sven’s decision worked, as Elano gave a professional, competent account of himself at full back. Vassell returned on the right wing and Stephen Ireland continued in the playmaker’s rôle, just behind Benjani.

Portsmouth started off on the front foot, forcing Hart into an early save. It wasn’t long though, before they shot themselves in their back foot and presented the game to City. A long ball was played forward and after a mix-up between David James and Sol Campbell ‘After you Solzier… no, er, after you David… oh, b****r’ Benjani robbed the ex-City ‘keeper and squared it to Stephen Ireland, who squared it to Vassell at the far post who side footed into an empty net. Who cares if Stevie Ireland was shooting or crossing, City were one up! It wasn’t long before City added to that lead. Jinking one way then the other Petrov turned Lauren inside out in the box, then his shot deflected off one of the Portsmouth full back’s legs into the net to make it 2-0, much to our delight. Petrov looked pretty pleased too. City continued to attack, playing lovely, silky smooth, passing football, involving the whole team, with Ireland and Petrov the main orchestrators.

Portsmouth were dangerous though, even if their normally reliable defence was in disarray. The splendidly named Papa Boupa Diop headed over from Hreidarsson’s cross. The visitors continued to threaten and after a corner was cleared Utaka headed into the City net from a long cross out from the left.

City weren’t deterred by this setback and continued to play free-flowing football that was very pleasing on the eye. The Blues should have been out of sight before half time and Benjani should have scored twice. He headed a cross tamely at David James and then after Petrov played him in with a lovely defence splitting pass, his effort was well saved by James again.

Then Vassell raced through onto a ball only to be tugged back by Hreidarsson who could have no justification for complaint for the red card that he received: he had denied Vas a goalscoring opportunity. Benjani worked very hard up front and after setting up Petrov well, in another move he played in Vassell and from a tight angle, wide on the right, Vas audaciously attempted a chip that David James tipped over.

It had been the best half of the season since the autumn and this was reflected in the standing ovation that City earned at the break.

It was a very entertaining game with chances at both ends. Petrov and Ireland combined in superb exchange of passes, but the Bulgarian winger’s cross was cleared by a defender. At the other end Defoe ran onto a through ball in the box and Dunne stretched to challenge, nudging the Pompey striker in the process and he appealed in vain as the referee waved play on. There had been fevered debate involving Sven and three of his backroom staff during the first half and this debate continued as young Sam Williamson was being prepared for his début early in the second half. It was a mystery as to who was to come off as no one was obviously hobbling, but Dunney’s hamstring was already strapped with bright red tape and it was he who came off, with Michael Ball moving to centre back, and Williamson on at left back.

Meanwhile, Dirty Harry Redknapp and Dirty Joe Jordan whinged to the fourth official with the ex-Rags’ centre forward getting involved in a verbal exchange with some fans behind the dugouts. Dirty ‘Arry continued to grumble for a while and he probably wasn’t whingeing about the falling profit margins on used cars or the police arresting him over alleged dodgy transfer dealings this time. Needless to say Dirty ‘Arry was advised in no uncertain terms to sit down and button it by the locals!

Another to be affected by the home crowd was Sylvain Distin, returning to City for the first time since his move, and it was he who took on the rôle of pantomime villain for the afternoon. He was booed by sections of the crowd and he took it on himself to remonstrate with both the South Stand and the North Stand. Whilst our very likeable ex-‘keeper was welcomed with “One David James”, a sensitive Distin was serenaded with “One greedy b****d” as if to emphasise the contrast in views on the players’ respective moves. Moving to be near your girlfriend is one thing but moving for the filthy lucre is quite another, even if you have been a good servant to a club. Whatever you think about booing ex-City captains, it worked, as it definitely affected Distin’s form, and he had an absolute stinker!

Benjani should have made the game safe earlier than he did. Ireland found Petrov, who crossed to Benjani, who turned sharply and with the just James to beat he shot over from close range. It looked like City would pay for such profligacy as the visitors, seemingly unconcerned by being down to ten men, attacked City with confidence and vigour, and they twice went close in quick succession. Muntari’s shot from the left was pushed onto the post by Hart then Defoe’s shot from the rebound hit the outside of the right hand post and out to safety. It was end to end stuff and a joy to watch as City hit back. Vassell was wide from the sublime Petrov’s cross, and Johnson went close as well. The dangerous Krancjar had a shot well blocked by a City defender and Bouba Diop sot over. Sam Williamson who had come on and looked the part, was booked for an over-enthusiastic lunge and he was soon on the end of a worse challenge by Lauren who went over the ball to flatten him. Thankfully the City youngster got up and did very well both as a defender and going forward.

As well as he was playing, it looked like Benjani was never going to score, though he couldn’t be faulted when he struck just wide with a snap shot from Vassell’s clever flick header. The Zimbabwean’s goal drought was ended, though, when he accepted a pass deep inside the Pompey half and he held off Distin easily to fire home to seal the match with a very good goal. In a highly commendable act of class behaviour, which showed his respect for the Pompey fans, he didn’t celebrate his goal. ‘Distin, Distin’ what’s the score enquired the City fans. The Frenchman was a very good servant to this club, but it was, nevertheless, sweet to beat him.

Ireland was applauded off the field as he was replaced by Geovanni. Vassell had a couple of shots saved either side of a good block by Hart from sub Baros’s close range shot. City rounded off the game with a spell of keep ball that drew a succession of celebratory cheers.

It was a wonderful game of football and City played with great style. Indeed, this was one of the best performances of the season and it was another triumph for Sven Goran Eriksson and his players. Anyone who knows anything about football knows that Sven is a superb football manager and that he should be allowed to get on with the job that he is doing so well: namely, building up a side with young up and coming players and improving City’s football and League position significantly.

Hart: Largely unemployed, but made a great save when he had to show he has the required powers of concentration. 7
Elano: City’s new right back did well enough in his new position even if he missed one tackle late on. 6
Corluka: Elegant, composed, good in the air: a class act. 7
Dunne: A rock at the back again until his injury. 7
Ball: Another very good performance: almost as good at centre back as he is at left back. 7
Vassell: Great workrate as ever, and very unlucky not to add to his goal with an audacious chip. 8
Johnson: One stray pass aside, he did well enough in the second half after a quiet first half. 6
Gelson Fernandes: Truly excellent. He was everywhere. Gelson has become a key player in a short time. 9
Ireland: One of his best games in a City shirt. Orchestrated several good moves in the playmaker’s rôle. 8
Petrov: At his brilliant best with a stream of accurate crosses and passes. 9
Benjani: Should have had at least four but showed the character to finish. 7
Williamson: Acquitted himself well, both defensively and going forward. 6
Caicedo and Geovanni: Too late to mark. n/a

Phil Banerjee <phil.banerjee(at)>


In the last issue Steven Davis said it would be great to hear from any of the older McV readers who travelled to Newcastle.

Well yes I was there, and yes I suppose I am a tadge older now. Only a tadge mind.

I was living in London at the time and back in the days when you could just turn up and pay on the gate, I went to the Spurs game saying if City win this one then I’m off to Newcastle next week.

If memory serves me correctly, both Spurs and Newcastle had only lost one home game all season prior to the City visits. City won at Spurs so the blue Ford Thames 15cwt van was fired up and driven way up North for the Newcastle game. What a great van that was by the way, never went wrong, wonder which scrap yard it ended up at?

So here we are at Newcastle, last game of the season. The Newcastle fans, or the ones that I met, were very encouraging and reckoning that City would win. But the tension was almost unbearable, City had to win to secure the league title.

United were on the same number of points but with an inferior goal aggregate and at home to Sunderland, a game that would be a walk in the park for them.

I can’t really remember much about the game except one or two of the goals I think I could talk you through but I do remember the tension, and chain smoking through the whole game as we stood on the terraces. City were never behind but were level a few times. And then it was over, time for another smoke to celebrate.

I can also remember vividly stopping at some services on the way back and a coach load of young City fans were there who had obviously been at the shandy and one was telling everyone within half a mile I would think, as he was shouting a little, how his mate Billy was throwing up everywhere as he’d had 6 pints of ale.

And as it happened United lost, which was a massive turn up for the book.

Forty years ago, time flies indeed.

John Shearer <Shearer(at)>


What a tremendous game of football to watch, unless you are a Pompey fan. End to end, it could have been 7-6!

It was great to see Benjani play so well as he has been a disappointment since his début when he was brilliant which tells me that he has a motivation problem. Not happy with that. You’ve set your bar now Benji. I expect that every week, not just when the game is a big one or against your ex-employers.

Early on there were many mis-placed passes and I thought, here we go. Another disappointing afternoon and a scraped 1-0 win, if we’re lucky.

How wrong could I have been. A super performance from most of the team but the passing to opponents still worries me.

Elano at full back? What’s that all about? Are we that desperate ? Elano has been a disappointment for me the whole season apart from the Newcastle and Boro games at home.

Joe Hart continues to impress although their goal was down to him not clearing, but let’s all remember that Joe Hart is still a kid and if he’s this good now, what’s he going to be like in 10 years?

And if we were going to score 3 goals, wasn’t it nice to get them early? The errors that Pompey reckoned allowed us to score were forced by our pressure and willingness to challenge constantly, something that has been missing since Christmas. Come on City, if you can play like this once, you can do it every week. Look out Fulham!

And well done to the Academy on winning the Youth Cup with an all action, 100% effort display that deserved the win and without Sturridge too. I was hoping that the Youth team might inspire the first team to play well and it looks like they did. Well done Jim Cassell, Alex Gibson, and all the ones who never get a mention at the Academy. It looks like we have another conveyor belt full of starlets waiting for their chance.

John Nisbet <nisbet1957(at)>


Reluctant as I am to respond to Kevin Williamson’s outburst in the last McV newsletter (MCIVTA 1422), I just couldn’t let his comment go by without some clarification on my part.

He quotes… “I really hope to be proved wrong, but selling the club was the worse thing we could have done. Sell to someone that knows football by all means, someone that has football running through his veins, but to someone who is questionable to say the least, was in my opinion totally wrong.”

Sell to someone who knows about football… okay. You mean like John Wardle? Whose knowledge of football extended as far as the cost of manufacturing a replica shirt. Or like Peter Swales? Whose claim to fame was as a sheet-music salesman in Altrincham before he became Chairman of our club.

Okay then, a proper know-all about football… Franny Lee. Surely you haven’t forgotten how successful that period was for us!

Selling the club was the best thing we could have done! Had we not, then this season would, no doubt, have been a relegation battle, watching a team that didn’t score a goal at home for six months!

Get real man. If you’re saying we should have sold to someone with “football running through his veins”, then tell me who that knight in shining armour is. Ray Ranson? Yeah, right.

Some people don’t realise how fortunate we really are at the moment.

Tom Ritchie <Tom.Ritchie(at)>


Is it me or is there something odd about the Guardian website? While some of the bloggers are pro-City and City fans, the news summaries always tend to be suggesting problems at City, with contracts, with the manager and with possible signings.

Then, although there was a mention that City were playing in the Youth Cup Final, I didn’t see any report on the game on the Guardian Web; though there were reports in the Times, Independent and I think Telegraph, websites. And the BBC website.

I know I have too much time on my hands if I am this paranoid … but I do think that Eric Todd will be asking questions of his old newspaper as he watches football at that great stadium in the sky.

John Pearson <john.pearson(at)>


Just when you think things are at last looking up for the Blues, those that should know better within the club start rocking the boat.

We are going to finish in our highest league position for years, we have accumulated the most points for years. The Youth team have won the Youth Cup for the first time since 1986. We have Academy lads playing for England and England under 21 but club insiders start giving misleading and contradictory statements instead of focusing on the good points.

One day the Chairman will make a statement quickly followed by the PR head saying he never said that. The manager is then forced into making another statement and this sorry mess runs for days and when you think it has all died down hey presto it is all over the news again.

For years we were a laughing stock as we washed all our dirty washing in public and now I am sorry to say it is all starting al over again.

I have not heard the Chairman or PR department congratulating Jim Cassell and the youth team, instead they have been too busy on their own agendas. Don’t they realise they are not only embarrassing themselves with their statements but are also embarrassing MCFC or is it they just don’t care?

Don Price <donprice(at)>


I’m not clear where factual or unfounded, but, any talk of Sven losing his job after just one season is insane. He is a well respected, intelligent man with a football brain and the Chairman and Board of Directors should allow Sven to continue in his position. No question.

Graham Mills <gkm_5(at)>


Please does anyone have a recording of last Wednesday’s Youth Cup final that I could have a copy of?

I am a junior football coach and my team is just about to start 11-a-side and I though it would be really useful to show the players examples of positioning, passing etc. from some younger players.

However, my Sky box decided to be temperamental on Weds!

Thanks in anticipation, Sarah Longshaw <sarah(at)>


Does anyone have a spare Liverpool ticket? I’m hoping that someone has other commitments because it’s a bank holiday!

Please call 0208 755 5043 or email.

Darren Wareing <Darren.Wareing(at)>


Price: £2.50

I have been perusing Issue 3 of Backpass Magazine this week. Now according to Dr. Google, the current footie law outlawing the goalkeeper picking up a backpass came into being in 1992, and it’s the era before that law change that’s really the subject of this magazine. It describes itself as a publication that’s “Dedicated to Football in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s,” and it certainly gives you plenty of material about these decades. And with a fine cover picture on this Issue of “King” Colin Bell in his pomp circa 1968, it certainly knows how to appeal the City fans over 35 years of age.

Once you’re over the shock of the first six pages being dedicated to MUFC, this magazine is a must for anyone who for example can name most of Sunderland’s 1973 Cup Final team (a team photo reminds us that Dennis Tueart, Mick Horswill and Dave Watson were in that team, before moving on to City in subsequent years), or can remember that York City in 1975 sported a maroon shirt with a huge white “Y” on the front, or that Jimmy Sirrell, erstwhile manager of Notts County had huge wingnut ears. It’s also for people that didn’t know that one of England coach Fabio Capello’s earliest forays to these shores involved him captaining his AS Roma side in a friendly pre-season gamed at Orient’s Brisbane Road in 1970 and there’s a picture to prove it.

So onto the cover story. It’s an interview with the Greatest Inside Forward the World has Ever Seen, a.k.a. Colin Bell. Bell, now (and I refuse to believe this) 62, reminisces about City’s FA Cup run in 1969, the team’s failure in their one and only excursion in the European Cup in 1968 against Fenerbahce, his pre-City time at Bury, and in latter years his falling out with Frannie Lee. He also talks about his struggle to recover from the injury that all but ended his career, courtesy of a lunging tackle from Martin Buchan. It’s still a cause of regret for Bell that he didn’t make a full recovery, although personally his comeback to the first team, against Newcastle United gave me one of the most emotional Maine Road nights of my life. After the interview with the great man, there’s a “Where are They Now” on the players who made up the 1969 Cup Final winning team.

In summary, I’d say that Backpass is a ‘proper’ magazine, by which I mean that it contains many articles and presents a reader with plenty to read. If you remember football in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s then you’ll be reminded of plenty of stuff you thought you’d forgotten, and it’s a well written mag with high production values. Go on, have a wallow. If you want to get a feel for this publication, I suggest you check out their website at )

Don Barrie <news(at)>


20 April 2008

Aston Villa           5 - 1  Birmingham City       42,584
Newcastle United      2 - 0  Sunderland            52,305
Manchester City       3 - 1  Portsmouth            40,205

19 April 2008

Arsenal               2 - 0  Reading               60,109
Fulham                0 - 2  Liverpool             25,311
Middlesbrough         0 - 1  Bolton Wanderers      25,037
West Ham United       2 - 1  Derby County          34,612
Wigan Athletic        1 - 1  Tottenham Hotspur     18,673
Blackburn Rovers      1 - 1  Manchester United     30,316

17 April 2008

Everton               0 - 1  Chelsea               37,112

League table to 20 April 2008 inclusive

                             HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD  Pts
 1 Manchester Utd  35 16  1  1 43  6  9  5  3 30 13 25  6  4  73  19  54  81
 2 Chelsea         35 11  6  0 33 11 12  3  3 27 13 23  9  3  60  24  36  78
 3 Arsenal         35 13  5  0 36 11  8  6  3 30 18 21 11  3  66  29  37  74
 4 Liverpool       35 11  6  1 42 13  8  6  3 20 13 19 12  4  62  26  36  69
 5 Everton         35 10  3  4 29 14  8  4  6 21 15 18  7 10  50  29  21  61
 6 Aston Villa     35 10  3  5 34 20  6  7  4 33 25 16 10  9  67  45  22  58
 7 Portsmouth      35  7  8  2 24 12  9  1  8 24 24 16  9 10  48  36  12  57
 8 Manchester City 35 11  4  3 26 17  4  6  7 16 24 15 10 10  42  41   1  55
 9 Blackburn R.    35  7  7  4 23 18  6  6  5 22 25 13 13  9  45  43   2  52
10 West Ham United 35  7  5  5 20 20  6  3  9 17 22 13  8 14  37  42  -5  47
11 Tottenham H.    35  8  4  5 45 31  2  8  8 19 27 10 12 13  64  58   6  42
12 Newcastle Utd   35  8  5  5 25 24  3  4 10 17 34 11  9 15  42  58 -16  42
13 Wigan Athletic  35  8  4  5 21 15  1  5 12 11 34  9  9 17  32  49 -17  36
14 Middlesbrough   35  5  5  7 17 22  3  7  8 14 27  8 12 15  31  49 -18  36
15 Sunderland      35  8  3  6 20 18  2  3 13 13 36 10  6 19  33  54 -21  36
16 Bolton Wndrs    35  6  5  7 21 18  2  3 12 11 34  8  8 19  32  52 -20  32
17 Reading         35  8  2  8 19 24  1  3 13 18 41  9  5 21  37  65 -28  32
18 Birmingham City 35  5  7  5 24 20  2  3 13 16 37  7 10 18  40  57 -17  31
19 Fulham          35  4  5  9 20 31  1  7  9 12 27  5 12 18  32  58 -26  27
20 Derby County    35  1  5 11 10 33  0  3 15  7 43  1  8 26  17  76 -59  11

With thanks to Football 365

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Newsletter #1423