Newsletter #786

Tonight sees two match reports from Sarah on Preston and Gavin’s tour of Merseyside. We also have Don’s news round-up, opinion and a last few requests on tickets and viewing for the weekend.

Anybody who fancies doing a report then please send one in be it TV or ‘live’, as the considerate scheduling means most of us making the journey will be a little jaded come Monday morning.

Here’s hoping our result lives up to what should be a fantastic atmosphere.

Next game: Newcastle United, away, Sunday 17 February 2002 (FA Cup)


General News

Mystic Kev’s Predictions: Kev’s had his crystal balls out this week, and speculated on what life in the Premiership might be like for City. “We are a good side now, and confident and we have got some players here who are Premiership class, a lot of them, but to be a Premiership top-six side, which is what the chairman wants, I’ve told him that one day I am going to come and ask him for £50 million for two players,” declared the Blues’ boss. “The fact is that Leeds have spent £100 million, Liverpool a lot of money and Newcastle, too, and that is why they are up there. Going straight back down will not happen next time,” he stressed. “I am confident of that. We have got a really good nucleus of players already and will strengthen. Arthur Cox is vital to me, the best chief scout anyone could have and we’re already looking towards next season. There are still players there who have the potential and the ability to make it at a high level.”

Call-up for Nicky: Nicky Weaver practised warming the bench for England Under-21’s on Tuesday, as they beat Slovenia 1-0 in a friendly in Nova Gorica. Weaver and Nottingham Forest ‘s David Prutton were the only players named in the squad from outside the Premiership, so Shaun Wright-Phillips missed out despite his recent superb form for the Blues. “I feel as if I am now getting back to somewhere near my best,” said Weaver. “I feel that since I have come back into the City side I have done well. But I still have only played four games and my aim is to keep my place until the end of the season.” The other City players on international duty this week were Richard Dunne, who played in the second half for the Republic of Ireland against Russia, while Niclas Jensen helped Denmark beat Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Kevin Horlock and Eyal Berkovic did not play for their countries due to injury, and were probably pleased that they hadn’t. Northern Ireland lost 1-4 to Poland, while Israel got thumped 1-7 by Germany.

Reserves Thwarted: City Reserves drew 2-2 with Liverpool at Anfield on Monday night. It sounds a great result, but it could have been even better as City were leading 2-1 with only minutes remaining, Chris Shuker having scored twice in the second half. The Blues were robbed of all three points when Liverpool substitute Daniel Sjolund slotted home a late equaliser. Team: Nash, Edghill, Jordan, Wiekens, Negouai, Ritchie, Shuker, Killen, Dickov, Mike, Cooke. Subs: Murphy, Dunfield, Paisley, McCarthy, Whelan.

FA Cup Preview: KK took his FA Cup heroes away to “a secret hideaway” a full four days before Sunday’s clash with Newcastle, repeating the routine that worked so spectacularly in the Fourth Round (on Thursday the ‘hideaway’ was exposed – it’s a hotel in Ayrshire – hope Bobby Robson isn’t reading this!). The Geordies are clearly looking forward to the return of their former Messiah on Sunday. Interest in Kevin’s return is so high for the FA Cup Fifth Round tie, that Toon Chairman Freddie Shepherd said “We would need a 100,000 capacity stadium to accommodate the demand”. What kind of team City will be putting out is a matter of some concern at the moment. Stuart Pearce and Ali B are already missing the trip due to suspension and there are a number of injury worries for the Blues. Eyal Berkovic’s dodgy hamstring meant he limped off near the end of the Preston game, while Shaun Goater wasn’t even on the bench due to a thigh strain. Shaunie Wright-Phillips is now very doubtful as well. Just to add to the worry, Kevin Horlock was not risked by Northern Ireland on Wednesday, after Horlock felt a slight leg strain in training. Manager Sammy McIlroy said “We couldn’t take a chance on Kevin because of Manchester City’s involvement in the Cup.” From the hideaway hotel, Kevin Keegan was still optimistic on Thursday that the injuries would be clear by Sunday. “I expect Shaun Goater and Paulo Wanchope to be fit. There is no doubt that Shaun Wright Phillips will be fit and he has returned to training. Eyal Berkovic is a worry, but the signs are that he will be fit. The feeling is that Kevin Horlock will be fit too.” So no fitness worries at all then, Kev?

Transfer News and Gossip

No-Go for Igor: Liverpool have officially denied that Igor Biscan is going to City on loan for the rest of the season. The 23 year old Croat has not featured much in the Liverpool squad this season. The Scousers state that Biscan is staying with them for the time being – this has lead to speculation concerning a Summer switch to Maine Road by Biscan.

Four on Trial This Week: No, not another report on a quiet week at Leeds United, but word of KK’s look for fresh faces for the squad. City had a look at four players last week, with a view to taking some or all on to the playing staff. The first man for consideration was Chinese defender Sun Jihai, who, despite pessimistic reports to the contrary, did turn up to play in a practice match last Saturday so that KK could assess Sun’s compatibility with the rest of the team. On Wednesday the Club website was making optimistic noises about an imminent deal for the player – negotiations were described as “ongoing”. KK also took a second look at the Clarke twins from Halifax Town. The boss made encouraging noises about the pair, but unfortunately Matt Clarke pulled a hamstring early on in training and had leave. KK announced later in the week that he would not be pursuing an interest in Chris, although no mention was made of Matt. They were joined on Wednesday by Bjorn Helge Riise, brother of Liverpool’s John Arne. Riise faired better than the Clarkes. According to the eighteen-year-old’s agent, City were very impressed. “Kevin Kegan told me Bjorn Helge had impressed so much during his trial spell with City, he’d like to sign him. Man City will contact Bjorn Helge’s club Aalesund FK next week to arrange talks over a possible transfer.” The 18 year old said: “I am very surprised. The trial was my chance to have a look at professional football, and now it seems like I’ll become a part of it.” The news was revealed in Norway’s biggest newspaper on the net, VG, who reported that the fee is expected to be about £900,000 (thanks to Andr