Newsletter #1535

We have plenty of opinion tonight on opinions, the squad, end of season, next season and the usual requests.

Paul Robinson has kindly offered to step in as guest editor for the next four editions, so please keep your articles coming to the regular address of <editor(at)>

Next Game: TBA


General News

Thomas Cook Fly Away: After six years of partnership, Manchester City Football Club and Thomas Cook Airlines have gone their separate ways. Thomas Cook first sponsored City in 2003 when the Blues moved into CoMS as part of the ‘City Partners’ scheme and ever since the two have shared a successful relationship. The club’s Commercial Officer Steve Sayer stated: “Over the past six seasons Manchester City and Thomas Cook have enjoyed a great partnership during what has been an incredible period for the Club. Since then more than 60,000 fans have booked their holiday or traveled with Thomas Cook through the City Travel Club scheme, a real success story for the partnership. As our official travel partner, Thomas Cook’s meticulous planning and preparation for our UEFA Cup campaign this season provided a great experience for supporters and players alike. The club would like to thank Thomas Cook for their support and look forward to working together in the future.”

Manny Fontenla-Novoa, Thomas Cook’s Group Chief Executive, spoke of the excellent relations between the club and the airline: “We’ve enjoyed a fantastic and long running partnership with Manchester City. In particular we’d like to thank the fans for the support they have shown Thomas Cook and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them and the club on a number of initiatives currently in development. In the meantime to show our thanks, we’ll continue to let fans receive the discount that they’ve had from the Thomas Cook Holiday Club.”

Etihad Flies In: As one airline departs, another takes it place in the form of Etihad Airways. The national airline of the United Arab Emirates has signed a three year deal with the club to become the new shirt sponsor and the airlines’ Chief Executive had told of his excitement: “This new partnership marks the beginning of what we hope will become a strong and lasting relationship between Manchester City and Etihad Airways. Our home-base is Abu Dhabi and therefore we have a strong bond already with the club and its owners and we look forward to building on this in the months and years to come. Etihad Airways and Manchester City both have a strong sense of community and we will work together on building ties between Abu Dhabi and Manchester, especially with youngsters through our highly successful soccer school programmes.”

Manchester City Executive Chairman Garry Cook and Executive Chairman Sir Howard Bernstein explained the change of sponsor in a time of radical change for the club: “Manchester City Football Club is delighted to announce this partnership with Etihad Airways and join its stable of associations of the highest calibre, including the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Ferrari Formula 1 team. These are exciting times at Manchester City as we look to build a world-class team and sustainable success on and off the field. This partnership will play an integral rôle in our strategy.” (Cook) “The Abu Dhabi partnership with the city is hugely important and one which will bring significant benefits to everyone associated with Manchester. We welcome the announcement about Etihad Airways, which reinforces the links with Abu Dhabi and Manchester, and we look forward to continuing to work with the club and Abu Dhabi to strengthen our wider partnerships going forward.” (Bernstein)

Progress: Despite an inconsistent season, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarek has given his manager the vote of confidence and Hughes has got plans for the club that will bring many more amazing nights similar to the one of the UEFA tie against Hamburg: “It’s been steady if difficult progress. Our frustrating away form has held us back – at times we have taken a step forward then a step back. But it’s been an experience and a learning curve for everybody. I know next year we will be a lot stronger because of what we’ve been through, and it’s crucial that we start well – and there’s no reason to think that we won’t. The changes have been huge and that can have a negative impact while they’re happening, but those changes will sustain the club for many years. That’s why everybody is excited about what we can achieve. The stand-out game of the season was Hamburg – I just loved every minute of it … the atmosphere, the passion of the crowd, the performance that we were able to produce. The whole package was what we are trying to do in the future. Hamburg was a term of reference. We can look back at that game and understand that’s what we need to do on a regular basis. If we can get this club really going, it will go through the roof. There is a real sense of optimism. Expectations were way above what we could reasonably attain this season because we weren’t strong enough, but after the summer hopefully that will change.”

Operating Officer Out: For reasons that have been left unrevealed Paul Aldridge has left the club after only eleven months in his position. Aldridge, who signed for the club last June as Chief Operating Officer and seemed set to be a part of Garry Cook’s long term staff, has decided to step down: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the club. It was a tough decision to leave at such an exciting point in the club’s history but I feel that now is the right time. Garry is putting a great management team in place which I know will ensure a very successful future for City both on and off the pitch. Garry’s team needs to be in place for the long term, hence my decision to move on. After so much change, the club now needs a period of stability. It has been a privilege working for such a wonderful club. I wish the directors, Garry, Mark, all the staff and, of course, the fans a very successful future and I look forward to playing my part during the next few months prior to my departure.” Garry Cook wished Aldridge well: “Although I am disappointed, I can confirm that Paul has decided to leave the Club at the end of the summer. I fully understand his reasons and thank him for all his hard work and invaluable guidance during his time at the club. He leaves with all of our best wishes and we are pleased that we are still able to call upon his experience during the coming summer transfer window.”

Pre-season Plans: In addition to the Vodacom Challenge in South Africa this summer, the club has added another fixture to the pre-season fixture. The club will play Barnsley at Oakwell on August 1st, in order to say thank you to the club that ‘loaned’ out their stadium when the Blues hosted EB/Streymur in the UEFA Cup last July. Whilst the Thomas Cook Trophy opposition is yet to be announced, it is assumed that the club will continue their excellent work with local clubs by organizing friendlies with other clubs in the North West.

Squad News

Brilliant Berti! He may have only played six minutes of the entire season but Glauber Berti has become something of a club hero at CoMS. The Brazilian centre back was signed from Nurnberg last summer but has clearly failed to impress the manager. On Sunday however, Berti came on to replace Wayne Bridge as a temporary left back and the fans loved it. The man who sat it out on the bench twenty times this season without getting onto the green stuff received the biggest cheer of the game when he came on and when he touched the ball for the first time 47,000 fans applauded as if he’d scored. Though the Brazilian himself may have been a little bemused as to his own impact, Hughes appreciated the humour of the City fans: “He got a really great reception! I’ve not been able to give him the opportunities that maybe I would have liked, but I thought that today was a chance to do that. It was important to do it not only for the fans but also for the squad, because they were all keen that he got an opportunity to get on the field in a sky blue shirt. I must be going soft in my old age!” It seems now that Glauber will be released as his contract expires this summer.

Excellent Example: Having watched on as fellow academy graduate Stephen Ireland has taken the league by storm, Nedum Onuoha has claimed that his Irish team-mate is the proof that academy talent will still be given their chance despite the club’s enormous wealth. Onuoha, who has been brilliant himself since breaking into the first eleven, believes Ireland has all the attributes to become a world class player and will be a great asset to the club over the coming years: “I have been very happy and proud to see what Stephen has done this year. He has always been the best player I have played with, right the way through from Under 16s level. It is great to see him getting the accolades that I always thought he would get. Without him we are a completely different team, just a year or so ago people were saying that he had problems here and there, but he has worked hard and proved everyone that said that to be completely wrong. He is fulfilling all the potential we all saw a few years ago, but at the same time he has a lot more to come, which is also very exciting. Stevie is the sort of player who is never happy with what he has got, when he reached eight goals for the season, he wanted to get to 10. Then he told me he wanted to get to 15, and he is still trying to improve on what he does. That’s a great way to approach your game.”

Answering the Critics: Stephen Ireland may be the supporters’ favourite player of the season, but the Irishman claims it was not always that way. Last summer it looked as if Ireland was set to become a part of Roy Keane’s Sunderland squad but the midfielder worked hard in summer and the rewards are there for all to see: “I’d like to thank the fans for their votes in the player of the season award and their brilliant backing this season. I know I have turned around some of their opinions about me. Last summer I was reading fan websites and it was clear some people didn’t want me at City. There were comments like ‘if Sunderland want him, I will drive him there myself’, and that really hurt. A year ago a lot of fans didn’t fancy me as a player – I knew that from what I saw and heard. There were a lot of negative comments from City supporters on their web-chats. Some people might have hid in a corner, but I didn’t. I chose to dedicate myself to getting my game right, and though it was tough, it’s worked. Now the fans have forgotten all the negative stuff. There is nothing worse than them hating you, and nothing better than them singing your name. The manager has had some stick too, and it is how you deal with it. I did it my way and the gaffer has done it his. He has the players’ backing – we know that, in the long term, he is the man for the job. I’m really happy the manager’s future has been sorted out and happy for the club. People will realise he is the right man. I asked a lot of questions of myself pre-season. I didn’t make the starting line-up in the opening game at Aston Villa but once I got in against West Ham in the first home game I didn’t really look back. I felt great, and the challenge now is to be even better next season.”

Cristiano Who? Following a superb début, one of the stars of last year’s FA Youth Cup winning side has his sights set on a first team place. Vladimir Weiss, a seventieth minute substitute for Club Player of the Season Stephen Ireland, made his mark by resembling a certain Portuguese winger of Manchester United with his skill and tricks. The Slovakian now has his sights set on a first team place: “The fans might have remembered me a bit from the FA Youth Cup. They are a great crowd, and I’m really grateful for the welcome they gave me. I think making my début was the best feeling of my life. I was praying for a nice day, because I don’t like the rain! I said ‘please, please let it be a sunny day.’ And everything was perfect. It was a fantastic feeling, something that every footballer wants. The boss talked about it during the week and said I might get a game because there was nothing at stake for us. I really hoped I would play, but there were 27 in the squad, so I’m thinking: maybe, maybe not. But when the boss said to go and warm up, that’s when I got the butterflies. I was nervous before I went on; I just wanted to get the ball. Shaun gave it to me, and I tried to beat my defender and won a corner. Now I’ve got to fight to be involved in more games. I’ve played for the reserves all season, and the second half of the season I was with the first team quite a lot, on the bench and just waiting for my chance. I’ll always respect the boss’s decision. Next season hopefully I can stay with the first team. I’d love to be on the bench every game or even start. I want to play for City, I love this club. I’ve been here four years, I’m happy, and I want to stay. If I get chances to play, I will be the happiest man in the world.”

Bellamy gives Summer the Boot: In order to reach peak physical condition and be ready for the club’s pre-season tour to South Africa, Craig Bellamy has promised to shirk his summer and work through regaining full fitness. The Welshman, who scored five goals in seven appearances for the Blues, is considered to be an integral part of the Blues’ first eleven and Hughes has spoken of what a professional the former Blackburn striker is: “I’ve spoken to Craig and he’s running again, which is good news. He’s talked me through exactly where he’s at with his rehab. He’s going to be working right through the summer and he’s going to take no break, so when he comes back for pre-season he’ll be raring to go. I’d expect no less – that’s how he is. From a professional point of view he’s one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

Transfer News and Rumours

Gareth Barry: The Aston Villa skipper looks certain to leave this summer with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool joining City on the list of admirers. Despite Villa owner Randy Lerner being ‘confident’ of keeping the England midfielder, it is believed that a £12 million transfer fee and wages of around £45,000 a week will ensure the transfer.

Post-Match Reaction

Bolton Wanderers: In a typical end of season encounter, it was a rare moment of brilliance that separated the two sides – that and the ever magnificent Jussi Jaaskelainen. Felipe Caicedo’s eighth minute goal was the only time that the ball found itself in the back of the net and whilst the Blues hardly lit CoMS alight, the consistent home form is something that they will look to build on in the future. Hughes gave his post-match reaction: “That goal was planned on the training pitch. Felipe has done OK. He found it difficult initially but people forget how young he is. We’ve been a bit light on strikers and he’s come in and showed an eye for a goal. He’s not the finished article but he’s got potential and he’s made his mark.”

Of SWP’s shock appearance Hughes said: “We thought if he could get through the game it would be an indication of whether the knee was able to stand Premier League football. He may get a reaction but if he doesn’t then obviously he would be available for England.” SWP was later revealed to be fit enough for a call-up and has now joined up with Capello’s England squad as Hughes explains: “When I did the press conference on Friday, Shaun was seeing the surgeon in London and at the time the view of the medical staff was that he would need an operation. But he came back from the consultation really positive and was happy to give it a go. The surgeon had said he needed to know if the knee could stand up to a game, I wanted to find out if he would be fit with just rest over the summer rather having to have an operation.”

Alex Rowen <news(at)>


I think Mike Holden (MCIVTA 1534) has provided the most reasoned argument of anyone who has put forward a view supporting Mark Hughes and arguing for him to stay. There is much in what he says, particularly with regard to the signings of Zabaleta, Kompany, de Jong, Given, Bridge and Bellamy (although I’m still undecided about how much improved quality Bridge and de Jong bring to the squad; maybe next season they’ll prove their true value), that I can agree with, so in a way I’m happy to “chill out and enjoy the ride” as there is little I can do to prevent the owners taking their current path. Mike is also correct in pointing out that Robinho is still very young, and it may take some time to see some consistency from him, although speculating that Elano is the cause of any dressing room unrest this season is just that: speculation.

Comparisons with the situation at Old Trafford are always invidious, but it is true to say that whatever ‘crisis’ United ever considered themselves to be in after Atkinson’s reign as manager, it was nothing as to the state of affairs that has existed at City over the last thirty years. In 1986, they had still recently won things and they hired a manager who had won things at Aberdeen and showed every promise that this trait wasn’t about to end. It took him a few years to make it happen, but it was always going to happen given time. “Successful teams are built over a period of time” but only under capable management and Hughes has yet to show this, so the comparison isn’t valid.

My first reaction to the owner’s declaration that Hughes will stay on was anger, but now that I have calmed down and thought about it I actually welcome their decision. They have given him the chance to have another whole season to prove that the excuses that Hughes has been making all season long can be put behind him. By giving him a target of reaching the top six they have made it quite clear what is expected and he will only have himself to blame (and not Sven, lack of a proper pre-season, the wrong players etc.) this time next year if he fails to achieve it (I would have loved to have seen what Sven would have managed given such assurances rather than be undermined for the whole second half of the season, but that was in the past, and I still think Sven’s tactics would have been found out sooner or later).

I would therefore encourage Mark Hughes to do some of the following if he wants City to move up the table from this year’s tenth position:

  1. Win a game where the opposition score first. The only time I recall usmanaging this was in the home game against Hamburg, but we never managed it inthe league. We actually came bottom of the league this season for being able toturn around a game where we went behind. To do this Hughes will need to developa Plan B, and possibly Plan C, for when things don’t go our way. Maybe having adifferent formation and set of tactics for away games in comparison to homegames might help. Being able to win a game tactically would be a first, butwill require plenty of work on the training ground prior to a match to ensurethat the tactics match the players selected on the pitch. Given or Hart hoofingthe ball up the pitch, full-backs being sucked into the centre of the pitch,two defensive midfielders passing sideways to each other, and a lone strikerwho prefers facing goal being asked to shield and hold up the ball are notexamples of good tactics in action, and these and other tactical failings needto be improved upon;
  2. Be honest in post-match interviews and don’t try to hide behind refereeingdecisions, blame the previous regime, make false promises or dodge the questionas you have so many times this season;
  3. Plan for potential substitutions prior to matches and get someone else toprompt you during matches for when would be a good time to make a substitution.These have always been far too late, and have often involved putting on aplayer in the wrong position or substituting like-for-like when a change intactics is desperately needed. Football, as we’re always being told these days,is a squad game, and, given that you have had a couple of unhelpful injuries inkey positions this year, you still need to make much better use of the wholesquad than you have done this season.

I will not hold my breath on any of these, but am “calm about the situation” as I can’t see us going down, and after waiting so long for success, one more year without it is not going to kill me. Maybe I’ll be amazed! Who knows? This is City, right?

Steve Burrows <stevieburrows(at)>


Well, what a week! City sign off with a comfortable win over a pedestrian Bolton side, Eastlands at last gets to see Glauber Berti, and a certain team from the borough of Trafford received a footballing lesson, which brought smiles not only to Manchester City fans, but to fans up and down the country!

Congratulations to Barcelona for winning the Champions’ League with such style, playing beautiful football. I have had a soft spot for them ever since I visited Catalunya on holiday as a teenager in the early 80s and was made to feel very welcome there. I love the club’s whole ethos and attitude to the game. They are what we should aspire to at Manchester City. I hope the ever improving Stevie Ireland is taking notes from what he saw of Andres Iniesta, as there is no finer playmaker than the Barcelona midfielder. What a magician. To see him and Xavi dominate midfield against United’s cloggers was a joy to behold, and typically, they did so gracefully, and with great skill. In contrast, the fact that United bleated about Darren Fletcher’s absence tells you much about the Rags’ footballing philosophy.

Indeed it was great to see the arrogant, dirty, cheating Rags outplayed and outclassed by Barça. Especially so after the arrogant claims of their fans who just thought they had to turn up to lift that trophy. The typically graceless Fakeronaldo showed his quintessential petulance at the end with a series of sneaky fouls at the end, so it was good to see him and Bacon Face having to taste defeat. And there’s a potential storm brewing in the aftermath with Fakeronaldo saying “We did not do well, the tactics were not good and everything went wrong.” No credit to the opposition, then? At last the media in this country are waking up to the fact that most football fans in this country hate the Rags and were supporting Barcelona. Not that it stops them being biased in their coverage. We were told how Messi had not scored a goal against an English club, whilst many scribes and commentators overlooked the fact the Fakeronaldo hasn’t scored against a team that plays in the Spanish League. Amusingly Fakeronaldo still hasn’t broken that duck and it was great to see the 5 foot 6 inch Messi outjump the 6 foot 2 and a half Ferdinand to head Barça’s second goal! I’ve stopped listening to Alan Green on Radio 5 a long time ago, given his less than objective and spiteful commentaries, particularly about City. I understand that he was convinced that Rags would beat Barcelona. Wrong again, sucker! Why do we have to pay our licence fees for this poor excuse for a commentator?

ITV’s coverage of the Final, was as usual, poor and they proved yet again that they cannot do football. The one positive that can be taken from ITV is that maybe when Clive Tyldesley thinks of Barcelona, he may just think of the Rags’ defeat to them rather than banging on about 1999 ad nauseam. Indeed, it’s been gloat central week for many football fans. The ‘Messiah’ on Tyneside has failed and there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the Black and White hordes as Newcastle crash into the Championship. In contrast there has been much mirth up and down the country at their demise. The Villa fans brought cruel but witty banners to their final match against the Geordies: ‘Sob on the Tyne’ and ‘Who’s your next Messiah Ant or Dec?’ being the pick of the bunch. A demob happy Eastlands reverberated to ‘Cheer up Alan Shearer…’ and Sunderland fans naturally held up placards of ‘Let’s all laugh at Geordies Ha Ha’. I received a text at 5:50pm last Sunday stating it ‘Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke’. I heard an Everton fan ring up Talksport and with much vitriol aimed at Newcastle United, showed his delight at their relegation. I cannot remember so many people wanting one team to go down since we relegated United in ’74.

Why is this so? Newcastle is a fine city, and in general, the people are very friendly. I’ve found Newcastle fans well disposed towards City, I like visiting their city, and we’ve had some memorable games against them in history: older Geordies will point to the 1955 Cup Final where the great Jackie Milburn starred; many Blues saw us win the title there in 1968; and our last trophy of course was won against Newcastle in 1976 with Dennis Tueart’s spectacular strike. Games against Newcastle are normally exciting, with two teams committed to attack, largely because both sets of fans love attacking football. Both Blues and Geordies have had the good fortune to be blessed with Kevin Keegan’s exciting brand of football – well, for a while at least.

Elephants have long memories, or so they say, but whilst I haven’t grown a trunk just yet, I recall Newcastle’s early years in the Premier League with their then chairman, Sir John Hall, talking about ‘The Geordie Nation’ playing in a European Super League. I remember, thinking, hang on a minute, where have you been the last few years, so who are you to be talking of European Super Leagues anyway? It was a rather arrogant and selfish claim from a bunch of upstarts who had been out of top flight football for a few years.

Many of us have become heartily sick of being told that Newcastle have the most loyal fans in the country. The peddlers of such nonsense conveniently forget the fact that their gates before Kevin Keegan arrived were typically in the low tens of thousands. Their last gate before Kevin Keegan took over the first time was 10,004 against Oxford in 1992 (and Oxford surely brought more than 5 fans to St James, making it less than 10,000 Geordies in the ground!). Anyway, who says the most loyal supporters support the biggest clubs? You can be just as loyal supporting Chester City as you are supporting Manchester City!

I was totally fed up of being told by the media in the 90s that Newcastle were ‘everyone’s second favourite team’. No they weren’t. In any case, does everyone have a second team? It’s more likely to be Barnstoneworth than the barcodes for me! Another case of the print and spoken media trying to tell us how to think. People don’t like that in my experience.

I’ve known a few Newcastle fans over the years, and have had some good football chat with some of them. Generally they have been well disposed towards City and I can empathise with those Geordies who deal with their plight with a sort of resigned gallows humour that we are well accustomed to at City.

Collectively, though, there is a large vocal section of their support (and I don’t know if they are a majority) who are deluded and have undermined a succession of their managers. They have a misplaced and overblown idea of Newcastle United’s importance in the scheme of things. Their constant desire for a ‘Messiah’ has brought them much derision. Kenny Dalglish wasn’t good enough for them and was sacked. Ruud Gullit was not good enough for them and was eased out of the club after he fell out with Alan Shearer. Many Geordie fans even whinged about Sir Bobby Robson, who had led them to 4th, 3rd and 5th! Those fans who helped force those managers out have got just exactly what they deserved – relegation. Their stupidity and impatience has undermined their progress to the point where they will be visiting Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Peterborough next season.

Enjoying someone else’s failure might not be a great thing to admit to, but I’m not alone in relishing seeing the demise of the latest ‘messiah’. Whilst he is loved blindly like no other on Tyneside, and he has his admirers who are not Newcastle fans, Alan Shearer is detested by many, many football fans up and down the land. Personally speaking, I only have more contempt for Roy Keane than I do Alan Shearer (at least Ferguson loaned us Terry Cooke when we were in the 3rd division, and please don’t ask me to take Gary Neville seriously!). Whilst there’s no denying that Shearer was a prolific goal scorer in the top flight who was international class (but not world class), I wasn’t alone in finding much to dislike about him. He had sharp elbows, went down rather easily and seemed to want to referee games himself. Who likes a dirty player, especially when he’s not playing for you?

I lost any respect that I had for him (and putting it bluntly, I didn’t have much) when his boot connected with Neil Lennon’s head. He strenuously denied threatening to withdraw from the 1998 World Cup if the FA charges over that distasteful incident were upheld, but if he really didn’t have a case to answer over withdrawing, then why didn’t he take the author of those claims, former FA Chief Executive Graham Kelly, to court?

Whatever the truth is, that series of incidents leaves a rather nasty taste in the mouth.

There is a school of thought that suggests that he undermined previous managers at Newcastle. He didn’t exactly support Sir Bobby Robson did he? He rejected chances to coach under both Kevin Keegan and Joe Kinnear at the club that he tells us that he loves so much. The feeling to an outsider at least is of an unhelpful presence lurking in the background. Has he tried to destabilise the club that he professes to love so that he could get the manager’s job? We may never know. If he loved Newcastle that much then why did he leave it until 8 games from the end to take over? It is very possible that he didn’t want to be held responsible for the relegation himself, and that by going in so late, he thought he would get off the hook.

To see Shearer’s face on being relegated was a pleasure to behold. He got what he deserved: relegation. Indeed it couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke! Now he wants to have full control of Newcastle. If ever the blind were leading the blind! Before he took over they’d won 6 games out of 30: since he joined he won 1 in 8, which is not an improvement in any right minded person’s logic. Yet their fans want him to take over. Are they mad? Or can’t they do arithmetic in Benwell, Biker and Wallsend?

So, where does this relate to us? Next season we won’t have to climb all those stairs for perhaps the worst view in football, up in the gods. We clearly have a lot in common with Newcastle, though. Both clubs have a turbulent history, and now it is their turn to take a dip. Both clubs have taken turns to become fodder for the pro-Rag, Tottenham, West Ham press. Both clubs have many passionate fans, some of whom let their passion get the better of them when it turns into impatience.

I can empathise with the more objective Newcastle fans, but in general, City fans are not as insular as those on Tyneside. We are not so insistent on a Mancunian being in charge of City, as they are a Geordie being in charge of their club, so we have a head start. We seem to be more receptive to ideas from outside.

Both clubs have gone through too many managers – we have had 10 in 15 years, they have had 4 this season alone. I hope we can learn from Newcastle’s lesson and not continue to have a revolving door policy when it comes to employing managers. We have burned once before in this respect with the revolving door that followed Peter Reid’s sacking, dumping us in the 3rd tier for the first and, hopefully, only time in our history.

Despite the unpleasant and at times small-minded calls for Hughes to go this season from a very vocal minority, I believe that we are more patient at City. I am delighted that Sheikh Khaldoon Al Mubarak has stated that Hughes will be here next season to continue his rebuilding work. The Sheikh’s target of a top 6 spot next season is a fair one, and one that Mark Hughes can achieve next season with some quality additions to an improving squad.

It makes a pleasant change to go into the summer without the worries of the previous summer.

Phil Banerjee <philban65(at)>


I fear for the sanity of some City supporters who seem to expect that football success will be proportional to effort and money invested. They have obviously been disappointed this season and I reckon will suffer even further next.

City will clearly need to move quite a few players out such as Darius Vassell, Danny Mills (yes he’s still on our books), Michael Ball, Dietmar Hamann and so on and there’s no doubt we will be associated with twenty or thirty players before we actually sign five or six. The problem is that signing players as you build a squad is a disruptive process. The new people have various problems with language, housing, new training and playing places and methods not to mention amending their own style within a changing squad. It really doesn’t matter how talented they are or how much we pay for them. They are humans changing jobs and life will not be straightforward for them to start with. Perhaps some of the older supporters might remember Colin Bell’s first few games for City, unimpressive I thought. Didn’t know what the fuss was about. He lived at Bury not Brazil.

All this means that Hughes will make decisions about who plays that will puzzle some of his critics but be pragmatic and using information that he knows and we can’t possibly. I expect we’ll do better next season than this but not by that much. Sixth is the best we can expect unless we’re extremely lucky with integration of the new faces. Until such time as Hughes has built a substantial and balanced squad who have played together for at least one year then we’ll get odd results and the Hughes doubters will continue to fidget with their worry beads.

In the meantime clubs will hike their transfer prices when City come calling, agents will demand silly wages for their clients, the press will continue their snide campaign and we’ll make wonderful City-like decisions led by our chief, Garry Cook. Expect lots of pointing and laughing over the fact that City will be displaying the Arabic for United (ETIHAD) on their shirts although we’ll all be spinning furiously telling folk it really means Unity. Perhaps the daftest thing about this £25 million deal is that our new owners appear to be sponsoring themselves. Still at least we’re not in debt to nearly a billion pounds with the name of an equally indebted and disgraced Insurance company emblazoned on our shirts.

I look forward to a gradual improvement leading possibly, just possibly, to some sort of challenge for a top four position in about three years but sooner that that I’ll be very surprised indeed. In the meantime I’ll drop a line to City to see if they can put on some extra-mural courses in self-control and the patience from which some of our contributors would benefit.

Peter Llewellyn <simethis(at)>


Firstly, thanks to all at MCIVTA for another season of good reading. Keep up the good work!

I thought I would add my own thoughts to the end of season musings.

Whilst I acknowledge that your league placing is really based on your performance over a whole season you can also argue with some validity that the loss at home against Fulham cost us a place in Europe and our highest ever Premier League finish.

Why did we lose that game? Largely because we were resting players ahead of a UEFA Cup quarter final, one that but for a bit of luck could well have resulted in a semi-final.

As Messrs Morrison, Wiekens, Dickov, Taylor and Vaughan took to the pitch before the game on Sunday it was a timely reminder of how far we’ve come and the reasons why we ended up in the mess they played their part in getting us out of, in the first place.

There have been times this season when my trigger finger has been twitching in relation to Mark Hughes’s position. Our away form has been atrocious; some of his team selections baffling and the set up and attitude in both derby games very disappointing. However, since the end of the transfer window, whilst form has still fluctuated, I feel we are making progress.

City’s one consistent for too many years has been change, often wholesale. This summer provides a genuine opportunity to build on a young and talented group of players to create a squad that can compete. Hughes is clearly being given the chance to do what Sven wasn’t able to, which is alter a team based on a season of learning and understanding. Aside from Chelsea the teams consistently competing at the top have all benefited from this season on season.

Based on this season’s points totals, to reach the Champions’ League places we’d have to improve on this season by 22 points. An impossible dream? I’m not so sure. Turn away defeats at WBA, Boro, Stoke, Bolton, Pompey, Wigan and Spurs in to victories and you’re not far off. When you consider how straightforward the games at home against these teams were (Spurs aside), is that over ambitious or a realistic and achievable aim? Obviously the other teams will look to improve over the summer too but I think we can confident we’re shopping in a different section of the market to most other teams now.

Whatever happens, whoever comes in or leaves, for once we have the chance to enjoy pre-season with a sense of hope rather than fear!

Best wishes to all Blues for the summer.

P.S.: As a footnote don’t be surprised to see Mr Sturridge turn up at Chelsea once his contract is up. I’ve been told a deal was done months ago. All we can hope is that the tribunal that sets the fee thinks as much of him as he clearly does of himself.

Martin Glynn <martinglynn(at)>


There has been a lot of analysis done in the last few issues but for all of that the analysis from our Chairman rang out with a rare note of sensible thought from a PL Chairman.

There are lots of positives and negatives from this season but our biggest positive must be that we have a manager in place for the coming season, an opportunity to acquire some high quality talent, and ambition looking up the table rather than over our shoulders.

I would love to see Tevez, a proven PL goalscorer, and a steal away from the Evil Empire come to Eastlands; I do think he would be the catalyst in the same way Bellamy was when he was fit.

Let’s not get carried away with the great stars of world football seeking a big pay packet and let’s find some people proud to wear the shirt and succeed.

Of our biggest enigma (Robinho) let’s see what a second season may bring. He needs to settle down and listen to the manager; only then can we judge both him and Hughes fairly.

For all the criticism of Robby, note that the Opta Stats listed in the Mail on Sunday last weekend, had him as our player of the season based on their marking system. That shows what stats prove!

Looking forward to an exciting close season, and optimism to challenge the Top 6 next year.

Ian Barton <ibarton(at)>


Well, another season of shattered hopes and dreams, but not all doom and gloom.

The usual suspects are still calling for Hughes’s head like a cracked record. What we badly need is stability, not on the never ending spiral of hiring and firing. Every coach baffles the fans somewhat, and if our owners think he is the man for the job, then that’s that – mean on.

Playing wise, had the second most home wins and one of the worst away records, so we all know what has to be fixed, don’t we?

Player wise, we’re about three players short of being a very good side. We need cover for injuries; Petrov, Boj and Shaun were injured for too long, and we were a little short of replacements. Then we had certain players who caused a lot of trouble in the squad, and those who wanted inflated contracts that don’t go with their ability. What we need is players who leave their egos at the door. Shay, Nedum, yes and Dunnie, Zab, de Jong, Kompany, SWP, Steve Ireland, Boj, Petrov and Caciedo form the basis of a decent side.

Full backs seem to be a problem area, a decent playmaker in the middle of the park, and what to do with the two Brazlians?! One moment brilliant, the next they don’t turn up to play!

So now we have a couple of months being linked to every player playing footie. Don’t really know what to expect, don’t think we will be the biggest spenders though (player numbers I mean). One year, just one year, would be nice to win something!

Stay blue everyone.

Kevin Williamson <scribbs(at)>


I think that Daniel Sturridge is being badly advised by the people around him. We know that his uncle Dean Sturridge never got the kind of money players get today, and that a player’s time as a player is limited because of age. Daniel’s father played with Birmingham but never made it to the first team, this will have driven him to do better.

Sure, it would be nice to get 75 thousand a week, but hey Sturridge has only had 32 appearances, and only 12 starts in the first team. He might well be a star of the future, but he hardly has done enough to earn such a large amount of money. His injuries have held him back at times, is he injury prone?

MCFC have made a very good offer of £40,000 per week; how on earth can Sturridge claim £75,000, whilst man of the season Superman gets £65,000? I think that Sturridge should be happy to sign the £40,000 offer, and a review of the contract to be made in two years; this would be in both parties’ interest.

Sturridge has the opportunity to earn more with City when he proves himself. He is only 19 years old and has time ahead of him, does he expect to get into someone else’s first team sooner?

If Sturridge has to go so be it, use the money on ready developed strikers. That will not be as big a gamble: we need strikers of quality now and ready to play next season, and with City in their hearts and commitment.

Come on Sparky, sign up the players that fit into your jigsaw of a team; each player must fit into Sparky’s squad.

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


I have always avoided responding on a personal basis to views within MCIVTA. However, the patronising, arrogant and pompous dressing down from Graham Mills (MCIVTA 1533) is too much to tolerate without reply. His tone and his intransigence along with his determination to twist people’s valid concerns into mere bigotry is quite beyond the pale. Graham’s suggestion that I should support another club because I disagree with him is simply disgusting and offensive and deserves an angry rebuttal.

I have no pleasure in feeling that we need to replace the manager. I feel gutted because of all the instability it has brought in the past. However, when the manager is as poor as Hughes, we cannot be nice and bury our head in the sand. It is like having Alan Ball back in charge, respected by all, but truly inept as a manager. My concerns are that I strongly feel that:

Mark Hughes has never won a thing as a manger. His style is more worthy of a pub team than a professional one. He would prefer to be surrounded by grafters than gifted. He is as bad at substitutions as Sven ever was. His tactics at both derbies were disgraceful and his ability to turn things round seem negligible. He will never get us out of the mid-table mediocrity; that is all he has ever known. Where in all of the above does Mr Mills discern that it is just because he played for the Rags? In every MCIVTA, some player or other is marked as useless and a liability, so why is Saint Mark above such criticism? I truly do not understand why he is so venerated when he has such a p**s-poor track record.

As for all the players who have not performed on the pitch, he is solely responsible. That is what a manager is. If someone on the pitch is not performing, that is entirely the manager’s problem and Hughes has been woeful in addressing the many instances. If he cannot manage his players, then what exactly is he there for? He is clearly not a motivator. He is too blinkered. Given all of that, I can quite see why someone with such arrogant, pompous and patronising airs as Graham would see him as a marvel.

Martin Hunt <Martinhunt(at)>


To all the anti Mark Hughes supporters, you like everyone else can make your comments, and be critics.

But because 2009/10 will be the start of a new season, why can’t you give everyone a fresh start, or will you still be anti Mark Hughes even before the season starts, does not matter what?

Support the manager/coach, and all the players who put on a Manchester City shirt, and if things start to go wrong in the new season, you will have the right to be a critic like anyone else, but give everyone a fresh start, and do the right thing give your support so that we as a club can move forward.

This will be Mark Hughes’ season of make or break. I want to see Mark Hughes succeed, but should he fail, I too will want a change, but right now he deserves our support, let’s give him it.

Come on you Blues! In Sparky I trust!

Ernie Barrow <Britcityblue(at)>


Our new sponsors translate as United. FFS! We have one of the most hated ex-Reds in charge as it is, what’s next, play our home games at Old Trafford?

The Sven or Hughes argument in the last edition. Sven finished higher, the maths doesn’t matter. Not even checked myself but talk of the half season last year and the half season finish this year were not the same matches or players involved come to that.

Oh yes, the players. Ireland over achieved or is that achieved potential? This is a guy who may not sign a new contract and was the best of what I would say was not a very clever bunch. Richards and Dunne, despite a better defensive display this year compared to last (pointed out last edition), I do not believe played as well. Onohua (shows promise à la Richards of the past couple of seasons) and Bridge did ok but nothing special. Hart or Given? Well the price tag didn’t fit for me (although pleased when we signed him, jury is out for me). In the middle, best performer was Zabaleta and he is out of position! SWP will hopefully be injury free next year and will be still looking to prove he is going to be a really good player. De Jong and Kompany, got the makings of a good partnership but need to show more up front to make it big. Up front? Well Robinho likes the sun, which is not really confidence-inspiring and has to do more away. The Ecuadorian needs time (won’t get it), Bojinov probably flogged off, Benjani prob sold cheaply, Sturridge, if the rumours are true is on his way (surely a year loan in the Championship would be better?). Evans, well the manager likes him as he is Welsh so probably 12 months for this lad! Christ, nearly forgot about Bellamy, just think if he was not injured as much we could of probably won one more game and been in Europe flying United Airlines to god knows where in August! What happened to Vassell? Ok he doesn’t score many but he surely could have supported the squad at some point or did I miss an injury/sale?

Reality check, we finished 10th, spent more money than Sven and what for? Is this team any better than last year? Petrov needs to get fit, Elano, will he be here or does Hughes not like him? Are the kids going to get a break apart from the League Cup next year? I hope they don’t unless they are really ready for it, I want us to play every game with our first team and want to see a genuine challenge on a domestic trophy. I’m sick and tired of mediocre 3rd round cup exits (thank God they are rarely shown live on TV to make things worse).

Just think, next time we qualify for Europe we will probably not do as well as this season. Progress? I think not. Regular European football and a top 6 finish is a must, top 4 is more of a demand that has to be achieved. The money spent does not justify mid-table safety (no, not obscurity lol). So how much will be spent this Summer? Will we have shrewd signings after being linked with every superstar that is never going to sign until we are at least in the Champions’ League? The bar has been raised on expectations. Yes I’m cynical you say but no, I am a realist, we underachieved and the players in the squad should have finished 7th this season at least; I expect a minimum of 5th next season with a strong challenge on 4th at worst.

Mark Hughes needs to have the team in the top 6 by Christmas or I guess he will blow his chance of being the next Man Ure manager and of getting a Christmas win bonus from City as it will be P45 time. Don’t get me wrong, the way I see it, he fails and most of us City fans will say I told you so. If and I hope he does get it right he can be the Busby of City.

Roll on August.

Mike <wythyblue(at)>


Regarding the debate Sven or Hughes.

With Sven last season we finished higher than this season and gathered more points. A simple fact. I guess some people just don’t like dealing with it?

We did the double over the Rags: fact.

The 8-1. This was more a protest by the players at the the sacking and treatment of Sven by Shinawatra. Blame the players for that one. Also, we have been very badly beaten this season on a couple of occassions (Chelsea and Arsenal away) where 5 or 6 goals past us could have very easily happened.

Mr Hughes as spent circa £100 million and we went backwards fact. Once again deal with it. If Sven had been given the £100 million would we have improved and not gone backwards? Discuss. People also forget the state of the team and club when Sven took over.

However, basically all conjecture. Mr Hughes is still the manger and Sven is not fact. I still have my self imposed ban of not visiting the CoMS until Mr Hughes is dearly departed. My choice, my money, my loss or gain. Fact.

Time as always will tell. How many more transfer windows do we give Mr Hughes? Let’s be honest, with the purchasing power we now at our disposal we have to make progress each time don’t we? Discuss.

“In Sparky we Doubt”

Ray Bardsley <rbardsley(at)>


In reply to John Nisbet in MCIVTA 1534 it’s not what the Rags’ fans can make out of the initials of our new sponsors, it’s the fact that Etihad does mean United!

Ian McIntosh <ianmcintosh(at)>


I am less concerned with John Nisbet’s anxiety about what people might make “Etihad” an acronym for than the fact that according to their corporate web page, “Etihad” in Arabic means “United”.

Bernard Paton <bernard.paton(at)>


I take it from John Nisbet’s contribution in MCIVTA 1534 and email address (nisbet1957) he was born in 1957 and is 51/52?

If all someone of his age can do with sponsor names is workout ridiculous meanings and then surmise that United supporters will spend the close season doing the same then I’ll have to start agreeing with some of my wife’s views on the intelligence of some football supporters.

As a season ticket holder for a number of years (albeit living near Cambridge) I never heard the humorous (sic) version of the EIDOS from any of my nearby seats at either Maine Road or Eastlands. That one even passed my “witty” Salford born United season ticket holding supporting neighbour and his son!

In the current climate any sponsorship is welcome and to obtain “around £30 million” for a three year deal from Etihad Airways and a further £15 million from Umbro is brilliant.

With United’s shirt sponsor AIG reporting a $61.7 billion dollar loss in the last quarter of 2008 and receiving a $180 billion bailout from the US Government, I doubt if emblazing their logo on the Salford Buccaneers when the current deal finishes is top of even the most gung ho AIG marketing execs’ list. Why do (City supporters) people have to be so negative?

Roger Lee <rlee(at)>


Speaking of Etihad airways sponsoring City, I picked up a copy of Monday’s Herald-Sun here in Melbourne and what did I see on page 6 but a one page ad by the airline saying “we’d like to welcome a new member to the family” followed by the City logo.

Then in the text below it said “as proud sponsors of the best in sport, we are delighted to announce our sponsorship of the English Premier League team Manchester City Football Club”. Then it lists all the other clubs it sponsors in a range of sports including Chelsea. Etihad Airways sponsor one of the main stadiums here in Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, where they play that strange game Aussie Rules.

Adrian <adrianb(at)>


Regarding John Nisbet’s posting, only a City fan could be so negative. The pot’s half full again!

David Sterrett <blueds(at)>


Just a quick line to let all know who are taking part that members of Carl’s family will be attending the 5-a-side competition to thank those taking part.

Carl’s family are also going to provide a trophy for the winning team and a former player, probably Peter Barnes, will be dishing out certificates.

I’ve apparently got several cheques in the post to me. I remind all that confirmation of your entrance is when I receive the cheque.

Alex Channon <alexchannon81(at)>

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Newsletter #1535