Newsletter #892

Well. Having witnessed my heaviest home defeat at the hands of a world class Arsenal, and some quite inept defending and man-marking from 3 of our back 5 players, tonight’s issue as you can imagine sums everything up. A few positives out of the game were Fowler’s improving fitness and sharpness, Berkovic’s continuing domination of our midfield and creative play and the “love-in” with the Arsenal fans continues. The off-pitch highlight of the day was the 5-0 chant of “boring, boring Arsenal” which their lot joined in with.

We’ve a few match views, plenty of opinion, some requests, travel warning for the Easter games, a Why Blue and a view from the Arsenal side.

This goes out to 3,277.

Next game: Blackburn Rovers, away, 3pm Saturday 1 March 2003
Count down: 76 days to go.


And afterwards…

It’s Sunday morning and I find myself writing to MCIVTA for the first time in what seems like years (I’m shamed to admit). I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes stuffing Warburton’s Organic Wholemeal toast (+ peanut butter) into my youngest, but found my mind constantly wandering to yesterday’s events, though surprisingly, not those on the pitch. Personally, I can take being hammered by probably the best team in the solar system, but what got to me more was the simply awful GMR phone-in that we were subjected to on the way home. I normally look forward to this as it’s handled very professionally – and with no little degree of wit – by Jimmy Wagg, and we are usually treated to the wisdom, good sense and general calming influence of Peter Barnes.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves listening to Fred Eyre, and I say listening, because the guy just loves the sound of his own voice. Fred appears to treat a phone call as a cue to talk at length. He wasn’t going to be put off by people attempting to make good points – especially when they were at odds with his own – so he frequently talked right over them, cut them short and became adversarial when challenged (devices honed to perfection at the Mrs Thatcher School of Media Studies). The resemblance was uncanny, he even started answering questions with a question, and quite unprofessionally attempted to ridicule the odd caller for holding an opinion contrary to his own. Come on GMR, you can do a lot better than this opinionated, condescending boor. I must say that I was surprised to hear Jimmy defending him (full marks to the guy who rang up asking where Barnesy was), when it was quite clear – at least to the occupants of our car (me and Steve!) that Fred was simply out to espouse his own opinions, rather than to participate in a decent discussion.

Anyway, here’s my take on the game, first, the Arsenal goals:

1. Arsenal are indeed a great team; however, they did not murder us with their outrageous talent, rather we committed suicide (unaided) with a simply atrocious 20-minute display of defending. Actually, I shouldn’t really use the word ‘defending’, because it was anything but!

Goal 1 – Dunne inexplicably let a through ball go past him to the delighted Denis Bergkamp. Why didn’t Dunne hoof it into the proverbial Row Z (which he could easily have done)? Presumably, ’cause he had no idea that the Dutch Stamper was there.

Goal 2 – Dunne tidies up at the back, and then quite inexplicably clears the ball a paltry 15 yards straight to a red shirt, whereupon the ball comes straight back to Henry, who makes Dunnie look like he is being filmed by time-lapse, rounds him and passes inside for a simple tap-in.

Goal 3 – Great ball over the top (I thought it was offside from Kippax AAUpper) which lands at Henry’s feet. World class first touch and drive into bottom corner. By the way, Henry’s marker, in case you are interested, was none other than Dunne.

Goal 4 – Corner – Campbell rises majestically under a powder-puff challenge from Howey (I think) to head home. Training ground stuff.

Goal 5 – Viera plays a simple one-two in the centre circle, our experienced central defender (Howey) follows the ball instead of the runner, Viera runs through, receives the ball back, and we are treated to a race between a thoroughbred racehorse and the rag and bone man’s nag. Needless to say, Viera slots the ball home past the despairing Nash.

To sum up:

Howey and Dunne may just have played their last game for us. Dunne was quite simply appalling and was substituted at half time. He was embarrassingly slow and even worse. seemed to have no idea where the Arsenal forwards were. Howey was not much better, he is very very slow indeed, which is a fatal weakness in a team which likes to push up as we do. The death knell for these two may already have sounded as KK switched to 4-4-2 at half time (at last), and it’s my belief that it has been his intention to do this for some time now. Methinks his preferred central defensive pairing will be Distin and Sommeil. Incidentally, Sommeil was very good yesterday, and it was very noticeable that Henry preyed on Dunne and Howey, but didn’t bother with Sommeil on the left-hand side.

I have to say that I found lots of positives in Robbie Fowler’s performance. He brought two excellent saves out of Taylor, it was he who passed for Anelka to score, and he also made lots of very intelligent runs. What is not there just yet is his pace and his first touch. I for one have no doubt that these are just a few weeks away.


Nash – 8 No chance with any of the goals, and made a couple of very good saves.
Sun – 7 Attacked well and made a fantastic tackle (on the left hand side!) to dispossess an Arsenal striker who was through on goal.
Dunne – 1 I think I’ve said enough already.
Howey – 3 Ditto.
Sommeil – 8 Fought passionately and made some excellent interceptions. Must surely be paired with Distin soon.
Jensen – 7 Defending well and got forward with some decent runs at the Arsenal defence.
Foe – 7 Worked very hard to break up their approach play up.
Belmadi – 3 Looked shell-shocked in the first half and frequently got caught in possession. Played wide left in a 4-4-2 early in the second half but looked very out of position.
Berko – 9 Absolutely excellent. He could easily play for Arsenal!
Anelka – 7 Worked hard and made space, always surrounded by 3 defenders.
Fowler – 7 First touch was poor but was unlucky not to score. He will be great for us.

SWP – 8 Played right back (!) but got right at them and brought an excellent save from Turner with a scorching shot.
Benarbia – 6 On for Belmadi, scurried and harried and was involved in some nice moves.

Some of our offensive moves were ‘top drawer’ and we got in behind the Arsenal defence on numerous occasions. Believe it or not, we are becoming a potent attacking side, but we need to learn a harsh lesson from this encounter, and that is that we need to play 4-4-2, and against the best, you need quick, world class defenders.

P.S. Great banter with the Arsenal fans, and great to see no-one booing. The Boys acquitted themselves well in the second half, all the more admirable after possibly the worst display of defending in the first half that I’ve ever witnessed at Maine Road (from any side).

Ashley Birch (


I think after what amounts to a taking down of the trousers us Blues and KK need to get real. Arsenal showed us what a real top side looks like and worse still showed us where our problems lie if we are going to continue to rise up the table.

In goal, Nashy did a great job, but he must have got sick of picking the ball out of the net. He cannot take the blame for any of the goals. Trouble is he is a good second stream ‘keeper. Is there any chance of us picking Martyn up cheap in the summer if the Leeds car boot sale continues?

In defence, where do you start? Not only were we naïve, but our weakness on the right hand side was so achingly obvious. Dunne and Sun Jihai were like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, only when SWP arrived on the scene did we look anything like. I think we need to go 4-4-2. Try Distin and Sommeil together, or Distin and Howey. Jensen (why does he get so much flack?) on the left, and in the absence of anything better SWP on the right. I’m sure it’s not his best position, but it’s the best solution we seem to have at the moment. Let’s hope Reiziger can be tempted this summer.

In midfield, Eyal is a star. Must be the player of the season, Belmadi was erratic, but then it is only the second time I’ve seen him. He looks like he could be useful, Foe looks good some of the time. He’s not a box to box hard man like we need, but I suspect he’s the best we’re going to get unless we are very lucky. Could our best formation here be SWP, Eyal, Foe and Belmadi, we look weak with our wing backs to me.

Up front, we could be the envy of the division soon. Fowler was hugely improved, and he does know where the right place to be is. We have Wanchope coming up, and Macken will no doubt provide us with cover. The Goat is of course knocking on a bit, a legend, but not one for the future. I expect to see him get the odd run out, score the odd goal, and then finish at the end of next season.

It’s not the end of the world, but we have to learn from it. If Arsenal do it again to us as they have for the last couple of times, we will start to look very foolish, and other teams will start to pick at our weaknesses too. It is though our defence that we need to start with. We are excellent going forwards, we need someone to marshall us at the back.

Richard Lord (


Well that was a lesson in football and no mistake. Now we know what we are striving for. This time:

4 years ago we beat Macclesfield 2-0 at home.
3 years ago we drew 1-1 at Huddersfield.
2 years ago Lost at home 0-1 to Spurs then went to Newcastle and won 1-0.
Last year 0-0 at Walsall.

This year a thrashing by the current champions and undoubtedly the best team in the UK… and if the draw is kind the Champions’ League finalists against Real Madrid. We’ve come on a bit, Huddersfield and Walsall for God’s sake. Now tell me why some Blues were still moaning and whining on Saturday?

This time next year we will give them a better game. Remember 2 years ago, 1 point from the dark side, this season 4, life is certainly getting better and I along with most others realised we were watching a very special football team (no I don’t mean City this time) on Saturday afternoon. I never enjoy watching City lose but against such talented opposition it certainly takes the sting out (unlike bloody West Brom).

A ‘keeper I’ve never heard of making world class saves, a giant defender, Sol Campbell, who is faster than Ben Johnson, and a team that don’t need a midfield, just defend then attack, one minute nine men behind the ball then the next five against 3 in our half. We get a corner and they look more like scoring than we do. There may have been a world of difference between us and them but there are only 10 league places and two of them are Charlton and Everton so they don’t count. To quote the song, and second coming ‘the future’s so bright we gotta wear shades’.

To the moaners at Main Road, Shut the f##k up and support the team, to the rest of us who could only applaud the substitutions and the champions off at 90 minutes it wasn’t a day for whining.

See you all next week up in Dingle country, 6,000 Blues should make for a good awayday, and three points would top it off nicely.

P.S. Sorry Dunny but you are out o’ there. We’ve seen you try but not hard enough.

CTID, MickB (


I have just watched the lads being given a thorough football lesson by probably the most talented side in the league. But there is light at the end of the tunnel when you check out the statistics.

City won the goal attempts by 17-9 (unfortunately 5 of their 9 hit the back of the net), but between Fowler, Anelka and Sweep, there were 5 goals that would have gone in against a lesser goalkeeper.

Someone is going to get a hammering from us very soon. The lead-up play isn’t too bad, but we desperately need two big strong central defenders – now.

Good luck for the rest of the season.

Malcolm Clelland – Johannesburg (


We can learn from the Arsenal game, and from Arsenal as a club and by this stay positive. First of all, Arsenal have a squad of 20 very good players, after that they are mainly junior players. We hear Arsene Wenger speak on TV, jokingly he said he does not need Beckham (some newspaper had spread a rumour that Arsenal were after Beckham, after the boot incident), he said he only wants to hold on to the players that he has got, he needs no more. And can you blame him, he has that squad of 20 very good players.

Manchester City have one of the biggest squads in the Premier League, but have we got those quality 20 squad players? Sure, we have got some very good players, we all know who they are. [You’re spot on Ernie, time to get rid of the dead wood and encourage the new – Ed].

We can be proud of our players this season, for they are keeping us in the Premier League, and they did not let United beat us; for this we are grateful but we must move on, and start looking to our future.

Of course we must not give up anything for this season is not over yet, and players should play their hearts out to be part of the squad of 20, for we do have several players worthy of being in the squad.

But some players should be let go at the end of the season, and then Kevin Keegan should get his quality squad of 20; all the other players at the club should be mainly juniors playing for the future, some will make it, some will move on. This is just my opinion for what it’s worth.

By the way it was nice to see Malcolm Allison in the stands (and looking well), I wonder what he thought of the game?

Come on you Blues!

Ernie Barrow (


OK so we got a real lesson in sublime finishing. Dunny was dreadful for the first two. Out-and-out bad mistakes by an international defender who should have done much better. Maybe he was a bit rusty after his unfortunate demotion to make way for Sommeil. However, does anyone agree that the real problem at the heart of the City defence is Howey? In all the recent games I have seen he has been absolutely nowhere to be seen, never mind the central lynchpin. He gives opposing strikers far too much room and allows them to turn. He also doesn’t have the pace to catch anyone. Well maybe the Goat in training! He also lacks in the air, as demonstrated by Campbell outjumping him from the corner. Look how West Brom dominated at free kicks and corners. So, let’s move Dunny to the middle with Distin and Sommeil on either side or Sommeil in the middle and drop Sun Jihai back on the right with SWP in front of him. S J certainly doesn’t lack pace getting back. So for Howey, thanks, but we’ll call you!

Bob (


Despite his extremely inept performance on Saturday (with no help from Sun Jihai), I feel sorry for Richard Dunne. After the early season’s bit-of-bother he got himself fit and was playing well before Sommeil’s arrival. Then he was straight onto the subs’ bench – unlikely to have done his confidence any good.

I still believe we should keep him in the fold as much as possible because someone’s going to have to replace the ageing Steve Howey soon.

Murray Withers (


After our recent performances (Swamp excluded), it’s not looking likely we can still qualify for Europe. However, if you look at our remaining fixtures, there isn’t one game that we could not win, but there isn’t one game that we couldn’t lose either.

I’ve put together a table of all the teams above us that are competing for the 5th and 6th places along with my predictions at:

I think the target is 60 points to finish 6th, which means City need 22 points from the their last 10 games. For us to even finish in the top half this season has definitely got to be considered a successful year but it’s nice to dream about a top 6 finish and get some extra cash from European football next season.

CTID, Paul Faulkner a.k.a. ColoradoBlue (


Since squad numbers were introduced, it has been noticeable how certain players have chosen numbers that they feel are significant or ‘lucky’.

Alan Shearer was given Les Ferdinand’s number upon arrival at St James’ Park – which couldn’t have helped Ferdinand’s Newcastle career prospects. Several continental players, most notably in Italy’s serie A, have chosen numbers that reflect their wide ranging ‘interests’. Toldo choosing 88, allegedly representing the greeting ‘Heil Hitler’ (H being the eigth letter of the alphabet) was the nadir of this particular craze.

City of course have players who’ve chosen numbers for reasons generally best kept to themselves, too.

Some are obvious: Marc Foe took the ‘Magic’ number 23 from Paulo Wanchope – both boys being big fans of former basketball star Michael Jordan, who helped give this previously mundane number almost mythical status worldwide. Indeed, number 23 is one of the most sought after numbers for many footballers. It is rumoured that when Marco Simone moved to PSG from Milan, he bought the No. 23 jersey off the previous incumbent for 600,000 FF (£60,000).

The choice of 33 for Robbie Fowler is the number currently puzzling numerologists. Has he chosen it because 3 x 3 = 9. Or, as someone said to me on Saturday: it’s because his nickname is God – and the son of God was crucified at the age of 33. One to ponder over anyway.

Good luck to Arsenal for the championship. We’ve given them 11 points towards their bid for the title, so at least we’ve played our part. Weren’t they marvellous on Saturday?

Finally, good luck to City in the bid for seventh place or above. The carrot of UEFA Cup football is hanging enticingly above your heads.

C’mon you Blues, Mike Stearman (


I’m an Arsenal fan and was at the match Saturday. I’d just like to say how great your fans are. At no point did the fans boo or jeer their own team even at 5-0 down. I go to all Arsenal away matches and I can safely say that no other fans stick by their team like the City fans.

Obviously it was a great day for us Arsenal fans with the victory but it was made more enjoyable by the City fans. Good luck for the rest of the season and I’d be grateful if you’d pass this on to your brilliant fans.

Andrew (


Focus is naturally on the reconstruction of the open end and the creation of a playing surface to make Eastlands begin to look like a football ground. During the construction we have created another bank of seats lower down (Level 1) by excavating the original Games area. City tell me that nothing has been done to extend the roof over the existing stadium though.

Do you remember that last night of the Commonwealth Games with the torrential rain?

People in the front rows of the permanent stand got soaked. Those will be the middle rows (Level 2) now and the whole of the new lower bank (Level 1) will be exposed in any downpour. It is common to find that modern stadiums don’t cover the first 12 rows even in slight rain but ours is different in that we shall have seats which stick even further out than was the case in the original design.

So shall I move back into the dry seats on swap day but not be able to read the players’ names and numbers or stay in my Level 1 allocated seat getting an excellent view and a potential soaking?

I’m not being unduly pessimistic here – it has been known to rain in Manchester.

Peter Llewellyn (


If Ian Whiteling is reading this and would like to join us in the London branch, he is more than welcome to do so! The more the merrier! Ian, please contact me at the address below.

Carol Darvill – OSC London branch Secretary (


I have two tickets spare for the Birmingham game. First come first served – £25 per ticket face value required.

Mark Dutton (


Two tickets for Blackburn – City end – for sale, as I can’t go now. Face – £26 each.

Call 07768 661755.

Andy Carver (


We’re trying to get hold of 2 tickets for Chelsea away on 22 March. Are regular Kippax season ticket holders, but exiled in Germany so haven’t earned the loyalty points – any help / suggestions gratefully received.

Brendan Downes (


I have feelers out everywhere so I thought it would do no harm to put out one in this august publication. Like the rest of the civilised world, I want to attend the last ever game at Maine Road. I am an exiled Blue living on the south coast (I even have feelers out with Saints fans for the away end).

Having failed to procure a ticket from the club through hospitality arrangements or from City breaks as both are completely sold out – neither is a cheap option to watch a game but it would have been worth it – I would ask that any readers who nearer the day find that there is a ticket spare would bear in mind this 44-y-o 35 year supporter of the Blues. By the way my allegiance started when Ken Mulhearn joined City from Stockport County the year we won the league.

Dave Kilroy (


Would like to get in touch with any City fans in the Dun Laoghaire area of Ireland, I will be moving there in April, maybe there’s a nice hostelry where fellow Blues gather to watch games.

Derrick Doyle (


The West Coast Main Line will close between Hemel Hempstead and Milton Keynes from Friday 18th April until Tuesday 22nd April 2003. There will be no through Virgin Trains services to and from London. All services from the Midlands, Northern England and Scotland will terminate at Milton Keynes where passengers will have to transfer to road transport, which will then convey them to Hemel Hempstead. At Hemel Hempstead there will be connections by Silverlink train to Watford Junction and London Euston. For those leaving Euston, the arrangements will apply in reverse.


I’ve been a Blue fan since I was a little soccer mad kid, back in Wellington NZ. When they played at The Bain Reserve, most Wellingtonians hoped for a courageous display from the locals. I simply wanted Blues’ goals.

As my support for the Blues was well known, I not only was allowed to be a ball boy for the game, I got to meet the team. Next year I hope to take my family on a European vacation. We’ll be in contact, so when we take in a game or two, we hopefully meet other supporters. My wife (not being a sports-minded person) was responsible for picking the colours when we recently painted the interior of our new house. She didn’t realise until after the job was completed, that our bedroom is painted in Blues’ colours. Think I better buy appropriate furnishings… ha ha ha.

In my youth I played for Wellington (NZ) alongside Wynton Rufer. We were unstoppable. I foolishly gave up my football to concentrate on athletics (poor decision). My son (2 and a half years old) already loves the sport. A natural left footer, our problem is that he imitates the players from TV. Capable of throwing in the ball properly (and very hard/far), he has already smashed a number of windows, along with vases etc. My neighbour (the local club junior coach) has fun playing with Josh. Our problem is that insurance laws preclude Josh from playing until he turns 5. His poppi (Italian) is teaching him how to head and chest the ball. If we don’t take him to watch the national league games he throws tantrums. Pity that the Blues haven’t followed other British clubs in creating special links with an Aussie national league team. Would make a great feeder system.

Go the Blues! With a strong finish we may still make Europe next season. You’re all so lucky to be able to see the games live. I listen to the reports (via the net) usually around 1am.

Regards to you all, Philip Schiff (


23 February 2003

West Bromwich Albion  1 - 2  West Ham United       27,042
Birmingham City       2 - 1  Liverpool             29,449

22 February 2003

Bolton Wanderers      1 - 1  Manchester United     27,409
Everton               2 - 1  Southampton           36,569
Charlton Athletic     3 - 0  Aston Villa           26,257
Chelsea               1 - 2  Blackburn Rovers      40,850
Leeds United          0 - 3  Newcastle United      40,025
Manchester City       1 - 5  Arsenal               34,960
Sunderland            1 - 3  Middlesbrough         42,134

19 February 2003

Fulham                3 - 0  West Bromwich Albion  15,799

League table to 23 February 2003 inclusive.

                              HOME          AWAY        OVERALL
                    P  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F  A  W  D  L  F   A   GD Pts
 1 Arsenal         28 12  1  1 33 13  6  5  3 29 17 18  6  4  62  30  32  60
 2 Manchester Utd  28 11  2  1 26  9  5  5  4 19 17 16  7  5  45  26  19  55
 3 Newcastle Utd   27 12  1  1 25  8  4  3  6 20 24 16  4  7  45  32  13  52
 4 Chelsea         28  8  4  2 28 12  5  5  4 21 17 13  9  6  49  29  20  48
 5 Everton         28  9  4  1 22 13  5  2  7 15 20 14  6  8  37  33   4  48
 6 Charlton Ath.   28  7  3  4 23 18  6  3  5 16 16 13  6  9  39  34   5  45
 7 Liverpool       28  5  8  1 20 12  6  2  6 19 16 11 10  7  39  28  11  43
 8 Tottenham H.    27  8  3  2 25 16  4  3  7 15 21 12  6  9  40  37   3  42
 9 Blackburn R.    28  6  5  3 19 14  4  5  5 15 18 10 10  8  34  32   2  40
10 Southampton     28  7  5  2 18 11  3  4  7 11 17 10  9  9  29  28   1  39
11 Manchester City 28  7  1  6 24 24  4  4  6 15 19 11  5 12  39  43  -4  38
12 Aston Villa     28  9  1  4 21  9  1  4  9 10 23 10  5 13  31  32  -1  35
13 Middlesbrough   27  7  5  1 25 16  2  2 10  8 15  9  7 11  33  31   2  34
14 Leeds United    28  5  2  7 14 17  5  2  7 20 20 10  4 14  34  37  -3  34
15 Fulham          27  8  2  4 19 11  1  4  8 12 23  9  6 12  31  34  -3  33
16 Birmingham City 28  4  4  6 14 19  3  4  7 11 22  7  8 13  25  41 -16  29
17 Bolton Wndrs    28  3  7  4 19 21  2  4  8 12 24  5 11 12  31  45 -14  26
18 West Ham United 28  1  6  7 13 22  4  2  8 17 31  5  8 15  30  53 -23  23
19 West Brom A.    28  3  4  7 12 19  2  2 10  9 24  5  6 17  21  43 -22  21
20 Sunderland      28  3  2  9  9 20  1  5  8 10 25  4  7 17  19  45 -26  19

With thanks to Football 365

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[1] What are MCIVTA’s publishing deadlines?

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[3] What is the club’s official web site?

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Manchester City FC recognises three supporters’ clubs: The “Official Supporters Club” (; the “Centenary Supporters’ Association” ( and “The International Supporters’ Club” (

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Newsletter #892