Newsletter #522

Yesterday finally saw City shift up a gear and turn in a reasonably impressive performance against Everton – naturally we lost! Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it’s the first game we’ve played against opposition (Premiership) who are ostensibly better than us. Whatever, it seems we can certainly take heart from this result, though there are still obvious warning signs concerning our inability to hit the back of the net. There are two match reports from this game, as well as another view on the Bristol fixture of last weekend. Another City XI was also in action yesterday, though all I’ve been able to ascertain, is that they lost away to Altrincham 3-1.

The main news – which just missed Monday’s issue – is the loan signing (3 months) of Leeds defender Danny Granville, who Royle must be hoping can provide the solution to one of our defensive weaknesses. This issue also has news of new branches in Buxton and Stockholm; the lastest squad details, squad numbers; and opinion. Lastly, we have a special Why Blue from comedian Tommy Bangbala, who’s conversion to the Blue faith was at the hands of one City’s (and Britain’s) most legendary players.

Next game: Stockport away, Saturday 31st July 1999 (Friendly)


EVERTON vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Wednesday 28th July 1999

Well, one team had 75% of possession. One team displayed lots of pace on the counter attack. One team were inventive in attack. One team created several good scoring chances. And one team scored. At the time of writing, I haven’t read any media match reports of this match, but if they are fair minded, all the above desriptions bar one will be used to describe City’s performance. No prizes for guessing which one wasn’t part of City’s performance! So same again City was it? Well yes and no.

I personally take a great deal of satisfaction from City’s performance in this match, but it’s obvious that the old problem of converting our chances still threatens to turn a potentially good team into a potentially struggling team.

Everton played a full strength side for the first 75 minutes and although the combination of Campbell and Jeffers (oh if only!) caused us problems (and scored a goal) during the first 20 minutes or so, I kid you not, we caused them far more problems. City lined up as follows: Weaver, Fenton, Jobson, Vaughan, Granville, Cooke, Jeff Whitley, Horlock, Kennedy, Goater, Taylor. A ‘traditional’ 4-4-2 formation was used. At half time Morrison replaced Fenton at the back and the formation changed to 3-5-2, with Kennedy seemingly having a free rôle, Granville and Cooke playing as wing backs. Later in the half (around 70 minutes I would guess), Brown replaced Horlock and Shaun Wright-Phillips replaced Taylor (it took 5 or 6 minutes for Wright-Phillips to get his first touch, during which time a group of City fans nearby were absolutely bursting to sing his name. When he did get his first touch a chorus of “Shauney Wright, Wright, Wright” made its début. Hardly original but it made me smile!).

In the first half City battered our illustious hosts, with raid upon raid down the wings. Great crosses from both Cookie and in particular Kennedy were spurned. Goater and Taylor, I thought linked up very well at times. (I’m not getting caught in the ‘Emperor’s new clothes syndrome’, Goater and Taylor are not bad players – they can’t score, but that’s another matter!). Seriously, they did link up well together, held the ball up, spread play and did everything right except bl**dy score! Taylor was the real culprit, having certainly 2 but probably 3 glorious chances to open his account. I fear for Taylor, he does seem to have caught Lee Bradburyitis, where when he has a chance, the goal shrinks as he shoots. It’s all very well having forwards who ‘show commitment’, or are ‘good team players’, we’ve got plenty of them! What we need is a striker who does bugger all except score goals!

Kennedy was excellent. He had pace, trickery, accurate crossing and was happy to tackle back. He linked up well with Granville in the first half, who also looked good going forward. The jury is still out on his defensive capabilities though, as he was caught out on one or two occasions. What Kennedy did on the left, Cooke did on the right. Jeff Whitley was like a man possessed – he was everywhere! He also displayed some quality passing which used to be missing from his game. Based on this performance, together with what I saw of him at Bury, I really do think that he has forced his way into Royle’s plans, certainly ahead of Pollock, Brown, his brother and the injured Mason. I reckon, injuries permitting, that for the first game of the season Whitley will partner Royle’s favourite, Horlock, with a desperately unlucky Bishop on the bench. Horlock incidentally was ‘steady’, nothing spectacular, but certainly did a good enough job.

The defence of Fenton (at right back), Jobson, Vaughan and the already mentioned Granville coped better than I expected with the Campbell/Jeffers attack. Whether this would have been the case in a ‘proper’ match, who knows? Morrison, when introduced, won everything in the air and showed us that he has a few more rage control classes to attend when he performed an outrageous tackle towards the end of the game! Weaver had no chance with the goal but did pull out 2 or 3 other great stops, even managing to bounce the ball off Francis Jeffers into his hands (you had to see it, I’m sure he meant it, honest!). Michael Brown did OK when introduced, but as mentioned, I feel that Jazzy Jeff has overtaken him in most respects. As for Shaun Wright-Phillips, he certainly didn’t look out of place. He displayed some good skill, plenty of pace and wasn’t afraid to get stuck in. Could be a potential secret weapon this season.

So in conclusion, we looked great going forward, but still without a cutting edge. Royle must somehow remedy this quickly. Defensively (but bearing in mind that in the first half, probably only Granville will play in the first league game) we looked OK, but the pace of Jeffers and the strength of Campbell did cause a few jitters. Midfield looked good but will be exposed against teams who pack the midfield. Based on this performance, if we can resolve the scoring issue and after speaking to a few Everton fans, we have much more to look forward to next season than they do!

Phil Hartley (


EVERTON vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Wednesday 28th July 1999

So where do we begin with this one, my first game since Wembley? I was looking forward to it, I went down with a few Blue View regulars; MCFC Bird, Wookie, Dougal & Essex Blue up North. The game started and it was in a very relaxed fashion, I was there in my shorts (not such a nice sight, compared to the new away kit), relaxing in the warmth, not really too bothered about the result, just interested in seeing a good game and the new boys (as well as the old faces).

The game got off to a good City start, Kennedy and Cooke were both looking useful on the wings, and Whitley was looking the business in the middle of the park, but I was most impressed with Granville at the famous (or infamous) left back spot. He looked the business, he could prove to be a very vital piece in the City jigsaw, on a long-term and short-term basis (ok, so I am a City fan and do get excited after one good performance, nothing new there). The defence that City had out were not going to be world beaters (Vaughan, Jobson, Fenton, Granville). I thought that Fenton did look a bit lost at right back, and Jobson, let’s face it, is never going to get past Morrison or Wiekens. Everton took the lead with a shot from the edge of the penalty area from Jeffers, Weaver was unlucky not to get to it. City had numerous chances with Goater and Taylor missing their share. Goater seems uncomfortable shooting at goal (which I feel is a bit of a weak point for an out and out goal scorer).

Cooke laid one off to Taylor, which he should have buried but instead chose to shoot wide (my own belief is that it would have been easier to hit the target). Taylor could prove useful with his heading ability if we have a nippy, fast young striker to read off him (cue his placement Wright-Phillips). He came on and looked useful, he runs at players and is also aware enough not to run down blind alleys, but lay it off at the right time. Morrison came on at half time and literally had Campbell in his pocket, for a shortish bloke he can’t half head a ball (have the FA not banned spings in the boots yet, long may it continue).

Overall I thought that City were good for a draw against Premiership opposition (bearing in mind who our first half defence was), we have come along way under Joe. Kennedy and Granville looked good together on the left, the midfield was run by Whitley (he could be the main man this year, he must have realised how crap the Racecourse Ground was and pulled his finger out). As for the boys up front, Wright-Phillips has more going for him than Goater and Taylor, they both did brilliant impersonations of Alicia Silverstone (Clueless). But an overall view was that there was a lot to take from this game, mostly positive.

Walter Smith – no I didn’t get in for free (


BRISTOL CITY vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 24th July 1999

On a scorching hot summer’s day I took my son to see City for the first time; unfortunately they did little to convince him of the merits of fully supporting a non-local team who aren’t in the top flight. I’m still working on him, he’ll come round to his dad’s view one day. Together with a school friend of his (plus dad) we were in the family enclosure along the right side as City played in the first half.

City lined up with Weaver in goal, Tiatto at left back, Edghill right back, Wiekens and Jobson in the centre of defence. I was glad to see both Kennedy and Cooke starting and Horlock and Jeff Whitley made up the rest of midfield with Goater and Allsopp up front.

For the first half an hour City played pretty well, Jobson and Wiekens were in control at the back and even the full backs gave no cause for concern. City were playing a good passing game but didn’t look like breaking through the Bristol City defence. Kennedy and Tiatto saw a lot of the ball on the left and a couple of crosses from Kennedy led to half chances. Although City were on top, a bit more movement from midfield and up front was needed to create more chances.

When Wiekens went off with an ankle injury it seemed ironic for a squad with too many central defenders and not enough full backs that Edghill went to central defence, Jeff Whitley to right back and Pollock came into the centre. Things started to go downhill from here; Edghill didn’t do too much wrong but it gave their forwards a lift. The biggest change was having Pollock on, he was very up for the game and wanted to be involved with every move, but this disrupted the way the others were playing and he doesn’t have the skill to go with his commitment. He started going back to collect the ball rather than let the defence play the ball out as they had been doing and his passing up to the front to was as bad as anybody’s. For me he doesn’t have the class needed for Division One.

For the second half Bishop came on for Kennedy with Horlock moving out to the left, and with about 25 minutes to go Taylor came on for Cooke. By this time Bristol City had had a few chances and Weaver again had proved how good he is. They hit the post when it was easier to score before Whitley gently placed a header past Weaver for the own goal, up to that point it had nil-nil all over it.

My marks out of 10:

Weaver 9. Some excellent saves and positioning and his distribution was very good until the end of the second half when City were resorting to long punts up field. He did miss one cross in the first half that was headed just wide.
Edghill 6. He ranges between very solid and then just loses concentration, playing others into trouble, which every so often will give away a goal.
Wiekens 8. He gives the impression of reading the game so well, let’s hope he’s fit again soon.
Jobson 8. Another player who played better than I had expected, he was very solid in the air and when with Wiekens was under no real trouble.
Tiatto 7. On this game the full backs weren’t our weak spot, he linked up with Kennedy well but was caught out of position in the second half leading to one of their chances.
Cooke 7. He played OK in the first half but should be getting more crosses in than he did.
Horlock 5. He played well for the first 30 minutes in the centre, but was totally out of it on the left. He gave the impression that he didn’t have any faith in the forwards or his own ability to create even a half chance. He needs to get his head straight.
Jeff Whitley 8. I thought that he had an excellent game both in midfield and right back, his tackling and distribution were very good. Excellent placement for the goal as well!
Kennedy 8. He was on the far side of the pitch to me and didn’t always get a cross in when it seemed he had a chance to. However, he fitted in well with Tiatto and Whitley and provided the crosses for our best chances.
Goater 7. He got very little service, but tried hard to create openings. He did have one excellent run but forgot to shoot at the end; he maybe should have been closer with the first half header as well.
Allsopp 6. As with Goater he didn’t get much service but his work rate was high.
Pollock 4. I can’t question his commitment but on what I saw, the side is much less of a team with him on the pitch.
Bishop 5. I was very disappointed with Bishop, for one of our more skilful players far too many passes went astray and he let himself get closed down too quickly, wasting good opportunities.
Taylor 7. My first time of seeing him in the flesh and he wasn’t as bad as I had expected, He was soundly booed by the home crowd for being an ex GasHead and was unfairly treated by the ref soon after he came on. When he did come on the City midfield almost disappeared and he only had high balls to try to feed off.

On this showing, my favoured team to start the season would be:

Edghill       Morrison         Wiekens         Granville
Cooke         Brown            Whitley          Kennedy
             Goater              Dickov

Maybe Crooks or a new right back instead of Edghill, Horlock and Bishop as subs for the central midfield. If Granville fails to deliver, Tiatto for left back. We need at least one new decent striker and as Barry Taylor said, a creative midfielder would make a big difference.

All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon sunbathing (dehydration was going on in the stands, never mind the pitch) and the game very much had the friendly feel about it. The first half-hour gives me some confidence that we don’t need too many changes to get a decent side together. The second half tells us that we don’t need any changes to start playing a load of rubbish!

The programme had the following squad numbers (looks like Greenacre was an oversight!).

1   Nick Weaver
2   Lee Crooks
3   Richard Edghill
4   Gerard Wiekens
5   Andy Morrison
6   Kevin Horlock
7   Michael Brown
8   Ian Bishop
9   Paul Dickov
10  Shaun Goater
11  Terry Cooke
12  Danny Allsopp
13  Tommy Wright
14  Gareth Taylor
15  Craig Russell
16  Jamie Pollock
17  Jim Whitley
18  Jeff Whitley
19  Danny Tiatto
20  Gary Mason
21  Tony Vaughan
22  Nick Fenton
23  Kakhaber Tshadadze
24  Murtaz Shelia
25  Richard Jobson
26  Alan Bailey
27  Shaun Holmes
28  Alan Reilly
29  Sean Phillips
30  Stephen Hodgson
31  David Laycock
32  Leon Mike
33  Christopher Killen
34  Mark Kennedy
35  Chris Greenacre

Henry White (


Stadium Named – Move Set to be Sealed

An announcement that City are to move to Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium is imminent. Chairman David Bernstein has revealed that, after two long years, negotiations on the deal which will see City leave Maine Road are “nearing their end”. The venue will be completed by December 2001 and will be used for the Games the following summer, before being adapted to a purpose-built football facility. This work will take another year, leaving the Blues able to move in for the start of the 2003-2004 campaign. Reflecting on the complexity of the discussions with the city council and the Sports Council, Bernstein said, “Three way talks tend by their very nature to be hard work. We believe we have negotiated an outstanding deal for the club, for the city and for the community. We have all been concerned that there is a proper allowance in the arrangement for the community use of the stadium. I think we have reached a well-balanced deal for all concerned.”

The stadium name has also been chosen, with the venue to be known as The City of Manchester Stadium. Other names in the frame were The Mancunian Stadium, New Maine Road and The Citadel. Names of stands and approach roads have yet to be decided, but the City chairman has already warned that parts of the stadium are unlikely to be named after favourite sons of the Blue side of Manchester. “I think it’s likely we will be looking for commercial sponsorship for the stands,” he explained. “It can generate big sums of money, which any club would want. However, that is all a way down the road. The first thing is to formally conclude the agreement.” It’s anticipated that contract documents will be signed in the next ten days, allowing the Blues to make a formal announcement on August 8, when Wolves visit Maine Road to kick off the new campaign.

Royle’s Goodison Return Ends in Defeat

Wednesday night saw Joe Royle take an opposing team to his old Goodison stamping ground for the first time since he resigned as Everton manager in April 1997. Unfortunately, he didn’t make a winning return, with Francis Jeffers’ 12th minute strike enough to seal victory for Everton in John Ebbrell’s testimonial match. However, most media reports seemed to agree that the match gave Royle grounds for satisfaction with his makeshift side, who showed well against Premiership opponents fielding nine of their likely starting eleven for their opening fixture. Not surprisingly, then, the City manager was looking on the bright side even though his side suffered their third reverse in four pre-season games, having scored only three goals in the process. “I was pleased with our display,” he claimed. “We are coming together nicely – all we lack is more shots. Mark Kennedy was man of the match, Richard Jobson is continuing his comeback from injury very well and Terry Cooke was real quality.”

Ebbrell, meanwhile, was probably pleased with a big following of City fans, which swelled the gate to 11,561. The former England under-21 skipper still hasn’t turned thirty, but has retired from the game after suffering an ankle injury on his debut for Sheffield United, the team he joined after his long stint at Everton. The ankle became infected in a routine operation, and Ebbrell was hoping that the testimonial would raise the £50,000 he needs for surgery in the US. While the match seems to have aroused little interest on Merseyside, the large Manchester contingent (which, according to some fans, may even have outnumbered the home crowd) should ensure that he can now start making plans to fly across the Atlantic for treatment.

Granville Bids for Permanent Move

Making his bow at Goodison was new on-loan defender Danny Granville. But if the 24-year-old Leeds left back has his way, he’ll be with the Blues beyond the end if the three-month period for which he’s initially signed. “If everything works out I would be delighted to stay. My career has been at something of a standstill for the last year,” he said. “There is a buzz about this place. Everyone is on a high and they have good reason to be.” Granville was signed last summer by former Elland Road manager George Graham. However, after losing his place through injury and suspension, the player found that new boss David O’Leary preferred Ian Harte. With the ex-Scotland international David Robertson now back to fitness, Leeds have an embarrassment of riches in the left back berth. This means that Leeds are likely to be amenable to allowing Granville to leave if Royle agrees to match the £1.6 million Graham paid Chelsea for the man they signed from Cambridge United for £300,000. Joe Royle, denying that he’d moved for Granville in a panic measure after City’s spate of injuries, revealed that he’d first approached O’Leary about a deal before the end of last season. And the Blues’ boss confirmed that if Granville impresses during his loan spell, he’s a good chance of joining the club on a longer-term basis.

Squad Numbers Confirmed

Though we’ve known for over ten days the squad numbers being used in pre-season friendlies, the full list has now been released. This was released earlier in the week, so Granville is missing (presumably, his number is in the high thirties). Number 29, incidentally, is Shaun Wright-Phillips, who appears to be attempting to distance himself in the public perception from his famous stepfather. The full list is as follows:

1 – Weaver; 2 – Crooks; 3 – Edghill; 4 – Weikens; 5 – Morrison; 6 – Horlock; 7 – Brown; 8 – Bishop; 9 – Dickov; 10 – Goater; 11- Cooke; 12 – Allsopp; 13 – Wright; 14 – Taylor; 15 – Russell; 16 – Pollock; 17 – Jim Whitley; 18 – Jeff Whitley; 19 – Tiatto; 20 – Mason; 21 – Vaughan; 22 – Fenton; 23 – Tskhadadze; 24 – Shelia; 25 – Jobson; 26 – Bailey; 27 – Holmes; 28 – Reilly; 29 – Phillips; 30 – Hodgson; 31 – Laycock; 32 – Mike; 33 – Killen; 34 – Kennedy; 35 – Greenacre

Memorabilia Auction Raises £10,000

Former director Ian Niven has sold his collection of City memorabilia at an auction. The sale at Manchester auctioneers Capes Dunn raised £10,600, which will be used to assist Niven’s son, Ian junior, who left the club last year after being on the administrative staff for 28 years. The most sought-after item, fetching £6,000, was a bronze plaque commemorating the opening of the Maine Road stadium in 1923. Other items included Mike Summerbee’s first City playing contract, when he earned the princely sum of £40 per week, and a programme for the first ever game at Maine Road, a City victory over Sheffield United.

Channon Sees Success on Horizon

Former City star Mick Channon, who has become a successful racehorse trainer since his playing days ended, has been talking in the Manchester Evening News about his new career, and about the club where he spent two slightly variable years between spells with Southampton. Channon still regards himself as a keen City fan, despite his big-money move to Maine Road in 1977 failing to produce results to match the expectations of either the player or the club. His time at the club is a period he looks back on with affection, claiming, “I really enjoyed being in Manchester and playing there. The fans are among the best in the game.” The former England captain is going from strength to strength in the sport of kings, and is due to move to the old Royal Stables at West Illsey, near Lambourn in Berkshire, with around 40 staff and over 120 horses. And he feels that City could be set for a similar revival in fortunes under the management of an old colleague, reflecting that, “They’ve been a sleeping giant for too long. Joe Royle and I played together and he’s got a marvellous revival going.” Let’s hope his skill in predictions matches his ability to train horses.

Stockport Friendly – Preview

The coming Saturday sees City play their penultimate match of the pre-season programme, making a short trip to Edgeley Park. The match is a testimonial for the Stockport physio, former Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham striker Rodger Wylde. This is the only warm-up fixture in which City will face opponents whom they’ll encounter in next season’s League programme, so while there’s nothing riding on the outcome, Joe Royle will probably be hoping not to concede the psychological advantage which County would derive from a win over the Blues. Hopefully the City fans making the trip will have a more enjoyable afternoon than on the last occasion they played at Stockport during the 1997-98 relegation season. Many MCIVTA correspondents rated the first-half horror show by Frank Clark’s side, which saw the Blues go in three down at the break, as the worst they’d ever seen from a City team. Hopefully on this occasion we’ll see a performance which will convince us that we