Newsletter #102

This issue has the dates for the pre-season friendlies which will all take place in north/mid England against lower division opposition. We also have another biggish Why Blue from a San Francisco exile as well as plenty of opinion on Alan Ball.

This is definitely the last MCIVTA this week as I’m off to England for the weekend. Keep the stuff coming in and I’ll put together another issue for Monday, hopefully. No response to my request for some background on Alan Ball, e.g. caps, goals, clubs, etc. Anyone fancy having a go this weekend?

** To order the MCIVTA T-shirt see MCIVTA 97, deadline 15th July**


On reading two articles in the MuEN, we now find two players with City connections about to do time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Firstly, Gary Buckley remember him? And now, youth team player Jim Whitley. Buckley is due to be sentenced this week for mortgage fruad and Whitley for being the getaway driver in an armed robbery… wait for it… in his own car! I thought watching the Blues drives you to despair, but obviously playing for them leads to nothing more than a short stretch. How soon will it be before the likes of Ken Barnes get copped for pension book fraud? Or Horton for ‘stealing’ our players?

Letters to postbag

Tony Shaw (


So even though Alan Ball has agreed to become manager he’s jetted back to Spain to finish off his family holiday. I still understand he’s yet to sign a contract, but from the way he and the club is reacting it seems like everything is decided. All that needs to be settled is the compensation for Southampton.

When he returns, his first decisions will be to sort out his back room staff and then negoiate with any out of contract players. That’ll be his first step and then it will be organising the team into playing his style, which is being claimed as returning to the traditional way the club used to play (what early 80’s or glorious 60/70’s?).

The new first team strip will be revealed next week. I wonder if it’ll be a return to the good old plain sky blue with white cuffs and collars, like the good old days when Franny used to play! (he keeps harping back to the glory days, why not go the whole way!!;-) )

Three pre-season friendly dates have been announced (all in Northern England) and all away from home, they are:

Monday July 31st, Stockport County, 7:30 k.o. (official opening of County’s new Cheadle Stand)
Wednesday 2nd August, Wolves, 7:45 k.o.
Saturday 5th August, Burnley, 3:00 k.o.

So there could be a couple of difficult games to really test the players.

Martin Ford (


Since the arrival of Alan Ball at Maine Road, backroom staff have apparently walked out on strike due the confusion that may develop at the training ground next season. The ladies who wash and attend all the kits are boycotting the sewing on of AB onto Mr Ball’s tracksuit as it will be a direct copy of AB (Mr Book). Tony Book has already declined the offer of being covered in TB as Helen Turner will undoubtedly not stop ringing her bell for fear of the plague. To add insult to injury Marks & Spencers will be supplying Mike Summerbee all his training tops infringing the current sponsorship deal with Brother. Frannie will be releasing a statement tomorrow to scotch rumours that Val Doonican will not be joining the training staff.

Tony Shaw (


MCFC Secretary Bernard Halford on the subject of MC’s new Kippax stand, following complaints from residents regarding its overbearing size (Verbatim transcription from Piccadilly Gold, 30.6.95)

“We are the football club of Manchester because we’re situated in Manchester and we had to do what we had to do. We’ve set about doing that. We realise there’s a great deal of inconvenience er… to residents which we can sympathise and apologise for happening but things are brought on us to do and that we have had to do.”

Masterful, can’t argue with that, Bernie! Thanks for cheering me up!

Flixton Red (


First the negative…

Well, Alan Ball. Our new man. My initial reaction was one of concern. Personally, I never liked Ball as a player. He was a hot head and was arrogant (then again, so was Frannie, and he’s my hero). I’m not too sure about Ball as a manager either. Like City, Southampton fought relegation since he’d been managing. Only through the grace of Le God has this one man team stayed in the Premiership. While there were true moments of terrific football at Soton, the club fluctuated and wobbled up and down the table last year, just like City. I was certain there for a while that Soton would go down.

I was at the City/Southampton game 93/94 at Soton, when we beat them 1-0 in the last minute or so thanks to Stefan Karl. The victory overshadowed the pathetic performance by both clubs. Once again, it was only Le Tissier that sparkled brightly.

Lastly, and of most concern, how would Frannie be able to fire a good friend, if his performance was not up to snuff? They go back a long way. I can’t see a professional relationship working well between friends this close.

The Positive…

If Le Tiss is loyal to Alan Ball, then let’s see him at Maine Road! Dish it out Frannie! (Hope he wouldn’t mind being paid with a lifetime supply of toilet paper!)

I was at the last Portsmouth game in ’87 when they got promoted to Division One. Alan Ball was their manager, and they loved him for pulling off the promotion! He does seem to have a rapport with the players and fans alike. It would be no small task to keep Le Tiss interested in Southampton. We can safely assume that if he leaves Soton this season (hopefully for City), Ball clearly would have had influence in his staying at Soton. That’s reasonably impressive.

Lastly, Ashley said it all. City are nowhere near top flight at this point. I personally never expected a big name to come to City this time. So I am suprised we have a manager straight from the Premiership. Frannie will work closely with Ball. And while I feel, perhaps naïvely, that Ball is as good as BH was at sniffing out good deals (very important for City at this time), I live in hope that AB has conviction when it comes to getting the men he wants. I still feel though, that FL has the purse strings and AB took the job knowing it will be lean for several seasons yet. And who else would have taken the job under those terms I ask you!!!

Best of luck to our new manager.

Mark Luscombe – Man. City in Los Angeles (


I can’t believe how short sighted we are being as City fans. Alan Ball’s track record in the game is second to none. How many players can boast 70-odd England caps?

When we appointed Howard Kendall as City manager he had done it all before, and it showed in his commitment to the game. He soon left us at City, went to Everton and almost destroyed them. He is now to be found underneath a bar somewhere. When Kendall was first appointed at Everton he wasn’t proven as a manager but his knowledge of the game coupled with his hunger brought him success.

Alan Ball has managed clubs with far less money than City, and Southampton finished 10th last season. Did anyone see them play at Old Trafford? They pissed all over the Rags and were unlucky not to win.

Let’s give the guy a chance. I’d much prefer him to a manager who has done it all before with a better club than City. He wants to play good football, motivated the difficult Le Tissier and has a comedy squeaky voice.

Andy McKillop (


I’m really quite startled that so many people seem to have wanted George Graham in the MCFC manager’s chair. Is it just me, or was Graham’s football philosophy totally boring? Yes, Arsenal won a lot more than City. But I see Alan Ball’s appointment as a fairly good sign. Even though they didn’t win all the time, I enjoyed watching Southampton when they were on television last season. As a friend of FL’s, I think Ball will be given a legitimate shot at laying the foundations for this club. He certainly won’t be canned at the end of two seasons.

A while ago I questioned whether FL really knew what he wanted to do with City. The delay in the appointment certainly didn’t thrill me, but I am pleased with the new choice. Nobody should expect anything special for at least two seasons. Beyond that, I feel that things are looking up for the Blues. Welcome, Mr Ball!

Luke Gerber (


I have to agree with Ashley! City aren’t a hugely successful club – I’m 25 years old, and I can’t remember a City cup victory – and to get Alan Ball to leave Southampton was a minor miracle. Okay, so Graham was interested, but would he have been so willing if he had offers from other Premiership sides? I think not!

We have to support Ball, and I personally think he’s a good choice. The thing I like most about him, is his unwillingness to accept poor performances. How many times have we seen City play like shit, only for Horton to say he saw positive things in the game? Last season, he even hinted that he would be happy with draws from the crucial Easter weekend games. We need someone like Ball to tell the players when they’ve played crap, and that victory is needed from every game.

I’m looking forward to the next season, and let’s hope we can see 2 glorious derby victories.

Charles Pollitt (


I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Alan Ball is an ex England International player with an obvious intelligence for the game of football. He has guided Soton to their best finish in the league for a while, and made them a damned hard team to beat. We didn’t manage it last year so give the guy a chance. I certainly don’t agree with the rumour that fans are thinking of boycotting the pre-season friendlies. Let’s get behind the new manager and help him as much as we can. Success won’t come quickly. It’s going to take a few years to build up the team again and to get a better youth system of which, incidently, Soton have one of the best in the country. Shearer, Le Tissier, Ruddock etc…. and Alan Ball has seen this working and can hopefully get our youth back on track and stop the Rags nicking all the best players in the area. Anyway that’s my opinion but please let’s all get behind Alan Ball and hopefully look forward to a brighter few years.

James Fleming (


Let’s give Alan Ball a fair chance and cut the traditional Maine Road “knocking”. Joe Mercer was the most successful manager in my memory as a City fan (since 1967). What was his track record before joining the Blues? The following is extracted from the Manchester City Football Book (1969)…

But despite his successes on the field it took the likeable Mercer more than a decade to really make his mark in the managerial field he first entered when taking over Sheffield United. It was 13 years to be exact. Thirteen years that saw him twice drop into the second division with, first Sheffield United and then Aston Villa. On the occasion of the second disaster that overtook him at Villa Park, Mercer received a telegram from a Sheffield United supporter telling him ‘Congratulations, Joe. You’ve done it again.’

Mercer took Villa back to the first division, but it was not until he accepted the challenge of resurrecting the fading image of Manchester City that success in abundance came flowing his way as manager…

How many of you would give Joe Mercer the job today on that record?

Martin Styles (


I have been following MCVITA silently for the last week or so, since I got onto the internet. Recent events have forced me to add my views for what it is worth. Am I alone in thinking that the appointment of Alan Ball is suicidal? I agree Horton should have gone, but he should be replaced by someone who can do a better job. I have been talking to Portsmouth fans and even they think he ruined their club – that’s Portsmouth! He has no track record, so how likely is he to breathe life into an already lacklustre and demoralised team?

Couple this with the fact that Southampton want £500,000 compensation, Horton is suing us for £200,000 missing severance pay and Reid (reportedly) is still on the payroll and you have to wonder what the hell is going on. Can we honestly say that we have a good enough team to remain in the Premiership and that this money isn’t needed to buy at least one player who is going to look like he cares? This all smacks of jobs for the boys. Why are Southampton happy to let him go having just signed a 3 year contract a matter of days ago?

As you can probably tell, I am not at all happy. I have written to Mr Lee giving my views on the situation. It will be interesting to read his reply, if any.

I have held a season ticket for the last 10 out of 15 years, so I consider myself a fairly loyal supporter. Am I over-reacting? It will be interesting to hear other points of view. I am getting read errors from MCVITA at the minute so I don’t know anyone else’s opinion.

Jon Fielding (


After following the run-in for a new manager, I’m happy that we finally got one, but surprised to see Ball entering Maine Road. After all he wasn’t even considered in the WWW-polls, and has nothing to show for being a manager – yet.

However, I’m glad to see Ball in the chair. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because George Graham has gotten a negative reputation, and him together with a Gaudino charged for stealing cars would suggest City robbed the money transport last weekend…

Also Kidd has less manager experience! I’m not sure he would have had what it takes to turn things at Maine Road. Pehaps we would end up like a Rags-copy.

Alan Ball has managed a few teams. Some with no success, but after all he managed to keep Southampton up this year, and made them play decent football. He also seems popular with the fans. All in all it seems as if he has learned a few tricks and knows now what he didn’t when he started as a manager.

So I for one am supporting Lee’s choice, and hope Ball will get a decent chance. At least as much time as Ferguson did at Stretford!

Svenn Hanssen (


Well, like some of the other correspondents, I think that I have been silent enough on the manager issue and should come out of the closet and express my views. On reading the comments in MCIVTA 101 (congratulations on the Centenary BTW!) I have to side with the “Give the lad a chance” camp.

I can’t believe the negative comments received before the ink is even on the contract. I suspect that such people will be saying that he is a great manager when he has won one or two matches. I also don’t agree with the comments about no-one wanting to join City. There are not that many Premier league clubs and yes we are one of them – just – and we won as much as the Rags did last year :-).

City have the potential to be a great club again and win things, but first we have to develop a team and club spirit and I (for what it is worth) think that Ball may just be the person to do it. His playing career certainly embodied that and at Southampton he seems to have instilled an attractive style of play – even when they were up against it – certainly more so than the style that Graham embodied at Arsenal.

The Southampton fans do seem to be genuinely annoyed at his imminent departure and that does say a lot. Let’s see what happens – give him a chance and don’t be so negative and pessimistic – or is that a requirement for being a True Blue?

As for the other supposed contenders the same criticisms and comments could be made on just about all of them, with the possible exception of Rioch and what track record does Kidd have?

So impatient City fans around the world, give him a chance, get behind him and stay behind him – even when the results don’t go right. Let’s hope that he can get some attractive play in the forwards, (we have not yet seen the best from Uwe) and less leakiness in defence. My tip is watch Summerbee be transformed this year into a really great player and who knows we may even win something.

Remember optimism costs nothing – and the benefits are greater than if you moan all the time!!

Phil Gregory, Kobe, Japan (


I think that one of the reasons for City fans’ hostility to Ball is all the media hype after BH’s sacking. This springs from the belief in some quarters that we are still a big club. We do have a big support, but big clubs win trophies and City haven’t done that for nearly 20 years.

Like I said in MCIVTA 100, there are others that I’d like to see as manager apart from Ball: Gerry Francis, Joe Royle,… but face facts: City will have difficulty attracting these sorts of people until the club has a measure of stability, is financialy sound and is sixth (or above) in the Premiership year in, year out.

Lee and Barlow have done much for this club already: We are due to make a profit this year apparently, more money will start to roll in once the facilities in the new Kippax are opened (not to mention the boxes etc. round the ground) and the club will start to get the profits from the souvenir shop (just in time for Xmas 8-)).

If Swales were in charge we’d have a shitheap like the Umbro replacing the Kippax, no money coming in and well on the way to being in the same position that Sunderland are in now.

Although Ball has returned to Spain, I’m sure that in these days of phones, faxes and e-mail that he can be kept in touch with any transfer developments. The M(U)EN said that “funds will be made avaliable” to strengthen the team. Given the daft amounts of money that some clubs are paying for home grown players, Spain might be as good a place as any to start. Lets hope the German connection is as good as ever too!

Dave C. Bradbury (


The appointment of Alan Ball is a bit of an anticlimax after the weeks of speculation (where did he come in the WWW poll?).

It is clear that without the cash to compete with other big clubs we were simply unable to attract a proven manager. So once again we are in the hands of somebody who has yet to achieve anything as a manager.

In Ball’s favour is his obvious passion for the game and he appeared to motivate the Southampton drive from relegation better than BH at City – but will this be enough? To survive next season we are going to need cash for players, to do well we are going to need serious cash. If this is not forthcoming then however good or bad our manager is we are likely to be in deep shit again.

Overall a bit disappointed, but good luck to him.

John Connell (


The immediate reaction to the appointment of Ball as manager is a bit harsh. Yes, we all wanted a proven manager but how many of them are there? The only managers in the English game who have consistently won things are Daglish, F*rg*s*n, and Graham. We are unlikely to ever get these because

  1. Daglish is not going to leave the current Champions for a team that struggles to avoid relegation.
  2. F*rg*s*n manages the Rags.
  3. Graham is about to get a lengthy ban.

Let’s give Ball a fair chance over the next 2 seasons. It took the Rags 2-3 years before they started to win things so let’s give him the chance. Everyone thought Soton would struggle to avoid relegation last season yet he guided them to 10th! That is far better than us and was done in one season, so he could do it.

He is fairly new to management so is still learning but all the great managers have to learn first. Mercer managed Sheffield United and Aston Villa before us and didn’t do well.

Yours hoping for a trophy or two.

David Lamb (


May as well have my two penn’orth on AB’s appointment. I certainly think he’s a better motivator than BH, and despite the fact his balls haven’t dropped yet, I think the players will respect him. Some of his post-match interviews on Sky last season bordered on the insane after dodgy Saints performances (whereas his predecessor just *looked* like a madman). What worries me most is the fact that he’s a mate of FLee – is that wise? When we fail to win the European Cup by 1997, and Ball’s balls are on the chopping block, will our glorious leader be able to swing the axe?

Peter Gibson (


It’s hard to work out why any sane person would ever watch Manchester City. They tempt and tease you and then treat you with utter disdain – it’s impossible to get free. Someone should do some psychological research into what makes up a City fan (it’s been done for trainspotters after all).

Up until six years old I had no interest in the stupid sport. I was born like almost every snot-nosed Salford kid in “No Hope Hospital” and lived in sight of the docks until I got overspilled out to Little Hulton (which is even more Red than Salford).

I remember watching Bobby Moore and Charlton win the World Cup on our old black-and-white Bush TV (strange to think that’s all England has to brag about footy-wise 30 years-on). I have vague memories of Jeff Astle scoring for WBA in the Cup. My first real memories of football were when I was cornered in the play-ground by five giant 11 year olds when I was a bare junior at Lancashire Tomatoes school. The conversation went something like this:

Them> "Are you a red or a blue?"
Me>   "What?"
Them> "Do you support City or United?"
Me>   "Who?"
Them> "You know, UnitED, The Red Devils, Man U, Georgy Best and Nobby"
Me>   "I don't support anybody, I don't even like football"
Them> "Are you a puff?"
Me>   "No!!! ... What's a puff?"
Them> "He's fuckin' stupid"
Me>   "I may be stupid but at least I don't support United"

If you’ve ever noticed, the mildest of insults is guaranteed to set a United supporter off. They have no control – they don’t get potty trained until they’re into their teens. Needless to say fisticuffs were the order of the day. They’d underestimated me though. This seven year old had been dragged up in Salford and they were soft rural United supporters; no match at all (o.k. maybe I exaggerate). I remember the look of disbelief from Mr Beany, the Headmaster’s face, as I stood with the Reds in his office – all of us covered in mud and (mostly my) blood. I guess that incident made me a Blue.

Soon City won the League. My sister was born in ’68 and was brought into the house as United scored the second against Benfica. I’ve never liked her. I watched the ’69 Cup Final from behind the sofa. I had nightmares for months about Leicester’s Andy Lochead who seemed as if he was going to equalise all game long. 1970… I listened to the Cup Winners’ Cup Final on the radio in the dark.

I saw my first live game against Derby County in 1971 (my dad’s a Red so it was up to my Aunty Margaret to take me). I still remember the noise, the smell of smoke and Les Green catching everything that City belted at him. 0-1, I loved it.

As we all know, City had a great team in the early 70’s. How they lost to Wolves in the League Cup and were robbed by Derby and Leeds in the League I’ll never know. What a great day it was when Law backheeled the Reds into oblivion.

1975, Marsh was brilliant, Tueart walked on water, Bell was King. Asa was ace. 1976. That big donkey Buchan carried out the worst tackle of all time. Definitely premeditatated on our only world class player in 30 years. Even though we beat them 4-0 and the sight of Tommy Booth knifing through United’s defence as a mid-field sub. was a sight to behold, I was really unhappy after that game. I believe if Bell had stayed fit things would be very different at City today. On to Wembley, Barnes stormed and Tueart won it with an incredible piece of creativity (well not quite as he’d scored with an overhead kick about 10 times in the league that season). Mike Doyle handled MacDonald as only a rabid Blue could (keep Phelan I say).

United started to come back into the picture and of course their supporters still couldn’t take losing. They used to wreck the ‘Horse Shoe’, where I pulled pints, at least twice a month. I saw the Leeds game with the horses on the pitch and dodged the usual barrage of bricks and bottles from those ever so well behaved Yorkshire people. I could go on about various Leeds United nightmares (victories and losses) but I won’t. Going to an away game was not a safe/pleasant experience in the 70’s. If it’s still the same today you have my sympathy.

The 70’s whimpered out, the 80’s whimpered in. Alf Gray robbed us. The ’82 Cup Final games were soul-destroying. I tried not to blame Tommy Hutchinson (Corrigan had it covered). I didn’t even see Steve MacKenzie’s goal as I was watching someone trying to throw Tottenham supporters onto the tunnel netting. I thought Tueart was going to steal it when he came on. He nearly did.

I guess the last ten or so years have been a disaster, with no respite. Many hardy souls keep on coming back for more but without a smell of a derby win (except for the 5-1 of course) to keep me going I can’t bare to pay too much attention. We’re probably going to go down but at least United won’t win the European Cup next season. It did give me great pleasure to watch the Reds get hammered in the cup final. It was well worth getting up at 6:00 a.m. PST to enjoy it.

Good luck to all fellow Blues. Hopefully fortunes, and the government, will change soon. Shit! I ended this on a note of typical Blue blind-optimism.

David Humphreys (davidh@sco.COM)


Thanks to David (x3), Andy, Luke, Charles, Mark, James, Martin (x2), Tony, Jon, Svenn, Phil, John, Peter & Flixton.

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

Ashley Birch,

Newsletter #102