Newsletter #993

Next game: Bolton Wanderers, away, 3pm Saturday 21 February 2004


General News

Confused? You Will Be… There’s been much media discussion recently about a new interpretation of the offside rule, which apparently allows the attacking team an advantage. The FA sought to clarify the situation with the rule by issuing instructions to all referees telling them that if, in the opinion of the referee, the actions of a player in an offside position deceive or distract an opponent, that player will be given offside. Richard Dunne says that the City defence have been going through special drills to cope with the changes. “It’s a strange rule and it is going to cause more confusion but people have got to get used to it,” says the City defender. “It’s impossible really to know how to defend against it but we have done work on it in training from an attacking point of view. It’s just a case of trying to mark men, keeping on your toes and not worrying about it. In a way you have to forget that they are behind you and as soon as the ball becomes active, you must switch back on straight away. From our point of view, we tend to go man for man at set plays. So even though the forward maybe offside, when he comes back into play there will be somebody there to pick him up and pick up the pieces.” City chief Kevin Keegan believes that the one way to avoid problems is for all referees to be consistent with their application of the rule. “We are picking up clues as we go along. But as long as referees are fair and consistent and they apply this rule to both sides equally, there will not be a problem,” he said.

Reserves Flounder: Arni Arason made his reserve team début this week as City faced Blackburn rovers at Christie Park, Morecambe. The second XI were defeated for the first time this year, courtesy of a single goal from Jemmal Johnson of Rovers. Team: Arason, Flood (J D’Laryea 50), Jordan, Wiekens (Tandy 46), McCarthy, Bischoff (B Wright-Phillips 60), Croft, Negouai, Elliott, Onuoha, Whelan Subs: Timms, N D’Laryea.

International Highlights: David James played the full 90 minutes for England in Faro, where they faced Portugal. He had quite a quiet night, apart from one moment when he tried to live up to his nickname by nearly making a calamitous mistake from a high bouncing cross. The game finished 1-1, with James being beaten on 70 minutes from a Pauleta free kick. Ledley King had given England the lead early in the second half. There was a brief flurry of speculation that SWP was about to be named in the England squad after Sven Goran Eriksson’s right-hand man Tord Grip sounded like he had dropped a hint to that effect. Following last week’s visit to Anfield, Grip said “We sent a scout and I have seen the report. Michael Owen looked fit and sharp and so did Gerrard – and it was good that Wright-Phillips scored again too,” he added. The speculation was misplaced, however. Richard Dunne was part of the Republic of Ireland’s squad that drew 0-0 with World Champions Brazil in Dublin. The big man did not get to play, however. France’s 2-0 defeat of Belgium was notable from a City point of view for who didn’t play. Prior to the game, Daniel van Buyten was said to be highly unlikely to play, as he was struggling with a groin injury – worrying news for City fans, ahead of Saturday’s visit to Bolton. Although Nicolas Anelka was unfit for selection, French coach Jacques Santini made it abundantly clear that the Elk was still a long long way from the squad. “In 18 months, the commitment and flawless solidity of the directors, staff and players have allowed the France team to put their heads above water, win the Confederations Cup and qualify for the European Championships,” he said. “We have also won back the support and trust from our fans. Now all this work is called into question by a doubtful debate around one man – Anelka – who rejected the France team and disrespected the French Football Federation. He wants to come back and this created a contradictory debate within the federation itself, which finds itself weakened ahead of an exciting and big challenge with Euro 2004,” added Santini. “I do regret it and I deplore this act. As far as I am concerned I remain faithful to my principles and I repeat that Nicolas Anelka will not be called up for Belgium vs. France.” As if to rub Nic’s nose in it even further, his replacement in the French squad, Louis Saha, scored for Les Bleus. Northern Ireland finally hit the back of the net in their 4-1 defeat by Norway after going a world record 1,298 minutes without a goal. And if reports are to be believed, Jon Macken might soon be helping to add to that single goal. The former Preston man has been earmarked by new Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez as one of a new group of players who could help turn the country’s fortunes around. Sanchez is looking into Macken’s family background to establish whether the Manchester-born striker is eligible to play for the Irish. Macken sounded philosophical about his prospective international call up. “I played for England at under 20 level which I thought ruled me out but I guess the qualification criteria has been changed since then,” he said. “You never say never in this game and if the chance to play international football came along I would have to take it seriously. As a professional you always want to test yourself against the best and I am no different. There are lots of players now in all kinds of sports who have taken advantage in the loopholes in qualification. But I haven’t heard anything from Lawrie Sanchez or since I was told that I qualified for the Republic through my nan and granddad. I have an open mind on these things.” Sun Jihai played for 80 minutes in China’s 1-0 victory over Kuwait in a World Cup qualifying game in Guangzhou. Sun missed City’s games at Liverpool and the derby at Old Trafford after China’s coach Arie Haan asked for an early release of the player. Sun returns to England on Friday, when KK can evaluate the player’s fitness for the trip to Bolton.

Managerial Transfer News and Gossip

Is Big Sam the Man? The poor run of results has lead some members of the press to look for a replacement for KK should he depart. The journals reckon that Sam Allardyce of Bolton Wanderers will be targeted if the worst happens to Super Kev. City’s board, although supporting him in public, are said to be split on Keegan’s future, and pressure is growing on the chairman, John Wardle. Big Sam was none too impressed by this speculation, coming just days before City visit the Reebok and ahead of Bolton’s appearance at the Millennium Stadium. “It’s disappointing to read such speculation especially prior to the game with Manchester City and ahead of the Carling Cup Final,” said Allardyce. “I suspect Kevin is even more disappointed. It’s pure speculation.” It seems like only five minutes ago that KK was urging his team to aim for a top six finish in the Premiership. Now the Big Boss sees a battle ahead to remain in the top flight. “We are in a battle – that’s for sure, we are battling to stay in the Premiership. We are only four points above the bottom two, so we are definitely in there. People might think with the players we have we should not be in such a position and I feel that way too. But through a combination of not getting results when we should have done, maybe bit of bad luck here and there and a poor performance here and there we find ourselves in it. It is up to all of us to dig our way out of it and we are capable of doing that. We have enough character and showed a lot of that in the second half at Old Trafford. We have enough ability and we showed it at times in the second half in the Cup derby and we certainly have the stomach for it,” Keegan mused.

Ex-Blues’ News

Horton Now Available: Ex-Blues’ boss Brian Horton has parted company with Port Vale by mutual consent after five years in charge at Vale Park. Horton had taken the side to within a point of the Nationwide Division Two play-offs this season but his current contract was due to expire in the summer. Club chairman Bill Bratt said the parting was on “amicable terms” and added: “We would like to thank Brian for the hard work he has put in at the club in what could best be described as difficult times. All the fans would like to thank him for the trip to Cardiff in the LDV Vans Final and leaving us fighting for a play-off position. I’m sure they’ll join me in wishing him all the best for the future.” Horton said: “I’ve enjoyed my time at the club both as player and as manager. Times have been difficult but despite this I think it’s fair to say we’ve had some great times. Whoever the club choose to take over has a great set of lads to work with. I would like to thank everyone for the support I’ve had in the past and look forward to returning to Vale Park in the future in whatever capacity that may be.” Horton was in charge of team affairs at Maine Road between 1993 and 1995, during the turbulent “Forward With Frannie” years.

Ritchie Returns:Defender Paul Ritchie was back in the Scotland team for the first time infour years as Berti Vogts’ players lost 4-0 in Wednesday night’s friendlywith Wales in the Millennium Stadium. The 28-year-old former Blue has achance to impress Scotland coach Berti Vogts after Ritchie won the last ofhis caps back in 2000. “I’ve always said there is no greater honour for methan to play for Scotland and I’ve never completely given up hope that itwould happen again for me,” said Ritchie. “There were a few times duringrecent years, when I’ve had plenty of down moments, that I wondered if itwas all over. Deep down, though, I always had faith in my ability and knewif I got the chance to prove it, I could show I was good enough to play forScotland again. I’m grateful to Colin Lee, the manager at Walsall, forgiving me the opportunity this season.” Of his time with the Blues,Ritchie commented, “At the start it was great at City. But I got a badinjury that kept me out for 18 months, and by that time the manager wassacked. Kevin Keegan brought in Stuart Pearce, and I never dislodged him -so that was another season out of the way. He said he just didn’t think Iwas the sort of player who was big enough to play in the Premiership.”

Reactions and Comments

Down We Go Again… So we have to come to terms with another defeat, this time at the hands of Trafford’s finest. City once again proved that 10 men can triumph in the FA Cup – unfortunately for us, it was the Red hordes who fought back to win after having a man dismissed. KK provided a succinct summary of the day’s goings on: “We had enough chances late on, not just to get back in the game, but to win it. They were more clinical than we were when it came to converting chances and that has proved costly. Their goalkeeper made one hell of a save from Joey Barton, that would have been a major turning point in the game.” And the Boss Man says that there are a number of positives to take to the Reebok from Saturday’s derby. “There were a lot of good things to take out of this game and there are certainly some things to work on,” he said. “We had enough chances to score six or seven goals at Old Trafford, which is incredible. Without playing really well, we caused them major problems in their penalty area and in some ways that is a major plus for us. If we can cause them problems at Old Trafford then we should be able to cause all teams in this Premiership problems. We will take that from the derby but obviously I would have liked to see us convert some of those chances with a little bit more calmness. That could have changed the game. We have only one thing to concentrate on now and that is our league form,” he said. “We need to start getting some good results and pushing this club back up the table where it belongs.” Sir Alex seemed happy enough with the result and the performance of his side. “I was delighted with a performance of real grit and determination. We showed great determination in difficult circumstances,” he muttered through his chewing gum. “The two quick goals in the second half were an exciting time for us and got the crowd going. Roy Keane was everywhere as usual and we have always taken the FA Cup very seriously. But in the last few years we’ve had difficult draws. Now we are in the quarter-finals, which is the right place to be. We felt at half-time that City would have to have a go at us,” Ferguson said, “and that we could counter-attack with our pace.”

City’s New Enforcer: Faced with such a comprehensive defeat, City fans had few crumbs of comfort on Saturday afternoon. One big slab of comfort came from watching Garry Neville plant a forehead onto Steve McManaman, leading to a red card for Neville Neville’s elder lad. Then we had a lesson in Fergie-speak – he could not defend the indefensible, as Neville clearly had to go – it wasn’t the lad’s fault, however. “The referee said he booked Gary for diving then gave him a red card for the head butt. But why didn’t he give him a yellow card immediately and stop all the nonsense that followed? He allowed the melée to develop. It was an absolutely ridiculous bit of refereeing.” However, the Scot added: “The sending-off was justified – he shouldn’t have used his head. But Steve McManaman was aggressive towards him. He put his head into him but Gary’s reaction was silly. He let himself down. McManaman has seen it all before. I don’t know what his rôle is in a football match. He certainly intimidated Gary.” So there we have it – blame the referee and Macca, City’s newly crowned midfield hard man. So what did “The Macca Monsta” have to say for himself? “I have had great days at Old Trafford during the United Liverpool rivalry and also with Madrid,” he said. “And now it has continued with City and being booed here is nothing new. What can I say about the sending off? I know Gary very well, it is a derby and in the heat of the game it was one of those things. In derby matches there is always a bit of niggle on the pitch, words spoken and tackles flying. It was a nothing thing and it is already forgotten,” he added. “As far as I am concerned it was a nothing event. I have almost forgotten about it. I am more upset about conceding goals or not converting chances than that incident with Gary. I have seen the challenge. I wasn’t happy with people appealing for a penalty that was all. It was handbags after that – nothing at all.” Meanwhile KK said: “Neville is not that type of player but he did definitely move his head. The referee did what he had to do. That’s my honest opinion.” The intimidated England right-back proclaimed in his column in the Times on Monday that “I made a mistake but I am not going to beat myself up about it. I am annoyed with myself because I will be suspended for some important matches but that is the only reason to regret what happened with Steve McManaman. It was out of character and I am confident it was a one-off.”

Squad News

Calm Down Joey! Joey Barton was one of City’s better performers in last Saturday, although he still managed to pick up a booking in the Neville/Macca melée. KK does not want to curb the qualities that make young Joe such a potent force in City’s midfield, but the manager would like the 21-year-old to cut down on the red and yellow cards he has been receiving. It sounds though that this might be a fond wish by the Boss. “The first time Joey Barton’s name came to my attention was on a bookings’ sheet,” revealed KK. “When he was with the juniors, I just kept seeing his name on this FA sheet all the time. It got to the stage where I had to ask who else had been booked, because I knew he would have been. While you want him to keep his aggression, you want it to be in the right way – and the other night at Tottenham it wasn’t. He has been told that a couple of times. He will learn. He apologised to the players after the game at Tottenham. I told him not to say anything to anyone outside, because I know what it can be like for a young player.” Barton, as all good scallies do, blamed his upbringing. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I think you have to be so tough as a kid because there is that many good players in the local area. The junior leagues in Liverpool are really physical. From an early age, you have to really aggressive, because if you are not, you just get pushed out of the game and you just never get a chance to shine. It comes as second nature to most kids from Huyton, but you have to learn not to be too aggressive. It’s a fine balance between ability and determination and you just have to learn not to cross that.”

Barmy Over Arni: City’s present manager has been singing the praises of his Icelandic goalkeeper Arni Arason this week. KK said: “Arni has settled in very, very quickly and when we are without David James, what more can you ask for than to have an international ‘keeper to replace him? I think we’re very fortunate to have that. Arni is a very good shot stopper and is very agile. He is a good communicator and really does talk to people. His English is very good and you can hear him talking and telling defenders what is happening. Having coped with what Arni did at Spurs, I think he’s got the temperament to cope with anything!” concluded the Boss Man.

Macca Up for the Fight: Fergie’s least favourite soccer hard man, Steve McManaman, says that Premiership survival is in the players’ hands and they are ready for the battle. “We are not looking at the table and concentrating on what the teams around us are doing but rather what we are doing ourselves,” said the former England man. “First and foremost we care about ourselves. Everybody knows we are going through a dodgy patch at the minute but we are looking at ourselves to come out of it, to be strong and win games. We are not looking at other teams and saying we hope they get beat or they don’t win, we are looking at our form because we know if we win games the rest is immaterial really. We are all as one and no one is shirking their responsibilities. We’re all pulling in the same direction and we all want to get ourselves out of this mess. As far as I’m concerned, everyone at Manchester City from the man in the car park through to the players and the manager and right up to the chairman are all as one. Regardless of our recent run, we are still a competitive team and we are confident we will turn things around. You can sense that everyone in the dressing room is upset and that’s a good sign. We will bounce back.”

Don’t Push Me! Daniel van Buyten has rejected claims that he was pushed out of Marseille. Reports have suggested that Marseille president Christophe Bouchet orchestrated the move for van Buyten as he was unhappy with his form. “I did not want to leave permanently,” said van Buyten. “But there was this suggestion of Manchester City to exchange me with Sommeil. The president Christophe Bouchet declared that it was in the best interest of everyone. Probably he has his reasons. No I don’t feel I have been pushed out, besides it is only a loan move. Maybe you will see me soon. I like Marseille and the fans at the Velodrome.” Van Buyten also played down suggestions that the dismissal of Alain Perrin at Marseille made up his mind to leave as he revealed he had no problem to work under new coach Jose Anigo. “Perrin is a trainer that brought a lot to me,” added van Buyten. “But I would have been able to continue to work with Jose Anigo. Between the two of us there was a good feeling.”

Don Barrie <news(at)>


Some months back your McV team were pondering what to do for the 1,000th edition of MCIVTA, and now here we are. It is almost 10 years since Ashley, Svenn and Paul launched MCIVTA and the MCFC Supporters’ website ( respectively. The newsletter brought ‘Why Blue’ stories, City news, views and opinions to mailboxes worldwide; one of the first Internet football newsletters and City websites. It has led to many friendships amongst far flung Blues, and now has a regular subscriber list of nearly 3,300.

Manchester City Football Club have very kindly agreed to help us mark this special occasion by holding an exclusive Questions & Answer session with our Chairman, John Wardle. This is your unique opportunity to ask John absolutely anything relating to MCFC, and get an insight to what is happening at our Club. John and his colleagues will answer a cross-section of your questions, so time to get your thinking caps on.

Please send your emails to the editor’s usual address with “McV 1000” in the subject line and your name and location, it will be interesting to see just where some of you are these days. We will be taking questions up to and including 4th March in order to give us time to process them.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Heidi <editor(at)>


A single goal early in the second half by Blackburn’s young substitute Jemal Johnson was enough to settle the tie played at Christie Park, the home of non league Morecambe FC and Blackburn’s winter months venue for their reserves.

The result could have been so much different as Blackburn were quite simply, not at the races, you might say. But unfortunately City’s coaching staff have emulated their defence minded attitude that they seemed to have adopted with the first team and carried it over to the reserves now.

City’s line up included seven players that at one time or another had played at centre half and yet played a solitary forward up front on his own with the very wasteful Lee Croft playing just behind him.

City completely dominated the play in the first half except for a poor defensive mix up with Mikkel Bischoff and reserve débutant ‘keeper, Arni Arason. Fortunately, the ball just skimmed past the post as Bischoff quite ridiculously headed the ball past Arni.

Stephen Elliott was working hard to get a foothold up front, but time and again he had no outlet as he had no partner up front to play alongside. It was so obvious to see that Gerard Wiekens was more of a spare part in the midfield as Blackburn’s midfield failed to put any pressure on City. So he was the obvious fall guy to bring on Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has been scoring well at reserve and academy games to give City some much-needed impetus up front. Yet no change was made until half time and even then it was the wrong one when they brought Jamie Tandy on for Wiekens.

City have Asa Hartford and Arthur Cox who shout two different instructions from two different vantage points to help to confuse the players even further as to their rôle on the pitch. Why can’t they decide whether they want to keep Asa on the coaching team as it’s quite clear that he is a spare part and rarely makes decisions on his own batt.

Blackburn were forced into a change on a quarter of an hour when Nedum Onuoha clashed heads with Matt Jansen, a near