Newsletter #696

Disappointment twice this week with the reserves and the U-17s losing narrowly, so perhaps it will be third time lucky on Saturday?

Please note below that Geoff Donkin will be taking over as guest editor for a while, so all articles to Geoff please.

Next game: Aston Villa at home, Saturday 31st March 2001


Please note that Geoff Donkin will once again be stepping in as guest editor for the next two issues. Please send all contributions for MCIVTA 697 (Monday 2nd April) and 698 (Thursday 5th April) to Geoff at:



Part I – Transfer News and Rumours

City Eye Summer Koumas Swoop?: Manchester City are said to be on the trail of one of English football’s hottest young properties. But the Blues are likely to face plenty of competition if they make a bid for Jason Koumas. City have reportedly been watching the Tranmere midfielder for some time, and the 20-year-old is set to quit Prenton Park in the summer even if the Wirral club win their fight against relegation from the First Division. But with Aston Villa, Fulham, Newcastle and Blackburn all also claimed to be in the hunt, the Blues would appear to have no chance of landing the player unless they avoid the drop this term. In any event, Blackburn are rated favourites for the gifted playmaker’s signature – he’s about to commit his international future to Wales ahead of England or Cyprus and Rovers are thought to have an advantage in the fact that Welsh boss Mark Hughes is on the Ewood Park playing staff.

Weaver in Surprise Ajax Link: An online football news source has claimed that Nicky Weaver could emerge as a summer transfer target for Ajax. The Dutch giants are said to be prepared to bid for the Manchester City goalkeeper if the Blues are relegated this season. Ajax have suffered a disappointing time in recent seasons but have recovered in the current campaign to lie third in the Dutch league. And the Planet Football website says that the Amsterdam outfit will strengthen in the summer with a view to mounting a title challenge next term. Weaver is touted as one of the names on coach Co Adriaanse’s shopping list, with the England under-21 man seen as capable of challenging Romanian international Bogdan Lobont for a place in the Ajax goal. On the face of it, however, it seems unlikely that the Dutch club would be willing to pay the kind of fee that would tempt City for a player who wouldn’t guaranteed a first-team place, while it’s also hard to see the 22-year-old being attracted by such an arrangement.

Prior Hints at Close-Season Departure: Spencer Prior has started only three games for Manchester City in more than three months. The defender admits that he’s disappointed not to have featured more often, and has hinted that he could leave Maine Road to secure regular senior football. Prior has been with City for exactly a year, having arrived from Derby in a deadline day deal last season. But after playing a crucial rôle in turning the Blues’ fortunes around in the First Division promotion run-in, the 30-year-old has found himself unable to force his way into the starting line-up ahead of either Richard Dunne or Steve Howey for much of this term. And the ex-Leicester man has been the subject of transfer speculation, with several First Division sides, latterly Nottingham Forest, said to be interested in his services. But he remains committed to City, at least for the remainder of the current campaign. “It is up to me to keep my head down and see what happens in the summer,” he told the official club website at “While I am still here I remain totally committed and there is nothing I want more than City to get out of the bottom three.”

Jim to Stay Another Month at Sixfields: Jim Whitley is set to stay with Northampton until the end of the season. The Manchester City player has been on loan at Sixfields for a month and the Cobblers are keen to extend the arrangement. The elder of the Whitley brothers has been a peripheral figure at Maine Road for over two seasons and is out of contract in the summer. Having played four games in a successful first month at Northampton, the 25-year-old will be hoping that boss Kevin Wilson can reach agreement with Joe Royle to prolong the deal. With City unlikely to offer him new terms in the summer, the Northern Ireland player will then be looking to make a fresh start, and it’s thought possible that Northampton may then offer him permanent terms if he continues to impress.

On-Loan Shuker Impresses at Macclesfield: Chris Shuker has only played eleven minutes of football for Macclesfield Town. But the on-loan Manchester City player has already created a big impression at Moss Rose. Shuker joined the Silkmen on a temporary basis last week, and came on as a substitute in the weekend win over Blackpool. And now the 18-year-old is set to be handed a starting berth against Carlisle on Saturday, with boss Gil Prescott already a big fan of the Liverpool-born youngster. “He’s a very good player and he’s a real battler,” enthused the Macclesfield manager. “He’s quick and will cause defences problems in this division. He’ll give us new options.” The winger will hope to use the experience he gains in his loan spell to help his push for a senior place at Maine Road next season.

Part II – Miscellaneous News and Views

Royle Still Optimistic Over Survival Prospects: Manchester City’s Premiership future is in the balance. But Joe Royle is still confident that his team can produce a late escape act to secure survival in the top flight. Royle remembers being in charge at Oldham in the 1992-93 season, when the Latics won their last three games to complete an improbable charge to safety from a position even more perilous than that now occupied by the Blues. So the City manager remains sanguine despite the club’s current plight – and feels that reaching safety this term could be a springboard. “We can get out of it – the spirit has always been good and we will not panic,” he claimed. “And if we can survive this season it can only get better. The club hasn’t been so stable for years. It is run well and is financially secure.”

Another Clean Sheet for Weaver: Nicky Weaver was again in action for the England under-21 side on Tuesday. And the Manchester City goalkeeper kept a second successive clean sheet at international level. As against Finland last week, Weaver was preferred to Coventry’s Chris Kirkland as Howard Wilkinson’s side took on Albania in Tirana. The Sheffield-born star had enjoyed an easy time of it against the Finns as England romped to a 4-0 win, and the Albanians also put him under little pressure. But on this occasion the English forwards were not in such fine scoring form, and Jonathon Greening’s 70th-minute penalty was the game’s only goal. Two other City players were in under-21 action this week, and both finished on the losing side. Shaun Holmes was in the Northern Ireland side defeated 2-0 in Bulgaria, while Rhys Day was in the Welsh team which went down 3-0 at home to Ukraine. Meanwhile, at full international level, Richard Dunne again only made the bench for the Republic of Ireland, this time against Andorra. The Irish won 3-0.

Wanchope Cameo Helps Costa Rica Ease Home: Paulo Wanchope has only just returned to action after a knee injury. And as a result, the Manchester City striker was only on the substitute’s bench for Costa Rica’s World Cup qualifier this week – but he still made an impact. Wanchope was called into action with half an hour remaining of the Costa Ricans’ game against Trinidad and Tobago in San Jose on Wednesday. And the 25-year-old scored twice during his brief stint to earn his side a comfortable 3-0 win that leaves them well-placed to qualify. Joe Royle has previously stated that the Blues will not refrain from selecting their transfer-listed top-scorer while he remains at Maine Road and it certainly appears that the Blues’ record signing is returning to form. However, the fact that the ex-Derby and West Ham man is still short of recent match action and will only return to Manchester on Friday may prevent him from being part of the squad against Aston Villa this weekend.

Horlock Rests for Another Week: Manchester City elected not to field Kevin Horlock in this week’s reserve game against Manchester United. The midfielder was told to rest for another week as he bids to recover from his broken ankle. Horlock sustained the injury in the December clash with Charlton, and though he did return to reserve team action earlier in the month, the ex-Swindon player is still experiencing soreness. However, the Northern Ireland international still hopes to play a part in the Blues’ battle against the drop. “The specialist said that, as he expected, the bone healed very well but there is still inflammation in the joint,” he explained. “But I am still hoping to get back into the first-team before the end of the season and I certainly haven’t written off my chances.”

Ritchie Eyes Senior Return: Paul Ritchie has been injured for most of the last four months. But the defender hopes to return to action in time to feature in Manchester City’s battle to avoid relegation. Ritchie has been frustrated to be on the sidelines as his team-mates have struggled in recent weeks. But the Scottish international believes that the Blues can beat the drop – and hopes to play a part in the drive to safety. “My fitness is coming back slowly but surely – I’m taking things nice and easy as I want to play some part before the end of the season,” he confirmed. “No-one wants to play First Division football and the quality in this squad should get us out of our problem. The fact that all the lads are good mates outside the game should help us to as there is a great sense of team spirit here.”

Penultimate Game Moved for Television: At least two of Manchester City’s remaining eight Premiership fixtures this season will be screened live by Sky TV. In addition to the Manchester derby on April 21, the satellite broadcaster has selected the Blues’ visit to Ipswich for transmission. The fixture at Portman Road, which had been due to take place on Saturday, 5 May, is now scheduled for the following Monday, a bank holiday in England, with an 8 p.m. kick-off. City will be hoping the switch isn’t an omen – the Blues went down 2-1 in a televised match at Ipswich in the First Division last season, and a similar result on this occasion could be a fatal blow to survival hopes. The last-day encounter at home to Chelsea could also be selected for TV coverage if City’s chances of avoiding the drop hang on the outcome.

City Pleased at Season Ticket Take-Up: Manchester City season ticket holders have until the end of March to renew for the 2001-2002 season at reduced prices. And the Blues expect 10,000 fans to avail themselves of the opportunity. The club announced earlier this week that over 5,000 supporters had committed themselves to a ticket for next term, even though the club’s fate is not yet known. But the number is expected to rise sharply as Saturday’s deadline approaches, and director Chris Bird is pleased with the response. “You always hope that your fans will support the future of your club,” he commented, “and ours always tend to deliver above expectations. This year is no different.”

Part III – Reserve and Youth News

Reserves Lose on Penalties: Manchester City reserves failed to gain any Manchester Senior Cup points against Manchester United on Tuesday. The Blues earned a 1-1 draw against their cross-city rivals but lost out on penalties. City took the lead in the second period through Dino Toppmöller, but the Reds hit back and Bojan Djordjic notched the equaliser. The competition operates on a league basis, but draws are not recognised, and so a spot-kick competition decided the destination of the three points. United emerged 6-5 winners when Paul Rachubka saved from Spencer Prior, but City still have a good chance of winning through to the final. If they do so, the Blues will have a chance to gain their revenge, with the Reds having already qualified.

Under-17s Miss Out on Title: Manchester City’s under-17 side could have clinched the FA Premier Academy title with a win over Aston Villa on Tuesday. But the Blues went down 1-0 to leave the Midlands outfit favourites to land the crown. City went into the game three points ahead of their hosts and knowing that a win would leave Villa unable to catch them. And though Manchester United would have been able to finish level on points with the young Blues, City’s superior goal difference would have proved decisive. The defeat now leaves City level on points with both Villa and United, but with the latter pair each still having one game to play and Villa leading on goal difference. Villa face Crewe on Saturday, when they should clinch the title, but United could capitalise on any slip by beating Newcastle.

Part IV – Aston Villa at Home: Team News and Preview

Another Chance for City to Make Up Ground?: In the last two games, Manchester City have missed out on ostensibly good opportunities to pick up points. And as Aston Villa prepare to visit Maine Road on Saturday, the Blues will know they need a win sooner rather than later. City will have been expecting better than a defeat and a draw from the home game against Southampton and the visit to Bradford, results which have seen the Blues slip to four points off safety. But with the two teams immediately above City, Middlesbrough and Everton, having tricky-looking trips to Chelsea and West Ham respectively, Joe Royle’s men could gain vital ground with a win over the mid-table Midlands outfit. That would set up a crunch trip for the Blues to Goodison Park to face relegation rivals Everton the following weekend.

Ostenstad to be Handed First City Start?: Egil Ostenstad has made three substitute appearances since moving to Manchester City on loan from Blackburn. But after six weeks at Maine Road, the Norwegian may be given his first senior start against Aston Villa on Saturday. Ostenstad has so far been unable to dislodge either Darren Huckerby or Shaun Goater to win a place in attack, but Joe Royle has hinted that there could be changes to the front line this weekend. The only City injury doubt is Steve Howey, who sustained a slight thigh strain in training, and Spencer Prior is standing by. Meanwhile, Alfie Haaland is set to return at right-back after serving a one-match ban at Bradford two weeks ago, so Laurent Charvet will drop to the bench. Mark Kennedy and Paul Dickov are also in contention for places among the substitutes after coming through Tuesday’s reserve game.

Peter Brophy (


Chris Killen has been named in the New Zealand 32-man preliminary squad for the World Cup qualifiers. The squad assembles in Singapore on May 19-20 for a game against Singapore on May 22 before returning to NZ for the World Cup qualifiers at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland on June 4-13, between Cook Islands, NZ, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu.

If NZ win this group, they will play the winners of the other Oceania group, and assuming it is Australia (their opponents are Tonga, American Samoa, Fiji and Samoa), then NZ and Australia will play each other in a two legged play off, the first leg in Wellington (NZ) on Wednesday 20/6 and then on Sunday 24/6 in Sydney.

The winner of these games then plays the fifth (I think) placed country in the South American group on a two legged play off, home and away, with the winner going to 2002.

Ralph Sheppard (


Atkinson For England – a tale of mistaken identity, the England national team, and plumbing!

A quick note to let you know the final details for the launch of my new book “Atkinson For England” (co-written with Mark Brown). The launch will be taking place at Waterstones (Deansgate branch) on Thursday 5th April at 7pm. Tickets are on sale (from the Leisure desk at Waterstones) priced £3. This is redeemable against the book (which costs £5.99). Any problems ask for Ross (Leisure desk). Mark and I intend reading a few sections from the book and having a general question and answer session about the story/idea etc. Waterstones are providing a few sandwiches and wine (but you know how these things never seem to last!), and we hope it should be a good night. The book itself will not be available until that night, but within a week of the launch should be available via UK booksellers. Amazon and Waterstones are already advertising it on their websites. If you experience problems getting hold of a copy the ISBN is 1 901 746 17 8.

Gary James (


“The midfield game in Germany and on the Continent is different. There they are true midfield players, while in England they tend to be men for all seasons who defend, attack and get round the pitch. At the moment he is a true midfield player so there is still a little bit of learning to be done on how the game is played here, particularly the defensive side.” Ah yes, the wisdom of an undoubted tactical genius. Not. No, I’m afraid it’s only our own Joe Royle, explaining why new signing Didi Topbollox has not yet burst through to displace the all round defensive attacking clockwork robots who man the engine room of our laser blue superliner currently sailing full steam ahead for the iceberg.

I’ve just finished re-reading all my previous posts to MCIVTA and am reassured that I’ve never seen Joe in the rôle of Miracle Man/Saviour/Manager Miraculous. This doesn’t make me feel smug or happy – I’d rather we were safely ensconced in 10th place and I could say “Jeez Joe, I was wrong about you.” But it probably gives me the right to criticize without anyone pointing a finger and accusing me of jumping on a bandwagon. Consider: Joe took over when we were in Division 1 and it would have been possible (just) to arrest the slide. He didn’t manage it and, in the process, alienated and sold our best player, Kinky. Of course he wasn’t, in Joe’s terms, a true midfield player, so, fair enough, he had to go. Joe, the cunning b*st*rd, didn’t sign a replacement. He knew Tony “the invisible man” Grant would be available, later if not sooner.

Then the team snored and bored its way through the first half of the season in Division 2 before someone (maybe it was Joe) said “Lads, what are we doing here?” and the guys woke up, shot into a play-off place. We went to Wembley and got worked over by who? Ah yes, Gillingham – a team from a town that, 2 years previous, none of us could have found on the map of England. Like the good Monopoly player he is, Joe played his get out of jail card, Dickie and Nicky came up trumps and we landed on Mayfair. In the ensuing celebrations everyone (me included) forgot that we really should have been out of that Division by Easter given our pedigree, support and resources. Okay, we hit Division One running, adrenalin has its uses. But even when we were, what, five or six points clear, did you, me or any of us say “we’re going up”? No. Okay, partly because it’s not “the City way”. But mainly because, to be frank, we didn’t look that convincing. Anyhow, eventually we arrive at Blackburn and I have to say that if the woodwork had been a touch friendlier to them we could have gone down 0-3 and been paddling around in the murky waters of Division 1 this season with Fulham already having booked the top spot.

The Wembley win effectively bailed Joe out. And while getting back-to-back promotions wasn’t a condition of his contract of employment, that too did him no harm in the eyes of the essentially decent Mr. Bernstein and his board, whose management strategy seems to be “do the opposite of Swales” – laudable in itself, but not a philosophy to be carried to excess. Remember, when we talk about the sacking of football managers, we aren’t talking about dispensing with the services of elderly faithful servants who’ve been wage-slaving for the family for bobbins since they left school. We are talking about expensive hired guns, paid megabucks by fan-standards to encourage them to achieve success. Job security has never been part of the package. The convention “fail and you’re out” is well understood by club and manager apart and has been part of the game since Billy Meredith was a lad.

Paradoxically, Joe’s job security is enhanced if we go down. He gets another chance to work in a less demanding theatre of operations and if he brings us straight back up he’s probably got at least another season-and-a-half of shining his brains on the City managerial chair. Whereas, if we manage to stay up (just) and start next season in the Premiership by losing the first five games he’s on his way back to Oldham, or maybe Rochdale.

The upshot of all this is that well past deadline day Joe has landed us with a team with no class, craft or guile, whose only way to beat opponents is to whack long balls forward and hope someone gets on the end of one (or hopefully two) as defensive uncertainty will ensure the opposition score. The team? Howey an unqualified yes; likewise Tiatto; probably – Huckerby, Kanchelskis, Dunne, Weaver. Possibly – Horlock, Charvet, Wright-Phillips, Jim Whitley, Alfie. Outside bet – Wanchope (a most un-Joelike buy, this but he still remains our best hope of getting goals), Kennedy (talented but king-size attitude problem). Deffo not: Grant, Granville, Goater, Dickov. Who is in the frame? Well, well, Gary Speed – Joe is delving into the murky recesses of memory again, didn’t he buy him for Everton? Where’s Mike Milligan, he must be around somewhere? Hinchy (no he was Kendall’s). Who are the reserves knocking on the door? Search me. Shuker’s that good he’s gone out on loan to Macc. When Joe took over we were a crap Division 1 team. Next season we’ll be…?

Call me pessimistic. Call me doomy-gloomy. No. Call me a realist. And before anybody starts loading me with the closet Rag tag, I’m not. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong and I’ll be cheering the City team till the end. My end. But I’ve looked at all the facts and I’ve come to the opinion that this Royle should abdicate or Bernstein should declare a republic.

Of course we do have one chance of salvation. There’s Didi Topbollox… if he can only learn to play like Jim Whitley!

Ernie Whalley (


In response to Dave Scott’s suggestion of Xanadu. Xanadu was the name of the pleasure dome set up by one of the Khans of Mongolia (Ghengis I think) and as such would seem to make a good name if not altogether truthful name for the the stadium.

However, those of us from Rochdale also remember it as a dodgy nightclub, home of many regrettable episodes and I for one could not see the name catching on in Rochdale at least.

CTID, Andrew King (


With things in the first team not going well at the moment, the relative success of the reserves and youth teams is some consolation. Can anyone please suggest a website that has up-to-date tables and results? Keep the reports going, they are appreciated.

Stuart Wells (


Anyone got a spare ticket for Everton away – I was let down by the ticket office. Would preferably want two together to swap for my one plus cash (£25), but just one ticket would be OK.

Also, thanks to the City supporter who sold me a ticket outside Valley Parade (town full of !?@?!s) – he said he’d recently arrived back from Oz. You know who you are. Apparently he reads MCIVTA. It took me 2 minutes after arriving in Bradford ticketless to obtain, gratefully, my ticket. The dibble were just about to ask me why I was lingering around the turnstiles.

Mark Redgrave (


I would very much like to buy any old Man City shirts (either home or away) of approximately size 42/44″ that were used before City’s season in the 2nd Division (1998/1999) when City were playing in a Kappa outfit. If there is anyone out there who can sell any of these shirts at a reasonable price to me I would be extremely grateful.

All the best, George Koumendakos – CTID (


I have to be in Prague on 21 April (Aaah! Rotten shame! What bad luck! How will I manage with beer costing 30p a pint? etc.). Can any readers point me in the direction of some place there where I could watch football on Sky TV? I might or might not be grateful, but I won’t know which until after the game.

Thanks anyway, Chris Sawyer (


I’ve been meaning to write this for so long and here, at last, it is. The number of times other Why Blues or other MCIVTA articles have sent a shiver down my spine, the number of times I’ve thought: “Right, I’ll write it tonight”… excuses, excuses, whatever. I must say that the catalyst for my finally getting round to it is Andreas Larsson (MCIVTA 695), whose plea that other City fans don’t take him less seriously just because he has no connection with Manchester really hit home. My only Manchester connections are cousins and an ex-girlfriend, I don’t have a Manchester accent, I’ve only been to Maine Road about twenty times (away games triple that) but I can quite easily say that no one, that’s right, no one (Manchester born and bred season ticket holders included) has suffered more than me over the years, nor been more ecstatically happy either (once or twice…).

It all started way back in 1969 when I was 9. I’d just started to develop an interest in footie and felt I needed a team to support. I remember the moment vividly: I was sat on my gran’s floor with a book that had all the (then) First Division teams’ team photos in colour – one team, one page. Flicking through the pages I was left totally uninspired by the Arsenals, Chelseas and Evertons. I then came across manchester united. “Hmm – I’ve got cousins there… Nah, can’t support them – EVERYONE supports them…” (yes, kids, things haven’t changed that much). Turn the page… “Oh, yes! Manchester team, LOVE the sky blue, don’t know anyone round here who supports them, just look at those trophies!” (1969 team photo: Tony Book crouched behind the FA Cup, League Championship trophy, Charity Shield trophy). Rushed through to the front room where my dad was and proudly announced: “Dad, I support Man. City!” “Oh, yeah?” was the reply, obviously thinking I’d have chosen someone else a week later. How wrong he was!

My first ever City game was away to Southampton either that year or the next. Don’t remember the score but do remember seeing my first ever skinheads – City fans, a group of about 10 chanting something or other on their way to the ground. Memories are sketchy. Total frustration at having to sit through, I think it was a Cup replay, while we were winning the Cup Winners’ Cup. Getting my scarf nicked by a Newcastle fan around 70/71 and me and my dad pretending to chase him after it (token gesture but he was a big f#cker). Being in the away end at Leeds in a Cup match 73/74 when loads of other City fans ran onto the pitch and away up to the City fans at the other end – didn’t have the guts to follow them – I was only 13/14. My first ever trip to Maine Road was around this time but all I remember is the goosebumps at seeing the ground, walking into the Kippax and looking round me awe-struck. Trevor Francis’ début – t#at got sent off after 10 minutes or something. Being in a near comotose state in a student flat watching the Cup Final, then again for the replay and going to bed straight afterwards and staying there till the next morning crying my eyes out. Went to live in London and saw City play all the London clubs including the Charlton 5-0 Andreas mentioned.

Came to Spain soon after and have only been able to get to about a dozen matches since, relying for years on the World Service: can you believe that The play-off wasn’t on and the first I heard was at the end of 90 minutes with just the commentary of the goals! After their second I was very tempted to turn it off but I’m City through and through and waited… 2-1! … into injury time, the commentator’s still going, there’s another goal – please let it be us… Yes! 2-2! Wild celebrations! Then had to sit glued to my radio until “From our own correspondent” or something finished to wait for the final score! God, have I suffered.

Since I got connected and found out about MCIVTA and the rest and discovering that I wasn’t suffering alone, well, thanks guys, you’re brill. Got back last summer to see the friendly vs. Everton – went with my sister who saw the light several years ago. Remember clearly one of the chants from the Everton fans was: “Going down…” and we replied back quick as a flash: “So are you…”. Could be nearer the mark than we thought. Still, wherever we are we’ll still be City. Over 30 years and I’m still here along with the rest of you. Every Saturday glued to the PC listening to the commentary, my Colin Bell minature statue (paint flaking off) having been kissed, left foot or leg over right if we’re playing at home, vice versa if away. Keep the faith whatever happens. We’re special – it’s official. I’m City till I die. Oh yes.

Malcolm Clarkson (


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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.

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Newsletter #696