Newsletter #1454

News from Alex on Thaksin’s latest problems, reaction to the Celtic game and yet more transfer rumours and news from the boss.

We have opinion on the pre-season performances, ticket refunds and the Thaksin.

Next up AC Milan for the Thomas Cook trophy.

Next Game: AC Milan, home, 5.15pm Saturday 9 August 2008 (friendly)


General News

Are Thaksin’s Frozen Assets Drying Up? Having spent eighty million pounds to buy the club and £40+ million on transfers last season, Thaksin has created a firm basis for City to build upon and there is potential for this City side to try to break into the elusive top four. But things are never that easy are they? We always knew that Thaksin had legal ‘troubles’ back in his homeland but he has been ever-confident that such an issue would not affect the club. Now, with his wife convicted of fraud and one billion pounds worth of assets still to be ‘unfrozen’, the future is uncertain. In the same day, reports were released claiming that Thaksin had put the club up for sale and then denied as a representative stated “It is not true to say Thaksin Shinawatra is selling Manchester City”, “He spoke with Garry Cook this morning and those were the sentiments he echoed in very strong terms.” Whether Thaksin is looking for a way out or simply trying to cover certain costs is still unclear but with instalments due for the payment of Jo and surprise bids being reported for City’s stars, things are once again as clear as mud for the Blues.

Carling Cup Causes Chaos: If one word is needed for City to sum up August, it seems that Sparky would choose “busy”. With the opening to the Premier League, UEFA Cup football and the Carling Cup second round to contend with, it had seemed that Hughes’ side would have had to play four times in eight days. It had been assumed that City would not have to face a Carling Cup tie until the third round as in the past sides competing in Europe would receive a bye for the second round. For the 2008-09 season, nine English sides have qualified for Europe but there are only eight byes into the second round. City are the unfortunate club to miss out and Hughes was clearly disappointed by the fact that Carling Cup fixture dates are non-negotiable. “We are an English club trying to win a European trophy to show the Premier League in a good light but unfortunately we have become the victims of circumstance.” After the club appealed, the FA decided that City’s circumstances were such that a postponement would be appropriate. City’s Carling Cup second round game will take place in September and the backlog of games that the Blues looked to face has eased slightly.

Midtjylland Test to Come: Victory over E/B Streymur in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup is only the first of two steps before the UEFA Cup proper and the second will involve a tricky trip to Denmark. City have been drawn to face Danish Superliga runners-up FC Midtjylland. Midtjylland, who beat Welsh side Bangor 10-1 on aggregate, will first visit the City of Manchester Stadium on the 14th of August and the important second leg will take place during City’s demanding end of August period on the 28th. Chief Operating Officer Paul Aldridge assessed City’s chances of progression, “They had a great result in the last round and looked a decent side from the highlights I’ve seen. But I’ve no doubt that Mark and his staff will have the players ready for the challenge and display the same level of professionalism the team showed against EB/Streymur. So hopefully we can progress to the next round.”

Squad News

Boj Back on the Scene: Finally Valeri Bojinov did what he does best and put the ball in the back of the net. Injury in late August last year saw Bojinov’s season prematurely ended but after an intensive fitness programme and a personal fight to bring his best back out of him, the Bulgarian striker got his name on the score-sheet in the pre-season friendly against Stockport County. Hughes knows that Bojinov’s return to full fitness is as good as a new signing and that he could be the one to solve the City strike problems that have plagued City in recent seasons. “He’s going to be a real plus for us this season and we’ve got big hopes that he’s going to come back and be bigger, faster and stronger. He’s putting the work in and working exceptionally hard with the fitness coaches and they’ve been really pleased with his work ethic and the quality of the work he’s produced.”

No. 1 Spot for Hart: Despite rumours that Hughes was after an older, more experienced goalkeeper to aid Joe Hart and Kasper Schmeichel in their development, the release of the new squad numbers confirmed that Hart would replace recently departed Andreas Isaksson as the club’s new number one. Throughout pre-season Joe and Kasper have shared the ‘keeper’s jersey in a system that would allow Hughes to assess both ‘keepers, but now it seems that the England capped Hart will be the one in between the sticks for the opening fixture of the Premier League season at Villa Park.

More to Come from Haim: Tal Ben-Haim was the second signing of Sparky’s reign last week and the Israeli centre back promises that he has much more to come after a turbulent season at Chelsea. “There is always the desire to keep on improving, all professionals think that way. You have to keep learning and getting better and I am sure I will do that.” Haim also paid special recognition to a former fans’ favourite as he aims to build his own City legacy: “I am the second Israeli international to be here at City and I know that the first, Eyal Berkovic, was a big hit with the fans. We are very different personalities but I hope to have a similar relationship with the fans. They certainly gave me a warm welcome at Stockport at the weekend. I also know that the better we do the more popular all the players will be.”

Ex-Blues’ News

Barton Battles Against Ban: Eighteen months on from the famous training ground bust-up between Joey Barton and Ousmane Dabo, Barton was charged with violent conduct by the FA. I’m tempted to make a comment about the capabilities of the FA due to the fact that Barton has been trialed by the English courts twice in the time that The FA has decided upon how to reprimand the former Blue but I’ll let it pass me by. Now Barton looks set to face a ban of anything up to ten matches and a fine that could reach up to £170,000.

Trialing Times: Two former Blues find themselves looking for work this season as Ben Thatcher and former Academy player Carlos Logan look for new clubs. Whilst Carlos Logan is looking to rebuild his career from the non-league side of the game at Barrow, Ben Thatcher has been linked with a move to Ipswich, Wolves or West Ham. Having been released by Charlton this summer, Thatcher looked set to carry on his Championship career until Alan Curbishley offered him the chance to prove his worth to the Hammers. Now Thatcher has taken part in a West Ham XI side friendly and Thatcher’s future is in Curbishley’s hands. It is reported however that not only are West Ham fans unimpressed with Thatcher’s disciplinary record but they also believe that Nick Shorey of Reading would be a much wiser investment.

Dickov’s Last Second Chance: Very few players get a chance to go back to a club where they were successful and try to repeat that success. Paul Dickov on the other hand has taken the opportunity to re-join Leicester after being released from his second stint at MCFC. Hughes couldn’t find a place for Dickov in his side and chose to release him in July. Dickov has now turned down offers from Toronto and Blackpool after his successful loan spell at Blackpool last season attracted interest from Leicester City Chairman Milan Mandaric.

Pre-Season Reaction and Comments

Hughes has had his say on all of this week’s fixtures. The first being a well fought 2-0 win over E/B Streymur: “In fairness to Streymur, I thought they defended exceptionally well around their box. It was a damage limitation exercise from their point of view, which was understandable, and when a team is organized and gets bodies behind the ball they can make life difficult for you. We kept at it, we shifted the ball a lot quicker in the second half, and on another day if the ‘keeper did not have as good a night as he did we would have won by a fair margin. I’m pleased that we have won through; making sure that we qualified for the next round was the order of the day and we have done that.”

With regards to the County game, Sparky didn’t seem too frustrated and simply took it in his stride: “Today, it was a case of getting a little bit more game time into a number of the players. It was a game that we needed and a lot of the players needed that game just to bring them along a bit. In the end it was good exercise for them.”

Parkhead was host to Celtic vs. City on Wednesday night and as the ninety minutes ended, the clubs could not be separated. Pre-season’s star man Martin Petrov scored City’s only goal of the game and an appearance from a certain familiar Greek face made for interesting watching. Hughes was clearly pleased with the effort made north of the border, “We had a lot of pace in the team and that’s something we’re trying to introduce into the side. There was good energy on the pitch and we got up to the ball and pressured the opposition into mistakes in their own half. We played most of the football in the opposition’s half, which is what we want to do.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Mills Makes Move: As a Stuart Pearce acquisition who made the move up north from Southampton two and half years ago, Matthew Mills never quite made the grade for the Blues, making only two first team appearances. Mills has now grabbed at the chance to play first team football as Doncaster Rovers aim to strengthen their defence “With all the experience I had last year and the memories of the highs, there has always been a good feeling to come back and now I have, I’m delighted.” Though Mills struggled to establish himself at City, he has not been short of admirers after a couple of consistent loan spells, which included a temporary move to Doncaster. Rovers’ manager Sean O’Driscoll made it clear that Mills would be a great signing for the club and was willing to splash out £300,000 and offer the 22 year old a three year contract.

Shock Corluka Offer: Juande Ramos attempted to take advantage of City’s financial predicament by making a shock move for the Blues’ Croatian right back. With City short of numbers it seems unlikely that Hughes would consider selling the player whose Euro 2008 matches any of the higher profile names around him.

Roque Rumours Resurface as Rolando Retreats: For two years the position of striker has been problematic and inconsistent; now it seems that there is to be a summer long tussle with arch rival United for the signature of Santa Cruz from Blackburn. £12 million is the estimated valuation but newly appointed Rovers manager Ince is unlikely to want to sell. Roque could be the perfect man to replace Rolando Bianchi who looks even more certain to be loaned back to the Serie A, with Torino and Genoa favourites to sign the Italian. Alternatively, Marseille may look to offload former Liverpool striker Djribil Cisse on loan, which is also likely to interest City.

Creative Differences: As Roma declare their interest in creative playmaker Elano, Hughes is rumoured to have his sights set on another Israeli. Yossi Benayoun of Liverpool, partial to playing out on the right wing, is thought to be the perfect way to fill the void on the wing that has never truly been filled since the departure of SWP and would give City another dimension.

Defensive Duty: Although defence is possibly City’s strongest area, it doesn’t stop the papers from linking City with some of the up and coming full backs in the game. Mikael Chretien of Nancy was the first to be linked this week. The Frenchman could cost the Blues up to £4 million and City would face stiff competition from Spanish La Liga side Real Betis. City were also rumoured to be courting Taye Taiwo of Marseille. The Nigerian who won the 2006 Young African Player of the Year has expressed a desire to join the Premier League to achieve his full potential and the young full back is attracting the interest of Sunderland boss Roy Keane who is, however, refusing to pay the full asking price of £8 million.

Well that is hopefully the first of many. It’s a pleasure to take over from Don and I, like many others, would like to thank him for the time he has taken to keep us up to date with all the goings on over the years. I hope to keep things as familiar as possible and I look forward to the challenge of keeping everyone on top of all the Blue news.

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


What a surprise. The club’s future ownership (and I use that term loosely because a club’s soul will always belong to the fans and no one else) is in doubt again.

Strong rumours about Corluka reputedly being sold to a rival club don’t bode well for City this season. It looks like Mark Hughes is, at best, having to sell to bring in new players. Where is the so-called pot of gold for transfers that we were promised? Probably in a Bangkok bank vault.

With Thaksin Shinawatra facing court cases that could see him jailed back in Thailand and him looking for fresh investment in the club, often a euphemism for looking to sell out, it looks like City could again have new owners. Many people will be saying I told you so about Shinawatra and of course they can sit there smugly and say that. That’s fine, if they have still continued to support the club, our club. If they have turned their backs on our beloved Blues then, I’m sorry, but they don’t really gain much respect for doing that. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s quite easy to sit on the sidelines shouting the odds, whilst others stick with it.

Thaksin potentially selling out is not necessarily a bad thing is it? There are plenty of other people who want to invest in Premiership clubs, other people who are likely to have their liberty unquestioned and are likely to have real cash. People like Anil Anbari, chief of the Reliance company (the biggest in India) is supposedly looking for a club and has been linked with Newcastle. Why not City?

That said, ideally for me, City would be owned by the fans, in Trust, like Barcelona. My feeling is that if it works for Barça, then why not City? There is enough TV, ticket, and merchandising revenue for this club to be viable in the top half of the Premiership. I’d love to see City owned and run by the people who really care about this club, and for whom, Manchester City isn’t just another investment. Sure, the fans wouldn’t always get it right but there are enough Blues out there with business acumen and brains to run this club, of that I have no doubt. We wouldn’t have to worry about the events that are totally out of our control and in another country. I wish I had the time and ability right now to help get that going, so for now, it remains just a wish. Here’s to wishing.

As dodgy a situation as this may be, if Thaksin goes to jail and City don’t have much, if any, money (but it has been worse in our history, e.g. 1998 and the 3rd division), now more than any time, we need to get behind the manager, the players etc. It’s another test of support for our club (no matter who the so-called ‘owner’ is). As sorry as I was to see Sven go, I’m pleased that his replacement is Mark Hughes, perhaps the best young manager in British football today. I trust him to take this club forward and I hope he is given the time and backing to do so, whoever ‘owns’ Manchester City.

The ownership of this club is going to be turbulent for a while, though. Collars up, hoodies up, it’s going to be a bit bumpy again.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


Must… fight… pre… season… spiral… down… into… negativity.

Nope, I’m there. What’s the story with the Ben Haim signing? It’s like Hughes has looked at the squad, assessed our strongest position, and signed someone to fill it. As for the reported sale of Corluka to Spurs, it would surely be a crass move to sign a player that can’t get into Chelsea’s team, and use him to replace one of the star turns at a major European championships, who is stronger in most areas, younger and more versatile. Hopefully it’s just paper talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I rate Ben Haim, and I think he will do fine for us. But do I think he’s more valuable than Corluka? No way. If Hughes is having to sell to buy, then it smacks of pawning the family silver à la SWeeP all over again. Maybe we do need another defender, we have 9 fighting over 4 places, compared with 8 strikers fighting over 2 places.

For me, our biggest weaknesses are in midfield. I love Johnson and I’m thrilled we’ve kept him, but I think this season will be one too far for Hamann, and although Fernandes can do a job, he needs to develop better creativity through this season for me. We’re a bit short of quality cover in that area. But the biggest issue is the right side of midfield. Does anyone know what Castillo’s situation is? My understanding is that he’s fit – why isn’t he playing? Wingers are notoriously confidence players. It strikes me that Castillo and Petrov, with two from Elano / Ireland and Fernandes / Johnson in the centre looks a strong, pacy midfield, if Castillo can find form.

There’s no denying that we have had a goal-shy front line, but I can understand why we’re not making additional signings there; the addition of Jo leaves 8 strikers in the first team squad. For me, Bojinov has to get his chance, but only when he’s fully fit (I’m recovering from a ruptured cruciate myself, and it’s unbelievably tough to have real confidence in it), and I’d like to think that something can still be achieved with Bianchi (played in his favoured position and with some massaging of his confidence; don’t expect him to play pretty football – when he’s been successful he’s been a poacher of ugly goals). I’m singularly unconvinced by Benjani and Caicedo, and I don’t see the point in holding on to the latter when Sturridge and Evans both look such good prospects (although not 1st choice yet). I really, really want Vassell to succeed because of his attitude and application (when we play poorly, he often looks our best player), the truth is that his workrate and pace simply don’t make up for his lack of quality either in front of goal or as a winger. It’s a bad sign that I was so surprised by his excellent finish for the second last Thursday. So until we can offload Vassell, Benjani, Caicedo or Bianchi, Hughes can’t justify another striker.

But let’s be straight about it, against Premiership opposition, we need to create more from midfield. I genuinely believe that Jo / Bojinov / Sturridge / Evans / even Bianchi have the capability to finish good chances. But we rely too much on the front men to create for themselves.

And relax.

CTID, Jon Marshall <jon_g_marshall(at)>


Blimey, what a good performance against Celtic. Can we play like that every week?

I don’t care how many players Celtic had missing. I’ve never heard of any of them anyway.

And I can’t believe I’m writing this line. Fernandes (Mr Huff’n’Puff) was brilliant. He took passes and laid them off immediately to someone in a good position and tackled back (I’m going to have to have a lie down after writing that).

Petrov, I thought, was overrated last season but so far in pre-season, he’s impressing me.

Our midfield still looked to be missing something and Vassell continues to frustrate with his poor finishing.

Sturridge and Evans looked class coming on and Etuhu looked good but his final cross needs to improve.

A good workout indeed.

One final point, I watched on liveonlinefooty with a feed from Setanta. Biased commentating or what? City were all over Celtic like a rash in the first half and at half time, all they could say was it was a meaningless run out for Celtic. And when they talked to Hartson at half time, they never mentioned City. Were City there?

And now for AC.

John Nisbet <john_nisbet(at)>


It rained all day in Glasgow, and it continued during the game.

The result I felt was fair as a draw; the first half saw City do most of the attacking with some slick passing.

Both sides could have and should have had a penalty awarded, so that came out even.

Bojinov played in the first half and that was a good sign for him, to help him get back to full fitness.

Petrov was without question man of the match, he always looked dangerous, and scored a fine goal.

As in any friendly, we saw many substitutes being made by both sides, and when Sturridge came on in the second half he was the player that impressed me most; one could also see that Evans has some skills.

It was what you could call an exciting game, but allowances had to be made for the condition under which it was played.

I would call this game a good work out for both sides.

The big test will be versus AC Milan at home, then there should be a little more aggression to the game.

In Sparky we trust. Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


I wasn’t too worried about the Faroe paperboys. I knew that in the return leg the ‘keeper would be absent in the 2nd half as he had to be in before dark. His mum was calling before the 1st half ended. He tried to ignore her but his sister came and got him. It was 9 o’clock but not a school night.

Against Stockport, hmm? We didn’t exactly kill them. Conceding 2 goals against a struggling lower division side doesn’t bode well. Our defence (in the main) was our strong point last season, but we still seem to be struggling up front. Albeit without Jo and Ben, but still. We should be killing these teams. But what can you do?

The stoat is now plying his trade with the quakes. Some mates got good tickets and wore City shirts Sunday. The stoat seemed to know a few people in the crowd and ran over after he scored. Nice one stoaty. Golden balls and Donovan were soundly booed by the Oakland locals. I know it’s not real footie but we take what we can get out here.

That’s all for now.

Andy Johnson <Fastandyj(at)>


I seem to remember that there was some correspondence on this site about whether or not disgruntled supporters would get a refund on the money paid for season tickets if they disagreed with the sacking of Sven.

On June 2nd (the day Sven was sacked) I wrote to the club asking for a refund on the two season tickets purchased in March giving the following reasons:

  • The sacking of Sven despite achieving the publicly acknowledged objectives of atop half finish and a double over the Rags
  • The compulsory purchase of mysmall holding of shares (and others) resulting in there being no accountabilityat the club.

Nothing was heard from the club until I received a letter offering me an interest free loan to fund the purchase of a season ticket.

The next contact was from a market research company (at 8pm on a Friday night) asking why I had not renewed our season tickets.

I told him. In no uncertain terms!

Today I received a full refund for the whole cost of the two season tickets.

So after over 42 years of watching City, around 35 of which were as a season ticket holder, I will no longer be attending the Blue Camp.

I will not behave like a Rag and sit in a pub watching televised matches but will go along to my nearest Unibond League club, pay £7 entrance fee and watch players who are not being paid 10 year’s wages for 1 week’s work.

It’s sad but I feel better for it.

If there is ever a suitable change of ownership I will return but I have no desire to contribute towards what has become a rich man’s plaything.

Graham Lister <graham.lister1(at)>


It is true that things don’t look as good as most had wished for in the courts in Thailand for Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, after his wife was found guilty and sentenced to three years. Of course this will be appealed.

Whatever the press and media say, the truth is that Thaksin is innocent unless proven guilty.

But I don’t go along with some of the media saying that Thaksin wants to sell MCFC; trying to find new investors whilst his money is frozen I feel would be more likely.

Thaksin is after all a brilliant businessman, he has a passion for the game of football, this is why he became the MCFC owner.

If Thaksin is found guilty of certain charges, then the FA might step in and say Thaksin is not a fit owner, but that’s going to be a bit late now; will the FA force him to sell?

If Thaksin’s money will still be frozen, then and only then I feel Thaksin might want to sell MCFC, for as a businessman and a fan of the game and club, it would be his last resort to have to sell.

As City supporters and fans I think that the greater majority wish Frank well and good luck!

As a City supporter my main interest is the team, and results. Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>

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Newsletter #1454