Newsletter #798

Tonight sees two match reports from Monday’s excellent reserve game against Liverpool, thanks to Gavin and Jim. We also have Don’s news round-up, a report on a visit to Carrington, opinion ranging from our friends at ITV Digital, the ladies’ team and signings and plenty of requests on match viewing both TV and live.

The Easter weekend is a hectic one for the Blues, with Forest visiting Maine Road on Saturday and our trip to Wolves on Monday afternoon for the long awaited top-of-the-table game. Let’s hope Monday night sees us all celebrating.

A super weekend to everyone.

Next games: Nottingham Forest, home, 3pm Saturday 30 March 2002
Wolverhampton Wanderers, away, 1pm Monday 1 April 2002 (TV)


Sarah Longshaw has kindly agreed to step in for issue 799 on Monday, so any items to Sarah please at the:




General News

ITV Digital Collapses: Thank goodness City seem to be on their way out of the morass that is the Nationwide League. Many clubs will feel the chill wind of financial hardship next year, because ITV Digital have announced that they could not afford to pay the Football League all of the £315 million deal agreed last year. The League have refused to renegotiate the sums owed by the TV company which runs ITV Sport, so on Wednesday ITV Digital have gone into administration. Accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche will run the station, and will be trying to secure the future of this troubled outfit. If they cannot find a buyer, or fail to renegotiate the TV deal, then the station will soon close. Being a little “Laser Blue Eyed” for a moment, it’s good to hear that in the short term ITV Sport will still show City’s last four games. Longer term, it appears that the end of the season may bring some catastrophic results for those clubs who depend on TV’s money to survive.

Reserves Thrash Liverpool: On Monday night City’s Reserves achieved an outstanding result when they beat Liverpool six goals to nil. Chris Killen, back in his preferred striker’s rôle, scored four times, while Joey Barton and Terry Dunfield completed the rout. Liverpool fielded a team packed with internationals, while City’s oldest player was Killen, aged twenty. Although aided by Igor Biscan’s early sending off, the young Blues deserved immense credit for the scale of their victory. Teams: City – Murphy, Mears, Jordan, Dunfield, McCarthy, Paisley, Browne (Kilheeney), Barton, Killen, Whelan, Shuker. Subs: Westwood (GK), Hogan, Gilder, Furnival.
Liverpool – Parry, Heggem, Vignal, Culshaw, McNulty (Warnock), Biscan, Barmby (Partridge), McAllister, Baros (Sjolund), Berger, Diomede. Subs: Harrison, Mellor.

Little Shaun’s England Honour: The superb form of Shaun Wright-Phillips was recognised on Tuesday when he was named in the starting line up for England under-21’s versus Italy, played at Valley Parade in Bradford. Shaun unfortunately was largely anonymous, and was substituted at half time with England a goal down. The match finished in a 1-1 draw, Villa’s Gareth Barry snatching the equaliser. David Platt later stated that he was happy with Shaun’s contribution. “I thought Shaun did all right considering that he had only a little bit of time to train with us and that it was his international début,” said Platt. “He is also being used to playing wing back in recent months. He maybe didn’t get as much width as he would have liked but he hung in well and showed great battling spirit. It was always the plan to take him off at half-time. Everyone who played last night is in my thoughts for the European Championships and of course that includes Shaun.”

Kev’s Analysis: City currently need seven points to clinch promotion, although this may change according to the results of other teams. Boss Kev is generally a happy man after a hectic few weeks for fixtures. “It is only two or three weeks ago that we had five out of six games away from home”, said KK. “They came pretty quickly after one another with three of them in six days. We have come through all that and we are in a better position than I think we could have hoped for. The disappointments being that, having got some difficult games out of the way like Birmingham and Bradford away, we probably have not played as well against the two sides which on paper looked easier but proved quite difficult.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Cole Rumour Resurfaces: As reported by Jim Needham in MCIVTA 797, the rumours about Andy Cole and City have resurfaced. It was reported that Cole is unhappy about the quality of football that Blackburn are playing. You would have thought that Mr Cole would have noticed the league position of Rovers when he accepted a nice fat signing on fee from the Lancashire club. Other clubs said to be interested are Middlesbrough, Spurs, Fulham and Aston Villa.

Bolton Rebuffed: City have turned down an enquiry from Bolton for defender Paul Ritchie. The Wanderers are short of defensive cover after losing Mike Whitlow and Gudni Bergsson for the rest of the season, and manager Sam Allardyce had hoped to take Ritchie on loan, just as the Trotters had done two seasons ago when Ritchie was a Hearts player. “We had made enquiries about bring Paul back to the club but City want him to stay at Maine Road while they gun for promotion,” commented Allardyce.

Walker for Ipswich? Ian Walker is now being sought by Ipswich Town. The former England goalkeeper was said to have been a target of MCFC recently, but George Burley is supposed to be bidding £3 million, almost double the fee KK allegedly offered, so the man with the long, greasy hair may soon be on his way to Suffolk.

Media Yap About Jaap: Monday’s big rumour concerned another ex-Red. The Daily Mirror broke the story that KK had made a £10 million enquiry for the Dutch defender, and had even begun negotiations with Stam’s “people”. City refused to comment on the story, which only served to intensify the speculation. The BBC then came up with a “City spokesman” who said, “Kevin Keegan has a five year plan. He wants to get City back in the Premiership, ensure that City stay there and do well – eventually becoming a top six Premiership club. Although the club has no comment to make on speculation regarding Jaap Stam, obviously as part of Kevin’s plan we will be looking to sign players of the calibre of Stam.” Stam’s agent initially denied any knowledge, “Rumours of a move to Manchester City are complete nonsense. I don’t know where this story has come from,” but by the end of Monday there was a different version of events. The agent was quoted as saying, “There have been enquiries but Jaap is not interested in returning to England. A couple of weeks ago Manchester City made an enquiry, but it was not from Kevin Keegan as I know him quite well. He is preferring Rome to Manchester and he is settled and does not want to move. If you have played for Manchester United you do not want to rush back to England. He is still not very happy with the way things went at United.”

Transfer Deadline Day: Today (Thursday) is transfer deadline day. Earlier in the week, Boss Kev pronounced that there would be no last minute signings. “I don’t think we will look at signing anyone else,” he commented. “These players have got us where we are and have done excellently.” This did not stop some fancy speculation in the news media. First name out of the hat – Leeds’ David Batty. This rumour was strongly denied by Batty’s agent, who said, “David’s never been happier. He’s a Leeds boy and this is his club. His only ambition is to take Leeds back to the top before he retires.” Thursday morning saw The Sun newspaper reporting a £5 million bid by KK for Sunderland’s Michael Gray. Peter Reid would then purchase an alleged City target Matthew Taylor from Luton. In the end, the only movement involved Terry Cooke going on loan to Grimsby till the end of the season.

Down in Davie Jones’ Locker Room

Last Weekend’s Round-Up: Wolverhampton Wanderers failed to capitalise on City’s draw at Rotherham, as they could only draw 0-0 at home to Norwich. West Bromwich Albion are now starting to breathe down Wolves’ necks, winning 1-0 on Friday night against Nottingham Forest. Albion were then six points behind Wanderers with a game in hand, and on Tuesday clawed back another three points by beating Crewe.

Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic! The Wolves staff are trying hard to keep their spirits up, but no great conviction. “It is disappointing to have taken only three points from our last four games but we aren’t in the least bit nervous,” claimed striker Kenny Miller after Saturday’s game. Davie Jones was sounding like a man whistling to keep his spirits up as well, claiming “For me this was a very good point. We looked a lot sharper and we can’t argue with the way we worked. But we are still in a good position and still chasing Manchester City,” before adding a note of realism, saying that “We are disappointed because City drew and we have lost the chance of catching up a couple of points on them.”

Kennedy Won’t Face Blues: Former City socialiser and left winger Mark Kennedy is highly unlikely to face his old club at Molineux on April Fool’s Day. Kennedy limped off against Grimsby last week, and assistant manager John Ward said, “Mark sustained a tear in his muscle and from when he did it, we were looking at two more weeks out of the game.” Mark was also unfit for the game at Maine Road.

Ex-Blues’ News

Andy’s Tribute: Andy Morrison is officially an ex-Blue. Morrison has been released early from his contract, to allow the former skipper a chance to regain fitness and then begin his seasrch for a new club. Last week, KK arranged for Andy to say his farewell to the Maine Road faithful before the Palace game. “Last week really was special and it was nice to be able to say goodbye to the fans in the way I did,” said the 31-year-old, “I’m not really the type of person that gets emotional over those type of things but it was nice. Kevin Keegan suggested the idea for me to say goodbye properly and I jumped at the chance. We came to an amicable agreement given that my contract was up in June and now I can concentrate on getting completely fit again. I’ve had an operation to remove scar tissue from my knee and it has been cleaned up, too. By the summer, I’ll be ready to look for a new club in time for pre-season. Everything is going along nicely with it at the moment and I’ve just got to do some work to strengthen my muscles up. My specialist has said I’ve nothing to worry about.”

Vaughan Free: Tony Vaughan’s career continues to develop in leaps and bounds. Vaughan played over fifty games for the Blues between 1997 and 1990, and was Frank Clark’s star centre half (whom the guitar-toting boss liked to play at left-back). Vaughan has lost his place at Nottingham Forest since Paul Hart took over, and is now heading for a month’s loan at Third Division Scunthorpe United.

Dicky Shines: I noticed that a third member of the 1999 Play-Off Final team was in action on Saturday. There on the Premiership highlights was none other that Paul Dickov leading the line for Leicester City against Leeds. ITV only showed a couple of Leicester’s efforts at goal, both by the diminutive Scot. One was well saved, the other hit the woodwork. Surprisingly, both Leicester and Dicky failed to score as Leeds won 2-0.

Hinchy Quits: As Clive Tyldesley once said, “Hinchcliffe… 5-1!” Sad news this week for the scorer of the fifth and best goal against the Reds in 1989. Andy Hinchcliffe has retired from football due to a knee injury. He damaged his knee playing for Sheffield Wednesday in January, and doctors have advised the 33-year old to quit the professional game. Andy played 112 times for City before moving to Everton, where he became a full England international.

Reactions and Comments

Moore the Merrier: For weeks after the reverse fixture at Maine Road, Rotherham manager Ronnie Moore was full of self-righteous indignation about Negouai’s “main de dieu” winning goal. Well waddya know, Moore has admitted using his own underhand (no pun intended) tactics to gain a result against our beloved Blues. “We didn’t roll the pitch, we are trying to stop them from passing it and playing football. Quality wise, there would only be one winner and that would be Man City, so we tried to mix it a bit today and get at them.” Anyone who read the match reports in MCIVTA 797 would know that “mixing it a bit” is a quaint euphemism for “kick the s*** out of the talented players”. Moore even managed to mention the Negouai incident again. “There was a little bit of ill feeling in a nice way, nothing malicious, we were just upset at the way the result had ended at Maine Road. Quality wise, they were the better side but I can ask of no more commitment than I got from my players and with a little bit of luck we could have sneaked it. They obviously have better quality players. In fact, they are the best team in the division, but we worked hard to stop them.”

Kev Pleased: KK seemed relieved to come away with a point from this bruising encounter. “It’s a hard place to come. Other than ourselves they’ve probably got the second or third best home record in the division. They have a way of playing which they are all well drilled on. They stick to it and they don’t get disappointed when things don’t come off. We expected a hard game here and we certainly got one. The pitch didn’t help us but at this time of the year, unless you are in the Premiership, you are not going to get many good surfaces. It’s impossible to expect smaller clubs – and without being unkind to Rotherham they are one of the smaller clubs – to have the best surface in the world.” Keegan revealed that he had contemplated withdrawing Ali B due to the sub standard pitch: “On a pitch like that, there is a temptation to pull someone like Ali off. That’s not because you don’t respect his ability, but because you know his ability is not suited to the pitch. But he stuck at it and he kept going. I think his greatest asset – apart from being a great player – is he has still got great desire, even at 33, and that is a great example for our younger players.” Dazza Huckerby echoed the Big Boss Man’s thoughts. “The pitch was awful, the ball bobbled all the time and was really difficult to control. We had to work really hard to get back into the game and Ali scored a terrific goal. All in all, I think it will be a good point for us and also, probably, for them as well at the end of the day. It was good news too that Wolves had only drawn.”

Squad News

Blues’ Injury Blues: There’s been a gloomy prognosis on the injury front for two of City’s successes this season. The less hopeful case is Paulo, who has suffered a recurrence of the knee injury that has plagued his season. Reports say that the Costa Rican may require surgery to rectify the problem, which will certainly rule him out of the domestic season and may endanger his attendance at the World Cup. Eyal Berkovic’s comeback at Rotherham lasted just over half an hour, before the heavy tackling of the home side took its toll. Kevin Keegan admitted that the Blues had gambled on Berkovic’s fitness at Millmoor, although the player had declared himself fit to play on Friday. The Israeli is likely to miss the Easter games at home to Nottingham Forest and away at Wolves, but his participation in the remaining games of the season is now in doubt. Berkovic is currently away with the Israeli national squad, where the team doctor is giving Eyal intensive treatment.

Ban for the Goat: There’s been an end of season bonus for Shaun Goater. Following his sending off last week, it was feared that the Goat would receive a three match ban, ending his season after the Wolves showdown. Instead, the Bermudian has been given only a one match suspension. He will now only miss Barnsley’s visit to Maine Road on April 6. “I at first thought it would be three games,” quoth the Goat. “But at this stage of the season it is only one game, which I am delighted about so I will be available for the remaining games. The manager was frustrated by the sending off and I know that. But he is professional and so am I. I don’t need him to say anything to me about it because immediately it happened I knew what I had done. We were on top of the game and it was a silly action.”

Whatever Happened To… KK has been pondering this week on the lack of impact on the squad of two of his signings. Alioune Toure has not really recovered from his bout of deep vein thrombosis, and his comeback ended in his second game when he hobbled from the field against Newcastle reserves last week. Christian Negouai made an interesting start to his career at City, punching the ball into the net against Rotherham then feeling the wrath of Uriah Rennie with a red card at Blackburn. “Alioune hasn’t been able to play for three months and it has been a shame for him,” said Keegan. “He is another forward who is very, very, quick and is another option for me. I just feel he has just got to learn a bit more about English football and I think Christian Negouai also comes into that category. They have done well in their own countries and, but English football is different and it is up to them to get in their minds exactly what is expected of them. The ball is in their court. A lot of things change when they come over here. People like Ali Benarbia and Niclas Jensen have taken it their stride but they are very mature, experienced internationals. You don’t have to settle people like that in. When lads are just 23 or 24 it is different. They have to learn the language, get used to the food, find their way around and learn what the coach wants from them. Neither of them has quite worked that out yet but they have got time. They have both got a lot going for them.”

Whitley on Tour: In his first game on loan, Jeff Whitley played for Notts County at Brighton last Saturday, and helped County to a 2-2 draw. Whitley’s former City team-mate Danny Allsopp scored for the Magpies. After the game, Jeff said, “I have joined County to get in some games and get back into the rhythm of playing. My intention is to go back to City at the end of the season, speak to the manager and take it from there. I am more than willing to go back and fight for a place if there is one for me. There is no doubt that this has been the worst season of my career but thankfully the injury is now behind me and I can get on with enjoying my football again. I made my début at Brighton on Saturday and realised how much I had missed the adrenalin of a crowd and the competitive buzz. I enjoy playing for the reserves but it is not the same as a proper league match with points and a relegation and promotion at stake.” Rather bizarrely, Jeff made his début on the left wing. “I almost rang Mark Kennedy up for some advice,” he joked. “I don’t think I got too many crosses in and I have told the manager Billy Dearden that it is not really my best rôle! Hopefully I will get the chance to operate in the centre of midfield and see how it goes. County are in a bit of a dogfight against relegation but I am convinced they will survive.” If Jeff cannot convince KK that he is worth a place in next season’s squad, the media reckon that Sheffield Wednesday could be interested in the Northern Ireland international.

Sun at Home: Sun Jihai is a major footballing star in China, and will probably play an important part in his country’s bid to win the World cup this summer. At the moment his priority is to settle in at City and to break into the first team. “As soon as I came here to look round and train with the team I knew Manchester City was a place where I could develop my skill and technique and a place which was moving forward,” said Sun. “I have lots of fans in China and they give me a great strength but I don’t feel as though I am important. I just want to be part of the squad here, become a better player and continue my football education. Of course it is important for me to win over the Manchester City fans and I promise to work hard to learn the game in order to do that. I have already seen how passionate they are about their team. Firstly I must listen to the manager and find out what he wants from me. Once I have learnt the different ways of English football and then hopefully I will show the supporters what I can do. There is a big Chinese community here and they, and the people who work for and watch City, have all made me welcome. I feel quite at home.”

Ali B – He Loves It! Algerian deity Ali Benarbia has been talking about his enjoyment of the City experience, and how much he wants to help improve the young players. “I had seen English football before on TV and I thought it would be wonderful to play. It had changed in the last two years and I am very lucky to be at Manchester City because they have great fans, a great stadium and a great boss. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because Kevin Keegan is keen to attack. Some managers like kick and rush, but Kevin wants all teams to play like he thinks. We have good players. I want Shaun Wright-Phillips to get better than he is. Many players play 70 per cent, but I want them all to be 100 per cent and I like to pass on my experience. That’s how I think. I want players to score more goals and be better. You can never say enough. They can, if they want, get better. I come here for a challenge. I don’t know what happens in the future, but I am enjoying this moment. I came to play in the Premiership with City. I want to win the league this year, not just go up, and then maybe finish in the top 10 next season.”

Horlock’s Pain in the Neck: Kevin Horlock withdrew from the Northern Ireland squad this week, suffering from a neck injury. Boss Sammy McIlroy was not best pleased, but Kevin Keegan was quick to defend the in-from midfielder. “Sammy McIllroy knows as well as I do that he’s had this for a long time and we’ve got to have a look at what we can do for him in the summer,” said the boss man. “It doesn’t stop him playing all the time, just sometimes he wakes up and his neck’s really stiff. He’s probably never headed the ball so much because he’s playing like a centre-half at the moment,” jested our laugh-a-minute manager. It seems that the injury won’t stop Horlock playing for City in the last month of the season, but may require surgery in the summer.

Don Barrie (


‘City Starlets Humiliate Liverpool’s Squad of Riches’

A very young City side, where Chris Killen, the oldest participant, will not be 21 till August this year, went about resoundingly destroying a Liverpool team full of internationals. Four of City’s goals came from the boot of Chris Killen whilst his ever-present fianc