Newsletter #995

Bit rushed tonight, so apologies if your contributions haven’t made it in time!

Next game: Chelsea, home, 3pm Saturday 28 February 2004


General News

‘Junior Blues’ International News: Glenn Whelan and Willo Flood played for the Republic of Ireland U21’s in their opening game of the Madeira International Tournament this week. The match against Portugal ended in a scoreless draw, with the City duo playing vital rôles in the match. Both had chances to score, while Flood saved the Irish just before half time when he cleared off the line. The Republic of Ireland will play Italy on Wednesday and a Madeira Island selection on Friday. Four City players had originally been named in the squad, but KK explained why only two went to the island’s tournament. “I pulled Stephen Elliott and Paddy McCarthy out of the Republic of Ireland U21 squad,” said the manager. “I talked with Don Givens, the manager and told him that we would let him have the other two, Willo Flood and Glen Whelan but these two are on the fringe of the first team due to the suspensions and injuries that we have at the moment. Obviously he was disappointed as he wanted them for the tournament but it included a Saturday and we have just had an international week. People say they are only young kids but they are on the fringe of our first team and also it would have weakened our reserve team.”

Firing Blanks: The reserves drew 0-0 against Leeds United this week. The Blues handed a reserve début to academy striker Ishmael Miller, who almost scored but his shot was cleared off the line. It was good to see that Danny Tiatto played for the full ninety minutes. This was a pleasant surprise, because stories earlier in the week said that Danny was ruled out for the season. “I think I have gone through the equivalent of about nine or ten pre-seasons in the last two years,” said the thirty year old. “It is has been very frustrating. The last injury was just a small groin strain and prior to that I was fine. I was just trying to work my way back into the team and waiting in the wings to get my next chance. As soon as I felt the groin go in the reserve game at the end of January I panicked a little bit. I didn’t want to have problems in that I am coming to the end of my contract and I didn’t want another stint out. Basically I have missed nearly two years. Now I am just looking to get myself right and hopefully be involved in the last part of the season to help the boys and help the club get up the table and away from the drop zone.” Tiatto’s contract runs out this summer, and it’s been reported that he may not be offered another deal if he is unable to prove his fitness. Team: Arason (Ellegaard 46), Lee-Matthews, Jordan, Onouha, McCarthy, Tiatto, Croft, Negouai, B Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Tandy (Miller 70). Subs: Etuhu, Miller, C Logan.

Transfer News and Gossip

Tav Mania: A clutch of Premiership clubs including City, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham City are said to be eyeing Arsenal reserve Stathis Tavlaridis. The Greek central defender is currently on loan at French club Lille until the end of the season. The 23-year-old has had limited opportunities with the Gunners, although he was an ever-present in Arsenal’s run to the semi-finals of the League Cup. Tavlaridis, who cost Arsenal £600,000 from Iraklis Salonika in September 2001, also had a loan spell at Portsmouth last season where he made three league appearances.

Not a Blue John, Mind: Collins John has revealed that he turned down a move to City to link up with fellow Dutchman Edwin van der Sar at Fulham. We had reported City’s alleged interest in the 18-year-old striker from FC Twente, but Fulham stepped in just before the close of the transfer window. John said: “Manchester City had wanted me for a couple of months – I knew that. And I also knew that Ajax and PSV were interested, but I think that was dependent on other strikers moving on from those two clubs. I just had a good feeling about Fulham. Manchester City are much lower in the league and Fulham are doing very well this season. And also Edwin called me about two or three times and told me about Fulham and what a good club it was and that really helped. It’s good that there are a couple of Dutch players here – it’s helped me settle in.”

Ex-Blues’ News

Kinky’s Travels: You can only admire Gio Kinkladze’s determination to prove that he’s still a Premiership class player. The 30-year old playmaker has been without a club since leaving Derby County in the summer and further attempts to make a comeback in the English game with both Portsmouth and Leeds United have failed. Now Kinky is reportedly training with Bolton Wanderers in the hope that he can secure a deal with the Carling Cup finalists.

Reactions and Comments

A Win! So What Do We Do Now? This seemed to be the sentiment behind most of the text messages received at News Summary Central on Saturday night, as City secured their first league victory in 15 games with a 3-1 win over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. Prior to the match, Robbie Fowler had defended his manager and claimed it was up to the players to arrest the slump. He had said: “I think that the criticism that the manager has come under is very unfair. I think the way results have gone is not Kevin Keegan’s fault, but the fault of the players. It always happens when clubs find themselves in a position like ours that the manager gets some stick. It doesn’t just happen here, but at every club and the problem lies with the players and not the manager. He is the type of man who prefers to take the stick for the players.” Actions certainly spoke louder that words as Fowler grabbed a brace of goals, the second a right foot half volley from twenty yards. “It has been more than a while coming, it feels like an age but it was a very good performance,” KK said later. “We had to stand up and be counted. The side did the club proud. Everybody contributed. Everybody did his own job and then tried to help someone else. I was very pleased. The fans saw a team that was totally committed and I am sure they were pleased with the performance. We played the football and we got the points. The one thing that has been there all the time for me is the backing of the fans. They have never been a problem and now we have to build on this result for them. We have shown that, not only are we good enough to stay in the Premiership, but we are good enough to beat most teams. The only thing I was surprised at was that we didn’t score more goals.” Of the ‘Keegan Out’ stories that appeared in the build up to the game, he mused that “It will make a change from stories about me getting the sack. There will be some blank pages this week.” The Boss had special praise for his special little guy, Mr. Fowler: “Robbie has worked harder than I have ever known in the last two months. He is nearly back to where he should be. He is still world-class in my book. You don’t lose being a good finisher and goals give him confidence.” David James made a superb save from Youri Djorkaeff before Nolan made the breakthrough – and that proved to be crucial. Keegan recognised: “It was a marvellous stop and we then set about trying to win the game. It was disappointing to concede a goal but other than that we defended well. We showed tremendous character when the ball was coming in. We thoroughly deserved to win. We played some good football and could have scored more goals. The one thing that has been there for me during this run has been the support. The fans have been marvellous,” he added.

Big Sam Not Happy: Bolton manager Sam Allardyce rested some of his key players ahead of the Carling Cup final with Middlesbrough. Jay-Jay Okocha, Bruno N’Gotty and Nicky Hunt were all on the bench while Emerson Thome was suspended. “I hope the players’ minds were on Cardiff but I will make sure they don’t forget this game in a hurry,” said Allardyce. “I felt we had enough opportunities to win the game in the first 20 minutes but we were guilty of poor finishing. You look at City’s three goals – one was a free header, one was from a long, hopeful clearance and one was an own goal. I was very angry and disappointed that we threw away a good home record in this way,” he told the M.E.N. “I felt sorry for Jon Otsemobor and Steve Howey because the rest of the lads let them down. I don’t think they let the team down. We put them in for their débuts and didn’t go anywhere near getting a result. It doesn’t matter whether the rest of the team had their minds on the final or not, they are professionals. They are paid enough not to let it affect them doing their job of getting three points and then looking forward to the final. But if we had played N’Gotty or Nicky Hunt and they got injured, it would have virtually handed the cup to Middlesbrough.”

Communication Didn’t Let Me Down: Antoine Sibierski felt that the key to City’s impressive performance was the chatting between the players on the pitch. The French midfielder said: “I spoke about better communication on the pitch in the build up to the match and I think that was evident during the game that it had improved. For me it is why we won the game. There are people playing in positions they have perhaps not been used to but everyone did their best, spoke to one another and encouraged one another. That is very important in any profession but especially so on the field.” And Claudio Reyna agreed: “I played with Antoine in the middle and we kept talking to each other so as we held our positions. Communication is vital. It has probably been lacking a bit in that we don’t scream at each other. But against Bolton it seemed to happen and now it has to be like that every week. We were constantly talking and helping each other out and had a good, organised approach to the match.” Chairman John Wardle offered a much more believable reason for the victory: “All season I have been wearing the new club tie and it has not brought us much luck at all so at the last minute on Saturday I switched to last season’s, which is a slightly darker blue and guess what? It worked,” he beamed. “You don’t need to ask what tie I will be wearing on Saturday. It must be magic!”

Squad News

Back to the First Team, Chop Chop! Paulo Wanchope is making excellent progress from injury and may be available for the derby clash at COMS. Wanchope must first prove his fitness in the reserves, and Kevin Keegan has earmarked the reserves’ away fixture with United on March 4. “But that is tentative and is subject to him making enough progress,” Keegan said. “It could be put back a week or a few days, depending on how well he does, but at the moment it is a possibility. The operation has so far proved to be a success.” He added: “The derby at the City of Manchester Stadium is a definite possibility. He could be involved in some way. I think that is a fair target for him. He may not achieve that, but he will be pretty close to it.” KK also reported that Nicolas Anelka is fit and has returned to training, although he won’t be able to play for the Blues again till the game against Leeds on Monday 22nd March. “Nicolas has just come back after we gave him a week off as he can’t play for another three weeks,” explained his current manager. “The problem for Nicolas is that he got injured and missed the three games prior to his suspension. So it seems like a long time as there is a Cup game in between and we are not in the Cup so it prolongs the time for him. Nicolas still has to keep himself fit and he still has to keep himself sharp so that when he is fit again and not behind anyone, he’ll be ready. But every time we come to do specific drills for matches like corners and free kicks Nicolas is not involved, it just makes it a little bit awkward. Nicolas understands he can’t play but obviously has to join in training as he is just come back from that injury.”

Another Vuoso Sighting Confirmed: An insomniac brother of mine informed me that he’d been watching Channel 4’s highlights of the Copa Libertadores (the South American club championship) when he saw one Matias Vuoso score a peach of a goal. A spot of research using Google produced the following report. “BELO HORIZONTE (Brazil): Brazilian champions Cruzeiro were held to 1-1 draw by Mexico’s Santos in the Copa Libertadores. Midfielder Matias Vuoso scored a second-half equaliser for Santos in Group 3 on Tuesday after striker Guilherme, playing in his fifth Copa Libertadores, put Cruzeiro ahead in the 25th minute. Cruzeiro were outplayed during most of Tuesday’s game, despite playing at home in front of nearly 13,000 fans. Santos controlled the pace of the match at Mineirao stadium, out shooting the Brazilian club 13-11. Vuoso levelled with a powerful right-footer from outside the box in the 65th.”

Even Stephen Gets a New Deal: Saturday’s victory at the Reebok also marked a milestone in the career of City’s goal machine at Youth and Reserve level, Stephen Elliott. The 20-year-old Irish youngster made his Premiership début, albeit for the last few minutes. “Making my first-team début for City in the Premiership is something I have been thinking about for years,” Elliott said later, “I know it’s a clich