Newsletter #889

A big issue tonight with Don’s round-up on all happenings since derby day, match reports and views on the derby thanks to Andy, John and yours truly, news on the winning reserves and youth games thanks to Gavin and Simon.

We’ve also plenty of opinion, a couple of requests and some Blue humour, including views on the game through a Red mist.

Next game: Arsenal, home, 3pm Saturday 22 February 2003
Countdown: 87 days to go.


“Who’s Got Derby Day Blues Now” News

Goat Worshipping: He may not be the most skilful forward ever to wear the Blue shirt, but Shaun Goater’s status as a City legend was surely secured with his 86th minute strike against the old foe last Sunday. “I always fancied this game and was desperately disappointed not to have started but I am delighted to be part of things and I tried to show that in the build up to the game by being as upbeat as possible,” said the Blues’ hero. “My chance came and I took it. I suppose you need a bit of luck but I feel that over the seasons at City I have made mine. If you work hard then you get your rewards.” The header took Goater’s personal tally against the Reds this season to three, which must be good for a former United trainee. “Maybe some United fans didn’t know who I was before the first game but they all know now!” said Shaun. The goal was the fastest ever scored by a substitute in the Premiership, and as the Goat said “I’ve never made an impact like that as a substitute. That’ll mean everything to the fans. They were magnificent for us,” he said. “Each and every one of us knows exactly what the derby games mean to them and to be able to have played such a part in earning four points from United is fabulous. We knew we had to go for broke at the end and threw people forward. Fortunately I was on the end of a great ball from Wrighty. I saw it coming all the way. I think the double substitution when myself and Ali came on unsettled United. It was as if they hadn’t noticed and I think no one had said ‘I’ll pick him up’. Our fans went mad and I was thrilled for them. After five years of listening and learning you know exactly what taking four points out of six off United will mean to them. Scoring three in a season against United has to be right up there in the best memories I have on the field. To score an equaliser so late on at Old Trafford and at the end where our fans were is something really special.” Boss Man Kev was of course delighted with the Goat’s contribution, and stressed that he doesn’t want the Bermudian to leave in the summer. “He may only get cameos here with the players I have got. I think he will stay but it will be his decision to go. The last thing I want to do is shove him out of the club, because he has been very important here over the years. He was here as a kid so I’m sure he would have enjoyed that. Shaun’s contract runs until 2004 and he is loved at this club by the fans, manager and staff and I would be delighted if he stayed,” Keegan continued. “The only reason he would go is if he said to me ‘I’m 33 and want to play football’.” The Goat’s final thoughts on Super Sunday? “United might have had the odd excuse in the first game that this player or that player had been missing but yesterday they had the best side they could muster apart from probably Fabien Barthez and we matched them all the way and probably finished the stronger side. They were on a really good run so it shows you how far we have come and just where we might be going under Kevin Keegan. We are aiming for the top six and we feel it is achievable.”

We Say: KK is a Tactical Genius: KK spoke after the game about his decision to throw the Goat and the Algerian Magician into the fray with just four minutes left. Keegan said: “You always like to give players at least 10 or 11 minutes, so it is a gamble when you put them on for less but it also unsettles the opposition. If Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson had done it, they would have been hailed as a tactical genius, with me it’s just luck. We had to try something,” he added. “We were getting a foothold in the game without threatening enough. In Ali we’ve got invention, Shaun got his 100th goal against United and has now scored again today. Having been here as a kid he’ll have enjoyed that. It’s luck but you need it sometimes – especially at places like this. As the game wore on I thought we got more and more into it. We may have sneaked three points at the end.” It seems that Ali B ignored instructions when supplying the pass to SWP to cross for the goal. “We told Ali not to play the free-kick short,” admitted Keegan. “In hindsight, we shouldn’t tell him what to do. He sees a picture other people aren’t even looking at. He’s watching a completely different film. Shaun’s header was difficult to defend against because everyone is pushing out and it was a great finish.” Keegan said: “We showed them too much respect in the first half. It was as though we were just trying to contain them, which is a very dangerous game to play. United have so much quality that if you sit back, someone, somewhere will open you up. We got a lot better after half-time and at the end we were the ones who looked most likely to win. We’ve proved we’re as good as them today – and that’s pleased me.”

Praise for Carlo: KK was fulsome in his praise for Carlo Nash, who was only told he was playing some half an hour before kick off. “Losing Peter Schmeichel was a bit of a blow,” admitted the manager. “But Carlo Nash went in there at the last minute and his performance was outstanding. He has played the last two games, Peter was fit so I left him out and then forty minutes before kick off I told him he had to play. I thought there was some outstanding goalkeeping, not least when Ryan Giggs was through. It was a fifty/fifty ball and neither pulled out of the challenge, but you always got the feeling that Nashy got the ball. I take my hat off to him as it is not easy to do that, but now we will have to wait and see what is wrong with Peter.”

Eyal the Fearless: Sky TV made Eyal Berkovic their Man of the Match, and before the magic moment near the end, Berko seemed to be behind most of the good stuff that City played. “Four points out of six against United is very important for the fans. I am sure they enjoyed the last few minutes and will now enjoy the next few weeks but it was also important for the players’ strength of mind. We have shown we can compete with the best and that we are a side that is improving all the time. There are still a lot of games to play and a lot of points to be won but we have kept alive our objective of reaching the top six. We played very well, we passed the ball had a tremendous amount of possession and came here without any fear, which is what a lot of teams don’t do. That was important. This is a City team that believes in its own ability and I don’t think anyone could say that we didn’t deserve a point. In the end we very nearly stole it but possibly a draw was a fair result because they played some decent football too. When you play at Old Trafford it is always a decent result to come away with a point and we showed that the gap between the sides is not so big as some people might think.” Eyal, who was doubtful before the game due to injury, left the field due to a combination of cramp and a couple of meaty challenges the Cork Assassin. “I was always hoping to play but I had a lot of pain and missed some training. I have to thank the fitness coach Juan Carlos Osorio and physio Rob Harris who worked very hard with me just to get me onto the pitch,” said Berkovic.

Views from the Other Side: Sir Alex Ferguson as we all know by now is a master of media manipulation. During his after derby comments, he managed to give City some praise for their performance, but he made sure he “raged” at the refereeing, thus ensuring that the tabloid headlines were “Fergie Fumes at Rubbish Ref” rather than “Fergie’s Folly in Title Race” – brilliant spin doctoring by Govan’s finest. Of Mr. Beckham’s theatrical dive in the penalty area, Ferguson said: “I have seen the playback and it was a stonewall penalty, no question about it. The boy took David down and the referee refusing to give the decision was decisive. We could have been two or three up by the time we scored. In the first half we played really well but then we started to give the ball away and that carelessness cost us. We were shabby in the last third at times but in fairness to City they kept going at us and deserved the point. That was a real disappointment, though we won’t know how serious the situation is until later on. That point may end up winning us the league”, he concluded sagely. Sir Alex seemed to forget that the four points City have taken this season might hand the championship to Arsenal. The Reds’ goalscorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, didn’t sound too thrilled at the day’s proceedings. “We had the chances to win but if it doesn’t happen then 1-0 is a risk. I still thought we were going to make it but it didn’t work out. This would have been a great game to win and that’s what we wanted so we are disappointed. We weren’t great. City had quite a bit of possession in the second half and they did well. They created a free man and they found him. They played from there and we were sitting too far back instead of pressing them. They played well but we let them play too much. They dominated quite a bit of the game and you don’t see that too often at Old Trafford. Our tempo dropped in the second half. We have played so many games in a short period and that showed. It is sometimes hard to press a team three times a week for 90 minutes.”

General News

International Blues: Niclas Jensen was a member of a victorious Denmark team this week, as his country beat Egypt 4-1 in Cairo. Charlton’s Claus Jensen (no relation) scored a hat trick. Of our representatives in the Irish squads, Richard Dunne replaced John O’Shea for the last 10 minutes of the Republic’s 2-0 against Scotland, while Kevin Horlock had to withdraw from the Northern Ireland squad to face Finland after suffering a swollen knee against the Reds. At under-21 level, Shaun Wright-Phillips started for England on Tuesday night as they went down 1-0 to Italy in a friendly in Carrara. Shaun was replaced by Bolton’s Kevin Nolan just after the hour mark. Meanwhile, young City striker Gary Browne was a late substitute for the Northern Ireland under-21s as they beat Finland 3-1 at Glenavon.

Youth Team Win: The Youth side are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup after travelling to Millwall on Tuesday night and securing a 1-0 win. The only goal of the game was scored by Jonathan D’Laryea. City will play West Ham United in the next round of the competition. Team: Westwood, Warrender, Collins, N D’Laryea (Murphy 25), Onuoha, Flood, Ireland (Proffitt 86), J D’Laryea, Bermingham, Croft, Tandy. Subs: Schmeichel (GK), Wright-Phillips, Logan.

Two Goal Mack: City increased their chances of reaching The Manchester Senior Cup Final with a convincing win over Bury at Ewen Fields on Wednesday evening. Two goals from Jon Macken and one each from Joey Barton and Darren Huckerby ensured a comfortable win for the Blues. Bury’s team included our old hero and captain, Andy Morrison and on the substitutes’ bench sat one Colin Bell, apparently. City: Weaver, Orr, Jordan, Wiekens, McDowall (Elliott 69), Ritchie (Gilder 77), Huckerby (Tickle 77), Whitley, Macken, Barton, Shuker. Subs: Ellegaard, Smith.

City Won’t Sue: Today (Thursday), City announced that they would not be pursuing a claim against Roy Keane for his derby day horror tackle on Alfie Haaland. A club statement announced: “The necessary medical and consequential legal advice has been received and carefully reviewed. The conclusion is that it would be difficult for Manchester City to take action on medical grounds. For this reason, Manchester City will not be pursuing any legal action arising out of the tackle on the 21st of April 2001.” It’s unknown whether the Norwegian will individually pursue an action: “Alfie Haaland is continuing to take legal advice on his claim in view of the differing issues and burden of proof.” Weekend tabloid reports suggested that Alfie was on the verge of dropping his action. Yet the following piece appeared in Monday’s Times: “HAALAND MAY STILL PURSUE ACTION AGAINST KEANE – Oliver Kay. Alf Inge Haaland, the Manchester City midfield player, is preparing himself for the news that his career is over, an announcement that could yet prompt him to proceed with his legal action against Roy Keane. The 30-year-old is awaiting what could prove to be the definitive report on his injured knee and, although uncertainty remains as to whether the problem was caused or even aggravated by Keane, Haaland will continue to take legal advice on the matter. However, City, who have been waiting for an update on the player’s condition, now seem unlikely to carry out their threat of action against Keane and United after announcing in August that they were taking legal advice of their own.”

Transfer News and Gossip

Warnock Ditches Ritchie: It sounds like the postponement of City’s Reserve fixture at Bradford last week has cost Paul Ritchie the chance to join Sheffield United on loan. Blades’ Boss Neil Warnock had wanted to check out the Scottish international, but was thwarted by the frozen pitch at Bradford. Warnock told the Sheffield Star: “We are looking at centre-back cover in case Robert Page or Shaun Murphy have problems but it would only be on a loan basis. Paul is one of a number of players that we are currently monitoring and it was a little disappointing that we couldn’t watch him this week.” This week’s press reports suggest that Warnock is now looking elsewhere for defensive cover.

For Hucks’ Sake, Where to for Darren? Nottingham Forest have completed the signing of Darren Huckerby on loan until the end of the season. As reported last week, Huckerby won’t be available until February 24 to ensure that he is eligible for the promotion play-offs. Forest boss Paul Hart was delighted to have got his man, telling the club’s official website: “We want to get promotion and having a player of Darren’s quality on board will help us try and achieve that aim. He had the chance to join a couple of other clubs but he’s a Nottingham lad and desperately wants to play for Forest.” It’s unclear if the move to Forest will be a permanent one. Hart has funds to spare after selling midfielder David Prutton to Southampton for £2.5 million, meanwhile Celtic boss Martin O’Neill must be regretting not making a move for Hucks last week when he had the chance. Leading scorer Henrik Larsson fractured his jaw at the weekend, and will probably miss the rest of the season. Before the injury to Larsson, O’Neill was discussing a possible move for Darren in the summer. “He’s a player I was interested in when I was manager of Leicester, but his agent’s call came too late in the day last Friday. Who knows what might happen in six months time?”

Pauleta Stays: Pauleta gave his version of Robbie Fowler’s “I want to prove myself to Leeds” speech this week, in denying that he’d ever really wanted to leave his current club. “My priority is Bordeaux. I intend to fulfil my contract and keep on scoring goals until 2004. I am going to stay with Bordeaux for another year and a half and nothing will change that, whether it’s Real Madrid or Manchester who show an interest.” The Portuguese striker did not specify which Manchester club he meant, of course!

Ex-Blues’ News

Allsopp Bid Fails: Ex-City boy Danny Allsopp will not be joining Luton Town from Notts County. The Aussie front man had agreed terms with Luton manager Joe Kinnear, but was injured after 10 minutes in Saturday’s defeat at Mansfield Town. Kinnear explained, “I spoke to the boy’s agent here this morning. We discussed one or two things and started the ball rolling but it’s very complicated because the boy’s still under contract to his club. We talked about wages and to find out what the whole package would cost. It’s very complicated when teams are in receivership. We’re talking about the boy’s personal terms, the agent’s fees, the money to the club – the whole package. But the boy got injured on Saturday so that’s knocked it on the head for at least three weeks. I won’t be getting anyone that’s injured.” Allsopp, who bagged 29 goals last season in all competitions for the Magpies, has been in fine form again this season for Bill Dearden’s side, but the Meadow Lane based side are in dire financial straits and Kinnear had hoped to prise Allsopp away from them. Allsopp joined City from Port Melbourne Sharks for £10,000 in the summer of 1998 (those were the days of big money transfers!), and in his three seasons at Maine Road was a frequent substitute for the Blues. Danny went on loan to three different clubs during his time with City, and it was during his spell at Meadow Lane that Notts County decided to sign him permanently.

Brown Hunt Heats Up: After Michael Brown’s FA Cup exploits (see MCIVTA 885), we now get word that Chelsea are sniffing around the ex-City midfielder. The Daily Star claims that Chelsea lead the pack in pursuit of Brown, who would be available for around £5 million in the summer. The Blades are keen to keep their star midfielder, however, and have offered Brown an improved contract [Thanks Hsien Min for the item].

Squad News

No Go Goat: Shaun Goater has made it clear this week that he’ll be staying with City as long as KK wants him around. As the great man said, “Why would I want to leave, how could anything compare with what I have here at City? I have spent five years building up a great relationship with the City fans and I want that to continue. I have worked hard to get to the point I am at now and anyone who knows me knows it is not in my nature to quit. Just because Robbie Fowler has come here my attitude has not changed. I am a team player and I will keep working as hard as I can to do what I can for City. It is up to me to take my chances whenever they come and to make sure I am upbeat and ready when called. I want to make sure I give the manager a different option to Nicolas Anelka and Robbie. That will not change even if Kevin Keegan brings another striker into the club. If he says he doesn’t see a future for me and that I don’t figure in his plans then that is another matter but that hasn’t happened and I hope that it doesn’t. I love it at City and the fans know I love it here. I want to be around when we move to the new stadium. The manager wants us to finish in the top six and I feel that either this season or next that objective is achievable. We are a club moving forward and I feel as though I still have a part to play.”

Goalkeepers’ Tales: Anyone who saw the TV coverage of the derby would have seen a disconsolate Peter Schmeichel limping round the Old Trafford pitch to sit behind City’s coaching staff and substitutes. While Denmark’s no.1 enjoyed the fightback by his current club against his old employers, Schmeichel could not disguise his misgivings over his recurring injuries. “I’ve been having a problem in my left calf for about five weeks now, I’ve tried to come back once or twice in training and I’ve had two setbacks,” explained the ‘keeper. “After the second one I gave it all the time in the world to clear the problem. I came back to training on Wednesday, and stepped things up Friday and Saturday and I hadn’t had a problem. I lasted just ten minutes in the warm up and I’m back to square one. It is very frustrating and disappointing for me but unfortunately these things happen in football, but I was able to take joy in the way that the boys played and the result they got for us.” When asked about his future plans, Schmikes was less optimistic. “If you asked me whether I will be here next year when I was fit I would say yes, but at the moment I cannot look beyond clearing this injury problem. It is very frustrating, they are not happy times. You spend all day going through the same drill getting the same treatment seven days a week, and having done it for five weeks now it is very demoralising. All I want to do is get back playing, what is going to happen after that I don’t know.” Carlo Nash, Schmeichel’s replacement on Sunday, explained that he is happy to be a City squad member. “Of course I want to be playing, every professional wants that but I am not unhappy at City, I never have been and I never will be. Whether you are first, second or third choice ‘keeper at Manchester City it is a great club and anyone who takes the decision to leave would have had to do a lot of hard thinking. A lot will depend on whether Peter decides to stay another year. At the moment if he is fit then he plays and I respect that but I am ready to stay and fight for a place in the side. I think I was a bit frustrated earlier in the season when I got in the side for a couple of games and then dropped out again. Now I am just trying to stay in the manager’s good books and trying to take my chances when they come. Although I am not in Peter’s league I am no spring chicken any more and I would like regular first team football but competition is what it is all about at this level and I am sure Nick Weaver will be thinking the same. I have loved every minute of my time at City, it is a fabulous club and I would be silly to want to leave it unless it was clear I did not figure in future plans.” When it became clear that the Dane would not be fit, a tannoy call went out for Nicky Weaver to contact the City dressing room. Some unkind souls might think that Nicky was off partying, but that was definitely was not the case. Let the 23 year old explain: “I was at the game but I didn’t have my phone switched on because I didn’t want people mithering me for tickets and knew I wouldn’t be able to hear it anyway,” said Weaver. “I was stuck in a queue outside for ages and didn’t get in until about five minutes before the kick-off and then Danny Tiatto’s dad, who was sat in front of me, told me they had been calling for me. By then it was too late to do anything about it and when I switched on my phone there were a load of messages. It was one of those things that has never happened before and probably will never happen again and I am really gutted that I wasn’t able to take my place on the bench. It would have been great to be involved.” As Weaver couldn’t be located in time, young Kevin Stuhr Ellegaard sat on the subs’ bench instead.

Fitness First for Fowler: The Daily Mirror reports that while KK gave his first team four days off from training this week, Robbie Fowler was asked to report for training. Robbie’s lack of match fitness must be giving the Great Man some concern, because he has asked fitness coach Juan Carlos Osorio to devise a special training programme for the Liverpudlian. Fowler was spared a run-out with the reserves in the Manchester Senior Cup last night and Keegan plans to play him in games to get his old form back.

Don Barrie (


From Behind Enemy Lines

Following the 3-1 November derby (just thought I’d get that in again), work contacts asked if I would like to attend the return match as their guest. I gleefully accepted, after all it meant by away ticket could go to a fellow blue and I’d still be there to see the game. Then spent 3 months agonising about the decision; going corporate, not just any corporate but at Old Trafford, and in with the Rags. What had I done? The usual pre-match banter from the Rags at work was subdued, with November coming back to haunt them. I wasn’t feeling quite as confident as I had back then, but certain that we could acquit ourselves well, after all our last game there resulted in a 1-1 after they could only score off their 2nd penalty and Howey popped up to equalise. Now they had a full squad and we still had a few doubts in Schmeichel, Berkovic and Tiatto.

February 9 dawned, a gorgeous early spring day over Manchester. I duly set off, bedecked in subtle sky blue and with City badge discreetly pinned to my jacket. We arrived, parked up at the cricket ground and made our way through the thousands of cockneys dressed replica red towards the Library. On arriving, my eyes and heart leading left towards the away section, we carried on round to the entrance for the Manchester Lounge. Security guards, sliding doors, CCTV, complimentary programme and escalators whisked us up to the function suite. It was unusual not to have the usual recognisable friendly faces and to have to content myself with nods, smiles and being polite to the enemy. We did manage a few bets, 40-1 for an Untied halftime lead with City to win, 22-1 for City to win 2-1. Then came a tannoy announcement asking Weaver to contact the dressing room – surely a Rag wind-up, but it turned out that Schmeichel had injured himself in warm-up and they were trying to sort out the subs. Then off out to the (nicely padded, red) seats, great position level with halfway line and front row of balcony. It was my first glimpse of the Library from the other side. I looked across proudly at our Blue section with the “Mancunian Section” banner prominently displayed.

City lined up: Nash, Sun, Sommeil, Distin, Howey, Jensen, Berkovic, Foe, Horlock, Anelka and Fowler. Subs: Ellegaard, SWP, Benarbia, Goater.

The Rags were without Donald Pleasance, but the rest of their overpaid prima donnas were present.

Within a minute Gary (I fed the Goat) Neville won a corner and I was worrying about just how much practice we’d put in on our set piece defending following last week’s performance. Not to worry as we cleared it, and Neville was soon repaid with a yellow when he mauled Berkovic. The Welshman then had a shot but Nash was imperious, the first of many fine saves. The Rags put us under plenty of pressure throughout the first 15-20 minutes, until the Horse eventually knocked the ball in from the Welshman. That woke up the slumbering Library attendees. A couple of minutes later Posh went down like a gymnast, appealing as he stumbled, as Sommeil tackled him in the penalty area. Mr Wiley duly ignored his antics and play continued. A referee with balls, nice to see that at OT for a change.

We were back up and at them then, when Anelka had a neat shot on target which Donald’s understudy saved. Fowler was booed by the Rags every time he touched the ball and, although clearly not match-fit, did make some excellent runs and was clearly enjoying winding them up. Berkovic was simply majestic in midfield, creating runs, passing through to Anelka & Fowler and showing his class yet again. Coming up to half time the Rags were awarded a free kick after Foe brought down the Welshman. One-trick-pony Posh stepped up to take it and hit the ball straight at the wall. A few minutes later he tried a cross in towards the horse but Nash was there to intercept. In the meantime, we’d seen the horse stumble to the ground and lie there for 5 minutes whilst the referee ignored him. I have never seen a player cheat quite as much as this one, and quite frankly the vet, sorry physio, should have come on and shot him. We also had Posh completely mis-timing a soft cross and letting the ball roll under his one foot (“typical Beckham” came the cries from the Rags behind me). Half time and back inside for coffee and our bet looking sound!

We came out all guns blazing in the second half, and Fowler had a great shot on goal which the understudy saved. They were then awarded another dubious free kick which one-footed Posh hit wide. He was bobbins, much to my amusement. Some excitement 10 minutes into the second half as Distin, having a superb game, tackled the horse as he was galloping in for another shot. Won the ball and left the Rags whinging and appealing (again). We then raced back up to our end, all over them like a rash, as Berkovic passed to Anelka who fired and the understudy came out and somehow cleared the ball. Damn. Back down to their end and the expensive Argentine tried a shot which hit Howey’s elbow, cue more whinging and appeals which Mr Wiley refused. SWP then came on to replace Horlock who’d proven reliable in midfield but time for a bit of pace as the Rags were clearly suffering in this second half. Nash was again called into action against Posh and the Welshman, but I was beginning to feel the game had turned in our favour. A few minutes later Goater and Benarbia were brought on for Fowler and Berkovic, to rapturous applause from the City end and the other Blues who were now making themselves known behind me.

Nine seconds later and a free kick from Ali who played it short to SWP, chips it across and boom, the Goat leapt past £45 million of players, heads it into the net and the Library went ballistic. Stewards waded in politely (they’re a better class over in the executive seats than the nightclub bouncer thugs they employ in the away end) but we couldn’t mute our celebrations. Glancing across at the dugouts and Taggart was suffering severe apoplexy, almost choking on his chewing gum as he decided to bring on their mad-eyed Norwegian. Too late now, as into stoppage time and we were still up and at them when Goater found the back of the net for the second time after a cross from Foe was passed on by Anelka. Unbelievable, my bet looking secure, but the goal was disallowed as it had grazed Anelka’s hand. Disappointing, but on the replay a fair decision. Cue wild celebrations from the City faithful and much head-shaking and silence as usual from the Library. Time to return to the suite and quaff some red wine with much satisfaction as the Rags dissected the game and, surprise surprise, most admitted we had been unlucky in not securing all 3 points.

The game, as the old clich