Newsletter #853

A long trip down to the South Coast saw us return empty handed as Southampton won 2-0 with both goals from Ormerod. This leaves us on 8 points from 9 games and currently 16th in the table. Keegan sounded about as enamoured as the rest of us after the game. Let us hope he and the players have learned their lesson and we see a vast improvement for Chelsea.

The draw for the 3rd round of the Worthington Cup has taken place, and we face Wigan on 5th or 6th November. For anyone still wanting more, the reserves are in action tomorrow (Tuesday) night against Bolton at Hyde.

Unsurprisingly, tonight we have plenty of opinion on the current team, formation and tactics. There’s also couple of match reports thanks to Mick and Derek who were brave enough to sit through and write in.

Finally some Blue humour and a lovely Why Blue from Down Under.

Next game: Chelsea, home, 3pm Saturday 19th October 2002


I went to this one thinking “2 draws and 2 defeats in the last 4, if we lose today it is starting to look a bit worrying”. Well we did lose but worse than that, we were a shambles.

Away end was bathed in sunshine in the neat but bland St Mary’s stadium and there was lots of hope and noise. And then the game started. Well to be more precise, Saints started. We carried on gently warming up for the first 15 minutes of the match. The first goal was a decent header in the corner but it all seemed too easy. What followed was one way traffic towards our end with Schmeichel keeping the score respectable. City just couldn’t get going.

Then, after about 20 minutes we finally started to get some possession. Without opening them up, I thought we showed enough to suggest a comeback in the second half if we could go into the break at 1-0. The second goal just before half time was the killer as it was pretty much against the run of play. Straightforward punt down the middle, Saints striker first there, shot rebounds from Schmeichel and despite the presence of 2 defenders, Ormerod lifts it into the net.

Second half was quieter and more even, we had a fair amount of possession but never really broke them down and Saints still looked dangerous on the break.

Most worryingly for me is I can’t single out poor performers, it was one of those where the whole team seemed to share the same lethargy. The defence in particular was in complete disarray for the first 20 minutes and not much better thereafter. We have to get back to basics – keep it tight for the first 15 mins, get some tackles in early doors and decide on a shape at the back and stick to it.

The only glimmer of a positive note was that although largely ineffectual, Berkovic keep wanting the ball and kept trying, SWP kept running and Anelka’s touch was class but he had very little to go on. Horlock was OK in the second half, the rest were poor (except Bluedolph although maybe he could have done better with the goals).

Derek Eccleston (


Oh Dear. Some positives but not many.

Peter Schmeichel – Outstanding performance, kept the crowd going too. Pleasure to see a winner in action. We should we give him the armband.
Niclas Jensen – Can’t mark for toffee. As the ball was cleared to our right Jensen left the box and left Ormerod in there. You then see Distin with two to mark. He leaves the man he was marking to challenge Ormerod, doesn’t quite get there and 1-0. Simple defending.
Steve Howey – Not convinced he’s got the pace to deal with Prem. sides now, although our policy of attacking with centre halves on the wing (Distin) means the rest of our back four spend a lot of time in foot races with forwards. This is knackering at the best of times, let alone when you are chasing the game after 5 minutes.
Sylvain Distin – Played OK, and I do like the way he bombs on, but with three at the back surely someone has to drop back and fill in for him, but it rarely seems to happen. Again simple stuff.
Jihai Sun – Like the curate’s egg, good in parts. Showed a little tenacity in spells 2nd half but pretty much when it didn’t matter. Having a good season though and can’t be too critical when everyone was sh*te today.
Eyal Berkovic – When we finally got hold of the ball before half time, he was everywhere but he lacked killer ball for SWP or The Elk to run onto. Let’s hope the League Cup incident doesn’t blow up out of all proportion as he is our ticket out of this on current evidence.
Marc Vivien Foe – Woeful. Can’t head when attacking (Villa, Arsenal, Blackburn), looks like Bambi on the ice dribbling, for a big man he doesn’t impose himself (unlike Vierra for example), his second touch is always a tackle, has turning circle of an oil tanker.
Kevin Horlock – At least he looked interested for some of the match. Seems a bit apologetic and “stifled” by the stars around him. More Super Kev grit and determination might set an example. Should have taken the free kick 2nd half instead of the Keystone Cops effort we managed.
Ali Benarbia – Seems to be suffering the Gower/Botham captaincy disease. Not a natural leader of men like Pearce but when he plays well people will follow him anywhere. Give the armband to Schmeichel and let Ali concentrate on his game.
Nicolas Anelka – Powerful and purposeful, but frustration early on with service meant the longer it went on, the greater the likelihood he was going to try to do it all himself. Unlucky with the lob and the cross shot 1st half, all his own work. The Guardian’s “Anelka stay-o-meter” will be interesting on Monday.
Shaun Wright Phillips – Bit lost today. I think we switched to 4-4-2 2nd half, with SWP up with the Elk. Achieved two things. Didn’t make us any less vulnerable to attacks down their right wing, and played SWP out of position thus making him less effective. Bizarre to take him off for Huckleberry. We were advocating Foe off & SWP back into midfield with Huck up front but then again, how many clubs have I managed?!

Lucien Mettomo – Did OK, good in the air but every clearing header went to one of their players. Midfield needs to start hoovering up the ball that we do win.
Darren Huckerby – Not on long enough, lacked service and was no real threat. Played the Dickov rôle well and again is hungry to play.

All in all poor. We looked like rabbits in the headlights today. Few of them wanted the ball, and those that did, did little with it. Second to everything in midfield and up front. No heart or passion for the shirt. Passing dreadful. Little service for our “goal machine”.

The crowd remained positive to the last though, outsinging the sailor boys to our right. The conga was hysterical, leaving the stewards utterly bemused. Half time was entertaining too as the Southampton “hards” began kicking that steel shutter between the fans and lobbing beer over the partition. Good grief. If that’s the height of entertainment in Soton, those cold winter evenings must fly by. Best half time songs were “Small town in Hampshire, you’re just a small town in Hampshire…” and somewhat surreally “town full of chandlers” from a small group near the back. Perhaps the way to enrage a Saint is to suggest that the purveyance of ship’s supplies is not the most glamorous of career choices.

I do worry though, that we are already into the self deprecating, “invisible man” mode of two seasons ago, almost blissful in our acceptance of the hair shirt that is being a City fan. Whereas post-modern irony does get you through a few tricky Monday’s at work, especially surrounded by Gooners, Mickeys and Reds, we really do have a fantastic team to get behind this year. Replace Foe and play 4-4-2 for a bit and grind out some ugly one nils against Chelsea, the Baggies, Brum and Wigan and we could be on a run going into derby day.

Remember the West Brom 4-0 last season? Let’s hope this is our worst performance of this season and we go on to win the title again.

Finally my record continues:
City unseen
P6 W2 D1 L3 7 PTS
City Live
P3 W0 D1 L2 1 PTS

Mick Maynard (


Well how on earth did that happen? Who could predict on August 24th that seven weeks later a City performance would justifiably be described as “clueless” or “woeful” in the newspapers? And let’s be straight on the matter; Saturday’s first-half effort was as bad as you are likely to see in the Premiership by anyone at anytime. So why?

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say “well, that’s City, isn’t it” but look at the personnel on show: Keegan, Schmeichel, Anelka, Distin, Foe, Berkovic, Benarbia. These are proper international football people who are being paid serious money, not the imposters we’ve put up with for most of the last twenty years. The “City syndrome” argument won’t wash anymore and there have to be real reasons.

  1. We must play with two strikers, home and away. Leaving one up front justputs unbearable pressure on our midfield. United couldn’t do it with betterplayers than we have and we can’t do it either. I can’t think of anysuccessful team that has managed it. The others are injured but The Goatisn’t. Am I really supposed to accept that he isn’t good enough to playagainst Southampton? It’s nonsense. Get him back in the team.
  2. Jensen theory. What’s happened to Niclas? He was my banker bet forthis season but he isn’t contributing in either an attacking or defensivecontext. It’s like starting every game with ten men. People keep saying heis “off the pace”. I don’t really know what they mean but I have a sneakingsuspicion that he is unintentionally overawed by the Danish legend behindhim. Looking at the squad there’s only Desperate Dan that could replacehim. If the pills have worked it might be time to give him another chance.
  3. Engine room. We need two tacklers, we need two tacklers, we need twotacklers… Keep chanting it to yourself (in Hebrew if you like) and we mayget the point over to KK by osmosis. Two tacklers and one ball player, thetime-honoured formula. Playing Ali B and Eyal B was worth a try but itdoesn’t work in the top league. They have different styles but they bothneed early fast balls at their feet in the last third to be effective. Ifthey have to win the tackles themselves then it isn’t going to work is it?
  4. SWP is an old-style right-winger who has taught himself how to tackle.He is not a natural wing-back. Cut out his attacking play and ask him to“tuck-in” and he might as well not be playing.
  5. The back three hasn’t got a natural leader. We are crying out for atall, hard, mouthy ball winner. Today’s Dave Watson. Spencer Prior withclass. With him in place then two from Sun, Distin, Howey, Mettomo and Dunnewould be fine. Stam fits the bill perfectly (he’s even called “yap”) but wehave to make do until January in any case. Brett Ormerod? Goodness me.

Finally, the management must retain the courage of their convictions. If we are to be an attacking team then OK, we’re all behind you, let’s attack! Unfortunately, they seem to have bottled it after a couple of flaky away results at Leeds and Villa and we’ve ended up with Saturday’s bodge job.

We must be positive. We didn’t start well last season but picked up in late Autumn. After the defeat at Deepdale I remember saying to people that we’d beat Burnley to go top at Christmas and that would be it. “There there Paul, have another whisky” was the common response but it happened just like that didn’t it? This time I’m aiming for Everton away at the New Year. A win at Goodison to move into the top ten. Doesn’t sound too difficult. Does it?

Paul Matthewson (


Kevin Keegan’s reaction after the game against Southampton was “I hope it hurts the players as much as it hurts me”; KK I have to put some of the blame on you, we are 2-0 down at half time and yet another striker is not put on after the break with Anelka until 10 minutes from time. With only one striker up front from the start we were never in Southampton to win.

I know we have two key strikers injured, but to put Huck on as late as he did was not serving either Huck or Manchester City. This game was doomed from the start!

When we lost to Liverpool 3-0 at least we played better; this was a total disaster. Why did KK take off our best player who was giving his best, Wright-Phillips, to be replaced so late in the game by Huckerby?

Everyone failed Manchester City in this game from the Manager down. All I hope is that this was our worst game of this season, at least now we have got two weeks to get over this one.

Come on you Blues, you can do better!

Ernie Barrow (


Thankfully prior commitments meant that I didn’t get to see the Southampton game on TV here in Dubai. The trouble is that City are quite popular on the various satellite channels at the mo’ and I have been devastated by some shocking under par performances from a great number of our team. Enough doom and gloom, ok a little (no a lot) more…

Of the players that have been starting, the list is very short of those who look like they deserve a first team place. Schmeichel, Sun, Distin, Anelka. Four players!

In the 3-5-2 formation; Howey just can’t seem to control himself or the back line as a whole. If we try 4-4-2 then we don’t have the full backs necessary for the job. In midfield Foe has not given me any reason to think that we should fork out