Newsletter #481

Apologies, but due to a lack of time, the contents will have to speak for themselves tonight!

There are now 2,396 (addresses) on the distribution list – had to think of another way of saying it!

Next game, Burnley away, Tuesday 9th March 1999



On a day that began with moderately heavy snowfall in and around Manchester, it was great to see another superb crowd at the Academy for what we had reasonably expected to be a safe three points. 27,999 turned up with high expectations.

It was of course not to be. I suppose the match had started off rather badly for me. On the way to the ground I accidentally stood in one of the huge piles of horse s**t that almost seem like a design feature of the alleyways that run round the back of the Kippax. An easy thing to do when you’re trying to avoid the equally huge but slightly more revolting piles of dog s**t.

Despite my best efforts to scrape it from my trainers the rather acrid smell of the horse muck coupled with the equally pungent aroma of a young Mancunian sat in front of me (who needed a damn good wash with some strong carbolic!) was to haunt me throughout the game.

Strange nickname for a team I thought, Cobblers. Even stranger to hear the away fans shouting ‘Come on Cobblers’.

Moving on to the game, there’s no getting away from it but a 0-0 home draw was a disappointment. We started in a scrappy, undirect fashion. Without doubt the scrappiest start of the year. It was obvious that this was going to be a difficult one. Northampton clearly had come with the intention of going all out for it. They had as many as possible of their players behind the ball at every opportunity and with Goater and Taylor looking lacklustre I wasn’t confident.

We had a couple of early runs, Edghill let go with an early low shot, Crooks had an early free kick and Horlock had an opportunity around the 12th minute or so.

Almost from the start I thought Michael Brown was looking our best player; as well as having a few goes himself he was also doing well at getting the ball across. Approaching the half hour Taylor headed on goal only to see it go wide, but to be honest I’d be exaggerating if I said we really looked like we were going to score.

I don’t offer this as an excuse but the refereeing was without doubt the most lamentable I have seen for some time and there’s been some dodgy refereeing this year. This came to a head in a 2-minute spell as Horlock was booked twice and sent off. To say that the booking was fair would be like saying Maggie Thatcher remains the darling of the working classes.

She isn’t and it wasn’t.

The linesman has to take his share of the responsibility he was right next to the incident and he should have put his view to the referee. Basically Horlock had gone in for a tackle, the player jumped and slipped, there was no contact made and Horlock was in the book. I understand from the radio reports that we listened to as we drove home that the Northampton player is happy to testify at the appeal to say that there was no contact. The next challenge was a straightforward 50-50 ball. That was it and to the intense annoyance and bile of the crowd the referee showed him the red card.

After that it was always going to be uphill and I suppose we did OK with 10 men. We got nothing from this game because Goater and Taylor were very poor and on that showing would struggle to make the grade in a second rate pub team. This was all the more disappointing as I thought Goater had improved a little recently.

I was certain that Royle would bring Dickov on for Goater at the interval and I hoped Tiatto for Taylor and allow Brown to roam a little more forward. It wasn’t to be though and we didn’t see Dickov until well into the second half, with only 30 minutes or so to go. His impact was immediate and we looked more likely to get something with him on. The most striking difference between Dickov and Goater is that Dickov looks like he wants the ball all the time, I think Joe Royle must start with him in the coming matches if we are going to maintain and improve on our recent good run.

I haven’t got much else to say as I was too cold to make more notes. On balance then we did deserve to win and there is no doubt we were the better team, but yet again we were let down by the abysmal form in front of goal that our strikers show.

I do still think we will make the play-offs, but we remain determined to do it the hard way and leave it until the last kick of the season.

At the next home game the ‘special guest’ at the Academy is Ronald McDonald (honest), giving out freebies etc. and promoting no doubt, the joys of fast food.

I sincerely hope that Joe Royle is able to sign him up and play him instead of one of our strikers, after all he could’t look any more stupid could he?

Tony Burns (


MANCHESTER CITY vs. NORTAMPTON TOWN, Saturday 6th March 1999

With Gillingham and Preston playing each other, this match provided City with the ideal opportunity to catch up on the teams above. But alas, in a dire performance City failed to beat Northampton and played out their fourth 0-0 draw at Maine Road.

I should have known this wasn’t going to be a good day; on arriving at my seat, my Meat & Potatao pie fell apart and I knocked over my coffee. The following 90 minutes did little to raise my spirits. Playing the predominantly long ball game that I feared when Royle took over, City showed few glimpses of skill against a poor Northampton side.

With Morrison and Horlock replacing Fenton and Mason, City lined up as follows :-

Crooks  Wiekens  Morrison  Edghill
Cooke   Brown      Bishop     Horlock
       Goater      Taylor

Subs: Dickov, Tiatto, Vaughan

A rather subdued start from City saw them stroll through the motions. With little to excite the crowd the atmosphere was strangely flat. Edghill tried to liven things up on 7 minutes when he cut in from the left and fired in a low shot that the ‘keeper easily saved. After 15 minutes Cooke crossed from the right and Taylor headed well past when he should have done better. Taylor was having his usual poor game typified on 20 minutes when Goater played the ball into him on the edge of the box and in loads of space, Taylor chose to play the ball out right to, well nobody, simply awful.

The game came to life with the referee’s diabolical decision to send off Kevin Horlock. On 28 minutes, Horlock challenged for the ball in City’s left hand corner. Although an innocuous challenge, the referee saw otherwise and booked him. Horlock was none too pleased and argued for ages. A minute later saw City attacking, the ball broke free in the Northampton box, and Horlock went to challenge. Horlock and a Northampton player went down and the crowd appealed for a penalty. The referee gave it the other way. Horlock fell to the ground in despair, which the referee didn’t take kindly to and promptly sent him off. Presumably for aggressive diving. Morrison as captain decided he should have words with the ref and duly got booked. Didn’t Royle tell him what he can and can’t say to the ref before he gave him the job as ‘spokesman’?

Northampton should have taken advantage when on 40 minutes they broke on the right, into space behind Edghill, the first time cross was met by a header from Northampton’s centre forward forcing Nicky Weaver to make a good save, with Morrison clearing the resulting loose ball. After 42 minutes, a poor clearance from Weaver quickly found a Northampton forward who tried a shot from the halfway line; luckily he placed too much back spin on the ball, and it bounced back from the goal and into the arms of the relieved Weaver. Would have made a perfect golf shot. Three minutes into first half injury time saw City’s best effort of the game. A great turn from Michael Brown on the edge of the box, followed by a terrific shot towards the top left corner was kept out by a great save from the Northampton ‘keeper. From the resulting corner Andy Morrison, completely unmarked in the penalty area, headed towards the right hand corner, beating the ‘keeper but unfortunately seeing the ball headed off the line by a Northampton defender.

City started with more passion in the second half, and on 50 minutes a great cross-field pass from Morrison found Taylor on the left; he passed first time to the overlapping Brown, who crossed low into the box for Goater to put a couple of feet wide. Difficult chance but he should have scored. On 60 minutes Dickov replaced the awful Goater, and shortly after, a long cross from Dickov found Taylor in a similar move to the winning goal vs. Stoke. This time Taylor headed across goal but the ‘keeper made a good save.

City nearly lost the game in the closing minutes when a goalmouth scramble in the City box nearly gave Northampton a totally undeserved winning goal, but Wiekens tidied up as per usual. Despite continuous pressure City didn’t force the Northampton ‘keeper to make another save and the game petered out to yet another Maine Road 0-0 draw.

Here’s my view of how the players performed:

Weaver: Only needed to make one save, but he did it. Apart from one dodgy kick he had a fine game (7).
Crooks: Involved in the game a lot. Rarely lost possession, and made good overlapping runs in the first half. After Horlock went off, he concentrated more on defence and was obviously less effective as an attacking option (8).
Edghill: Poor first half. Kept on conceding possession with bad passes. Picked up second half but not a great game (5).
Wiekens: Did everything required of him, although he did allow Northampton’s centre forward a free header late in the first half (8).
Morrison: Played some great long balls from defence. Won everything in the air and generally commanded the defence. However, along with Wiekens he was at fault for that late first half Northampton chance, which if the opposition was any better would have been snapped up (8).
Cooke: Involved in many of City’s attacking moves. Not always productive but kept trying. He put in many crosses, but unfortunately Taylor was on the end of most of them. Performed defensive duties as well, and would be a great signing if City can find the money (8).
Brown: Good game. Great shot first half that deserved a goal, and made some good runs in the second. Looked tired towards the end, although not surprising with Horlock absent (8).
Bishop: Best game I have seen from him. Kept the ball flowing well from centre midfield, and played some neat little balls into the forwards. Although too often the ball ended up with Goater or Taylor and that was the end of another City attack. Also, performed his defensive duties well (8).
Horlock: Didn’t do anything apart from the two bookings. If Royle’s looking for a left-sided attacker, does this mean Horlock’s place is under threat? Surely Royle is not going to drop Pollock or Brown? Although not a great season from Horlock, any money that might be available should surely be used to replace the forwards, and not Horlock (5).
Goater: A poor game. Goater is too similar in style to Taylor, i.e. neither of them has the ability to create chances for themselves or each other. When Goater was scoring goals at the beginning of the season, Dickov and Bradbury were doing all the hard work and created a number of chances for him. Alongside Taylor, Goater may, if he’s lucky, get the odd headed flick on. But not in this game (3).
Taylor: Much of City’s play at the moment is directed through Taylor, which is unfortunate because he loses possession a good 50% of the time. Although tall, he doesn’t appear to jump well, and his headers are often misplaced. He did try hard though and chased to win the ball back on numerous occasions, although often after he’d lost it in the first place. Both Goater and Taylor are far too static in their movement up front, with neither player willing to make space by running to the flanks. A typical City move saw Crooks just past the halfway line. Looking up he saw little to aim for with Cooke marked so he just lumped it towards Taylor on the edge of the box. Naturally Taylor was outjumped and another City move broke down. This happened time and time again. So frustrating and so boring to watch. Just a thought, but if Crystal Palace can’t afford to pay us the money outstanding on Bradbury, why don’t we take the player back? He’s a far better footballer than Taylor, but then again so is Moonchester (4).

Dickov: Came on for Goater for the last half hour, and contributed more in his first 5 minutes than Goater did in the whole game. A bad knock with 10 minutes left restricted him considerably, but surely it’s time for an extended run in the side. Drop Goater to the reserves, where he can find his scoring touch again, put Dickov in and recall Russell from Port Vale as first alternative on the bench. Simple (7).

In his post match analysis on local radio, Royle focussed on Horlock’s sending off. Sure, it shouldn’t have happened and may have cost City a win. But for the first half-hour before the dismissal City were simply awful. If anything they picked up after the sending off. Certainly the crowd was more lively. I would have preferred to hear why Joe Royle persists with Taylor and Goater up front. City look a good side from Weaver through to all the midfield. But up front they probably have the worst pairing in this division, and unless Royle changes things around City could still miss out on the play-offs.

Colin Jonas (


Yet another 2 important points dropped at home and yet again no jump in the goals-for total … how costly will that turn out to be in May? Last week I wrote that the referee at Chesterfield was of a high standard. At Maine Road yesterday we saw the other extreme, and it’s always bad news when the ref wants to be the star of the show.

The amount of shoves, nudging and pushing etc. when going for high balls (by both sides I might add) that was blatantly missed or ignored was incredible. Then we’d see some perfectly routine jostling penalised, so no consistency. Late in the game, one throw in was given City’s way when it should clearly have gone to Northampton, a decision so bad that everyone around me in the stand literally laughed in disbelief!

Anyway, quick summary of the 1st half football action:

  • Little clear chances created by City in the first half.
  • One superb piece of trickery by Cooke but little else.
  • Taylor headed 3 or 4 good crosses about 10 yards wide (typical – see later for comment).
  • Northampton shot wide twice in front of an open goal.
  • Weaver completely miskicked a clearance, leaving Northampton the open goal to lob into from half way … luckily they missed.

Quick summary of the non-football action:

  • Horlock booked for a tussle down near the corner flag.
  • Straight after, Horlock down in a heap in the Northampton penalty areawith one of their players, and was sent off. I can’t comment because:
    1. I was far away at the opposite end of the ground, and
    2. I didn’t see it happen as I was looking out at the wing.
  • Look forward to reading some reports from anyone in the North Stand!

Quick summary of the 2nd half action:

  • Fair amount of City pressure considering 10 men against 11.
  • But again few clear chances created.
  • Taylor got a couple of headers on target before he was subbed (Dickov) including one that brought the best save of the day.
  • Dickov improved the urgency and penetration when he came on.
  • Goater leapt a mighty 8 feet in the air to win a header … but in thecentre circle (no use there, why not think about doing it in their penaltyarea Shaun?)


I’m afraid I like Taylor less with every game. We’ve got to try some more permutations, if we haven’t got anyone better than him we don’t deserve promotion (harsh but true). Goater is slightly better if only because of his physical presence in the penalty area. On the plus side, another excellent defensive performance and clean sheet – well done Wiekens, Morrison, Edghill, Crooks. Brown deserved a goal for his effort – with 11 on the pitch maybe he’d have got one.

Nicky Weaver and the boyos in defence won’t agree with me, but I’d rather it was 3-3 or 4-4 than 0-0. The whole squad should write out 100 times: “Goals for, goals for, goals for, goals for … “

Steve Maclean (


I don’t get to see City that often in the flesh, so why is it that they always seem to let me down when I do? In fact I have to admit I’ve now only made it to Maine Road three times in my life (twice in 12 months) and never seen them win at home (most of my ‘live’ viewings have been away games). The four of us set off in lousy weather, coming across four more Beverley Blues at Hartshead Services en route to the Academy (that’s a minimum of eight City fans in a town with a population of 42,000 – does anyone have a better ratio outside Manchester?). Having failed to meet up with Ashley and Steve before the game (more success at half-time; nice to put faces to the e-mails) I settled down hoping to have trouble keeping tally of the goals, but the team (aided by the referee) had other ideas.

We started quietly but Crooks and Cooke had lots of space down the right to run at the massed ranks of the Northampton defence. A succession of crosses went begging as Messrs Goater and Taylor showed why they’ve not exactly been worrying the statisticians much of late. The Northampton supporters were fairly vociferous, intent, like so many visiting contingents this year, on enjoying seeing their team playing in front of 28,000 people. The rest of the North Stand made them feel at home – “Who the f****n ‘ell are you!”. When you’re nickname is the Cobblers I guess you need a thick skin!

We had plenty of possession but weren’t really troubling their ‘keeper, but then the referee took a hand in shaking things up. Horlock was booked, justifiably it would seem judging by the half-time video replay, for a late tackle. Minutes later, he was booked again and we were faced with playing 60 minutes with 10 men. He must wonder what he’s done to upset referees, returning from suspension for ‘walking aggressively’, he gets sent off for ‘intent to score a goal’ following in on a loose ball and accidentally catching the defender in the process. Cue lots of verbal abuse for the ref (fair enough) but followed apparently by some (small) object being thrown in his direction (reports subsequently stated that the police were monitoring a section of the crowd (presumably the lower tier of the Kippax then) at the request of the ref). The huffing and puffing continued, but only on the stroke of half-time did we manage to force their ‘keeper into a save, as he dived to stop Mike Brown’s shot going into the top right hand corner.

We reflected on the quality of the first half over beer and lots of free Peperami; what was the logic behind that promotional stunt? “26 years for molesting a tomato is outrageous” said the card I was given; what about the life sentence of being a City fan? I felt inclined to chuck a few of them onto the pitch to give us some bite, introduce a ‘bit of an animal’ and all that. The second half was much the same, with Northampton seemingly lacking the courage (ability?) to go for the win, and us lacking in ideas and manpower to break them down, so stalemate it was, with the accent on stale. Dickov came on for Goater, speeded things up a far bit but we never really looked like breaking them down. The ride home was a subdued one,

It was a collective failure really; nobody stood out as having a really bad game, and defensively we looked solid, though I suspect this was not one of Gerard Wiekens’ better games and Crooks and Cooke seemed to be having a few comms problems. With losing Horlock early in the game and Bishop not really being up for it, it was left to Cooke and Brown (I’d have given them joint man-of the-poor-match) to try to provide the ammo for Goater and Taylor, and they were once again firing blanks. Highlights of the day? The T-Shirt slogans in the ‘unofficial’ shop (the official one was jam-packed) – Kenny says “United, suck on my chocolate salty balls” and Manchester City, On Loan to the 2nd Division to improve attendances.

These draws and our lack of firepower could well be our undoing. For instance, Stoke had lost 8 out of 10 prior to this weekend, but by winning at Blackpool they got more points in one game than we’ve managed in our last two. Fulham aren’t even on our radar scope and even if Preston slip up other teams look more likely to take advantage than us. The consolation is that we’re mean defensively now – we lost to Reading earlier this season after going down to 10 men so at least we avoided that – and still unbeaten this year. If you’re reading JR, sort it out before it’s too late!

Still CTID, Geoff Donkin (Geoff@Donkin.Freeserve.Co.UK)


‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ / ‘We don’t know what we’re doing’

It’s hard to know what was the main problem in the Northampton game, the incompetence of the referee or of City. I’m sure strong views will be expressed elsewhere in MCIVTA about the performance of Matt Messias. The worrying thing is that having had this ref for the fiasco in Millwall last September, that the Football League appointed him to another City game this season, when they supposedly have a huge panel of referees for the three divisions to choose from. What are the chances of seeing our friend from Bournemouth appointed to referee the last league game against York or a play-off match? From where I was sitting, both of the bookings for Horlock on Saturday were very harsh; to think they add up to a red card is nonsense. Messias then totally lost his nerve after the reaction of the crowd (‘You don’t know what you’re doing’), gave a few minor decisions to City that should have gone to Northampton, and ran around like a headless chicken after Goater collided with their ‘keeper (“I think I’ll go see if the ‘keeper is ok; no, I think I’ll go ask the linesman what happened, even though he was twice as far from the incident as I was; now I think I’ll go over to the tunnel and see what’s happening over there; it looks quiet up in the Northampton six-yard box, I think I’ll take a breather there for a while”; etc.). How can we blame the opposition for time-wasting if the ref is at it as well?

The problems City were faced with on Saturday were serious, but if we honestly think we deserve to be promoted, then we have to win games like this. However, most performances ranged from mediocre to incompetent:

Weaver: Reasonably safe, but concentration seemed a problem a couple of times, with one fluffed kick near the end of the first half nearly proving costly.
Crooks: Deserves praise for trying to attack. Often supported Cooke in the first half, and made some decent overlaps.
Edghill: Pathetic. Games like this need him to contribute going forward, but we can’t expect high quality crosses if he can’t even pass the ball (one really pitiful effort near the end).
Wiekens: Class in defence, but because he has so much more ability than his teammates, it would be nice if he could play a bit more creatively from the back. Passing the ball square, or hoofing against a big rough side like Northampton was never likely to succeed.
Morrison: Got better as the game went on. Good understanding with Wiekens. Probably unlucky to get booked, as you would expect the captain to talk (carefully!) to the referee after such a dodgy sending off. However, his disciplinary record is so poor (1 red, 7 yellows in about 13 games) that it seems bizarre that he was appointed captain because Pollock’s behaviour was so bad!
Horlock: Seems to stroll around at a slower pace than everyone else, so how the hell has he got sent off twice in three games?
Brown: My man of the match. Effort and creativity. Looked a useful left wing in the absence of Horlock, and showed that the way to expose 2nd Division footballers is to run at them. I think it was Brown who forced the best save from Northampton’s bumble-bee-keeper with a shot from the edge of the box late in the first half.
Bishop: Looked more like a retired priest than a bishop. When he was talking last week of City having a chance of automatic promotion, it obviously wasn’t based on an analysis of his own form.
Taylor: Royle has been justifiably loyal to Taylor, picking him for about 18 consecutive games. This has allowed Taylor to prove conclusively that he is utter crap, we have to get rid of him. Would Lee Bradbury have looked a decent player if he had a settled, solid team behind him like Taylor has had for over two months? I honestly think that ‘selling’ Bradbury was a big mistake, as it has destroyed Shaun Goater’s form, and we may not even make any money from it, if reports of the ‘instalment’ arrangements are accurate. Is it true that Crystal Palace have been renamed Plastic Hut because they are so poor (but who are we to laugh)?
Goater: If we could just give him a confidence injection, our prospects for the next two months would look all the brighter. Did have one good chance early in the second half, but nudged it wide. Saturday’s performance gives no hope that he will regain the goal-scoring form of early season.
Cooke: Looked as if he would tear their baldy captain to pieces, but never quite delivered. Created most of the chances/half chances in the first half, especially when supported by Crooks or Brown, but faded really badly in the second half.

Sorry to rant on so negatively after a game that extended our unbeaten run to 11 games, but it we don’t find a goalscorer in the next few weeks, I can’t see how we could get promoted.

Eamonn Lonergan (


City Face FA Enquiry

Saturday’s goalless draw with Northampton not only provided a disappointing result, but could see the club landed with a fine after coins and, rather unusually, an asthma inhaler were thrown at referee Matt Messias following his decision to send off Kevin Horlock. The police spokesman certainly seemed relaxed about the incident, joking that they’re looking for “a man who’s out of breath and can’t afford his bus fare home”. The FA are unlikely to be so unconcerned, however. Nevertheless, from all accounts, humour seems an appropriate response to two simply laughable pieces of refereeing. The first booking was for a foul where Chris Freestone, the Northampton player involved, said there was no contact (and for which a linesman, a couple of yards away, failed to signal an award). Meanwhile, Roy Hunter, the opponent Horlock collided with when trying to reach a loose ball in the Cobblers’ penalty area 60 seconds later, was equally adamant that there’d been no yellow card offence. However, despite both Freestone and Hunter saying they’d back an appeal and despite Northampton manager Ian Atkins also voicing support for the player, Royle isn’t optimistic that justice will be done.

Of course, this is Horlock’s second red card in his last three games, the first being equally ludicrous (you’ll remember that the reason for his second yellow card at Bournemouth was “aggressive walking”). The player was said to be distraught, and Joe Royle, who according to the unusually sympathetic Mirror, had “every right to be livid”, certainly wasn’t impressed. To his credit, JR’s comments were remarkably restrained in the circumstances. In an early bid for the ‘Understatement of 1999’ crown, he noted his worry “at the standard of refereeing in this division. It seems to be pretty poor”. What annoys me more than the decision itself is the attitude of Messias afterwards, when he booked Andy Morrison for questioning the decision without resorting to foul or abusive language (admittedly Messias didn’t quite match the panache of Brian Coddington, who after booking Tony Vaughan for what video replays proved to be a non-existent foul, found enough dissent in Horlock’s menacing gait enough to warrant a yellow card at Dean Court). The inept, dictatorial, self-important pair should reflect that their decisions would be better received if they showed a semblance of refereeing competence. The FA should reflect there’s something seriously wrong with a disciplinary system which, in the age of video evidence, obliges a player to serve a suspension when all observers and the opposing players and manager are united in condemning his sending off as a miscarriage of justice.

Blues Stay Sixth

The point against Northampton meant that City stayed in sixth place. Preston drew at Gillingham, so we’re still thirteen points off second spot albeit with a game in hand. Despite City extending the unbeaten run to eleven games, Blue View was at its gloomiest for weeks, with the general opinion being that the failure to take all three points on Saturday is likely to be fatal to automatic promotion hopes. Indeed, we have to look over our shoulders, as Stoke and Wigan both have games in hand and would overhaul us if they won. Stoke arrested their recent decline by winning at Blackpool, while Wigan’s home game with Burnley was postponed. Chesterfield, who drew at Wrexham, are only a couple of points behind us, too. The benchmark for a play-off place in an average season is around 72 points, but it looks like more will be needed this time out. I’m still confident we’ll do it, but there won’t be much margin for error.

Strikers Under Fire

Boosting the current scoring rate, of course, is a must if we’re to win promotion even via the play-offs. The Taylor/Goater partnership has been under fire from many fans for some time, and the lack of goals was again a big topic for discussion among the on-line City community on Saturday evening. After all, in the last eleven games, we’ve only conceded three goals yet have failed to win five of those matches – a statistic which certainly points to the lack of a cutting edge. And some chose to focus on the nightmare scenario of City coming unstuck in a play-off penalty shoot-out after dominating our opponents and failing to make our territorial advantage count! The alternatives to the current striking partnership aren’t especially inspiring – whenever I’ve seen Paul Dickov, he’s never seemed to carry much threat on goal, while JR obviously doesn’t rate Craig Russell even though I think he might add some pace and movement to the front line. I’ve never seen Danny Allsopp play, though he can’t be regarded as a proven quantity, and nor have I seen Shaun Wright-Phillips, who’s even more of a rookie. However, with Taylor and Goater having managed six goals between them in four months, there’s an argument gaining currency that neither of the youngsters would be likely to do much worse.

Only The Best For Joe

The other answer, of course, is to enter the transfer market. We’re constantly being told that any move would have to be on a loan basis, as there’s still no more news on the possibility of a cash injection before the transfer deadline (for what it’s worth, the share price has fallen 5p to 90p). However, Royle is insistent that he’ll only sign players who are not only good enough for this division, but who would give a creditable account of themselves at a higher level. He points to the players he’s been trying to bring in this season – Cooke and Branch have arrived on loan, while we’ve made attempts to sign the likes of Lazaridis, Sharpe, Kennedy, Sinton, Beauchamp, Donis and Hignett, all of whom have Premiership pedigree. No doubt Royle is pursuing other avenues as I write, though our status and the requirement of a loan deal reduce the number of viable targets fairly sharply. It goes without saying that a striker or a left-sided winger is the priority.

Bradbury Unrest

Of course, we might be able to do a permanent deal if we received the money Crystal Palace still owe us for Lee Bradbury. I sniffed around some Palace websites at the weekend in a vain attempt to discover when we might receive our cash. On their Teamtalk page, however, there’s a reference to the “major unrest in other boardrooms” caused by the £5 million in transfer fees owed by the London club. Liverpool and Villa were mentioned as aggrieved parties, but the club said to be most upset was Manchester City. The report stated that we’re still owed £750,000 of the Bradbury fee, and I’d guess these funds would be used for a pre-deadline splash in the transfer market if they were forthcoming in time. The Palace chairman Mark Goldberg is still talking a good game and reckons his club will pull through, in which case we’ll presumably get our money. On the other hand, virtually every promise he’s made since taking the reins at Palace seems to have been shattered, so it’s hard to believe him this time.

Fans Stand By Blues

I’d suspected that, with our promotion prospects uncertain, season ticket ticket sales would initially be slow this year. In fact, 500 were sold within ten days of their going on sale, a threefold increase on last year’s figure at the same stage. There’s been a rise in the number of new applicants, too. Club secretary Bernard Halford puts this down to the large number of games at Maine Road which have sold out for home fans, with the result that supporters want to guarantee their place. Let’s just hope the higher numbers are watching a higher grade of football.

Burnley Preview

Tuesday night (weather permitting – there’s apparently a risk that continued rain may make the pitch unplayable) sees City’s first midweek action of 1999 as we embark on the short trip to Burnley’s Turf Moor. It’s a visit we’ve not made in the league since (I think) 1975-76, when both teams were in the old Division One. Until our recent decline, City hadn’t dipped even into the bottom half of English football’s second tier, but Burnley fared much worse after their own top flight demise. They’ve spent most of this period in the bottom two divisions, and in 1987 famously came within 90 minutes of dropping from the league altogether. However, in terms of tradition and support, they’re one of the biggest clubs in this division, and they have one of the best away grounds we’ll visit. These factors haven’t been matched on the field, and they’re no doubt disappointed to be languishing in the bottom half of the table despite managing last summer to lure the successful managerial pair of Stan Ternent and a certain Sam Ellis from Bury. Recent results have continued to be poor despite heavy spending on the likes of Bury’s Lenny Johnrose and Luton’s Steve Davis, and the Clarets suffered a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Gillingham in their last home fixture. However, they’ll see our visit as a chance to get back on track in front of a big crowd, so I’ll be more than happy if we emulate our FA Cup trip there in 1991, when a single Colin Hendry goal was sufficient to ensure our passage to the next round.

Frank Helps Cup Bid

Mr. Manchester’s diary in the Manchester Evening News occasionally produces an odd snippet about a notable City fan and the latest to be featured is diplomat Frank Wheeler. Recently retired from the post of British Ambassador to Chile, Wheeler had a near forty year Foreign Office career which among other things saw him posted in Moscow during the Cuban missile crisis. Since returning from South America, Wheeler has been an adviser to England’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup, using diplomatic contacts and briefing FA officials on how to act during support-seeking visits overseas. Wheeler’s been a Blue for thirty years – hooked during the era of Bell, Lee and Summerbee, he no doubt thought there’d be cups and exciting, winning football on a regular basis and only later realised quite what he’d got himself into! He now makes occasional trips to Maine Road and watches away games in the south of England. If the 2006 bid is successful, incidentally, the new stadium at Eastlands will be a venue, meaning we’ll be able to watch games at City’s home ground.

Peter Brophy (


Manchester City vs. Wigan, Saturday 3rd April

Tickets for this fixture are now on sale to postal applicants only. Tickets will go on sale to telephone and personal callers from Saturday 13th March.

Thank you to all the supporters that replied to our questionnaire regarding online ticket sales. We will keep you updated on any new developments.

Ticket Office – Manchester City


As a point of news/gossip, can I point out that Cloughie Jr’s assistant at Burton Albion is none other than Gary Crosby – the Forest player who deprived us of a much-needed away win in 1989-90 when he headed the ball out of Andy Dibble’s hand to knock it in and secure a draw? I used to live in Grantham, where GC used to play for the local team – these days Doc Martens prem, like Burton Albion. He was the record outward transfer – £20,000 to Forest; and (if my memory serves me correctly) in his younger days he used to taunt me about my perennial lateness on my paper round from his bedroom window. He was two years or so below me at school – and I never forgave him for that. The Dibble goal was just another black mark…

Call me paraniod if you will, but I have a theory that there’s a grudge at work with Nigel Clough’s choice of no.2…

Alan Bates (


The year is 2030, football has long since ceased to be the most popular spectator sport in the world and has been replaced in the public’s affection by Referring.

Week in, week out, stadiums are filled to bursting to watch an endless stream of middle-aged men direct two groups of 22 men kick a ball around for ninety minutes with no obvious purpose in mind.

The rules of the game require the referee to be unfit, visually impaired with no particular qualification other than committing to memory a fifty-year-old rule book which was of dubious value when first conceived and written down in the last quarter of the Twentieth Century.

Referees will be Amateur in all the worst meanings of the word and will be judged in the following categories:

Technical Merit

Based on the individual’s ability to ignore completely the rules of the game. More points may be awarded for the arbitrary and deliberate mis-application of the rules.


Macho – Assertive posturing with a flag or set of coloured cards.

Artistic Impression

Making decisions and judgements that seem plausible but bear no relation to the events that took place.

In general, participants will be judged on their ability to interfere and meddle with events they neither understand nor follow.

It was thought that players should, after matches, be required to give a verbal explanation of, and rationale for, their decisions. This was ditched by their governing body as it was thought that the application of intelligence and accountability would detract from the sport as a spectacle.

In the year 2024 the English Referring Manager was sacked when England failed to qualify in the World Referring Cup for the third consecutive time. The English Ref – Dull Purkin, was disqualified. He spoiled an otherwise perfect performance, having three French players shot while Roy Slightly-Overkeen was disembowelling the ‘keeper with a blunt spoon, by a display that suggested there might be a difference between obstruction and shielding the ball. His case was not helped by an assistant that insisted on giving offside decisions based on a player’s position when the ball was kicked – I thought we had stamped out this kind of free thinking in the 1990’s.

All sarcasm aside, I think that anyone who loves football, believes that the function of a referee is to ensure that at all times, irrespective of the teams involved, the game is played within the rules in a spirit of fairness. The quality of the teams, their fitness and organisation should be what determines the outcome of the games. When the `qualities’ of the officials determines results then the lunatics really have taken over the asylum.

It averages out over a season – this is crap. Who has tested this theory? It’s a cop-out, a crude device to paper over the cracks and do nothing. Even if it were true it is a totally inadequate basis for the management of a worldwide industry. How many other organisations could or would chose to survive on such a flimsy premise?

Saturday’s official Matt Messiahs(!) was a particularly bad example of what is an unimpressive lot that peddle their trade in this division.

Mr. Messitup completely managed to see from thirty yards, something his assistant did not see from three yards – Booking number 1 for Kevin Horlock for a tackle that made no contact with the Northampton player – a fact later confirmed by their manager. His omniscience was confirmed several minutes later when he managed to see a foul that was not seen by anybody else in the stadium – we can’t all have gone to the toilet at the same time.

If you are angry now – save your rage – his decisions and Kevin’s red card will, in all probability be upheld by the FA.

As for the rest of the match, I find myself in something of a dilemma. I can’t bring myself to criticise a team reduced to 10 men that held out for a point, but at the same time Northampton couldn’t have beaten ten asthmatic ducks (is it only ageing Cockneys like me that see the irony in a chant that goes “Cobblers and we’re proud of it”?) and we had enough real chances to take all the points.

The best fell to Shaun Goater who managed from the edge of the six yard box by the left hand post to steer a ball wide of the right hand post. He was under pressure but this was one of the few times he was first to the ball and should have made sure. If confidence is a problem up front, then the additional stress of an end of season run-in is not going to help. Time for fresh faces and let others rest and recover. Draws for the rest of the season will not be enough to ensure play-offs and promotion.

Their ‘keeper Billy Turvey (surely a Rik Mayall character!) made two good saves, a 25-30 shot from Brown in the first half and an even better one in the second half when he got a hand to a well placed header from Taylor. He was reduced to status of spectator when a free kick from Brown sailed the wrong side if his right hand post. Andy Morrison went close when he had a header cleared off the line when the ‘keeper went for the pies.

Still in the play-offs and so solid at the back: If there is a better pair at the back than Wiekins and Morrison then that bloke down the chip shop really is Elvis. Bishop looked good as well, apart from the occasional pass that went to where its intended recipient had been standing five seconds earlier.

As for the rest all I can say is that I had to keep reminding myself that we were down to 10 men. Everybody worked for each other. Northampton only mustered one real chance, forcing a parry from Weaver which Morrison cleared bravely from the toes of an in rushing Northampton player.

Peter Capes CTTCABCAAR – City ’til they cross a brain cell and a Referee (c/o


OK, how many (older Blues) can remember this classic,

Jingle bells, Stepney smells
Crerand’s on the booze
Nobby Stiles has lost his teeth
United’s going to loose…

My favourite each Xmas from the good old days!

CTMMF (City Till My Memory Fades), John Taylor (


Dust JacketThis book (originally published 1994) was mentioned on BlueView a few weeks back, and thanks to Kelvin (Blue in Blue) Stephens, I have at last read it, and following on from Peter Brophy’s review of Cups for Cock Ups, thought I would volunteer my opinion. The book has become topical again because of takeover rumours, the ‘Battle’ in the title refers to Francis Lee’s 1993 boardroom coup.

As the author (Daily Mirror journalist Alec Johnson) is a longtime friend of Franny, I was looking forward to some inside ‘gen’ on that exciting and turbulent period, but I am afraid that whatever this books good points are, deep insight into the boardroom shenanigans is not one of them.

It is a typical footy book produced by a tabloid sportswriter, its 187 very easy pages will not delay you long, and I always feel good reading about those matches in the 60’s and 70’s. A Prologue based in a Gypsy camp is followed by a summary of the great Mercer/Allison years, before strolling through all the subsequent managers. The boardroom battle takes a couple of chapters before Alec realized he hadn’t written enough words, and so fills up with a few extra chapters interviewing Ken Barnes.

The disappointment comes from him not wishing, or being able to dish any dirt. Obviously not a Swales fan, he leaves it to the managers he interviews to say anything wounding. We get no details of the mechanics and relationships that lead to Swales taking over and running the club, and it’s a similar story in 1993. I learnt nothing that I hadn’t read in the papers at the time. No facts, figures or insights, just plenty of blush making hagiography of Lee and Barlow.

The interesting bits were the interviews with all the managers from Allison to Kendall (stopping before Reid who he did not like). They were all almost without exception scathing of the way the board (Swales by implication) handled the financial side of affairs. There appeared to be two plans throughout those dire years.

Plan A – play a few matches and if it was looking good, throw some money on new players. If nothing was won at the end of the season, sell them again (frequently jettisoning the manager at the same time). And Plan B – play a few matches and if we lose them, sack the manager and give the new manager some money to stave of relegation.

For example, Bond’s recollection of the Francis affair was that a meeting was set up in Derby, a fee agreed (Steve Mackenzie had been sold already to part finance the deal), and Francis went down to Harley St. for a medical. On the way back PJ said to Bond (who hadn’t been in on the negotiations) ‘The deal won’t be going through’. Bond threatened to resign if it didn’t, so we will never know why PJ said that. We do know that at the end of the season we sold him at a massive loss.

There were numerous bits of information that did come as news to me (like the two applicants for Joe Mercer’s job who we turned down), and that in itself is a good reason to read the book. But don’t expect to get anything from the inside story of the 1993 battle that you didn’t read in Alec’s Daily Mirror columns at the time.

As Peter Brophy said, there is a really good book to be written about what has happened to City in the last twenty-five years, but this certainly wasn’t it. There must be an informed journalist/author out there prepared to rise to the challenge, it is a unique story of intrigue and incompetence that will, if well written have a readership across the football world. However, time is running out, Swales and Boler are dead (good as far as libel goes), but once all the parties involved are gone, so is much of the story.

The Battle for Manchester City, Alec Johnson, Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1 85158 654 7 (was £12.99). Available through Amazon if you can’t find it locally.

Martin J Beckett (


Kick racist ass!

Thought I’d make a quick comment on this latest racism issue. Lots of sense has been spoken by others like Alex Bracey, about the need to stand up against bigots who feed off the cowardly safety of being ‘anonymous’ as part of the crowd. I was really surprised however by Steve Fovargue’s comments, suggesting that to eject or arrest the jerks would only be sweeping the issue under the carpet, and would not change their views. Isn’t that the whole point – of say, education and facing the crap in our lives?

I don’t want to get all ‘worthy’ on you, but it’s only when we understand that we all have a racist tendency (partly acquired via cultural absorption), that we can then see it for what it is, be honest and deal with it.

I agree that there will always be those who will happily spit on rational decency, but it is when the majority remain silent that the morons are given a platform. Sure it takes courage to challenge someone on the issue, but I think it’s the least we can do in the light of the obnoxious hatred that fuels this racism.

Without being hysterical, it was the same ‘turning a blind eye’ that brought Hitler to power, and is decimating parts of Europe and Africa – don’t think for a minute that it couldn’t happen here.

Keep the racists out City fans – it’s why we are the best!

Gary Pritchard – white bloke (


Mr Trance, who is a City fan and a Macc fan questioned me through MCIVTA when I said earlier in the season that City can not afford to just go unbeaten at home. Of course I did mean to draw at home is just not good enough. We have such great advantage with such fantastic support we should win most home games.

When I saw City play Wrexham at home early in the season, I could see that City had a problem with their ability to score goals (whoever attended that game will remember the chances missed). When City signed Gareth Taylor I thought, a striker, we are on the right track. I must be honest, I had never heard of Gareth Taylor, but through the Internet I heard he was lazy, but I said to myself, the lad wants to play for Wales, he will give the extra effort, we will be O.K. Now I will be the first one in line not to blame Joe Royle, he can only get the players money can buy. It’s such a shame when our great club Manchester City have to go and beg for players to help us out on loan. And now because we are in Division 2 (no fault of Joe Royle) some players will not even come and play for us.

The truth of the matter is we need investment in the club and soon, some people will not invest untill we get at least to Division 1. I think we are lucky to have Joe Royle and Willie Donachie; they can only do what the club’s money will allow. I have been a life-long City fan and it will not change me if we do not get promotion, I will always be a City fan, but I fear what might happen if we fail to get promotion.

If we fail, it’s because we could not take the advantage of home games. We can still make it, but it is still standing out, as it did in the game way back against Wrexham at home, we need a good striker! I almost feel Joe Royle (even with his hip op) could go on and show them how to score goals. Come on City, we still love you, but someone in the boardroom find some money for Joe to get someone who can score goals! We can still get promotion, all is not lost, but if we do not get promotion it could be too costly for our future.

Come on City get your bloody ass in gear!

City till I die, doesn’t matter what happens, but will all present City fans say that! I doubt it.

Ernie Barrow (



What the #@!* was that? We are intent on making our fans squirm right to the bitter end? New found confidence after Fulham, Stoke, Millwall is somewhat shattered, and Burnley, Notts County games are now viewed with some trepidation. Scary stuffy this.

Two strikers please.

Chris Loveridge – Hawkeye of the “Bay” (


After the City vs. Macclesfield game I wrote my match report and made reference to the rather silly nickname that the club has i.e. The Silkmen.

In a subsequent MCIVTA a reader, Mr Trance, (a Silkman himself) explained the reason for their name and that it was because Macclesfield is an old silk town (it must get soggy when it rains … oops sorry there I go again), and added that because of this it wasn’t such a stupid name after all.

This got me thinking about my rather shallow parochial view and I’ve done some research that other readers may be interested to know about. I think I have managed to work out why other teams have their ‘not so stupid’ nicknames. They are as follows:

Newcastle is known as the Magpies because most of the fans enjoy breeding Magpies; Northampton is known as the Cobblers because it’s an old cobbled town; In East London near West Ham’s ground there’s an old foundry that still makes hammers; Dynamo Kiev is so called because they do a really tasty chicken dish; Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) because it’s run by Cowboys; Cardiff are known as the Bluebirds because Vera Lynn wrote her famous wartime song about Dover whilst holidaying there; Leatherhead is so called because the Lord Mayor (who also established the original Bath FC) who named the town was into some dubious sexual practices; Aston Villa is called the Villains because of a nearby prison; Bolton Wanderers are known as the Trotters because of a serious bout of food contamination that led to serious bowel disorder at the turn of the century; Crystal Palace are known as the Eagles because there is a large nest in the upper stanchions at Selhurst Park and a nesting a pair of eagles return year after year; Derby County are called the Rams because of the unproved prowess of their men folk and Wimbledon are called The Dons because of their Sicilian backers.

Finally did you know that Wigan is famous for manufacturing hairpieces? If other readers can add to this footballing archive of sorts why don’t they write in?

I would also like to pick up on a couple of other points the writer made. He suggested that ‘now that Macc and City have played twice, how about supporting “The Football miracle of the 90s”‘

Well firstly I don’t think The Silkmen are the footbaling miracle of the 90’s. There are two others that spring more readily to mind and they are.

  1. The regular ritual at the Academy where an average of 28,000 lost souls turn up on a regular basis to watch a rag bag of teams that make up this footballing desert – now that’s a miracle and I should know as I’m one of them, and
  2. Surely the French world cup winning side of ’98 must just shade the Silkmen?

I don’t think I will ever look at the results again and think of Macclesfield as the Silkmen for they are after all nothing other than ‘a footballing miracle’ And like most miracles they take a bit of believing in.

Tony Burns (


I never felt that I qualified for a Why Blue as I had no choice in the matter, but I keep reading the requests for more of these entries, so I felt guilty enough to put fingers to keyboard. It all started when I was born, there was never a choice, I was born Blue (actually I was born Blue, I didn’t breathe for a number of minutes so became the “chosen colour”). My story is quite predictable – my grandad was a City fan (I don’t know why) with a season ticket in the Main stand, so my dad was a City fan, with a season ticket in the Main stand, so I became… you get the drift.

I am at least a third generation Blue with all the children of the family baptised at about the same age – I was 9 when I first visited the holy ground and I remember none of it! I was born at the end of an era – 1969, was too young to remember the League Cup and have spent my life watching City get gradually worse. How na