Newsletter #979

A Happy New Year to all you Blues out there, here’s to happiness and success in 2004.

Tonight’s bumper issue contains match reports and views on the Liverpool and Leeds games, plenty of opinion on both, together with views on individual players, formations etc. We also have Don’s news round up on the seasonal games where we secured a disappointing 2 points out of 9 and the latest transfer news and rumours.

Finally, some interesting opinion on Keegan and the usual requests.

Leicester visit again on Saturday for our FA Cup game which sees City’s January sale of £20 a seat (not that many in the direct debit scheme know whether they have tickets thanks to the usual lack of receipts).

Next game: Leicester City, home, 3pm Saturday 3rd January 2004 (FA Cup)


General News

Boundary Park Bound? Stuart Pearce has been brought up as a possible candidate for the vacant manager’s job at Oldham. Iain Dowie left the post last week to become manager of Crystal Palace, and Psycho was mentioned in dispatches as a possible replacement at Boundary Park once Latics’ number two Tony Philliskirk ruled himself out, prefering his old rôle of coaching the youth side. “It is a big challenge at clubs like the Latics,” Philliskirk said. “My strengths are in coaching the youngsters of the future.” It’s often been reported that Pearce has an agreement with the Blues that he can leave to take up a managerial post.

Transfer News and Gossip

The Million Pound Striker: KK reckons that some members of his squad could be on the way out of the club come the January sales. “Obviously because of the size of the squad here, two or three players could go in the transfer window if people come in with the right offers. We would still have the squad here to do very well as we have a lot of experience.” But the Boss Man might find his options limited by a player already on the books. The Blues will have to cough up £1 million for Robbie Fowler once the 28-year-old striker reaches 30 games, and his appearance against Liverpool brought the total to 29 (Almost 30 games already? How time flies when you’re having fun!). Having committed to staged payments for Fowler, who has found the net six times so far, there will be precious little left in the kitty with which Keegan can add to his squad.

The Games People Play: Darren Huckerby has finally left City to join Norwich City on a permanent basis for a fee of £750,000. It wasn’t a straightforward process, however, as the “will he won’t he” saga went on for a week. The deal was apparently on when KK announced: “Darren trained here with us yesterday and he is going to talk with one of the clubs this afternoon. We have a lot of forwards at the club and Darren needs to be playing first team football. That’s why I let him got to Norwich and he has had a terrific time there. The fans have taken to him.” Negotiations broke down fairly soon, and it appeared that the deal was off. Norwich boss Nigel Worthington stated: “Unfortunately no common ground could be reached. We have done everything we can to bring Darren to Norwich City and regrettably it appears that he has decided to remain a Manchester City player for the time being.” This brought a hurt and rejected statement from Hucks via his agent: “Both myself and my agent understood and accepted what sacrifices I had to make in order for this deal to go through, following our initial meeting with officials from the club last Friday. Indeed, Kevin Keegan was also prepared to help further in order to facilitate this move. I also spurned the opportunity to speak to more than one other club that wanted my services in order that I concentrated on trying to help reach an agreement to play for Norwich. However, it became clear, first last night and again this morning, that Norwich were expecting more manoeuvrability from myself and Manchester City than they were prepared to do themselves, to the point where I have been forced to ask the question: just how much did Norwich want me in the first place?” That strop clearly did the trick because 24 hours later, the man known in the Leeds dressing room as Forrest Gump had sealed his move. “Everybody made concessions, now I’m up for helping Norwich back into the Premier League,” Huckerby said of his move. “I’m happy the speculation is all over, I kept to my word, plenty of other teams were interested but I always wanted to be a Norwich player.” He is expected to be available to face Everton in the FA Cup tie at Goodison Park on 3 January.

Six of the Best? The papers are sure KK wants to buy a goalkeeper, because City have only been linked with six custodians this week. First number one: Liverpool’s Jerzy Dudek. Apparently KK had arranged to buy the Polish international, but Chris Kirkland broke some fingers last week so Liverpool require Dudek’s services for at least another month. Next! Why it’s another recent opponent, Paul Robinson of Leeds United. Caretaker boss Eddie Gray admitted: “I know Paul loves Leeds but players want to be performing at the highest level. Paul is still only 23 but he’s been in the limelight for a few years now and he’s already a top-notch goalkeeper. I always expect the highest level of performance from Paul because I know the ability he’s got. It was the same with Seaman all those years ago.” A few days later, and it was Derby County goalkeeper Lee Grant who was rejecting talk of interest from City. The 20-year-old Rams’ star has excelled in recent games, but says there is no truth in rumours of a potential move to the Premiership. He told County’s official website: “It’s pure speculation. I’ve heard nothing at all, it’s just rumours. There’s nothing else on my mind except playing for Derby and getting as many points as possible over the Christmas period.” At the more experienced end of the market, Scottish international Rab Douglas announced that he wanted to try his luck in the English Premiership. Douglas, who has been second choice to Magnus Hedman for much of this season, wants to leave Celtic if he is not getting regular first team football. “We’re both international ‘keepers and we both want to play every week. It’s frustrating training all week when your not involved on the Saturday,” he said. “I just want to be playing first team football. It’s as simple as that.” Next KK was turning his attention to Millwall goalkeeper Tony Warner. Warner, a former Liverpool player, is now reportedly the focus of Keegan’s admiration after a series of stunning displays in Division One this season. The Daily Star claims City were ready to launch a £500,000 bid for the 29-year-old. Warner will be out of contract at the end of this season and the Lions will not want to wait until then and lose him for nothing on a Bosman free transfer. City were then reported to have joined the chase for Parma goalkeeper Sebastien Frey. Parma are resigned to losing their top stars because the club’s owners Parmalat are experiencing financial difficulties and Frey could be on of the first players on the way out. Unfortunately City face competition from such minnows as Chelsea, Arsenal, the Traffordites and Bayern Munich, so don’t hold your breath on Frey arriving at the COMS. There, I think I’ve mentioned all this week’s candidates – apologies to any players and their agents if I’ve forgotten any.

Danish Fancy: AGF Aarhus have played down reports linking their Denmark Under-21 midfielder Leon Andreasen with a move to City. AGF director Frank Heskjaer admitted he was aware of the speculation but insisted City had not been in touch with a view to signing the youngster. Heskjaer told Danish newspaper BT: “I can confirm that I have the same information as you regarding Manchester City, and we have noticed an increased international interest concerning Leon. But I also have to say that there hasn’t been any approach from Manchester City for Leon Andreasen.” The player himself has said he is quite happy in the SAS-Ligaen at the moment but would relish a move abroad in the future.

Chewing Over Toffees Move: City and Blackburn Rovers are expected to approach Everton defender David Unsworth next week. The defender is free to speak with interested clubs from January 1 after turning down a new contract offer. KK and Graeme Souness both rate Unsworth highly and know his leadership would be a massive influence in their teams. As you know, we never editorialise at the News desk, but this sounds suspiciously like one of those stories put about by agents when trying to build up the value of their player, come contract negotiation time. I’d love to be proved wrong on this one, however, as Unsworth would be a natural organizer on the pitch.

Bye Bye Berko: Fans of Eyal Berkovic are facing up to the fact that the Israeli is on his way out of the club. Having started only one league game this season, it seems that Berko and KK will never kiss and make up after their summer bust-up. The Daily Express claimed that Eyal is ready to take a pay-cut to end his time with the club. Blackburn Rovers were said to be close to a deal for the Israeli as they are looking for a replacement for the injured Barry Ferguson. Berkovic has played for Graeme Souness before, featuring in Blackburn’s promotion winning team of 2001. Berkovic’s agent, Ronny Rosenthal, has also been spotted at White Hart Lane lately, fuelling rumours that also Tottenham want the midfielder. Berko has obviously impressed another of his ex-managers, as Harry Redknapp strives to capture the midfielder for Portsmouth. Pompey chairman Milan Mandaric has given the strongest hint yet that a deal is imminent. “There are a few more things to solve, so we will only know in a few days’ time,” Mandaric said. “The manager Harry Redknapp is extremely interested in Berkovic, and has only good things to say about him from the time he coached him at West Ham. As far as it depends on me, Berkovic is close to signing with Portsmouth. We are in a tough situation and need points in the bag. Berkovic can definitely help create goalscoring opportunities and points.”

Ex-Blues’ News

How Now Brown Down South: Never go back they say – so Michael Brown isn’t. Any City fans hoping that Brown might rejoin City were disappointed to learn that the Blues’ former number seven is on his way to Tottenham Hotspur. Tottenham’s official website confirmed: “We are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Sheffield United and Michael Brown for the player to join us on 1 January when the transfer window opens.” Blades’ boss Neil Warnock said: “He’s had one or two injuries that have interfered with his season but he’s just got fully fit, so within a couple of weeks I think we’ll see the real Michael Brown. It must be difficult knowing you could be going to a big club but still trying to give your all for your current club. I’m disappointed we’ve lost a very good player in Michael but life goes on – and we’ve got one or two very good players who can come in.” The fee is thought to be £500,000, but Warnock pronounced himself happy with the fee, as the player has only got six months left on his contract.

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