Newsletter #517

City will apparently have to wait for more departures before any further new faces are brought in, so it’s all quite on that front – good to see prudence prevailing for a change. There’s some word on the new kit, though already we have a fairly strong (to say the least) negative opinion. This issue also contains much on great goals, matches and nightmare elevens, including a rather sobering article showing us all just what fragile and unreliable things memories are! I’ve had two replies to my request for any stories on renewed acquaintances (any more) and there’s a pretty unusual Why Blue.

Next game: Bury away, Saturday 17th July 1999 (Friendly)


Part I – Team Matters

City to Sell Before Royle Spends Again: The odds on Mark Kennedy being the Blues’ only close-season signing increased after manager Joe Royle revealed he’s looking to offload some of his high-earning misfits before he makes another signing. Last week saw City finally manage to off-load winger Neil Heaney over a year after the player was first made available, but more progress is needed on the clear-out front before the club will make further buys. The reticence to bring in new men without first clearing the decks stems from the precedent set by former manager Frank Clark. The ex-Forest boss inflated the squad to a ludicrous 54 professionals by recruiting heavily without first disposing of dead wood, and the resultant spiraling wage bill was the principal reason for City’s crippling £6 million loss in the 1997-98 financial year. Royle is intent on not making the same errors, and he noted this week that, “We still have the likes of Craig Russell and Murtaz Shelia available and we could do with getting one or two away before we bring anybody else in.”

Kennedy Prepared to Fight for Place: Meanwhile new boy Kennedy reckons he faces a battle to hold down a starting place in Joe Royle’s side next season. Having seen the Blues at first hand when he took the field for Wimbledon against City in the FA Cup last January, the 23-year-old is impressed with the quality of the squad at Royle’s disposal. And following his viewing of the Blues, Kennedy says he’ll have to be at his best to maintain a place in the first-choice line-up. “I don’t expect to walk straight into the side at Maine Road,” he admitted. “You could tell last season that City had a fantastic spirit in the dressing room. I was impressed by the way they performed and I’m looking forward to a great campaign. This is a massive club with great ambition.” Kennedy was a teenage sensation at Millwall, but moves to Liverpool and then Wimbledon didn’t really work out. As a result, the Irish international is looking to get his career back on track at Maine Road. And he believes Joe Royle is the ideal manager to help him do so. “I had a long chat with Joe about the situation and he’s similar to the way Mick McCarthy likes to do things with regard to the method of playing and training,” explained Kennedy. “I had my best spell under Mick at Millwall in Division One and I’ve had a lot of good times with him playing for Ireland so hopefully the same can happen here at City.”

Royle Excited by Wing Duo: Joe Royle is looking forward to seeing Terry Cooke and Kennedy provide the kind of double wing threat which has been at the heart of his greatest managerial successes. For instance, Royle’s Oldham made their way to Wembley and the Premiership with Neil Adams and Rick Holden on the flanks. Later, during his time at Everton, the City boss took the Goodison club to a sixth-place Premiership finish thanks to prominent contributions from wide men Andrei Kanchelskis and Anders Limpar. And Royle is expecting great things from his latest wing double act. “I said when I came here that I would play 4-4-2 with two wingers and Mark Kennedy will bring us the balance on the left that Terry Cooke gives us on the right,” explained Royle. “He is a great talent who fits the profile of the kind of player we want here. He is young, quick and strong and can go on improving.”

Pollock Wants to Stay: Persistent rumours in the earlier part of the summer were marking Jamie Pollock down as a player likely to be sacrificed by Joe Royle after the former skipper finished a miserable season by being omitted from City’s Wembley plans. However, following the manager’s promise that Pollock would be given the opportunity to fight his way back into the contention, the player has vowed to grab the chance to regain his first-team place. “I love the club and have never thought of leaving,” he said. “I have to admit last season was one of the worst seasons of my life. But that was then and now is now, and in this game you must never look back, just forward. The future here is bright. This coming year is going to be a massive one for the club and I want to play my full part in it.”

Morrison to Retain Captaincy: Pollock’s misery last season was caused in the main by disciplinary problems which, of course, saw him lose the captaincy in February in the wake of his third sending-off in five months. This allowed Andy Morrison the chance to follow in the footsteps of Sam Cowan, Roy Paul, Tony Book and Mike Doyle by skippering City to victory at Wembley. And Joe Royle has confirmed that the bargain £80,000 buy from Huddersfield will be retaining the armband for the new campaign. “I’m delighted with the job he did last year,” affirmed Joe, “and I’m looking forward to him staying as captain for a long time.”

Georgians Receive Permit Boost: City’s Georgian defensive duo Murtaz Shelia and Kakhabar Tskhadadze have been boosted by the Department of Employment’s decision to renew their work permits. Shelia, of course, is on the transfer list and has been linked with a move to Grasshoppers Zürich. However, he’d prefer to stay in England and the renewal of his work permit increases his prospects of doing so. Tskhadadze, meanwhile, is still recuperating after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in the third match of last season. He, too, will be boosted by the knowledge that he’ll be able to make his comeback with the Blues once his German specialist gives the green light.

Kinky Set for Guest Slot?: Everton sources are claiming that Georgian international Georgi Kinkladze may guest for City when the two clubs meet in a pre-season friendly at Goodison Park on July 28. If the speculation is true, the happiest people around (apart from the large number of the player’s admirers on Blue View) are likely to be John Ebbrell, for whom the game is a testimonial, and cable channel L!ve TV, who are screening the game. Many Blues, of course, would like to see the club take up its first option to end the ex-Maine Road idol’s unhappy Dutch exile. However, given Kinkladze’s war of words with Joe Royle when the player joined Ajax, it would seem that any rapprochement would be on a single-match basis with a view to boosting gate revenue and the television audience.

Ince Trains With Blues?: There have been claims that Paul Ince was spotted in training with the Blues last week. The former Manchester United and England player has been shown the door at Liverpool by Gerard Houllier, and was reportedly keeping fit by joining in City’s training programme at Manchester University playing fields. However, it’s thought that the chances of Ince joining up on a permanent basis are practically non-existent. Middlesbrough is currently rated his most likely destination, though three Seria A clubs are also said to be interested.

Part II – Off the Field

Public-Private Partnership to Take Charge?: Sunday’s edition of “Sport First” has claimed that a partnership of an unnamed American corporation and Manchester City Council is set to take control of the Blues in a deal which reportedly values the club at £52 million. The corporation and the council are said to want to buy a controlling interest in the club, with the American party holding most of the shares. Details are currently scarce, but it’s thought that if an agreement is struck, David Bernstein will remain in situ as chairman. One possible difficulty is that the Council may want to pay for its investment by using money from its employee pension fund.

New Stadium’s World Cup Rôle: It’s been confirmed that the Eastlands venue will play an important rôle in England’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup. Sports Minister Tony Banks has said that Eastlands will be on the ‘A’ list of stadia which will definitely be used should the tournament come to these shores. With Old Trafford also an automatic choice, Manchester may be the only city apart from London with two grounds in use. The Minister was therefore keen to stress the importance of Manchester to England’s aspirations of hosting the tournament, saying that the city “will be central to the success” of the 2006 bid. “More than 115,000 will be seated in these two magnificent grounds. This is the highest number for any city outside London,” he continued. “The city’s excellent facilities and hospitality are a major plus for the bid.” The FA’s World Cup submission manager Hazel Ruscoe noted that in addition to the stadia, “The appeal of cities in terms of tourism is also important and Manchester is high up on that list.” England is fighting South Africa, Brazil, Germany and Morocco to stage the 2006 finals, with the host being named in around twelve months’ time. Interestingly, the story referred more than once to The City of Manchester Stadium – which may be a slip or may be a sign that the decision on the venue’s name has already been taken.

Blues Name New Chief Scout: In a low-key move, the Blues have named John Hurst as the new boss of the club’s scouting network. Strangely, the appointment didn’t seem to be reported in the local media or by any of the usual web-based sources, with only the Manchester Evening News Summer Pink revealing after the event that in the course of a busy week Joe Royle “unveiled a new chief scout.” Following the retirement of the long-serving Ken Barnes, the club has had a succession of appointees to the post, including Bobby Saxton and the ubiquitous Jimmy Frizzell, while most recently, the rôle was being fulfilled by Academy chief Jim Cassell. While the absence of any detailed reports leaves the reason for the latest change something of a mystery, the most logical explanation would appear that Cassell’s Academy rôle has expanded to a degree where he can no longer also supervise the club’s scouting activities. Hurst figured in central defence in Everton’s 1970 title-winning side, and after playing around 350 league games for the Toffees, he wound down his career at Oldham. His activities after the end of his playing days are unclear.

Hurst is clearly pleased to have joined up with his former Goodison playing colleague Joe Royle. “I am proud and delighted to take on the job,” enthused the new boy. “There is a real buzz around Maine Road. You can feel it when you walk in the door. The whole club has bounced back in style after relegation. These are exciting times and I cannot wait to get stuck in.” Hurst’s arrival sees Royle further impose his own stamp over the backroom staff after he previously brought in head coach Willie Donachie and youth coach Frank Bunn. Donachie, of course, was Joe’s long-time assistant at Oldham and Everton after the pair first met as team mates at Maine Road, while Bunn played under the Royle/Donachie pairing at Boundary Park. Meanwhile, reserve coach Asa Hartford and Academy Director Cassell were both already at the club before the Royle managerial era but each has a long-standing connection with the Blues’ boss. Hartford, of course, played in the same City side as Royle and Donachie in the 1970s, while Cassell headed Oldham’s scouting network during Joe